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Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas Eve at Lobos

We had a boat cancellation the weekend before Christmas, but I was too lame to organize alternate dive plans.  Then when I saw pictures from the weekend, with awesome viz, and also saw the excellent forecast for the next few days, I decided we should go diving on Christmas Eve.  When we got there, the surface conditions were excellent, as forecast.  It was also a nice high tide, ahhh.  We decided to go to Twin Peaks.  When we were discussing the plan the day before, I asked how many bottles that required, and shockingly, Rob said it was up to me.  No pressure.  Then I thought about how annoying it is to have to turn the dive on gas, so I called for three bottles :)

We got all the gear setup, which was pretty easy with the high tide and barely moving water, and got into the water pretty quickly.  It wasn't very crowded at Lobos, which I found sort of surprising, but I guess most normal people were attending to family obligations.  The viz in the cove was really good as we scootered out, but when we dropped in the sand channel, we found that it was a bit churned up.  The viz wasn't terrible, but not at all what I was expecting based on the cove.  Once we got to Hole in the Wall, it was like someone had flipped a switch, and just like that, the viz got really good.  It only got better as we continued on.  We went out via Lone Metridium and the Sisters, and pretty much headed straight down the road all the way to Twin Peaks.

The viz was really good, with bright blue water.  We played around a bit with lighting pictures with my video light and Rob's strobes, which consumed a bit of time.  Aside from that, I was mostly looking for little critters.  But Rob actually made the best macro find of all, which was a nice plump Cuthona divae.      We swam around from the main peak, meandering around the surrounding pinnacles.  There were some sea lions that kept swimming down and buzzing us.  There were at least two, but maybe a few more.  Eventually, I noticed that one kept swimming behind an elephant ear sponge.  It seemed like it was gnawing at something back there, but I couldn't imagine what it was.  I was watching it, and videoing it, since it kept predictably returning to that one spot.  Then all of a sudden, it zipped down to the sponge and chomped down on it, breaking off a huge piece of the sponge!  I couldn't believe it.  I suppose I shouldn't be too surprised to see that from a creature that likes to play mola frisbee.  It did make me wonder about the fate of the elephant ear sponge on the side of the second sister, which I always assumed was destroyed by a diver's fin, a boat anchor, or a big storm.

We headed back in, and went via Beto's Reef, since that's how Rob likes to go.  I prefer to go back the way we came, because we get to our 70 foot bottle sooner, but today it was a good move.  We were scootering back, and I was basically just zooming along, kind of antsy to get to 70 feet, when Rob signaled me rather excitedly.  He was at one of the little drops in the reef, near the old wolf eel's den.  So I was thinking he was showing me the wolf eel, though his signal seemed a bit too excited for that.  I swam over, saw that he was giving me the "octopus" signal, and really couldn't believe he was stopping me to show me an octopus.  Until I looked.  Ooooh, that kind of octopus!  There's a GPO in the wolf eel's den!  It even had the nice tell-tale pile of crab shells just outside of it.  It was a pretty small one, but still a great find!

We headed in, and after getting onto our bottles, I suggested we hop over to Middle Reef.  It seemed like the bottom was even more churned up than it had been on the way out, but I was thinking that with the viz above the bottom being quite nice, the top of Middle Reef could be a rather scenic ride in.  So we headed over to Middle Reef, and Rob kept ignoring my overtures to go up to the top of the reef.  Then finally, when we got to our 40 foot stop, right by transect 4 (where we looked for, but did not find, the old resident warbonnet), I made it clear that I wanted to stay there for the 30 foot stop too.  Rob finally got it, and then realized that it was a gorgeous day on the top of the reef!  The water was bright blue and there was a nice school of blue rockfish hanging out in the kelp.  We pretty much spent the rest of deco, both our 30 and most of our 20 foot stop, in that spot, with Rob shooting pictures of the kelp and the rockfish (and occasionally me).  I think he got some of his best ever pictures of rockfish in the kelp!  Definitely a great way to pass the time on deco!

Once we finished up with the photo shoot, we headed in.  Rob's scooter got quite slow while we were in the cove; I think I could have swum faster than he was moving :P  When we surfaced, conditions were still great on the way out of the water, making for an easy time retrieving all of our gear.  We high-tailed it out of town, so we could make it back to San Jose in time for the Christmas party going on at Anywater Sports.

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