It's about diving. And cats.

Me diving

Friday, December 21, 2007

Night Scooting, Deserves a Quiet Night

We went down to Monterey for a night dive with Kevin, Jonathan and Claudette (visiting from SoCal). Jonathan had some spare scooters so we did the Breakwater by scoot. We met there around 7 PM, and after getting geared up (brrrr that was cold), we were in the water around 8 or so. The conditions at the Breakwater were actually a little sporty. There were occasional sort of big breakers. There was also just a lot of water movement up the beach and back down. I have never done a shore entry with a scooter (only scooted at Lobos before), so Jonathan gave me some advice on how to do it (basically I had the option of scooting out and then putting my fins on further out). Then we got in, and I completely disregarded that, and got my fins on and then scooted out. There were actually reasonable-sized breakers on the entry, surprising for Breakwater.

We scooted out a ways on the surface. At some point, I noticed Rob signaling me from behind, and I stopped and he pointed out that one of my fins was on upside-down. Whoops :) After fixing that, we continued out on the surface, and met up with everyone else. The other three were diving as a team, and Rob and I were a team, following them. So, we dropped down, and yada yada yada, we got ditched and Rob and I were on our own. We headed out along the wall, as I thought to myself... hey, I didn't sign up for navigating out to the barge on a scooter at night :) There were tons of fish out on the wall. Just like last time, I noticed lots of small rockfish. So I scooted along, looking for the marker where we leave the wall. After a while, I decided we must have missed it, so I turned us around. Then I started going really slowly... scooter for a few seconds, stop to look around, and repeat. Apparently Rob found this annoying, so he asked if he could be captain (as an aside, Ken and Claudette later told us that the sign that we all use for "captain" is the same sign they use for "knucklehead", which makes a lot of sense actually). I said yes, because I really wasn't that interested in navigating. So he started to lead, and before you know it, we were heading out to the barge. On the way out, he stopped at one point to show me an octopus. There were also a decent number of moon jellies in the water. And we passed tons of tube snouts all the way out there. Other than that, I think the trip out there was uneventful.

We got to the barge, and met up with everyone else. The barge was, ya know, the barge. Except it was dark out. I saw a few ginormous Peltodoris's (what IS the plural of Peltodoris?) on the barge. I didn't see any Triopha catalinae, which surprised me, since it seems like I always see those on the barge (I did see one as I was scooting along the wall though). There were a couple of moon jellies out there too, and as Rob was about to take a picture of one, Kevin practically assaulted me, trying to push me out of the way so he could have his picture taken. He's so vain. Rob set me up behind a sunflower star on the side of the barge, and as I was hanging out there pretending to be interested in the star, I noticed a little lined chiton scurrying along the edge. I have seen those things so many times, but I've never noticed one actually moving. Even cuter, there was a tiny snail (may 3 mm in diameter) sitting on the chitons back, going for a ride. Rob also at one point showed me a really cute little sculpin curled up on the edge of a piece of the barge. I'm not sure what it was. There were also a lot of rockfish and some surfperch. At some point, Rob asked me if I wanted to stay around there or scoot over to the Metridium field. I gave him the "are you crazy" look and said no. I have never done the so-called Breakwater circuit, and didn't really feel like exploring on my first night scooter dive :)

We hung around there for a while, and eventually the other team left. Rob finished up taking some pictures, and tried to get a few of me scootering over him (which didn't really work, I suspect because we were having trouble coordinating the timing without one of us blinding the other with our lights). After the other team left, it seemed like it got so dark out there. I didn't realize it, but the 5 of us all out there really lit the place up. We then headed back to the wall. On the way, Rob found another octopus, and he also found two really cute fish, burying themselves in the sand. I believe that they were Pacific staghorn sculpins (which are new to me). A moment later, when we were back on the trigger, I noticed a small ray laying in the sand. I signaled Rob and then swooped back to find it. It was a small pacific electric ray. We were both pretty excited... we've only seen one once before (when we were scootering Lobos... hmm, coincidence?). Rob took some pictures, which I was kind of surprised by considering its size and that he was shooting wide angle. But I was glad he managed to get some shots of it. After that, we continued in. I saw a tube anemone whose tube was about 3 feet long. I couldn't believe it (and knew Rob wouldn't), so I signaled him and we quickly circled it to get a second look. Then we headed back to the wall. After we got there, we ended up circling out over the sand a little bit. We saw a bunch of Dendronotus iris's (and their eggs), and another octopus. We eventually got to about 15 feet, where we paused for a bit. While we were just hanging there, I noticed a pretty big octopus in the sand right in front of me. It was trying to hide in a hole, but the surge kept blowing it out of the hole. It was pretty neat watching it get blown around, curling itself up and then uncurling and expanding its mantle.

Speaking of getting blown around, it was very surgy in the shallows. We ascended from about 10 feet, and the surface was even sportier than when we got in. The water was really sloshing around like all the way up to the stairs and then pretty far out. We tried removing our fins a bit beyond the surf zone and then scooting in. I went ahead of Rob, and reminded him that it wouldn't be very nice to leave me behind in the surf :) For some reason I found it insanely difficult to scooter on the surface with no fins. I guess I am just not used to it. I was barely moving, and eventually I just put on fin back on, as a compromise, so I would only have to wrestle one fin off in the surf. Then I got close enough in to stand up and take that one off. I was walking out, and not making any progress because I would walk up the beach and then another wave would come, and the water would be as deep as it was when I started :) Eventually Kevin came down and took my scooter and then I managed to scurry out pretty quickly :) Go Team Kitty. 63 feet, 77 minutes, 52 degrees

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