It's about diving. And cats.

Me diving

Saturday, January 28, 2012


Photo by Rob Lee
We were on the Escapade on Saturday for a tech charter.  I guess Clinton wanted to go somewhere "new" so Rob  (I think) came up with a spot to suggest.  The spot was sort of new, but sort of not.  We were pretty sure that this spot (on the bathymetry maps) was the pinnacle that we ended up on our first dive at Birthday Wall.  We didn't have much time at the spot, but it ended at 70 feet, which is always a bonus :)  The structure was pretty big-looking, so it definitely looked worth a dive.  Rob and I were diving with Jim, can you believe it?  We dropped down the line to find nice blue water.  What we didn't find was the top of the pinnacle.  We were expecting to hit some sort of shallow structure, but we eventually ended up on a small structure at like 160.

Rob somehow magically decided to go that way and I followed.  As far as I recall, "that way" was to the left, but Rob claims it was south-southwest-ish.  After crossing what I'd call a sand channel, we came to a nice to pinnacle, with a very vertical wall on the north side.  We were near the bottom, at about 200 feet.  This was still not "the pinnacle" as it did not come up nearly as shallow as 70 feet.  But it was a lovely pinnacle none-the-less.  There was a nice school of blue rockfish on that sand channel we had crossed.  After a bit of meandering, we curved around on the west side of the pinnacle and found a nice little ledge that was packed with very lush gorgonians.  It reminded me of the little gorgonian garden patch on the north side of K2.  After posing with the gorgonians, we headed up the pinnacle a bit and then headed back around to the wall on the north side.  From there, we headed back across the sand channel to what turned out to be the main pinnacle.  

Photo by Rob Lee
On the south end of the main pinnacle, we ran into Clinton and John, who were surround by blue rockfish.  We looked at them briefly, and a lingzilla below, and then headed around on the west side, just to take a little bit of a tour of the site.  The pinnacle was quite large, so we were going along for quite a while.  Eventually things got a bit uglier... lots of that uninteresting palm kelp-like stuff, which I don't think is actually called palm kelp.  So when we tired of this, we turned and headed back.  We once again found the big school of blue rockfish, and hung out with them for a bit, while Rob took some pictures.  The school(s) of blue rockfish were definitely the highlight of the dive for me.  It's so fun to be engulfed in a school of fish, especially in clear blue water!  Then we curved around to the east side a bit, and worked our way up to the pinnacle, all the way up to 70 feet, before shooting a bag and starting our deco.  The deco was pretty uneventful, except for a funny worm that we saw around 40 feet.  It was wriggling all around, and kind of reminded me of a fireworm, but really skinny.  But no whales swam by or anything :P  We could see Clinton and John in the distance and eventually we ended up pretty close to them (at 20 feet), and Clinton made us pose for some pictures.  I was very cold on this dive, and by the 20 foot stop my feet were pretty numb and my calves were cramping up.  This made trying to position ourselves for a picture sort of interesting.  But you know, being able to back-kick is overrated.

Photo by Rob Lee
We surfaced and got back on the boat, and not surprisingly, considering the viz, there was enthusiasm for a second dive.  Rob suggested Honeymoon Rocks, which I found sort of odd.  It was odd because first, I didn't think Rob really liked that site very much, and second, it is sort of a deep site for a post-tech-dive dive.  We headed over there and after my feet thawed and I could feel all of my toes (or all of the important ones anyway), we got back in.  I was diving with Rob and John on this dive, since Jim and Clinton were both sitting out the dive.  We got to the front of the boat, and I descended to about 8 feet and realized that my suit inflator was not delivering gas.  So I signaled to Rob and returned to the surface.  My argon bottle was empty.  You may be wondering how I could have missed this on my gear checks.  When we were doing gear checks, I hit the inflator and thought something was wrong, then I hit it again and convinced myself that gas was actually going in (I was already pretty poofy though, so I guess I couldn't tell).  So, that's how I managed to miss it.  I was sort of like "just go on without me" but Rob was like "no, we can fix this".  There was a full argon bottle on the boat that was offered to me (thanks Mark), but I really didn't want to deal with stripping off my scooter and stage, getting back on the boat, switching out argon bottles, and getting back in.  Rob told me he swap them out for me on the surface.  Sure, go ahead and try.  After a very awkward minute or two contorting on the surface, or really just below the surface, we managed to swap the bottles out.  Woohoo.  So then we headed back to the bow (by now we had sort of drifted off the back of the boat, since we were wanted to do our contortions without worrying about getting smacked in the head by a boat hull).

Photo by Clinton Bauder
The second descent attempt was more successful.  We came to a ridge at the end of the downline, and we were right near a break in the ridge.  We essentially went down one side of the ridge, then curved around the end and came back up the other side.  The viz wasn't quite as stellar here as the first dive, but still good.  There was a bit of current.  I noticed this while waiting for Rob to take some pictures.  I kept drifting away from him unintentionally!  We saw lots of O. bilamellata eggs on the wall, so we were on slug alert (my whiskers were twitching).  Eventually we hit the mother lode and found a carpet of slugs.  We found some other dense patches nearby.  Those slugs are so cool, and so gross, at the same time.  On the way back, we found a giant freakin' lingcod.  I signaled to Rob and told him to be vewwy vewwy quiet but to look over there at that giant freakin' fish.  He was pretty excited and very slowly set up his camera for a shot and inched closer and closer to the fish, and just as he went in for the shot, whoosh, there went the fish.  Of course :)  When we got back to the anchor line, Rob started a long winded underwater conversation about whether we were deeper than we thought and maybe we should thumb it, so I thumbed it.  Why do we need to have a long discussion?  If you think we should thumb it, just thumb it!  When we got to the surface, Clinton and Jim told us that there was a lot of whale action on the surface.  No, we didn't see a whale underwater :(

Photo by Rob Lee
We started to head out of there, and I realized like 2 minutes too late that I wanted to ride back in the wheelhouse.  I don't like climbing the ladder when the boat is underway.  Actually I don't like climbing any ladders at all, ever, but I occasionally make an exception on the Escapade.  So I gave Rob and Luke the international signal for "slow the boat down so I can climb the ladder" which for some reason they didn't get.  After a bit of back and forth, Greg finally complied.  It was a very nice ride back, and there were a bunch of whale sightings.

Clinton named the dive site Cupcakes, having nothing to do with the geometry of the site or anything.  I'd explain it, but it would violate my family-friendly policy for the blog :)

All of the boys' pictures are here.

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