It's about diving. And cats.

Me diving

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Pinnacle Point Wall

The forecast for Saturday was looking mighty awesome, so I think a lot of us were counting our chickens before they hatched.  We were on the Escapade for a tech charter, and there was lots of talk about how far south we could get.  There wasn't supposed to be a lot of wind, and very small swell too.  In fact, I was just trying to refresh my memory of what exactly the forecast had said, and I found the following in my IM log, sent to Rob on Thursday afternoon:

me: oh happy day

But the conditions were actually a little rough.  Well, not really rough, but it didn't feel like a 3ft swell day!  Between the wind and the mixed swell, it seemed like we were getting pummeled from all directions.  Also, since the wind was out of the south, the ride down to Carmel was "uphill", which I think had a lot to do with it.  Since the wind was out of the south, it was the perfect day to go to Pinnacle Point Wall, which I haven't been to in ages.  And by the time we got to Lobos, I pretty happy to jump in the water and avoid any further surface beating.

It was just me and Rob representing Team Kitty today.  I jumped into the water and saw not very lovely water beneath me.  Sigh.  The viz was astonishingly bad all the way to the bottom.  The water was green and it was super dark by the time we got to the structure.  It's not that the viz was super terrible in the sense that you couldn't see far, but it was very dark and very chunky.  Viz was probably in the 20 foot range.  Unfortunately I had encouraged Rob to pack wide angle since we might "go south", which was definitely the wrong lens!  So his camera literally stayed clipped off for the entire dive (and so did the hero cam).  So you get no pictures, boohoo.  We did a fair amount of kicking and just a little bit of scootering.  We swam out with the wall to our right, and just swam and swam until it was time to come shallower.  Then we turned around and swam back in the 130'-150' range.  At this depth the wall is WAY more covered in invertebrates.  In fact, I sort of regretted spending half of the dive along the bottom, since it is way prettier up high off the bottom.  Will remember that in the future.  Even though the viz was good for a macro dive, I didn't really spend too much time trying too hard to spot critters.  I mostly just looked at the wall, which is so impressively vertical in spots.  I did find one teeny tiny basket star.  Easily the smallest that I have ever seen.  And some Dotos, which I often seem to see here.  I think that's it for report-worthy critter sightings.  Right near the end, I suggested a short scooter ride along the wall, just to get a nice view of the whole thing at a shallower depth (since we hadn't covered too much ground up shallower).

The dive was very cold, which was strange considering the viz.  By the end of our deco, Rob was using the palm of his hand to (try to) inflate his drysuit, because his fingers weren't working.  But despite being very cold, the 20' stop seemed to just go by.  I must have fallen asleep or something.  After everyone was back on the boat, considering how cold and murky it was, it wasn't too hard to decide to skip a second dive.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

The Left Side of Lobos

Rob and I were diving at Lobos on Sunday.  After a bit of waffling, we decided to go for a longer 32% dive.  After our recent trip to Florida, I guess we were just used to that!  We heard rumors of good viz, and the forecast was looking nice for a shore dive.  In fact it was a little bit rougher than we expected, based on the forecast, at least at Monastery and around Granite Point.  There were some pretty big waves breaking, which made our decision to go left versus right pretty easy.  We got there kind of late, a little before 9, since I like to sleep in when we don't have to be on a boat's schedule. We ran into a variety of BAUE friends, including two of the three bunnies!  So due to some socializing, we weren't in the water until 10 or so.  The good thing about this was that the tide was coming in, so it got a bit easier to get into the water by the time we were ready to go.  After a trip to Florida, those 85s seemed really light on my back.  However, I didn't dare to comment on this to Rob until I was safely in AND out of the water without falling down.

I was using Rob's scooter backend, because mine was in for service.  The prop fell off a few months ago (as it is prone to do on a Sierra), and the replacement hub (is that what you call it?) didn't seem to allow the prop blades to fully pitch up.  So I've been slow ever since, and it was time to just send it in and let the guys at Dive Xtras deal with it!  When we got into the water, I remembered that Rob had changed over the tow cord on his X to be "fixed".  I don't know why he did this, except to be contrary and annoying.  So I was expecting the cord to be too long, and thinking I could give it a warp around the handle or something.  But when I played around with it a bit on the surface, it was too short.  Way too short.  Then I remembered that the last person to dive the scooter was Vanessa, and since she is Pepper-sized, she must have shortened the cord.  She had achieved this with extra knots on the end (not a bad idea), which were a bit tricky to un-knot on the surface, with gloves on.  But eventually Rob and I got all of the knots out, and I managed to get the tow cord to be some reasonable approximation to the right length for me.  And then we were (finally) off!

We scootered out to the edge of the cove and dropped there.  For some odd reason, I was leading.  I can't remember how that came about.  At the start of the dive, Rob was going a bit too fast for me, so I told him to pitch down.  That might be how I ended up being crowned captain.  Our plan was to go left, but other than that, it was pretty much whatever.  I have to admit that I'm not entirely sure of everywhere that we ended up.  But we made it back, and I guess that's what matters :)  We headed to the left at Hole in the Wall and skipped across the various ridges beyond that.  When we got to Lone Metridium, instead of heading out toward the Sisters, we just kept going along the ridges, and then later we veered off over the sand.  Eventually we came to a couple pinnacles which seemed almost Sisters-like, but were smaller.  But I didn't recognize them, which was sort of shocking.  We saw a couple of lingcod egg masses, one which was being guarded, and one which, oddly, was not.  We eventually ended up at a fairly big reef which I thought was Shortcut.  But Rob didn't think it was.  After spending more time on it, I think it may have been the south side of Great Pinnacle.  But I'm not really sure -- it seemed to come up too shallow to be Shortcut but not shallow enough to be Great Pinnacle (which is why I'm thinking the south side of Great Pinnacle, whose peak isn't as shallow).  Anyway, wherever we were, we hung out there for quite some time.  The viz was really good, though it was quite surgy... just can't shake that pesky long-period swell.  There were a couple of small schools of blue rockfish making the rounds, and I took some video (which I didn't feel motivated enough to edit and post).

When we finally left there, we headed south, and I passed what I think is that ship-shaped rock between Great Pinnacle and Marcos.  Then we came to a really big structure that seemed to get quite shallow, which I surmised was Marcos.  After just a couple of minutes there, we headed back to the east.  We were skirting along the shallow reefs to our right at the reef-sand interface, when we crossed paths with the bunnies.  After a brief pause and some mutual video'ing, we continued on toward the Sisters, and intercepted the first sister.  Right around the center, near that distinctive head of hydrocoral, was a lingcod guarding its eggs.  I thought it was quite picturesque, so I circled it to Rob.  Then I took a little video of it, and when I looked up to see if Rob wanted a picture, he was at the second sister -- that should give you an idea of how good the viz was.  (Apparently he didn't get the signal when I circled the fish and his eggs.)  I headed over there, and after posing for a couple of pictures, Rob pointed out something sort of strange.  There was a school of rockfish that was all lined up and tucked against the west side of the pinnacle.  I'd noticed earlier at one of the other pinnacles we stopped on that a lot of fish were tucking themselves up against the pinnacle.  I wondered if this was related to the heavy surge.  Rob got a picture where you can see the fish doing this (see above).

Once we were finished at the sisters, we headed over the sand to Beto's reef.  We looked for the wolf eel, who wasn't home, and then after a quick scoot to the end (or so) of Beto's, we headed in.  As we were heading in, I noticed that Rob was going really slowly.  So I figured his scooter was slowing down.  Eventually he was going so slowly, I was on the lowest speed.  At that point, he gave up and asked me to tow him.  We were somewhere between Sea Mount and the rock just north of Hole in the Wall at that point.  So I towed him in, and I felt like we were barely moving (which I blame on his beast of a scooter), though we were definitely moving faster than if we were swimming.  When we got to 30 or 40 feet in the sand channel, I stopped, and suggested that we just kick from there so we could look around, so that's what we did.  When we got to the worm patch, we met another team that was ascending there, and while we switched onto our O2 bottles, yet another team passed by.  Must have been rush hour.  From there, we did a slow meander in, timing it pretty well so that we were really close to the ramp when we finished our deco.  We surfaced right along the wall by the parking lot, about 100 feet from the ramp.  Rob had enough juice left in his scooter to make it back :)

Since the tide was coming in, it was an easy exit.  We had left our stuff on the float, and Rob was antsy to retrieve it, but I suggested waiting until the Bunnies returned, and then we could pull all of the gear while they were still in the water.  (We were sharing their float, and I had loaded most of the gear onto the float when I got in to swim our stuff out, so I didn't feel like too much of a free-loader for doing this.)  In a few minutes, they appeared, and we managed to get all of the gear and the bunnies out of the water pretty efficiently.  After rinsing gear and chit-chatting a bit, we headed out for a little lunch at La Tortuga.  It's been a while.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Short Trip to Florida (A Little Differently)

Part of the new wall decoration at EE
We had grandiose plans for another long (10 days?) trip to Florida this winter, but by mid-February, plans for that had failed to materialize, and our schedule was getting full.  Since we also wanted to go to Mexico before it gets too hot, we decided to go with a shorter trip to Florida and a week in Mexico (still to come!).  In the end, this probably worked out better, since pretty much everything was flooded while we were there, except for the old standby, Ginnie.  We considered going up to the Mill Pond for a couple of days, but when we called Cave Adventurers to get a report, they said that JB was sort of milky (but okay) but that Hole in the Wall was "not so good" (and we would probably not want to dive it).  Luckily it's not hard to find 4 or 5 days worth of dives at Ginnie :)

Since I will probably forget to mention it in any of the days' dive reports, I wanted to mention that EE has some new murals on the wall in their classroom.  Maps of various caves are drawn directly onto the walls.  They are awesome!  A lot of the maps are easier to read than the old maps that they had hanging in there.  So in addition to being a really cool idea, and really beautiful to look at, they are super useful!

At Rob's suggestion, I am going to post the dives as the reports are finished.  And I will update this post as I add dive reports.  Rob had another good suggestion which I will be using for this batch of posts.  (Two good ideas at once from Rob?  We are clearly in for a long dry-spell to make up for that.)  Drawing maps of our dives is getting harder and harder as there is not always one map available that shows our entire route.  But I have a laminated poster of Ginnie hanging in my office, so I can draw the route on there and just snap a picture.  The downside of this technique is that I only have a few (not very awesome) colors of dry erase markers in my office, so the maps are much less pretty.  I wonder if a trip to Office Depot could solve this problem.

Anyhoo, without further ado...

Main Land and the River Intrusion Tunnel
Sherwood Split, Double Domes
Indian Springs by Braille
Scraper Restriction, Insulation Rooms, Bone Room
Sweet Surprise

More to come.

Edit: That's all folks.  It was a great trip, even though we were "stuck at Ginnie" for almost all of it.  The two dives that were new to me (Sherwood Split and Sweet Surprise) were great, and I can't wait to go back to both of those areas.  Also, after 4 days (almost) in a row of scootering at Ginnie, by the end I finally felt like I could do so competently without being afraid of the Lips, which was nice.  Of course I'm sure the next time I go back, I will feel like it's back to square one!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Sweet Surprise

We made a small error in our trip planning, which was to plan the trip over the time change weekend.  I guess in and of itself that wouldn't have been a problem, except we were leaving on the Sunday of the time change.  So in addition to having to get up early (to squeeze in a dive), it felt extra early due to the time change.  We got up at 7 and after a couple minutes of groggily starting to get ready, we agreed to go back to sleep until 7:30.  Then at 7:30, we negotiated a push to 8, agreeing that if we just went up to Sweet Surprise (which was the plan) with a single stage and then came straight out with no recalculations, we should have plenty of time.  So when we finally rolled up to Ginnie, it was about 8:45 and it was dead.  I guess everyone else was sleeping in too.  We were pretty efficient about loading gear into the water and getting geared up, so we were in the water by 9:30.  The goal is generally to be driving out of Ginnie by noon, but we were on a slightly relaxed schedule today, since our flight left later than usual (probably a time change anomaly).

So, as planned, we headed straight up the main line to the Sweet Surprise jump.  We have never been to Sweet Surprise before.  I don't know why.  It doesn't seem to be as talked about as, say, Main Land.  The one time we asked someone about it, they weren't sure which jump was the right one, which is probably what deterred us from every going there.  There are a couple of different tunnels leading into that general area, and I've heard that if you take the wrong one, it is very small or maybe a sidemount tunnel.  So the day before we had done a little recon on our way out, and found what we were pretty sure was the right tunnel to take.  We dropped our scooters on the mainline and put the jump in.  Rob was leading -- I figured at this point, why break the streak? :)  When you first enter the jump, there is a clay bottom with the occasional rock outcropping across the bottom.  After seeing a couple of these rocky spots, I decided that I should take advantage of a good stage drop while I could, so I dropped my stage not too far in from the mainline. I think that was a pretty good decision, because while it isn't small for quite a while, there are extended areas that look pretty pristine, where I wouldn't really want to drop a stage.

I don't know why we've never been up here before.  It's an awesome dive.  The tunnel pretty quickly gets very black.  And unlike other tunnels in Ginnie that have mineral deposits on the walls, it is relatively pristine.  There are prolonged periods where the walls are nearly completely black, with just a few white spots peeking through where the rock juts out, I assume from divers using those spots to pull.  There was a decent amount of flow in there.  The tunnel is not small but not huge either.  It's a nice comfortable size for a tunnel, and there isn't much navigation (once you are through the early part where those other tunnels jump into the Sweet Surprise line), so it's a pretty easy tunnel.  At some point you come to a narrow vertical crack, and drop down the crack and then end up in a tunnel that is kind of low, that does open up a bit further, but never (it seemed to me) quite as tall as the tunnel before the crack.  Eventually we got to a low silty area, where things got interesting.  We came to a T (which was either marked 3100' or just after an arrow marked 3100').  Since it was low and silty, this wasn't the best place ever to ponder the decision of which way to go as a team.  Rob peered to the left, and then said he was going right.  So I let him go ahead, but decided to hang back at the T, just in case he quickly decided that was the wrong way.  He was inching forward pretty slowly, and generating a lot of silt.  After maybe 3 body lengths, I saw that he was in fact turning around.  He got back to the T, and I told him that I had 100 psi left before turn.  He asked if he could just take a peek on the other side of the T, to see what was there.  So he again swam a few body lengths up that way, while I waited at the T, and then came back and we exited (on the line very briefly).  Rob reported that even though the left side looked smaller from what you could see at the T, if you swam a few body lengths, you could see that it would open up and that was the way to go.  Someone Rob has talked to since (Dan?) told him that that's the correct way to go to get to Main Land.  I can't quite figure out how this corresponds to what is on any of the maps that I have.

Packing up at the end of the trip :(
So we headed out, riding the flow mostly.  When we got back to the main line, I signaled to head out, and Rob asked if we were going straight out.  I said yes, because well, that was the plan (that we concocted while negotiating how much we could sleep in).  He gave me this condescending look like "oh, you must not understand what I'm asking" when I knew exactly what he wanted to do... we had previously talked about playing around in the mud tunnels on the way out.  I assured him that I understood, and we were heading out.  So we headed out, and when we were approaching the mud tunnel, Rob once again asked if I wanted to go there, and I pointed to my timer and said no.  So we headed straight out from there without further discussion.  When we came out of the lips, somehow Rob managed to end up right next to me (instead of behind me) and was trying to overtake me in the gallery.  So annoying.  So I innocently pointed my scooter a bit to the left (where he was) and ran him off the road, hehehe.  I would have actually bumped his scooter but I was using a borrowed scooter, so figured I should behave.

When I came up the chute at the eye, I found a slack line running up into the 30' room.  I grabbed the line, thinking it must have pulled a tie in that room, and I'd fix it.  But as I approached the wall (where I intended to put a tie to take up the slack), I came to the end of the line.  Doh!  It had been cut.  By now Rob had appeared and he took the line and tied it off while I attended to something else.  When we headed up to the ledge, I saw the other side of the line -- there was a bunch of excess line tied around and around a little rock knob right by the ledge.  We didn't have a ton of deco, since we'd done a pretty short dive.  I think the dive ended up being about 130 minutes total.  So we were out of the water but not out of Ginnie by noon.

To conclude, I would like to reiterate what a great dive this was.  I can't believe we didn't go to Sweet Surprise sooner!  I'm not sure if my description has done it justice (which is more related to the fact that this is my last post of the trip than anything), but it's a really cool passage, unlike any other that I can think of at Ginnie.  It also strikes me as a good "beginner" scooter dive, since it requires only a single stage, and you likely won't be going too much further up the mainline than you've already been by kick.  And once you are in the Sweet Surprise tunnel, the early parts of it are not very technically challenging.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Scraper Restriction, Insulation Rooms, Bone Room

On Saturday, we were back at Ginnie.  Our plan was to go up the main line as far as the wind would take us.  The other couple of times that I have been up there, we have always dropped our scooters just before the turn in the line around 2900' (by the Main Land jump).  Rob pointed out that there are plenty of scooter drops just a bit further up, and dropping them later would save us swimming in the flow.  I said that the swim from there really isn't that bad, but whatever.  We managed to get going at a fairly reasonable hour, so we ended up in the water a little before 11.  Maybe that's not a reasonable hour, but compared to the previous days, it was definitely progress.

I think that on this dive, there were no scooter shenanigans of any sort, so we actually managed to make it past 400' without having to switch scooters :)  I guess because it was the weekend and there were a lot more people out diving, there were gazillions of lines running in through both the ear and the eye (I think I counted 4 in the eye and 3 in the ear).  And we did encounter a few teams in the cave too, though not as many as you might expect considering all of those lines!  So, we headed way up the mainline, with nothing too interesting happening on the way.  Rob wanted to visit the Insulation Rooms on the way out, so when we got to the jump, he went off the trigger to drop a cookie on the line (I guess he thinks it is easier to find the right spot on the way in?).  Since we went off the trigger there, and he was dropping his cookie right where the line ran atop a little rock ledge, I decided to drop my bottle there.  So then once we got going again, we headed pretty much straight to the 2900' turn in the line, where we agreed to go a bit further before dropping scooters.

Once we dropped the scooters, we continued on by kick.  Oh my did I jinx things by suggesting that the swim past that is not that tough.  Woowee was the flow up back there.  So there was a bit of huffing and puffing, and blowing through gas faster than usual!  The flow died down by the time we got to the Henkle, but there were a few spots where it really picked up again, and it actually took some strategizing to figure out how to move through it (okay, mostly it just required watching Rob and either imitating what he did, or doing something different if he got thrashed by the flow).  I have been up to the jump to the left around 3400' before, so I will skip to the "new" part.  I suppose that we went through the scraper restriction.  We went through this boxy rock restriction, which was quite distinctive (and quite cool) looking.  But I'm not sure how accurate the name is; perhaps it was once more accurate.  It's a restriction for sure, but I didn't really feel like I was just scraping through it.  Shortly after that restriction, the passage gets low and a bit messy on the bottom.  It isn't consistently super low, but there were periodic "underpasses" where it was a bit of a squeeze to get through, then it would open up (relatively speaking) a little into little rooms.  There were some really nice clay banks on either side of the line in those little rooms.  Eventually Rob had switched off of his stage, and there was pretty obviously no good place to drop a stage, nor was it a great place to have to be carrying a stage.  It would have been better to drop it earlier.  Anyway, at the point where he stopped and tried to decide what to do, I turned it, since I was getting close to turning on gas anyway.

We headed back out and when we got to that jump to the left (now the right) where we went last time, Rob asked if I wanted to go up there.  I passed, since I didn't think the gas I had left would make it worth going up there.  The ride out from there was great.  There was enough flow that I barely had to kick, more like just steer with my fins.  So I just drifted out and watched a really nice view go by!  On the way out, we also poked our heads into a couple of jumps that might be worth checking out in the future, for instance the Henkle bypass.  Once we got back to our scooter drop, we headed straight back to the insulation room jump.  Rob put the jump in and we ditched our extraneous gear before heading in there.  We went the counterclockwise direction today.  It's weird how the fluffy "insulation" seems to be more concentrated in different rooms at different times.  Today it was thickly blanketing the floor in the first room (from the direction we came from).  It was pretty cool how the blanket draped across the line.  When we got to the last room, with the tannic dome, Rob disappeared into the dome.  After he came back down I decided to disappear into the dome.  I didn't go up there for long but when I came out, Rob was exiting the room.  What the heck?  We headed back to the mainline and picked up all our stuff and headed out.

On Thursday, Rob wanted to complete the Bone Room circuit on the way out.  I had waved him off and told him we could do it another day.  So today I told him we could do that on the way out.  I have never completed the circuit.  It's not too long, when you are on a scooter anyway :)  We paused near the Wonder Tunnel jump to pay homage to Ted's antics.  When we got back to the mainline, I led us through the cornflakes, and then decided to take the keyhole bypass, since I know Rob loves it.  On the way up the slope, he bumped my fins because I wasn't going fast enough.  Not cool!  I am all for a fin bump to signal that you are right behind me, but this was totally gratuitous.  From there we had a pretty uneventful exit.  With all of those lines entering through the eye, I thought it might be a mess getting out.  But there were 4 lines, and they were run really nicely, with two running on one side and two running on the other, not at all in the way.  Excellent!  When we got to the deco ledge, someone was on it.  Since there is room for two there, I figured I would start ditching my gear on one end of the ledge and then scoot onto the unoccupied side.  By the time I had ditched my scooter, the other guy on the ledge left.  Sweet.  After a whole bunch of deco, we exited through the eye, and there were divers raining down on me!  There was some sort of class (OW I'm guessing) descending into the basin to do skills in the sand.  I curled up against the wall to finish my ascent.

We managed to get out of the water at a sort of reasonable hour for lunch.  We headed to the Station Bakery, where I tried the new BBQ pork sandwich.  It was good, but I'll probably go back to one of my old standbys next time.  It strikes me as the type of sandwich that Rob or Ted would really like though (very meaty).  After lunch, we even had time for some downtime before eventually heading to dinner with Kyle and Kirill.  The dinner conversation was dominated by discussion of the flutter kick ;)

Friday, March 8, 2013

Indian Springs by Braille

When I initially ping'd Meredith about diving on the trip, she asked something like "if we could get into Indian on Friday, would you want to go?"  Let me think about this... um, hell yea.  I didn't know that Meredith was becoming a guide at Indian, but apparently it just became official.  We are always pestering Mark to take us there again, but it's always hard to get our dates to line up.  So after a couple days, she confirmed that we had a reservation at Indian for Friday.  Woohoo.  The reports from the previous weekend were that downstream viz was bad, but upstream it was clear.  I hadn't been to Indian since it reopened.  The new procedure isn't too different from the old, except that you have to stop at Cave Connections to check in (which is like a one minute drive from Indian, so really not a big deal).  There was another team diving that morning, but the plan was that they would be diving earlier than us, so would either be finished or on deco by the time we got into the water.  Being scheduled for a later dive was fine by me, since it meant that we didn't have to get up early for the long drive :)

It took us a while to get all of our gear sorted out, because we had sent a bunch of bottles with Meredith (to load-balance the cars).  But we eventually got everything to the water and nicely organized in the basin (where the water was clear), and then we got geared up and into the water.  We dropped down and dropped our oxygen bottles around 20'.  Then we headed in, and the viz got quite bad.  Rob was leading, I was #2 and Meredith was #3.  When we got to 70' and dropped our bottles, the other team appeared (on their way out).  Meredith had a scooter problem, which was not fixable, so we had to head back up to the surface to deal with that (she brought a spare scooter, which was in the car).  So we ended up on the surface for a bit longer (during which I acquired a lovely sunburn :P) and by that point the other team had finished their deco, and surfaced.  They reported crap viz as far in as they got upstream.  They said that the crap viz in the mud tunnel just never really opened up.  Awesome.  We changed our plan a bit and decided to scooter to the T and drop scooters and kick from there.  Scootering in crap viz the entire dive just didn't sound too fun.

So with our amended plan, back in we went.  It is true that the viz never got any better.  We got to the T (which has moved since I was last there, or since I last remember where it was), dropped our scooters and headed upstream.  It's amazing how much different it was from what I remember (which is white walls in clear blue water).  The walls were still white and pretty cool to look at, except you could only look at them a few feet at a time.  I would call the viz 10 to 15 feet, with a definite yellowish tinge.  Normally I would call bad viz either green or brown, but it really did seem like a pretty yellowish shade of brown to me, ick.  There was also a bit of flow; nothing too bad, but clearly discernible.  Overall, I would call the dive "interesting".  It was kind of stressful, I stayed really close to the line (perhaps comically so), and felt like I was huffing and puffing to keep up with Rob (out of practice with the kicking I guess).  But even only 15 feet at a time, the cave is quite pretty.

We turned a little past 2000' I think (on my gas, huff puff).  The ride out was easy with the flow.  I definitely enjoyed the ride out better than the kick in, both because of the easy kicking and because I had grown more accustomed to the poor viz.  Before you know it, we were back to our scooters, and after a bit of gear-monkeying, we headed back up the mud tunnel.  I had been a bit nervous about scootering the mud tunnel (in possibly questionable viz) before the dive, but after this dive, I don't think that will seem like a big deal :)  We got back to our 70' bottles, and let Meredith come up with the deco (she has very detailed deco tables in her wetnotes).  She called Fibonacci deco, which I was quite amused by.  Then she amended it to be "pragmatic" which I found somewhat disappointing, since I found the Fibonacci deco to be easier to remember (I think the 50% stops were literally the Fibonacci sequence starting from 2).  When we got to 20', Meredith whipped out her hero-cam and took some video of the (icky) basin.  For some reason that I never got to the bottom of, I felt insanely head-heavy all through the deco.  (I was borrowing Meredith's tanks, so we can't rule out foul play.)  I was quite uncomfortable!  Rather late in the 20' stop, I realized that my 50% was still really heavy, and when draped over my legs made a very nice counterweight.  Ahhh.

After surfacing and having a chuckle about the conditions, and accidentally peeing in my drysuit, we started the arduous process of bring gear back up to the cars.  Okay, it wasn't that arduous, because Meredith has a very sturdy hand-truck.  Way more robust than our fold-up one.  When that was all finished, we headed out and stopped for oysters at Revells -- the real reason Rob wanted to go to Indian!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Sherwood Split, Double Domes

On Thursday we decided to do a totally new-to-us dive at Ginnie -- Sherwood Split.  I've done quite a few dives up to the Double Lines/Insulation Room area, but I've never made it up to that area on a double stage dive, so it just didn't seem worth it to try to head up that way, since I don't think we'd make it too far on a single stage kick dive.  In the spirit of pacifism, I let Rob lead the dive again.  We got a somewhat late start, since I was cranky tired in the morning, plus we had to get fills.  But after yesterday's dive, anything earlier than a 4PM dive time seemed like we were making good time.  I think in the end we managed to get into the water around noon.

After my raging success with scootering through the lips, I had moderate success with that today.  It didn't seem to go quite as smoothly, but I made it through without having to pull, which is, I guess, the goal.  My scooter stuck on as I was coming through the Cornflakes, which is one of the more annoying places on the main line that I can think of for that to happen.  I managed to subdue it, though in the process I lost a chunk of skin from my finger.  Ouch!  I can never make it through a trip without getting at least a few big scrapes on my hands.  When I came out into the junction room, I told Rob that the scooter was misbehaving, so we traded scooters (starting to sound familiar?).  From there we headed up to the Hill 400 line, and then up to the jump around 1200'.  We dropped our scooters and I dropped a stage there.  I was having problems with my mask fogging, which wasn't a huge surprise, since I had a feeling even before we got in the water that I had contaminated my mask with sunblock (anyone have any suggestions for a sunblock that won't do this?).  It was only fogging on one side, and it started out with just a small foggy patch that grew from there.

When we got to the jump, I didn't really recognize it.  I had a picture in my head of what this jump looked like, but I realized later that I was thinking of a jump that is about 100 feet away (past us, on the closer side if you come from the double lines side).  So I was expecting a jump into a little hole, but actually the entrance was bigger, not something I'd describe as a little hole :)  It is pretty silty up there.  It is not terribly small at the beginning, but small enough that you have to be careful to avoid silting.  There are a bunch of Ts up there, and our plan was to just explore a variety of directions, until gas or boredom dictated that we leave.  The width of the tunnels varies from pretty wide to not so wide, but for the most part the tunnels are pretty low.  There is the occasional bigger "room" though.  This is not an area where it is super easy to find a good stage drop, but there are decent drops every now and then, so you don't have to carry the bottle too terribly far after going off of it.  We somewhat arbitrarily went right at the first T, and I dropped my stage in a little room just past the T.  This was a good move, since I am not a huge fan of dragging a stage through low, silty areas (though Rob carried his further, so it is clearly doable).

The passage narrows down and then at the next T (which is just a few minutes away), you find yourself in a pretty big, though still somewhat flat room.  We went right again, and the tunnel got smaller again pretty quickly.  We eventually came back to that second T and went left, where the tunnel stays reasonably bigger until you get to yet another T.  We explored both sides of that T as well.  So all together, we went up three terminal tunnels (RR, RLR, and RLL), and in each one we turned it when we either hit the end of the line or the tunnel got small (I think we hit the end of one line, the one to the right-right, but I could be misremembering at this point).  The flow changes depending on which direction you go at that second T.  It is the type of flow that you might not really notice as you are heading into it, but once you turn, you really feel like you barely have to kick on the way out. Through the entire dive, my mask was getting foggier and foggier, though still only on one side.  I didn't switch to my backup because I wasn't that convinced that it wouldn't be foggy all over :)  When we got back to the first T, we were each carrying a stage, which we did not want to carry to the left side of the T.  But we couldn't find a good spot to drop them, as everything is clay.  I suggested going back out a little bit from the T, but Rob seemed convinced that there wouldn't be a good stage drop for some time.  So we headed left, still carrying our bottles, where you immediately go through a little underpass.  By the time Rob got through it, the viz was quite deteriorated, so I signaled him and, to his annoyance, turned it.  If I'd had a fully functioning mask, I probably would have been more okay with it.  Looking at the map, I see that there is quite a lot more passage to the left, so I think that warrants a dive of its own sometime.  I switched back onto the stage that I did not want to be carrying, and found that it was breathing rather poorly.  I suspect the siltiness of the passage had something to do with that.

We had originally discussed hitting the Ice Room on the way out, but we skipped that and instead headed to the double domes.  After picking up our scooters, we headed up the hill 400 line further.  Eventually it gets too small/delicate to scooter, so I was thinking that we'd drop our scooters at some point, but Rob never stopped.  Instead, when it got small, we just pushed the scooters through.  At some point, when I knew we were fairly close to popping out into the double domes tunnel, I managed to get stuck on the line :)  The mouthpiece of the second stage on my outer stage bottle got caught on the line.  By the time I realized it, the second stage and hose had been pulled almost halfway out of the bands.  I reached back and freed it, and since it didn't seem like a great spot to stop and mess with my bottles (without leaving a scooter-shaped print in the bottom :P), I decided to just swim with the second stage in my hand until I got out of this tunnel.  I knew it was just another minute or two.  In that minute or two, I realized that I also needed to switch off of the bottle that I was breathing, which I did on the fly.  So when I finally popped out of that tunnel into the double domes tunnel, I had two stage regs deployed and in my left hand, for no obvious reason.  I knew that I was going to get a very amused look from Rob when he saw this.  And as expected, when I appeared, he just gave me a "WTF?" look and we both laughed.  I handed him my scooter nose, and then one of the second stages, stowed the other one, then took the one he was holding and put that away.  I knew that this was going to be one of those stories that Rob tells all of our dive buddies, and indeed, I have already heard this story a couple of times.  I figured if I 'fessed up to it on the blog, it might take the wind out of his sails (but probably not).

Once that was all sorted out, we headed up to the domes and after a minute or two looking around in the second one, we headed out.  By the ride out, my mask was really foggy on the right lens.  In fact it was easiest to see clearly if I just closed that eye :)  Needless to say, I quickly gained proficiency at flooding and clearing my mask while on the trigger.  Since I was on the lead on the way out, I decided to skip the keyhole bypass, since I just knew it would irk Rob, since that's his new favorite trick.  He took the bypass anyway, and after the dive he asked sadly why I hadn't taken it.  We got to the deco ledge and I removed my bottles and scooter and settled in for a long, boring deco.  The deco seemed longer because I had to flood and clear my mask like every minute.  Eventually we finished up and headed out, in the light of day, with time to get gas for tomorrow and shower before heading to dinner at Newberry's with Meredith.

For the rest of the trip, I was super careful about not contaminating my mask with sunblock, and I even remembered to defog my backup mask before every dive too!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Main Land and the River Intrusion Tunnel

We got into town a bit before one in the afternoon, and Rob came up with some convoluted plan for what order to do things (go to storage unit, go to Country Inn, go to EE).  He dropped off his scooter and my light battery to charge at EE while we were running around doing other things.  Eventually we had finished the scavenger hunt and even managed to pick up some sandwiches from the Station Bakery for lunch.  We headed to Ginnie and checked in and moved our bottles and scooters over to the water.  As I was getting my gear all sorted out, I remembered that Rob kept telling me to remind him to retrieve my light battery from the charger at EE, which I had not done.  Doh!  Turns out he had not remembered to do it on his own either.  So he headed back to EE to retrieve it, while I stayed behind with all of the gear.  By the time he got back, it was about 3:30, so needless to say we got a late start for the dive.

The plan was to go up to Main Land (or is it Mainland?) and, well, go wherever.  I have been up past the T back there, and just a little bit up to the left from there, but not too far.  And not to the right at all.  It's been a while since I have been up there.  On our New Year's trip, I was planning to dive it on the last day, but I ended up being too sniffly to dive.  I don't think we really had a concrete plan for where to go on the way out, though the River Intrusion Tunnel may have been mentioned.  Rob was leading the dive.  Once in the cave, we found that the start of the main line has moved a bit.  It now runs up to the 50 foot room in the Eye.  I think that the old way that it ran gave a bit more room for several reels running in through the Ear.  Also, I'm not sure what is the benefit of the new way of running the line, except that if you don't run line, you are less likely to end up lost in the Catacombs if you try to exit through the Eye.  But do people really need more incentive to not run line at Ginnie?  Hmmm.  Anyhoo, back to the dive.  I was using a borrowed scooter, since my scooter has been in the scooter hospital for the past two months (though at this point, the prognosis is good).  I decided in the gallery that I didn't like it, and so I traded with Rob, since he is less picky about such things.  It was not weighted quite enough and I felt like it was moving slowly (though that may have just been in my head, because it was awkward to drive a slightly positive scooter).  This dive had the distinction of being the first dive where I felt like I actually successfully made it through the Lips on the trigger.  Without giving up halfway through and just pulling myself through :)

The front 1000' or so was chock full of jump lines installed, e.g. at the Park Bench, the Hill 400 line, and the Maple Leaf.  I dropped a stage at stage bottle rock, and eventually we made it to the Main Land jump, where we dropped our scooters and off we went.  Once we made it through the low part of the tunnel, the viz got really good, and it only got better as we made our way to the big room.  The water back there just looks so blue, and the walls really light up.  Rob really needs to schlep a camera back there and get some pictures sometime!  When we eventually got to the T, we headed left, and after pinching down (where we turned it last time), it got bigger again and we crossed through what I would call a room around 3900' (though it doesn't particularly look like a room on the map), and then the tunnel becomes smaller again.  After not too much longer, Rob signaled that the tunnel ahead got small and he turned it.

We headed back to the T and went the other way (the "right" side from the perspective of entering the cave).  From there you go through a little narrowing and then come back out into a bigger space, and are almost immediately at the next T.  We went very briefly left, just long enough for Rob to show me a jump to the right, which he said gets small pretty quickly, and so does the line we were on if you keep going.  Then we turned back to the second T and went back the other way (to the "right").  This is the tunnel that takes you to Sweet Surprise, though I didn't know it during the dive, because Rob's convoluted (wrong) explanation of his previous dive led me to think that the jump took you to Sweet Surprise.  Anyhoo, at this point I was leading, and the tunnel fairly quickly became small, and then after maybe 100' it got a bit smaller.  At the point where we finally turned, it probably approximated Rocky-Horror-small (but with a more delicate bottom).  I finally turned it when I got to a cookie that said 4050'.  I thought it was odd that there was a 50' marker, and didn't know if this had some sort of significance.  I turned just after this, when I came to a little nodule in the passage where it would be easy (well, that's relative) to turn around, and beyond which I could see no areas where it would be easy to turn around.  I maneuvered around, and then backed up (further into the tunnel) so that Rob could use the little wider spot to turn around.  But he was oblivious and just managed to contort himself to turn around in his smaller part of the passage.

We meandered back out to the first T, and from there we had the flow helping us out.  When we got to the point where the line turns, at the "start" of the big room, I took the jump to the left, which is within arm's reach of the line we were on.  I wasn't sure if this line went anywhere, and wondered if it was just a line running across the room, because I had seen on some map that it did not go far.  It does actually go a bit further than just across the room.  After traversing the room, a tunnel veers off to the left and a little bit deeper.  But then not too far after that, the line disappeared into a hole, which I had no interest in going into.  I considered sending Rob in to take a look, but decided to just turn us around.  On the Hancock map, the line is not very long at all, so I'm not sure if it actually goes much further than this.  From there we headed back out to the mainline, with just a couple of pauses along the way so that Rob could look at some jumps off of the line for possible future visits.  When we got back to the mainline, I realized just how much better the viz was in Mainland, because the viz on the mainline really didn't look that good.  We made our way back to stage bottle rock, and then agreed to drop gear there and go up the River Intrusion Tunnel.  The last time we went up there, we did it on a kick dive (oy) and didn't make it too far up the tunnel.  I couldn't remember precisely where the jump was, but after a little bit of poking around, we found the jump, fairly far back from where Rob had tied his spool into the mainline :)

Not too far up the tunnel, we hit a T, where we went right (just as we had on our last trip up this tunnel).  The tunnel sort of goes up a little and gets a bit smaller and continues for not terribly long.  Rob got to the end of the line and turned it (or so he says... I didn't actually see the end of the line since we were single file).  We came back and went the other way at the T, and soon I saw something shiny ahead, and realized it was our pile of bottles, on stage bottle rock.  I wasn't exactly expecting that, though I guess I should have, since it is quite obviously so on the map.  We swam over to our gear and picked it all up, and then cleaned up the jump (we first had to go back to the T to fetch our cookies, which we almost forgot about :P).  From there we headed straight out.  On Rob's last dive at Ginnie (without me), he discovered the wonder that is the Keyhole bypass.  Like pretty much anything Rob does on a dive without me, he couldn't stop talking about how awesome it was.  He couldn't wait to "show it to me".  So as we were scooting through just past the Hill 400 jump, I was going to signal and tell him to go first.  But he seemed to know that that's what I wanted, so I went off the trigger, gave him the "after you" signal and we repositioned on the fly.  While I make fun of Rob a lot on here, the fact that we can so easily we can read each others' minds like this is just one of the reasons he is an excellent dive buddy.  The Keyhole bypass is interesting, but really not life-altering in the way that Rob, Kevin, and Doug may lead you to believe.  It's nice because you don't have to worry about getting whacked in the head as you go through the Keyhole at a high rate of speed, but you still have to go up a pretty abrupt slope, which I prefer to do off the trigger in any case.

When we got back to the deco ledge, it was (as expected) completely dark out.  We had a fair bit of deco for a Ginnie dive.  I initially called 40 minutes and then a couple minutes later, I revised it to 45.  I was pretty hungry and a little cold, so I was pretty much watching the minutes tick by.  I briefly attempted to do a sudoku in my wetnotes, but found myself too dumb for that.  So then I turned to sketching kitty cats in my wetnotes (which, sadly, I forgot to snap a picture of and those wetnotes live in Florida, otherwise I would post it :P).  Finally the minutes ticked by, and we made our way to the surface.  It was quite cold out, so after all of the clock-watching, I no longer wanted to get out of the water.  Brrrr.  We were pretty efficient about getting packed up (motivated by the air temperature).  Then we took stock of our limited dinner options (since it was after 9) and decided to head to Mason's in Alachua (where Kazbor's used to be) and met up with Meredith there.  I found the food and the menu to be marginally better than Kazbor's.  And most important, they have corn nuggets :)

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Surgy Banks

I had two days of diving planned for the weekend, with a last-minute Phil date on Friday and a BAUE boat on Saturday.  Unfortunately, I wasn't feeling well on Friday morning, so I didn't end up making the dive.  But I did ride out on the boat (trying to put off the decision not to dive :P) and so I got a driving lesson while the boys were on deco, and I got to uncover all of the mysteries of what Phil does while we're in the water (but you know, a girl never tells...).  Right before the boys surfaced, the wind really kicked up.  There had been whitecaps all morning, but it pretty quickly got rough.  The ride back on Friday was pretty darn sporty.  I didn't get in the water, but I still had to rinse my drysuit after the ride back.  So I was a bit skeptical about the boat on Saturday.  There was a medium-sized long period swell, so that would be fine (boating-wise), but I was worried about the wind, and the small craft advisory starting in the afternoon.  But once we got going on Saturday morning, the wind was looking fine.  It looked like getting to Yankee Point shouldn't be a problem, but when Rob and Kevin came down from the wheelhouse and asked if everyone was up for a run down to Big Sur, I was pretty surprised.  There was a fog bank off in the distance which I was worried would be sitting right on top of Sur Banks when we got there.  But when we got there, it was clear.  There was a fog bank in the distance still though, so everyone was reminded of the importance of coordinating our bag shoots.

I jumped into the water first, and found not very much surface current at all.  I got my light cord tangled with my scooter tow cord, which of course I didn't realize until after giving Rob and Kevin the okay to descend, so I quickly sorted that out and then dropped down to 20 feet just as they were starting to wonder where the heck I'd gotten to.  The viz on the way down was not that great.  It was green and hazy.  But it cleared up below maybe 50 feet.  There was a bit of current on the way down, though nothing outrageous.  What was outrageous (though not really surprising) was the surge down there.  It was probably the worst surge I've ever experienced on a tech dive.  We were moving at least 15 to 20 feet at times.  Oy.  The viz was good, but the water was kind of milky.  Still, I'd say the viz was easily 40 to 60 feet.  When we first got down the line (which was on the north pinnacle), we did a quick circumnavigation of the structure.  We actually didn't make it completely around the structure, we cut back across the south pinnacle back to the north pinnacle before making it the whole way around. 

Once back to the north pinnacle, we spent a while on the west side of that pinnacle, and eventually moved across the top of the pinnacle.  I alternated my time scootering against the surge to stay in place, and just hanging out over the reef and letting the surge drag me to and fro, watching the giant hydrocoral heads go by.  Rob was taking pictures, so instead of scootering to hold station, he was kicking.  It was insane, and sort of impressive.  Eventually he got a raging CO2 headache and put the camera away, though it was nearly the end of the dive by then.  We did take one more quick scoot around the side of the pinnacle, I think just trying to find some protection from the surge, of which there as none.  I was pretty amused to see a little school of fish that was getting knocked around by the surge.  They didn't seem any better at dealing with it than we were.  Oh, one other thing that we saw on this dive -- one lingcod nest, and another lingcod that was sure acting like he was guarding a nest (though I didn't actually see the eggs).

Near the end of the dive, both teams ended up hanging out on the north pinnacle, near the line, and we left the structure and popped our bags at just about the same time.  We could see the other team through our 50 foot stop, and then only lost sight of them because we got into the ugly layer.  The viz in the layer was surprisingly bad in comparison to below.  It was sort of warm though.  The deco wasn't terribly long, since we spent basically the whole dive on top of the pinnacle, which is not too deep.  We didn't see anything super interesting on deco, though there were a variety of little jelly things to look at now and then.  We hit the surface to find that the weather was still quite nice.  Apparently the fog had rolled in during the dive, but then it rolled back out.  After having a little chicken and junk food, and changing out of my drysuit, I headed up to the wheelhouse, where there was a really nice view!  Eventually the other team surfaced and after retrieving them, we headed north.  I rode back the whole way in the wheelhouse (since I am terrified of climbing the ladder when the boat is underway) and talked cats and such with Captain Mike :)  When we got back to Carmel, oh boy did the fog roll in.  It was a pretty slow ride back.  By the time we got to Point Pinos, the wind had kicked up.  I guess they were right about that small craft advisory starting in the afternoon. But we made it back before it got too nasty, and still in time to make it back to Anywater Sports to drop tanks.