This first video shows some light bulb tunicates (Clavelina huntsmani) that I found while snorkelling in Saanich Inlet on Vancouver Island. According to the RBCM and other sources, these animals are more closely related to humans than are any other invertebrates.
This second video shows my first use of a reel to help manage the line that connects whatever float and/or flag I am using to the small weight that I use to anchor it.
The float serves multiple purposes:
- Visibility to encourage boaters to stay at a safe distance
- Storage for things like my sandals (so that they are immediately available to me when I exit the water) and valuables (so that I don’t have to worry about anyone finding where I have stashed my car keys at the beach)
- Rendezvous point so that my buddy and I know where to look for each other in case we get separated
- Descent line (visual reference to help me efficiently swim straight down with my chin tucked in, instead of wandering off diagonally)
- Subject marker
The first four of these points are well documented but the last one does not get much attention. When the water is reasonably clear, my usual mode is to swim along the surface while following whatever depth contour is at the limit of vertical visibility. When I see something interesting, I take a single deep breath and dive down for a closer look. Before I started using a float, most of the time when I got down to the bottom I had lost sight of whatever I was looking for and had to waste valuable time looking for it before I needed to come up for air.
Ever since I started towing a float I have found the line to be almost as useful as the float itself. Now, when I spot something that might look good in a photo, I lower the anchor weight so that it settles on the bottom near the subject. This practice either guarantees that I will swim directly to it or else end up close enough to the subject that I can find it quickly by just looking around for the line.
The only disadvantage I have found with this technique is that the line often gets tangled around my legs or sometimes even my snorkel. The problem comes from the line having a fixed length. If I use a very short line, such as I would with a standard swim float, there is not enough slack for it to get wrapped around any part of me. The downside is not having enough length to anchor anywhere other than right against the shore. If I tow the float with a line that is long enough to reach the maximum depth that I am willing to dive to, then I have a very good chance of getting tangled up in it, especially when I am close to the float and the line is suspended nearby in a random spaghetti-like configuration. I have never found an ideal compromise length. On several snorkelling sessions I tried using a plastic winder, such as is often suppled with lengths of rope purchased from a hardware store, to take up the slack but that turned out to be much more trouble than it was worth.
After the first use of the reel I am convinced that I have found a solution to the length problem. When swimming from one place to the next I can make the line very short. When I want to swim down to something I can let out enough line to let the weight settle on the bottom. In practice, I let out enough line so that I can see it go from taught to slack and then about another arm’s-length of it so that small waves are not enough to lift the anchor off the bottom.
The weight is small enough that I can easily hold it in my hand when towing the float to the next location that I want to explore. That weight is not quite enough to enable the line to unreel by itself so I have to use as slight amount of force to help it on its way. A heavier weight would sink on its own but would be more difficult to lift and would make cranking in the line much more difficult.