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Me diving

Friday, September 14, 2007

My "Birthday" Dive

We went out on Phil's boat on Friday, for my "birthday dive". Friday was not actually my birthday, but it was the closest day to the real thing that we could get Phil's boat. Susan came along with us. The forecast looked really good, there was a mixed swell of like 2 or 3 feet, and light wind. Woohoo. So we headed down towards Yankee Point. The water was super calm on the way there. When we passed by the sea lion rocks on the west side of Lobos, the water was completely flat. Usually it is rocking and rolling over there! There were lots of sea lions playing in the water, and also a lot basking in the sun. We talked about going to Pinnacle of Tremendous Proportions, but Phil did not have the coordinates. So we decided to head down there and he would look around and find us some interesting topography.

He found us a pinnacle which went from under 50 feet to over 100 feet, with a patch of kelp on top. The water looked really clear and there were lots of moon jellies near the surface. It was a very pretty shade of teal. So, the plan was to work our way down the pinnacle, to a max depth of 100, and after about 35 minutes, to head up to the 50 to 60 foot range or shallower, to finish up a max 90 minute dive. I was leading the dive, and Rob and Susan would do a team bag shoot and Susan would run min deco. We got geared up and flopped into the water (after doing our GUE-EDGE of course; we were diving with the president of BAUE, so we had to pretend to be responsible). There was basically no surface current, although Phil had warned us that it looked like there was some current.

As we headed down the line, the visibility actually got a little chunky on the way down, but it got better once we were down to the pinnacle. The anchor was in about 50 feet of water on the south side (if I am reading my Global Mapper right), but the pinnacle came up a bit shallower than that. We swam around towards the west side, as we descended to about 70 or 80 feet. The pinnacle had a lot of palm kelp on the sides of it. I saw some white splotches in the distance and as we got closer, I realized there were patches of Metridium on some deeper outcroppings just off to the side of the pinnacle (it's the little stump to the right in the foreground of the picture, which is on the southwest side of the pinnacle). As we were heading in that direction, I was suddenly like... where did the spot from my light go? My light had unceremoniously pooped out. An undercharged battery, perhaps? Rob offered me his light. At first I waved him off, then I thought -- he doesn't really use his light anyway (he usually keeps it clipped off since he is toting the camera). So when he asked if I was sure, I decided to take him up on it. So, he undid his waist strap, took off the light, and handed it to me. Then he fixed his strap, and took it while I undid my strap, then I put it on, buckled my strap and we were off. It was a bit of an odd maneuver to do underwater, and we probably looked like morons. Susan was holding his camera during all of this, and said that she wanted to take a picture, but couldn't figure out how :) That's too bad. So, we continued on to the Metridium patch, and Rob took some pictures. There were some other similar patches further out from the pinnacle on deeper rocks. But they were too deep for us. So we headed back to the pinnacle and continued around it. There were some other patches of Metridiums along the pinnacle. The pinnacle had a lot of palm kelp, which made it hard to see the little stuff on the rocks. But there were little vertical wall-lets in various locations that were kelp free, and had stuff growing on them. Some had patches of Metridiums, and some were covered in Corynactis and other colorful encrusting life. There was the occasional stalk of hydrocoral (some very attractive ones, just not that many). I spent a little bit of time looking for nudibranchs between the kelp patches, but didn't see much of note. I found one Cadlina flavomaculata, and three Triopha catalinae in one spot (two of them were mating; one of the mating ones was quite small). There were also lots of Doriopsillas and San Diego dorids (of varying colors, both the white and the darker tan ones).

After about 30 minutes, I started pondering going a bit shallower, but we seemed to have run out of shallow pinnacle. The part of the pinnacle we were on did not have much above 70 feet. So I figured we'd swim back towards where the anchor was, since that went up to at least 40 feet. We swam back around, making our way up shallower. There were some neat little cut throughs in the side of the pinnacle, with really pretty little walls of Corynactis. There were also lots of skinny kelp stalks to get entangled in :) As we came around to the south side, whoosh, there was some mad current in the 30 to 60 foot range. After kicking, kicking, kicking, without getting anywhere, I decided we'd just have to go back around to the west side. So we meandered back around the pinnacle, and stayed around 50 or 60 feet. Then we curled around to the north side. Near the northwest corner, there were some really nice little areas of Corynactis cover, with some light yellow sponges and various colored ochre stars. It was pastel heaven :P Rob took some pictures of Susan around there. There were also some really big Doris montereyensis's on this side of the pinnacle. Once we were on the north side, there was also some current. But we continued heading into it, and then stopped and doodled around on the northeast edge of the top of the pinnacle. Apparently a sea lion was spotted around there, but I was oblivious to it. The pinnacle came up to almost 30 feet, but it was quite surgy right at the top. Rob suggested heading back down this side of the pinnacle, but I was chilly so I thumbed it.

We let the current carry us back to the west end of the north side of the pinnacle as we were ascending. It was pretty cool looking, all the kelp on this side of the pinnacle was leaning over at like a 30 degree (from vertical) angle. Then we followed some kelp up to 20 feet, and Rob and Susan shot the bag while I was on camera holding duty. Susan pulled the bag out and held it (and the spool) while Rob plugged in his inflator and inflated it. Then off it went. We have only shot bags by blowing them up, but the inflator is WAY faster. Pretty soon after that, we could hear the boat, which was comforting :P We watched some moon jellies on the ascent. They were pretty. 101 feet, 88 minutes, 52 degrees

The ride back to Lobos was smooth and uneventful. Zooming between the rocks at Lobos on a calm day was fun. Dive 2 was at RG Burger. I had an orange soda ice cream float instead of the usual milkshake. Yum yum.

I did a little research on the dive sites around Yankee Point to try to figure out if this pinnacle has a name. Phil said it was just somewhere around Yankee Breakers. According to the GPS coordinates on Brian Hackett's dive site page, this site is "Que Paso?". However, from my discussions with other people who have dived Que Paso, the depths do not exactly seem to match up; so I'm not convinced. By the way, I love Brian Hackett's website -- where else can you find dive site coordinates and papers on program analysis in one place? :)

The pictures from today are here.

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