It's about diving. And cats.

Me diving

Friday, June 20, 2008

Scootering to the End of the Earth

We had planned to take Friday off to go out on Phil's RIB, but he had to cancel at the last minute (hiss at Phil) on Thursday to drive the Cypress Sea (Rob tried to talk Phil into taking the "Friendly Friday" boat to Flintstones, but that didn't quite work.) After planning all week to take the day off to go diving, I couldn't bear the thought of going to work, so we decided to just go scootering at Lobos instead. I had been mulling the idea of scootering to Montana sometime, harassing Kevin about the profile from his last dive out there, and discussing the various paths out there with Jonathan. So it seemed like a good time to head out there. The little change of plans required us to go by Anywater on Thursday evening, and since we were already about 1/3 of the way to Monterey, we decided to just head down there and spend the night (at Hotel Derosier :P). It was good that we did; apparently there was some big accident on 1 just coming into Monterey, that everyone was stuck in. So instead of meeting Kevin at 7:30 or so, he showed up a little after 8:30.

It was crazy hot for the area, like 85 degrees at 8 AM. That made getting into our suits pretty icky. But eventually I decided to just get in it the whole way and douse myself in water. Then I laid on the ramp and worked on my tan (errr something) while waiting for Kevin. When he finally arrived, he was punished by being assigned to tow the extra scooter. The one upside to Kevin's late arrival was that the tide was coming in and the ramp got marginally more traversable by the time we got in. When we got into the water, the viz in the cove wasn't too terrible. We surface scooted out until the kelp got nearly unpassable, and given the good viz, we decided to just drop there. Rob was leading, with Kevin in second. We scootered over the south end of Middle Reef and then made our way to the sand channel. The ride through the kelp on the reef was really nice -- it was like zooming through a tropical forest, with sun streaming through the "trees" above. There were lots of fishies out and about enjoying the nice conditions -- senoritas, blue rockfish, kelp rockfish, little groups of juvenile rockfish. We headed out to the end of Middle Reef and then over to Granite Point Wall. After a little pause so I could turn off one of Kevin's backup lights, we headed out along the reef-sand interface. The visibility was really good, I would say at least 50 feet. The plan was to hop from pinnacle to pinnacle along the sand interface until we got a bit past Crossroads. We passed some little rocks with Metridium on them, which I have seen before when running along that edge before. Along the way, a back seat leader who I will not name started leading us more west than we had planned to go. Before you know it, we found some big rocks with Metridium on them. I had a suspicion that they were the rocks you are supposed to hit on the way from Beto's Reef to Montana (an alternate path that Jonathan had told me about). From these rocks, Montana was supposed to be just 2 minutes to the north. So we headed north, and before you know it we hit the little pinnaclet just to the south of Montana, and then Montana itself. Out here, I would guess the viz was around 80 feet. Woohoo.

We had originally planned to cruise to the "far side" (west side) of Montana when we got there, but since we were already on that side, we just clipped off and hung out there. We hung out on the western-most peak of Montana for the whole time that we were there (which was only about 15 minutes). When we first got there, as Kevin was switching scooters, I saw a school of baby rockfish; not sure what they were, but I swam over to take a look. Then we basically just perused the reef for a while. Rob was shooting wide-angle, while Kevin and I poked around. I hadn't seen any too interesting when I stumbled upon a white dorid with white speckles... could it be the elusive jaguar slug (errr Aldisa albomarginata). I was pretty sure it was. I called Rob over (actually I dispatched Kevin to fetch Rob, so I wouldn't lose it) and he agreed. Woohoo. Not so elusive after all.

After that, I swam over to look at something Kevin was pointing out to me, and they it was two Dendronotus albus. Then I was about to pose behind an elephant ear that Rob was shooting, when Kevin signaled me again to show me a Dirona. Then he showed me another one, and I eventually found a third. Before you know it, it was time to go. Just as Rob and I were discussing that it was time to go, Kevin signaled and we came over and saw a Tochuina tetraqueta. Kevin's nudi radar was really working! We checked it out, lamented that Rob had already folded up and stowed his camera, and then headed off. We circled around the north side and between two of the peaks as we headed back towards Crossroads. We saw a couple of medusas on the way, and an Aegina citrea (which I've never seen before, but Clinton got a nice picture of one last week, so I recognized it). We also passed a couple of small salp chains. After we hit Crossroads, we continued in weaving between the pinnacles, and eventually got to Granite Point Wall, where we switched to our bottles. Then we headed over to Middle Reef. We stopped at the end of Middle Reef, because Rob wanted to look for a warbonnet that he and Clinton had found recently. He found the warbonnet, and pointed its hole out to me. I peered into the hole and all I could see was its tail. I didn't want to shine my light in and blind the little guy :)

We cruised down the sand channel and when we got to the end, I suggested to Rob that we go to the east side of Middle Reef to hang out at 20'. So we headed over there and found a lovely spot under the kelp. The viz was really good even here. It was a nice day to hang out in this spot -- very calm and very clear. The light was streaming in through the kelp. There were a bunch of kelp rockfish hanging out with us. Rob decided it would be a good time to work on some kelp shots, so he got his camera out and I posed for some pictures. I kept moving into a good spot and then a minute later I wouldn't be under the kelp anymore. After a couple minutes, we finally realized our bubbles were parting the kelp canopy -- duh. When we were finished with our 20' stop, we headed in, and we finally ascended about 20' from our float. The tide had come in a lot while we were in the water, so we managed to get out of the water without too much flailing :) 140-ish feet, 96 minutes, 46 degrees (brrr)

It was a nice dive, and we saw some nice stuff, but I must admit, it's kind of a long scooter ride for not very much time on the site. But maybe the ride out would have seemed more "worth it" if we had hugged the reef and had something to look at (a la Road to Twin Peaks). We all agreed after the dive that it was a shame to have such awesome conditions and not be able to go out on the boat :( We met Jonathan and Hyeon Joo (whose name I may have just butchered) at El Torito for lunch, and saw the Cypress Sea driving back in from its Friendly Friday trip. It's like Phil was trying to rub it in! We also saw some dolphins jumping in the bay.

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