Today certainly didn't turn out like we thought it would. Our plan was to go to the tienda for a few things, maybe enjoy happy hour at the palapa and call it good. However, that was before Terry called.
Terry is a cruiser (s/v Manta) who has been down here since the early 80s. He's an avid diver and frequently takes people out on diving excursion as well as doing some instructing. He's been sharing the Ensenada Blanca anchorage with us for the last week or so. He called us on the VHF radio this morning about 9:30 and wanted to know if we'd like to go out on a dive. I told him that our experience so far consisted solely of snorkeling. He said that wouldn't be a problem. We were just to bring our masks, flippers and snorkels and we'd head out about 10:30. We jumped at the chance. We were both a little bit nervous about it but Terry said we'd start off in about 3' of water, then move to 5' when we were comfortable and so on. We decided that you just have to jump when chances like this come along lest they never come along again. We told him we'd be there.
Once we got Terry's dinghy loaded up we headed out to Isla Las Tijeras, a mile or so north of our anchorage.
Once we got there, Terry told us how easy scuba diving was. I said that was good because less than a week ago I was still using a life vest when I snorkeled. This gave him pause but he pointed to the shore and asked, "Can you swim well enough to reach the shore?" I assured him that I could and he said "No problem." Terry gave us a quick lesson in how the regulators worked. Then we donned our masks and flippers and went over the side. He handed us down our scuba tanks and we schlepped them to shallower water where he could help us put them on. There was a considerable surge that made standing in one place very difficult but we eventually got our gear on and adjusted.
The next step was just to get under the water and breathe to get used to the fact that we would actually be able to breathe underwater. Except for Lulu having trouble getting her mask to fit without leaking, this step went pretty well. It was pretty amazing to be able to actually breathe underwater. It wasn't completely new since we'd been able to breathe underwater (to a point) with snorkels. But the scuba gear sounded different, particularly when exhaling, and that took a couple of seconds to get used to.
Comfortable with that step, we moved into deeper water, maybe five feet or so. Terry said to just go down to the bottom and grab a rock to help hold us down and just get used to breathing and being underwater. This was a lot harder than it sounded. It was all I could do to get down and almost impossible to stay down. My gear included a buoyancy compensator that still had some air in it which wasn't helping at all. Terry released the air and then found some rocks to put in the pocket of my vest. Lulu was still having mask problems but she kept doggedly readjusting and trying again.
We then moved into a little deeper water, maybe 8' or so. Terry motioned to us to take a spot on a rock and watch. He then opened a scallop and laid it on the rocks to attract the fish. And attract fish it did! First little small colorful ones and eventually some larger ones: two different kinds of parrot fish, some trigger fish, and numerous others who's names I have no idea of.
We moved to deeper water (14') and saw a small moray eel which Terry fed with some pieces of scallop. As we proceeded along, I spotted a much larger moray sticking his head out from beneath a rock. I made no attempt to feed him, being somewhat protective of my fingers.
Gliding through the water was incredible. It was almost like flying. The weight Terry added to my vest made me almost neutral on the buoyancy scale. If I stopped and let some air out of my lungs, I could slowly sink. But by inflating my lungs a little more, I could rise up and swim along at whatever level I needed to. It was just like Sea Hunt except not in black and white. It really was awesome.
We continued on following Terry into gradually deeper water. We saw some more morays and, at one point,Terry revealed a scorpion fish to me. That was one well-camouflaged fish! He pointed him out and I didn't see anything but rock until Terry nudged it a little with his dive knife at which point the "rock" exploded into movement and swam away at high speed. They're very venomous and even a very small prick can cause real problems. Too bad they're so darn hard to spot.
Our ultimate depth was 39'. At this point we stopped going deeper because we'd reached the thermocline where the water started getting noticeably cooler. Terry would be alright as he had a wetsuit on but Lulu and I just had swimming suits. She had a long sleeve Lycra dive skin on top but I just had a wet t-shirt. It wasn't uncomfortably cold but it would have been if we'd stayed at that depth too long.
As we started meandering our way back towards shallower water, Lulu and I both got the opportunity to feed a small moray. Good thing we had gloves on as I felt him hit my finger a little when he took the proffered scallop. Eventually we found ourselves back in 4'-5' water alongside the dinghy. We still had enough air in our tanks to keep diving but we were both pretty pooped. We'd been down for 47 minutes.
Terry complimented us on how little air we used. Said we were cheap dates. He also especially complimented Lulu on her tenacity. In spite of her ill-fitting mask and all the trouble it caused, she just kept returning to the surface to make adjustments as needed and then rejoining us down below. He figured she would have given up long ago. He doesn't know Lulu very well. As for myself, I took to scuba diving WAY better than I ever thought I would. It's amazing how knowing that you can breathe underwater can change your whole view.
Will we buy scuba gear? I doubt it. Takes up a lot of room which we just don't have. Will we jump at the next opportunity to go scuba diving. Yer damn right we will!
Next trip to Loreto: new mask for Lulu and better fins for both of us.
Our Christmas present to ourselves this Christmas: an underwater camera.