It's about diving. And cats.

Me diving

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Sur 19, Again

It was another flat winter day on the ocean, and we were able to make it down to Sur 19.  It's funny to think about how we used to consider there to be a "season" for diving Big Sur, and would only ever try to do trips down there in August and September (with a ton of pre-planning).  In the past couple of years, we've managed to make it down there during the winter months a handful of times.  I guess that's a benefit of having a tech boat scheduled almost every weekend, so we can pick the flat days and go.

So today we made it down to Sur 19.  As is often the case at Big Sur in the winter, the viz was excellent.  And there was a lot of hydrocoral, though I guess that's the case in the summer too :)  We did the usual circle around the top of the pinnacle with some photos.  There were a fair number of fish out, both adult and juvenile rockfish, but nothing too crazy.

At least one member of Team Kitty has been known to, in recent times, make heretical statements along the lines of "Sur 19, again?", preferring to go to less awesome dive sites in the name of variety.  But it's not like we see the same things just because we're at the same dive site on a different day.  Today, I saw something interesting that I've never seen at Sur 19.  Pretty late into the dive, all of a sudden it seemed like the fish all got a lot more active.  There were little groups of fish of all kinds, including perch, rockfish big and small, suddenly zipping around on the top of the pinnacle.  It made me regret that I wasn't videoing.  A minute later, I figured out why the fish were suddenly so active; there were sea lions diving down and hunting on top of the pinnacle, chasing the fish around.  We watched this for a bit, and then saw that there were some cormorants joining in the hunt too.  Kind of weird to see this at these depths.

After the dive, since it was still quite calm and no one wanted to do a second dive, Rob wanted to check out some mark he had found on the bathymetry, which was in the vicinity.  We drove over it, and I guess it looked interesting enough, so he wanted to do a bounce on it, to see if there was anything there.  I sat out the dive, since I was umm, skeptical.  Skeptical about the likelihood of the site being worth a dive, and also skeptical of the post-tech-dive bounce :)  Turns out, there was nothing there.  While Rob and Kevin were in the water (for maybe 15 minutes total), the conditions suddenly turned pretty snotty.  In the space of 5 minutes, it went from really nice to the boat rocking around.  So once they were back on the boat, we got out of there.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Great Day in the Bay

For our Valentine's Day dive, we went on the BAUE recreational boat.  Conditions were decent, good enough to make it out of the bay.  So of course that's what we did.  We made it down to the pinnacles, and somehow we decided on East Pinnacle.  We were diving open-circuit, of course, which was a nice change, since there is so much less rigmarole (which I now know how to spell; thanks Google) getting into the water compared to the 'breather.

Anyhoo, we got into the water forthwith, headed down the line, and at the bottom of the line, my gauge died.  No warning, no lo-batt in advance, it just spontaneously pooped out.  So that was annoying.  Even more annoying, I had left my backup gauge on the boat, since, ya know, it was a recreational dive.  So I figured I'd just dive off of Rob's gauge.  The water was kind of green.  The viz was not what I'd call bad, but also not what I'd call good.  It was occasionally quite surgy, but generally not.  We brought scooters, though I don't really remember the thinking behind that.  We meandered around from pinnacle to pinnacle, but the highlight of the dive was definitely the huge school of rockfish on one of the pinnacles (the one we were anchored on, conveniently).  It was probably one of the biggest schools of rockfish that I have encountered on a recreational dive.  For reasons that will become clear later, it is easy to look back on this dive and think it was a meh dive, but the school of rockfish was actually pretty awesome.

The downside of the dive was when I briefly got separated from Rob, losing both my buddy and my gauge :P  We passed another team, and I was looking their wrists over to see if anyone was wearing two gauges.  It seems to have become quite the trendy thing for everyone to have a backup gauge, and a lot of people seem to wear them both on their wrists.  I stopped one team to ask for a spare gauge, and they had no clue was I was asking for, so I gave up on that.  Then when the conversation was over, I realized that Rob was gone.  So I hung close to that other team while looking in the general direction we'd been headed.  After a minute or two (who knows?  I had no timer!), I heard Rob's scooter and then he reappeared.

Back on the boat, the divers that didn't hand over the spare gauge felt kind of bad, and I was offered many gauges for the second dive (though I had my own on the boat).  We went and looked at a couple of other dive sites in Carmel, at my insistence, including Outer Butterfly, and decided that they would probably be at least as surgy as East Pinnacle.  There had been tails of clear water in the bay, and it did look pretty good on the way out.  We decided on the Anchor Farm, which is a pretty unusable choice for a rec boat.  It's not a big site, so we usually go there after tech dives, since there are fewer people on the boat.  As a result, almost no one on the boat had been there before, and we had a relatively light load, and we thought it would be interesting to see in good viz, so that's where we went.

I knew we were in for an interesting dive when I got to the anchor line and looked down and could see the anchors, with little white splotches (those would be metridium) on them.  The water was way bluer and way clearer than it had been in Carmel.  Should have done both dives here!  The viz was incredible.  On the way down the line, I could see the bay like I'd never seen it before... I could look out and see the shale ledges running parallel to each other; I usually only get to see those 10 feet at a time :P  And the anchors were a great site to visit in this viz.  I could actually make out what the whole mass of chains and metal and lines is.  And see all of the fish on it at once.

We were the first down the line, and after getting a few shots without many other people around, it got a bit crowded.  So eventually we headed off to the shale, just to have a look around.  We probably swam out about 5 minutes, and then turned around and headed back.  We saw the usual shale critters, a bunch of Spanish shawls, some gorgonians, etc.  When we got back, we waited for the anchors to clear out, to get some more pictures.  I was sent up the line to be a silhouette for a bit.  Then we both headed up the line.  I had a feeling Rob would want to get some under-boat pictures, with such great viz.  And so he did, shooting from about 20 to 30 feet.  I hung back for a while, but eventually he told me to pose, over there.  The boat was swinging on its line, so I kind of felt like I was chasing it, except I really couldn't see it since it was above me.  Rob kept telling me to move here or move there.  It was a bit hectic.  Then there was a long pause while we waited for people who were climbing back onto the boat.  Then we had to wait for the boat to swing back into the right light.  I think we were at it for like 15 minutes.  We were both very low on gas when we finally thumbed it (from 20 feet).  But it was worth spending the time to do it, a couple of the pictures turned out really well.

From there, we had a super short ride back to the dock.  Great day, I just wish we had done two dives in the bay :)