It's about diving. And cats.

Me diving

Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Road to Twin Peaks

Saturday I dove at Lobos with Clinton. I was originally supposed to dive with Rob. We had decided we wanted to do a nice long dive to Twin Peaks, so we found some Lobos reservations and it was a plan. Then Rob had to go out of town, so I had to find a new buddy, which was Clinton. We hadn't decided what sort of dive to do by mid-week, when the forecast looked kind of big. So we figured, when in doubt, go deep. This was definitely the right decision. The swell was quite big, but the combination of a high tide and the long lulls between big sets made it okay getting in at the ramp. I did make Clinton swim the gear out to the float because I was too much of a wimp to get in :) Luckily there wasn't that much gear -- one bottle each and our scooters. We were planning to go to the Road to look for slugs. We're always hoping to see Okenia felis out there, plus Clinton said he'd also like to some day get a picture of Aldisa albomarginata (which I haven't seen for quite some time). We got geared up and managed to time our entry pretty well, so it wasn't scary at all. That probably had more to do with luck than any skill at timing the entry.

We headed out on the surface, and once we were outside of the cove, it was big and sloshy and frothy. Eventually I decided I'd had enough of the next time Clinton looked over at me I signaled to descend. There was no stopping on the surface to chit-chat, he just returned the signal and down we went. We dropped just a little bit northeast of the worm patch, so we were on top of the reef, with a bit of kelp to get entangled in. I scootered over to the sand and waited for Clinton to meet me there, and then we were off, down the sand channel. It was rather surgy, but the viz wasn't too bad. However, I kept getting eel grass bits of kelp in my scooter prop. I couldn't figure out why, because I definitely wasn't running into (or even anywhere near) any kelp. Then I realized it was because there were chunks of the stuff floating in the water, having been churned up by the huge swells. Every now and then one or the other of us would have to stop to clear our props. By the time we got to Hole in the Wall, the viz really opened up and was quite nice. Probably about 30 feet, but very bright and blue, due to the very nice sunny day topside. We were scootering along probably about 10 feet or so off of the bottom, over the sand that is to the north of the Lone Metridium and the other unnamed ridges along there. I noticed some bright white patches on the boulders below us, which looked like an encrusting sponge or something. It seemed out of place though, and then I noticed that the rocks were carpeted with slug eggs. I signaled Clinton to stop and went down to one of the boulders. I've only seen a carpet of eggs like that once before, in Seattle, and it was covered with Onchidoris bilamellata. We have been on the lookout for these at the shale recently, since they eat those annoying white barnacles that have been all over everything there. But I definitely wasn't expecting them at Lobos, since I hadn't particularly noticed the barnacles there. But I wasn't 100% sure that this is what the eggs were. I was looking around for slugs and saw none. I wasn't sure if Clinton even knew what I was looking for, so I found a barnacle (they really are there) and pointed to it and then gave him the "munch munch munch" sign with my hand, and he nodded. We didn't find any slugs on that rock, so we moved to the next one, and looked it over. Finally Clinton signaled me and pointed his light at something. I couldn't tell what he was pointing at. Meanwhile we were totally getting hammered by the surge. Clinton said he wanted to take some pics -- and I was like "yea, of course". I was trying to stay out of his way, looking on a different surface of the rock, when I realized that the "rock surface" I was looking at was actually a slug carpet. When I realized it was just wall-to-wall slugs I was momentarily grossed out by it, like something out of Indiana Jones :) I signaled to Clinton and said that the slugs were all over the rock and he was like "uh, yea". Hehe. I decided now would be a good time to deploy the hero-cam (I had it in my pocket, since I thought putting it on the scooter and letting it bounce around on the float might be hard on it), and then got a little footage of Clinton taking pictures in the surge.

Once he was done with that, we continued out. A minute or so from there, we encountered a school of blue rockfish. There were also a bunch of olives -- more olives than usual. We were over the sand for a bit, and I started to see some familiar boulders on the bottom and the next thing you know, we were at the First Sister. There were two big lingcods perched on little plateaus in the crack that runs east-westish across the center. I usually see one big lingcod there, but the second was new. We stopped briefly to take a look and then continued on to the Second Sister, and out along the road. When we got to one of the bigger structures where we often look for slugs, I stopped and suggested we swim around there. I was down on the side of it, and when I inched up along the top of it, man was it surgy. We spent the rest of our time in that area, swimming around, and eventually we ended up swimming basically across that set of pinnacles so that we were on the west side of the Road when we finally decided to head back. The slug hunting was not very lucrative. I found two Dironas, one Trilineata, and those were pretty much the highlights. I spent a while looking for Okenias, which was an exercise in frustration in that surge. Aside from slugs, I found a little yellow and black juvenile rockfish (like the kind I saw the other weekend at Shale Island). There was also a small lingcod hanging around in that area. I also found a little patch of reef that was just covered in different colored brittle stars (unfortunately, without a video light, I really couldn't capture this in the video). There was also a big crab that I tried to engage for theatrical purposes, who was totally disinterested in me, even after I tapped on his back (or perhaps because I tapped on his back). Eventually I just had to entertain myself by video'ing Clinton taking pictures of a Dirona, while sloshing around in the surge.

Shortly after that, we turned the dive. By then we had sort of crossed the road, so we wended our way back over to the left-hand side and before you know it, we were back to the First Sister. From there, we continued in, and when we were in about 80 feet of water, Clinton abruptly stopped. I was like "why are we stopping" and then I realized that school of rockfish was just ahead and above us -- but it seemed bigger this time. Maybe we hadn't seen the full extent of it on the way out? We stopped for a bit and I got some video, and then we continued in. We switched to our bottles and hung out near a little patch of reef for our 70 foot stop. For there, we were more or less on the trigger for the rest of deco. I admit I wasn't exactly sure where we were at some point, and then suddenly recognized the back side of Hole in the Wall reef, and sure enough after crossing over that reef, that's where we were. Phew. Once we were back on the sand channel, it was even more stirred up (or so it seemed) than on the way out! I never even saw the worm patch, though we must have skirted it at some point. On our 20 foot stop, we kept getting entangled in kelp and knocked around into the rocks, until we managed to find our way to a little patch that was relatively open without too much kelp to wrap around Clinton's strobe arms. On the surface we had discussed that if the viz was super bad in the cove, we would just ascend instead of scootering in. But I suggested we scooter in just a bit further, because I wanted to avoid getting knocked around on the surface too much. The viz was quite bad on the way in, but we were scootering really close side by side, watching each other constantly. Eventually at around 12 or 13 feet, we looked and each other and both signaled to ascend there. We hung out for a couple minutes at 10 feet (except when a big swell came through, and then we were at whatever depth the ocean chose for us) and surfaced. We were like 8 feet from our float. We were both shocked, as we really had no idea where we were. I thought we were quite a bit further out, but I guess that was the really high tide playing tricks on me. I suggested that since the tide was so high, we could just swim the float in and drop it on the ramp, so we wouldn't have to swim back out. Clinton pulled the float and swam it in. I guess if I were nice I could have volunteered to take his camera in exchange, but I did not. We got to the ramp in a period of relative calm, though it wasn't completely placid. There was a bit of timing it with the water going up and down the ramp.

I waddled up the ramp and ditched my gear, and then came back to take gear from Clinton. Suzanne and Nathalie had already returned from their dive and they helped by taking the gear from me once I was above the water line, assembly-line style. Before you know it we had everything out of the water. We took our time cleaning up our gear and changing and then eventually headed up to the top of the cliff so Clinton could get some pictures of the big sets coming in. I told Clinton that the goal was to get a picture that when people looked at it, they would think we were really hard core for going diving. I think he did a pretty good job :P We had lunch at RG Burger, and then made a brief drive-by at Marina State Beach to watch the very impressive, big waves rolling in. Then we headed to AWS.

No comments: