It's about diving. And cats.

Me diving

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Queen of Slugs

Photo by Clinton Bauder
On Saturday I had plans to dive with Clinton. Neither of us had Lobos reservations so we had a not-very-well formulated plan to try to get into Lobos and if we couldn't both get in, we'd abort nd go elsewhere. Then the week before, some spare reservations were dropped in our lap and all was well. I told Clinton I'd be interested in just about anything, suggesting a kick dive on 32%. Clinton said he wanted to dust off his scooter, so he preferred to scooter. After all of the comments from Clinton about how we always scooter, I was shocked! So we were thinking we'd scooter over to Granite Point. At the very last minute (like after I'd gone to bed on Friday night), Rob became available to dive, so I told Clinton on Saturday morning that I was bringing a surprise mystery guest dive buddy along with me. When we pulled into the parking lot, Clinton was unimpressed with my mystery guest. Yea, he's pretty boring.

Photo by Clinton Bauder
It was quite sloshy in and outside of the cove, and particularly over by Granite Point. (It was also sloshy at the boat ramp, which with a very high tide had water spilling out into the parking lot everytime a bit wave came.) So we decided to head deeper and to the left instead, to Beto's Reef. I volunteered to lead (shocking I know). It's been a long time since I've scootered straight to Beto's Reef. It seems like we always hit it on the way back from somewhere instead. I decided to follow the kelp-sand interface out instead of doing something fancier that involved more landmarks along the way. We always seem to come back along that route, so I figured I could manage it. We scootered out and dropped in the sand channel, which was surgy with not very nice viz. This surgy and not very nice viz thing pretty much stuck with us most of the way out. I was practically right on top of Beto's reef by the time I "found" it. Hehe. We hit it from the east side right about where the first drop off is. We scooted out along the west side briefly, and then clipped off and kicked around. Clinton was shooting macro (and Rob was camera-less, a consequence of deciding to join us very late the night before), so slugs and little critters were the name of the game. I really wasn't very successful at this particular game :P The only particularly exciting macro find that I made were quite a lot of Pedicularia snails on hydrocoral. Right as I was perusing those, Clinton signaled me to come look at something. He was right next to the second dropoff, the one with the wolf eel, and I swam over excitedly expecting a cool slug. I looked where his light was pointing, looking for something small, and then eventually realizing it was point at the eel's crack. I gave him the "oh yea, it's just the wolf eel" wave off. Hehe. Not that I don't like the wolf eel, I just had something else in mind :)

Photo by Clinton Bauder
We continued out along the two spits of reef just south of that. There used to be a warbonnet's hole along one of them, but given the surge (yes, surge even down there), my slight feeling of wonkiness (yes, I am a big helium wimp), and my general inability to find any cool small things today, I didn't even bother. I noticed Clinton shooting something and went over to look. He was following a cute little juvenile cabezon along the reef, and probably traumatizing/blinding him along the way :) I didn't really see much exciting in terms of slug life. I saw one Limacia, some clowns, and several Berthellas (which, for the life of me, I couldn't remember the name of during the dive... I refer you to my previous comment about helium). It seems like there are always a lot of Berthellas at Beto's. Before you know it, it was time to head back. The plan had been a multi-level dive, so we planned to spend about 20 minutes in the 50-60 foot range around Hole in the Wall. I looked at my gauge, and thought, if we don't dilly dally, I can make it there before I need to switch off of my stage. Of course that thought instantly guaranteed that there would be dilly-dallying. We followed more or less the same path back (though this time we hit Sea Mount before going over to the kelp-sand interface). Due to the crappy viz and the kelp slaloming, there were a few stops, and right around 70 feet, Clinton signaled us and I knew why. We stopped and switched off of our stages (Rob didn't have a stage, because he was using manly doubles, whereas Clinton and I were diving girly 72s/75s), and then Clinton pointed something out on a little rock nearby. There was a kelp stalk coming out of the rock (kelp doesn't actually grow out of rocks, but you know what I mean), and I for some reason thought he was pointing at the kelp holdfast. So I was scanning it for something little living on it, not seeing anything. After much searching I noticed a huge cabezon sitting on the rock right next to the kelp. Doh. I literally slapped my forehead.

Photo by Clinton Bauder
From there, we headed back to the rock just north of hole in the wall and looked around there, then went to HiTW reef itself and slowly meandered south. When we got to about 45 feet, Rob suggested we get back on the trigger and head in. The viz was getting crappier and it was getting surgier the further we got. We scootered in to the worm patch and ascended there. I swam us over to a stalk of kelp to use as a reference on the ascent, which only succeeded in getting us into a field of entanglement hazards (aka surgy kelp forest). So Rob put up a bag, because that's how he rolls, and we finished the ascent. We scootered in and then tried to decide whether to do a second dive. The plan had been to count slugs for the BAUE nudibranch project on dive 2. We were all very unmotivated about it. Given the surge and the poor viz, hanging out on middle reef just didn't seem fun. We were basically all like "well, I'll do another dive if you guys want to", which usually results in bagging it, but for some reason we decided to get back in. We left the scooters and camera behind, and did a good old fashioned kick dive. We decided to count transects 1 and 2, since they are further out (and thus less surgy), and also because they are right next to each other. So on a team of three, two people can survey the transects in parallel, with the third guy sitting in the middle keeping track of everyone. Rob volunteered to be the monkey in the middle. I told Clinton I wanted to count transect 2, since I think it has more slugs on it. He looked doubtful, so I told him he could take transect 1, and it would be a race to see who found the most slugs.

It seemed like conditions had actually improved since the morning. It was not too sporty on the swim out. We dropped in the sand channel, and Clinton led us out to the transects. I often complain about Clinton's speedy swimming, but when he leaves the camera behind, he is insane. I was continuously falling behind Rob, who was already a reasonable distance behind Clinton. At to this the extremely surginess, and the crap viz, and the kick out just wasn't very fun. When we finally got to the transects, things had calmed down a bit. I don't know if it was just because we were deeper, or the geometry of my transect (which is around the point of middle reef), but it was actually quite calm. And the viz seemed better than the first dive, but that could have been in my head (and when you are counting slugs, who really checks the viz?). It was slug city on the transect. I couldn't believe how many slugs I found, of a variety of species. The last time I was on transect 2 (not counting, just hanging out), we found a Phidiana, which I like never see when I am counting. So I was hopeful I'd see another, and was looking very carefully in the spot where I had seen it before. No luck on the Phidiana, but right near that area, I found a Flabellina trilineata. Since I hardly ever see aeolids when I'm counting (and even when I do, it's almost always a Hermissenda), I was very excited. A couple other notable sitings were tons of Tritonia and a big pile of 7 San Diego dorids right on the corner at the edge of the transect. They were right in front of Rob, so when I got over to them and did a double take, then pointed them out to him, he nodded with this look of "yep, I've been staring at them for 20 minutes". It was a fun day to count, and I was glad we decided to get back in for another dive. After we were finished, we headed in along the reef, and stopped to visit the usual suspects (warbonnet, wolf eels) and for some general poking around, before heading in.

The tide had gone out and we got mildly pummeled by the ocean on the way out. Well, Rob didn't, because he is impervious to such things. I knew I had counted an insane number of slugs, so after the dive, I quickly summed up the numbers, to get a whopping total of 45. I couldn't believe it... I don't think I've ever counted even 30 slugs on one transect. Clinton's count was somewhere in the 30s, which was also impressive, but I told him that I won and crowned myself Queen of Slugs. After cleaning up, we headed to RG Burger with Scott, who was visiting from Seattle.

Thanks Clinton for providing the pictures for today's post. I guess Clinton was sick of me constantly asking if I could use his pics on my blog, so he told me he was granting me a lifetime license to use his images for dive reports on the site. I am definitely going to have to make the most of that :)

No comments: