It's about diving. And cats.

Me diving

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Whose Afraid of a Little Swell?

Photo by Clinton Bauder
Saturday was the first BAUE recreational boat of the year. Rob was otherwise engaged, so I got down on one knee and asked the bunnies if they would dive with me. Luckily one bunny couldn't make the boat, so there was a slot available for me. Considering the hellish storm that was passing through, it wasn't clear if the boat was even going to happen. I really didn't want to drive down to Monterey, just to call it in the parking lot. But by Friday, the forecast seemed to be improving everytime they updated it... from like 15 to 17 ft swell on Thursday to I think 11 to 13 by the end of the day on Friday. Plus the wind forecast was tiny, which seemed like good news. By Saturday morning, the forecast had changed again, for the worse. I got this information from Kenn, who got it from August via text message at around 5:30. I don't know what the point of looking at the forecast was, since we were commited at that point to at least drive down. At that point I really didn't want to hear about it :)

When we got down to K-dock, Jim told us that the swell was indeed 15 feet, but that there was no wind. Personally I would rather a big smooth swell with no wind than a smaller swell with wind on top. It is the chop that both makes me uncomfortable on the boat, and makes me worry about cracking my skull on the swimstep or ladder while reboarding the boat. We headed out to Ballbuster to say hello to the GPO. When we pulled up, Michael mentioned that there were jellies in the water. Boy, he wasn't kidding. I jumped into the water and while I was waiting for the boys, I felt something under my feet. I couldn't imagine it was a diver (since I was nowhere near the line) so I looked down and saw a huge mass of sea nettles. We swam to the line and when I looked in from about 8 feet away, I couldn't even see the line. Sigh. So we got right on the line and I descended in touch contact with the line. The sea nettles were crazy. I have been in what I considered "thick" sea nettles before, but it didn't even come close to this. The swim down the line included pushing the nettles out of the way while trying not to lose the line. I got stung at around 30 feet. I finally made it down the line (phew), and it was so dark and the viz so poor, that all I could see were about a dozen HID lights swinging around as people tried to figure out who their buddy was. Finally I found guy with blue gloves and blue stage bottle (August) and guy with blue gloves and green weights on his belt (Kenn), and we were off. Kenn was leading the dive. The anchor was on the northeast side of the pinnacle, so we swung around it in search of the GPO (who is on the southeast side). The viz was bad, maybe 15 feet, and it was super dark, and super surgy. The surge would come and go, but when it came, it could basically pick you up and drop you off at the other side of the pinnacle. Or worse, slam you into the pinnacle (not that I would ever make contact with the beautiful invertebrate cover on the pinnacle). We came around the corner and I saw some loitering divers and then saw the crack where the octopus lives. I got a look at the octopus just before the surge dragged me like 10 feet or so up and away. I pointed it out to August, who got a look, and then to Kenn. Apparently Kenn didn't actually get a look at the octopus :( I guess we will have to go back and have another look sometime when it isn't so surgy.

The rest of the dive mostly consisted of swimming around haphazardly, and getting disoriented everytime a big swell came and set us down in a different spot. We swam around the pinnacle, mostly near the top, but given the bad viz and darkness, for all I know, we swam around the same spot for 30 minutes :) The one notable critter siting I saw was a pair of painted greenlings. One was doing the weird mating dance that they do, but the other seemed not particularly interested in the concept of mating. When we had a little under 10 minutes left of our planned bottom time, Kenn asked which way I thought the line was and I told him what I thought (though I wasn't exactly sure). It was in sync with what he thought, so we headed that way. Just as I was starting to ponder how embarrassing it would be to have to shoot a bug and ascend off the line, we found the line. Phew. The line was running a bit off the pinnacle, which is why we never saw it the entire dive, until we were looking for it. Now we had to just manage to not lose it in the next five minutes. A couple minutes later, Kenn thumbed the dive and we headed up into the nettle deluge. I think we all avoided getting stung on the way up, though there were definitely some close calls. Other than the jellyfish dance, the ascent was uneventful.

For our second dive, we discussed either Hopkins deep, which was report to have no nettles, no surge, and 5 feet of viz, or the anchors at the deep shale, which would probably be similar. I figured with 5 feet of viz, deep shale was the way to go, for a little nudi peeping. We were a little worried that in the 5 foot viz, if the anchor wasn't right next to the anchors, we would never find them. Our team got in last, so I figured by that point, hopefully someone else would have run line to the site :) When we got down the line, though, we were right on top of the anchors. Woohoo. We poked around there for a little while and then headed of to the nearby shale ledge. On the anchors, we saw the usual assortment of sculpins and Hermissendas -- some really really red ones. On the shale, we saw lots of Spanish shawls, and the usual dorids. Kenn always says that he never sees any nudibranchs, so I made him look at a few, even though we didn't see anything too exciting. There were quite a lot of the yellow-gold Aldisa sanguinea, including a couple that were mating. There were also a couple of lingcods hanging out near the ledge. Eventually I turned us, and we headed back along the ledge. Now, on the way from the anchors to the ledge, we followed Jim's line, which I knew wouldn't have been there when we returned. I was looking out for a particular landmark I had noticed when we found the anchor chain. We were rather confused, but then I figured that Jim must have moved the anchor, so it wouldn't get caught on the anchors when they pulled it. That was indeed what happened, plus the boat had swung in a different direction. So, conveniently, the chain was running over the ledge and then when we followed it to the anchor, it left us within site of the big anchors. We still had a bit more gas/time left, so we whiled it away at the anchors. On the way up, we saw one lone sea nettle. He must have lost his pack.

After the very short ride back to the dock, we adjourned to Turtle Bay for lunch. They even had cranberry salsa, woohoo!

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