It's about diving. And cats.

Me diving

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Is this dive site getting old? No!

The weather for the weekend was looking not so good, with Saturday looking really bad and then it calming down a little for Sunday.  Rob, Matt and I were planning to go out with Phil on Sunday.  Matt also had Phil on Saturday, and Ted and Rob were joining.  I decided to sit that one out, and wait to hear on a conditions report.  Rob claimed that the conditions were not as bad as expected considering the dire predictions, and that Phil didn't seem concerned about Sunday.  Our goal was to hit Birthday Wall, which Matt had never been to before.  The downside of planning such a dive is that if we can't make it to Yankee Point due to weather, there aren't that many other options for sites to go to with 12/65.  But it turned out to settle down quite a bit by Sunday, and getting to Yankee Point was not a problem at all.  In fact, I would describe the conditions as "calm".  It was a delightful day to get geared up in the RIB and have oodles of bottles clipped to you.  The only problem we encountered was a current that looked to be, umm, what's the word, ripping.  It was one of the few times that I really wasn't sure we were going to be able to make it to the site (or to the front of the boat, for that matter) even with scooters.  Somehow I was the unlucky one to be volunteered to roll in first.  I rolled in, and held on to the line on the side of the boat while Phil got my scooter for me.  He handed me my scooter, and said "don't let go, don't let go".  Then I was faced with the question of how to hold my scooter, hold the boat, and clip my scooter.  I'm nearly certain that requires three hands!  In the past when we've deployed in such current, Phil has held the nose of the scooter while I clip it on (which I remembered AFTER the dive).  So, alas, I let go. I figured that if my scooter could not get me back to the boat, then it wouldn't get me to the line at the front of the boat anyway.  Once clipped on, I hit the trigger, went up to 5, and kicked a little, and made it to the front of the boat.  I had told the boys that I was going to go down the line and wait at 20 feet.  The 20 feet part may have been slightly mumbled.

I went down to about 25 feet, because that's where the current seemed to let up just a bit, and I held onto the line, occasionally hitting the trigger to relieve my arm.  Matt appeared behind me on the line after a minute.  I waited a minute more and then asked if 3 was good and could we head down.  Apparently the communication was botched; I guess Matt thought I could see Rob, and I thought he could see Rob, so he gave me the okay to go.  We headed down the line, and were scootering for what seemed like hours.  In fact, it was more like 7 minutes.  Somewhere on the way down, Matt passed me, so I figured it was not my responsibility to keep tabs on Rob.  So I turned to look back for him, and he wasn't there.  So I stopped and looked around some more, and then I saw a tiny beam of light.  Apparently we had completely ditched Rob (who was delayed while getting his camera).  Oops.  He caught up and we eventually made it to the pinnacle (7 minutes in).  We switched to backgas, and then headed down the wall.  The viz at the top of the pinnacle was quite good; the water was sort of a milky green color, but you could see far, and it was very bright.  As we got down deeper, the viz deteriorated, and it was night dark.  I guess the big weather from the past days had really stirred up the bottom.  There were just a lot of particles in the water.  I would still call it at least 30 foot viz, but chunky and very dark.  We headed out to the deep area, near where we'd seen all those ratfish last time.  We were moving kind of slowly, due to the not so hot viz.  Rob found a flag rockfish in the same area where we'd seen one before.  So I guess he is a resident -- yay!  I have dubbed him "Flaggie".  I know, I'm so imaginative.  Rob was shooting wide angle, and managed to get only a not very in-focus shot that proved we saw a flag rockfish, before the fish scattered.  Wide-angle really isn't the right lens for this site!

As usual, there were quite a lot of juvenile rockfish.  I always look at the schools, and find that they all look sort of the same and hard to describe, and hence hard to ID.  But today I actually noticed some very distinctive looking fish.  I saw quite a few that had a reddish "smear" on the sides of their bodies.  Like if you dipped a finger in red paint and poked the side of the fish and then smeared it horizontally along its side.  Then later on, as we were heading back toward the shallower area (but still relatively deep), I saw some other interesting looking ones that were sort of a mottled red and white on top, with a yellow underside.  Pretty bright yellow.  Since these fish were distinctive enough for me to actually described without too much wishy washiness, I was on a mission -- I was going to ID these fish!  After doing a bit of research (looking at other juvenile fish pics that Rob had had ID'd from this site before), I thought that the ones with the red smear may be pygmies... though in Rob's earlier picture, the line wasn't nearly as distinct.  So I emailed Tom Laidig with my descriptions, and my pygmy theory, and he told me that yes, the first fish sounded like a pygmy.  And so did the second.  Apparently they can look different depending on where they are -- on the bottom versus in the water column.  He sent along a picture for me to look at of the second variety.  And it looked just like the fishies I saw.  I was very proud of myself for noticing enough details about some juveniles to actually ID them (without a picture!).

Anyhoo, we headed shallower and ended back at the pinnacle we started on.  We tried a new profile today, with a deep segment for 20 minutes and a shallower segment for up to 20 minutes (or until we hit gas).  Previously we've done a three-level profile, but it seems much more onerous to keep to the schedule with the shorter segments.  I definitely prefer the two-level dive.  When we got back to the pinnacle, Rob took a few shots of us there.  There is always a bit of a swirly current around the pinnacle, and while it wasn't super high current today, it was still enough to make posing for pictures a bit of a pain.  Eventually we thumbed it on gas and started an uneventful deco.  I felt pretty uncomfortable for most of the deco.  I just could not get in trim and comfortable... my isolator was sticking in my head if I was in trim.  And if I was out of trim, well, I just wasn't comfortable!  I felt like I was finning all of deco.  I'm sure it wasn't as bad as it seemed to me, but I was definitely sculling A LOT.  I'm sure it was highly annoying for Rob and Matt.  However, I didn't need any assistance with my bottle rotation this time, so that was good!  I actually remembered to move my shoulder D-ring a bit after my epic fail last time.  Okay, I guess it's not an epic fail if you don't actually drop a bottle.  Anyhoo, I finally managed to get comfortable for the last 10 minutes of our O2 stop :)  I think I just found an out-of-trim position that was comfortable.  Rob said that he thought my tanks looked way too high on me.  But he always says that, so I wasn't really sure what to make of that.

The surface conditions seemed even better on the way home than they were on the way out.  It turned out to be a great day on the boat.  It just goes to show you can't always believe the forecasts!

By the way, Rob has dubbed the little boulder pile with the flag rockfish "Flaggle Rock".  I think this is an adorable name, since I've always been a HUGE Fraggle Rock fan (and I make frequent references to it to Rob, which he finds rather odd).

Sadly, I have no pictures to post for today.  Rob claimed none of the pictures were good enough to post, even though I disagree.  He's not being very supportive of my new year's goal!  But don't worry (SPOILER ALERT), there are some awesome pics from this site coming soon :)

Update: After much whining, Rob offered up this one picture from the dive.  So now you have the privilege of looking at Matt, sporting his analogous color scheme, shooting a bag.

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