It's about diving. And cats.

Me diving

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Best Dive of the Year?

On Saturday, Rob and I were back on the Escapade, hoping for better conditions than last weekend :)  It wouldn't be hard to meet that criteria on this dive.  The forecast was pretty good, but I didn't really see it as Big Sur good.  But John was bantering about Big Sur to Jim before we even made it out of the harbor.  As we rounded Point Pinos, it was a bit rougher than I was expecting, considering the forecast.  It calmed down a little once we were past Cypress Point, but it really laid down after we got south of Point Lobos, which was sort of odd.  By the time we got to Lobos, I figured we would make it to Yankee Point, but wasn't expecting anything more than that.  Then when we got to Yankee Point, someone came down from the wheelhouse to say that we were going to shoot for Big Sur Banks.  Woohoo!  After a little bit of discussion, we decided to shoot for Sur 20 (since we'd already dived Sur 19 so many times this year already, hehe).  It was a calm ride out there, and when we got out to the site, it was flat.  Flatter than it had been in Carmel Bay.  The water color also looked better than it had on the ride down.  There also appeared to not be much current, at least on the surface.

Photo by Robert Lee
I was the first in the water, and reported very nice-looking water on the surface.  We headed down the line, and found that the clear water stretched all the way down to the bottom.  It was not only clear, but bright and blue at the bottom.  Probably the best conditions I've ever had at Sur 20 (possibly tied with one other dive).  There was an enormous school of juvenile rockfish on the pinnacle.  There was a smaller school of adults too, but the juvenile rockfish were definitely the main event.  I was playing with a new piece of gear -- a real video light.  Actually Rob was carrying the video light, with the idea being that he could light the reef for me.  So we played with that for a bit, and then eventually he was taking pictures, so we swapped light heads, and I tried light for myself.  Lighting for myself was doable, but it was definitely easier with Rob.  My arm just isn't quite long enough!  I found it easiest to shoot when I wasn't on the trigger, as I was moving a bit too fast to keep the light in the right place when on the trigger.

Photo by Robert Lee
We spent almost the entire dive on the top of the pinnacle, since that's where all of the fish action was.  We made a couple of very brief forays down the side of the pinnacle we were on, and through the channel in the center.  There were quite a lot of lings, many quite big.  Before you know it, it was time to start our ascent, boohoo.  I shot the bag (since Kevin wasn't there :P).  As it was unspooling, the line got kinked and it stopped unspooling.  I couldn't clear the knot fast enough and lost it.  Rob looked at me in disbelief that I had lost the spool, and then he looked up, and it had worked the kink out and was unspooling and dropping back down.  Rob caught it.  Phew.  Other than that, deco was uneventful.  When we surfaced, it was even calmer than it had been when we descended!  Getting back on the boat was quite a different experience from the previous weekend :)

Photo by Clinton Bauder
After a super awesome dive like that, it's always tough to decide whether to do a second dive.  On one hand, there is no way a second dive will be as good.  On the other hand, with such good conditions, how could we pass up a second dive?  So we decided to do a second dive, and it was of course a disappointment, though in this case, it was more of a disappointment than expected :P  We went to a site just north of Lobos Rocks called "Mashed Potatoes".  I'd never been to the site before, I think it is an old Cypress Sea mark.  The viz there was quite different than Sur 20.  It was green, chunky, and like 15 feet or maybe 20 in some spots.

Photo by Clinton Bauder
The site was advertised as having three arches, which we did manage to find.  I would probably describe it more as a tunnel with two big overhead openings, but I guess that is just another way of describing three arches :)  We dropped down onto the top of a wall, and then dropped down along the wall, at the bottom of which were the arches.  The wall was pretty cool, and I think it would be pretty impressive in better viz.  At the bottom of the wall, there were a bunch of round "stones", kind of like big river rocks, but very round.  It was interesting.  The arches were nice, and probably would have seemed even cooler to a non-cave diver (does that make me sound like a snob?).  After we went down the wall, through the arches, and meandered a little on the other side of the arches, I wasn't sure what to do, but it was only like 20 minutes into the dive.  We went back through the arches, Rob took a few pictures, and then we headed up the wall and called the dive early.  We had to claw our way through some kelp to climb the boat ladder.

John claimed this dive as the best dive of the year, though Clinton (later) pointed out that he was pretty sure a whale at Lobos beat out even this dive for that title :)

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