It's about diving. And cats.

Me diving

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Mediocre Diving at Point Lobos

We went to Lobos today for what were supposed to be two low key dives -- the first at Cannery Point and the second at Middle Reef. Rob was shooting macro, so he wanted to look for little stuff in hydrocoral and nudibranchs. Of course our simple, low key plan got less simple when a scooter was offered to us. Yes, that's right -- one scooter, for the two of us :P So we decided we could use it to scoot out to a site, with one of us in tow. Since we were just going out to a site we could kick to anyway, if the scooter pooped out from the extra load, that was okay, we had plenty of gas. With this new plan, we decided we'd head to Three Sisters for dive 1, and then Middle Reef with Don and Elissa for dive 2.

We dropped very close to the ramp (ahhh, I love scooters), and headed out. The viz was really bad right in there (bad as in, I almost lost Rob on the descent, except that I could see the orange floats on his strobe arms). But it opened up pretty quickly, in about 20 feet of water. I was in the very fun tow position (that's holding onto the back of Rob's crotch strap, with his butt in my face and his thighs around my neck), and after a couple minutes, I was wondering why we were over rocks (looked like Middle Reef) instead of the sand channel. I couldn't see much else, but I did see a big Doris odhneri go by (which, as it happens, Clinton wanted Rob to take some pictures of if he saw any). After a while, my shoulder started to bother me from holding on. So I stopped Rob, and told him that I needed a break, and I didn't think we'd make it to Three Sisters, so let's just hit Cannery Point. He says okay, and writes that we are at Middle Reef. Duh. Then he suggests that I could tow him. I tried that for a minute and decided that wasn't going to work. So we kicked for a bit, until we hit the end of middle reef (or what I consider the end, around 65 feet). Somewhere in Middle Reef, during the portion that we were kicking, Rob found a big cabezon. We managed to check him out for a while and Rob got some pictures without disturbing him. By the end of middle reef, the viz was pretty good, about 30 feet. We had ended up on the east side of middle reef -- apparently Rob meant to head north to the sand channel and then looked down at some point and realized he was going east. So we circled around the end of it and then we went back on the scooter. I adjusted myself a little and found a more comfortable way to hold on, that didn't put so much strain on my one arm.

I was pretty surprised that all I saw was sand the whole time I was being towed, and then Rob stopped at what looked like one of the little walls parallel to the Lone Metridium (behind Hold in the Wall). Apparently Rob circled us north of Hole in the Wall, which is why we were over sand for so long. I had to ask him to confirm that we were where I thought we were. I never did see the metrid, but Rob says he saw him on the way in. He apparently stopped or slowed down and circled it with his light, but since I had his butt jammed in my face, I didn't really notice. Anyhoo, the first little wall had some hydrocoral on it, so Rob went right to work taking pictures. I found lots of little crabbies and ring snails in the hydrocoral, and pointed out what I found to Rob. Rob also found this mystery blob on the hydrocoral which is pictured at right; if anyone knows what it is, please let me know. [Edit: Clinton has ID'd this as Pedicularia californica, which, according to Dave Behrens, is a very rare species that science knows very little about]. Other than that, I looked around at the wall to see if there was anything interesting. Nothing unusual -- tons of San Diego dorids of all sizes (they seem to be out in full force these days), and I found a few Rostangas. Other than that, the usual stuff. Near the first wall, I think, Jonathan and Anibal scootered by. Later on in the dive, we heard some more scooters nearby, but we couldn't find where they were coming from. It was probably David and Dionna. We worked our way out along a couple of the walls. We saw a really big vermilion rockfish, hanging vertically in a crack. About 60 minutes in, I signalled to Rob that I was freezing and we should head in. So we turned around, and Rob proceeded to stop and take pictures of several tiny things while I was freezing to death. I finally told him we need to actually head in. So we went back into the towing position and headed in. Around 40 feet in the sand channel, I asked if I could play around with the scooter. So I was zipping back and forth while Rob kicked along beside me. It was fun. Eventually I handed the scooter back to Rob, because I thought he might want to play around with it. But he misunderstood, and signalled me to go into the tow position. So I did, and we headed in. Eventually the viz got ridiculously terrible again (at about 15 feet), so we ascended. Then we surfaced scootered in. 89 minutes, 69 feet, 49 degrees

We had some water and snacks on the surface interval, and then we headed back in, with Jonathan, Don, and Elissa. I took Stagey along, for practice (and because I was borderline in terms of how much backgas I had -- could have done the dive, but might have to cut it short). So, we got into the water, and Rob handed my stage down to me. We went down to look for the monkeyface eel, which Rob found immediately. He wouldn't eat when I held out kelp, but that was okay. He was in a pretty open spot, so we could see him well. After everyone got into the water, we started to head out, when Jonathan asked if anyone wanted a scooter for the surface. Then I noticed he had two scooters clipped to himself. So I took one, and towed Rob, who apparently also had Don hanging onto him. And Jonathan towed Elissa out. Nice, no surface swim for anyone :) But then I was stuck with the scooter. In hindsight, Jonathan and I should have just gone off and done a scooter dive. Instead, we were diving with Rob, and Elissa and Don were team two. We were going to try to find the two wolf eels we found a few weeks ago. And look for nudibranchs of course. Swimming with the scooter clipped off was a big pain, especially in the poor viz -- if I got caught up in kelp and took a minute to work it out, I would lose the team. The viz cleared up around 20 feet on dive 1, but it was quite bad until about 30 feet on this dive. It was also harder to get up close to the reef and look for small things with the scooter hanging next to me. Jonathan and I were periodically going for little spins around the reef while Rob was taking pictures. That was pretty fun.

I eventually settled into a good way to handle the scooter while it was stowed, so I could look for stuff. I found a Berthella that was pretty big. I was sure it was a Berthella, but I couldn't find rhinophores anywhere. I finally found one peeking out from under it. Rob found an Aegires (actually he says he found two, but only showed me one). And we each found some Rostangas -- Rob found one that was the smallest I've seen, and then tried to show it to Jonathan. Not sure how well that worked. Rob did find a Doris odhneri to take some pictures of, but it wasn't near eggs (which is what he was looking for). We also saw a couple of very bushy Hermissendas. Rob found a cute little kelpfish hiding in some red kelp, and took some pictures of it. We did not manage to find the wolf eels, but that's because we couldn't find the structure they were living in. So there is still hope that they are still around. I looked around transect 4, hoping to find some Festive Tritons, which we saw a bunch of last time, but did not see any. There were tons of San Diego dorids on this dive too. Eventually I called the dive because I was freezing. Rob and I switched to backgas, and headed in (on the scooter, he was towing me). We ended up taking turns towing (since there were 2 scooters and 3 people) so we each got to have some fun scooting around. I was having a lot of trouble towing Rob, but I could tow Jonathan pretty well -- he holds on a different way. Rob and I will have to try his way next time. 74 minutes, 46 feet, 49 degrees

Overall, the diving was just okay. Forgive me if this report is a bit unenthusiastic :P Afterwards, we went to RG Burger with everyone. The milkshake latency was not as bad as last time, but they made up for that in food latency :) Oh well, it was still tasty.

Pictures from the day are here.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Rob's Birthday Dive: The Great Pinnacle

Today is Rob's birthday, so we took the day off and went diving. We went to Point Lobos and dove off of Phil Sammet's inflatable. We have never done any boat diving at Lobos before, so we were very excited to check out a new site. We decided to do one long dive at the Great Pinnacle (aka Bluefish Outer Pinnacle). Phil's boat is very spacious and comfortable for a "small" boat. It very comfortably accommodates 4 divers with doubles (we were sharing the boat with two other divers). It also has a super cool articulating trailer so that it can be launched from Lobos even if the tide is very low. The only other experience I have diving from an inflatable was on Patrick's very small inflatable, where I was constantly worried I was going to fall out of the boat while it was moving :) Not so this time. Rob and I splashed first since we were planning a longer dive. Gearing up on the boat was fine, and then I back rolled in, which I was a little afraid of... never done that in doubles before, and somehow that makes it seem like you are more likely to plummet to the bottom of the ocean when you roll in. It was actually pretty graceful though :P I borrowed Phil's jet fins, because he was commenting last Saturday about how my IDI Power Fins are the manliest fins around (they are very stiff, and require some muscle to use). I said that I found them very stiff and wanted to try real jet fins sometime. So I tried his out; they also had real spring straps, instead of my "ghetto spring straps" as some have called them.

The water looked very clean from the surface. It was overcast, so it wasn't super bright underwater, but it was a nice emerald/teal color looking down from the surface. The water was pretty calm on the surface, but periodically a big swell would come through. So we were expecting it to be somewhat surgy at least shallow. Phil anchored on the tallest peak, which is about 40 feet deep. We descended the line (with the now-standard pauses at 20 and 40 feet for me to deal with my ears), and the first thing I noticed at the 20 foot pause was two blue rockfish hanging out at the top of the pinnacle getting pushed around by the surge -- whoosh whoosh. They didn't seem to mind, they were just hanging out. As we descended, the water got a little bit less clean (odd, huh?) but the viz was still probably around 50 to 60 feet. We followed the little canyon between the peak we were anchored on and the next one south to the west-ish. The vertical faces were very well encrusted with the usual stuff -- strawberry anemones, sponges, etc. They were just really really colorful overall. There were also little kelp stalklings in some areas.

So, we followed this little canyon out and worked our way down to 80 feet. When we circled around to the north side of the pinnacle, this is where we saw some really cool stuff. There were several elephant ear sponges, which Rob always likes to photograph. There was also a decent amount of hydrocoral, some of it even big and bushy :) While Rob was shooting pictures of me posing with the hydrocoral, I was checking out all the little crabs living in there. There were also strawberry anemones of all different colors, even pastel purple, my favorite color of Corynactis! :) We also saw a gray puffball sponge. Rob pointed it out to me and asked if I knew what it was, and I was like... what the heck is that? But I was just perusing Clinton's website and happened upon it. It looked exactly like Clinton's picture -- thanks Clinton! From the macro perspective, there were lots of nudibranchs, although I didn't see anything fantasticly exciting. There were the usual dorids -- lots of Doriopsilla (some rather small) and Peltodoris (some very large) and several San Diegos (one of which was a rather dark color, pretty tan-ish). Also lots of Cadlina luteomarginatas. I saw two Triopha Catalinae's, about 4 inches from each other. Phil said you can sometimes see Dironas here, but we did not see any :( We also saw several chestnut cowries. We eventually worked our way down to about 90 feet for about 10 minutes, and then worked our way back up for the rest of the dive. Rumor has it there is some even cooler stuff to see deeper, but we are too lame for that.

The really cool thing about this site is the topography, which is hard to describe in a dive report. But I will try, with the assistance of some images from GlobalMapper. The pinnacle basically has four separate spires, which range in depth from 40 feet to 80 feet. Between the spires, there are canyon-ish areas. The whole pinnacle rises up from about 150 to 160 feet (depending on which side). On the outer edges, there are also some vertical grooves. In summary, the topography is quite dramatic... from 60 or 80 feet, you can look down the "mountain" and not see the bottom. The whole thing really feels like a little mountain range. It's cool.

Another cool thing about the site is the abundance of fish. Throughout the dive, we kept running into groups of rockfish. Many of the times it would be 10 or 20 fish. But we would periodically swim around a corner and see dozens of fish. At one point, I thought to myself... I wonder how many fish are actually there? And a quick attempt to estimate (in the "count the jelly beans in the jar" fashion) put the number around 100. Most of these groups were blue rockfish. At one point, as I was coming over one of the ridges (to get a better look at a giant sheephead), I saw a little pile of olive rockfish. I love how they seem to always orient themselves in parallel lines, they look like kelp leaves when they are next to a kelp stalk. There were two little groups, one had maybe 10 and the other 15 to 20. Then they started swimming away from me (and the reef) and I looked out to where they were swimming and saw a huge column of hundreds of fish. So I swam over to check it out. They were all blue rockfish (well, I saw one lonely surfperch trying to clean some of the blues), with the few olive rockfish intermingled. It was really cool, just hanging there with them, I was trying to pretend I was a rockfish. I also saw just a couple of solitary yellowtail rockfish (I think).

We spent the last 15 minutes hanging out at the top of the 40 foot spire. It was super surgy there. It was actually pretty cool being pushed back and forth parallel to the reef, watching it go by -- it had a very colorful array of strawberry anemones all over it. Not so cool I guess for Rob, who was still trying to take pictures. There was a tiny bit of current, and Rob asked me if I wanted to shoot a bag and drift. I was like... hell no, I'm freezing and I don't want to have to wait around in the water to be picked up. I think he just thought it would be fun to drift :P We did our ascent, with Rob continuously second-guessing my timing on each 10 foot move (and sneaking in a couple extra minutes). At 20 feet, Rob found a tiny crystal jellyfish, about 1 inch in diameter. It was cool. 94 feet, 88 minutes, 48 degrees

The last time I kicked myself up into an inflatable, I landed on the floor, and felt like a fish flopping around on the deck of a fishing boat. This time went a little bit more smoothly. I think Phil correctly inferred that I am pretty clueless about diving from a small boat, so he told me everything to do (including reminding me to remove my backup necklace before trying to shimmy out of my harness, etc.). And I made it into the boat without face planting onto the floor (with the help of Phil, who hoisted me up by the waist of my drysuit). The ride back in was pleasant, though still overcast. I particularly liked that Phil hosed off our gear in the boat. I promised Rob I would clean the gear since it is his birthday, so that was a big help :)

Afterwards we had lunch at Turtle Bay, which was really hopping. I guess it is a popular weekday lunch spot for people who work in downtown Monterey. After that, we went to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. We haven't been there in a couple of years. It was cool to look at all the local displays, since there were some fish which I know are around here, but I haven't seen yet (several rockfish species). But I swear there was no wartneck piddock in the wartneck piddock exhibit! The giant mola mola is also really neat -- I forgot how big the one at the aquarium is; he really dwarfs all the ones I have seen in the wild. I also wanted to checkout the jellyfish exhibit, since I had a rumor they had some Leucothea pulchras. A few weeks ago, I thought I saw one in the Channel Islands, but thought I could firm up the ID if I saw one in the flesh (as opposed to in a book). Yea, that's the one. The sea nettles were really pretty. I really want to see one! Seems like everyone else has been seeing them in droves (guess that's what I get for diving in Carmel all the time these days and not Monterey). I also liked the new river otter exhibit -- they are so cute and feisty, like kitties!

Selected pictures from the day are on the BAUE galleries here.
All pictures from the day are here.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Big Sur

We dove off of the Big Sur Coast (off of the Cypress Sea) on Saturday, for the first time. We had heard very good things about the diving there, so we braved the 4 AM wakeup and the potentially vomit-inducing boat trip to go there. The 4AM wakeup totally sucked (especially how Oreo scowled at me in the morning and refused to take my pets, she seems to hate the alarm clock), but the boat trip was actually not bad at all. Well, I slept on the boat ride down there, or at least for the first hour and fifteen minutes. Then I woke up and changed into my drysuit (I took it as a hint when Rob and Beto emerged from the wheelhouse and started putting on their suits), which wasn't too annoying. Sometimes I find putting my drysuit on on a rocking boat to be really painful. But luckily the boat was not rocking too much.

Dive 1 (Unnamed site near a site called Portholes). Beto picked this site out based on the bathymetry maps. It looked like some sort of canyon, where the reef started at 40 to 60 feet and dropped down to 120 in the middle. The visibility looked good from the surface, and the water looked pretty blue. There were some patches of kelp, but it wasn't super thick and it wasn't everywhere. I hopped in (using my stellar giant stride in doubles, which I recently perfected in the Channel Islands), and immediately drifted into some kelp. There was a little bit of current on the surface. I fought my way out of the kelp and joined Clinton at the anchor line. Then Rob got in, and also immediately drifted into some even thicker kelp. After a couple minutes watching him trying to get through it and claiming he didn't need any help, Clinton swam over and disentangled him.

Then we started the dive. I was having ear troubles on the way down (from about 30' to 50', I had to drop foot by foot -- pretty weird that I had trouble at that depth but not shallower). But once we made it to 50', which is about where the reef started, it was fine. The anchor was basically right near the edge of the "canyon", which was really more like a crack -- there were two parallel walls running east-west, with sand between them at 120'. Well, I guess it was 120', we didn't go down there, but that is what Phil said it was. Beto and Susan were scootering, and it seemed like an awesome site to scooter. Scootering down the crack would be really fun. The sides of the walls were very colorful. And the visibility was great -- I would say at least 60 feet horizontal (Rob guessed 80') and at least 80' vertical. From 80', I could look up and see the ripples on the surface clearly (probably could have seen them deeper, but we didn't go any deeper). And the water was really blue. Near the end of the dive, I flipped over and looked up... it was pretty cool to see the sun, the ripples, the kelp, and some diver silhouettes hanging by the anchor line. It looked almost tropical.

We hopped across the crack to the other side, and started looking for critters on the wall. Clinton was shooting macro, looking for nudibranchs (of course :P) and Rob was shooting wide-angle. Certain portions of the wall (especially the top edge before it dropped off) had small kelp stalks growing on them, so you sort of had to fight your way between them to see what was under there. Rob was hoping to see big bushy hydrocoral, and while there was some hydrocoral, it was not big and bushy -- on par with what you can see at Cannery Point at Lobos. Parts of the wall were covered in patches of strawberry anemones. As for little critters, we saw some cool stuff. First, I found a nice-sized Hopkins Rose, which I was excited to see since they are so pretty (what can I say? I like the color). I was finding them pretty frequently in fairly mundane places (Breakwater, MacAbee) for a while, but there has been a dry spell lately. Then I found what I thought was 2 clown nudibranchs mating, and when I showed it to Rob, he pointed out that there was actually a third one under them. I later found another solo clown nudi. Clinton showed me a Dendronotus albus, which I've never seen before. I brought Rob over to Clinton to show it to him, but oblivious Rob didn't see it. I think he was like... why the heck did you bring me over here? I also found an Aegires (I guess I have perfected my Aegires detector, since I seem to find them every time I go out these days) sitting next to a Geitodoris heathi (which I can now identify thanks to my recent nudibranch counting experiences). Plus there were lots of the usual dorids (Doriopsilla, Peltodoris, Cadlina luteomarginata) and a couple of Hermissendas. Apparently Clinton found a Limacia, and I later whimpered that he didn't show it to me. I noticed a big lingcod swimming by, and then I looked over and signalled Rob, to show it to him. Then I looked back and couldn't find it; I eventually did, and couldn't figure out how I'd missed it. It was just laying on the rock under a little overhang. There were also a few baby metridiums -- well, not really baby metridiums, but Metridium senile, which look sort of like baby Metridium giganteum. I also saw at least three kinds of jellyfish on this dive. On the descent, I saw what I think was a medusa. On the ascent, I saw several moon jellies and another kind I need to lookup. Also on the ascent (when we were hanging at 20'), I found a little orange nudibranch on a kelp stalk. I gave Clinton the "get over here!" signal and showed it to him, and he got some nice pictures of it. He told me afterward that it was a Triopha maculata (which I have never seen or heard of before). Some other people apparently saw Dironas, which I have never seen before. I was jealous :P. 84ft, 65 minutes, 48 degrees

Dive 2 (Partington Canyon)

The wind had picked up by the time the first dive was over, so we headed south for some protection. We went further south to Partington Canyon, which is apparently one of Phil's favorite Big Sur sites. It was super calm on the surface. There is a steep dropoff very close to shore. It drops from 40-ish feet to over 100 feet pretty suddenly. The dropoff however is basically all boring sand, so it is above the dropoff that is an interesting dive. You could tell from the surface that there was a lush kelp forest in the shallow area, and then no kelp at all a bit further out from shore (where the boat was sitting). On the descent, I felt a bunch of water come in through my neck seal. I instantly knew what happened -- between dives, I pushed my seal down a little because it was rubbing against my still-sore neck seal hickey from last weekend. I never pulled it back up to where it likes to be to make a good seal. So I did my best to push it back into place underwater (under my hood), but I think it was still leaking throughout the dive. It was cold!

Anyhoo, we started out following along the edge of the dropoff, until we eventually turned around, but headed in shallower for the return portion. The water was more green than the previous site, and the vis was maybe 30 to 40'. Not as good as the last site, but pretty decent by Monterey/Carmel standards. I don't think there was any hydrocoral at this site (poor Rob). I found a little orange nudibranch that looked like a Rostanga (but I was not sure), and pointed it out to Clinton. He confirmed later that it was indeed a Rostanga. I've never seen one that is not on an orange-ish sponge before. Later on, Clinton pointed out an Aldisa (which looks sort of Rostanga-like) on some orange sponge. I've never seen an Aldisa before, but now I know how to distinguish the two. Clinton found an unbelievably small trilineata on a piece of kelp. Part of this kelp stalk had some fuzzy stuff growing on it (not sure what), and among that he found this guy that was a few millimeters long. I could not tell what kind of nudi it was, but he told me afterwards what it was. I also saw a white nudi with yellow speckles which I think was either a Cadlina sparsa or Cadlina modesta. Clinton found a rock with a couple of Dendronotus albus's on it. After he pointed them out to us, we kept noticing more and more of them, there were at least half a dozen, I'd say. They were of varying sizes, one was really small and cute.

Once we headed into the shallower area (about 30'), we were in probably the lushest kelp forest I've ever been in. The kelp canopy on top was amazingly thick, it was letting practically no light through. We found a skull of some sort, which Beto thought might be a cow -- it definitely didn't look like it came from a sea animal. There were lots of fish at this site in general. But as you know, I suck at fish identification. But there were at least plenty of the following kinds of rockfish: blues, vermilions, olives, coppers, and treefish. And we saw another big lingcod sitting on a rock, out in the open. He posed for some pictures for Rob. Near the end of the dive, a harbor seal swam up to Clinton and started bobbing his head at him; apparently he kissed Clinton. It was very cute, but he didn't stay for long (not long enough for Rob to get many pictures). Eventually I was very cold, so I gave the "I'm cold, let's get the hell out of here signal" and we headed in. We ascended very near the boat, but the boat was totally engulfed in kelp, so we descended and swam in under the kelp. Except we kept missing the boat, because it was impossible to see it from under the kelp. After popping up a couple times to look for it, we finally found the bow from underwater, and swam right under it (so we didn't lose it) to get to the swim step. The swim step was totally engulfed in kelp too, of course, which made getting out a huge pain. It basically involved me beaching myself on the swim step and one of the divemasters (not sure which one, I was too busy eating kelp) grabbing my manifold and hoisting me up. Not my proudest moment :P. I told Rob afterwards that I just don't get how you are supposed to gracefully get yourself up on a swimstep that doesn't have a ledge or something to put your foot on. He suggested I take a PADI Swimstep Diver class :). 68ft, 77 minutes, 49 degrees

Dive 3 (Unnamed site, near a site called Compost)

When we got to the next site, Phil told us to take our time getting in the water, but look at those whitecaps in the distance (it was pretty cool looking actually), they are headed our way and will be here soon (hint hint). So we decided we should probably get in the water sooner rather than later. After the second dive, I pulled down my drysuit to try to give my undergarment some time to dry (and hung the shirt I wear under it out in the sun). It worked moderately well, but I was still damp by the next dive. So I was expecting to get pretty cold. Based on that, the plan for the dive was that it might be a short dive, since I was likely to turn it on being cold. This was another site that was not previously dived, which I guess Beto picked out on the maps. We were supposed to report back on whether it sucked or not :P It did not. There were basically a few big reef structures and some baby pinnaclelets near those. We did not make it very far from the anchor, because Clinton spent pretty much the whole dive taking pictures of some tiny nudibranchs on some tiny hydroids. That was fine by me, though, because staying close to the anchor meant when I decided I was just too cold, we wouldn't have far to go. But probably not moving much during the dive didn't help with the cold factor (I warmed myself up by swimming back and forth between Rob and Clinton :P). The reef structure we were looking at was like a mini wall from about 45 feet to 60 feet. It was very well covered, it was sort of like something you would see at Point Lobos. The viz was around 60 feet. It was still greener than the first site, but bluer than your average day at Point Lobos.

So, Clinton was photographing the same spot for like 20 minutes, and finally I was like... okay, I have to see this. So I went over and asked him to show me, and it was the tinyest little guy I have ever seen, a couple millimeters. I never would have seen it :) But once he pointed it out, I noticed two more on the same hydroid. They were apparently Eubranchus. Clinton got some nice pictures, which he was excited about. I didn't see anything else too cool here, but it was just nice overall. There was lots of strawberry anemone cover, in various colors (including the pink-purple which I really like), at least one Geitodoris heathi, a Cadlina flavomaculata, the usual dorids, and aggregating nipple sponges in bigger aggregations than I have seen before. I also saw a couple cute little greenlings. We saw another big lingcod just hanging out on a rock, showing his teeth. That was cool. I may have seen a wolf eel scurry away during the ascent, but it was kind of far off, so I may have been mistaken (or hallucinating :P). I posed for a few pictures for Rob. Eventually I could not stand the cold anymore (I was shivering, worried my reg would fall out of my mouth), so I thumbed it. On the 20' stop, I noticed Rob playing with his camera out of the corner of my eye, and I turned around and there were Susan and Beto... they kind of scared the crap out of me. Rob was showing Beto how his camera rig now floats up because of the floaty arms that Beto had loaned to him. Rob decided his camera is just too negative (it's really really heavy, he's handed it off to me before and I sink) so he needs something to counteract it. He decided the floats would be perfect with the macro lens, but unnecessary with the dome port. Anyhoo, we again had to ascend into a thick kelp layer, and I shamu'd onto the swimstep again. Phil pulled me up while Rob was laughing at me in the background. What a bad teammate :P. 67ft, 58 minutes, 49 degrees

I have heard some stories about how bad the ride back from Big Sur can be, but I thought it was fine. There was a lot of splashing on the deck, but I stayed inside, and was perfectly comfy. Most people slept, and I dozed a little on and off, but I mainly stayed awake to watch the scenery. The Big Sur coast is even nicer looking from offshore than it is from shore. The cliffs are really cool looking. I wish Rob had taken some topside pictures, but he forgot :( We have another trip to Big Sur scheduled for August. I hope the conditions are as good then!

Afterwards, we went to dinner at Siamese Bay Restaurant, a Thai restaurant in Monterey, with Dionna, Beto and Susan. The food was very tasty. During dinner, I happened to mention my inability to make a hole in the kelp when I was ascending on dives 2 and 3. On the second dive, I ascended through Rob's hole (while he was still in it, kind of pushed him out of the way :P), and on the third dive, I reused Clinton's hole after he was out of the water. So everyone laughed at me (some on the outside, some on the inside, I could tell) and explained that you purge your regulator and the bubbles push the kelp out of the way. In hindsight, I have been told this before, but never had to do it, so I'd forgotten. Also in hindsight, I noticed two "strange" things at the end of dive 3... 1) where are all those bubbles around Clinton coming from (as he ascended through the kelp), 2) why is Rob breathing off of his necklace with his primary in his hand (a moment before he ascended). I guess I was too cold to put it all together :)

And to top off a great day, when I got home, my copy of the new Harry Potter book was waiting for me. Thank you, Amazon :)

Selected pictures from the day in the BAUE galleries.
All of the pictures from the day are here.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

'Branching at Middle Reef

We did some more work on the BAUE Nudibranch Project today. The plan was to go to each of the four transects where we are doing counts, and lay out line to mark the edges of the transects. Then Clinton would shoot pictures of the transects, so people can refer to the pictures to see where the boundaries are. Then we wanted to get in a count on each transect. We were diving in three teams (John and Clinton; Marciano and Mike; and Ted, Rob and I). Mike and Rob were both shooting macro. We decided to split up, and we would do the outlines and counts of transects 1 and 2, and they would do 4 and 5. Then Clinton would come by and photograph our transects after they were done with theirs. I strong-armed Rob into letting me do the counts on both transects (last time, he counted while I watched, and I was very jealous). When we pulled into Lobos, I was glad to see Chuck there -- meant there would be a decently-high tide.

On the swim out (it was quite a swim, those guys like to swim out further than I d0), Mike saw a dead seal on the surface and warned us not to look in that direction. I am happy to say that I didn't see it. As we were about to descend, I turned on my light and it flickered a tiny pinkish light and then went out. Sigh. So I was without a good light. Rob was without a canister light as well, because he loaned his to John (since he doesn't use it that much when he's taking pictures). This was kind of a bummer since I think good lighting makes it easier to find nudis. Anyhoo, I was leading my team, and we followed Clinton out to our transects, since we didn't want to lay out the line and do counts, only to find out later that we did the wrong parts :) Rob and I had counted transect 1 before, and looked at transect 2, but I wasn't 100% sure I could identify them again. The viz was about 40 feet at Middle Reef. The viz was very nice on the whole swim out... you could have snorkeled in the cove, there were lots of senoritas and small blue rockfish out, and we saw a ton of these tiny jellyfish (which I have not identified, but they were like 1 cm in diameter). On the way out, when we were in the rubbly rock area between the sand channel and middle reef, I saw a juvenile vermilion rockfish (again... this is very close to where I saw one two weeks ago). He was about 3 inches long. We got out there and Clinton pointed out the boundaries to us by a little over 10 minutes into the dive. Then the line laying began. Ted did the honors. It was a little more challenging than we expected, because one of the transects is nearly a flat wall, so finding a spot to tie off to in some corners (close enough that the lines actually showed the intended boundaries) was a little hard. After Ted ran lines for both transects, I started my count. Rob was going to be taking pictures (based on what I found, and also he was looking himself), and Ted was mostly going to just keep track of us both and keep us alive (as Rob likes to say). By the time I started counting, we were nearly 30 minutes into the dive.

I started with transect 2. Last time we counted it, it took about 30 minutes, and it is supposed to be doable in about 20, so I figured I would move at a slightly faster clip. I think I felt a little time pressure though, and may have missed some things as a result. I didn't find nearly as much cool stuff as last time -- mostly just some boring dorids :P Okay, so they were Diaulula sandiegensis, Doris odhneri, and a Hermissenda (see top picture). Rob also found a Rostanga (above). I looked for them briefly, but I didn't look that closely because I was trying to finish the transect in 20 minutes. I also found an Aegires albopunctata (right), which I was quite excited about, since I have found a few of those recently and they used to seem impossible to find :) But that is not one of the species we are surveying, so I didn't get to write it down :( I also had found a Cadlina sparsa, the identification for which we debated underwater (Kevin made these cool flip books with pictures of the nudis we are surveying and their lookalikes.) In the end, we didn't know what it was, but Mike id'd it from the picture. Well, we still are 100% sure that that's what it is, but that's the current theory. I ended up spending about 18 minutes on that transect. Then I moved onto transect 1, which for some reason was easier to survey (not sure if it is smaller, or fewer small nooks, or what). There I saw Doriopsilla Albopunctata, Peltodoris nobilis, Cadlina luteomarginata, and Diaulula sandiegensis. I also saw a Cadlina flavomaculata, which I have never seen before! I think I could only recognize this type of nudibranch because I had an email exchange with John Yasaki about them. He mentioned that you can find them at the Anchor Farm, and I told him I'd never seen one before, but that the black rhinophores look really unusual on it, so if I ever saw one, it would stand out to me. So as soon as I look over at this one, I know from several feet away what it was! Thanks John :P I actually thought this was on the list of species to count, so when I went to right it down, I was a bit disappointed to see it wasn't there :) Turns out it is in the list of look alikes that we aren't supposed to accidentally count. Rob also pointed out a little pile of nudis under a ledge, pictures below. We both originally thought they were 2 San Diegos. Upon closer inspection in the picture, there are actually 4, and they aren't San Diegos -- still working on an ID for those.

By the time I was finished counting, we were trying to decide what to do with the line, since Clinton had not yet arrived to take pictures. Then he showed up. Rob stayed with them, so he could cleanup the line after the photo shoot, and Ted and I headed in (since I was freezing, staying still to count nudis is really cold!). For the second dive, Rob and John wanted to practice some skills, but at this point I was not sure I would do a second dive. So I decide to practice a few things on the way in. I also wanted to see how they went when I was cold and my extremities were numb. So around 30 feet, we came to a clearing, and I asked Ted if he would watch me do a valve drill. It went very well, even with my numb fingers. We headed in further, and at 20 feet, I shot a bag and we did our ascent along it. That also went well, although my bag was only half full when we got to the surface (that always happens). But considering how numb my lips were, and we were only in 20 feet, I was pretty okay with that. On the surface swim in, I noticed that my wing kept slowly inflating. The first time it happened, I thought maybe I had leaned on the inflator button. Then it happened again. So I fiddled with the inflator and it stopped doing it -- I figured there was some sand stuck in it or something. After swimming in, Rob was looking at the monkey-faced eel under the ramp, so we went down to check him out. Check out the picture of him below. He was way back in a crack, but I could see his cute little face. He wasn't coming out to eat though, I offered him a variety of kelps. Then Mark (who was diving with Dionna) walked over us (I guess that's the downside of diving in 5 feet of water at the end of the ramp) and a bunch of silt rained down on us. Hard for Rob to take a picture in those conditions, so he left. I did manage to show the eel to Ted though (although all we could really see at that point was his little orange mouth moving). 93 minutes, 63 feet, 50 degrees

After dive 1, we snacked (some people who had forethought ate actual lunches), and we talked to Ryan briefly. Apparently he built a new primary light, from LEDs. Rob fiddled with my light a bit to see what was going on. Until now, my light flakiness always happened with one battery, so we assumed it was a bad connection in the battery; but today, it happened with the "good batttery". Rob plugged the light into Clinton's battery and it still didn't work. Then he plugged it back into my battery and it did. Must be a flaky connection in there somewhere. After some whimpering about how I don't like skills dives, and some talk about spending half of the dive looking at nudis, and then half doing skills, I was talked into going back out. Ted decided to head home. My gas was low, so I had to bring a stage bottle. Swimming out on the surface with an Al80 stage is pretty tiring. I think I finally figured out the optimal way to carry it, but by that point we were probably 2/3 of the way out. So my calf was killing my by the end of the swim. My light still didn't work, so I had to use my second backup (since my first was giving off a very pale glow by the end of the first dive). I guess Clinton and John still had to count one of their transects, so we headed out there. When we first got out there, I noticed that it seemed like I was continuously having to vent my wing. Finally I found a little ledge to hold on to, and after venting my wing, I just waited, at the same depth for about a minute. When I reached back and felt my wing, it had a lot more gas than it had when I started. So my inflator was apparently slowly leaking gas into the wing. I pulled the hose off (actually, Rob did it... I pointed to the inflator to tell him something was wrong with it, and before I knew it, he had popped it off for me). After plugging it back in, the problem went away, though I was constantly reaching back to check my wing throughout the dive. I guess it is time to ditch the Halcyon stainless steel inflator (it is the post-recall model, but I guess they aren't really much better). Rob and I just doodled around near the transect, looking at stuff on our own. Rob saw some Rostangas (and showed me one), and I saw one (which I tried to show to Rob, but couldn't find again by the time I dragged him over). I also saw two Festive Tritons, both very small (well, the smallest I've seen, at most 15 mm long I'd say). Other than that, I just saw tons of Doriopsillas and Cadlina luteomarginatas. Rob and John also pointed out to me the boundaries of that transect, for future reference.

Then, John, Rob and I headed off to do skills. We were in about 45 feet of water, and we wanted to practice stuff in midwater. So we ascended to 20 feet and hung there. We did our bottles switches (well, we switched off of our bottles, to backgas). Then they each did a valve drill and an S-drill. I just watched, because I want to practice this stuff in midwater without the extra bottle first. We did a good job of keeping ourselves in formation and holding our depth. Just as we were finishing up the S-drills, Clinton darts out of the kelp forest, signalling us to come look at something. I knew it must be something really cool. He swims us back to where Mike is taking a picture. I am looking all around for some super cool nudibranch, trying to see where everyone's lights are pointing (but there were too many lights pointing in random places). Finally, I see a wolf eel pointing his ugly little head out of a hole. Actually he was super cute -- I told Rob that he may have been the cutest thing I've ever seen underwater, so cartoonish, like a Fraggle. I have seen a wolf eel once before, slithering around at East Pinnacles, but not up so close -- I didn't get to see his ugly-cute face. I was checking him out (with my lame backup light), when I thought I saw another eye in his hole. Sure enough, there was another eel in there! It was reddish, which apparently means it is youngish. The red one had a pointier face. But the same cute little teeth. Clinton said it was probably his lady, and they probably have a nest in there. So cute! Hopefully they will stay there for a while. After this, we headed in (John at a break-neck speed). On the way in, we saw a big moon snail slithering over the sand -- which I have never seen before (Dionna suggested the ID to us based on the description, which I confirmed from Clinton's site). We swam in to about 20 feet, where Rob shot a bag and we ascended. We swam in, and I insisted on clipping my stage to our buoy because I am too much of a wimp to walk out of the water with it :) The water level was nice and high, so getting out was easy. 76 minutes, 45 feet, 50 degrees

My neck was pretty sore from my neck seal. It seems like ever since I have switched to an Otter Bay hood, my neck seal digs into my neck a bit more. But it is usually just a little indentation with maybe a tiny mark that goes away in a day. But yesterday I got my first "bad enough that people at work will think I tried to hang myself" neck seal hickey. It still looks terrible today (Monday). I am going to give my neck seal a good cleaning and see if that helps.

We went to RG Burgers for dinner afterwards, with Dionna and Marciano. We had the apparently-typical slow service. Rob's milkshake didn't come until we were all finished eating, so Dionna explained to the server that Rob had wanted to drink his milkshake with his fries, so he should bring some free fries (which he did).

Select pictures (from Rob and Mike) can be found here.
All of Rob's pictures can be found here. I love the Rostanga picture (above). I think it really shows how well it matches the sponge it lives on.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Guest Dive Report: CRB err, South Monastery, err Mono-Lobo

After a week-long heinously complex email thread trying to organize dive plans for today, it finally materialized. Allison fickled back and forth about diving today, and eventually lamed out; virtually guaranteeing dive-of-the-century conditions. Point in fact, it was nice, but not a dive-of-the-century.

The latest rev. of the day's plan was to dive with Kevin, Don and Elissa, and then to meet up later with Ben, Jonathan, and Mike Jimenez and their new guys. Kevin, Don, Elissa and I were supposed to dive CRB (Carmel River Beach, or Stewart's Point) at 9am, but Don and Elissa couldn't make it. Instead, Kevin and I ended up meeting up with the rest of the gang at South Monastery. We decided to make a go of it there, since the surf was not too bad (ankle slappers :) ). The local scooter pusher was there, and I definitely did not have the willpower to turn him down, so we decided to plan for one long scooter dive; SWEET :P

I've been purposefully staying a little negative about the scooter acquisition, partially because I'm not convinced of its compatibility with my camera rig. This was going to be a little experiment with scooting with the rig (hopefully). After talking it through, I decided the best option would be to fold the strobe arms in and clip off the rig to the left chest D-ring and then hug it with my left arm, so that the dome port rested againt my chest (with the port cover still on). This ended up working quite well.

We dropped in about 10FSW (sweet sweet scooter :P) and scooted out along the rock-sand interface. I was leading the dive, so Kevin could keep an eye on things from the #2 position. We quickly found an egg-yolk jelly in about 20FSW rolling around in the sand and torn up kelp. It looked pretty banged up, and as much as I wanted to poke it, the recent email thread on ba_diving re: stinging jellies held me back. I took a few shots, and then we moved out.

We were on the trigger for quite awhile (about 20-25min) when we finally ended up around some rocky reef structure in about 100FSW. We clipped off the scooters and started kicking around a little bit. I'd dived S. Monastery a few times before, but have never made it nearly this far. We explored the rocky reef which was basically chunks of rock and stepped wall structures dotted in corynactis, sponges and hydrocoral. As we kicked further, it was notable that we kept finding better stuff shallower. In fact, the area in 60-80' was the best. We found a few spots with really large bushy hydrocoral (not the thin gangly stuff you see closer in). Notably, these patches were free from diver damage; presumably because the spot was so far out. In fact, we heard the Cypress Sea circling overhead. The visibility was about 40' horizontal, and 70' vertical.

We turned the dive around the 60 minute mark and hopped on the scooters again for the ride back. The ride back was pretty uneventful, but very scenic. The areas under the kelp cover were DARK, like a night dive. There *cough* may have also been some hot-dogging on the way in. We extended the 20' and 10' stops and hung out and played on the scoots.

Pictures from the dive are here.

102ft, 88 minutes, 50F.

Back again tomorrow at Lobos for some nudi-hunting.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Anacapa, Day 2

We (Rob and I, no Ben or Nils) were on the Spectre on Friday. As it turns out, the Spectre is a lot more doubles friendly than the Peace, because you have your own little cubby, that no one can intrude on, and it fits doubles. Oh well, now I know. The conditions were calmer on the ride out, so I was hopeful that the conditions would be better overall.

Dive 1 (Underwater Island). Rob led. It was pretty surgy close to the island, and there was current on the side of the island that was protected from the swell. So for dive 1, we did a dive that wasn't too close to the island -- Underwater Island. This site is a reef in the middle of sand, that rises up from about 55 feet to around 35 feet. Rob mentioned that it reminded him on Shale Island, and I can sort of see what he means -- there were ledges along the sides of the reef that had critters in them. We were warned of some current at the site, and it was suggested that we enter the water on the upcurrent side of the boat, so we could make it to the anchor line. We actually entered on the downcurrent side, and getting to the line was not a problem. We descended into some pretty poor viz. It was dark, and both milky and chunky, viz was probably about 20 feet on the reef. The rocks were covered with patches of Corynactis, and lots of Christmas tree worms (I especially like the blue ones). There were several Spanish shawls, although not as many as other sites from the day before. I think we saw one Mexichromis and a few San Diego dorids here too. That was it for nudibranchs. There were lots of garibaldi, which I took a few video clips of. We were told that this would be a good place to find octopus, but we did not see any. On the ascent, we lost the line at 20 feet. The current seemed to be worse above about 25 feet (I didn't notice much on the site, so we were maintaining visual contact with the line at the beginning of the ascent). We ended up maybe 200 feet from the boat. Oddly, there was not a current line deployed -- you would think if the current was bad enough to dictate which side of the boat to enter from, they would have deployed a current line. Oh well. We kicked back in without discussing how it was my flub that distracted us and allowed us to lose the line.

Dive 2 (Portuguese Rocks). I led. This was a really shallow site quite close to the island. It was a little surgy above 15 feet, but at 25 feet, it was fine. The viz was much better at this site, and the water much cleaner and blue. There is supposedly a cool swim through right up by the island, which we took a look at. There is sort of a channel you swim into before you get to the swimthrough, and there was some serious surge there, so we decided to pass. I suspect we'd actually made it past the surgiest point when we decided to turn around though :) I was at first not too excited about this site... the rocks are somewhat barren, in terms of encrusting life. There were not as many Corynactis, Christmas tree worms, etc. as the previous site. There were lots of sea urchins, garibaldi, and sea hares. This was apparently a good site for bat ray sitings, so when we decided to turn around, we swam out over the sand to look for rays. Just as we left the wall, we swam over a pretty uninteresting rock, but it had a pretty pink anemone on it, so I pointed it out to Rob (thought he might want to take a picture of it). As he was checking it out, I was staring at the rest of the rock, and I noticed a blue streak... there was a Navanax! I've never seen one before, so I was pretty excited. Rob took some pictures, and we continued on. We did not see any bat rays, so we eventually returned to the reef right by the anchor line. We decided to just hang out around there for a while. Rob was dawdling taking a picture of something (which I couldn't see, turns out it was a Spanish shawl), so I was checking out a rock behind him. I found a small Limacia cockerelli (which, you may remember from last week, is my favorite nudibranch at the moment). Rob took some pictures of it, while I shined my light on it, since he does not have a focus light (yet, anyway). We piddled around a little longer and returned to the boat. Even though the site wasn't necessarily the most beautiful, it was a cool dive, since we found some neat stuff.

After the second dive, I really had to pee. I was a little worried about my neckseal, but it came off okay. Now, slinking out of my drysuit and fitting into the head on the Spectre was a different matter. I have the DUI rock boots on my drysuit, and they are a bit annoying to put on and take off. So I generally try to avoid taking off my drysuit entirely between dives. Instead I just pull it down to my knees, but then you have 3/4 of a drysuit and 3/4 of an undergarment floating around in the bathroom with you. As some of you know, my Bare undergarment has a butt flap on it (okay, in real life I call it an ass flap, but I like to keep the blog clean), which I have made fun of on many occasions. The zipper on it sometimes gets stuck on my drysuit when I am pulling it on, so as far as I am concerned it is just a nuisance. When I was mumbling to Rob about fitting my drysuit in the head, he jokingly suggested using the butt flap. So I thought... hey, why not? So I used the butt flap. It was actually quite convenient. The secret to it is that you still have to unzip the front of the undergarment, so you can shimmy whatever you are wearing under the undergarment (I wear polypro biker shorts) down. So using the butt flap, I still had the 3/4 of a drysuit flopping around on the floor, but no undergarment.

Dive 3 (Cathedral Cove). Rob led. We've dived this site many times before, and it is my favorite site at Anacapa. It is a nice easy dive, with a nice kelp forest and good variety in terms of critters, small and large. We descended onto a rock with some nice Spanish shawls, so Rob started taking pictures. While I was waiting for him, a digital watch came raining down on me. I grabbed it, couldn't find any divers right above me, so I put it in my pocket. While I was waiting for Rob, I also found some fish for him to shoot -- a blue-banded goby and a very photogenic island kelpfish (thanks to John Yasaki, for the ID). Before we moved along, Rob pointed out this tiny Spanish shawl to me, probably 6 to 8 millimeters long, flapping in the surge. We were visited by sea lions throughout the dive. I think one of them was following us for much of the dive. When we first encountered him, he was swimming around us, checking us out, and then he settled in the sand and posed for us. Unfortunately Rob was shooting macro, and I was sans camera (dead battery). He was the most cooperative sea lion I have ever met, so of course we couldn't take a picture. While he was posing, a smaller sea lion came by to our left and was hovering in the water, chewing on his back flipper -- it was very Peps-like. I also found several tiny Hermissendas -- all under 1 cm in length. I didn't see any normal sized Hermissendas at all, only the tiny ones. I also found a new(ish) nudibranch. I think it may be the same as the one I found on red seaweed last weekend at Lobos. This guy I found right next to some of the same sort of red seaweed. I noticed it after finding what looked like some sort of slug eggs on the seaweed. Rob got a not-great picture, but good enough for ID. We think it is probably Aegires albopunctatus. I also eventually found two Limacias (separately). When I found the first one, I literally swam past it, and then backed up when it hit me that I had just seen something that looked like a Limacia. I also saw a Prostheceraeus bellostriatus (a polyclad worm which is considered a nudibranch mimic), and a small Mexichromis, plus tons more Spanish shawls, on this dive. Right as we started to ascend, I noticed some sort of jellyfish in front of us. At first, I just thought it was some sea junk, but then I noticed it had these regularly spaced out red horns, and when I looked closer, I realized it was a jelly. I looked in my jellyfish book, and the closest looking thing is Leucothea pulchra, although I am not very confident in the identification. As we were ascending to 10 feet, the diver recall went off. I think it is mildly annoying that on the Spectre, they do not give you a time limit for dives. Instead, if you are the last in the water and they feel like leaving, they will recall you. Rob and I argued a little at the 10 foot stop about whether we should finish our stop, which he insisted on. So I yielded, since he was leading the dive.

I definitely prefer when Rob is shooting macro -- while he is taking pictures of something, I can be looking nearby for his next subject.

Selected pictures from the trip are here in the BAUE gallery.
All of the pictures from the day can be found here.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Anacapa, Day 1

We dove the Peace on Thursday, along with Nils and Ben. I have never been on the Peace before. I got peer pressured into diving doubles, even though I just recently bought a single LP85 with the justification that I'd want a single tank to take when we go boat diving in the Channel Islands :) But Nils said he has dived both the Peace and Spectre in doubles before without complaints from the crew, and I figured this is good practice for boat diving in doubles. I am mildly terrified of the giant stride, especially in doubles. The Escapade has a baby stride, so I don't really get practice from that (not that I am complaining :P). Anyhoo, the layout of the boat was a little annoying for bringing doubles. First of all, there is not room for everyone to put their tanks on a bench. The poor fools who get there late have to put their rigs on the floor (I'm sure Rob would tell me the proper term is "deck" or something), which would clearly be unworkable in doubles. Plus the bench has little semi-circular cutouts for the tank to lay in, which doubles do not fit. But you can wedge them in there and bungee it, so it is workable though not ideal. The bigger problem was all the slow people on the boat, making me wait in line to get in the water, with doubles on my back :) Oh, and hoisting myself up on the swimstep wasn't too fun -- I so prefer a ladder that extends into the water (a la Escapade).

The food on the Peace was very good. Most importantly, it was plentiful. They fed us before the first dive, between each dive, and on the way back. Breakfast was an assortment of bagels, toast, muffins, etc. and oatmeal. After the first dive, there were like 4 different kinds of soup (I had the lamb stew, and I tasted the curry soup). After the second dive was lunch, which was pasta with meatballs, some sort of chicken, rolls, salad, and corn on the cob. I only had the pasta with meatballs, which of course gave me mild heartburn during the following dive :) On the way back, there was brownies and apple crisp and ice cream, plus sundae fixings. Any boat with brownies and ice cream gets my vote :)

The ride out to Anacapa was a bit rougher than usual. I've been out their several times, and the ride has never bothered me (though Rob has felt queasy a few times). Not so this time. I threw up off the side of the boat for the first time after. Now I feel like I have joined the league of real divers :P I mostly blame the half of a very-artificially-flavored banana muffin I ate for breakfast. We spent a while looking for a first dive site. We practically circumnavigated the entire island, looking for a site that was both not too currentful, and not too swellful.

One last thing before I get to the actual dive reports. Rob talked me into taking his old camera out (sans strobe, since he took the strobe with him to his new camera). So I was taking pictures for the first time.

Dive 1 (Landing Cove). Ben and I dove together, Ben led. The site was a small "wall", maybe 10 feet tall. Actually there were supposedly 2 parallel walls, but we only looked at one. We followed it out and back. Nils and Rob were behind us, we basically stayed together for the whole dive. As soon as we descended, I saw a big halibut laying on the bottom. I signalled the others and we took some pictures before he bolted. Next, we came upon a rock with a couple of Spanish shawls (the "Fedex nudibranch", as Ben calls it). Ben and I took turns taking some pictures. We continued on, to find tons more Spanish shawls. I also found one Mexichromis porterae on this dive. I also saw several San Diego dorids, and noticed that they were all a slightly darker color than the ones we usually see around Monterey. I also saw several Doriopsilla albopunctata (which I don't think I see that often in Monterey except when I am really looking, but maybe I am just stupid). We also checked out some blue-banded gobies. Ben found an octopus in a very odd pose -- he was sort of on his head, with his legs flipped over above him, so we got an inside out view of him. We took some pictures and moved on. The picture at left is one that I took -- cool, huh? Not long after, we turned the dive, and ran into Rob and Nils. They were right near the octopus, which I wanted to show to them. They had found an octopus of their own, who was scurrying across the bottom. I guess Rob was pestering him, so he scurried into a hole. Then the hole's owner, a lobster poked his head out and the two tangoed. The lobster won. There were a few garibaldis and some big sheephead, one that was swimming straight at me, in a game of chicken. He won.

One thing I learned on this dive is that doing a giant stride in doubles is actually less scary than in a single tank. Why? Because by the time I get to the gate, I'm like... get me in the god damn water, and I don't get all neurotic about the terrifying fall into the water. I also found out that taking pictures is hard. I'm not sure if I have the patience for it :) It takes up too much of my "looking for neat stuff" time in the water.

After the first dive, I noticed a little notch in the neck seal of my drysuit. Of course, 90% of my diving is from shore, but the day my neck seal goes, I have to be on a boat, without my spare zipseal around (it was in the car). It was alright, but I figured that taking the thing off would be dicey, so I decided to just not remove my neckseal until I was done diving for the day (and altered my liquid consumption accordingly ;) ).

Dive 2 (Cathedral Gardens). One of the divemasters mentioned that if we went to a different area than what was covered in the briefing, we might see black sea bass (Rob was shooting wide angle) if we could handle a little current. So we decided to head in that direction. I was diving with Nils (primary team, me leading), and Rob was with Ben (Rob led, I think). The area we ended up in was basically a series of small parallel reefs, separated by sand. Nils claims this is the type of terrain where black sea bass are seen (I've never seen one before, so I don't know). The current was pretty mild. There was some debate about whether I actually took us to the area described by the divemaster (debate in the sense that 35 minutes into the dive, when we were heading back, Rob whipped out his wetnotes and claimed I had been going the wrong way all along, good time to point this out). As it turns out, some other people on the boat supposedly saw a black sea bass. Anyhoo, so we didn't see sea bass, but we had a playful sea lion hanging out with us for much of the dive. At some point, Rob was facing me, signalling something to me about where we were going, and I realized I was completely ignoring him, because there was a sea lion hanging out just behind him. So I pointed it out to him :) I found this really odd-looking nudibranch, a Tylodina fungina. It was like a snail with a tiny shell that was too small for it, but it is actually a nudibranch. I have never before seen a nudibranch with a shell, although I knew they allegedly exist. I also found another Mexichromis porterae, and a Doriopsilla albopunctata (which I showed to Rob, since I'd told him about them on the surface interval). I saw some juvenile sheephead -- I didn't know what they were at the time, but identified them from someone's channel islands creature identification card on the boat. We didn't descend the anchor line (based on the directions the DM gave us to the alternate site), so I was a little concerned about getting back to it. So I went back in the direction of the boat, and then noticed its shadow of the boat above us. I love these shallow, high viz sites :) Nils and I thumbed it based on my gas (I was preserving the last third + rock bottom in my doubles for the final dive), and Rob and Ben hung out for another few minutes.

Dive 3 (Winfield Scott). Rob and I dove together. I made him lead (a departure from my recent theme) because I was annoyed at him for second-guessing me on the first dive, and didn't want to have to put up with it again. This site was pretty unthrilling. The viz was not so good, it was very chunky. This site was pretty barren. Lots of sea urchins and sea hares. We saw one really big sea hare, probably the biggest I've ever seen. He wasn't very active though unfortunately. Rob saw a small bat ray, but by the time I looked, it was gone. I really don't have much to say about this dive. We swam around for a bit, and then when we happened back upon the anchor line, we thumbed it because the dive just wasn't very thrilling. Rob and I were a team, and we didn't keep the two teams together -- given the surge and bad viz, we would have either lost each other or been constanting knocking into each other. I started taking video clips on the camera, since that is a lot more fun than taking pictures.

The conditions on the first day were a little disappointing. I guess there were some serious currents on many parts of the island, so we didn't really have our pick of sites. The sites that weren't super currentful were pretty surgy, with the accompanying bad viz.

After a day of waiting in line to get in the water, and climbing back on the boat in doubles, my legs were a little tired. And I knew the Spectre was supposed to be full on Friday, so I wasn't looking forward to maneuvring doubles around the throngs of other divers. So Ben loaned me his rig, since he wasn't diving on Friday. That's one nice thing about standardized gear. His harness even fit me quite well (the right D-ring was just a little high). He also offered me his drysuit (which would probably fit me pretty well, we are about the same size), but I decided I would try to fix the seal or replace it. We ended up just trimming it down a little bit near the tear, and that ended up working fine the following day.

Selected pictures from the trip are here in the BAUE gallery.
All of the pictures from the day can be found here.