Russ’ Dive & Trip Log in the Sea of Cortez | Baja, MX

August 23, 2019 thru August 31, 2019

Day One: | Travel Day | Friday, August 23, 2019

Good Morning…
I woke up for the last time today at 5:45 AM, (restless comments redacted…), jumped out of bed and made coffee. Between breakfast and coffee, I continued packing while staying near the computer trying to keep up with all the emails that kept showing up. I was able to clean up the emails as well as other chores left over from yesterday before finishing.  With everything finished I shut down the computer and prepared my exit strategery. I checked the house one last time then ordered up a “LYFT” ride (w/Delta extra points) to the airport. Ten minutes later with the house locked up and alarm turned on I was on my way to the airport (way early!).

 

 

 

 

 

 

The drive to the airport was exciting. The LYFT driver was “not from around here” and drove like he may have back home. He stopped in the middle of Oakcrest turned off his car and got out in front of my driveway where I was waiting for him. He walked over to me, so I told him “maybe pull into the driveway as it’s a tad safer to load up all of this luggage?” He nodded and waited… until I pointed at his car and motioned it over to the driveway. Then he got it, shook his head and went back to the car. He pulled into the driveway and almost hit the garage before stopping. I’m thinking, this is a good start… We loaded up the luggage (dive bag, camera bag and my carry-on) and headed for the airport via Snelling. The Googles wanted him to take Highway 36 East to I-35E probably because of State Fair traffic but he tried going west until I said “the next one” so he kept going and missed the “east” exit so I motioned to keep going straight and, guess what, he did. So, we continued south on Snelling through the State Fair traffic which wasn’t too bad past Macalester College and on to the airport. Other than braking too late and hard we made it in one piece. I thought he was going to miss the Terminal 1 exit as he stayed in the left lane on Highway 5 until the last second then moved over making the poor bastard next to him slam on the brakes so he wouldn’t take us out… What a ride. I’m contemplating reporting him to LYFT but I’m going to let it stew for a while and decide, if I remember, when I get back… Fun…

Next, the gauntlet at the airport… We got to Terminal 1. He dropped me at Door #2 which was a LONG way from the Delta counter, but I was ready to get out and did. I hunched my way down to the Delta Baggage area only to find one of many lines I’d be waiting in today. Patience Russ… OK, we slow walked through the baggage drop line without a hitch, got my baggage tag receipts and headed to the next gauntlet, the TSA NOT Pre line. What a fiasco. The line started close to the Baggage Drop area. The problem is, the TSA area is all the way down the other end! Patience Russ. I’m happy I got here so early. No stress compared to some other poor souls that don’t have that luxury… As I was standing in line around “Door 3” Jim walked in right by me. What a coincidence… We exchanged greetings, I pointed him to the Baggage Drop area and continued with my gauntlet as he made his way through the lines toward his line… As it turns out I got through the TSA gauntlet and began making my way toward the gate (Gate G22) when my phone beeps. It’s Jim asking me if I’m at the gate yet, turns out he was “TSA Pre” so he got through the line a LOT faster than I did. We met at G11 and walked together the rest of the way to our gate. Karl and Anne joined us later (on time, not early) Anne towing a sick Karl behind her.

The plane was cold, so Jim and Anne were complaining a bit. I had my hat on, so I seemed to be fine although it was cool in the cabin. Some passengers wore coats and sweaters… The flight was smooth and uneventful until it got a little bumpy on descent and approach. The heat of the day makes this a typical landing in the summer in places like Phoenix, AZ. We landed and deplaned. The first thing we noticed was the intense heat in the Jetway followed by the icy chill in the airport… This can wreak havoc on your sinuses no matter who you are, and Karl probably suffered more than most. After the shuttle ride, a couple of beers and dinner we hit the hay for the big trip tomorrow. Good Night!

Day Two | Phoenix, AZ to MX | Saturday August 24, 2019

Good Morning!
We decided to walk over to the breakfast area to see what was for breakfast only to find a LONG line waiting for tables. We went to “Plan B” and walked back to the Circle K for a couple of bottles of water for our afternoon van ride to the boat. A 250-mile ride in a hot van may need some fluid replenishment… The trip to Mexico is next…

After lunch we retrieved our gear, checked out and walked out to two vans pretty much loaded up already. Seems we were the slow pokes… The vans each had trailers and the operation looked like a well-oiled machine. Twenty of us plus the two drivers took off and headed “west” for Mexico on I-10, a four-hour jaunt with a stop at the border.

The first couple of hours were uneventful. The van cooled down nicely and the ride was fairly smooth except for the construction areas which are everywhere these days. I was in the way-back of van number one with Jim and Michelle. The van was crowded (full) but not uncomfortable. My right foot was on the “hump” of the van’s rear wheel so I had to adjust accordingly. We turned south on AZ Highway 8 and settled in, some dozing off and others watching the landscape go by. About two hours into the ride we stopped at a gas station/convenience store with bathrooms off to the side for a 20-minute break. It felt good to get out of the van and stretch. We toured the area then found shade from the 98-degree sun and waited for everyone to make their pit stops and shop in the store. Back in the vans and off we went, continuing south for the final forty miles to the border.

The border was underwhelming. I expected Mr. Trump’s wall nearby but there were no wall to be found. Instead it was a couple of buildings with a road going in-between and lots of speed bumps and gates. We got out of the van, retrieved our gear and walked across the border to the inspection/passport area. The first step is luggage inspection which went relatively smooth. The Mexican customs people inspected most of the first two passenger’s luggage then basically glanced at one of each of the remaining group’s luggage (my carry-on was the only thing he opened and barely glanced at). When done we walked our luggage back to the van (which was inspected as well) and re-loaded our gear one by one. The off to the passport control area where we filled out the same form we always do in Cozumel, paid our $35 fee and headed back outside to the area where the vans were to wait for the rest of the crew to run through the gauntlet once again. We bantered back and forth with the driver from van #2 who was a retired man supplementing his retirement. His reason wasn’t money it was something to do he liked. Driving doesn’t appeal to me but whatever works. Back in the vans for the last hour of the trip to Rocky Point at Puerto Penasco.

Puerto Penasco was larger than I’d imagined. On the map it didn’t look like much but as we approached the port it looked like civilization again. And after the desolate desert and cactus’ this was impressive. A typical town with all the normal things you’d find in Cozumel plus a few surprises (Pizza Pizza). We went to the end of Mexican Highway 8 and there it was…

The Rocio del Mar, our dive boat home away from home for the next week.

We jumped out of the van, found our carry-ons (the rest the luggage was handled by the crew) and headed on to the boat. We checked it out a bit, found out which room we were assigned and headed there to drop off our stuff. The boat has four floors. The lower deck is for the crew and engines. The 2nd deck is the dining, dive & sleep deck. The 3rd deck has the TV Room, the Briefing Room and the Pilot House. The anchor is up front. The 4th deck is the sun deck but also has compressors & A/C for the rooms.

We headed back to the TV Room for the orientation and welcome party (beer & wine). Esteban, one of the divemasters, hosted the meeting.

He introduced the rest of the crew and brought us up to speed on the boat and itinerary. Once done we headed for the rooms to unpack then off to the dining area for dinner. Oops, the tuna was very salty, and the boat had departed the harbor for the open water and it wasn’t calm. The boat is older but equipped with stabilizers but that only helped a bit. The ride was a bumpy one in the rollers of the Sea of Cortez.

We lost over half of the diners by the time dinner (a soy-salty tuna dish) that turned off some but mainly the rocking and rolling turned people off their dinner. Seems “queasy” was the watchword for the evening. We finished up, took another tour of the boat and headed to our room (#6) for the evening. It was hot and humid, so the beds were not particularly comfortable. I took the upper bunk and Jim took the lower bunk, both singles.
Good Night!

Day Three | The Crossing | Sunday, August 25, 2019

Jim and I had a tough night. Jim because he was a bit queasy and I because I was hot, sweaty, tired yet wide awake. I dozed for a while then laid awake for a bit, then dozed and so on… We both awoke way before (4:30 ???) the 6 AM continental breakfast but stayed still so we wouldn’t bother each other’s “sleep.” I forgot who stirred first but once one was up the other followed. We headed down to the dining room for coffee for me and tea for Jim. I had some fresh fruit (the papaya was great) and Jim had a banana. We finished up and headed upstairs to see what was going on. The group was assembling for the day’s activities (3 guesses… dive, dive, dive)…

 

After our general “diving” orientation and the actual dive briefing we got our “walking papers” and the day officially began.

 

  • My first dive this trip (#751):
    Boat Captain: Ever | DiveMaster: Jaime
    Island: Angel De La Guaroa | Dive Site: Lold’s Cove

    The “A” Team: Russ, Jim, Karl, Anne, Drew & his wife Angela

    The boat anchored near an outcropping (a little “guano-covered” rock sticking out of the Sea) near the island of Angel De La Guaroa as we geared up for the “Panga” (Zodiac) ride over to the site. There are 2 Pangas for 3 groups of divers so they rotate the 2 Pangas between the three groups. There is always a Panga in the water waiting just in case while the other picks up and drops off one of the three groups. Complicated, I know, but it all works. This boat is always organized and disciplined to a fault with safety in mind …

We were in “Group A” because Anne made her way to the sign-up board before anyone else had a chance and signed us up first. (Turns out they rotate groups every day, so we are not the first group every dive…) We jumped on our Panga and off we went to the dive sight. When everyone was ready the Boat Captain counted to “3” and we all did a backflip into the water. Today there was a “weight-check” for anyone not sure how many weights they needed. I went heavy to be sure I didn’t have to burden anyone. All of us “camera-nuts” retrieved their camera gear from the Captain, submerged and the dive was on.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The Sea of Cortez is different from most in my experience as doesn’t have a coral reef. Some soft coral but mostly sand and rocks with a lot of “weeds” growing on them. However, life is plentiful and diversified beyond what I’ve seen most other places. The typical dive consists of dropping in around the “bommie” (small rock outcropping) and swimming around parts or most of it depending on current and the divemaster’s preference. We hit the sand and started photographing anything that moved and some things that didn’t move depending on the photographer’s mood. I am taking the PADI Digital course, so Karl has me on a short leash to try and help me to improve my digital camera skills (and hopefully pass the course…).

We were given an hour and took ALL of it on our first dive (except for Drew and Anita) before being “forced” to surface and jump back on the Panga for the ride back to the boat. Plenty of air left and warmer than I anticipated. My first impression? Cloudy with a lack of things to see/photograph. This impression is subject to change as we progress through the week…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA



Final Note on this first dive: I’m purposely not describing any of what we saw on this first dive as I don’t know the names/terms for the life we encountered. I’ll be more detailed as the week progresses and my pictures/video will tell the tale better than I can describe… Suffice it to say that there is a LOT of krill and other things in the water and the water is green with a 40-60ft visibility. Less in some areas where the critters in the water are thick. I hope this improves or the diving and photography will suffer…

 

 

After returning from the dive we rinsed everything, re-assembled our gear and got ready for our next dive. Once showered (on the back of the boat) and “sort of” dried off we headed to the TV Room for snacks during our surface interval. Meanwhile the boat hoisted anchor and headed to our next location, a short distance away. The Pangas stayed in the water being towed behind as we moved. When the time came for the next dive, we assembled on the dive deck for the next dive briefing and it started all over again. The routine is becoming something we can all get used to and remember so it becomes easy to do over and over without forgetting anything, at least in theory. So far, I like it.

  • My second dive this trip (#752):
    Boat Captain: Ever | DiveMaster: Jaime
    Island: Angel De La Guaroa | Dive Site: La Vela

    The “A” Team: Russ, Jim, Karl, Anne, Drew & his wife Angela

    This time we headed out to another “bommie” and jumped in to, what I call “gafunguy” which is different than Krill… I think it’s still some sort of food for the fish, but it was thick and did not “play well” with the camera users in the group, which is most of us…

    OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

    The dive was fine. Warm and little current so we were able to play in the sand and take pictures without having to work at it except for the gafunguy drifting slowly by. We were over the sandy area for almost 30 minutes just trying to shoot the critters coming out of their “hidey-holes” showing off for their mates and/or us. Whatever works…

    We finished up on the sand then moved to the “bommie” for a looksee. Again, lots of fish life as well as other critters that I couldn’t name most of if I had to… We finished up and surfaced at the Panga for the ride back to the boat.

Once back to the boat it was time for lunch, a siesta and another dive…

  • My third dive this trip (#753):
    Boat Captain: Ever | DiveMaster: Jaime
    Island: Angel De La Guaroa | Dive Site: La Muela

    The “A” Team: Russ, Jim, Drew & his wife Angela (no Karl & Anne)

    This dive Karl and Anne decided to skip so the four of us headed to the next dive a short distance from the second one. This time it was dusk, so the lighting wasn’t good but the visibility was better, no “gafunguy” in the water. We did the same routine as before, landed on the sand, look around for “pop-ups” then headed to the Bommie for more excitement. This time we saw some of the usual suspects as well as an Octopus which I figured was showing itself because it was getting dark. Lots of critters like to come out after dark and this day was no exception… We finished up and headed back to the boat.
    Here’s a link to a video of the Octopus I mentioned:
    Octopus GH010661

Closing thoughts for our first three dives of this trip:
The water is MUCH warmer than we were told. We were warned that the water could be in the high sixties and low seventies. So far, we have encountered 80+ degree water which means my shorty would be adequate so I’m contemplating going to it in the next series of dives. We’ll see…

We cleaned up and joined everyone for dinner, dessert and drinks. We finished up after a good meal and lots of banter over the day’s first three dives. A good day overall. We were happy and very tired… Good Night!

Day Four | The Midriff Islands | Monday, August 26, 2019

The day started slowly but built fast as divers woke up and showed up on deck and in the dining area. I fiddled with my cameras and got ready for the dive day. At 7 AM the dive briefing commenced, then we suited up and headed to the Pangas in group B, C then A. So, we are the last group today. OK by me. This way we are the last ones in the water. If we get “stuck” in an area for picture taking the other groups won’t over run us. 

 

  • My fourth dive this trip (#754):
    Boat Captain: Antonio | DiveMaster: Jaime
    Island: Angel De La Guaroa | Dive Site: Punta Diablo

    The “A” Team: Russ, Jim, Karl, Anne, Drew & Angela

    We hopped on the Panga and headed over to, once again a small rock in front of a big rock. The big project today was the giant Jawfish. He’s shy but if you can catch him out of his hidey-hole, he may play with his eggs for you. And that he did with a little coaxing… and a very long stay on the site.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We spent almost a half hour on the sand coaxing Mr. Jawfish out of his hidey-hole. Karl concentrated on Mr. Jawfish while the rest of us looked for other things to look at and take pictures/video of. Once Karl had his fill of Mr. Jawfish, we moved on toward the rocky area surrounding the bommie. I did catch a couple of pictures or Mr. Jawfish as well as other little critters (the smaller Blue-spotted Jawfish and a spotted eel in the sand. There were many more critters frolicking in the sand.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA



Once away from the sand it was a matter of following the structure of the Bommie underwater to see everything living on the rocks. Lots to see. We finished up after a full hour and headed for the surface and back to the boat.

Once showered and equipment rinsed, we dressed and headed for the dining room for breakfast. After breakfast we continued to our next dive briefing.

 

 

  • My fifth dive this trip (#755):
    Boat Captain: Antonio | DiveMaster: Jaime
    Island: Angel De La Guaroa | Dive Site: Punta Diablo (again)

    The “A” Team: Russ, Jim, Karl, Anne, Drew & Angela

    We hopped back on the Panga and headed back to Punta Diablo for a repeat performance. The plan was to spend less time on the sand and get farther along the Bommie than we did on the first dive. That didn’t happen. In fact, the same thing happened but this time we spent even more time on the sand and Jaime complicated matters by bringing “fish food” for Mr. Jawfish… What a fiasco.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

We were on the sand for fully half of the dive. Karl would have spent the whole dive there except the rest of us abandoned him and moved off to find what else was on the dive site. We were finally able to get beyond Mr. Jawfish and look for other critters of interest…And my pictures/videos will tell the tale as there is so much going on I can’t keep track of it…Another very nice dive. 

Antonio’s Panga got us back to the boat just in time for lunch as I remember. We finished just in time for the third dive of the day. With the briefing under our belts we headed to the dive deck as our group (The “A” Team) was called. Back out on the Panga to our next destination…

 

  • My sixth dive this trip (#755):
    Boat Captain: Antonio | DiveMaster: Jaime
    Island: Angel De La Guaroa | Dive Site: Las Viboras

    The “A” Team: Russ, Jim, Karl, Anne, Drew & Angela

    We hopped back on Antonio’s Panga and headed to Las Viboras for our afternoon dive. There was a Night Dive scheduled after this, but our group had already decided to skip it and go for the booze (wine & beer only) and food instead. Tonight we’ll listen to the horror stories afterward… 🙂

    This was a nice dive, almost a night dive as it was beginning to get dark, so the visibility was less, and the night creatures were just beginning to come out. Actually this was my first attempt to “study” my equipment and really experiment with it so the pictures/video were not necessarily good or consistent but overall a good exercise…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA



As we drifted with the current along the bottom in the sand and rock formations I made it a point to shoot as many little critters as possible just to see what the picture & lighting looked like. I’m still not used to this equipment AND there is a lot more going on, so I tried many combinations and just played around. The proof will come once I download and review/delete the bad ones… Wish me luck… Turns out the highlight was an octopus that only Jim and I found and he was out and proud. I had time to shoot both video and stills as he moved around on the bottom. Fun stuff!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA



We headed back after another full hour-plus underwater. Warm water and lots of critters makes for a good dive. I was happy I switched over to my shorty as the water temps here are just fine…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We finished up and headed for the boat and dinner. I wonder what’s for dinner??? After rinsing our gear and putting everything away for the night we headed for the room to dry off, change clothes and head for dinner. You get the pattern, don’t you? Dive, eat, repeat… Pork Loin was on the menu and it was really good. After a rough start (too much salt) the chef seemed to reign it in and keep all the “salt sensitive” divers happy on the second night. I think someone (Anne) gave him the memo and he came through with flying colors…

Here’s a link to a video of the Octopus I mentioned:

 

We finished up and headed for our own separate areas for the evening. I ended up on the upper “sun” deck in the breeze and swapping life, car & war stories with Todd, one of the divers not “in” our group but very friendly and has his tank sitting next to mine on the dive deck so we have lots of interaction and seem to enjoy each-others company. We swapped “war stories” until almost 11 PM at which time I decided I’d better get to the room for some sleep. Jim had headed there earlier, so I was sure to wake him as I rummaged around for a toothbrush etc… Oh well… Sorry Jim! I finally crawled up into my bunk after 11 PM and was out shortly afterward without bothering Jim as it turned out… Good Night!

 

Day Five | The Midriff Islands | Tuesday, August 27, 2019

After another rocky night’s sleep, we both got up before 6 AM, dressed and headed down for our usual, coffee & tea. I had a yogurt and some fruit then headed back up to the dive deck to finalize the gear and camera. Up one deck to the briefing area then back down to get ready for our first dive of the day. Quite the routine we’ve gotten into. But a good routine that allows for fewer mistakes and/or forgotten items. Today the groupings went “C,” “A” and “B” so we were in the middle. Our turn came and off we went on out Panga for the next dive.

My link to what we saw before we jumped in today: Surface P8250050

 

  • My seventh dive this trip (#757):
    Boat Captain: Antonio | DiveMaster: Jaime
    Island: San Pedro Marne | Dive Site: Chayo’s Cove

    The “A” Team: Russ, Jim, Karl, Anne, Drew & Angela

    We hopped back on Antonio’s Panga and headed to Chayo’s Cove for our next dive. The water was warm and the visibility cloudy, as usual but better than yesterday. We back flipped from the Panga into the water near the cove and headed in that direction. Once in the cove we settled into the sand to await the whole reason for the dive, sea lions… Click on this link: Sea Lions GH010625

…and there were plenty of them to keep us happy. We stayed in the cove for almost 10 minutes before drifting out onto the wall along the island. Visibility was better today. Seems the krill and other nutrients weren’t in this area so picture taking was a bit easier. The only thing to deal with was the cloudiness. As we drifted along the wall, I was struck by the rock formations. They seem to break off in square junks, big square junks. Almost as if they were man-made.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We ran into more sea-lions and played with them for a while along the way. The dive ended after another full hour with air to spare so we headed for Antonio’s Panga on calm waters and sunny skies.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

The activity back on board the boat is becoming a routine. Rinse, breakfast (optional) check gear then off we go on our next dive. The briefings are… brief and the diving, so far, has been great. Warm water and calm seas.

 

 

  • My eighth dive this trip (#758):
    Boat Captain: Antonio | DiveMaster: Jaime
    Island: San Pedro Marne | Dive Site: El Morro II

    The “A” Team: Russ, Jim, Karl, Anne, Drew & Angela

    Back in the saddle for another romp with the sea-lions among other things. The sea-lions were very playful and present around us for the whole dive. The visibility was still pretty good. Click on this link to see another romp with the sea lions: Sea Lions GH010628

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I was struck by all the black coral (actually it’s yellow with black stripes) at the bottom below where we were drifting along the wall. The structure is rocky and stark, but a lot of little creatures live on the wall, so it was a museum for Karl to play in. After about 30 minutes I began feeling a bit queasy and found it hard to concentrate so I stopped looking for critters and tried to shake it off, but it wasn’t going to happen. So, I went a bit shallower to see if that would help. Nope, I was just not going to shake this feeling, so I found Jaime (Divemaster) and gave him the abort signal, but also the OK sign and headed back to the Panga alone. I did my safety stop just above the group then jumped back on the Panga to wait for the them to finish up and surface. I didn’t feel any better but at least I was on the surface just in case. In retrospect I probably could have toughed it out but why… The group was up 15 minutes later, and we headed back to the boat for lunch…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

Back on the boat I did a short version of my rinse routine and headed for the room to change and lay down to see if that would help. I skipped lunch. I decided to take the third dive (our first dive at Arroyo) off just to be sure, so I watched “The A Team” take off on their third dive of the day. 

Once the group was back, they did the “rinse & repeat” cycle and this time I was ready for action. But we had a nice “interruption.” Someone on the boat saw a HUGE pod of dolphins off the back of the boat. So, they rang the bell and got as many people that were interested (turns out, with a small delay, all twenty of us). Ten per Panga and off we went on a chase after the other Panga turned back and picked up the 20th diver… I jumped up to the front of the Panga with my camera rig and got set up for the fun. Here’s my link to one of the many dolphins we encountered: Dolphins P8270032

And it was. Basically, we followed the pod and took pictures & videos of the dolphins as they played with the Panga. There were hundreds of them going in all directions. At one point we dropped a bunch of snorkelers off then ran the Panga around them to get the dolphins to swim with and near the swimmers. Much fun. A bit dangerous but lots of fun.
Here’s another link to the dolphin pod encounter: Dolphins P8270033

Pictures weren’t as good as the videos… Dolphins P8270036  How about another link: Dolphins P8270035 After about a half hour in the Panga we picked up the group of swimmers and headed back to the “MotherShip” but not before chasing the dolphins (or was it the other way around?)  for another 15-20 minutes. See link below… Fun was had by all including the pod. We parted ways and finished up the ride. Dolphins P8270034

After that nice little diversion my stomach was pretty much settled down and my nitrogen level was low so off we went to the next dive once again…

 

  • My ninth dive this trip (#759):
    Boat Captain: Antonio | DiveMaster: Jaime
    Island: San Pedro Marne | Dive Site: Corralito

    The “A” Team: Russ, Jim, Karl, Anne, Drew & Angela

    This time I took it easy to see how things went. I was fine… So off we went to Corralito, another great place to interact with our new friends, the sea lions.
    My favorite and most playful friend was very happy to mimic my actions while I shot her with the GoPro. See below: 

 

We had fun searching for the “little stuff” (macro) but I was waiting for our “friends” to show up and play. And play they did. When they approached, I would twist around and watch them mimic me. It was a great surprise that the sea lions were looking for some entertainment and when they got it they would respond in kind.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA



The second highlight besides the sea lions was a friendly octopus crawling around on the rocks, so Jim and I followed/videoed him for a while before resuming our quest for additional subjects. This felt almost like a night dive because the sun was behind the island. With dusk setting in we flipped on the lights and finished up the dive in the relative darkness. This was a great “combo” dive. Some macro and lots of sea lions frolicking in the sea…

 

We finished another great dive day with a great lasagna dinner and some good after-dinner banter (solving all the world’s problems) on the top sun deck before heading to our rooms for the night. Good Night!

Day Six | The Midriff Islands | Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Breakfast has been consistent also. Mostly I’d have yogurt with granola & fruit on top before my first dive. A good, light start. Then after our first dive I had the option of topping it off with a full (or half) hot breakfast which I occasionally had. But mostly I ordered oatmeal and added a bit more granola then some cinnamon and brown sugar.

  • My tenth dive this trip (#760):
    Boat Captain: Antonio | DiveMaster: Jaime
    Island: San Pedro Marne | Dive Site: Arroyo

    The “A” Team: Russ, Jim, Karl, Anne, Drew & Angela

    We jumped in after a quick bite to eat looking for the sea lions again. But first, I had to video the schools of grouper and other fish swimming by. The schools here are larger than anywhere else I’ve been to. Compared to Cozumel and other favorites, well there is no comparison. Lots of fish life here, the reason for the limited visibility, the food…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We continued descending to the rocky/sandy floor but the sea lions didn’t miss a beat. As I review my dive log we were at 90 feet on the bottom and the sea lions acted like they were at the surface. They moved so fast I suppose it took only seconds to get to our depth. Three or four of the sea lions kept dropping down on us to play. They were having fun trying to get us the play. One took a slow swim by and blew some bubbles at me. A message? Play with me… 🙂 They stayed down with us for quite a while just watching us and playing with each other. At one point I shot a video of Karl playing with five sea lions especially one that loved it when he started rolling around. The female sea lion loved it and mimicked Karl for a few minutes. This continued for all of us until the alpha called them back to his herd. As a parting “goodbye” one seal swam to the bottom, tossed some sand in my direction and moseyed on her way back to the herd. Much fun!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

We returned to the MotherShip for our normal surface interval which consisted of rinsing everything off, switching to a dry swimsuit and “wife-beater” shirt and heading down to the dining area for whatever you’d want. As stated earlier I switched between just another cup of coffee, a light breakfast (oatmeal with fruit) or the full deal which was always too much. If Jim joined us we’d both ask for half portions. It was just too much and I’m trying to retain my “girlish” figure (or not…).

After heading back out to the dive deck and equipment we’d log (check) our refilled tanks (measure how many pounds of air and Nitrox level) then get the camera stuff ready once again. Sometimes I’d charge up the strobes, sometimes I’d replace GoPro battery as it was only good for about 1.75 dives and once in a while switch out the chips in both units. The camera has a GREAT battery. I don’t remember one time where it came off of a full battery charge. I switched the battery each day to be sure but probably could have left it for two days easily… Enough minutia, back to diving…

 

  • My eleventh dive this trip (#761):
    Boat Captain: Antonio | DiveMaster: Jaime
    Island: San Pedro Marne | Dive Site: Chayo’s Cave

    The “A” Team: Russ, Jim, Karl, Anne, Drew & Angela

    Back to the “grind”… NOT! We jumped back in to one of “Chayo’s” many sites. Apparently Chayo was an important figure in these parts or he had a big ego as they named a bunch of things after him. I wasn’t clear if he owned this area or discovered it. No matter… The cave was another play spot for the sea lions so we interacted with them once again as well as spotted other critters including some Angel fish as well as an eel or two. 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Again, I was struck by the huge schools of fish swimming by. No other dive sites have the numbers that this Sea of Cortez does. Wonderful.
Here’s another LinkSea Lions P8270014


We had a great time frolicking with the sea lions once more then headed back to the Panga to begin the cycle once again… A great dive!

 

Once back on the boat we went into our rinse, recycle and repeat. After a bite to eat and some camera fiddling it was time for the afternoon dive at Punta Norte. Most of the dive sites seem to be near each other here. The boat doesn’t have to move far if at all. The Pangas do the work getting us to a different part of the island we’re anchored at. When it was our Team’s turn (The “A” Team) we hopped back in the Panga for our next dive.

  • My twelfth dive this trip (#762):
    Boat Captain: Antonio | DiveMaster: Jaime
    Island: San Pedro Marne | Dive Site: Punta Norte

    The “A” Team: Russ, Jim, Karl, Anne, Drew & Angela

    We had a great time frolicking with the sea lions once more. I had lots of fun mimicking them and their response (especially one youngster) was precious. They mimicked me back. Wonderful fun and some good video of the playful ones. We could have spent much more time with these wonderful creatures but we were limited to one hour so we reluctantly headed back to the Panga to begin the cycle once again… A great dive once again!

Here’s another Link for you:  Sea Lions P8270015

We did our “rinse and repeat” cycle again and got ready for our next dive. The late (and final) dive of the day was up next. This time we went back to a combination of the cave and the north point which was supposed to be a nice frolic with the sea lions then a lazy drift dive over the rocks at Punta Norte which should have been a nice macro dive for Karl… Well coma… Turns out it was my “Lucky 13th” dive…

  • My thirteenth dive this trip (#763):
    Boat Captain: Antonio | DiveMaster: Jaime
    Island: San Pedro Marne | Dive Site: Chayo’s Cave & Punta Norte

    The “A” Team: Russ, Jim, Karl, Anne, Drew & Angela

    This dive was supposed to be another sea lion dive but didn’t really turn out that way. We started in the cave (Chayo’s) waiting for the sea lions to come down to play with us. The funny part (at the time) was, the sea lions didn’t join us. A couple of them showed up but acted skittish. They checked us out but left right away. We waited for a good fifteen minutes before giving up. We decided to head out of the cave and head toward Punta Norte for a “macro” dive. That didn’t work so well. The current went from strong to worse. Now I knew why the sea lions weren’t joining us. They knew what was “up.”

Drew and Anita were in front and began to get carried away. The rest of us were “hiding” behind rocks and whatever other protection we could, to wait for the current to subside. That didn’t happen. Instead, the current got worse causing Drew & Anita to struggle to the point that Jaime decided (after grabbing Drew and pulling him back with the team) to cancel the dive. He gave us all the “abort” signal so we all began to ascend toward our safety stop. Only it didn’t work that way… I was watching my computer while ascending but I wasn’t I watched as the depth reading was going down, 27, 28 29… so I kicked a bit but that wasn’t helping so I added some air to my BC to compensate, same thing, still descending. I added MORE air to my BC but it still did not compensate so I basically filled my BC with air. That did it. I started ascending again. Now the problem was, when do I release all of the air in my BC before I popped to the surface? I was worried that I was still in the whirlpool sucking me down so I had a small window  of opportunity or I risked having to do the same thing all over again. As I approached the twenty foot depth I dumped my air and hoped I would stabilize. I’m happy to report, I did… WOW, what a ride… The four of us regrouped (Anita & Drew had already surfaced. I don’t know if they stopped at a safety stop or not.) and stayed at our safety stop without further incident and surfaced as usual to our waiting Panga.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Actually two Pangas were waiting because we weren’t the only ones experiencing this issue. The last time was in Cozumel and Anne was seconds away from dropping her weights… A “not so great” dive!

 

But we survived it just in time to eat again… We cleaned up then headed for dinner on the top deck (steaks) to swap “horror” stories about the last dive which was the topic of discussion this evening. After dinner some of us stayed on the top deck to enjoy the beautiful sunset and “purple” skies. Turns out the shy was “purple” because the Vikings were playing… Well coma…

Actually, the skies had a purple hue because of a couple of volcanoes somewhere way off in the South Pacific. The purple came from the sulphur being spewed from those volcanes. There were three dive boats in the area, including ours. We wondered whether they experienced the rip current(s) we had. Once it was dark, I headed down to the TV room to catch up on pictures, videos and this log. I worked until my eyes wouldn’t stay open then headed to the room to quietly clean up and hop in my upper bunk for the night. Apparently Jim was really sleeping because he didn’t react to my banging around while getting ready to hit the sack.

Good Night!

 

Day Seven | The Midriff Islands | Thursday, August 29, 2019

It’s a travel day for us today but first, a couple of morning dives. We woke as usual, early, and got the day started with a bite to eat then headed down to the dive deck to check equipment, tanks and cameras. Today we’re at a new site, “Lavadero,” which is close to what we’re up to tomorrow (L.A. Bay) but headed to Lavadero West first, then East…

These dives returned to more of the “macro” type (we left the sea lions behind) just in time for Karl and I to get serious about the Digital Photo Class I’m enrolled in. Karl set up my challenge for the next dive. The challenge? To get as close to the subject as possible and get some good pictures in “macro” mode. We’ll see…

  • My fourteenth dive this trip (#764):
    Boat Captain: Antonio | DiveMaster: Jaime
    Island: Sal Si Puedes | Dive Site: Lavadero West

    The “A” Team: Russ, Jim, Karl, Anne, Drew & Angela

    We jumped in and as stated, returned to looking/shooting macro items. I was on a mission to shoot the best macro I could so we could do some fiddling once back aboard. At first I was making the same mistake I usually make, not near enough to the subject. So Karl came over and gently coaxed me up this poor creature’s ass.

    OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

In other words, I was literally inches away and with the Macro setting turned my camera it had a tough time focusing. But it did and the shot ended up to look more like what Karl does instead of what I do. Lesson learned! We continued on and took a bunch of other “trial” pictures. 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

There is no such thing as too many pictures. There’s a “Delete” button for that… I also had a little “fun” with the Gopro shooting anything moving, Garden Eels, Jaw Fish jumping out of their holes and a very friendly Octopus out and big as life in the daylight.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Very unusual… We finished up and headed back to the boat via our Panga for our breakfast routine.

 

 

 

Breakfast has been consistent also. Mostly I’d have yogurt with granola & fruit on top before my first dive. A good, light start. Then after our first dive I had the option of topping it off with a full (or half) hot breakfast which I occasionally had. But mostly I ordered oatmeal and added a bit more granola then some cinnamon and brown sugar. We did our “rinse and repeat” cycle again and got ready for our next dive.  With a few minutes to spare we checked my pictures to see how I did on the last dive. As usual there is a lot of room for improvement, so here we go again…

  • My fifteenth dive this trip (#765):
    Boat Captain: Antonio | DiveMaster: Jaime
    Island: Sal Si Puedes | Dive Site: Lavadero East

    The “A” Team: Russ, Jim, Karl, Anne, Drew & Angela

    OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

    Off we went, this time to the East side of Lavadero but it looked like more of the same. We looked and found lots of little stuff to shoot. I also fiddled with the camera and the white board to see if I could figure out how to pull more color out without fiddling so much afterward. This is a LOT of work! But, hopefully after this I will be more aware of how to take a better picture… The Gopro is so much easier… We finished up our last dive of the day (except for the night divers) and headed back for lunch and our afternoon activities.

    OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

After putting our gear back in order and some lunch we weighed anchor and headed to our next stop, from the island off Sal si Puedes (where Lavadero East/West were) to the Baja Peninsula (still called Sal si Puedes for some reason) where El Pescador is. Just around the corner from tomorrow’s activities…

But first, we all jumped in both Pangas to spread out and look for Fin Whales. They are usually in these waters but hard to find and that’s what we encountered. Other than a pod of dolphins we searched for an hour while the mothership continued on toward El Pescador. Too bad. All of us were excited to see whales in the water. No luck this time. Hopefully tomorrow will make up for our disappointment today…
Here’s Link #1 to our searching: No Fins GH010653

Once back on the Rocio del Mar we had some time to fiddle so Karl and I spent a good portion of the afternoon going through the process of enhancing pictures. I also had a little time to catch up on this log. What a chore. So much going on and so little down-time… OK, you don’t have to feel sorry for me…

Dinner was up on the deck again so we wandered up top to watch the night divers head over to El Pescador. Karl & Anne joined the night dive but Jim and I along with Drew and Anita stayed on board and relaxed watching the sun set. The divers returned, we had dinner and after-dinner drinks up top. 

A beautiful evening to watch the stars, Sky Map was a bit off because of the lack of connectivity but we got the idea. Jupiter and Saturn were bright along with the Milky Way cloud. Not often you can see this much detail. Wonderful… We finished up the evening exchanging our “fish” stories and getting to know some of our fellow divers. It was fun to hear some of the others experiences. It ran the gambit between “newbies” in awe and wonder to some of us old fogies that have been around for decades. 

Jim decided to hit the sack so he headed toward our cabin while I headed back down to the TV Room to continue fiddling with pictures and catching up this log. A great day even without an afternoon/evening dive.  Good Night!

 

Day Eight | The Midriff Islands | Friday, August 30, 2019

A BIG day for us today. It’s the whale shark “trek” but only after a morning dive at El Pescador. We woke as usual, early, and got the day started with a bite to eat then headed down to the dive deck to check equipment, tanks and cameras. 

Just like yesterday we were “sans” sea lions so it was another good dive to practice my new photography skills…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

  • My sixteenth (and last) dive this trip (#766):
    Boat Captain: Antonio | DiveMaster: Jaime
    Island: Sal Si Puedes | Dive Site: El Pescador

    The “A” Team: Russ, Jim, Karl, Anne, Drew & Angela

    Off we went, this time to El Pescador, just around the corner from L.A. Bay. Anita had “The Chicken” on her tank this dive but I didn’t catch the reason why. I had to shoot it just to remind her the next time we met (if ever). 

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Again I was fiddling with the camera trying to get the settings just right. From the looks of the pictures (upon review) I continued to struggle… We found lots of little stuff to shoot along with another brave Octopus climbing around on the rocks. Very rare in my experience but maybe here, not so much. The other “rare” find was a huge Frogfish. He was laying under a rock sideways so the my pictures/videos didn’t do it justice. In fact, I wasn’t sure what I was shooting until we got back onboard. I don’t remember seeing a Frogfish that big and from the angle he was at he was hard to see any details. 

We finished up the dive and headed back to the boat to get ready for the next big activity to cap off the trip…

 

Back on the boat we began the process of having some breakfast while the boat weighed anchor once again and mosied over to Bahia de los Angeles (L.A. Bay) for our afternoon snorkel with the whalesharks in the bay.

Here’s a link to us searching for the elusive whalesharks. That’s our divemaster, Jaime up front…  Searching GH010671
It was a fairly short trip to the harbor. Once there we were met by several of the local “Pangas” that do the tour. These Pangas are different. They are basically a partially covered Boston Whaler with seating for a dozen snorkelers. Luckily we had only the “A” Team along with Jaime and the boat driver so there was plenty of room to move around and that turned out to be a blessing. There was a LOT of moving around… Surface GH010680

This is a protected sanctuary so there are rules and regulations we have to abide by. Some of them to protect from harming, spooking or overwhelming the whalesharks. Some of them for our safety. The seven of us hopped on the “A” Team Panga and off we went to look for the whalesharks. We were briefed on the process and told it could take several hours to locate the whalesharks but it took 45 minutes before we spotted the first batch. We were limited to only four of us in the water at a time so we took turns jumping in but this was not an issue. There were plenty of whalesharks to go around. We’d hop in with mask, fins and snorkel (some of us had cameras, some of us GoPros like myself) and swim with them. Sometimes they’d turn away and move off before we could get close but most of the time we were able to get close for some good shots, Karl with his camera and Drew and I with our Gopros. Much fun but tiring chasing the critters around so it was good to get back on the Panga for a breather. We repeated this routine for almost two hours until it was time to head back to the Mothership for the “crossing” back to Rocky Point at Puerto Penasco.
Here’s a link to a big whaleshark coming out from under the Panga:  Whalesharks GH010687
Here’s another link to an action shot… (Well coms…):  Whalesharks GH010693
How about this link where it almost ran me over… 🙂  Whalesharks GH010694
And last but not least. I had to move around the crowd but this one is my favorite except for where I had to move out of the way of the critter… Whalesharks GH010679

Once back on board we paid the tour company and drivers, bought some of their souvenirs and said our goodbyes. Rocio Del Mar headed north back to the port while we continued to fiddle and wait our turn to square up with the boat on any extras (Nitrox) we accrued during the cruise. We also left or tips with Juan (the boss) while paying any balance remaining.

There was also a briefing which was a combination of a sales pitch for another trip along with exit “strategery” for the morning. With after-dinner drinks in hand we began the packing process in the cabin. I finished up and headed back to the TV Room for more fiddling with pictures, videos and this log. I’m still woefully behind at this point but hope to catch up when we get back. The main problem with that is… my memory. Hopefully the pictures and videos I’ve taken on the trip will help jog my memory… The boat settled in for the evening as the “crossing” north continued so I hit the hay around 11 PM.  Good Night!

 

Day Nine | Puerto Penasco to Phoenix via the Border to MSP | Saturday, August 31, 2019

Actually, this day was a lot like last Saturday except in reverse and easier… We awoke around 6 AM as usual. The boat was docked at Puerto Penasco. We looked around a bit before heading down to the dining area for a bite to eat. This time continental only which was fine with me. After breakfast and a couple of cups of coffee we headed back to the cabin to fetch our luggage and get back to the dive deck so the crew could get it off the boat and back in the vans for the trek home.

Around 8 AM we all found a spot (new places and people) in the vans, said our goodbyes and headed north. Our caravan(s) headed out of town toward the US/Mexico border so we settled in and bantered back and forth about our experiences on the boat. I would suggest the trip was a smashing success because, other than some food issues which were minor and not frequent, we had a wonderful time.

We hit the border and breezed through faster than our entry. The traffic was all going south for the long holiday weekend so we had little trouble re-entering the US. A couple of hellos, a wink and a nod and we were on our way. Most of us didn’t have our luggage inspected. We all lined up and went through customs one at a time. A couple of quick questions, a smile and a “welcome back” were all we got. I did have a nice exchange with my customs office. She asked me if everyone was from Minnesota. I smiled and said “mostly” (Anita & Drew were OKs)… She then asked if we knew each other and I said, “we do now.” She smiled and waved me through after stamping my passport.

Back in the van for the three hour trip back to Phoenix and the airport we relaxed and settled in. Karl had switched places with me (over the rear passenger tire, uncomfortable on the legs) so I had a much more comfortable ride.

There was some concern we’d be late for our flights if we were delayed getting back. With the construction delays on the east-bound freeway we saw coming down we were wondering what the traffic would be like on the way back. No worries. The traffic was light all the way to the airport. We got back earlier than expected and ended up getting through the TSA gauntlet with ease. Even I without any special privileges made it through in the same amount of time as the others. Jim had TSA Pre and Karl & Anne had “Clear” so they went through unscathed. I was lucky as well. The lines were short and the TSA people seemed to want to keep people moving so they were easy to deal with…

We landed in good old Minnesota to a green, cloudy 60 degrees as the evening was settling in. Quite a change from the 90+ and sunny place we’d left three hours before… Jim had a ride with Sandy but Karl and Anne were planning on taking a cab so I hailed Mary from the cell phone waiting lot. We loaded our luggage in and off we went to the east side of St Paul to drop them off. Once Karl and Anne were home we decided to have a bite to eat, so we headed for Ol’ Mexico for dinner. It’s been awhile since we’ve stopped but the meal was good and the service was adequate. We finished up, grabbed our leftovers and headed home to begin my usual unpacking process. A fine end to a great but long trip. I’m happy to be home! Good Night!

Epilog:
After a great trip to Baja, Mexico and a fun dive trip on the Sea of Cortez with the Rocio Del Mar boat and crew we traveled back home safe and sound in Minnesota. The day after we returned we found out a dive boat we were on a little over a year ago had caught fire and sank near the island of Santa Cruz. The Conception dive boat based out of Santa Barbara, CA was on a typical run to the Channel Islands (Santa Cruz is one of the Channel Islands) for a dive trip with 39 souls aboard. Our hearts go out to all of the 34 victims, 5 survivors and their families & friends of this tragedy. It was a, too close & sobering reminder that life is worth living to the fullest but can be very fragile. As my dive-buddy Karl stated… YIKES!!! That’s all I can think of when reflecting on this tragedy. (Reference my Trip Log here…)