It's about diving. And cats.

Me diving

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Team Kitty Take SoCal

For the second half of Rob's birthday bash, we headed down to LA for a little "wreck diving". Maciek and Nick had setup a boat charter for the day, so we piggybacked on that. They had a few different sites in mind, but since none of the names meant anything to me, I think we settled on bringing 21/35 and just going somewhere appropriate. I think that the original goal was to go to one wreck (whose name eludes me) in the 140' range, and then do a second dive on the Palawan (in 110' to 130'). But the weather did not allow for that plan, so instead we ended up doing two dives on the Palawan. We were on a boat called the Giant Stride, which had been described to us as a "slow boat". So slow in fact that it was supposedly three times slower than another boat that Maciek and Nick sometimes used. Rob and I were pretty much in disbelief about this claim, but it was true. It was just a really slow boat. Un .. be ... liev... a ... bly ... slow. I think we could have moved faster in a kayak (but perhaps not with the 5 tech divers X 2 dives gear). However it was a very stable ride. I guess there was "weather" since we were prevented from diving other sites, but we got protection from Palos Verdes (I know absolutely nothing about SoCal geography, so I may have gotten that totally wrong). In any case, once we were on site, it was very calm. It was like gearing up in the Lobos parking lot.

For some reason, it took forever to anchor on the wreck. Once we finally did, we got geared up. There was no crew other than the captain, so Nick and Maciek helped us gear up for the first dive. They gave us a bit of an overview of the site. I asked Nick if there were nudibranchs on the wreck. He said no. Then he told me that he has trouble seeing anything smaller than a diver underwater, so I should take that with a grain of salt. So noted. We splashed, and headed down the line to find... sand. Kevin whipped it out, the reel that is, and swam away from the anchor until we could (pretty quickly) see an outline of the wreck. I'm not sure how it is that we didn't anchor on the wreck, since it seems like a pretty big sonar anomaly :) Once on the wreck, we dropped the reel and headed along the top of the wreck. The wreck is very encrusted with strawberry anemones. There are also a lot of gorgonians. I forgot about all the different kinds of gorgonians that they have in SoCal. Their red gorgonians are so spindly, but they also have those neat sea fan-ish gorgonians that are like a 2-dimensional mesh. I saw some purple ones, which I found exciting.

There were a decent number of fish on the wreck, quite a few in some spots, but since I don't know SoCal fish, I can't really be more specific. Lame, I know. We ran into the other team at some point, or more accurately, we were caught in the beams of some sort of extraterrestrial :) On the first dive, I proved Nick wrong by finding two Cuthona divae, which I found exciting. Staring at tiny hydroids on a big wreck sometimes does pay off! I think that was the highlight of the dive for me. What can I say, I'm just not really cut out for wreck diving :) As Kevin was cleaning up the line (reeling in on the trigger, so hot), Rob and I noticed a crapload of bubbles spewing from about Kevin's left post. It was basically a zillion streams of tiny bubbles, which were coming from his SPG hose. It was the first real unfixable post failure I have ever experienced. So exciting! We deco'd on the line, which was uneventful other than the occasional reminder that Kevin was down a post (I figured if we do it in class, we should do it in real life too :P).

There was some brief discussion about other sites we could go to for the second dive, but we agreed to just stay on the Palawan. The boat had a good selection of surface interval snacks. It was quite hot on the surface, so we hopped into the water to cool off. Eventually we got back in the water. For this dive, we helped Nick and Maciek into their gear and then geared ourselves up. We headed down to the wreck and went to the other end of the wreck, swimming through a couple of swimthroughs along the way. On this dive I noticed that the wreck was crawling with Cuthona divae's... they were everywhere and so were their eggs. Once I recognized the hydroids they were on, I could scooter along the wreck and pick out all of the slugs on the side. Neat. I also found a pair of Ancula gibbosa's, which I showed to Rob. After the dive he denied having ever seen one before, but I reminded him that we saw one at Ventura Rocks with John Heimann in August of 2007 (shortly before we almost got our heads lopped off by the swinging anchor). That was pretty much it for cool sitings on dive 2.

On the ascent, I realized the vents for my drygloves were not installed. Oops. I removed them on the surface interval when we went for a swim. As a result, my hands got all poofy from about 20' up. I guess that moving my wrists around allowed gas to vent into them on the descent, but not to vent out of them on the way up. When I got to the surface, both of my hands were essentially unusable. Won't make that mistake again :) The ride back was slow and uneventful. A good time was had by all. The sundeck was a nice place for a nap, and a good place to get a sunburn. I don't recommend the latter. Of course once we headed back to Adrienne's we were treated to some canonical LA traffic. Ugh. The morning traffic had been non-existent -- that's the good thing about a 6 AM load time :)

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