It's about diving. And cats.

Me diving

Sunday, March 23, 2014

A Blah Dive at Lobos

We stayed down in Monterey on Saturday night, and dove at Lobos on Sunday.  The day before, when we were at lunch, someone reported (based on something on Facebook, I think), that there had been a white shark sighting at Point Lobos, in Bluefish Cove.  I didn't know who reported it, so didn't know the credibility, so I basically ignored it.  Then I heard it was Ted H. who saw it, and it seemed a bit more credible.  When we pulled into Lobos, the park aid at the gate (whose name currently escapes me), was like "Did you hear?  A diver saw a white shark here yesterday!  Isn't that cool!?"  Not exactly the reaction I was expecting :)  She also told us that Paul (who was already down at Whalers) had the video/pictures of it on his iPad.  So when we got down to the parking lot, we watched the video and looked at the pictures.  Yep, definitely a white shark.  Clinton made some remark about how we'd been outdone (referring to the whale sighting and pictures).  I was diving with Clinton, so naturally we didn't let this get in the way of our dive plans, though we did discuss the plan if we encountered a white shark (get pictures, then crawl home on the bottom :P).  We didn't really have much of a plan for the dive, but I really wanted to go octopus hunting, and I knew that Clinton knew where some of the GPOs lived.  So we decided to go to Beto's Reef and Granite Point, since those were the two spots that Clinton was confident that he knew where the GPO dens were, though the Beto's GPO hadn't been spotted in quite some time.  The Granite Point GPO had been seen very recently, so we were pretty confident we'd see him (if we could find the den).

The swell was not huge, but it was a fairly long period, so it was a bit surgy in the sand channel, and viz was not awesome.  The water was pretty bright, but there was just a lot of stuff in the water.  We headed out pretty much straight to Beto's Reef, found the GPO was not in its den (no surprise there), and wandered around there just a bit.  We then agreed to head over to Granite Point, and I suggested that Clinton lead.  I wasn't opposed to leading, but if I were leading, I would just go back to Middle Reef and then over to Granite Point, which I admit is a bit silly :)  We headed out over the sand, where I would say the viz was not actually too bad.  We sort of meandered off course and got a bit deeper than we should have been (to hit the main wall at Granite Point), but we eventually corrected and found Granite Point.  In hindsight, it probably would have been faster to just go via Middle Reef!

I had no clue where the Granite Point GPO lived... everyone referred to it as being by the "other" Lone Metridium, which I was not familiar with.  So once we got over there, we sort of zigged and zagged a bit while Clinton was finding the spot, and I had no idea if we were on the right track.  Then Clinton stopped at a sort of vertical pinnaclet and started poking around in a vertical crack.  So I went over to take a look and sure enough, there was a GPO in the crack!  It was a decent-sized one, who was pretty active, but active in his den.  I tried (not very hard) to interest him in coming out (here, kitty kitty), but he just wasn't interested.  After playing with him for a bit, we wandered around a bit, mostly in the area just north of the main wall.  I found a Limacia, which I haven't seen in a while, for whatever reason.  I never did see the "lone metridium" and when I told Clinton that after that dive, I think it took a lot for him not to smack his forehead as he told me that if I had looked directly up from the GPO crack I would have seen a metridium right above my head.

After not too much of that, we headed back south toward the main wall.  I knew that Rob and Clinton had found a GPO somewhere near the north side of the main wall a month or so ago, so I wasn't too surprised to see Clinton poking around in the rocks there.  He flashed me excitedly, and I was expecting he had found a GPO, but then he pointed into a way-too-small crack.  I looked in and saw a red eel-looking thing, which was apparently a red brotula (Clinton told me after the dive).  I was going to say that I've never seen one before, but according to the archives, I saw one on a dive in Puget Sound.  So I guess I can still claim I've never seen one locally before, which makes it still a cool find :)

From there, we headed back to middle reef, and then we sort of gave each other the shrug about what to do next.  It just wasn't that awesome of a dive, and we'd already covered a good bit of ground, and I guess neither of us were feeling compelled to do anything more.  So we headed in on the sand channel. The dive had been so un-awesome that Clinton hadn't even taken his camera out, and I hadn't done much with my hero-cam, so I made Clinton setup a shot of him scootering through the frame, so I would have *something* to post here.  Unfortunately even that didn't really turn out that well due to the surge.  Then we pretty much headed straight in.  I think the whole dive ended up being under an hour.

It was low low tide when we got back to the ramp.  In fact, I think we pretty much hit low tide right on.  As I mentioned before, there was a moderate but long period swell, which was causing a lot of water churning at the bottom of the ramp.  But I felt like if I waited and timed it right, it wouldn't be a problem.  But I wasn't being very patient about waiting and timing it right, so I found myself with one fin off, holding onto a little chunk of kelp at the bottom of the ramp (hoping it wouldn't break) as I got pushed to-and-fro by the next big set.  As this was going on, Clinton was on my right, pretty far off to the side of the ramp, where there is that big flat rock.  I thought it was a bit weird that he was so far off to the side (turns out he'd been dragged there by a wave), but didn't have time to give it much thought before he got picked up by a wave, dragged all the way across the ramp, and deposited on his back on the other side of the ramp.  Then another little wave came and stood him up against the rocks at the bottom of the ramp there.  So he was basically out of the water, sitting on a rock, with his tanks against rocks and his feet on the ramp.  Not a bad way to end up, but a very bad way to get there!  I asked if he was okay (not that I was really in any position to help him!) and he said yes.  My little kelp handle eventually broke and I decided to back off of the ramp, and wait for a lull.  Clinton caught his breath and then decided to walk up the ramp, and about three steps into it, he completely wiped out on the ramp.  I was still not really in a position to help, which was okay, since Clinton was completely out of the water and not in any danger, but obviously needed to eventually get himself up off of the ramp.  Luckily there was another diver in a wetsuit that was able to come down the ramp and give him a hand up.  Oh, and all of that happened while Clinton had his camera, which amazingly survived unscathed!  I, on the other hand, was a little bit traumatized and afraid of the ramp after watching all of this unfold.  After at least one more false start of me trying to exit and then getting washed off of the ramp by a wave, I was still trying to wait it out for a lull when Clinton came back down the ramp to help me.  Maybe not so much waiting it out as being beached on the ramp by a wave.  At this point I gave up on grace, and just got on my knees and let Clinton take my fins off, stand me up, and walk me up the ramp.  Phew.  We waited for a while for Rob to finish up his dive, and as we watched the ramp, we kept marveling at how much calmer it seemed at the bottom of the ramp now that we were out of the water :P

While we were waiting for the others in the water, a guy who used to dive in the area was chatting with us in the parking lot about our dive, and the diving at Lobos in general.  Then he asked if we'd "heard about this" and showed us the latest issue of the Point Lobos magazine, which had the Clinton's picture of the whale that we saw in the sand channel.  We laughed and told him that yes, we had, because we were the ones who had seen the whale and it was Clinton's picture.  After a bit of discussion about the whale sighting, he asked us to autograph the magazine.  Hehehe.

We were eventually just about to give up on waiting for them and head to RG, when they surfaced.  Eventually we all made it to RG for some lunch.

Clinton and I were both pretty meh about the dive afterward, though now that I've written it up, there were a couple of cool finds.  And plenty of ramp drama to make for a story (at Clinton's expense).

Note: Clinton pointed out that my original post was missing some story-worthy details (bad kitty!), so I've edited this a bit.

Saturday, March 22, 2014


Photo by Clinton Bauder
It had been quite a while since I was last on the Escapade, but finally I was on a trip, and it wasn't cancelled by weather.  We got a sort of rocky start, however, because of a problem with the boat.  Jim was in the engine room for a while, and there were voltmeters and discussions of batteries and alternators.  Eventually, the trip was called off, and much of the gear was unloaded.  Then, after further discussion, a few of us decided that we could go out for a recreational dive in the bay, and started loading the appropriate gear onto the boat for that.  Then, after a phone consult with a mechanic, Jim resolved the issue and the trip was back on.  Phew.  So then gear had to be loaded back onto the boat.  We finally got going, I think a little bit before 10.

Rob had brought his camera down, with the wide-angle port, because Clinton was going to loan him his lens (Rob's lens was destroyed in the great camera flood of February).  But Clinton forgot the lens, doh!  So still no camera on this dive :(  I've snarfed a few of Clinton's pictures from the dive, in the interest of having some eye candy in the post.

Photo by Clinton Bauder
I thought the forecast looked not so bad, or at least not bad enough that I thought to take any bonine the night before.  However, it turned out to be a bit snotty.  We made it down to Carmel, but only to Lunaticos.  I was definitely feeling not awesome while we waited for everyone to be ready to jump, but apparently Rob was feeling even more not awesome, since he requested a bucket, and then used the bucket a few times.  And then we got into the water.  The visibility was stellar; the water was very clear and it was also very bright all the way to the bottom.  It's been a while since I've been to Lunaticos, and I don't know if we dropped in a different spot than usual, or if we were just all being totally oblivious to the direction we were going, but for some weird reason, it seemed like we spent most of the dive trying to find our way to the deep part.  And never finding it :)

In pursuit of the deep area, we crossed sand and found lots of little side pinnaclets.  Overall, aside from the stellar viz, and a few good finds, it was a sort of boring dive.  The good finds included a bunch of wolf eels, including one that was out in the open (!), and a Tochuina tetraquetra.  But in terms of the reef, a lot of the structures were just kind of barren, I suspect from the barnacle invasion.  There just weren't as many patches that were covered in Corynactis, bursting with color.  Not a lot of fish either, especially rockfish, really just a few blue rockfish here and there.  There were a far number of lingcod though.  And to top it all off, even the gorgonians seemed kind of spindly and anemic.  We did see some vase sponges, but none of the really big ones.  When we got back to the main pinnacle on our way up, I did find one vertical patch of wall that was extremely colorful, completely covered in Corynactis and sponges.  So I suppose not all hope is lost :)  While I was looking at that patch, a curious sea lion came zipping by too.  I guess that was the spot to be in.

Photo by Clinton Bauder
Not much happened on deco, other than my being rather cold.  I guess that's to be expected with such excellent visibility.  Since it was a bit on the rough side, and even more on the cold side, we decided to skip a second dive, and just headed back to the dock.  We went to lunch at the pub at the dock.  We sat outside on the sunny side, which I didn't even know existed... I didn't realize there was a second outdoor seating area.  We were staying in Monterey for the night, so since I didn't have to drive home, I made the unusual choice to have a beer.  I guess Jim was bored, so he convinced me to have a second beer with him.  So I spent the rest of the afternoon regretting my choice to have two beers in the middle of the day.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Night Dive at the Breakwater

Our boat plans for the weekend were cancelled due to weather (that seems to be happening a lot recently!), so we decided to go for a night dive at the Breakwater.  It was me, Rob, Kevin, and Matt.  Due to some convoluted logistics, Rob needed to come down to Monterey earlier in the day, so I ended up riding down with Matt.  It was still light out when we got there, but Rob and Kevin were both running late, so by the time everyone was there, it was getting dark.  It was super crowded at the Breakwater, probably the most crowded I've ever seen it for a night dive before.  For one thing, there were several classes doing a night dive (including an AWS class, so we ran into Frank).  Before Rob and Kevin showed up, I pointed out to Matt that there was no way that the four of us could pull off a simple Breakwater dive without any shenanigans.  He didn't really understand what I meant.

Rob finally appeared, and Kevin appeared just a moment later.  Enter the shenanigans.  Kevin asked us if we were scootering.  I asked why we would be scootering for a night dive at the Breakwater.  Then he said he was bringing his scooter, because he just replaced the shaft seal and wanted to test it out :)  Anyhoo, once we got dressed and geared up, it was dark, and the surface of the water looked like a discotheque, with all of the flashing lights from divers.  As we entered the water, I somehow fell behind (as always), and noticed that only one of my buddies both noticed that I was behind and stopped to wait for me.  My mask was a bit foggy, so I couldn't clearly discern who the figure in the red drysuit was (Rob or Matt), but once I caught up to him, I saw that it was Matt.  Of course.  We swam out to the usual drop area, and descended into decent viz.

It was a pretty lively night from the critter-peeping perspective.  It was really unfortunate that no one had a camera (Rob had just picked his housing up from Backscatter before the dive, but didn't bring it along).  I brought my hero-cam, of course, but I decided it wasn't worth the effort to bring along the video reflector for my light.  So I ended up doing a bit of defocused-can-light lighting (actually Rob did most of the lighting for me), which worked out alright.  We saw a couple of squid, which weren't terribly active, though perhaps that was because they were traumatized by my light.  There were also a variety of interesting slugs, including Pleurobranchaea californica (the side-gilled one), Onchidoris bilamellata (the barnacle-eater), Aeolidia papillosa (the shaggy mouse), and Matt even found a Cuthona divae!  And of course there were tons of little red octopus scooting and slithering around on the sand.

We spent most of the dive over the sand, but then we eventually headed over to the wall to follow that in.  We kind of ended up running parallel to the wall for a bit, so we didn't run into it until we were quite shallow.  When we did, we found quite a few rockfish, including a bocaccio.  A good find, but still not the highlight of the dive... soon we were being tailed by a frisky harbor seal, who was apparently using our lights to hunt.  He was VERY friendly, and some of us may have even given him a belly rub (at his insistence of course).  We played with him for a while, and then eventually headed in.