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Me diving

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Cold, Clear Water

Saturday was the April installment of the BAUE tech boat. It seemed like it had been ages since I'd been on the Escapade, but really it was only two months. The boat was so popular that it was split into two installments, morning and afternoon. Since the lowly T1 divers had been relegated to the afternoon boat last time, we got the morning boat this time around. There were only 5 of us on the boat, so it was quite comfortable on the boat. The swell forecast looked really good throughout the week, so we were hopeful that we could get far south. However, it was a bit foggy out, which we were a little concerned about. However, by the time we got down to Carmel, the fog had lifted. It was a bit sportier than I was expecting though. But nothing too bad -- we still made it down to the Yankee Point area, to the vicinity of "Dos Gatos", the site we went to in February.

We had been itching to get back there, mostly because the bathymetry showed so much more to explore. And also because Kevin had missed the dive in February. When we got there, Jim warned us that due to the wind, he couldn't really tell what the current was doing. We hopped into the water, which was incredibly blue and clear. I could see the line, and I could see that it was pretty much completely vertical -- nice. We headed over to the line and paused at 20' for a bubble check. As soon as we left 20', I could make out the reef below. I was thinking we must be on the wrong site, because the pinnacle was supposed to top around 100'. It did top at 100', but the viz was just that good. When we got to the bottom, it seemed like we could see forever. We could see the ripples on the surface from 150'! We got down to the pinnacle, and I had to make an executive decision about where to go (since I was leading). I was a bit perplexed. The depth of the pinnacle top suggested we were on the first (west-most) peak, but the slope at the bottom of the pinnacle was all wrong. Rob had mentioned that there was some structure south of the pinnacles we were on last time, so I was wondering if that was where we were. Given the crazy good viz, it seemed like a good day to cover some ground and try to get the lay of the land. So off we went, in the north-ish direction. Actually once we were headed north, I just sort of meandered based on where I could see structure.

The first spot that we landed on was a ridge from about 150 feet down to 180-ish feet, that ran roughly east-west. It had a lot of elephant ears on the top. We hung out there for a little while, and Rob took some pictures. Then we continued on to a structure I could see in the distance, to the east or northeast. We found another biggish pinnacle off in that area, and we paused there. After poking around a little while, we continued on to the west. I felt bad that we were spending so much time on the trigger so Rob couldn't take many pics, but I figured that is really the only way to get the lay of the land. We eventually found a small ridge to the west, but it was pretty deep. It topped at 160 to 170 feet. There was another bigger structure off further to the west, but I decided it was time to head back. There were two things I noticed, critter-wise, on the dive. First, there were tons of cream/light yellowed colored slugs around. I think they were Geitodoris heathi. Back on the boat after the dive, John mentioned that he had seen a ton of them as well. The second thing I noticed was a bunch of sponges (I guess) that were light yellow to white in color and had an interesting texture. Anyhoo, we headed back to the start point. Since we had been meandering here and there, I decided to just kind of average the headings out and try to head straight back. As a result, the trek back was over deeper water, with lots of little pinnacles and boulders topping at around 160 to 170 feet. I could tell Rob was nervous that I was completely lost, and he gave me a big "phew" gesture when we finally saw the pinnacle where we had started.

We had a few more minutes before it was time to call it, so we hung out there for the remainder. I was getting pretty cold by that point -- my computer showed 44 degrees! A few minutes later, thumbed it, and we headed up along the pinnacle and then left it to drift. We saw Matt and John head up a couple minutes before us, and could see them for the rest of the drift. At our first or second deep stop, Rob, who was running deco, started gesticulating in some cryptic manner. Eventually we managed to determine that he was saying that the exhaust valve on his drysuit was leaking. Then he handed off running deco to me. At first I thought he was just doing that to screw with me, but eventually I figured out he was not. We spent the rest of the deco watching Rob contort himself in attempts to keep the leak at bay. I'm not sure how successful that was. I was really cold myself, and couldn't imagine having a significant leak in this cold water. Rob, however, has a finely honed ability to withstand leaky drysuits, which has come from years of diving in poorly maintained suits (he's a masochist). This was his "dry" suit though, which he reserves for boat dives and the like with cold deco hangs. When we got to 20 feet, Kevin took Rob's scooter, to make the contortions easier on him. Then he offered to take his camera, and I had to laugh when Rob hugged his camera and gave Kevin a "yea right" look.

When we finally hit the surface, Rob scurried to the ladder and got back onto the boat and out of his suit. Meanwhile Kevin and I took our time bobbing on the surface in the slightly sportier conditions. The waves seemed to come in sets, with periods where I was just hanging onto the line, thinking how the Escapade looked like a toy bouncing around on top of the waves. But eventually there were enough lulls to pass up each piece of my gear and scurry up the ladder (while being heckled by a certain crew member for my slowness). It was just a harrowing experience. I was glad to find that Kevin thought it was a harrowing experience too, and it wasn't just me :) The fog had returned, and it was surprisingly foggy on the ride home. We couldn't see land for the longest time and it seemed like we were going forever, without any reference as to where we were, until we were in the bay. Rob made a speedy recovery and was back to eating Cheetos before we even made it past Lobos. Check out the picture above to see the nature of the valve failure.

1 comment:

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