It's about diving. And cats.

Me diving

Saturday, October 20, 2007

In the Bay on the Escapade

David had been trying to put together a "DIR" boat for some time, and he finally managed to get enough people to do an Escapade trip today. After some last minute cancellations, plus one last minute addition, it ended up being 8 of us on the boat (David, Jonathan, Cynthia, Matt, Kevin, Clinton, Rob, and me). Of course after all of the planning, the swell forecast looked sketchy. In the beginning of the week, the forecast for Saturday said something like a 15 foot swell plus really windy, but over the week it got better and better. It turned out to be a 7 to 8 foot swell plus some wind in the morning, but according to Jim, by 1 PM, it was supposed to be a 15 foot swell with 3 to 5 foot wind waves on top of that. Ouch. So we figured we'd see if we could sneak outside of the bay for a first dive, but it was not to be. As we approached Pt Pinos, you could tell just by looking that it wasn't going to happen. So we retreated to Ballbuster, which was fine by me.

I have only dived Ballbuster once, during my AOW class. It was my first boat dive in Monterey, and I was completely terrified. I was freezing (this was in my wetsuit days), totally stressed out, and I guess rather narc'd. As a result of all of these things, I barely remember anything about the dive. It's possible that my memory has faded over time, but immediately after that dive, Rob and our instructor were talking about the gorgonian that one of them pointed out, and I had no clue what they were talking about. I remember that there were some Metridium, and some rocks :) So it was practically a new site for me. Rob and I were diving with Kevin and Clinton (Clinton was an honorary Team Kitty member for the day). So, as we got geared up, Jim scared us with tales of ripping currents. The boat was not blowing in the direction of the wind, so he thought that there may be some heavy current. He told us that if the current was too strong for us to stay on the site when we got down, to come back up the line immediately (or shoot a bag if we could not make it to the line). So, at this point, I was nearly as scared as I was the first time I was at Ballbuster. Rob decided not to bring his camera, because I guess he too was sufficiently frightened by the dire warnings (as a result, all of the pictures in this report were taken by Clinton). And we didn't want to dilly dally on the surface. When we hopped into the water, there really wasn't any current at all. But big swells, and craptastic viz. The waves kept washing over my head, which made rinsing my mask to defog it a challenge. Anyhoo, we got to the line and headed down. There were some moon jellies right near the surface. Then at maybe 15', we saw a sea nettle! I have never seen one before, but they are so pretty. I've been jealously reading everyone else's reports of seeing them in the bay this summer. It was really cool.

I was waiting anxiously for the ripping currents to kick in, but they never did. There was some current, but nothing excessive. The only problem I really had was that in my zeal to get down the line and avoid the current (and my zeal to stay with dive bomber extraordinaire Clinton), my ears were not happy. Once we got to 40' or so, I had to take my time getting down the rest of the way, so Rob stayed with me while the other teamlet descended. And when I finally got to 80' and we all met up, I had to hang there for a while, constantly clearing my ears. Anyhoo, as we got down to about 60', we could see the site. Still didn't seem at all familiar. It's a very pretty site, with strawberry anemones making the reef light up pink. And so many Metridium, a lot more than I remembered. It was surgy even at 80' to 90', but that was alright. The viz was actually quite good, I would guess 50'-ish. But it was so dark because of that layer near the surface. The site reminded me of Aumentos, which I guess makes sense since they are so close to each other. Lots of acorn barnacles, chestnut cowries, little sculpin type fishies, a few Spanish shawls, and of course your usual unexciting Dorids. We swam about halfway around, and then came back and made our way up closer to the top of the reef. Clinton was occasionally shooting pictures of us. Kevin kept pushing me out of the way because he wanted the camera all to himself. Okay that only actually happened once :) Rob was sad that he didn't bring his camera, considering how good the conditions turned out to be. 94 feet, 50 minutes, 53 degrees

We headed further into the bay after that dive, and settled on the Anchor Farm for the second dive. The surface was very calm in there during the surface interval, which was good for projectile-vomit-Rob (who actually didn't get sick this time, perhaps a first for Escapade trips). After a surface interval, we hopped back in. Neither Clinton nor Rob brought their cameras, since they were both shooting wide-angle which seemed likely to be useless. I decided not to bring my stage bottle (everyone else did). We were planning to do some drills in mid-water on the way up. The viz was pretty bad and never really cleared up even at the bottom. But it wasn't quite as bad below 25'. It was also really surgy all the way down. At certain points on the bottom, it was REALLY surgy, like we would move maybe 8' to 10' back and forth. We circled around the anchors, and then swam out along the shale. The last time I was at this site, I saw quite a variety of nudibranchs. Today I saw not quite the same variety -- tons of Spanish shawls, a few Triopha catalinae, and one (or maybe two) Festive Tritons. I think someone saw a Limacia and Rob saw a Rostanga too. Apparently Clinton found an octopus, but Kevin couldn't see it and no one showed it to Rob and me :( Other than that, the usual shale creatures. I love how the boring clams cower under the lights. Anyhoo, when it came time to ascend, I shot a bag (there was basically no current, but Jim said it would be alright even if we drifted a little). Unfortunately my lack of stage bottle came back to bite me. We made it up to 30', and just as Kevin was about to do a valve drill, I realized I really didn't have the gas for a round of drills. So we punted, and did a 6 minute ascent from 20'. So I guess that counts as a drill :P 84 feet, 56 minutes, 52 degrees

The nice thing about diving at the shale was that the ride home was basically non-existent. I did my best to shove as much junk food from the Escapade junk food box (my favorite!) down my throat :) After we got back and cleaned up our gear (our stage bottles must have sprouted legs and learned to walk, as they somehow made it up from the boat to our car without our intervention -- thanks Jonathan!) we decided to walk over to Turtle Bay for lunch (surprise surprise). Yum yum.

Thanks to David for arranging the boat, and thanks to Clinton for donating some pictures to the Kitty cause :)

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