It's about diving. And cats.

Me diving

Friday, August 31, 2007

The Grand Unveiling...

... of Oreo's head. After about 2 weeks in a lampshade, Oreo has finally completely recovered from her eye problems (she had an infection and ulcer in one eye, then an infection in the other). I think she was very pleased to get out of that thing -- she can rub her head on stuff, and she can fit under the bed again (one of her favorite hiding places). She had a nice long grooming session after we took it off, and her fur looks so pretty now. Pepper was grooming her enough to keep her from smelling, but now her fur is back to being snow-white and lustrous.

Here's a picture of her in the lampshade. Doesn't she look sad?

While we're on the topic of cats, I saw the cutest video on YouTube ever this week... Kitty Said What? What would we do without the internet?

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Guest Dive Report: Lobos, the leisurely way

I left Allison behind today and joined Don and Elissa on their Lobos Reservation. Jonathan was around and had a reservation also, so the four of us teamed up. We got a late start (which was fine by me since I was still sleeping off the brutal 3:45am wakeup yesterday) and met at the park around 11:00.

I had promised Don and Elissa no "death swims", but somehow the plan came to be to do 3 sisters anyway. I had been waffling about whether to bring the camera or not, and was still waffling about it up until we were about to get in the water. I really wanted to be shooting macro today, but I was too lazy (tired) last night to switch the lenses/ports/arms over. I think I was inspired by the number and variety of slugs that we found yesterday.

We swam out along the sand channel and dropped in about 45'. We passed a couple dead or dying moon-jellies along the way. I wonder if this is a sign of the end of the jellies' run for the year. I played with one of the jelly carcasses briefly; it had a surprising amount of rigidity. Anyway, we dropped and started heading over toward hole-in-the-wall and lone-metridium. We made decent time out there, and moved on to follow the reef structure further NW. We left the reef structure and headed out to sister #3. By this point, the visibility had cleared up to a decent 40' or so, but green.

We spent a little bit of time out at the sisters, but then headed back to the reef structure along cannery pt. and slowly worked our way back in. Along the way, (of course since I had been too lazy to change over to macro) I saw tons of Dialula sandiegensis and Peltodoris nobilis, a Phidiana hiltoni, and 2 Limacia cockerelli. Oh well. We took our time making our way back to hole-in-the-wall and then hopped over to middle reef. As we were crossing the sand channel, I noticed that there was a current of sorts moving pretty well out of the cove. All of the kelp was bent over and I was having to adjust my angle of attack in order to fight against it. Not sure where all the water was coming from (extreme tides maybe?), but Whaler's cove isn't *that* big, is it? Hrm.

We worked our way back along middle reef and I showed Jonathan, Don and Elissa the pet wolf eel den. This is the second time I've been there of late where the only eel present was the large grey one. I hope the red one hasn't left us just yet :(

From there we headed back to the ramp stopping briefly to marvel at a massive lingcod.

102 minutes, 92ft, 49deg.

Dive 2 at Hula Hut, for a change of pace from RG Burger.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Big Sur Slugfest

Today was our last installment for the summer of Big Sur diving off of the Cypress Sea. Or at least our last planned trip down there. The wind and swell forecast was looking good for doing some diving north of Point Sur. On our previous trips, we had to go south for some protection. John suggested Flintstones, which Rob and I immediately seconded. We had been talking about trying to get back down there on one of these trips. Phil complained a little that it wasn't far enough south, but he admitted that it is rare for both the conditions and the divers on the boat to align such that he can go there. So, he went along with it. As an aside, the Cypress Sea has a new system on it so that you can see where you are on the bathymetry maps while the boat is underway (there is a screen in the cabin). It really takes all of the mystery out of the trip -- if you fall asleep and wake up, wondering where the heck you are, it's easy to find out! Once at the site, they show the 3D projection of the site, which is pretty sweet.

John, Rob and I were planning to dive together, but Cameron was buddyless, so we ended up diving together. We broke up in teams of 2 (I got stuck with Bob, boohoo), but the plan was to keep the two teams together for the dives. So, after a few delays, we still got to Flintstones pretty early (funny how a 6 AM departure will do that). It didn't look too too currentful from the surface, even though Phil mentioned the potential for ripping currents. (I don't remember it being that bad last time, so I was thinking... what did we just talk Phil into? :P) We could see a bunch of moon jellies in the water, and I noted to Rob that this time, we would not pay more attention to jellies than the line and get swept off the line :) We hopped in, headed down the line, and the current seemed okay (although the viz got quite hazy around 20 feet, then opened up at 40 or 50 feet). When we got down to the top though, WHOOSH, there was a ton of surge. At this very inopportune time, I realized that my ears required a significant pause before I could go any further. So I was hanging onto a piece of bull kelp on the edge of the dropoff, while the rest of the team was 5 feet below, where there was essentially no surge. Once you were on the side of the pinnacle, it was fine. I was clearing my ears for what seemed like forever (but was probably not very long at all) and then finally I dropped down and joined them.

We headed along the side of the pinnacle and worked our way down to 90 to 100 feet. It was quite dark at this depth, I guess due to the layer of particulate from 20 to 40 feet. There was also a little surge even down here. There were a bunch of small to medium stalks of hydrocoral, which Rob immediately starting taking pictures of. I saw a small orange nudi (which I suspected was an orange Peltodoris) and pointed it out to John. But I spent a lot of the dive looking down into the abyss (well, it's not that deep at the bottom, but in this viz, you couldn't see the bottomm so it still looked abyssal). John found a bunch of gorgonians growing in a vertical crack starting around 90 feet. We didn't think we'd see gorgonians here, since you supposedly have to go deeper to see them at this site. I guess we were misinformed; they were pretty small gorgonians, but there were a bunch. There were also some small elephant ear sponges. I saw a really cute little gopher rockfish (maybe 3 to 4 inches) in a wide crevice. When I signalled to show Rob, he retreated a bit :( But Rob could still see him, and he gave me the universal signal for "cute" (pinching his cheek). And then the wall of Corynactis of course was worth looking at :) And the usual blue rockfish school hanging out off the wall. We also saw a little wall of metridiums, across from a small valley between it and the main pinnacle, and a little deeper than us. We worked our way up shallower, to maybe 60 or 70 feet.

When we got to the agreed upon time to start the ascent, we headed up to the anchor line. Whoosh. As soon as we got above the pinnacle, there was some serious current. I swam over to the line and held on, but with the up and down motion on it, that did not seem ideal. So I let go and swam towards it into the current. I was basically swimming as hard as I could (arms included :P) and was slowly moving away from the line. Rob and John were right at the line, I think maybe they were holding on. Cameron was right next to me, so I turned to him and suggested we shoot a bag and drift. (Phil always says that we can shoot bags and drift if we want, as long as we don't mind waiting on the surface for a pickup. However, I have never taken him up on that.) While we were working that out, Rob and John appeared (apparently they decided they liked their buddies more than they liked the line) and John shot a bag. Phew, much better than swimming hard into a current. The ascent wasn't exactly textbook; there was a bit of leapfrogging over each other and not really keeping a good formation. But we made our stops and got to the surface. There were some moon jellies on the ascent and at the surface. We were a decent distance from the boat. Let's just say I wouldn't have wanted to have to swim back to the boat :) After we bobbed around for a minute or two, with John trying to convince us we should swim for it, the boat headed our way. After a little teasing over the speaker, they picked us up. I thought the drifting ascent was really fun, even if our formation could have used some work. 102 feet, 62 minutes, 49 degrees

We headed down further south for the next dive. There was a south wind, so Phil did not think we could make it very far south. That was fine with me, I honestly don't think that Partington Canyon is really worth the drive :) We puttered around near Portholes, which is just south of Point Sur. We eventually went a little further south, to a new site. There was a small patch of kelp on the surface, and some interesting looking structure on the bathymetry. Basically a big pinnacle next to a small pinnacle in about 100 feet of water. The top of the taller of the two pinnacles came up to around 40 feet. We decided on the boat that we would shoot a bag and drift on this dive (whether it was necessary or not). I was leading the dive. Rob and I usually let the non-leader run the ascent, but since Rob had his camera and he said I "need practice" shooting a bag (one of Rob's adorable traits is how he is always planning skills into dives that he thinks I need to practice), so I was on bag duty.

We headed down to the pinnacle, and while the viz was not stellar (maybe 30 to 40 feet, but filled with particulate and green), it was a neat site, and quite calm. Just as I pass the top of the pinnacle, some diver swooped past me, dive bombing down the pinnacle face head down. It was very odd. Anyhoo, much to my surprise, the cool thing about this site was not spectacular pinnacle vistas, but the macro life. It was nudibranch heaven! Pretty soon after descending, we saw a small rock just off of the pinnacle, which had some nice-looking hydrocoral. So we swam over to it, so Rob could get some shots. While he was taking pictures, John and I noticed a bunch of Hermissendas, and two Spanish shawls (pretty small ones). Then I noticed what looked like Hermissendas, but had bright red tips and a orange-yellow below the red. They were really pretty. We weren't really sure if they were Hermissendas, but I looked in Alicia's new book (Opistobranquios de Mexico). The book is all in Spanish, but it has more photos (and color variations) of the species that it covers than Eastern Pacific Nudibranchs has, which I hoped would one day come in handy. Indeed, this color variation of the Hermissenda is in there. Another notable thing about this site, and that rock in particular was that there were lots of nipple sponges, some in huge aggregations. We eventually hopped back to the main pinnacle and continued along. We came around a corner and I noticed another rock just off of the pinnacle with a big Dendronotus albus on it. And another, and another. So I signalled everyone and swam over there and pointed them out. There were quite a few on this rock, at least 8, of all different sizes. There was a bigger rock right next to this one, which had more of the red Hermissendas, as well as some Triopha catalinae. Plus there were all of the usual dorids (San Diego, Doriopsilla, Peltodoris). Rob also found a Dendronotus frondosus on a piece of kelp. It looked very photogenic, because the piece of kelp was pristine. Of course Rob was not shooting macro though :( We eventually went back to the pinnacle and kept swimming around. I saw an Acanthodoris hudsoni (not sure if I've seen one of those before), and a couple more Dendrontus albus's on the main pinnacle.

At this point, I decided I was cold and since we were about 3 minutes shy of when we were supposed to start the ascent, I thumbed it. I've never shot a bag "for real" before, e.g. in more than like 25 feet of water to practice. So it was quite an exciting moment. I had a little trouble inflating it with my cold lips, but I figured it was alright since I was shooting it deeper so it would inflate more on the way up. Then I became quite fascinated with watching the line unspool -- 70 feet is a lot of unspooling. In fact, I was quite entranced by it, and when it was finished, I realized I hadn't been paying any attention to the rest of my team -- whoops. Our ascent was much smoother this time although perhaps a little slow; we kept a nice diamond formation on the way up. There was a school of blue rockfish hanging out with us on the ascent. Every now and then, the would all suddenly turn in one direction. Apparently there was also a sea lion buzzing me, but it was behind me, so everyone else saw it, but I did not. When we got to the surface, we were only about 100 feet from the boat. We swam back to it, I swam a lot faster than the others because I had to pee. When I got to the swimstep, I mentioned this to Phil, so he told Josh to strip me out of my gear really fast when I got on deck. Before I had even thought about getting out of my rig, I was out of it. Talk about full service :P Then I mumbled how it would probably take me another 5 minutes to get out of my drysuit :) 96 feet, 62 minutes, 50 degrees

We headed back up just north of Point Sur and puttered around there a bit before settling on Ventura Rocks. Phil was pretty excited to put us just north of the rocks, because usually (due to the wind direction), you have to go in south of the rocks. There was a little plateau at like 50 feet, and then a wall down to 100 feet. So he dropped the hook on the plateau and down we went. Phil told us that we really didn't want to surface on the other side of the rocks, so we decided that unless something unforeseen happened, we would come up the line. Boohoo, no more drifting for us. Just as we were about to descend at the anchor line, some other diver swooped past Rob, and started down the line, hand over hand, head first. He almost kicked Rob in the face. It was very odd, wonder if it was the same mystery swooper that almost kicked me on the second dive. Anyhoo, the viz was pretty crappy at this site (20-25 feet, but really chunky) and it was dark even at like 50 feet. But this site was also full of nudibranchs. We saw more Dendronotus albus, Triopha catalinae, red Hermissendas, and some Flabellina trilineatas (Rob found a really nice small one on some kelp, and then I found at least 2 others later on). I also saw a white dorid with black speckles, which was perhaps Geitodoris heathi. John found two Ancula gibbosas, which I have never seen before (but recognized from Clinton's pictures :P). John also found two San Diego dorids mating, with a frisky Peltodoris that seemed to be trying to get in on the action. I also found some tiny little aeolid, which I couldn't see enough detail on to ID. I also couldn't get Rob or John's attention, and I knew if I left it, I would never find it again :) There were also a bunch of ochre stars at this site, which were pretty colors :P We didn't actually make it too far away from the anchor, because we were mainly looking at small stuff. When we turned, I noticed a little bit of current that we were swimming into.

But we made it back to the anchor just in time for our planned ascent. So, Rob was stowing his camera (well, folding in the strobe arms and putting the cover on the dome port), when I hear CLANK CLANK CLANK. Then I see the anchor line falling. We were literally right next to the line, when the anchor slipped off of the plateau (50') down to the bottom (100'). With the 20' viz, we couldn't see the anchor or the line. We all looked at each other like "what the heck?" and decided we'd have to drift, since who knows where the anchor slipped to. So, John shot a bag and we did our ascent. It was pleasant, but there was some current, it kept knocking me into John :) When we ascended, I was looking around for the boat, and I was sort of shocked for a moment when we realized we were on the other side of the rocks. Whoops. The boat immediately headed in our direction, and then Phil directed us one by one to get back on the boat (in case the wind started to push it into the rocks, the rest of us hung back). The wind didn't cause any problems, and we all got back on the boat quickly. 75 feet, 54 minutes, 51 degrees

The ride back was very smooth, for a change. In fact, I was standing for most of the return trip, and my feet never left the floor :P

I have never done drift "deco" before, but I have to say, it's totally fun. I'm hooked :P Last night I told some diving buddies that I don't ever want to ascend an anchor line again, even in moderate current :)

Rob's pictures from the day are here

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Scooting to Granite Point

On Sunday, we dove with David at Point Lobos. Since he is one of those X-Scooter people, we borrowed scooters from Jonathan and Kevin so we could scoot over to Granite Point. It was so beautiful over there last weekend, we wanted to go back (Rob with a wide-angle lens :P). And David was planning to shoot some video. And then there was untalented me. The viz was pretty nice even in the cove, so we dropped down in about 10 feet and headed out. We usually swim out further on the surface and drop right in the sand channel. I don't know if it's because of dropping in an unusual place, or because of navigating on scooters, but Rob somehow had trouble getting us to the sand channel :) But that was alright, instead, we zig-zagged over middle reef. It was pretty, especially in the kelpy areas.

We eventually hit the sand channel, pretty far out along middle reef (maybe 50 feet). Right as we got there, we found a pretty long salp chain. Rob took some pictures and David took some video. Then we headed out over the sand. After not too long, we found the whale bones. I've heard about these on many occasions, but I've never seen them before. They were cool, but not worth doing a dive out there just for that in my opinion (since they are surrounded by sand). But worth stopping by on the way to Granite Point. We also passed some sections covered with swarms of baby shrimp (I think). We finally hit some structure in about 80 feet of water. Across a small patch of sand there was another smaller pinnacle, which we spent most of our time on. It had some nice pieces of pink hydrocoral (although the baby shrimp were swarming around it, so not so good for taking pictures), and also a nice elephant ear sponge. We also spotted a medusa a little off the pinnacle. A little bit further out was the rock that has a few metridiums on it (which we saw the last time we scooted to Granite Point).

David turned the dive on time (we planned max 90 minutes), and Rob led us back over the sand. At some point, as I was pretty close to Rob to his right side, he decided to look cool and do a barrel roll. As if in slow motion, I saw his tanks tumbling towards my head. Bonk. Ouch. I told him in the future he should really check that he has the proper clearance before doing that :) As we were heading over the sand, I was a bit confused about where we were going (southeast-ish). I figured Rob wanted to hit the shallow part of Granite Point Wall before heading back in. No, apparently he was just lost :) Anyway, we ended up at the shallow part of Granite Point Wall, and then headed back west to middle reef. We stopped to visit Itchy and Scratchy (as the two wolf eels have apparently been named). We found their den, but only Scratchy (the big male) was there. Then we headed in. In about 20 feet of water, Rob found a huge cabezon (the biggest I have ever seen). He was just laying on a rock, looking very lazy. He didn't seem to mind having strobes fired at him :) After some pictures and video, we ascended. We were around the mouth of the cove, and we surface scootered back in. 86 minutes, 83 feet, 46 degrees

Then we headed over to RG Burgers for lunch. It was very crowded. I tried a new milkshake flavor (chocolate peanut butter) and we chatted about diving and cats -- David has a cat named Nitrox :)

David's video is here.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Big Sur on the Cypress Sea, Part Deux

On Saturday, we did another Cypress Sea Big Sur trip. First, let's start with a recap of the weather forecast:

232 PM PDT FRI AUG 17 2007



Hmm, not exactly what you want to see when you are going on a long range boat trip. But we'll get to that later. Anyhoo, after the 3:45 AM wakup (I wanted to set the alarm to 4:00 but Rob would not budge, temper tantrums notwithstanding), we headed down to make the 6 AM departure from Monterey. I managed to get a nice spot for snoozing on the ride down, although I wasn't really able to sleep (which was okay, since I slept in the car). The ride down was pretty uneventful. The weather did not really allow us to stay north of Point Sur, so we went further south. The first dive was at a site called Compost, which Phil said would probably be undiveable later in the day.

This site is a pinnacle pretty much in the middle of nothing. The sand is around 100 feet, and from there, this pinnacle sticks up to 30 or 40 feet. It is not very big around, so it is a pretty dramatic looking, towering pinnacle. We descended to about 80 feet, and started to circle it. The visibility was great, probably 80 to 100 feet. Almost immediately (maybe even on the way down, actually), we saw a small salp chain. As we started circling the pinnacle, I was looking in nooks for tiny things. After we came around the first corner, I noticed an egg yolk jelly a little bit off of the pinnacle. We swam out to check it out; it was pretty cool. When we swam back toward the pinnacle, I realized how beautiful this site is, and that I was wasting my time sticking my head in cracks looking for nudibranchs :) The pinnacle was like a tall skinny skyscraper that was covered in color, and you could see all the way up it, to some very pretty kelp at the top. Off of the pinnacle, there were tons of rockfish (blues, blacks, olives, and I'm sure some others). So for the rest of the dive, I spent more time looking up and around at the scenery. On this side of the pinnacle, there was a little canyon with another peak around 60 feet. As we were swimming through the canyon, Clinton signaled us and just from the way he and John looked and where they were hanging out, I thought... wolf eel? Indeed, they had found a wolf eel. He was in his crack, probably swearing at us as we each took a turn shining our light at him. I signaled Kevin and Nils and they came over to look too. After that, we continued looking at the peak on the other side of the little canyon. I saw another egg yolk jelly, this one bigger than the last, but it was heading away out over the sand. I signaled Rob and we decided to go after it. We swam out over the sand and looked at him, and Rob took a zillion pictures. When we went to swim back, I realized there was an itty bitty current to swim against. We got back to the pinnacle, and as we came around another corner (yes, lots of corners :P) we saw a nice big metridium. It was very nicely opened up. Next to it was a little stumpy one that was closed up. I also noticed that at the bottom, there was another one that was also closed up. Aww, a little metridium family. While Rob was playing with the 'trid, I noticed a nudi on a rock, that looked sort of like Cadlina luteomarginata, but a lot lumpier, and I think it had some blackish spots in addition to the yellow (though that could have been sand particles). I pointed it out to Rob and told him to remember it (after the dive, he said "why did you want me to remember that Cadlina luteomarginata?"). I still need to figure out what it was.

We ended up circling the pinnacle more than once, because we eventually ended up back by the metridium family. But by the time we came around the second time, we had worked our way up to about 50 feet. On the side with the 'trids, there was a peak with a shallow sloping side that sort of formed a shelf on that edge, and there was lots of kelp growing there. The thin stuff that likes to wrap around manifolds and cause other sorts of general mischief (Pepper's favorite past time too). In the midst of that, we saw a much bigger salp chain. We looked at it for a bit, and Rob got some pictures. At some point not too much later, I decided I was past my cold threshold, and we turned back and headed up near the line. At our 20 foot stop, we found John and Clinton looking at teeny tiny nudibranchs on the kelp leaves (surprise surprise). After Rob took a look at what they were looking at, Rob handed me a kelp leaf and I saw a tiny Dendronotus frondosus on one end. I was peering at it, when Rob then pointed to the other end of the kelp leave, which had tons more! Pretty cool. Then we headed over to another stalk of kelp and Rob found a tiny Flabellina trilineata on it. Clinton later told us that he saw oodles (my word, not his) of them in that kelp patch. When we surfaced, the conditions seemed to have picked up a little, nothing too bad, but just not as flat as when we started. But those big waves did a nice job of pushing me to the boat with little effort. Before I could even try to be a non-wimp and haul myself up on the swimstep, Phil grabbed my manifold and pulled me up. Hehe, I guess he has figured out I am a big wimp. 70 minutes, 86 feet, 47 degrres

I was so hungry after the first dive, because all I ate on the way down was a piece of cantaloupe. There was soup on the boat, which looked so tempting, but also looked like it was a good candidate to cause heartburn on dive 2 (how can anyone eat tomato based soup and then get back in the water!?!). Then a little light bulb went off over my head and I remembered that there is instant oatmeal on board! Last time I was on the boat, I didn't discover this until the end of the day. So I had some strawberries and cream oatmeal, which was a disturbing shade of pink. Mmmm, so warm. We headed further south, and Phil was perusing various areas of Partington Canyon. After a lot of driving back and forth, we finally settled on a spot that is further north than the spot we dove last time. Everyone likes to make fun of Phil for always going to Partington Canyon (which isn't exactly the most spectacular site along Big Sur, but it is SO FAR SOUTH, or at least I think that's why he likes it). But today, I think that Neptune decided where we were going.

We stayed pretty shallow this time, since last time, we liked the shallow part the best. We actually didn't go very far, because there was plenty of neat stuff to look at pretty close by. It was pretty dark and green because of the dense kelp cover. But the beams of light shining through were so pretty. This site is very fishy. Lots of different rockfish (blues, blacks, olives, coppers, some nice sized vermilions, and one really cute little copper, I think). We also saw what must have been the largest sheephead known to man. It was HUGE. I did a little nudi hunting at this site, since it was pretty good last time. I found tons of Rostangas. While Rob was shooting a black and yellow rockfish, I got a little bored, so I started staring at a nearby rock. It has some orange sponge on it, and found about 4 Rostangas, and maybe 3 egg masses. The next time Rob was taking forever to shoot something (can't remember what this time), I looked at another rock. This one had that orange-pink sponge with a star pattern on it, and the Rostangas totally stuck out. There were little patches of orange without the pattern and when I looked closely, sure enough, they were all Rostangas. Rob also pointed out a nudi which he thought was a Rostanga, but it had a white gill plume. It also looked like it had a bit too much texture. Looked like a small orange Peltodoris to me (although I wasn't sure if they came in orange -- Clinton said they do though). I also found a nice sized Dendronotus albus. We saw a bunch of these at Partington last time as well. I also noticed these clusters of orange tunicates (I think) all over the place at this site. They looked like really tiny light bulb tunicates (but you had to look really close to see that). I have never seen those before. I pointed them out to Rob and told him to remember them, but afterwards he had no idea what I had been pointing too. Near the end of the dive, I found a very cute little sculpin (haven't gotten around to ID'ing it yet). He blended in to the rock he was on amazingly well. After I found him, I pointed it out to Rob and he was looking, looking, looking. I thought, he must have seen it and just been unimpressed. Then finally I could see the lightbulb go off, and he saw it. He actually seemed to think it was really neat when he finally saw it. Shortly thereafter, I signalled to Rob that I was getting cold. We headed back to the boat, killed some more time and then headed up. Of course by this point, the boat had swung into the kelp, so we ascended right beside the boat, but couldn't get through the kelp to the swim step. So we descended and swam to the back, and I used the purge your regulator to clear the kelp technique. Then my purge button stuck and my reg was free flowing. Doh. In the commotion, I hit my head on the swimstep... twice. Ouch. Then someone on the boat managed to drag us out of the kelp's grasp and all was well. 59 minutes, 48 feet, 48 degrees

We headed back up north a little bit, and got a small taste of the rough ride back. Meanwhile, Phil kept telling us how terrible the ride home was going to be. Anyhoo, we ended up at Unicorn Harbor, which we dove on our previous trip (it was also our third dive, and at that point unnamed). We were anchored in a different spot, but we wanted to get back to where we were last time. So Rob talked to Clinton about where he thought that was, and we headed in that direction. Of course we didn't end up finding it, and Clinton and John (who weren't really looking for that spot) did :) But it was still a nice spot. The water was nice and blue with viz of at least 50 feet I think. There was rubble reef with scattered bigger structures. We saw a variety of jellyfish -- some medusas, some tiny unidentified ones, and one that looked like another unidentified one I saw at Lobos a few months ago (when I was diving Three Sisters with Rob and Ted). While we were looking at a medusa, and Rob was taking pictures, he started gesticulating at me. I thought he was trying to pose me for a picture, then I thought he was trying to tell me not to point my light where he was shooting, then I thought he was telling me that a backup light was on. Finally, he basically turned me around and showed me a wolf eel in a crack right behind me. Turns out he was telling me to cover my light and turn around to look at it :) Apparently he was somewhat out of the crack but then we scared him back into it. He was still a cutie. I also noticed a bunch of hydroids that were the same kind that Clinton had found Eubranchus on last time. So I looked very closely at some of the hydroids, and eventually I found several Eubranchus. After turning the dive, we ascended a little and swam in through the kelp. At one point, Rob showed me a tiny little jellyfish (not sure what kind). About 15 seconds later I felt a painful stinging sensation on my lip. Ouch! I guess I have officially been stung by a jellyfish now. 77 feet, 54 minutes, 47 degrees

So, after all the talk about the horrible ride back, it really wasn't too bad. There were a few bumps, but it wasn't scary like I feared it would be. Certainly nothing to lose your post-dive Oreos over. I think that sitting in the wheelhouse is key, so that you are notified before a big bump comes. The only part of the trip back that was bad was in Carmel, from Cypress Point to Point Pinos. But I was expecting it to be terrible from Pt. Sur on, so no complaints here.

Selected pictures from the day from Clinton and Rob are here.
All of Rob's pictures are here.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

Well, at Point Lobos anyway. But I guess that qualifies, since it seems to have become our home base for diving. We met up with a bunch of people to dive at Lobos today (Clinton, John, Mike, Dave, Sami, and Josh), and also ran into several other people who happened to be there as well. The plan was to do some nudibranch counting, and then just some fun diving. Not that nudibranch counting isn't fun :) Rob, John and I dove together. For dive 1, we planned to survey two of the transects (4 and 5) on Middle Reef, which I have not surveyed before. We also wanted to visit our wolf eel friends' love shack. It was a really nice day topside. On the drive down, there were some very ominous clouds over Monterey, but along the coast it was sunny and pretty warm. Warm enough to be a little uncomfortable gearing up once the drysuit was zipped. Rob asked if I wanted to bring a stage bottle along, and I asked him why the heck I would need that, since we were planning two dives on Middle Reef. After I moodily told him that not every dive has to be 90 minutes long, and we could do two 70+ minute dives on backgas, he dropped it.

John led the dive, since neither Rob nor I were certain of the location of transect 5. We swam out not too far on the surface (phew... usually John likes to take us on death surface swims). I guess that's a good thing about surveying transect 5, it's not very far out along Middle Reef. So, he took us to the site, and outlined the boundaries of it for me. The visibility at this point was amazingly good -- probably around 40 feet. The water was very blue and clean, and it was very bright. Basically the best viz you can hope for on Middle Reef. We had planned for me to be the primary counter, and John would just sort of watch and point out things that I missed, while Rob took pictures. It turned more into John and I looking in parallel (but I kept the count), and pointing things out to each other so there would be no double-counting. It was actually more fun doing it this way, than just counting while Rob took pictures. This way if I found something cool, I had someone to show it to without having to disturb Rob if he was in the middle of framing a shot. I was relieved to find that John didn't find much that I think I would have missed (I was a little worried since I had low numbers last time, that I am a sucky nudi counter). On the first transect, we saw Rostangas, Doriopsillas, Cadlina luteomarginata, and Berthella. I was happy to see the Berthella, since I don't see those on every dive. I also saw a couple of Cadlina flavomaculata (which are not on the list to count), and I think some Aegeris albopunctatus, although I didn't look too close since it was not on the list to count. I was glad that I found some Rostangas, because I spent a lot of time looking on the orange sponge for them. Usually, once I see one on a bit of sponge, there are lots more around it. But this time, I kept finding them in spots where there was only one. Hmph.

After that, we took a break from counting, and went to find the wolf eels. As I probably mentioned in an earlier post, a few weeks ago when we were diving Middle Reef, Mike and Clinton found a den with a wolf eel in it. While I was looking at it, I noticed a second one in there. So it's a male and female and they seem to have made a little love nest there; they have been sighted several times since. We found them (well, Rob did, actually, but there's no I in team), and Rob took pictures of them for a while, John and I piddled around.

Then we headed back to transect 4, for some more counting. We didn't see as many nudis here, but it was still a fun spot to look around at. We saw Peltodoris's, San Diegos (one gigantor), two Limacia cockerellis, and a Rostanga. The Rostanga was really big, the biggest by far that I have seen, and it was a lighter shade of orange. It also had some blacks specks on it, so I wasn't completely sure it was Rostanga. However, it was on top of eggs which I believed to be Rostanga eggs, and it just seemed like a Rostanga overall. So I had Rob get some pictures so we could get Clinton's opinion (and he agreed it is a Rostanga). I looked in Eastern Pacific Nudibranchs, and the color range is wider than I thought, and it also mentions that they can have minute dark specks. The Limacia's were nice; the one that John found was pretty big, and a really pretty specimen. I found a smaller one that was curled up a little bit, so it wasn't as easy to inspect without some magnification :) By the end of counting the second transect, I was freezing (I actually wonder if this affected the accuracy of my second count -- I was getting so cold at the end, I don't know how well I was concentrating). So we headed in. I could tell Rob was sad, but in addition to being cold, I wanted to save enough backgas to do another approximately one-hour second dive on Middle Reef. 48 feet, 75 minutes, 51 degrees

When we got back to the ramp, Rob and I dropped down to look for the monkey-faced eel that lives down there. Rob found him right away. He wasn't too far back in his crack, and he popped his head out a few times to eat some kelp that we offered to him. He's such a cutie. I was starving during the dive (not sure why), so I was glad that Rob insisted that we get up 15 minutes early (to which I threw a minor temper tantrum) so we could stop at Safeway for a sandwich. We had lunch with everyone, and discussed the plan for our second dive. We had originally been planning to do a second dive at Middle Reef. But since the conditions were so great, we were thinking of going somewhere a bit more exciting. Rob suggested Granite Point. I have never kicked out to there (just done it on a scooter once), so I wasn't really sure how far it was. John said it was only about 10 minutes past Middle Reef, so we decided that would be good. But I'd have to bring my stage bottle along, so I told Rob he got his way :)

John led this dive too, since he knows the way there better. We surface swam out as far as the kelp would allow us (which wasn't that far -- we dropped in maybe 45 feet of water). John took a slightly different way than I have taken before, not too different, but it got us there faster and we were shallower when we got there. That explains why I thought it was farther away than it really is -- when I went there before, we took a longer route but it put us further out along the wall. Anyhoo, one downside to Granite Point is that the swim out is over sand, which isn't very interesting. But today I was looking in the sand, and there were some neat snails and hermit crabs, and some cute little fish. So, not totally boring. John is a really fast swimmer (or maybe I am just really slow), so I had to tell him to slow down for me; so I guess it probably took us longer than the 10 minutes past Middle Reef :) Just when I was getting tired, and thinking I might have to ask John to go even slower, we got there -- phew. Just as we got there, I saw a pretty big vermilion rockfish. The conditions were spectacular. The viz out here was at least 60 feet, and the water very blue. It was also extremely calm. We looked around for a bit at that first rock formation, and saw mostly the usual stuff (usual nudis, ring snails, etc.). I found a Limacia, but then I swam over to Rob to get him and when I came back, I couldn't find it again. Hmph! As we headed further out, we came to some hydrocoral (Rob's favorite). It was too bad he was shooting macro. But he likes to look for little critters in the hydrocoral too. There were some blue rockfish hanging out along the wall, but their density was not as impressive as it typically is at the further out sites at Lobos. Suzanne and Gary had gone to Granite Point on their first dive, and they told us that they saw a huge cloud of baby shrimps in one area, that was covering the site like a curtain of fog. We came around a corner (much like they described), and saw the same thing. It looked like the rock just stopped and then it was sand. But actually it was the cloud of shrimp. It was pretty cool looking. I've run into those clouds before, but this one was really big, covering probably a 4 foot by 20 foot (at least, didn't actually see how far it continued) swath.

Shortly after that, John asked if we wanted to head in. We took one last loop around a rock that had some gorgeous hydrocoral -- really bushy, and the purple was a really dark, intense shade of purple. We headed back along the wall, and then when we got to approximately where we had started, we switched off of our stages, and headed back over the sand. The swim in was fairly uneventful; we were over sand most of the way, so nothing too interesting to report. The viz had gotten worse than it was in the beginning, and a bit more cloudy around middle reef. We eventually ascended at the edge of the cove and swam in. As we were ascending, in about 10 feet of water, there were a bunch of blue rockfish hanging out with us. They were actually decent-sized and there were quite a few. When we ascended, I asked Rob since when do blue rockfish in that size and number hang out in the cove? They must have been confused :) 72 feet, 82 minutes, 49 degrees

Afterwards, we went to the Hula Hut (over in the same plaza as RG Burgers) with Mike and Clinton. We mentioned we'd never been there, and they said we had to go and try the "addictive" sweet potato fries. I actually hate sweet potatoes; they generally make me feel like I am going to gag when I swallow them. But in some forms they are okay, so I figured I would give them a try. They really were addictive!

Selected pictures from the day from Clinton, Mike and Rob are here.
All of Rob's pictures from the day are here.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Guest Dive Report: Los Tres Hermanas

I left Mrs. Kitty home today to join Anibal for some diving at Point Lobos. The Diving Singles club was out in full force and had almost all of the reservations for the day, including an impressive fleet of dive boats led by Chuck and his flagship Black Dog. If nothing else, this guaranteed tide conditions for entry and exit.

Anibal and I planned to head out to the 3 sisters and putz around there for awhile and head back leisurely. I just got a P-valve installed in my suit, so this would be a good dive to break it in with. I'll spare you the details, but suffice to say, getting suited up was much more involved. Anibal suggested that I give things a "dry run" on land, so to speak, which went pretty well. We geared up fairly quickly and hit the water. As we started swimming out along the sand channel, Chuck passed by with a load of divers, and was unsympathetic to our request for a tow-line :P. Oh well. A few minutes later, we noticed a number of emergency vehicles coming down the road to Whaler's Cove; a fire truck, ambulance and a couple of lifeguard trucks. In short order, the rescue inflatable was launched, so we were definitely curious as to what was going on.

By that time, we had swum (swam? swimmed?) quite a ways down the sand channel, so we finished up our surface checks and dropped down. The top 20 feet were about average, but then it quickly opened up to beautiful vis. We dropped in 67 feet (like I said, quite a surface swim) just north of hole-in-the-wall. Right where we dropped, I found a bundle of what looked like fish eggs clumped on a frond of bull kelp. We headed out to the NW in short order, where I found another (albeit smaller) Pedicularia californica on on a stalk of pink hydrocoral. Visibility had opened up quite nicely by this point, to what I would estimate to be about 60ft. In short order, the outline of the first sister started to appear.

We toured around each sister taking in the sights. This was the first time I'd seen all 3 sisters in one dive, so it was good to get some perspective on how each rock compared to the next. All of the usual suspects were spotted, including quite a few nice specimens of Elephant Ear sponge, as well as the usual nudibranchs, Diaulula sandiegensis, Peltodoris nobilis, etc... It was very relaxing just hanging there and taking in the great vis and blue water.

But our bottom time dwindled quickly, and soon we turned the dive and headed for home. We got sidetracked on the way back and ended up cutting around a corner towards the SW and which I believe took us briefly into Bluefish Cove. The invert cover and just the "look" of the rocks changed noticeably. Very shortly after we ventured into this area, there was a small canyon that cut back toward the East which I theorized would take us back to the NW end of the rubble-pile that Cannery Point crumbles into (which, incidentally, Allison wants to name "Oreo Crumble" after the cat). We cut into the canyon and were treated to a nice crack dotted with several stalks of bushy hydrocoral and other colourful invertebrate cover. I managed to fire off a few shots, but this is definitely an area that I would like to explore in more detail.

We kept swimming towards the SE and pretty soon reached the Lone Metridium, where we began our journey homeward. Actually, by this time, the visibility had cleared up really well even shallower, so the swim in was very nice and relaxing. There were a fair number of blues out hanging in the water column as we made our way under the thick kelp canopy back to the Whaler's boat ramp. 110 ft, 99 minutes, 48F

For dive 2, we headed out to Middle Reef for a nice slow cruise. My missions for this dive were to find some of our new pet friends, and to find a Rostanga pulchra to point out to Anibal. I knew this dive was going to be on the shorter end because I was a little bit low on gas from the first dive. I guess I need to work out more, because I think my SAC rate has regressed over time. Actually, I suspect that swimming the new camera rig adds alot of drag (or at least that's what I'll tell myself to feel better).

We dropped in about 30' along Middle Reef and started making our way north. I scrutinized each patch of orange sponge that we passed, but kept failing to find any Rostanga, though I did see several Rostanga egg spirals. We slowly cruised along and looped around the north end of the reef and then back again. Eventually, I was able to find a Rostanga (and a pretty big one at that; 2-3cm) to point out, back in a crack on the distinctive orange sponge. At about this point, I indicated that we needed to start heading back, because I was running low on gas. The swim back was largely uneventful, but towards the end, we literally almost swam into a very large, and ugly cabezon, who seemed unfazed by the whole encounter, and just stared us down as if trying to intimidate us into leaving. 60ft, 50 min, 48F

Selected pictures from the dive are here.

Sunday, August 5, 2007


On Sunday, we dove at MacAbee with Dionna and Oren (who is from out of town, but somehow found Ben, who set us up to dive together). Rob didn't bring his camera, so no pictures in this report :( I like MacAbee, which a lot of people seem to make fun of me for, especially Rob. It is very hard to get him to go there with me. I like it because I've seen a good variety of nudibranchs there, we almost always have seals following us there, and it is a really easy site. What's not to love? So, we were originally going to dive with Don and Elissa, and I guess Rob and Don picked MacAbee because they figured it was the most likely way to convince me to dive Saturday and Sunday. But we were going to Monterey for a BAUE thing on Sunday afternoon anyway, so a quick, easy morning dive on Sunday was perfect. (Turns out Don and Elissa couldn't make it, but we still went to MacAbee.)

So, Dionna and I were a team, and Rob and Oren were a team, and I was leading. The plan was to just head north and turn on Oren's gas (since he had a single). So, I was leading us "north" and all of a sudden we were swimming into red kelp salad, and getting shallower. Rob comes over and shows me his compass, and holy crap, it reads completely different than mine! So I bang on my compass a couple of times, and start swimming us north again. After a few minutes, it becomes obvious that my compass is still misbehaving. So, Dionna takes over the lead, since she had a functioning compass. I am not completely ruling out user error on my compass problems, but it does seem strange that I would suddenly lose my ability to use a compass. I am going to have to play around with it on land and see what's going on with it. Anyhoo, Dionna led us out of the kelp salad. The viz was not that great (20 feet in most spots, but a lot worse in some areas), but mostly it was just really dark and green. So keeping track of 4 people was a bit of a chore. We would basically just periodically stop and wait for the other team (since Oren had a camera). Before we got too far out, we found some little Hermissendas on the red kelp. Rob found what we believe was a Dendronotus frondosus. Apparently Oren found a Hilton's nudibranch (but only he and Rob saw it) and a Dendronotus iris (I kept seeing the Dendronotus eggs, but couldn't find any of them.) There were also a lot of big Doriopsillas. Usually when I see these, they are pretty small, maybe 2 inches long. But I noticed one that was probably 5 inches across, and then throughout the dive, I kept seeing more that were big. I also found another small nudi which I think was probably a Dendronotus frondosus, but I am not as confident about that one as the first one (plus only I saw it). And I found a little white oval-shaped nudi which I showed to Rob, and we aren't sure what it was, but our best guess is Diaphorodoris lirulatocauda. We also had a playful harbor seal on our tails one and off. I kept wondering why Rob had to swim so close behind me and keep bumping me. Then I finally looked behind me, and it was a harbor seal, tugging on my fins! He also tugged on Rob's fins later, while he was switching from his stage bottle to his backgas. I'm not sure if Dionna or Oren got any seal love.

We swam in to 10 feet and decided to ascend there. I weasled out of the S-drill that Dionna and I had tentatively planned to do (at Rob's suggestion, grumble), because I wanted to practice the stops, but from 10 feet, there would be no stops. So then right after we started the ascent, Dionna gave me a surprise S-drill. What a meanie. It went well, and when we ascended, we were right at the center of the beach. And most importantly, I managed to walk up the beach and back to the car without keeling over. 84 minutes, 54 feet, 53 degrees

Afterwards, we went to a presentation to BAUE about Reef Check at the Aquarium. After the presentation, we looked at the big kelp forest tank, to ID some rockfish. So maybe my fish ID skills will suck a little less now. Then we wandered around the aquarium for a while, followed by dinner at the aquarium restaurant.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Big Fun at Big Sur

We went on the Escapade today for BAUE's n-monthly (not sure what the value of n is) recreational charter. Jim said that we would go somewhere south of Lobos. I immediately thought of Lobos Rocks, which I have never been to, but Clinton says is really great (and I've seen his and Kawika's pictures from down there). The ride down was pretty comfortable, but chilly, since it overcast and chilly out. It was actually really foggy on the drive down... like Twilight Zone foggy. The ride down was pretty uneventful, we didn't see hundreds of dolphins or anything. And guess where we landed? Lobos Rocks. Woohoo.

We anchored south of the West rock, on a little rock that came up to 50 feet, then there was a deeper channel, and then the rock. Rob asked Jim where the green anemones are, and he said on the west side (outside) of the rock. There were some warnings about contingencies if the current picked up, and how we should try not to end up ascending on the other side of the rock during the dive briefing. Then we hopped in. We headed down the anchor line, which had a bunch of kelp around it. There was a healthy amount of kelp on the rock that we anchored on. I had some minor ear problems on the way down. Nothing a few pauses couldn't fix. So, then we headed north, towards the big rock, and before you know it, we are cutting around the east side of the rock. I'm really not sure why Rob chose to go that way, but I wasn't totally attached to the green anemones. The wall was covered with the usual suspects -- lots of strawberry anemones and zoanthids, acorn barnacles, some dorids (Cadlina luteomarginata, Peltodoris nobilis, Doris montereyensis), and all those sponges and tunicates whose names I don't know :) For a while, there was this one little blue rockfish who joined our team, and then we eventually found all of his friends -- a decent-sized group of blue rockfish hanging next to the wall. There was also the occasional green anemone. I noticed some tiny hydrocoral stumps pretty quickly, and as we went further, we actually saw a good bit of hydrocoral, mostly pink. After we swam around the rock to the north side, we hopped over to some smaller rocks which had some quite nice hydrocoral in both pink and purple. These particular rocks also had a bunch of fish hanging around, whose identities I'm not sure about. I need to research that. We were hoping to see sea lions at this site, but all we saw was a dead sea lion, laying on the bottom, with a few starfish eating it :( At first I thought... hmm, wonder what killed it? But I didn't see any shark teeth marks, so I figured we were okay.

We eventually turned the dive, got back to the point where we had to hop over to the next rock (where the anchor was), and Rob suggested that we head in the other direction for a few minutes. I'm glad we did! This is the best part of the site. There was a wall with some serious up and down surge, covered with green anemones and really colorful ochre stars. The wall was basically covered in all different cotton candy colors. The surge was actually pretty fun. Rob was taking pictures, and I had to pry him away so we could return to the boat in the allotted time. On the way back, Rob pointed out a huge shrub of pink hydrocoral. I also noticed, as we were swimming in a direction which I was certain was east, that my compass said west. After a couple of whacks, it sorted itself out and admitted it was actually east (this little aside will become more meaningful in my report for Sunday's dive). When we headed back to the rock that we were anchored on, I realized there was a little current going in the other direction. Just enough that the trip back seemed longer than the trip there :P We eventually got to that rock, and turned a corner where I was sure the line was supposed to be; nope, just kelp. Then Rob pointed out the line to me about 5 feet away. He told me afterwards that he got the impression that I didn't think he'd actually be able to lead us back to the line, but I have no idea why he thought that. We had an uneventful ascent, except for the usual second guessing my timings on the stops. 65 minutes, 83 feet, 51 degrees

For the second dive, we headed to Flintstones, another site that we have never been to. We anchored there for lunch, which turned out to be pretty painful for a few people on the boat, including Rob. By the end of the surface interval, he was basically projectile vomiting off of the side of the boat. He said the worst part about it was that he didn't get to have the tasty-looking soup that Jim served :) So, with all these people hanging their heads off the boat, someone noticed that there were a ton of jellyfish in the water. They were moon jellies (although someone claimed to see a sea nettle as well). So, we finally go around to the second dive, and Rob was trying to get into his gear and in the water as quickly as possible. As he was halfway into his harness, something started hissing, and everyone started fumbling with regulators, valves, and finally we realized it was his Argon hose, which had a big gash in it. That was no big deal, he just inflated off of backgas instead. Then I joined him in the water and we headed down the line. Sort of. Rob told me he wanted to stop and get some shots of the jellyfish on the way down. So we were checking them out around 20 feet, and Rob was swimming around taking pictures, and it got harder and harder to keep one eye on Rob and one eye on the line. So finally I decided I should probably stay with Rob instead of the line. So we went back to the surface, swam to the line again, and started down again. The viz was really cruddy -- the water was densely filled with particulate. So it was pretty dark below about 20 feet. As it turned out, I am an idiot and left my light on after the first dive, so it was dead; so I was stuck using a backup light, which was pretty crappy in those conditions. We were heading down, keeping visual contact with the line (with a little current), when some other divers swam up behind us, and through us. At this point, I turned my attention to keeping track of Rob (and presumably he was keeping track of me) until the other people passed and we got back together. Then the line was gone. But we kept descending in the general direction that the line had been. The pinnacle at Flintstones is supposed to come up to about 50 feet on top, so when we got past 60 feet with nothing in site, I was getting a bit nervous. Actually the descent was pretty surreal -- it was quite dark, and there was no reference in any dimension. But the viz was not bad down there (tons of particulate, but you could probably see 30 to 40 feet), so you could see a ways, with nothing there but me and Rob. Eventually I started to see some rock structure below us, but it definitely wasn't the pinnacle we were looking for. There wasn't much there, but some fishing line, which Rob kept pointing out to me, even though I could see it. We were having a little chat about what to do at this point, whether we should shoot a bag and ascend, or look around for the site, when we saw a light in the distance. So we headed towards it and found the site. Woohoo.

We also very quickly after that stumbled upon the anchor line. So at least now we knew how to get back to the boat. I told Rob we should plan on staying close to the anchor line, because my ears and sinuses were bothering me (I think going up to the surface and then back down was no good for my ears, plus the descent with no reference probably didn't help). So we headed out around the pinnacle, in about 70 feet of water. It was a beautiful site -- it's a pretty straight wall down, and as far down it as I could see, it was totally encrusted and very colorful. Lots of strawberry anemones in various colors. There was a little bit of hydrocoral. I don't really remember the specific critters that were there, because I spent most of the time looking down the wall, thinking "wow". Since I had refused to bring a stage bottle along, I called the dive not too long after we found the site (probably 20 minutes) and Rob tried to convince me to take his stage bottle and use it. I said no (and I'm sure Rob gave me a big eye roll), and we headed up. The moon jellies we still around on the ascent, and we hung out at 20 feet for a while and Rob took some pictures. It was an awesome site, I'd like to do it again sometime when we don't spend half of the dive finding the site, and I don't feel like my sinuses are about to implode (or explode, not really sure which one). 54 minutes, 93 feet, 51 degrees

I thought the ride back was alright, although Rob wasn't feeling so good. But at that point, there's not much you can do, so I just left him to wallow in his misery (cold and harsh, huh?). As soon as we passed Point Pinos it got super smooth and he felt better. Afterwards, we went to lunch (or was it dinner?) at Turtle Bay with a bunch of people.

Pictures from the day by Clinton, Mike, and Rob are here.

Video shot at Lobos Rocks by Beto is here.
Video shot at Flintstones by Beto is here.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Ode to Opey

Don and Elissa recently accused me of having a favorite cat, since most of the cat stories they hear are about Pepper. It's not that she's my favorite, but she is more wily, so there are more stories to tell about the naughty things that she does. I told them that Oreo, on the other hand, is a very reliable kitty -- for instance, she jumps onto my chest every morning around the same time and insists that I pet her. She has the softest fur and an ample, cuddly tummy, so this is quite a treat for me (even though Rob says Oreo is only in it for herself). So since it has been a while since I've posted about the cats, and since Oreo is apparently under-represented, I thought I'd dedicate a post to Oreo. She also goes by Opey, which came from a sequence of cute pet-name-transformations (because transformations aren't just for query optimization :P).

Oreo has an eye infection right now (which she caught from her dirty sister, who caught it from one of her dirty cousins in Santa Barbara), so hopefully a feature on CWK will cheer her up. Let's see, what's new in Oreo's life? She recently conquered the final frontier of the house -- the living room windows. There are triangular windows running along the top of the wall, under the the peak of the roof. There is a tiny ledge at the top of the wall, where it meets the window. Oreo managed to hop up there and walk along the ledge. Pepper has done this a couple times before, but we've never seen Oreo up there. It was pretty cute, she wasn't sure if it was wide enough for her to turn around on, so she would walk to one end and then shimmy backwards to get back to the other end. Eventually, she got up the nerve to turn around, and after a moment where it looked like she would lose her balance and fall, she managed to do it. She did seem a little confused about how to get down. She was pacing back and forth, looking for something she could hop down to. Eventually she decided the fish tank was the best choice and we heard a crash and a thud, and she was down. The fish tank survived the encounter.

Oreo is a water lover. I actually didn't know that cats are known to hate water before we got the cats. So based on Pepper and Oreo, I figured it just depends on the cat. But I later came to learn that cats are "supposed to" hate water. If you believe what they say on Wikipedia (which I strongly discourage :P), cow cats are known for their love of water. She likes to drink water from the faucet, and used to hop up onto the vanity when we came home, and whine for us to turn the water on, so she can drink it. I finally put an end to that (mostly) by getting her a water fountain for Christmas. She seems to really like that. She still occasionally whines for the faucet, and I still sometimes find her curled up in the sink. It's really quite adorable, because she basically fills up the sink -- it is the perfect size for her.