It's about diving. And cats.

Me diving

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Rob's Birthday Dive: The Great Pinnacle

Today is Rob's birthday, so we took the day off and went diving. We went to Point Lobos and dove off of Phil Sammet's inflatable. We have never done any boat diving at Lobos before, so we were very excited to check out a new site. We decided to do one long dive at the Great Pinnacle (aka Bluefish Outer Pinnacle). Phil's boat is very spacious and comfortable for a "small" boat. It very comfortably accommodates 4 divers with doubles (we were sharing the boat with two other divers). It also has a super cool articulating trailer so that it can be launched from Lobos even if the tide is very low. The only other experience I have diving from an inflatable was on Patrick's very small inflatable, where I was constantly worried I was going to fall out of the boat while it was moving :) Not so this time. Rob and I splashed first since we were planning a longer dive. Gearing up on the boat was fine, and then I back rolled in, which I was a little afraid of... never done that in doubles before, and somehow that makes it seem like you are more likely to plummet to the bottom of the ocean when you roll in. It was actually pretty graceful though :P I borrowed Phil's jet fins, because he was commenting last Saturday about how my IDI Power Fins are the manliest fins around (they are very stiff, and require some muscle to use). I said that I found them very stiff and wanted to try real jet fins sometime. So I tried his out; they also had real spring straps, instead of my "ghetto spring straps" as some have called them.

The water looked very clean from the surface. It was overcast, so it wasn't super bright underwater, but it was a nice emerald/teal color looking down from the surface. The water was pretty calm on the surface, but periodically a big swell would come through. So we were expecting it to be somewhat surgy at least shallow. Phil anchored on the tallest peak, which is about 40 feet deep. We descended the line (with the now-standard pauses at 20 and 40 feet for me to deal with my ears), and the first thing I noticed at the 20 foot pause was two blue rockfish hanging out at the top of the pinnacle getting pushed around by the surge -- whoosh whoosh. They didn't seem to mind, they were just hanging out. As we descended, the water got a little bit less clean (odd, huh?) but the viz was still probably around 50 to 60 feet. We followed the little canyon between the peak we were anchored on and the next one south to the west-ish. The vertical faces were very well encrusted with the usual stuff -- strawberry anemones, sponges, etc. They were just really really colorful overall. There were also little kelp stalklings in some areas.

So, we followed this little canyon out and worked our way down to 80 feet. When we circled around to the north side of the pinnacle, this is where we saw some really cool stuff. There were several elephant ear sponges, which Rob always likes to photograph. There was also a decent amount of hydrocoral, some of it even big and bushy :) While Rob was shooting pictures of me posing with the hydrocoral, I was checking out all the little crabs living in there. There were also strawberry anemones of all different colors, even pastel purple, my favorite color of Corynactis! :) We also saw a gray puffball sponge. Rob pointed it out to me and asked if I knew what it was, and I was like... what the heck is that? But I was just perusing Clinton's website and happened upon it. It looked exactly like Clinton's picture -- thanks Clinton! From the macro perspective, there were lots of nudibranchs, although I didn't see anything fantasticly exciting. There were the usual dorids -- lots of Doriopsilla (some rather small) and Peltodoris (some very large) and several San Diegos (one of which was a rather dark color, pretty tan-ish). Also lots of Cadlina luteomarginatas. I saw two Triopha Catalinae's, about 4 inches from each other. Phil said you can sometimes see Dironas here, but we did not see any :( We also saw several chestnut cowries. We eventually worked our way down to about 90 feet for about 10 minutes, and then worked our way back up for the rest of the dive. Rumor has it there is some even cooler stuff to see deeper, but we are too lame for that.

The really cool thing about this site is the topography, which is hard to describe in a dive report. But I will try, with the assistance of some images from GlobalMapper. The pinnacle basically has four separate spires, which range in depth from 40 feet to 80 feet. Between the spires, there are canyon-ish areas. The whole pinnacle rises up from about 150 to 160 feet (depending on which side). On the outer edges, there are also some vertical grooves. In summary, the topography is quite dramatic... from 60 or 80 feet, you can look down the "mountain" and not see the bottom. The whole thing really feels like a little mountain range. It's cool.

Another cool thing about the site is the abundance of fish. Throughout the dive, we kept running into groups of rockfish. Many of the times it would be 10 or 20 fish. But we would periodically swim around a corner and see dozens of fish. At one point, I thought to myself... I wonder how many fish are actually there? And a quick attempt to estimate (in the "count the jelly beans in the jar" fashion) put the number around 100. Most of these groups were blue rockfish. At one point, as I was coming over one of the ridges (to get a better look at a giant sheephead), I saw a little pile of olive rockfish. I love how they seem to always orient themselves in parallel lines, they look like kelp leaves when they are next to a kelp stalk. There were two little groups, one had maybe 10 and the other 15 to 20. Then they started swimming away from me (and the reef) and I looked out to where they were swimming and saw a huge column of hundreds of fish. So I swam over to check it out. They were all blue rockfish (well, I saw one lonely surfperch trying to clean some of the blues), with the few olive rockfish intermingled. It was really cool, just hanging there with them, I was trying to pretend I was a rockfish. I also saw just a couple of solitary yellowtail rockfish (I think).

We spent the last 15 minutes hanging out at the top of the 40 foot spire. It was super surgy there. It was actually pretty cool being pushed back and forth parallel to the reef, watching it go by -- it had a very colorful array of strawberry anemones all over it. Not so cool I guess for Rob, who was still trying to take pictures. There was a tiny bit of current, and Rob asked me if I wanted to shoot a bag and drift. I was like... hell no, I'm freezing and I don't want to have to wait around in the water to be picked up. I think he just thought it would be fun to drift :P We did our ascent, with Rob continuously second-guessing my timing on each 10 foot move (and sneaking in a couple extra minutes). At 20 feet, Rob found a tiny crystal jellyfish, about 1 inch in diameter. It was cool. 94 feet, 88 minutes, 48 degrees

The last time I kicked myself up into an inflatable, I landed on the floor, and felt like a fish flopping around on the deck of a fishing boat. This time went a little bit more smoothly. I think Phil correctly inferred that I am pretty clueless about diving from a small boat, so he told me everything to do (including reminding me to remove my backup necklace before trying to shimmy out of my harness, etc.). And I made it into the boat without face planting onto the floor (with the help of Phil, who hoisted me up by the waist of my drysuit). The ride back in was pleasant, though still overcast. I particularly liked that Phil hosed off our gear in the boat. I promised Rob I would clean the gear since it is his birthday, so that was a big help :)

Afterwards we had lunch at Turtle Bay, which was really hopping. I guess it is a popular weekday lunch spot for people who work in downtown Monterey. After that, we went to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. We haven't been there in a couple of years. It was cool to look at all the local displays, since there were some fish which I know are around here, but I haven't seen yet (several rockfish species). But I swear there was no wartneck piddock in the wartneck piddock exhibit! The giant mola mola is also really neat -- I forgot how big the one at the aquarium is; he really dwarfs all the ones I have seen in the wild. I also wanted to checkout the jellyfish exhibit, since I had a rumor they had some Leucothea pulchras. A few weeks ago, I thought I saw one in the Channel Islands, but thought I could firm up the ID if I saw one in the flesh (as opposed to in a book). Yea, that's the one. The sea nettles were really pretty. I really want to see one! Seems like everyone else has been seeing them in droves (guess that's what I get for diving in Carmel all the time these days and not Monterey). I also liked the new river otter exhibit -- they are so cute and feisty, like kitties!

Selected pictures from the day are on the BAUE galleries here.
All pictures from the day are here.

1 comment:

Strike a pose said...

Great Report... Happy Birthday Robert!!! Glad you 2 had a good dive and Allison didn't have to wash gear.