It's about diving. And cats.

Me diving

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Sur 20

 We were back on the Escapade on Sunday, to finish off my birthday weekend.  Today it was just me and Rob diving as a team... I couldn't talk Kevin into a third day of fun.  As luck would have it, we had very flat seas, and made it down to Big Sur again.  Two weekends in a row -- it was a birthday miracle :P  Since we had just been at Sur 19 the previous weekend, we went to Sur 20 today.

The conditions on the dive were sort of weird.  The viz was at times (or in spots) very very good, and at other times (or spots), it was very green and murky.  The one upside was that the green water was very warm.  It was pretty strange though, that as we scootered around the pinnacle, we would pass through warm, murky areas, and then pop back out of them into clearer, blue water.  Of course it seemed like every time we found a spot with a really nice patch of hydrocoral, the green water would roll in.  (Rob managed to get some pretty nice pictures despite this.)

We made a somewhat disappointing discovery on the dive, which was that there was quite a bit of fishing gear on the pinnacle.  I guess it's not too surprising, with the changing regulations in the last several years, fishing boats have just moved further south, and we have see fishing boats out there on several occasions.  Still, not awesome to find fishing line and lures here :(  But the fishermen left plenty of fish for us to enjoy, including some nice big lingcod, and a large school of juvenile rockfish.

Our search for whales on the way home today was no more successful than our whale watching on Friday.  Where did they all go?  There were so many whales last week, and poof! all gone!

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Something Different: One Boat, Two Tech Dives

There was a tech boat on Saturday, which had only me, Rob, Kevin, and Matt on it.  The new team kitty, I guess you could say.  Since we had the boat to ourselves, we could do pretty much whatever we wanted, and initially had intended to do a deeper (15/55 or 12/65) dive.  We debated what to do for the dive, and somehow we came up with this crazy idea of doing two dives in the 150-200' range instead of one deeper dive.  Because hey, we have rebreathers, so why the heck not?

For the first dive, we went to Mount Chamberlin, and dove on the north end of K2.  I really like that area, it has a lot of relief in a small space, and the gorgonians are awesome.  And most importantly, I haven't done that dive in quite some time.  Rob wanted to play around with video on his D800, I guess in preparation for possibly doing some video at Cordell.  So I got to play lighting assistant for Rob for once.  He usually does the lighting for me, and makes it look super easy.  And when I try to do lighting for myself, it never comes out as well (though that is at least in part because my arms aren't long enough; Rob has the benefit of having arms that aren't attached to my body).  So since he was playing with video, I had to play lighting assistant.  It was a bit of a pain, having to follow him around and guess where he wanted to shoot.  I'm definitely not as good at that as he is (and I definitely couldn't do it on the trigger, like Rob has on a few occasions).  I don't think Rob actually produced any video from the dive, since he was just playing around, so I don't really know how good of a job I did with the lighting in the end.  And as a result of Rob playing with video, there weren't any photos produced from the dive either :(  It was a nice dive, with all of the usual K2 creatures... tons of gorgonians, along the wall on the east side, a family of canary rockfish near the bottom on the north side, etc.

For the second dive, we went to Pinnacle Point Wall.  This dive was nearly non-existent.  A minute or so after we got down to the pinnacle, Matt had some sort of gear problem, so we thumbed the dive.  We basically got down there and had enough time to see that the viz was good, though it was dark.  I think we spent more time on the ascent than we did on the rest of the dive :)  Clearly we were not meant to draw outside of the lines with this two tech dives in one day silliness.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Birthday Weekend Kick-off on the Rubber Ducky

I took Friday off so we could spend a long weekend in Monterey for my birthday.  Our Friday dive plans fell through, though luckily it was far enough in advance that I could still convince Jim to go whale watching in the RIB on Friday instead.  Kevin ended up joining us, so it was the four of us.  The whale watching wasn't really that great, we saw a few small groups and singleton whales, but none were both super close and super playful.  We covered a lot of ground in our attempts to find something photo worthy, first working our way north from Monterey and then eventually heading back south to Carmel.  We got down by Lobos, and considered a run to Yankee Point, but decided not to bother since there was no indication that it would have whales either.  Also, while it started out very sunny and nice out, it got foggy and cold a little after noon.

We did encounter a huge school of dolphins in Carmel, which was fun.  They were zipping around and riding our wake for quite a while.  Eventually we headed back to the dock and went to lunch (at the Googie Diner).  We headed out briefly, but it was pretty clear that we weren't going to see much, due to the fog coming into the bay, so we called it a day instead of continuing out.  Not the best whale action ever, but it still beats going to work :P

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Yucky Day at Point Lobos

After an awesome day out at Big Sur, we had to follow it up with a crappy day of diving at Point Lobos.  This dive doesn't really deserve a lot of flowery prose, so I will save it for one that does.  We went out to Beto's Reef, and the viz was terrible.  The viz was so terrible that I basically got lost on the way there.  We ended up at a structure which Rob thought was the 1st Sister, but I really didn't.  Eventually we bailed to the east along a depth contour, which did get us to Beto's.  But it was very green and murky.  Rob had wanted to play around with video on his camera, but there were some problems with that, so it wasn't really a very fruitful dive overall.  Can't win them all.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

An Insanely Nice Day to be on a Boat, at Sur 19

Photo by Clinton Bauder
On Saturday, we made it down to Big Sur for our first Big Sur Banks dive of the "season".  The seas were flat enough to get down there, though on the way down, they weren't lake-flat.  But we got down there without a problem, woohoo.  We decided on Sur 19, since everyone seems to like it better than Sur 20 (well I do anyway).  When we got in the water, we were greeted by excellent viz.  It was super clear and super blue, and it was Sur 19... lots of hydrocoral and lots of fish.

Photo by Clinton Bauder
There were schools of both adult and juvenile rockfish, though the juvenile schools wasn't as insane as what we saw last year.  Still enough to block out divers in the photos though, as you can see.  There was a school of adult blue rockfish, with a sprinkling of olives, as usual; the adult school also wasn't the biggest I've seem down there, but still respectable.  There were also a lot of lingcod, which seems to be a common theme this year pretty much everywhere we dive!  We had a great dive, and we even managed to eek out an extra five minutes on the site, since the viz was so good, we could see all of the other teams.  So, we weren't going to leave until everyone else did.

Rarely photographed sea kitten
Photo by Clinton Bauder
On the ascent, I couldn't believe how clear the water was.  We could see down to the reef for most of deco, plus it seemed like we could see really far horizontally too.  I felt like a bit of a spazz on the second half of the deco, an intermittent thing with the 'breather.  I have a love-hate relationship with the thing... I'll have a few great dives on it and then a dive where I'm a total spazz.  And there seems to be no correlation with difficulty of conditions or anything else.  So that was a bit of a bummer in terms of finishing up a great dive.  After the dive, I was definitely looking forward to selling the purple people eater on Craigslist as soon as I got home.

A little greener at G-Spot
Photo by Clinton Bauder
With such a great first dive, we of course felt compelled to do a second dive, which was guaranteed to be nowhere near as awesome.  And the thing is, we always know and discuss the fact that the second dive is almost certain to be a letdown, but we usually do it anyway.  Actually the only reason I got back in the water for the second dive was to practice an ascent on the way back up; otherwise I'd be stewing on my crappy ascent all week.  We went to G-Spot, and Rob and I planned to go down, look around a bit, and then do an ascent with some mock stops.  And that is what we did.  The viz was pretty green and crappy, so I didn't feel any real compulsion to stay too long anyway.  The wall there is pretty nice, though, and there was a pretty big school of rockfish hanging out atop the wall.  The other team saw a mola, but we did not.  Boohoo.  Anyway, we did an ascent with some short stops from about 50' up, and it went fine.  Rob gave me some helpful pointers on how to not be a spazz.  Which were the same very basic helpful pointers I've been told dozens of times in all of the GUE classes I've ever taken, but I suppose I've gotten a bit lazy/sloppy over the years... I'm used to letting my head and arms go wherever they want on deco, but with the questionable trim properties of the PPE, I have to actually keep my head back/arms up.

Photo by Robert Lee
After two dives on the Big Sur coast, you might think the fun was over, but not at all.  We had some excellent whale watching on the way home.  Not too far from G-Spot, it all started with a group of whales that was lunge feeding, together.  I've never seen this behavior before, but basically the group of whales would kind of corral the bait-ball and then all at the same time, they would pop their mouths out of the water to feed.  Jim got some awesome pictures (unlike Clinton, Jim has not granted me a lifetime license to post his pictures on the blog, hence the link).  We watched this for quite a while, probably at least an hour.  There were other whales breaching in the distance, trying to get an audience with us, but the feeding was much more interesting.  Eventually we headed north, where we saw tons of whales along the way, but didn't really stop again until we got to Carmel Bay, where we saw... orcas.  I've never seen orcas before (well, except at Sea World), so I was, of course super excited.  The orcas weren't really putting on that much of a show for us, but they were cute.  There was a baby with them, awww.  Rob got some pictures of them not doing anything too interesting.

All in all, an awesome, long day out on the boat.