It's about diving. And cats.

Me diving

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Two Good Shale Dives

Photo by Clinton Bauder
On Saturday there was a BAUE tech boat. Rob was busy with a Fundies class, so I planned to dive with Jim and Joakim. Joakim was sick, so in the end it was just me and Jim. The plan was to do a dive in the 150 to 200 foot range. However, as has been typical this winter, Neptune was not on our side. So we didn't end up making it out of the bay :( We discussed our options and settled on Kawika's Garden. This was fine by me -- it meant we could get a bit more bottom time. We hopped into the water and I was happy to find calm water with no current. The viz was good, and it wasn't terribly dark on the bottom. It wasn't the best viz I have ever had at the site, but was probably better than average. As we dropped in on the site, I could see the site dotted with fish on top of it... this is always a fishy dive.

Photo by Clinton Bauder
We dropped sort of on the outskirts of the site and swam in a somewhat random direction. The first thing we noticed was the insane number of Tritonias. They are really in bloom. We have seen a lot of them at Lobos recently too, but at this particular site it was crazy -- I guess they like to snack on those gorgonians. We got to see a bunch of them sniffing around the gorgonians about to go in for the kill. I would describe the site as having a pretty good number of nudibranchs in general, but nothing particularly interesting -- the usual dorids, some trilineatas, etc. I was on the prowl for Tochuinas, since this is one of those sites where you see them, but I didn't see any (Clinton did, and I was sooo jealous). I saw a few splotchy Geitodoris, which I've been seeing a lot of recently even though I used to never see them. We saw the usual assortment of rockfish and a couple of lingcod. I found a lingcod guarding its nest, which was cool. I don't think he was doing a very good job guarding it though, since I found the nest and then had to search around a bit to find the fish :) There were also some juvenile rockfish -- Clinton got some nice pics of the ones with the diamonds on their sides (halfbandeds, I am told). I also saw a juvenile that I need to figure out an ID for -- it was like a peach or flesh color with some olive mottling. I've seen this fish before, I think on a relatively shallow dive at Lobos.

Photo by Clinton Bauder
Pretty late into the dive we ended up at what I would say is the nicest part of the site, where there are really lush gorgonians and a little bit more relief covered in strawberry anemones. Oh well, it happens. The ascent was pretty uneventful. The nettles were not thoughtful enough to entertain us, with just a couple present. As we got shallower, we did see a variety of little jellies (de ja vu from the last deco with Jim). Since the viz was quite good, I kept expecting to see another team drift by, but we didn't see anyone until about halfway into our six minute ascent, I saw the glow of some tanks nearby, a little below us. I guess they were hanging just beyond the limit of visibility the whole time, because apparently our bags all went up about 40 feet from each other. It was really calm when we got to the surface, which was nice for a change. I told the crew that it was so unusual to come up from a dive and not get my ass kicked while I reboarded the boat :)

Photo by Clinton Bauder
After we collected all of the divers, we pondered where to do our next dive while enjoying croissanwiches. (By the way, I heard a rumor that some other dive boats were maligning the croissanwiches as not being "real sandwiches"... all I can say is don't buy the hype.) We went looking at a few different sites, but conditions had deteriorated and we didn't have a lot of options. I believe our choices where Shale Island or Hopkins. I always love the shale, so you know what I voted for. It turned out to be a great choice. The viz was quite good there, which isn't exactly always the case. When I got to the anchor line at the start of the dive, I felt water entering through one of my wrist seals. I looked down and saw what I thought was a nick in the seal, so I figured there wasn't much that could be done. So we headed down the line, and I filled my arm with argon and swam around with my arm over my head :) We headed out along the shale in a random (as far as I was concerned) direction. Before the dive I was thinking about what kind of cool slugs we might see on the dive. I often see Acanthodoris lutea at Shale Island, and I had just recently seen a bunch of Acanthodoris hudsoni, so I definitely had Acanthodoris's on my mind. On the swim out, we saw only one really exciting critter -- a juvenile China rockfish (or some yellow and black one, but China is the going theory). It was really neat -- it reminded me of a tropical fish! I was quite excited by that find, even though I wasn't sure exactly what it was. Eventually, I decided that the water had spread far enough (down to about my belly button) and I should call the dive. So I called turn, and tried to explain to Jim that my suit was leaking (which he didn't get at all, because he does not yet have the Kitty Telepathy required to divine the meaning of my hand signals). Right as we turned, literally as I was helicoptering around, I saw an Acanthodoris rhodoceras. No way! I was very excited, and showed it to Jim. Jim is not often that excited about my slug finds, but even he thought this one was cool :) I couldn't believe it... once again, I find the slug with neither Rob nor Clinton around to see it! I took a look around to get my bearings, in case we ran into Clinton on the way back.

Photo by Clinton Bauder
We headed back, stopping briefly to look at an octopus out in the open. It was a nice sized octopus who seemed totally disinterested in our presence and was slithering around changing colors. Shortly after that, we ran into Clinton's team. I whipped out my wetnotes and wrote "Acanth... rhodocer.." or something like that. His eyes lit up and I said I'd show him where it was. And with that, I took off back in the direction we came from. Clinton noted that despite all of my whining about how fast he always swims, this time I was quite the speed demon (hey, I had a flooded suit, gotta keep warm). We swam back to the area where I thought it was, and couldn't find it. I was sure we were in the right place, but just in case, I swam back and forth along the area several times, but never could find the slug :( What a bummer. Jim was sure we were in the right spot too, sigh. While we were searching around for the slug, we did find two other cool things... John found an octopus in a crack, and I found a pair of Acanthodoris lutea lined up as if to mate. I showed it to Clinton, as a consolation for not finding the other slug and he looked at me like I was an idiot. No, no, I know that's not an A. rhodoceras, but it's still cool! Apparently not cool enough for Clinton. After giving up the search, we headed back to the anchor and headed up. By the time I got back on the boat, I was completely wet (it's annoying how you can go a whole dive with water only down to your waist and then at the end when you climb the ladder it all drains down to your feet). Upon inspection this "nick" in the seal was actually a bit of my undergarment hanging out under the seal. Doh! I deserved to get cold and wet for that one :) While we were in the water, the police had come out and cleared Del Monte beach because of the tsunami advisory (or whatever). It was pretty surreal seeing the beach so empty on a nice sunny day.

I definitely felt like this was one of those days where I wasn't sure it was going to be worth going out to dive, but it definitely turned out to be well worth it! After the short ride back to K-dock, some of us headed to Plumes for coffee, since we'd already have lunch. I've never been there before, but I wholeheartedly recommend their brownies.

Since there have been way too many posts without pictures lately, I'm including some of Clinton's pictures. I wasn't technically on the dive with him, but I'm only including pictures of things I actually saw, so I think that's fair. You can see all of the pictures here.

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