So Friday night, a bunch of us Cal Poly Scuba Club kids all piled into cars with our gear and headed south to Truth Aquatics in Santa Barbara. We were on our way to an exciting weekend of boat diving from The Conception in the northern Channel Islands. After finding the right boat ( a couple of us accidentally checked in on the wrong boat, oops!) we loaded on our dive gear, picked out our bunks and decided to walk to State St. and get a bite to eat. Thai food definitely hit the spot. mmm yellow curry and jasmine rice….
We spent the night on the boat, which, by the way, was huge! There was a galley, large back deck, staircase to a large shower room and two hot showers, bathrooms between the galley and the back deck, and bunks beneath the galley. The bunks were much larger than other bunks I had seen. I picked a top bunk, which came with a pillow and a blanket.
The boat left the dock around 4 am and arrived at Santa Cruz Island around 7 am. I woke up around 6:30 am from the constant rocking of the boat, (good thing I took Dramamine the night before!) a little unsure of exactly what time I needed to get up, eat, and get suited up for the first dive. Here’s a tip for future Truth Aquatics divers: When the boat engine stops, it is time to wake up.
The galley always had food for the hungry diver. There was a hot breakfast, various pastries, and fruit. Everyone on the boat had a labeled mug, and hot water was available all day along with tea, hot cocoa, and coffee.
The sun was shining brightly but the wind was bone chillingly cold. Everyone was freezing as we got ready and geared up to jump in the water. Our first dive spot was Fry’s on the inner side of Santa Cruz. The water was worse than the windy surface! It was a nippy 49 degrees underwater, but there was life everywhere. While the visibility wasn’t at its best (only about 10-15 feet or so), the kelp forest was beautiful and the sunlight sparkling through the kelp made the dive magical.
Odd as it sounds, I saw my very first jellyfish underwater. I’ve seen them plenty of times washed up on the beaches, but underwater jellyfish are majestic, graceful creatures.
The site was so good that we decided to do our second dive at Fry’s too. After a quick break of running to the hot showers and warming our numb toes, we jumped back into the water. Once again, we were not disappointed. My favorite part of the dives was when we would swim through kelp and the water would suddenly be dark from the thick kelp on the surface. Then, a few seconds later, sunlight would stream through and light up the water once again.
In between dives, we had the unique experience of witnessing a bald eagle perched on the cliffs above us. It was just sitting proudly, watching the happenings below. When the bald eagle flew away, I could see what looked like blue tags on his wings. It was just a reminder of how rare a sighting like that is. Santa Cruz island is home to an incredible group of animals.
After a delicious lunch of ribs, mashed potatoes, peas and corn, we moved to one last dive site. This site was a tad warmer than the other site, but we stayed shallow where there was more fish, and for the hunters, more opportunity for a good catch. It was teeming with gharibaldi, perch, lobster, and many starfish, urchins, and nudibranchs covering the rocks beneath the kelp.
Coming back to Santa Barbara was the hard part. The wind was so strong that there were swells of 8 to 10 feet splashing on the boat and rocking it around.We all sat on the back deck for a while, and eventually the constant rocking caused a few to run to the side of the boat. It was quite an adventure getting home! Four hours of rocking back and forth up and down massive waves made me appreciate solid ground.
It was a wonderful weekend for diving!