Our first dive is on the Nasi Yalodina, a medical supply ship that sank in a storm a dozen years ago. It lies at 90 feet, the hull intact but having shed many pieces of structure. A large lionfish lurks on the deck. Soft corals cling to the railings. Several curious spadefish follow us around the wreck. Then we work our way up to shallower water where we encounter a beautiful hard coral garden hosting many butterflyfish, wrasses and damsels. The garden includes table corals ten feet wide. A hawksbill turtle rests on coral rubble. As we surface, we find a tiny juvenile spadefish hiding in floating sargassum seaweed.
The second dive site is Cat's Meow, named for Cat Holloway, wife of the owner of the Naia. It's a narrow pinnacle rising from a 70-foot rubble plain to within 15 feet of the surface. The area around the pinnacle has zoanthus polyps in many colors, as well as a littering of fungia plate corals and larger bowl corals. A dragon nudibranch crawls slowly across the rubble. Near the bottom of the pinnacle is a 20 foot long swim-through in which lurk a dozen many-spotted sweetlips. In a wide area in the middle is a Randall's shrimp goby waving its eye-spotted dorsal fin. We searched diligently, but were unable to find the ghost pipefish who is often at this site. On top of the pinnacle are many anemones each red, green, or beige and hosting clownfish. Many fusiliers, anthias, and surgeonfish swarm around the top.
After lunch, Dr. Steve Webster from the Monterey Bay Aquarium gives part 3 of his lecture series on marine invertebrates, covering cnidaria - corals and anemones.
The third dive is Cat's Reef, the larger reef structure nearby. We started over a rubble field that was covered with more zoanthus soft corals. Many small fish were around, and some huge hermit crabs. Further on we followed a wall, and saw a hundred midnight snapper passing by. A half dozen spadefish came up to us, very curious, and followed us for the rest of the dive.
Back at the Naia, the store is open! Shopping time for Naia logo-wear.
The day's fourth dive was at dusk on Humann Nature, a bommie named after Paul Humann who has written several popular fish ID books. A nice find in the rubble at the bottom was a solar boxfish. As it started to darken, hundreds of banner fish appeared. On the top many fish milled about as the daytime fish were looking for places to bed for the night, and the squirrel and cardinal fish were starting to stray from their caves.
After dinner, the Diver of the Day awards went to Shawn for having a group of spadefish follow her throughout a dive, and to Russ for his ability to be down on the reef within seconds of hitting the water.
The night dive was again on Humann Nature. Sea cucumbers were out, along with a variety of squirrel and cardinal fish. We found a couple of scorpion and lion fishes. Many different kinds of crabs and shrimp were out. The tubastrea coral had its tentacles out feeding. One black-blotched porcupine fish was hunting on the reef top.
A five-dive day is exhausting. Time for bed!
- Mark Rosenstein