Isla Socorro Mantas – Day 8…..

Dear F&F,
January 21, 2009

The day was cloudy & the sea grey which does not inspire us to zoom out diving. We felt so ho-hum about it that we even considered moving on up to Cabo Henslow today. But we did not feel like we\’d really done the diving justice here, so got ourselves together & dinghied out to Punta Tosca. Despite being awake off & on much of the night, I had good energy. Good thing because the first dive proved to be a workout.

We anchored on the southwest ridge in about 50 feet of water & could see the current was pretty strong. Often more potential for bigger animals then. We saw a black-back manta pretty quick after securing the anchor, our first one underwater while here at Socorro. It didn\’t stick around long, just a \”fly by\”. We swam along the ridge which dropped off pretty deep, on the lookout for hammerheads or other sharks that we\’d heard can be in this area. The visibility was good, at 80 feet we could still see the bottom which was about 150 feet. No sharks seen today.

On the return swim to the anchor we were really against the current. This is not what we like. We always try to swim against the current first so on the return it is with you. I was kicking like crazy & felt that I was not making much headway in the water column. I was breathing hard & fast, but it was like running in place. I could not afford to use up my air going nowhere, so dropped down to the ridge below me: 105 feet. My dive computer said I had 4 minutes before decompression mode. Not automatically dangerous, but something we try to avoid. Our computers help us to stay within recreational dive protocols. It only took me 2-3 minutes to combat crawl my way up the ridge which started to get shallower & my computer gave me more lots more \”no deco\” time. Scott knew what I was doing when he saw me sink down & crawl. He managed to stay 80 feet or less with his stronger longer legs and bigger stiffer fins. He swam right above me, watching me the whole time to make sure I was ok.

I was a bit shaken & had really sucked down my air fast. It goes much much quicker that deep, just as keeping shallow you can really stretch a tank out a long time. Once in sight of our anchor line I could relax a bit. That is my way to the surface, the dinghy & all the air I need. I signal to Scott that I need to go up to the safety stop depth of 15 feet since my air is down to 700 psi. That is the minimum we like to surface with. He signaled back that he still had 1200 lbs & since 2 mantas decided he was the most interesting thing on the reef, the bum got to stay. I was thrilled just to hold on the dinghy line & watch another manta-photographer love fest. The two girls took turns swirling, circling, hovering over his head. Terry had told us that he had never ridden a manta in Socorro. After many minutes of close up video, eye to eye introductions & a few belly rubs Scott could not resist trying. It didn\’t shy away at all, in fact he could have ridden it much longer than he did. But having done it, he let go & returned to increasing the world\’s largest collection of manta video footage. Fantastic. At 15 feet I had enough air to stay longer than the required 5 minutes (2 mins mandatory due to my earlier depth & 3 mins usual safety stop). Scott finally got down to 700 lbs himself & popped the anchor. I hopped in the dinghy once he reached his safety stop. We were both grinning ear to ear. Another dose of mantas before leaving the Revillagigedos, terrific!

We had brought 4 tanks out so we could do a 2nd dive. We drove the dinghy out of the swell to a more protected spot in order to swap out our BC (buoyancy compensators) & regulators, have our snack & do some surface time. We were hoping the mantas would stick around that part of the reef & we had marked it as a waypoint on the GPS so could easily return to it. After about 45 minutes we went back to check it out. Unfortunately the swell had really increased from earlier. We did not feel it was prudent to dive there a second time. We motored most of the way back to the anchorage for a 2nd go at the 6 foot pinnacle. The swell was much less there & we were already wet, so why not? The visibility was much less than yesterday. One electric ray seen on the sandy bottom. We did not go deep to chase it. We made a tour of the Matterhorn-shaped reef & called it a day. By the time we surfaced the swell had come up even there.

Linda had hailed us in the morning that she baked ciabbata & wanted to share. We stopped by the \”Socorro Bakery\” before going home. It made for a fresh & delicious lunch. Chuck & Linda told us they were able to get very near the Mama & Baby whale in their dinghy, able to watch for a long time. Cool. Later, she swam ashore & explored the beach a bit. The terrain made for rough walking so she couldn\’t go far, or find the fresh water spring that is here somewhere per the book they have. Thus all the greenery & palm trees.

In the afternoon I finished my Ellen MacArthur book (\”Taking On the World\”), reading the highlights out loud to Scott. It was a great companion to this offshore experience. I highly recommend it to anyone, especially if you are looking for inspiration on being your best & pushing yourself to the limits.

I swapped all the remaining food from the main freezer to the extra unit in the \”camera room\”. It can be set for fridge or freezer. This way we can shut down the main freezer & hopefully save power. Being able to leave the door open on the primary freezer as long as I wanted allowed me to take an accurate inventory of my remaining frozen stores. We will not starve. But we have made a plan of setting sail for Zihuatenejo soon. Weather permitting, we will head to Cabo Henslow (just 5 miles north of here) tomorrow and dive the sites there 2-3 days. Once again, checking the weather, we will return to mainland Mexico, taking all our happy memories of San Benedicto & Socorro with us. It has been quite an experience. One we are so glad we did not miss.

Scott & Cindy