It's about diving. And cats.

Me diving

Saturday, June 30, 2007

North of Hole in the Wall and Middle Reef

Today we dove at Lobos (sounds familiar, huh?). A lot of people we know were diving. A bunch of people from the 5thd-x forum pick one day a month for everyone to get together at Lobos, and this was June's day. So we saw a lot of friends and met a bunch of people who we've only met in the cyber-world :P We were diving with Ted and Don. I had loaned my LP85s to Ildiko (who loved them, apparently), who was there with Anibal, so I retrieved them from her. She even managed to get Bamboo Reef to give them a good fill :) There was also a Wallins fun dive going on there, which John Heimann was leading. So the place was pretty much crawling with divers (and scooters :P). When we got in line at the gate, I was glad to see that Chuck was there with his boat -- knew that meant we were in for a nice high tide... no crawling up to the ramp awkwardly in low water.

While we were gearing up, there was suddenly the hiss of gas coming out of a tank, and I looked over and saw a hose whipping around violently in the back of Jonathan's car, and Jonathan hunched over next to it, shutting off the tank while trying to avoid getting assaulted by the hose any more than he already had. It apparently got him in the side of the face right next to his eye, and left a huge welt that pretty quickly looked like a gumball. It is a good thing it didn't get him in the eye! He was switching the second stage off of one of his regulators, and he forgot to shutdown the tank, so when he pulled the second stage off, gas was flowing out of the hose and it went wild. Anyway, I am telling this story as a cautionary tale, because I would have thought that when pressurized, it would be nearly impossible to get the second stage off (much like how you can't unscrew the first stage from your tank when it is pressurized). Apparently that's not the case. That hose flapping around was unbelievably violent, and it would be really scary if that happened to me. Jonathan got it under control really quickly though.

Our plan was to do one long dive to Beto's Reef. The usual profile -- up to 35 minutes after we hit 70 feet. Max depth was to be 100 feet, and max time to be 100 minutes. Don and I were team 1 (I was leading), and Rob and Ted were team 2 (I insisted Rob not lead, since he needs more practice being submissive :P). We surface swam out to about 35 feet. The viz was great in the cove on the way out. We could see the bottom clearly when we dropped. We had a few drills to dispense with first. I did a valve drill, which went alright, although I think while shutting down the right post, I drifted up 2 or 3 feet. Rob and Ted did an S drill and then each did valve drills (which were excellent). Then we headed out. Somehow, that managed to take about 10 minutes before we were off. We headed to Hole in the Wall, staying pretty much at the boundary between the sand channel and the reef. I saw a cute maroon kelp crab between a crack near HW. I do not know precisely what kind of crab it is, but I occasionally see them -- they totally blend in with the maroon kelp. Anyway, he had some of the maroon kelp hanging off of him, which was really cute. After regrouping and agreeing to proceed, we headed north. We were heading out, checking out a few of the rock structures along the way for nudibranchs, etc. I occasionally turned back to make sure we still had team 2 behind us. Then at around 80 feet, we noticed they were no longer behind us. At this point the viz had gotten worse (strange, huh?) than it had been shallower -- it was pretty milky. So I thought maybe they were just beyond our visibility. We hung out for a minute, and then decided to head back the way we came to look for them. Our protocol in these multi-team dives is that if the teams get separated, that's fine, as long as we keep each team together. I was not that attached to the long swim out to Beto's, so after looking for them for a bit, I suggested we just head back to Hole in the Wall and perhaps we'd bump into them there.

So we moseyed back there, stopping at some reefs along the way. I saw some of the usual nudibranchs (Cadlina luteomarginata, Diaulula sandiegensis), and I think saw a Berthella californica on this dive too. After Hole in the Wall, we hopped across to Middle Reef briefly. I saw a really cute fish over there, that looked like a tiny (2 to 3 inches long) vermilion rockfish. But vermilions are not red when they are juvenile so I really don't know what it could be. I showed it to Don (since he's done the Reef Check training). He got a little video clip of it (perhaps I will post it here later). He agreed that it looked just like a tiny vermilion. I was feeling cold (and so was Don, apparently), so after a couple minutes there, we just headed in. For most of the swim in, we were following the scooter crew swimming in on the sand channel (yea, swimming, with scooters clipped, not sure what was up with that). When we were in about 20 feet of water, on a sandy patch, just as I had given Don the thumb, Ted and Rob appeared. So we all ascended together. I shot a bag (just for practice), which I thought went funky for a moment, but everyone else seemed to think it was good. My lips and hands were so numb, I wasn't sure I could do it. I swear it took like 2 minutes to stow my light cord beforehand -- my fingers just weren't up to the task. When I went to add just a little air so the bag would open, I could barely do it, but when I went to fully inflate it, it was fine. To summarize, I am apparently cursed as far as getting back to Beto's Reef. Two weeks in a row, I have failed! :) 82 feet, 89 minutes, 47 degrees

Rob and Ted did in fact make it to Beto's Reef (in hindsight, we should have just continued on and assumed we would run into them there, we were pretty close when we noticed they were gone). They saw a wolf eel there, which I was very jealous to hear. I think that was about it for exciting stuff (other than the fixed stuff, like gorgonians and elephant ears).

We had been planning one long dive, but the conditions were so good, that we considered doing a second dive. None of us really had the gas for it, but a bunch of people there had spare sets of doubles, and we had stage bottles. Jonathan had a trans fill whip, which he used to pump up my tanks and Don's. Delia loaned Ted an extra set of doubles, and Rob carried a stage bottle. Thanks to Jonathan and Delia for providing the spare gas :) Cameron (who I met last weekend, doing his fundies checkout with Beto) and Jeff (Jonathan's twin brother, who is visiting) came along with us for the second dive. Ted, Cameron and I were team 2 (I led), and Rob, Don, and Jeff were team 1 (Don led). We planned to just do an easy dive along Middle Reef, max depth 60 feet, max time, 60 minutes. I realized shortly after we descended that I should have warned my teammates that I was planning to do some nudibranch hunting. Not necessarily exciting for people who are not similarly inclined. But Ted says when we dive together I am always pointing out stuff he never sees, so I figured he would not mind if I found some cool stuff to show him.

We descended in about 20 feet and headed out the sand channel. We followed the other team into the kelp, and I noticed Rob, stopped with his light pointing at something on a rock. As soon as I saw this, just based on the look on his face, I guessed that he had a Rostanga to show to everyone. Sure enough, I swim over and see him shining his light on the characteristic pink-orange sponge that they live on (or eat I guess). The picture I linked to above doesn't really do them justice because it is too good :) You can actually see the nudibranch very clearly. Typically, they are living on a sponge that is essentially the exact same color and what looks like a similar texture. You just have to look really closely to see the outline of these little guys and then once you see that, you can find the details. Some other people took a look, but I am not sure anyone else could see it. I really need a pointer for these things... I whipped out a spare bolt snap to try to point it out to someone, but the bolt snap was a bit big for this task. We headed north along the west side of Middle Reef. I was going very slowly, looking for nudibranchs. At some point, I let team 1 just carry on without us, so I could take my time. I ended up seeing some cool stuff (cool to me anyway). I saw tons of the usual stuff (Cadlina luteomarginata, Doriopsilla albopunctata, Peltodoris nobilis, Diaulula sandiegensis). I also saw 3 more Rostangas (I'm sure I saw more, but I only noticed the 3 :) ). One of them was on a patch of sponge that was on top of a rock, so that I could look at the Rostanga from the side. From that angle, it stands out much better from the sponge! The third one that I saw was probably the biggest I have seen (maybe 10 mm long), and I spent a while trying to get Ted to see it, but without something smaller than my gloved fingertip to point at it with, that's hard. (The first time I saw a Rostanga, it was on a nudibranch-counting dive with Alicia Hermisillo, and she was pointing at it with a pencil tip. Even then, it took a while for me to finally see it!) I also found some Rostanga eggs on top of the orange-pink sponge, but I could not find a Rostanga nearby. The eggs are pretty neat looking, they are like a little pink spiral. I also saw a Berthella (this one I am sure about). I recently realized that I'm not very good at identifying the white dorids that I see on middle reef, so I was talking to Clinton about what one particular kind is (I believe it was Doris odhneri we were discussing). Rob asked if I was talking about Berthella, and Clinton pointed out that Berthella has its rhinophores coming from under the body, whereas a lot of the other white ones we see have them coming from the top. So I was staring at this little white guy, and noticed that the rhinophores were coming from underneath, which is a little different :) My most exciting find was a pair of Limacia cockerelli's (perhaps my favorite nudibranch, at the moment :P). I think they may have been mating. They were pretty big, for Limacia's (maybe 2cm long), and they were very attractive specimens. I was sad that Rob wasn't around to see them. I also found a Festive Triton. I was moving along looking for Rostangas and all of a sudden I see this huge Festive Triton. Well, it wasn't huge, but when you are looking for something tiny, and then you come across a 2 inch nudibranch, it seems huge. I also found a nice-sized Hermissenda, which while not that exciting of a find in general, they don't seem to be that plentiful at Middle Reef. I also saw a mystery nudibranch on a reddish piece of kelp. It was white and a bit shaggy looking. I have no idea what it is, I think I will need to research that one. It was a really nice dive overall. It wasn't one of these sexy faroff dive sites that Rob likes to go to, but I saw some neat stuff, especially the Limacias! 50 ft, 66 minutes, 48 degrees

Afterwards, we went to RG Burgers just down the street in Carmel with a bunch of people. Apparently this is a staple for post-Carmel-dive lunches, but we have never been there before. Any place with that many milkshake flavors gets my vote!

The rest of the pictures from today can be found here.

Don's video of dive 1 can be found here.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Macro fun with Cats

I played around with the 105mm lens today and shot some macro of the local wildlife. I was able to get up-close and personal with these wild animals in their natural environment.

The 105 looks good, albeit a little difficult to use. I'm eager to get this underwater and start shooting some nudes... err nudies.

We're meeting up with Don and Ted tomorrow (along with most of the usual crowd) to dive Lobos. I'm sure there will be a dive report soon thereafter, so tune back in.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

N Sisters

We dove at Lobos today. Anibal and Ildiko were diving there as well, and so were Suzanne and Gary, but since our dive plans didn't really mesh, we ended up just diving by ourselves. We were planning to do a skills dive (boring) first, and then go out to Beto's Reef. The (boring) skills dive was so I could practice all the fundies skills to do the tech pass sometime. It seems that every Monday, when I have lunch with Rob and Ted at the Jaywalk Cafe, they have a conversation that goes something like "we need to get Allison ready for her tech pass, so she can take {Cave1|Tech1}". Rob was also taking his new camera out for the first time. Woohoo.

While we were getting geared up for the first dive, another diver came over and asked if I was the one with a blog with cats on it :) I was delighted to meet a random person who reads my dive reports! He was interested in knowing more about the Breakwater night dive I reported about two weeks ago. I highly recommended checking out the Metridium/pipe side at night, since he said he always does the wall.

For dive 1, we just swam out to about 25 feet, and dropped down and found a nice sandy area to use. During the descent, my light crapped out. This is the second time that has happened. I went to stow it, but Rob pointed out that I should just leave it on my hand, since we were doing skills. Rob suspected that the battery just had a bad charge (that's what I get for outsourcing my battery charging to Rob :P). I swam around a little doing the various kicks, with Rob watching. He says I drop my knees when I flutter kick. I say I know I do, but when I'm doing it for the Beto-camera, I can do it right :) Perhaps I should just do it right all the time, instead of on demand in class. Then I did some back kicking (my favorite, so I do it all the time anyway). Next I did the basic 5, but when I went to put my mask back on, I floated away a little bit. So I repeated the mask remove and replace. The last couple of times I have done the mask remove and replace, I have noticed I have this terrible tendency to fin when my mask is off, so I take my mask off, charge forward, and when I open my eyes, I am someplace completely different. So I was focusing on staying still, which I managed to do. Next we did an S-drill (I donated to Rob), and we swam around a little sharing gas. Then I did a valve drill. It was okay, except when I switched back to my primary, my backup started free-flowing, and I floated a couple feet up in the confusion. Well, it wasn't really confusing at all, that's just my excuse for blowing the buoyancy window. Next, we did another S-drill, with Rob donating. This was all of the skills we wanted to do, except for ascents. So I decided to redo the valve drill. After I closed my isolator, I realized I hadn't been signaling with my light at all while I closed it. So I reopened it, and closed it again while signaling. Other than that, it went well. Finally I shot a bag, and we ascended, with stops every 10 feet. When I got to the surface, the bag was better inflated than usual, but still not completely inflated. We went back down and did an out-of-gas ascent (I donated). We did it without a reference, because there was no place to tie in (on the sandy bottom, duh). We did part of the ascent side-by-side, to simulate an ascent into current. 36 minutes, 25 feet, 50 degrees

After a brief surface interval, we headed back out for Beto's Reef. I brought my stage bottle (who I have named Stagey, by the way) since I got a weaker-than-normal fill in my tanks. Rob had put a float out, which he swam his camera out to. While I was standing on the ramp to help him, a woman who was swimming in at the end of her dive asked if I had a diving website with cats on it :) It must have been Cold Water Kitty fan club day at Lobos :P Anyhoo, Anibal walked the stage down to the edge of the ramp and handed it down to Rob, because Rob didn't want his precious camera to share the float with my bottle. Hmph! A convenient side effect of this was that Anibal grabbed my arm and walked me down to the water too :) I have gotten so used to the ramp being clean, but it could definitely use a cleaning now -- makes me really nervous walking down it. We headed out and dropped in about 40 feet of water, in the sand channel. I was leading the dive. When we first descended, I was like... this reg sucks! I twiddled with the regulator on my stage, and decided that it just doesn't breathe the same (read: as well) as my other ones, but it was working fine. Once we got going, I stopped noticing it, so I guess I just wasn't used to it. Rob and I had switched lights on the surface interval, since he was carrying his camera and was likely to keep the light clipped off anyway. Of course, the light worked fine for him. I'd like to get to the bottom of this mysterious behavior. But I got to try out Rob's uber-light (18W, mine is 10W), which is a behemoth on my hand :) But it was nice and bright. I was able to keep track of Rob's piddly little 10W surprisingly easily though.

We followed the sand channel out to Hole in the Wall, where Rob took a few test pictures.Then we headed out, umm, in the wrong direction. Last time we went there, we came back via Sea Mount to Hole in the Wall, and I thought we took a SSE heading. Well, I had a conversation with someone, who the reef may or may not be named after, and got the impression that I should actually go NW from Hole in the Wall. In hindsight, this is exactly what people have told me before is the route to the Three Sisters. Well, we were going to Beto's Reef in search of gorgonians and elephant ear sponges. Instead, we saw gorgonians and elephant ear sponges slightly west of Beto's Reef :) On the way out, we saw a big elephant ear in like 70 feet of water... pretty cool, I've never seen that one before. Right below it was a sand rose anemone, but it was sort of pinkish white. Very pretty. So, we ended up at two nearby, hmmm, pinnacle-ish things. Not sure what exactly you have to do to qualify as a pinnacle. I don't know which two sisters they were, or maybe only one was one of the sisters, and the other was just a pile of rocks nearby. The first one had 4 gorgonians and some nice looking hydrocoral. Rob took pictures of the gorgonians, while I piddled around looking for nudibranchs. Rob allegedly saw a Festive Triton at Beto's Reef last time, and someone else told me they saw clown nudibranchs out there (the same day we were there). I have never seen a clown nudibranch at Lobos, so I was keeping an eye out for them today.

Then I saw the second reef just at the limit of visibility, I could see the outline of some tall reef structures. I could also see a bright white area... a big elephant ear. It was a beautiful specimen, very regularly shaped. There was also a small gorgonian nearby. We swam around this reef, and saw more elephant ears. Then Rob pointed out not one, but two, clown nudibranchs to me. One was the smallest I have ever seen. It was pretty cool, because in its scaled down size, the rhinophores were very distinct -- usually I think they totally blend in with the cerata. So I inspected the little guy for a bit while Rob took pictures of more elephant ears. I also found a really big Hermissenda. We swam back over to the first reef, where I signaled to Rob that I needed to switch off of my stage. I managed to wrap the hose of my primary around the stage hose not once, but twice (the second time as I was trying to unwrap it, but went the wrong way). After sorting that out, Rob went back to taking pictures of those pretty hydrocoral stalks I already mentioned. I was getting cold, so I called the dive. Apparently Rob had just hit his turn pressure anyway. We headed in, and saw some olive rockfish hanging in the kelp (with a few blue rockfish too). They were all facing the kelp stalk at just the right angle so that at first they looked like kelp leaves. I've never seen (or should I say noticed) olive rockfish before. Rob took some kelp shots, and got some really cute self portrait pictures.

The return trip was uneventful. We ran right into the sand channel, so we actually spent a lot of the return trip over sand. I ducked into the kelp by middle reef briefly, but it wasn't a very exciting part of middle reef, and I was cold (and of course, had to pee), so I decided to just head straight in. Rob somehow got the impression that schlepping the stage bottle was bothering me. At some point he offered to take it, and I said no. Then a little while later, I decided to experiment with the position of it. I had clipped the tail of it to my crotch strap after I switched off from it, which is typically a bit more comfortable once it is empty (buoyant). But it kept swinging to the left side, then the right side, etc. So I was thinking of clipping it back to the left D-ring. So I unclipped it and let it pop up behind my left arm. Before I managed to re-clip it, Rob gesticulates at me and hands me his camera. I figure my second stage on there had flopped out and he was fixing it. The next thing I know, I start sinking and Rob has my stage. Yes, it really is buoyant when empty :) Apparently he had "deduced" that I was bothered by the bottle and was being "helpful" and taking it for me. I flashed him the one-handed "broken" hand signal, a.k.a. the middle finger. Note: Taking someone's bottle without asking them is really annoying. 91 minutes, 103 ft, 47 degrees

The one good thing about getting lost was that now I think I have a much better picture in my mind of the relationship between Hole in the Wall, Beto's Reef, and the Three Sisters.

It was a nice day of diving at Lobos. The topside weather was great -- sunny and 70ish. In fact, it was so warm that when I was helping Rob to retrieve his camera and float, I went in without gloves, and it was quite comfortable!

Afterwards, we went to Turtle Bay where we met Nils for lunch. Then we went to the Breakwater to pester this month's fundies class. We met some of the students (one of whom I've chatted with on the Dive Matrix before), and chatted with Beto, Susan, and Dionna. I realized I had left my BAUE hat at Turtle Bay, so we had to swing by there again before heading home.

All of the pictures can be viewed here.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Kitty Photo Shoot (Rob's New Camera)

Rob got his new camera. Maybe he will give a guest post giving the details, since, you know, I am a a feeble-minded girl who doesn't understand such technical things. Naturally the first subjects for the camera were the cats. I tried to get Pepper riled up with the happy fun stick (you know, that cat toy with a mylar thingy on the end of an elastic thingy on a stick, sometimes also referred to as the magic fun stick). This is not my most eloquent post, and I apologize for that. I guess Kitty photo shoots do not whip me up into a verbal frenzy like dive reporting does. Anyhoo, I am not nearly as good with the happy fun stick as Bob is -- he can really get Pepper to jump and flip around a lot more than I can. But it was not bad -- he got a few pictures of Super Cat. Then he took some glamour shots of Oreo. One of Adrienne's coworkers said, of the glamour shot, that the picture was more flattering than other pictures of Oreo (in which she apparently looks fat), but she looks a little slutty :)

Over the weekend, we went to Boston (or the Boston area anyway) for a wedding. The wedding was fun, plus we got to see some Boston friends. We went to the public garden on day to get some waterfowl shots -- well, we went there to see the swans, but we also saw geese, ducks, and a mystery black bird with an impressive wingspan. We also found a gaggle of goslings (with Mom and Dad) right next to our hotel. Throughout the weekend we actually saw tons of baby geese in Waltham and Burlington. The baby geese weren't that baby... but still fuzzy wuzzies. I can't wait until next baby geese season, we can get some super cute shots of the Oracle geese! We also went to a little pond in Waltham (by the Marriott) where they have some swans, plus the other usuals. So here are some pictures. Rob and I were both taking pictures, so I don't really know who took these. (But the cat pics were all Bob.) After all the swan action in Boston, when we got back home, we had lunch with Ted on Monday (the usual Jaywalk lunch... I told him I had to hear about his diving since I was in withdrawal from not diving over the weekend), and we saw a swan on the lagoon next to Jaywalk Cafe! I have never seen a swan anywhere around Oracle before.

Rob picked up the housing an accessories from Backscatter today. The camera is quite a monstrosity once inside the housing, with the strobes, etc. So by popular demand, here's a picture of it. Pepper seems quite interested in her new brother :P

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Beto's Reef

We dove at Lobos today. We went to Beto's Reef, which we have never been to before. But we have asked various people for directions out there, so we had a pretty good idea of how to get there. We planned to swim out to the Lone Metridium and then head north from there. We also wanted to do some drills, which I decided we should do first, since I like to get the un-fun part of the dive over with first. We decided we'd drop in about 20 feet of water and do the drills, and then ascend (since one of the drills was a bag shoot) and swim out further on the surface before starting the "real" dive. For that, we planned to spend no more than 40 minutes below 70 feet, based on some sample profiles we ran in DecoPlanner. I was leading the dive; for some reason, I haven't led a dive in a while. More on that later.

We got into the water at about 10, and swam a little bit out along the sand channel. We dropped in 20-ish feet of water, and I did a valve drill. Well, first I puttered around a little bit, because last time we dove, I felt head heavy, which made no sense at all since I hadn't changed my rig at all. But everything seemed fine today. So then I did my valve drill, which went smoothly, except my loserly RSI-riddled left arm was a little slow with shutting down the left post... I can open it super fast, but closing it was slow. Then I shot my bag, and we went up to 10 feet, where Rob did a valve drill and hung out maskless for a bit. Then we headed up. 14 minutes, 24 feet, 50 degrees

We swam out a bit further. Rob likes to swim out super far, which I don't really get. The extra 5 minutes in the sand channel isn't really going to make that much of a difference in terms of gas or deco! So I insisted we drop earlier than usual, since I was, after all, the captain :P We dropped in about 40 feet of water. But it didn't look like 40' because the viz was excellent. Once I started to descend, I thought it looked like the bottom was right there. We descended into a bunch of juvenile rockfish, next to a bunch of senoritas. We swam out along the sand channel (after Rob insisted we do so via his wetnotes... what a pushy #2!) until we hit Hole in the Wall. On the way, I saw a rainbow surfperch (which I only recognized because yesterday I was looking at the various surfperch in my fish id book, to try to id those red fish from Friday). I also saw a really big, really red vermilion rockfish (my favorite rockfish). Rob pointed out a giant green anemone in the sand, which was in a pretty odd spot... just off by himself in the middle of the sand channel. We also came across two snails mating. From hole in the wall, we cut over towards the Lone Metridium. Rob was periodically trying to take over as captain, because I guess I wasn't swimming fast enough for him. He is such a bad #2, I guess he just needs more practice :P I saw 4 sea lions (swimming in pairs) on the way. Rob was oblivious, and by the time I told him, they were gone. Right around here, my computer started going crazy. Apparently I had accidentally put it into this very annoying mode where after the "first dive", it reset to use air for deco purposes, and 50% for ppO2 purposes. So once I got to about 60 feet, I was over my ppO2 limit. It kept beeping and flashing, and taking me off of the screen that showed bottom time. Super annoying! After passing a couple of the parallel walls, and not seeing the Lone Metridium, I decided we must have missed him. So I just headed north from there, since I figured we couldn't be too far. We did our travel at 70'. It was a nice, though uneventful swim -- some little rockfish, but not much else to see in midwater. Out here, the viz was probably about 50 feet.

Rob kept crowding me as we swam (we're in the middle of nowhere... no rocks, no kelp, and he can't give me some personal space!?!), and then he starts moving his arm around in my space. So I pushed his hand away, only to realize he was pointing out that Beto's Reef was to our right. Whoops. So we swam over to it. After first I was like... is this it? It wasn't as exciting looking at first as, say, the Three Sisters. Then I saw the elephant ear sponges! There were a bunch of those. There were a lot of rockfish peering out from cracks, and several scallops. There was some hydrocoral, but not the beautiful big bushy ones, just some smaller, flatter, purple stuff. I also came across a really small vermilion rockfish. Like juvenile-sized, but he was red (my fish book shows them to be pretty brownish when they are juvenile, so perhaps this one was slightly older than that). He was so cute, I wanted to pinch his cheeks. Rob told me there would be gorgonians here, and he finally found one. It was pretty deep though, below our previously-establish 100 foot max depth (not that that stopped Rob from swimming down to take a picture). Then we turned a corner and I saw 4 more in one spot, a little shallower. Rob got some pictures of me posing with them. We saw a few more throughout the dive. There were also a lot of nudibranchs out there. Nothing too exciting -- some yellow dorids, San Diego dorids, some white dorids whose identification I'm not certain about. Rob said he saw a festive triton, but he didn't show it to me :( Rob also found a big ling (not quite Lingzilla though) which he took a few pictures of.

I turned the dive basically simultaneously on gas and time. We headed back in a slightly different direction than we came, because I had become convinced we could swim directly back to Hole in the Wall, instead of going further west and then backtracking. We passed Sea Mount on the way in, which we unfortunately did not really have time to check out, but now we know where it is. Next time we got to Beto's Reef, I will plan to spend some time there on one leg. We ran right into Hole in the Wall, and swam along the back (west) side of it. After that, Rob apparently decided he was captain again. He claimed that since he was running deco, as soon as he started giving commands to ascend to a depth, he was in charge. Since he took us up to 70 feet basically as soon as we left Beto's Reef, I think that is a pretty bogus claim. Anyhoo, he swam us across the sand channel over to Middle Reef, and we hung out at 30' over there for a bit. Then we headed in along the sand channel. Because my computer was in this super annoying mode, it had given me a 27 minute deco obligation (at 10 feet, of course :P). For some reason, Rob felt compelled to make the computer happy. I was like... whatever, I'm not hanging out at 10' for an extra 10 minutes! (That's what was left by the time we were done with all the stops we wanted to do.) So I convinced him to blow off the last 5 minutes. Just because you forget to put your computer in gauge mode doesn't mean you have to listen to it. We ascended really close to the ramp and even though the tide was a bit lower than it was on entrance, I managed to get myself out without flopping around on my knees :) 91 minutes, 101 feet, 47 degrees

As an aside, I really hate my computer, because if I put it into gauge mode, and then it shuts off, when I turn it back on, it has reset back into non-gauge mode. So I often end up diving it in air mode, and occasionally bending it since I'm not actually diving air.

As another aside, I really need to whip Rob into shape, re: being not the leader! I usually have a rule about not saying mean things about people on my blog, but since it is Rob, I think it's alright to make fun of him :) But he's actually an excellent dive buddy :)

We went to Turtle Bay for lunch. Yum yum.

All of today's pictures are here.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Breakwater Night Dive

We went down to Monterey on Friday after work for a night dive. The plan was to follow the pipe out to the Metridium Field, hang out there until we hit 45 minutes, then head toward the wall, and eventually the beach, for a ninety minute-ish dive. We didn't actually want to dive the wall, we wanted to look for stuff (notably octopus) in the sandy area. Rob didn't bring his camera, so you will just have to live with links to Clinton's pictures instead :) We entered the water a little after 7:30, so by the time we swam out and descended, it wasn't quite dark yet, but almost. I was feeling a little lazy and there was a bit of kelp, so we descended pretty early (15 to 20 feet). Within the first 5 minutes, I found two octopus. Neither of them would really come out of their holes, so we just looked at their heads poking out of the sand. We hit the pipe and followed that out. When we got to the section of pipe that is suspended above the sand, I poked around under the pipe. Last time we did a night dive out here, I saw a nice-sized octopus under there. Also, the last time I dove the pipe, I saw two Hilton's nudibranchs there. I found the rock where the nudibranchs were, and saw a sculpin hanging out there. Nothing else of interest. Under the pipe, there were tons of fish. I suck at fish identification -- as I was telling Rob after the dive, to me, there are a few kinds of fish: rockfish (of which I can properly identify maybe 4 or so varieties), sculpins (which I can't identify more precisely), lingcod, cabezons, and everything else :) So I don't really know what all the fish were... some rockfish and some "everything else".

A little bit further down the pipe, Rob flashed his light at me, and I saw two Dendronotus iris, sitting on the sand. One was the standard red-orange color and the other was maroon (my favorite color D. iris). Then I noticed a tube anemone right next to the maroon one, and realized what we were about to see! We watched the slug slowly shimmy towards the anemone, and then saw it as it prepared to strike. At first, it looked like it wasn't going to be successful, because the anemone retracted right before it pounced. But it managed to get the anemone in the end. Rob was rooting for the Dendronotus the whole time, I could tell. The whole thing was like out of a Discovery channel documentary... when the savage beast attacks its prey. We saw several other Dendronotus in the sand along the pipe, but none of them were feasting. We also saw a lot of Hermissendas, which really glow under the lights at night. This makes them easy to spot too, since as you move your light around, you suddenly see an orange glow. I also saw a bunch of egg casings that I have never noticed before. I pointed them out to Rob and he mentioned that he saw them when he was at the pipe the other day, but didn't know what they belong to. I will have to look into that. I did see one other notable Dendronotus on the pipe -- it was missing almost all of its cerata! At one end of it, there were cerata about a quarter of the way up it, but the rest of its body had none. Alicia said that sometimes when nudibranchs are stressed or in danger, they shed them... not sure if Dendronotus do that though. Anyhoo, without the cerata, the shape of it looked a lot like a sea hare (or maybe it was a rare Dendronotus-Aplysia hybrid :P). All this talk of shedding cerata just reminded me... last night I had a dream that we were diving, and we kept coming across Hermissendas that were shedding their cerata, so there were glowing orange bits floating in the water. That's all I remember of the dream :P

After we left the pipe, I noticed a bit of current going towards the wall. Rob and Dionna did essentially the same dive on Tuesday night (I was bonding with my co-workers on a river rafting trip), and he came back with tales of a stiff current at the Breakwater, and claimed the dive was practically a drift dive. I thought there was perhaps a little bit of exaggeration there, but he wasn't kidding! I think we were over-compensating a bit for the current, so we didn't hit the usual first rock at the Metridium field, and it took us a couple minutes longer than usual to hit some 'trids. But we finally did. They were almost all open, and they looked like they were glowing. We saw the usual assortment of dorids out there, and some rockfish hiding in the crevices. We also noticed several acorn barnacles, which I've never noticed out there before. There were tons of sea cucumbers (oranges and whites), and tons of Kellet's Whelk eggs on the rocks. Rob signalled me and pointed out another little octopus, who was out and about. We watched him for like 5 minutes, slithering around, changing colors. His color changes were pretty impressive -- from sand-colored beige to a really dark maroon. He was crawling over rocks and under kelp, and he finally found a nice hiding place so we moved along.

Not too long later, we headed out of the Metridium field, towards the wall. We basically followed the 50 foot contour most of the way, until I got cold and we turned toward the beach and swam in. We saw a lot more Hermissendas, and several black-eyed hermit crabs. One of them was carrying around barnacles that were bigger than he was! We also saw two that were mating. Hehe. Speaking of which, we also saw some Dendronotus sex. Rob pointed out to me what I thought at first was a huge Dendronotus on a tube anemone. Then I realized it was actually one medium-ish one and one big one, mating. After we had been swimming away from the Metridium field for probably 10 minutes, we ran into a rock covered in Metridium. Didn't know they extended that far east. We found another octopus who was out to play. We watched his color change show for a few minutes, and while doing that, we found another octopus, who stayed in his hole the entire time. We eventually saw two more octopus (for a total of seven for the entire dive). The last guy was climbing a tree. Well, he was climbing around on some sort of stalky plant thing (I am bad with underwater flora), and it looked like an octopus climbing a tree :) A few other critters of note: first, we saw several shrimp that were translucent white, with a blue spot on the tail. They were sort of bug-like, flatter with shorter legs than, for instance, a dock shrimp (which we also saw plenty of, and which I previously called coonstripe shrimp, until John Yasaki corrected me :) ). John Yasaki identified these based on my description -- they are Crangon nigromaculata (blackspotted shrimp). I found an Armina californica in the sand. Only the second time I've seen one (second time for Rob too; he saw two of them on Tuesday, but before that he'd never seen one). And we saw several tube snouts, which I've never seen before. And lots of cusk eels -- we always see a lot of those on Breakwater night dives, but I never tire of watching them burrow into the sand, butt first. It reminds me of when Pepper backs into her tunnel, to protect it from Bob sticking his head in there. We eventually hit the wall in about 8 feet of water. Right around there, we saw a bunch (at least 10) of small-ish red fish that looked sort of surfperch-like in shape. I didn't get a close enough look to attempt to identify them. 95 minutes, 50 feet

Sunday, June 3, 2007

East Pinnacles

Rob, Clinton, and I went out on the Escapade this morning. There were only 8 or 9 divers on board (although Mark and Dionna were carrying enough tanks for quite a few more :P), so it was nice and spacious on the boat. The water was super calm as we headed out, but it was a little foggy. I figured the fog would clear, since it is often foggy in the morning. Just as we left the harbor, a sea gull pooped on my head. Luckily I was wearing a hat. I felt something fall right on the top center of my head, and figured it was either bird poop, or a big drop of water. I asked Rob to look at the top of my hat, and sure enough it was not a drop of water. Hehe. On the way out (just a little past Point Pinos), we ran into a pod of dolphins. Or should I say pods of dolphins. There were dolphins everywhere you looked all around the boat. At first we ran into some Risso dolphins, and then we noticed some that were riding the bow wake didn't have dorsal fins -- they were Northern Right Whale Dolphins. Eventually a bunch of common dolphins showed up to join the party. It was so cool. I've never seen more than maybe 10 dolphins at once in the water. I would estimate there were 200 or 300 dolphins, but it's pretty hard to guess when there are that many :) And I've only ever seen common dolphins before. The Rissos were big with funny shaped heads -- when we saw them swim by the boat underwater they looked REALLY big. Their coloration was interesting, the white scars really made it look like they'd been torn up. The northern right whales were very enthusiastically bow riding, which was cool to watch. Plus they don't really look like dolphins because of the lack of dorsal fin. The Rissos took a turn bow riding too, which Clinton claimed was unusual. The Rissos and common dolphins both made some impressive jumps. We were probably hanging around watching the dolphins for about a half hour. Beto took some video, and Jim was taking pictures. Hopefully something will come of that. If so, I will post the links later.

We continued on to East Pinnacles in Carmel. I've never been there before. The plan was to stay there all morning, so we could do one long dive, two hour-long dives, or whatever we wanted. We hopped in to do our first dive, which we planned for one hour. We descended and I was having some ear problems. Clinton drops like a rock on descent, which I admit is fun, but my ears do not always cooperate. Anyhoo, I made it down alright though a bit slower and we hopped to the next pinnacle from where the anchor was. The viz was about 30-40 feet, with a fair amount of light at 60 feet. I noticed a long piece of kelp bent way over on the pinnacle where the anchor was... it didn't occur to me at the time that this was because of current :) Anyway, we got to a spot with some nice hydrocoral (Rob mentioned beforehand that he wanted to shoot hydrocoral, and Clinton was shooting macro, looking for nudibranchs), and we hung out there. There was a little rock wall (about 25 feet tall), with some rocks that sloped down next to it. Between the vertical wall and the angled walls, there was sort of a channel, where we spent most of the dive, looking at the various rock faces. There was a slightly annoying current going, such that I kept getting blown to the end of the vertical wall and out of the channel. Somehow Clinton and Rob managed to hold themselves steady enough to take pictures. But I kept finding myself at the end of the channel again :)

Near the beginning of the dive, I saw 4 Hermissendas, all in the same area. But I didn't see any others for the rest of the dive. Several of the sections of rock were covered in strawberry anemones of various colors. There were patches of different color, much like on the pilings at Wharf 2. And some tall strawberry anemones, which I think are neat -- their "trunks" are so pretty. I also saw several egg yolk jellyfish, which I've never seen before. They are one of the kinds of jellyfish I always see beautiful pictures of, but most of the jellyfish I have seen are not that beautiful. But finally I saw some pretty ones! (I still want to see a sea nettle though!) They were various sizes, some had bells that were just larger than a fist, and some were probably about 8 inches across. Rob also found a Limacia cockerelli. It was a nice big one, and you could see its red rhinophores very distinctly (unlike the one I found at Lobos a couple weeks ago, where it was too tiny and bunched up to see them). Clinton pointed out two tiny nudibranchs, a Cuthona fulgens and a Catriona columbiana (those are pictures he took on this dive), so I guess he was successful on his mission. They were both probably just a few millimeters long (I don't know how he finds these things!). He also saw a sea spider (also a picture from this dive), but didn't show it to us because it was so difficult to see (as you can tell from the picture, a strawberry anemone looks huge next to it!) Rob also pointed out a smallish (1 to 2 inches across) hot pink anemone to me. I inspected its column, and it was hot pink with white spots, so I am thinking it was just a very small white-spotted rose anemone (awww, a baby). This makes me wonder... I've seen some small hot pink anemones before that I figured were just something I wasn't familiar with, but maybe that's what they were too.

Near the end of the dive, Rob whipped out his wetnotes and told me that he had found a shy fish and I should cover my light so he could show it to me. We are pretty sure it was a mosshead warbonnet (unfortunately Clinton did not see it, I'm sure he could have identified it). It was really cute. It was just sticking its head out when I got to it, but Rob said when he first came across it, his body was out too and he backed in when Rob shined his light on him. As a funny aside, Rob actually completely misidentified the fish in the note he wrote to me, so when he showed me the fish, I was pretty confused. But it was alright, since it was a really cool, cute fish. Just after we finished looking at the fish, Clinton signalled we should head in. Rob and I simultaneously noticed a wolf eel below us, just hanging out on a rock! There he was, splayed out in all his glory. I have never seen a wolf eel before (yes, I'm very underprivileged... Clinton couldn't believe I'd never seen one before). He swam around a little and then settled into a crevice. No pictures, since it was a pretty brief encounter, just as we were heading in. We returned to the line, and had a bit of current on the ascent. It seemed like I was swimming a little the whole time, just to stay in place. It's a good thing we ascended on the line, the teams that did not had to have a current line thrown/swam to them. 65 minutes, 69 feet, 48 degrees

We hung out on the surface for a bit, I went through the oh-so-painful process of getting out of my drysuit enough to go to the bathroom (again, someone should really invent a P-valve for chicks... it's annoying enough to have to de-suit on shore, but on a pitching boat it totally sucks), then we headed back in. I started to descend and at about 18 feet, my ears were killing me, so I went up to 15 feet, and signalled to Rob I was having ear trouble. He slowed down his descent, but I was just stuck there. So he signaled to Clinton and ascended and I met him at the surface. 15 seconds later, Clinton popped up and said his camera's leak detector was going off. Oy! So we told the boat we were okay, but Clinton told them he had a camera problem and needed help. The rescue diver dove in and swam a boogie board out, and Clinton put the camera on that and he paddled it back in. Great service for a camera-in-distress! Rob noted that it made him feel better to know that if he ever needed to be rescued, they were so speedy at getting into the water and out to us. Clinton and I assured him that since he is worth less than Clinton's camera, he wouldn't get such good service :) So, we got back on the boat to regroup. Clinton was out, and given my ear problems, I didn't feel like getting back in just to find out that I really wasn't going to make it below 15 feet. We also only had 35 minutes left until the boat was supposed to be heading back. Oh and I was a little tired from the swim back to the boat (the boat had swung away from us during our brief foray undewater). So we punted. 18 feet, 1 minute, 58 degrees :)

While we waited for everyone else (well, just Beto, Dionna, and Mark, since the one other team had already finished their second dive), Rob played around with Clinton's and Jim's cameras, and they talked lenses and such, since Rob is considering getting the same camera model that they both have. I was feeling a little queasy, which I suspect had more to do with all the junk food I ate on the surface interval than seasickness. I do enjoy the Escapade's bin of junk food :) Apparently, Beto et al. saw a shark (which they couldn't identify) on their dive. Dionna said it was like 5 feet, and Mark said it was more like 3. Hehe. After consulting a book, it turned out to be a spiny dogfish. Made me slightly regret not getting back in. The ride back in was uneventful, we didn't see 100 dolphins or anything.

Once we got back, we chatted in the parking lot for a while, and I met Barbara Dwyer. She and I have conversed over email but never met -- she has two cats who look an awful lot like Oreo and Pepper (and have similar attitudes from the sounds of it). After that, Clinton, Rob, and I headed to Turtle Bay. And I finally tried something new! I have had chicken enchiladas everytime I have ever gone there (the red sauce is addictive!). So I tried something new... the baja fish bowl. It was tasty.

Clinton's pictures are here. Rob's pictures are inlined... will update later when he gets around to putting up a gallery.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Guest Dive Report: Operation Barge Rediscovery

Guest dive report from Rob today...

Kevin, Jonathan and I met up at BW today at the crack of dawn to try to repair the line to the barge. You may recall reading that Allison and I discovered last week that the line was cut or had broken, and were unable to find our way out there.

The plan was to go out as a 3-man scooter team and locate the near end of the line, and then take a heading and try to pick up the loose end of the other line, and then drag it back for repair. The first part of this worked out ok, and we quickly tied in our search spool to the near-side screw. The screw and metal bar on the near side are in good shape, and have < 50' of line still tied to it running in a generally Northerly direction. We then got back on the scooters and hit the trigger hoping that by moving 3-abreast, we'd be able to see the line. In the worst case, we expected to hit the barge, and backtrack from there.

After 10 min. of scootering, and ending up in almost 70FSW, we realized that we had missed the mark, and headed back on a parallel course to the West. We missed it on the way back again, and wound up back at the wall, near the first safety spool. On our second attempt, we were able to (dumb luck?) find the barge, so we quickly located the landmark that we had decided to use on the barge, and I tied off my reel.

I let out about 100' of line toward the South, and we then swung and arc 45deg in both directions to no avail. We backtracked the line again the barge, and repeated the exercise, and used the scooters (while keeping in contact with the lights) to widen the search. Still, no luck at all in locating either the line or the screw. Since we were sh*t out of luck, and running low on gas, we called it and headed back for the wall.

On the way back, I spotted a dead sea lion covered and being eaten by a couple dozen bat stars. We picked up the spool and headed for the beach. We didn't manage to find the line, but it was still fun (though perhaps we should have punted for Lobos.... :P)

69ft, 91 minutes, 51F. Early lunch at Turtle Bay, and window shopping at Backscatter :P