Thursday, October 18, 2012

Sea Camp 2012 Day 4

Sea Camp day 4

After yesterday’s bright sunshine and warm temperatures, the morning greeted us with a scene more out of a Wes Craven movie then the Endless Summer.  The city and Fiesta Island were completely overrun a thick blanket of clouds and strong winds that promised to churn the sea turn even the heartiest of stomachs. 

Breakfast was the usual delicious affair with trays full of Danish, sausage, eggs, and waffles.  Once the bags were packed, team B shoehorned themselves into the familiar white and silver Sea Camp vans for the ten minute drive to the marina.

When I walk in the spot (yeah), this is what I see (ok)
Everybody stops and they staring at me
I got passion in my face and I ain't afraid to show it, show it, show it, show it

I'm At Sea Camp and I know it

Once all seat backs and tray tables were in there up right and lock positions and all carry-on luggage was securely stowed in the overhead bins or under the seat in front of us, the Sea Camp crew explained where all of the emergency exits were located (over the side of the boat once donning a life vest), that any unplanned feeding of fish (throwing-up) was to be done OVER the side of the boat, not the ships head, and that should the oxygen masks be deployed that you should place the mask your own face before assisting a small child, or someone acting like a small child.  Hum, I guess that would mean I would be the last one on the boat to get an oxygen mask.  The safety instructions were so interesting that a huge male sea lion came and popped his head out of the water to listen, pose for photos, wish us well, and remind us to write our parents frequently.  So far the high winds didn’t change the marina’s water typically glass surfaces.  Perhaps things out past the breakers things would be as bad as we thought. 

The first thirty minutes of motoring was uneventful unfortunately yet the staffs predictions of a mad dash to the gunnels didn’t happen either.  The seas were angry my friends, but we were headed with the swell which helped keep breakfast where it belonged.  This season’s boat trips have yielded precious few animal sightings and at first we feared that the dolphins had performed so much for yesterday’s group that they would have nothing left to show us.  As luck would have it, one of the largest pods of common dolphins seen this year was spotted by the Sea Camp owner, Phil, from his office window at Scripps Oceanic Research Facility and radioed to the ship’s captain so the chase was on.  The Sea Watch streaked through the water thanks to the strong tail wind and friendly currents that pushed us towards the commons and in no time we had caught the pod who very kindly jumped and squeaked for pictures.  When the captain rendezvous with a pod he will slow to their preferred bow surfing pace and chart a course that matches that of the dolphins.  The dolphins were headed in the opposite direction which headed us into the swells so everyone on the bow watching the show had to endure the bow spray that soaked even the counselors who normally are able to avoid getting even a drop on their clothes.  The change in direction was the first real challenged for campers and I’m happy to say they passed with flying colors.  It also made taking pictures impractical and staying warm impossible. After circling in a spot that has seen whales in the week to no avail, the ship turned into the wind and headed for home.
Under normal sea conditions, the boat would anchor outside of La Jolla Cove and snorkel in the world famous La Jolla inlets and caves, but the wind and surf made anchoring in open water unsafe, so we motored back to Mission Point where we dropped anchor and snorkeled in Mission bay.  The water was as opaque as yesterday so we weren’t able to see or pull up much marine life for the students to see, touch, and taste.   To finish our water time, the students had a battle of the sexes in a game of king of the raft which was won decisively by the girls (it always is).
As soon as everyone got back on the boat and changed, we were treated trolling in the mission channel.  This is something that I have never done and I am pleased to report that it was really exciting. The bottom scrapping net caught at least a dozen sting rays, ten California Spiny Lobsters, Calico Bass, Giant Kelp Fish, Pipe Fish, and a two spotted octopus.  After a brief description of the specific adaptations that have evolved to allow survival, the students were able to pet and hold everything that was liberated from the bottom of the sea.  Don’t worry, the sting rays didn’t sting and the lobsters behaved themselves.  

Even though the boat trip wasn’t what we hoped due to the adverse conditions, the yield by the end of the day far exceeded our optimistic expectations.  Thankfully we only had a few who got sick in conditions that the Sea Camp staff had openly warned me my produce an epidemic of sea sickness.  The kids did great, learned a ton, and had the time of their lives.  As I write this report, the kids are engaged in the Sea Camp end of trip rite, the camp fire.  I hope they left some s’more for me.

See you at the airport,


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