It's about diving. And cats.

Me diving

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Outer Pinnacles on the Escapade

Yesterday, we went on a BAUE charter on the Escapade. We did two dives at the Outer Pinnacles, but we moved a couple pinnacles over between dives. It was a great day topside -- sunny, clear skies, a light breeze and the water was not too rough. As we came around Pt. Pinos, it got a touch sporty (there was a fishing boat anchored right around there, and I was thinking to myself... fishermen are hard core, sitting at anchor in seas like this). But once we got around, it calmed down. We even talked Ted into coming on the boat with us (he always whines about getting seasick), so I was relieved that the conditions were this good. Hopefully it means we can twist his arm into coming on more boats with us in the future! There was a big wave every now and then, but nothing too bad. During the first dive it actually calmed down even more, so the water was essentially flat during our surface interval. Anyhoo, on the way down there, a bit before Cypress Point, we came upon a pod of dolphins. I think they were all Risso's, we saw maybe 100. That was neat. As we were gearing up for the first dive, Jim pointed out a whale (a humpback I think?). Of course, I was pinned to the bench half in my gear and the whale was right behind me. So I didn't actually see it.

We could see tons of sea nettles in the water as soon as we got to the pinnacles. This was quite a treat, since I think that sea nettles are one of the most beautiful thing in the ocean (or at least in the aquarium :P), but I've only ever seen one. The water was also amazingly clear. So, we hopped into the water. There was a little surface current. I felt like I was kicking to the line and not moving, but that was probably mostly because my stage bottle was in a dumb position. I was diving with Rob and Kevin (my Tech 1 team), and since they are real killjoys, they insisted that we do some mid-water drills on the way down, if the current permitted. As we descended, there was a little more current than I wanted to have to deal with, so we punted that. We got down to the pinnacle and started exploring a little. As usual, there was lots of pretty hydrocoral. When I am at the pinnacles, hydrocoral is really all I see, because it distracts me from the rest :) It was surprisingly surgy even at 70 to 80 feet. I kept swimming us around looking for a spot where we would have some protection from the surge, but I never really found any such place. So we were on the move on this dive a lot more than I typically like. Surge near hydrocoral always makes me nervous. And it makes it quite hard for Rob to setup a shot. He set me up for a couple, and it was pretty comical to watch. The vertical viz was amazing. From 80 feet, you could see the surface. As we were swimming back near the end, I didn't see the line, so I looked up and found the boat. Then I was able to trace the line coming down from the boat :) On the way up, there were still sea nettles all around. I really didn't notice them on the way up, but that may have been because I was focusing on the silly 6 minute ascent that we were practicing. Once we got to the surface, I popped my head back down to look at them, and Rob took some pictures. In hindsight, we really should have gone back down to get some more shots. 80 feet, 58 minutes, 49 degrees

I was testing out two new pieces of equipment -- a Salvo 21W HID cannister light, and a Diving Concepts thinsulate vest (I know, George would NOT approve). They both worked well. Even though some water seeped in the back of my neck seal (I guess), I was pretty warm. Who knows if that had anything to do with the vest :P The light was great. At first, the bigger light head (my old light is a 10W H) was really annoying. I couldn't just forget that it was there like usual, and my thumb was getting sore from holding it. But I guess I eventually found a better way to hold it, because during the second dive, I didn't even notice it. I think my weighting wasn't quite right, though... the light is 2 to 3 pounds more negative than my old one, so I was hoping it would even out with the vest but I think I need another pound or two.

We moved a couple pinnacles over and hung out for a little while, while Rob attempted to break some kind of world record for the amount of junk food eaten on a surface interval. I guess he was feeling good since he had upped his dose of Bonine (plus the water was so calm). As I was getting geared up, I noticed my foot felt kind of squishy. Guess it is that time of month where we have to Aquaseal all the holes in the neoprene socks on our drysuits. We eventually flopped back into the water, and the sea nettles were still out playing. As soon as I got back in the water, sure enough, I could feel cold water on my foot. Unfortunately, the current had died down to basically none, so I couldn't weasel out of doing some drills. So we spent about 15 minutes at 20 feet. We barely moved at all, so I guess the current really had died down completely. I think from 20 feet we could probably see the bottom. It seemed like we were in the Caribbean, but with a tinge of green (oh and that pesky drysuit and 12mm hood).

When we finally descended, there was more pretty hydrocoral. We passed Ted and Matt at the anchor line (they were getting near the end of their dive as we were getting down there, because they got in way before us). The hydrocoral wasn't quite as prevalent as the last site. There was more other stuff, or at least I noticed more other stuff :) For one thing, there was more kelp. Actually when we jumped in the water, there was a bunch of kelp that would make swimming to the line annoying. But with that viz, we just dropped right there and found the line. I also noticed a lot of yellow sponge, which somehow reminded me of North Monastery. I'm sure there's yellow sponge all over the place, so I don't know why North Monastery pops to mind :) Rob found a gorgonian, which I have not noticed at the pinnacles before. We ended up finding a crack with about 3 more little gorgonians. Oddly, I saw essentially no nudibranchs. Not that I was looking for them (too surgy, plus that would be a waste of > 60 foot viz), but I saw exactly one -- a Doriopsilla. When I mentioned this to Rob, he said he too saw only one, and it was the same one. I did look at a kelp stalk to see if I could find anything interesting on it, and I saw a neat reddish shrimp eating some hydroids (or maybe he was just hanging out with them). I pointed it out to Rob and then forced Kevin to come over and look, even though I suspect he secretly doesn't really care about the small things I make him look at :P I wasn't feeling too confident on how to get us back to the boat, but I swam in the general direction until I saw bubbles and then people ascending. Then I found the line :) We decided to doodle around near the line for about 5 more minutes. I saw Rob flashing his light out of the corner of my eye, but when I turned I realized he wasn't flashing it, but it was flickering, on the verge of death. H lights really suck :P We headed back to the line and did another uneventful six minute ascent. Oh it was slightly eventful. I decided I needed another pound or two (I still have 800 or so PSI in the tanks, but felt like I had to squeeze every last bit of gas out of my suit and wing). When we got to the surface, we were sad to see that the sea nettles were gone, so Rob could not take more pictures. 86 feet, 64 minutes, 49 degrees

The trip back to Monterey was really smooth, and full of entertaining conversation with Ted. (Ted gets really sad when he doesn't make it into my reports, so I had to say that :P) On the way in, Jim saw two molas on the surface, so we circled back around to take a look. One of them was really small. The other was pretty small as well (about the size I've seen at the breakwater before). When we got into the bay, I was astonished at how gross the water looked. It was a terrible shade of reddish-brown. We saw one of the other dive boats turn back at the edge of the bay when we were on the way out (and heard some chatter on the radio about it). It would suck to be stuck on a boat that wouldn't leave the bay in the conditions we had yesterday, considering the alternative! Dive 3 at Turtle Bay :P

Rob and Clinton's pictures from the day are available here.

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