It's about diving. And cats.

Me diving

Monday, December 31, 2012

New Year's 2013: Manatee

On Monday we went to Manatee.  There was some skepticism about whether we could fit all of our bottles and scooters into the truck, so that we would not have to take two cars.  But we did manage to do it.  Of course, I was stuffed into the back seat with like 8 bottles, but details details.  How much space do I really need?  So, we each have a scooter that lives in Florida.  In addition, Kevin brought his Cuda in case we did any dives that we wanted a tow scooter for.  And I guess Kevin and/or Rob wanted to bring a tow scooter on this dive.  (I didn't really see the need, but since I wasn't the one who had to tow a scooter, I didn't complain.)  Then when we got to Florida, we found my scooter to be ill.  It was making a bad noise when run (which I guess Rob noticed when he just hit the trigger on it in the garage).  Rob asked Dan to look at it, and he agreed it did not sound good.  He offered to take a look at it, and loaned me his scooter to use while mine was recovering (which was super nice of him!).  So we had his scooter, Rob's, and two of Kevin's.  Which we managed to fit in the truck along with 3 sets of doubles and 9 bottles.  Woohoo. 

And on the drive to Manatee, while cowering amongst the bottles in the back of the truck, I took a very important step in the immortalization of Team Kitty... I created a Team Kitty station on Pandora!  My first attempt at this resulted in catastrophe.  I was going for the music of Team Kitty with a smattering of Florida radio music thrown in.  But apparently the combination of Fleetwood Mac and Katy Perry is such an outlier that Pandora couldn't handle it, and just picked really horrible music.  So I had to retreat to just the music of Team Kitty, which worked out much better!  I am listening to it as I write this, in fact.

So, back to the dive.  We got there on the early side, because we knew that Manatee limits the number of divers.  We were originally going to leave at 7, but then Kyle made fun of us for worrying about the diver limit, and we left at 7:30 instead.  When we checked in, we were the first or second team, though the ranger told us that the previous day they had filled up and had to turn divers away.  Take that, Kyle!  We were the only divers at Catfish, and got the best parking spot for it.  The boys moved scooters to the water, and eventually we got all of the bottles over there too.  We really need a beefier dolly (or even better, multiple beefier dollies).  Kevin realized he was missing a key piece to his Gavin (the tow cord, which was removed for service and never re-attached), so in the end, we didn't have a tow scooter.  I ended up diving Kevin's Cuda, Rob was diving his Gavin, and Kevin was diving Dan's SS (because I am too deficient at using the trigger mechanism on the SS).  The plan for the dive was to go up the mainline until whatever, and then on the way out, we were going to go up the Chalkley bypass just for giggles.  This is pretty much the exact same dive that I did the last time I was at Manatee, though on that dive, I had to turn it on my ears not liking the ups and downs.  So we were hopeful we'd make it a bit further today.  I was hoping that the water level would be a bit higher than it had been last spring, but it was not to be.  It is still below the platform, with that painfully under-provisioned pool ladder that you have to climb both down and up.

Kevin was leading the dive, but for some reason Rob really wanted to install the reel (which made no sense to me), so he did, and then we passed him.  I think the last time we did this dive, I dropped my stage bottle right at Friedman, probably because we spent so much time dicking around in the basin, trying to find the mainline.  Today we were more efficient about that (well, about finding the line, perhaps not about installing it :P), so I dropped my bottle quite a bit later.  This was good and bad.  Since we were burn-time-limited, this just meant I had a longer way to pull and glide and kick and huff and puff with a stage bottle :)  Since we turned the dive early last time, I've never had the privilege of kicking in Manatee (on the mainline anyway).  It was sort of horrible, but sort of fun at the same time.  I really felt like in this cave, even more so than Ginnie, that if you are smart about where you position yourself, you can avoid a lot of the flow.  So I was having fun trying to figure out where to go to get around the next spot with high flow.  Of course, it doesn't always work out right, and in one spot, where I decided it would be better to be on the other wall, and tried to swim across the tunnel, I literally got picked up by the flow and dragged backwards until I found a rock cropping that I could grab onto.  I was in the middle, but I got dragged back behind Rob.  He looked back at me as I was hanging onto a rock and just gave me a look.  Yea, I know.  I had to catch my breath and then I made it on the second try.  I did enjoy the swimming portion of the dive, because I felt like I saw a lot more.  This is probably in part because we were moving slower, part because the viz gets better as you get further in, and part because I actually think there is more to see by there.  For instance, there are rock formations on the bottom, versus the constant brown mud bottom in the first 1500 or so feet.

After about 25 minutes of kicking (or flailing), we turned it on gas, and had a nice easy ride out.  At some point on the way out, before we got back to our scooters, Kevin thought he saw a jump, so he installed a spool and started swimming.  I had no idea where he was going, but eventually he got far enough away that I felt compelled to follow him.  And then it turned out that he thought he saw a line which failed to materialize.  Oops.  Aside from that brief shenanigan, we alternately scooted and drifted out until we got back to the jump to the Chalkley passage.  We headed up there, with Rob in the lead now, and we made it much further in than the last time Rob and I went there.  I really like that passage.  In fact, I think I like it better than anything else I have seen at Manatee.  I like the grey clay, plus it is small and twisty, so the lights can light everything up.  It is pretty silty in there, and at first, the flow is kind of a pain.  But it dies down after not too long.  Eventually Rob turned it, I think because it was getting smaller and siltier, though I will have to take his word on that.  After that, we just headed on out.

When we got back to the cavern, Rob was pulling the line, and Kevin, without much warning, disappeared into a hole.  This kind of annoyed me, but I guess he thought he had signaled to me that he was going in to look.  So he went into the hole and saw a lot of catfish, and then when he came out he got a cranky look from me.  Deco was pretty excruciating, because I didn't plug in my p-valve, and really really regretted it.  I don't know why; the dive was not terribly long.  Rob and Kevin traded scooters so Rob could drive the SS around in the basin, while I counted down the seconds until I could get out of the water.  And then when we surfaced, there was a team getting in, so I had to act polite while they dilly-dallied in front of the platform :)  Once we got out of the water, we packed up the truck pretty efficiently, and then headed back even in time to get fills at EE (which was closing early, since it was New Year's Eve).

For New Year's Eve, we had a little get-together at the house, and then we went to the Great Outdoors for dinner.  When I originally made the reservation at Great Outdoors, we were five (Team Kitty plus Matt and Leah), and by the time the evening rolled around, we'd increased our numbers to eleven (the Brits, Kyle, Doug and Corey joined us).  So while we got the usual ho-hum service from Great Outdoors, they were very accommodating to our bigger group.  After dinner we headed back to the house for some more celebration, and I even made it to midnight!

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