It's about diving. And cats.

Me diving

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Mola Ballet

Sunday we dove at Point Lobos with Ted. The plan was to go to Beto's Reef for dive 1, and do some skills and fun (and possibly nudi counting) at Middle Reef for dive 2. Rob was shooting wide-angle, which he hasn't done in a while at Beto's Reef. I so prefer when he shoots macro, because I like looking for little critters for him to shoot! When we got to Lobos, the tide was really high, which was nice. I think Rob almost fell in the water when he was tossing our float in from the rocks; that's what he gets for being cavalier about climbing around on slippery rocks. We put our stage bottles on the float and got geared up.

Rob said he would lead the dive, which surprised me. We swam out and dropped in about 35 feet of water. On the swim out, the water looked really blue and pretty, with the sunlight streaming down through the kelp. But somehow it didn't look as nice when we were underwater :( After we dropped, we did a round of stowing our stage bottles and deploying them, just for practice. Then we headed out. Rob hugged the reef to the west of the sand channel more than I usually do, which I found slightly disorienting. Anyway, we eventually hit Hole in the Wall and continued out over the sand. We traveled at 70 feet like we usually do, but the viz wasn't that great, it was sort of milky. So we couldn't clearly see the bottom for parts of the trek. Perhaps that is why Ted and I spent a good deal of the time kicking each other. I think he must have a lot of pent up hostility and this was his way of airing his grievances. I think the lack of a reference also caused Rob to not realize how fast he was swimming. I had to signal him several times to tell him to slow down. Letting Rob lead a "death swim" dive like this is just asking to get narc'd. He swears that when I am leading, I actually swim at least as fast as he does when leading, and it is all in my head. What-ev. Anyhoo, he led us a little more east (or less west, depending on how you look at it) than I do, so we hit Beto's on the east side, not the west side. Just as we got to it, I signaled him to say that I thought he was going not west enough. Then he points down. I was like, what are you pointing at? I really didn't recognize it from this side :) So I decided to humor him and go down to the reef to check it out, and of course he was right.

We hopped over to the west side and swam out along the reef. I must admit my memory is a bit fuzzy. One good thing about looking for macro critters is that you move really slowly. But I guess that wasn't the case on this dive. I was trying to move slowly, but I guess we just weren't. One thing I do remember thinking is that I saw more gorgonians than I remembered from the past. Rob had mentioned that he wanted to get a shot of us coming over a particular drop-off out there, so as we got to that, we posed for him. We also looked for the wolf eel. Rob found it right away and pointed it out to Ted. Then I peered in his den, and saw some red... looked familiar. I looked and looked and then I saw a red wolf eel's head! I very excitedly signaled Rob and made him come back to look, and then I showed Ted. Then I took one final look. She (I guess?) was peering out and then the grey one swam just in front of her like he was protecting her. It was really adorable. We each switched off of our stage bottles, and after I finished up, Ted pointed behind me. I looked back and there was a mola mola swimming along just parallel to the reef! I think that seeing a mola mola perfectly compliments being a little narc'd, since a mola mola is like the underwater equivalent of a tap dancing hippo.

A moment after we switched, we turned around and headed back to the end of the reef. Then we ascended to 70 feet for the swim in. Rob headed more east than I do, so we hit the sand channel pretty quickly instead of hugging the reef (and passing Sea Mount) like we usually do (or I should say, I usually do). We ended up hitting the sand channel in about 70 feet of water, while we were traveling at 50 feet. Right around that point, we saw two molas. One of them had a fairly chewed up fin -- looked like a close encounter with a sea lion :( We watched them swim around and Rob took some pictures. Then we started moving again. A moment later, I saw 3 molas, and they were swimming in formation. It was so cool. The one with the chewed up fin was no longer around, so it was at least 4 distinct molas. The three molas were swimming alongside of us, and they were pretty close to each other. Unfortunately by the time we showed them to Rob, they had widened, so it was too late to get a picture of them "in formation". It was still a lot of fun to watch them dancing around us. Eventually they swam off and we headed in. We visited the Itchy and Scratchy on the way in (actually, we only saw the male today). His giant head was sitting outside of his hole, looking like a big blob of granite. Ted had never seen the Middle Reef wolf eels before. We were tentatively planning to do some valve drills on the way in, but Ted didn't have the gas to do it (and still do dive 2), so we punted and ascended. I shot a bag while Rob and Ted practiced a gas sharing ascent. My ascent with the bag wasn't exactly textbook :) but we made it to the surface and swam back in. We were actually further out than I thought, so it was a bit of a swim. The water had already receded quite a bit, which made it a bit of a pain to get out. 103 feet, 94 minutes, 52 degrees

I was really cold during the surface interval, so I curled up in the back of the car with my fleece blanket trying to warm up. I decided to punt on nudi counting for dive 2, since I was already cold, and staying still for 20 minutes would just make me colder. We had some surface interval blueberry muffins and then headed back into the water. Scott Tims was there training people on the power washer to wash the Lobos ramp (which I am very thankful for), so you know that means two things -- one, the ramp hadn't been washed in a while, and two, the tide was low. Really low. So that sort of sucked. As soon as we were swimming out, we realized that conditions had really deteriorated. It was really windy and choppy on the surface. Also, it looked like the bottom was really getting churned up. We were planning to swim out to like 40 feet, and doing some midwater drills before the dive, but since it was questionable if we were going to really do the dive, we decided to just drop closer in. Didn't want to swim any further, if it was going to turn out to be a bum dive. So we dropped to 15 feet in about 25 feet of water (we couldn't see the bottom AT ALL), and Rob and I did valve drills. Then I shot a bag and we came up. Then we went to the bottom, Rob lost his mask, and Ted brought him up while I shot a bag and ran the ascent. It was interesting to watch Ted and Rob. At this point, we decided that conditions sucked, so we should punt the "fun" portion of the dive. Ted for some reason wanted to just hang out in mid-water for a little while, which I thought was bizarre, but Rob agreed, so whatever. So, we went back down to 15 feet, and hung out there for a while, until Ted signaled and asked if we were hungry. I said so-so and Rob said yes, so Ted thumbed it :) Any longer and I might have gotten seasick from hanging in that poor viz with the choppy seas. We swam back in, and then the fun began. The water level was even lower, and I had to claw my way out. I needed a hand (or two) from Rob and Ted to get up :) I guess this was the feats of strength portion of the dive :) But Scott and crew had been working on the ramp while we were out, so at least part of it was clean on the walk up! 22 feet, 28 minutes, 54 degrees

I tried out two new pieces of "gear" today. First, I borrowed Ildiko's Evolve wing, which is donut-shaped instead of a horseshoe. I am hooked -- that thing is so easy to vent, you never have to do the shoulder shrug to move the gas from the right to left sides. It does float you a little differently on the surface though -- I got to a point where adding gas made it seem like it was pushing my head down into the water, since there is more lift around the butt. But I found it tolerable for a long surface swim with an Al80 stage (in pretty calm water though). Second, I have been fighting this neck seal chafing problem for months. Last weekend, I tried BodyGlide, which is an anti-chafing product made for runners. The first day, it did a pretty good job to minimize the chafing, but then on Sunday, it was nearly as bad as ever. So this week, I tried KY. It worked great! I have no mark on my neck at all (except for what is left from last weekend). Hopefully it will continue to work, and my coworkers will no longer look at me strangely on Mondays.

We did "dive 3" at RG Burger. I tried a new float -- the Leap Frog. It was tasty; I recommend it if you like mint. On the way home, Rob and I were so sleepy that we pulled off at the McDonald's just north of 156 on 101. A minute after we pulled in, someone pulled up beside us and honked. It was Ted -- just couldn't shake the guy. So we all took naps and then headed home.

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