Sunday, September 11, 2011

August 27- September 3

This trip was a family reunion.  More than half the group had been with us before.   Welcome! It was wonderful to see everyone we knew and to welcome those we didn’t.     Maxine and Mike were from Seattle, Rich (our shell expert) from Tucson, Chuck from Colorado, Lee from Oklahoma, Ron from Prescott, Kim from Phoenix, Fermin from Mexico City, Linda from New York, Jonathan from Chicago and Jeanie and Brook from Phoenix.
These are the highlights for the week.  When we anchored in Refugio at Angel Rock, I see a huge smile on Lolo’s face.  “Visibility is much better!  Yaay.  It’s coming back to the conditions that we are used to.  Water temperatures were back in the 80’s.  Our first dive was a great check out dive.  The sand was covered in blue spotted jaw fish.   There were also clouds of small silver fish.  Next we did La Vela. Wow! In spite of such a huge tide exchange we were able to comfortably circle the entire pinnacle.  The west side of the pinnacle is easily 300 feet.  It’s like sky diving.  Our dive plan was to go down to about 100 feet to see the black coral and maybe some giant groupers but nobody followed me.  They were all at approximately at 70 feet admiring a big jewel moray.  Less depth meant more bottom time so off we went to the shallower side.  We say two giant sand rays, three or four turtles, two octopus fighting for the same hole, giant sea bass, guitar fish and large schools of fish.  It was a terrific dive.  At the end we did our safety stop with a side show from the sea lions.
Andreas Eagle was also amazing.  For our third dive I suggested the aquarium.  Lolo’s never done this dive, so he doesn’t realize how incredible it can be.  We played tug –a-war for a couple of minutes and I won. (what  a surprise).  Off to the aquarium.  The aquarium is maximum 30 feet deep.  It reminded me of a holding tank for the aquariums of the world   There were thousands of trigger fish, Sargent majors, barber fish, creole fish and on and on.  Cortez angels, king angels, it was incredible.
Our usual itinerary is San Pedro Martir.  The visibility had been so bad the prior week that we decided to go to Animas and Sal Si Puedes first.   Animas “El Lavadero” we did twice.  We found two giant jaw fish that were very comfortable with us.  They are as curious about us as we are about them.  Rey is convinced that in a few more weeks they will out of there holes to welcome us.  That’s how comfortable they are with our presence there.  After burning half a tank marveling at the jaw fish we continued our dive and quickly found a sea horse.  It was at least nine inches long.  Great dive guys!!!
Since the visibility was considerably better everywhere else, we decided to chance it and make the trip to San Pedro Martir.  Good call Lolo!  The visibility was much better.  The week prior it was no more than 6 feet visibility.  This week we had at least 60 feet.  It was great.  The second day at San Pedro Martir our dive sites were El Coromel and Xareni’s Pinnacle.  Each dive started with “ I’m a flag on a flagpole” conditions but after being tucked into a cove for fifteen minutes the current came to a complete standstill and we were able to have an awesome dives.  
We are were all smiling when we left San Pedro Martir .   The plan was to start heading north towards the Baja to Bahia Del Los Angeles for our whale shark adventure.  We saw dolphins at a distance and began heading in that direction.  They were in the hundred.  Everywhere we looked they were swimming with the wake or jumping.  It was mind boggling.  Further north we saw the spouts of the sperm whales.  Off we went to see sperm whales.  There were many and they were not bothered by our presence so we decided to get in the water and try to snorkel with them.  We split the group in two and off we went.   Rey is our fearless sperm whale leader.  He took one group and I took the other.  In previous times, when we first began to swim with the sperm whales, they were very precautious with us. I’m sure that they are genetically programed to fear people after hundreds of years of being hunted.
Sperm whales are residence of the Sea of Cortez near San Pedro Matir.  We are convinced that the sperm whales we see weekly are the same ones. Therefore, we believe they are becoming a custom to our frequent visits.
Rey’s group was able to stay with them longer.  On several occasions Rey, Fermin, Max, Mike and Ron were able to swim for at least three minutes beside them before they went under.  You have to be pretty fast.  They are.  Jonathan was able to get the best picture.  He swam alongside a baby sperm whale that made a 90 degree turn towards him.  He had the fish eye lens and we think the sperm whale saw its own reflection in the lens and got so close he practically fogged it.  His picture we will post as soon as he gets it to me.  It’s incredible.
Thursday nights we have “carne asada” night.  So, the crew had gotten ready while we were on  our twilight dive.  Charro beans, guacamole, salsas and quesadillas adorn the buffet table while Pedro is manning the grill in preparation of grilling the beef, when a wind breaks out from nowhere.   It’s so strong that quesadillas start flying through the air like Frisbees.   All the girls are wearing dresses and I turn to look at Brooke and she has her dress wrapped around her head.  We all gain composure and save the guacamole, salsas and beans.  The quesadillas will be enjoyed by the fish.  We put out the fire and secure “most everything” (we lost a lawn chair) and run down to the galley.  We cook our meat in the oven instead and the “fiesta” continues.  Maxine is amazed at the stability of the boat.
Friday morning is whale shark day!  Marcos is our provider of service in Bahia de Los Angeles.  He shows up in his power panga, and off he goes with his first six whale shark snorkelers while the rest of us set off for our first dive of the day.  They are out for a couple of hours.  When they get back we are wrapping up breakfast and they have stars in their eyes.  Rich is even a little emotional about his whale shark experience.  They saw several whale sharks, but one in particular stayed with them the entire time.  He let them swim alongside and seemed to enjoy himself as much as the snorkeler’s.  Our group went next.  We were able to swim with at least seven whale sharks on several different submersions, but they made us work a lot harder than the previous group.  We get back to the “Rocio del Mar.  We are laughing and carrying on, making fun of each other’s “graceful and quite entrance”.  We will keep Jeanie’s entrance in the vault.  “What happens on the Rocio stays on the Rocio”.
On behalf of me and the crew, we give you a huge heartfelt thank you for making this the most wonderful job in the world.
Until our next reunion, adios y hasta pronto,
Your crew,  Lolo, Dora, Rey, Bob, Everardo, Julio, Tito, Aurelio and Pedro

August 20-27, 2011

Easy cruise this week from Puerto Penasco to Angel de la Guardia and we had clear visibility at Angel Rock for our checkout and weighting dives. Water was warm in the low 80’s and plenty of rays, nudibranchs, morays, and our Cortez damsel fish as well as an abundance of King Angels.

Lolo’s Cove was as fun as ever with plenty of guitar fish, lots of scorpion fish, and morays.  Our dive at La Vela enabled us to see turtles and pulpos although the visibility wasn’t as nice as we would have liked.

Our first dives off Sal si Puedes at Andrea’s Pinnacle gave us better visibility and an opportunity to see giant jaw fish, blue-spotted jaw fish, turtles, octopi, and wonderfully blooming black coral with yellow polyps.  The Argentines were impressed by our forests of black coral and also curious as why we call a forest of yellow, black.  Seems if the coral is brought to the surface it turns black—hence the name black coral. We did our first night dives at the same site and it was great fun for all with the cloudless sky above and clear views of the Milky Way as we surfaced at the end of the dive.  Our Argentine guests ensured we were not without music during our trip and we shared music and song through the ship’s speakers throughout the evening…and every night on the trip afterwards.

We dove San Pedro Martir but the visibility was poor so we cut our time their short and went in search of sperm whales on our way to Las Animas.  And…we sure found them!  We had our best interaction yet and we found a pod of six that seemed tolerant of our presence so we loaded up the pangas and went out for a snorkel with them.  We were greeted by hundreds of dolphins on our way out to meet up with the whales.  There were dolphins from horizon to horizon…they may have numbered in the thousands!  They got in front of and behind the pangas and catapulted into the air---sometimes as much as 2-3 meters out of the water.  An amazing display.
The sperm whale snorkel gave us an opportunity to video a mother and calf…we’ll have it on our web site.  Wonderful!  What a day but it was topped off by a delightfully orange and rose colored sunset that captivated all of us as we continued to watch the dolphins frolic.  Our Mexican and Argentine guests thoroughly enjoyed the diving.  And we learned about the difference between the Mexican pelicans and huey-huey birds of Argentina.

 We’re sure our guests will remember this trip for the rest of their lives as we snorkeled with 6 whale sharks on Friday.  All had fun and the crew enjoyed the great cheer brought onboard by our guests.  Parting is sad for all but we hope you will return to dive with us again either in the Sea of Cortez or at the Socorro Islands.  Until the next time.  Farewell from the Rocio Del Mar.