It's about diving. And cats.

Me diving

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Re-Lining the Barge

On Saturday, Rob, Kevin, and I went out to replace the line to the Breakwater Barge. In May, we found out in a not too convenient way that the line to the barge had been broken. Eventually it was replaced with a "temporary" line. It ran all the way to the barge from the sand screw on the wall end, and apparently it was hot pink. I haven't been to the barge since then. Anyhoo, we finally got around to replacing it with a new "permanent" line. We wanted to put in a new sand screw (the old one was apparently gone) near the barge, and run line from the existing one on the wall side to the new one. We figured the barge to be a little over 600 feet from the wall (with the help of the bathymetry data and GlobalMapper). Rob and Kevin each had reels with about 400' of line on them. So, the plan was that we would find the spot on the wall that the first sand screw is near, and I would tie off my spool, and search for the screw. Then we would follow the temporary line out, and Kevin would dump his reel, and then Rob would dump some of his until we got to the barge. Then we'd back off and put install the screw. And cleanup the temporary line on the way back in. We also wanted to install at least one marker on the line halfway along it, since it is SO boring swimming along that line with no good idea of how far you've gone. So, the line had knots every 5 feet (yes, it's strange, but that's just the way it was). I was in charge of counting the knots on the way out, then dividing by 2 (the hardest part of the dive), counting halfway back on the way in, and placing the marker (a line arrow). I was ostensibly the "project leader" although I thought that Kevin was kidding when he said that. But I did end up having to decide where to drop on the wall, lead us out on the wall, and lead us on the way back in. But while Kevin was laying line, he was obviously leading; and while Rob was laying line, he was leading. So that was the plan. As a consequence of this plan, Rob did not bring his camera, so you will have to live without any underwater pictures. Instead, you can entertain yourself with this lovely GlobalMapper shot (and some topside pics) :)

We met at the Breakwater at 8 AM, which I am typically philosophically opposed to. Why get up that early unless you are catching a boat? But since the Breakwater can be really crowded this time of year, I let myself be talked into it. We get there, and it is TOTALLY empty. We got like the 5th spot on the wall, and Kevin got the second. We weren't sure if it was empty because there were no classes due to the holiday weekend, or the recent shark attack :) Kevin gave us a little briefing on laying line (I've never laid line anywhere except the hallway in my house, using door knobs for tie-offs, and Anywater Sports, using tank valves for tie-offs). It was fun. Then we got geared up and headed into the water. It was really hot and sunny on the surface. Quite uncomfortable for getting into a drysuit and Otter Bay hood. The water was like a lake, basically no surf at all. The water line was really low though, so there was a bit of a schlep down the beach. The cold water was quite welcome when we finally got in. Ahhh. I was in charge of carrying the sand screw (which I clipped to my chest and hip D-rings like a stage bottle). I was mildly concerned about poking my eye out with it while donning my fins, or just in general while swimming. We swam out along the wall to about the "9" on the wall (when I asked how far we should go, I was told that I was leader so I had to decide). There were tons of sea lions basking on the wall, which was pretty cute to watch. A few of them were swimming around us too.

So, we finally started the dive. We dropped down along the wall. Actually we were really close to the breakwater, so we sort of dropped on top of the wall, and I had to keep back kicking (I was facing Kevin and Rob) as we moved down the slope :) We basically dropped right on top of a Limacia cockerelli on the wall in 25 feet. I have never seen one of those at the Breakwater before. I showed it to Kevin and Rob, and then we continued our descent to about 40 feet. We followed the wall out until we hit the cinder block near the sand screw. The sand screw turned out to essentially disappear from my consciousness once we were underwater -- no eye poking. I was looking really carefully for the block, because I didn't want to pass it by accident, but of course Rob is the one who found it. Totally stole the glory... I found a nice rock to tie off to on the wall (Rob claims it was wobbling, but I think he was smoking something) and then a nice sturdy rock for a secondary tie. Then we headed out off the wall, and I managed to not tie myself in knots on the way. The viz was amazingly good just off the wall over the sand. Probably 30 to 40 feet. We didn't even have to search for the sand screw, we just found it as we were swimming out. We swam over to it, and I tied my spool off to it. We saw the pink line, which looked a little limp :( However, I had heard it was a little slack, so we followed it out. Kevin started reeling out, and I was following him, counting the knots. I was apparently holding the line too firmly, so Kevin had to turn around and scold me a couple of times. Well, he wasn't really scolding me, but those orange lines on the fingers of his gloves make it *really* obvious when he is wagging his finger at you :) I finally got the hang of loosely looping my fingers around the line without missing the knots. Eventually the pink line ended quite unceremoniously. Boohoo. But we decided to keep heading in the direction of the barge and hopefully find it. Eventually I got into a pretty good rhythm of counting knots, but every time we stopped, I was terribly afraid of forgetting the number :) When we got to the end of Kevin's reel (76 knots), we decided to put the screw in there, so that if we couldn't find the barge on this dive, we could start from there again next time. Kevin motioned to me to get the screw. I had no idea what he wanted, but he was pointing at his D-ring. So I offered him a boltsnap. Nope. Then I realized -- ahh, that big sand screw connected to me, and handed it over. So Rob installed the sand screw, and we tied the line to it. Then Rob started reeling, and I started counting again.

At some point, after we had put about 500' of line out (an additional 21 knots after the screw), we decided to do a little sweeping arc search pattern. Kevin whipped out some of his mad cave skillz, and used one of his backup lights as the pivot. He turned it on, wrapped the line around it, and jammed it in the sand. Voila. We had up until now been heading approximately north, and we turned to approximately NNE. Planning to swim out maybe 100' and then start sweeping. As we were swimming, I saw something dark in the distance -- could it be the barge? Rob and Kevin would both ahead of me (counting knots, ya know), and when I saw them both break out in a happy dance, I figured it was the barge. We found it without even having to sweep. Woohoo. We glanced around at the barge long enough for me to see several big Triopha catalinaes, and that was about it. So, at this point, we had a little pow wow in the wetnotes. Actually, I whipped them out so I could scribble down the numbers of knots (74 -- after reeling in a bit to tie to the screw, 21 and 16). I wrote "74+21+16" and handed it off to Rob, just for his information. He wrote "=101". Hahaha. I corrected it and then we discussed if we wanted finish the job and go back to the screw and move it. We decided we'd push the dive time an extra 10 minutes, and do it.

So, we swam back to the screw, and Rob removed the screw while Kevin and I joined the lines together. After cutting the lines from the screw, there was about a 3 foot gap between them. So I was on one side, pulling my line with all my might, and Kevin was on the other side doing the same. I felt like an ox pulling a plow with a rope between my teeth. We managed to meet halfway and join the lines, and Rob got the sand screw out. Then we headed back along the line, Kevin retrieved his light, and we pulled in the slack as we followed the line back to the barge. We set the screw about 40 feet from the barge (Rob put the screw in again, poor Rob), reeled back in the excess, and we were finished. At this point, it was getting near my turnaround pressure (everyone else was diving stages because they are silly gooses, so my gas was the limiting factor), so we did not have time to actually dive the barge. I also canceled the plan to mark the line, since I didn't think we had time for it. We can do that on another dive. The we followed the line home. I was counting the knots on the way in too, just because it helped with the monotony and that way I had an idea of how much further we had to go :) I think having markers on the line would be great. During the return on the line, Jonathan buzzed us on his scooter and got this rather amusing video clip. When we got to the pink line again, Rob cleaned up what was left of it. When we got back to the first sand screw, and I was going to untie my spool, I noticed a bat star had made himself very cozy on my spool. I moved him (and apologized to him for the disturbance) and we headed back to the wall. Kevin showed me a less idiotic way to reel in the spool, and it was quite easy after that!

At this point, we were like 100 minutes into the dive and I was freezing. We headed in along the wall, and ascended to 30 feet. I suggested ascending to 20' shortly after that (because I was thinking I might have to bail early because I was so cold). As soon as we 20', it was *really* warm. So nice. We traveled in along the wall, and when we got to 10 or 12 feet, we ascended. The tide had come in, so we didn't have to walk up the beach as far as we'd walked down the beach. I was glad for that. 120 minutes (my longest dive ever), 64 feet, 52 degrees

Afterwards, we went to Turtle Bay for lunch, and then returned to the Breakwater so Rob could take some pictures of sea lions and other topside things. And to chat with Ted, Al, and Cynthia about how their dives were. Then we headed to the aquarium to get a glimpse of the new White Shark they have. He was quite a cutie -- I swear he was smiling.

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