It's about diving. And cats.

Me diving

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Back at the Breakwater

We dove with Matt and Cynthia at the Breakwater today. I really wanted to see the sea nettles again (and Rob wanted to get some pictures), and Matt was trying out a set of doubles for the first time, so that's why we went to the Breakwater, even though the swell probably allowed for a more "exciting" site. Cynthia was also trying out a new set of doubles (LP85s, which she got for an insanely good price -- I'm totally jealous). So we decided to do a first short dive just to see how everyone felt in their new gear, and then do a longer dive out to the Metridium Field for dive 2. Rob did not bring his camera on the first dive, so his hands would be free to grope Cynthia, I mean tinker with her gear if necessary.

We swam out and dropped in the sand just past all the OW class's floats, in about 25 feet of water. I was leading, with Matt as my buddy, and Rob and Cynthia were behind us. After everyone got situated, I took us for a little tour of the sand :) Actually it wasn't really sand. The bottom was littered with pieces of dead kelp, so there were lots of little crabbies scurrying around in there. But the really cool stuff was above us. We saw a few sea nettles as we were heading out and then we got to a point where there were quite a few above us, and a few down near us. We stopped to get a closeup look at the ones that were down near us. The one moment where I decided to look down for macro stuff, apparently 3 sea lions buzzed me, but I completely missed it. They obviously don't know that sea lion/diver etiquette dictates that they should bark to announce themselves before they buzz a diver. After about 20 minutes, I turned us around and headed back to the beach. When we got to about 12 feet, I thumbed it, and Rob shot a bag (because he is a dork), and we ascended. I was impressed to find us right in front of the beach. I have become so used to doing dives where it is all based on landmarks, that navigating over a barren stretch of sand was, umm, novel. 35 minutes, 39 feet, 50 degrees

Jonathan was going to join us for the second dive, but as he was putting his suit on, he busted the neck seal. I think it was bad drysuit karma, from when he proclaimed that my new suit was the ugliest suit he had ever seen. So it was just the four of us again. We headed out to the Metridium Field. Our plan was to go out to the Field, and then circle around towards the wall and come back in on the near side of the beach. On the surface, on the way out, Rob found a Melibe on a piece of kelp and then Cynthia found a couple more in the same area. I found a tiny little Aeolid which I for a moment thought might be a Cuthona lagunae. Upon closer inspection, I think it was just a tiny Hermissenda. But it was like 5 mm long, by far the smallest Hermissenda I have ever seen. A little while later, Rob found a Corambe pacifica on another kelp leaf! I was sort of skeptical that it might actually be the bryozoan that it looks like (and eats) but no, he really did find one. He pointed out the eggs on a patch of bryozoan nearby. Anyhoo, we finally got around to the actual dive. We descended in about 30 feet of water. Rob was leading, with Cynthia, and Matt and I were behind them. I was shocked by both how good the viz was (30 to 40 feet) and how empty the sandy area seemed. All of the kelp is gone, and with such good viz, all I could see was sand and tube anemones stretching out so far in all directions. The water was amazingly calm too, there was no movement at all. I felt like I was in Tahoe, except instead of blue water, we had green water.

We headed for the pipe, and along the way we stopped to look at a couple of sea nettles. We finally hit the pipe in over 40 feet of water, so we weren't on it for very long before we got to the end. We headed out over the sand, and right after we left it, I noticed Cynthia (or maybe it was Matt) sort of looking up and motioning. I looked up and there were hundreds of sea nettles from about 5 feet above us to the surface in all directions. So I signaled to Rob to look up and around us. He looked excited, and whipped out his camera to get some glamour shots of a sea nettle, and of course, glamour shots of me with a nettle. They are so pretty. I think they are the prettiest thing in the ocean, or at least in our ocean. Even though there were hundreds (actually thousands) of them, I still had to stop and stare every time I saw one go by. We eventually continued on to the 'trids. They were in a pretty sorry state actually. They were nearly all closed, and they had some sort of brown goo or debris on them. I don't know what it was, but it was on most of them. We played around the Metridiums for a little while, until I again became transfixed with the sea nettles and made Rob go up to about 35 feet to take some more pictures of them. We eventually went back down and swam around the Metridium field a bit.

Eventually we turned on gas and headed in. On the way in, we saw a few moon jellies (and of course lots and lots more sea nettles). At some point along the way, Rob and Cynthia did an S-drill and swam in touch contact for a while. This gave Rob an excuse to make references to Cynthia sucking on his long hose for the rest of the afernoon. At that point, I took over leading. I was super cold, so I wanted to get in fast, but I kept having to slow down for everyone else. Rob and Cynthia apparently saw a big Aeolidia papillosa (shaggy mouse nudibranch), which I guess is what I get for swimming too fast. I eventually got tired of that, so around 30 feet, I thumbed it, hoping to warm up on the surface. Ascending through the nettles was dicey. Rob purged his reg to push them out of the way, which was actually not as effective as I expected. When I got to the surface, I grabbed my hood and pulled it down over my chin (which I always do so I can hear on the surface), and I managed to sting myself. I looked down and saw that a nettle tentacle was wrapped around my hand. Ouch. Rob's line (he shot a bag, as usual) was similarly covered in reddish-purple nettleness. I realized on the surface that I was wet. I could feel water around my waist. So I swam in pretty quickly, stopping in 10 feet of water to do the fastest weight check ever with Cynthia, and then got out. Brrrreow. 72 minutes, 51 feet, 49 degrees

While I was initially casting aspersions on the new drysuit inflator that Frank put on my suit last night, I think the leak was most likely through the neck seal. I was tinkering with the neck on my hood on the surface swim out, and that combined with all the head swishing to look up at the sea nettles, combined with the moisture pattern on my shirt makes me suspect it came in from the neck seal. But it was a lot of water to come in through the neck! I guess I will find out next time I dive the suit. I still love the suit, even thought I am becoming more and more convinced that I look like an oompa loompa in it on the surface, and I look ridiculous in underwater pictures. Afterwards, we had dinner at Gianni's, which was good. I'd never been there before, but I think we will add it to the rotation.

All of today's pictures are here.

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