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.

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