It's about diving. And cats.

Me diving

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Nudi Diving

On Sunday, we went on the Escapade with BAUE, and nudibranch expert Alicia Hermisillo (author of Eastern Pacific Nudibranchs). I was mildly terrified about diving off of a boat in doubles... first, there is the giant stride which I loathe to begin with, and seems somehow much worse the more weight you have on. Then there is the question of whether I would actually be able to climb a boat ladder with doubles on. And the idea of bobbing around on a pitching boat in doubles also seemed not too pleasant. So I just tried not to think about it all week... which is the opposite of my usual, extreme visualization technique (which I figured would be hopeless, since I've never even been on the Escapade before, etc.). Well, it was fine. The "giant stride" off of the Escapade is actually a baby stride, and I had no problems climbing the ladder at all. Except for the extreme temptation to collapse on the swim step on my knees, which I managed to not do. And the boat is setup extremely well for doubles. And the crew are all very adept at handling doubles, stages, etc.

Which reminds me, Rob has been pestering me to start carrying a stage bottle. He recently got his hands on two cheap Al80's, which he stage bottle-ized, and he even went so far as to put MY initials on one of them. How sweet. Now the pressure begins. He is obsessed with the "need" for me to use a stage bottle when we go on three-dive Big Sur trips this summer. He thinks we should do dive 1 on stage, and dives 2 and 3 on backgas. This is all because of his disdain for having tanks filled on a boat, with a potentially moist compressor. I think he is crazy, and the Cypress Sea wouldn't give me a bad fill :) Anyhoo, I told him, he could carry a stage if he wants, but I don't know if I will, and if I don't, I will just get a fill on the boat. But he told me that what I really need to do is practice handing stage bottles up from the water to the boat... that's a great way to encourage me to start diving a stage, tell me there is more heavy lifting involved. But now that I have actually seen diving with stages off of a boat in real life (many of the people on this BAUE charter were diving stages), it doesn't look so bad. At least on the Escapade, you barely have to lift the tank valve out of the water and they do the rest for you.

Anyway, I digress. I should really be giving the dive report instead of talking about my neurotic thoughts about doubles and stage bottles. Dive 1 was at Aumentos (which I've never been too before). We dove with Ryan Press, who we just met on the boat that day. He led the dive, since he has been there before. There really wasn't that much leading to be done, however, because we did not cover a lot of ground. I was perfectly happy with that, I'd rather stay close to the anchor line my first time at a site. The viz was not so hot, maybe 15 to 20 feet... there was a lot of particulate in the water (the top 20 to 30 feet were like pea soup). And there was quite a lot of surge, up to 5 feet. But the surge was alright, it was one of those sites where going "whoosh whoosh" over the top of the reef was pretty neat. The rocks were carpeted in strawberry anemones, with lots of acorn barnacles amongst them. Rob found a pretty big octopus in a crack, and I found a Spanish shawl. 57 feet, 60 minutes, 50 degrees (balmy!)

Dive 2 was at Shale Island, which I've been to once before and really liked. When we were there the first time, we didn't know how big the "island" was around, and if we could swim around the whole thing, so we did an out and back. This time, we talked to John and Clinton, who said it could be circumnavigated in about an hour. So we decided to do that. I must admit, I was nervous the whole time about whether we'd actually make it back to the beginning in under an hour, but it turned out to only take 45 minutes. We were moving pretty slowly, too, except for the last 5 or so minutes when I was cold. Ryan found a really nice octopus sitting out on the reef (see picture). During the surface interval, when we were talking about the octopus on the first dive, Susan joked to Rob "thanks for showing it to us!". So then as we were playing with this octopus, Susan and Beto swam up behind us. We showed it to them, and apparently after we left, the octopus crawled onto Beto's hand. Pretty cool. I also found a Festive Triton (see above), which are so pretty. Other than that, we only saw pretty uninteresting (to me) nudibranchs, yellow dorids, San Diego dorids, etc. I think the last time we were at Shale Island we saw much more exciting nudibranchs. That's too bad. There was basically no surge and the viz was a bit better than dive 1. 55 ft, 55 minutes, 50 degrees.

My canister light magically recovered from whatever was wrong with it on Saturday. It worked fine on both dives. I also used my new Otter Bay Hood, which was toasty warm. Well, I can't really tell how much difference it makes, but it is definitely snugger on my head, so less water swishes through. But since it is so thick, it is really hard to hear in it on the surface! I think I need to trim the chin too, it comes up annoyingly high.

Alicia was giving a presentation on nudibranchs in the afternoon, so we hung around for that. We went to Vivolo's Chowder House with Ryan to kill some time. Rob and I have never been here before. They had good chowder and good seafood bisque (which we shared), but no hot chocolate (score 1 for Bullwhackers). They also have paper over the table cloths, and crayons on the tables, so we could draw what we'd seen on the dive while waiting for our food :) After that, we headed over to Buzzard's BBQ for the presentation. It was quite interesting, and there were lots of pretty pictures of nudibranchs.

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