It's about diving. And cats.

Me diving

Saturday, November 10, 2012

BAUE Wharf Day

On Saturday, we had a BAUE gathering at the Wharf.  Since diving the wharf requires getting approval from the Harbormaster, and having someone on the pier as surface support, it always makes more sense to dive it as a group.  John and Carol were kind enough to setup the dive and play surface support for the day.  We had around a dozen divers total.  I was diving with Rob, after my previously-planned buddy flaked on me.  When we passed Del Monte on the way into town, the waves looked surprisingly big; the forecast had looked pretty average for the bay, so I wasn't expecting this.  When we got to the Wharf, there were a bunch of surfers right by the wall there.  I think calling them surfers is a bit of a stretch.  Really it seemed like a bunch of teenage girls paddling around on their boards, and when the one biggest wave rolled through every 10 minutes or so, they'd try to surf it.  In any case, it's not really what I like to see at a dive site!  But John told us that you could see Melibe in the water from the end of the wharf.  So that was something to look forward to :)

We got geared up and eventually Rob and I waddled into the water.  The surf was bigger than typical, but still pretty manageable.  We had to swing out away from the wall to dodge the surfers, and then we came back into the wall, and swam right along the wall, under the overhang of the pier.  The surfers that we encountered were quite friendly, but there were apparently some surly surfers that did not want to share the ocean with some of the other divers in the group.  What the heck?  Anyhoo, we swam out to the first set of pilings, and were pretty shocked by how good the viz was on the surface.  We dropped there, and found decent, though somewhat stirred up viz, on the bottom.  I would call it slightly better than average for the site.  But you really don't need very good viz to have a good time at the wharf anyway.  There was the occasional surge, but overall I thought it was pretty tiny-critter-peeping friendly.

We meandered along the pilings as usual, and found a variety of interesting critters.  Overall, it seemed like we found a lot more stuff on the bottom than we usually do.  A lot of the interesting critters were on big chunks of broken red bryozoan that had fallen onto the bottom.  Like little bryozoan boulders.  Have those always been there?  I don't really remember there being so much on the bottom, but maybe they always have but I've never thought to look for stuff in there.  We found a couple of octopuses hiding in these patches of bryozoan, which were a nice dark red to blend into the bryozoan.  One of them interacted with us for a while, and I got some video of him scooting across the sand.

The patches of bryozoan were also filled with fringeheads.  I usually think I'm not very good at finding fringeheads at the wharf; I can usually find them, but I find that it takes a lot of concentration and I usually get bored with it.  So usually at the end of a dive at the wharf, Rob has pictures of tons of fringeheads and I wonder why he didn't show more of them to me.  But today I couldn't stop finding them.  They were just everywhere.  I stopped bothering to point them out to Rob, because he already had his choice of so many to shoot.  There was also a sea lion that kept zipping past us, but never stuck around long enough for any documentary evidence of its presence.

We also found a little patch with a bunch of Aeolidia papillosa, at least 5 or 6 in a 10 foot radius.  That was pretty exciting... haven't seen one of them in a while.  And John wasn't kidding about the Melibe.  There were quite a few of them, though oddly I kept seeing them in midwater.  I saw more of them swimming midwater than I've seen before.  I tried to get some video of them, which was a bit challenging and definitely a good way to go crosseyed trying to focus on one of them swishing around in the water.  I made two other good slug finds -- two Dirona pictas and one Polycera atra.  These both fall into the category of slugs that I rarely see, but see very frequently at the wharf.  I guess that means I need to dive the wharf more.  The Polycera atra was on the concrete wall at the beginning of the pier (or the beginning of the part with pilings instead of a solid bottom... is that what we call the pier?)  This wall is a great place to find critters, which I think is easy to overlook.  I also saw a small octopus crawling on a piling.  This struck me as a really weird place for an octopus to be, but someone else reported seeing one on a piling too, so maybe I am just out of touch with the octopus lifestyle.

Eventually we headed in, because it just seemed like it was about that time (90 minutes maybe?).  As we swam in over the sand, we found a little patch of kelp that was completely COVERED in melibes, large and small.  So we stopped there for a few minutes to get some pics and video, and then from there we headed in and surfaced from about 4 or 5 feet.  It seemed like the water had calmed down when we surfaced, so getting out of the water was pretty uneventful.  Except that I took my fins off a little too early, like I always do at the Wharf.

We were among the first to get out of the water (because we were the first in the water), so we puttered around for a bit, and then had lunch on the wharf and hung out for a while before heading home.

I did manage to get a little video of the friendly octopus, so I posted that.  Also, Rob has more pictures and Clinton has a few too (taken with Vanessa's camera), which are all posted on the BAUE gallery.

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