It's about diving. And cats.

Me diving

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Allison 3, Rob and Kevin 2

Photo by Clinton Bauder
On Saturday, Kevin and I were diving on a somewhat last-minute tech boat. Rob already had plans, so he couldn't make the boat :( It was pretty odd being on a boat without Rob, and I must admit I was a little nervous about it. But I figured Kevin would take good care of me :P Along with us were Clinton and Matt, and Joakim and Jim (gasp... apparently Jim actually can dive, it's not just a myth). We were shooting for E3. The last time Jim had been to E3, they had lost the lead ball at the bottom of the downline (plus the actual downline). So Jim mentioned that we might find this, and asked us to either send up a marker on the ball if we found it, or if we felt so inclined, we could shoot the line on our bag. I didn't quite understand all of the details, so I told Kevin if he wanted to do any such ball rescue, he was going to have to lead that effort. Anyhoo, we headed out towards the edge of the bay, seeing all of the other boats retreat into the bay. Hmmm. We got surprisingly not too far out before turning around. So then we discussed where to dive. We discussed Mile Buoy for a while, and it seemed like that's where we were headed, when someone suggested instead that we got to Kawika's Garden. I have been wanting to go back to that site ever since we first went there, so I was definitely up for it! Kevin had never been there. So we headed there.

I borrowed Rob's 104s since I have been auditioning bigger tanks. I was a little worried about my ability to get in and out of the water with them, since they are beasts. The one time I have used them before, in the pool, I felt like I had a Mack truck on my back. We deployed pretty speedily, as Greg backed us right up to the ball, and I managed to make the two steps into the water without tripping or anything :) Kevin and I were the first in the water, and we headed down the line. At about 20 feet, the viz got terrible, and we literally were in touch contact with the line. But then around 30 feet, it cleared up again and right after that, I could see the outline of the reef below. I was actually wondering if we were at the right site, since it seemed way too shallow to be seeing the reef (which was supposed to be at 110' to 120') below. But it turned out the viz was just that good. When we got down to the reef, there were gorgonians as far as the eye could see (which was pretty far). We followed the line to the end, just out of habit I guess, since we usually check the anchor. We got to the end of the line and found a carabiner or clip of some sort, but no ball. Oops. We looked around briefly, and then Kevin started doing some form of underwater break dancing, which involved undoing the waist strap on his harness. I had no earthly idea what was going on, and thought maybe he was going to clip a weight to the line or something? Turns out he felt water coming into his suit, so he wanted to give his zipper an extra tug. Then he asked me to secure the buckle on his waist strap. He has like 1 spare inch of webbing that feeds through the buckle, and as I was fixing it, he got a giant underwater eye roll for having so little webbing, and expecting me to secure it for him with dry gloves :)

Once that was resolved, we gave up on finding the ball -- all of the teams were down the line at this point, so if the ball drifted, I figured the crew would figure it out and pull it. There wasn't much current though, so it was more or less sitting there stationary. So, now we got to the task of actually doing the dive :) We swam around the structure clockwise. The last time we were there, we saw lots of interesting fish. This time, we saw a lot of fish, but not a lot of interesting ones. There was a huge school of juvey rockfish, and I even spotted one with a diamond on its side, which I think is a halfbanded. I called Clinton over to get a shot, and of course the fish swam off by the time Clinton got there :) The viz was incredible -- probably 80 feet or so. With such great viz, we could really see how crowded the site was with gorgonians. It was really neat. We swam around mostly just taking in the scenery, even though we didn't see anything particularly interesting. I was hoping to find either a basket star or a Tochuina on a gorgonian, but found neither. I was really really cold on the bottom, for no good reason. I was actually wondering what was in my Argon bottle, I was so cold. Eventually after circling around much of the structure, we came over the top and were just poking around. I was thinking of calling the dive early in a few minutes, since I was so cold. Then Kevin started monkeying around in a hole, and he hefted out the ball, which had escaped from the downline. Just to be clear, it's a 30 pound lead ball.

Kevin and I both pulled out our bags. I was thinking we could shoot a bag and let the crew decide what they wanted to do -- send a diver down (it was in just over 100 feet of water), take a mark, etc. But Kevin had other ideas :) At that point, I saw Jim in the distance, and thought he'd know what to do, so I signaled for him to come over. The look on Jim's face was priceless... he made a signal saying "that's my ball!" and we nodded, "yes, we know". By then, Kevin was pretty entrenched in the ball recovery. So entrenched that he failed to notice the continuous stream of bubbles shooting out of the top of his bag. Whoops. Joakim and I eventually convinced him to look up and see the bubbles. Then I handed over my bag, as Kevin deflated his. Kevin inflated it enough to make the ball neutral. The plan from there was to shoot a bag, and tie the line to the ball, so that it could be pulled up from the surface. Right around this time, Clinton started signaling us pretty incessantly. I gave him the okay a few times, to make sure he didn't actually need assistance (Matt was right next to him, so I figured he just wanted to show us something), and he finally returned it, but continued signaling us. Okay, he really wants us to come look. So I swam over just far enough to see him pointing to a basket star, gave him the "okay that's cool" signal and headed back to Kevin, Joakim, and Jim. By the time I got back, it seemed like everyone had a bag out, plus there was a reel in the mix. Without going into too many more details about how NOT to recover a 30 pound lead ball, let's just say that we eventually managed to shoot a bag to the surface, with a line running down to the ball, and a bag keeping the ball neutrally buoyant at 90 feet. I still haven't mentally worked out the geometry, but in the process, we managed to involve a big bag (with a hole), a big bag (without a hole), a small bag on a spool, and a reel. If you are wondering how the reel was employed, umm, don't ask :) It was definitely a contentious issue. After we were finished with that, it was time to start our ascent. During the first couple deep stops, I was reeling said reel (which I was not too pleased about), until I realized I could just clip it off to the conglomeration of gear attached to the ball, and then I had my hands free for the rest of the deco.

From then, the deco was uneventful, but slightly interesting. When we got to 30 feet, it was way warmer than it had been deeper. And there was also a layer of complete muck right above us (actually we were at like 32 feet, because we didn't want to be in the muck at 30 feet :P). When it was time to move to 20 feet, I was dreading it, since I was sure we'd be in touch contact for the duration. But right at about 22 feet, the muck cleared. Phew. So we instead spent the 20 foot stop looking down at the muck, holding our hands down to it like it was a camp fire. It was so toasty! The water was toasty enough at 20 feet too, but not quite as toasty. The rest of the ascent was uneventful. Unfortunately we timed it just wrong, so that we hit the surface right after the other teams, I guess. So we had to wait for the rest of the teams to be picked up before we were picked up. I think they should have picked up the diver without a p-valve first! The crew was able to successfully retrieve the ball from the surface. And I was able to climb the ladder in 104s, although I swear my arms were sore from pulling myself up on the top step :)

For the second dive, we went to Eric's Pinnacle. I had never been to this site before, which Clinton found unbelievable. Rob always uses Eric's Pinnacle as an example site when he is making condescending remarks about open boats, which I have always found amusing since he's never been there anyway. So we pulled up to the site and hopped in with doubles and stage bottles. I think we looked like really big dorks. Clinton looked like an especially big dork, because he had a big camera and a scooter too (scootering Eric's Pinnacle? come on...). I, on the other hand, decided to go light... with just my doubles. Although I'm really not sure which is worse... diving that site with doubles, stage, scooter, and camera, or diving it on 18/45. But I really wanted to figure out how the 104s performed with not a lot of gas in them. And when does one have a chance to drain a set of tanks containing 18/45 (sans catastrophic failure)?

Anyhoo, we headed down the anchor line and it was crazy warm above 25 feet. When we made it down below the warm layer, it was like someone threw ice water on my face. I couldn't believe how much colder it was at 27 feet versus 25 feet. We hung at the top of the pinnacle when we first dropped, looking at a school of blue rockfish hanging out near the top. As we were swooshed around in the surge, we kept moving between layers. We finally descended down the pinnacle on the west side and circumnavigated it clockwise. When we got to the end, I was pointing out some teeny tiny juvey rockfish to Kevin when he showed me an octopus in a crack. It was a pretty good-sized octopus. Clinton had mentioned wolf eel potential, so I think we were both scouring all of the cracks. All that I turned up from that were some treefish (still cool). We hopped off of the pinnacle to some of the other little pinnaclets, where we found some Metridiums and Spanish shawls. Once back to the main pinnacle, we headed up the east side in the little sand channel. We saw a couple of ling cods posing on the rocks, and I saw a small cabezon. Eventually we all sort of wandered up to the very top of the pinnacle, in the warmth. It was covered in various colors of Corynactis, including the light pink/lavendar colored ones (my favorite). There were also a bunch of trilineatas around there. Eventually I thumbed it and we headed up the line. I decided that the 104s were tolerable with little gas in them, but I had to pretty consciously keep my head back. I couldn't drop my head to look under a ledge and then just pop back into position. But I felt so hard-core in them!

Kevin decided that since we took two bottles on the dive, it was officially a "Tech 2" dive. Rob and Kevin were both pretty bitter that I now had more tech 2 dives than either of them. Especially appropriate since I am the one team member who really doesn't care about such things, except to the extent that it bugs the boys. Neener.

Thanks to Clinton for providing the single, lonely picture in this report. I think the basket star looks like a little alien; it sort of reminds me of Felix.

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