It's about diving. And cats.

Me diving

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Happy Catmas

Rob and I were away for Christmas, but luckily we had cat sitters who enjoy tormenting the cats as much as we do :) I always love to get pics of the cats while we are gone, since I always miss them. So I was quite tickled when we got these nice Christmas pics of the kitties.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Mt. Chamberlin, South Wall

Saturday we were on the Escapade for a BAUE tech boat. Actually I guess it was technically a John boat, since he set it up. Conditions looked like they were going to be really good, so Rob and I were plotting our mutiny against John so that we could go someplace super cool. We had a bit of an alarm clock failure, so that we woke up 40 minutes late, but we still managed to get to Monterey, get everything loaded on the boat, and even don our drysuits (I told Bob that this was just proof that we don't really need to get up as early as he always insists when we are on the Escapade). We were, however, punished with a bad spot on the boat. Somehow, despite our tardiness, Jim asked me where I wanted to go (neener, John) and I replied "south wall of Mt. Chamberlin". And it was so. Rob said I should have said "Sur 19". We had brought our scooters along, and had been wanting to check out the south wall on scooters. It turned out to be the perfect day for it! It was also a great day to model my new scooter art that Rob got me for Christmas :)

The ride down was pretty uneventful. Two of the three teams were planning on doing a longer bottom time, so we got into the water first. We got our scooters and headed down. Kevin and Karl zoomed past us on the down line -- so pathetic. We got down to the bottom and headed south to the drop-off. Then we turned right (west) and scootered along the wall. It definitely had the feeling of scootering over the abyss, which was really fun. And it was sooo tempting to go further down the wall. But that was not to be. We found a few interesting spots along the wall and stopped for some pictures. Rob had suggested that I posed with my scooter in my hand instead of clipped off, so I did that. I do think it looks a bit more natural in the pictures. There were lots of cool little channels leading up to the drop-off. While swishing around in one of the channels, posing for a picture, I saw some hydroids flailing in the breeze, and thought I saw some Dotos on them. After Rob finished taking the picture, he pointed out another nearby hydroid with Dotos. Neato. We continued on and eventually found a bigger channel to head up. There was a neat little archway along one of the reef spurs, which I peered through and decided I probably couldn't make it through gracefully. I did, however, pose for some pictures above it. Kevin scootered by while I was posing and Rob got some pics of us together (which is funny, since when Rob wants to get a pic of us together, Kevin will never cooperate!).

From there, we decided to head back towards the anchor line. We ran into John and Matt close to it, just as they thumbed their dive. We puttered around for a few more minutes. We were in a big sand channel that had a really nice wall of gorgonians on one side, so Rob took some pictures. Then we headed up along the reef to begin our ascent. I pulled my bag out, quickly determined my lips were too cold to blow the thing up, so Rob whipped it out (his inflator, that is) and we did the team shoot. The deco was pretty uneventful. It is pretty unusual for Rob and I to dive just the two of us from a boat, so the deco was a little different than usual. But we are always chattier when it is just the two of us, which helps to pass the time. When we got to 20 feet, Rob got his camera out and took some pictures of me hanging in the water. He had told me he wanted to do this beforehand. I must say, even though I wasn't really doing much, it made the time pass so much more quickly! I could tell Rob was slightly terrified of dropping his camera (was it *really* clipped off) into the abyss.

After we got picked up by the boat, we started heading north, and discussed the site for dive 2 amongst ourselves. Matt and John reported excellent viz in the bay, so some bay sites were suggested. This was passed up to Jim in the wheelhouse, who apparently balked at that idea, and decided we would go to Local's Ledge. Good choice. As we descended, we were greeted with incredible viz. Very tropical-like. On the way down the first peak, I noticed it was practically covered with piles of Doris montereyensis mating. We scootered off to some of the further off ridges, where there were bigger bushes of hydrocoral. We basically just scootered around from one patch of hydrocoral to another. Other than that, I saw two Dendronotus albus, one probably the biggest I've ever seen and one probably the smallest. Near the end of the dive, I also found a teeny tiny little slug on a sponge. I immediately thought that I recognized it from a picture that Clinton had taken, of Catriona columbiana. So that's my theory... I've never seen one before though. I showed it to Rob, and he seemed to find that plausible too. After that, it was time to head up. We got bounced around a bit in the shallows, but it was so scenic, who could complain?

We had an uneventful trip back to K-dock. No whales :( Afterwards, we adjourned to Phat Burger for some lunch. Ted and Nils joined us, and we even ran into the Escapade crew again. I don't think the food is quite as good as RG Burger, but the ability to get your food in the same epoch that you arrive is definitely a plus.

All of the day's pictures are here.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Three Sisters

After an evening of wine and margarita tasting, Team Kitty returned to Lobos for another day of diving. We decided to do a little scooter dive out to the Three Sisters, since we haven't gone there (just to go there) in a long time. Kevin and I were both being extremely lame and lazy, so we made Rob lead. And we refused to bring deco bottles because we were too lazy to bring them into the water, and predicted it would be too cold to do a very long dive anyway (it was very cold on the surface). So with that constraint, we figured we could head out to Beto's then hop across to the Sisters, and spend about 10 minutes on each of the three before heading back in. The tide was crazy crazy high, spilling over the top of the ramp, which made for an interesting entry since I could barely stand on the flat part of the ramp.

We headed out to Beto's, and briefly visited the wolf eel on the way out. After passing his den, we headed over the sand out to the first sister. I was quickly drawn to the center patch of hydrocoral and posed for a few pics, and then kicked around looking for little guys. It was pretty much the usual slug suspects. When we headed over to the second sister, I couldn't believe how deep the elephant ear on the side of it was, but I guess it was a really high tide. As a result, I ended up spending most of the time on the top half of the pinnacle. I pointed out a tiny Aegeris to Kevin. Well, I had to entertain myself somehow, and forcing Kevin to look at tiny slugs is always fun. We eventually headed over to the third sister, and I spent most of the time on the flattish area on the north side, and the peak right next to that area. I found a Diaphorodoris lirulatocauda, I guess it was small white slug day at the sisters. We ended up turning the dive 5 minutes sooner than we had planned, since we were a bit deeper than we had expected. The trip in was pretty uneventful.

After the dive, Kevin and I had completely recovered from our pre-dive ennui, and were excited to get back into the water. We had planned to do a skills dive, so we were sort of stuck with that plan. We had a terribly fun time doing skills in about 25 feet of water. Or not.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Outer Outer Pinnacles Again

We were back for another Friday on Phil's boat, and once again, the swell conditions were okay but not great. Since going south didn't look feasible, we decided to head up to the Outer Pinnacles area again, since we liked it so much last time. Once again, we brought our scooters, so we were looking forward to slaloming the various pinnacles and boulders at the site. The swell was biggish, but the wind wasn't bad. So it was a sort of slow ride out there, but only slightly terrifying. We were hoping to see some more vase sponges, but figured the chances were pretty low, since we had just randomly happened upon them.

Rob was leading, and once we got down the line, I suppose he picked a fairly random direction to go. Pretty soon we found a really cool channel between two tall walls. And what do ya know, there was a vase sponge near the bottom of one of the walls. Upon closer inspection, they were actually on both sides of the channel, about 3 big ones and a couple small ones in all. I tried to pose with one of the bigger ones, but there was a decent current through the channel, which made it pretty challenging to pose (need to practice back-kicking against a current...). After Rob snapped a few pics of the sponges, we continued on. We found another spot to stop for some pictures, a scenic reef top, so we hung out there for a while. I saw a bunch of different kinds of rockfish of fish milling about in that spot, and there was the requisite posing behind reef when I wasn't poking around in a crack looking at a fish.

Eventually we continued on and found ourselves peering into a neat little arch. This was the "swim-through" that Rob and Kevin had reported was SO COOL on the last dive. I didn't recognize it since I hadn't been down to it before. Last time, Rob and Kevin found out the hard way that this swim through abruptly curved up and spit you out upwards (or, alternatively, you could scooter into a wall). It was pretty cool. We each swam and scootered through it a couple of times, each posing for pics on the way out (which was the way in the last time Rob and Kevin scootered through it). On my second swim down the top of it, I saw a vase sponge inside of it! I continued to the archway where I gesticulated at Rob to come and look, which apparently he mistook for gesticulating about how he should take more pictures of the archway. I finally swam out and told him to follow me. I swam into the overhang, and slowly made my way through it, looking for the sponge. I couldn't find it, and started to doubt if I had actually seen it. I turned back to signal this to Rob, and then I found it. It was really only visible going one way (which explains why Rob and Kevin didn't find it on the first dive).

Shortly after that, it was about time to head up. Rob tried to convince us to push the dive by 5 minutes because he claimed our average depth was shallower than planned. I think he was rounding our average depth a bit more than I wanted to, so I said no. Then we headed north on the trigger for a minute or two, until we found a shallower peak around 110 feet, and we shot a bag and headed up from there. The deco was pretty uneventful. Kevin was getting seasick on the shallow stops. I wasn't really bothered by the big rolling swells. Kevin was scootering circles around us because apparently he felt better moving than stationary. When we hit the surface, I swam over to the boat and handed off my scooter and deco bottle. By the time I had finished that, I was horribly seasick. I guess it just didn't hit me until we were on the surface and I could see the waves.

All of the weekend's pictures are here.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Leisurely Kick Diving at Lobos

On Saturday, we dove with Cynthia at Lobos. We decided to kick (shocking, I know) out to the Hole in the Wall area. When we first arrived, we chatted Matt and Cynthia for awhile, and eventually Jo arrived to dive with Matt. After that, we got down to business. Rob and I nominated Cynthia to lead, teehee. After briefly oohing and ahhing about Cynthia's single tank (I have single tank envy, but I am happy to say I just recently came into some single tanks of my own!), we got dressed and geared up. When we got in the water, we were pretty shocked to see the viz in the cove. It was incredibly clear. You could see forever in all directions. I would put the viz at about 40 feet in there. It was definitely the day to bring a snorkel! We kicked out on the surface, looking at the scenery below.

We eventually dropped in about 35 feet, and headed out along the sand channel. The viz wasn't quite as good on the bottom; it was a little stirred up right along the bottom. Looking up, I could see where the slightly murky layer turned to blue, clear water about 10 feet above the bottom. We eventually meandered over to the left side of the channel, and swam along at the interface between the rocks and sand. There was a lot of krill or something little in the water. There were also quite a few juvenile rockfish. I think I saw at least some blues and gophers. I saw a couple of them eating the krill, which was pretty entertaining to watch. I forced Rob to take some pics of one of the juveys, but I couldn't manage to show him that they were eating the krill. We continued on and eventually made it to the Hole in the Wall reef. Rob found a nice cabezon just a little before the hole. I was poking around, not seeing anything wildly unusual. I noticed a lot of Cadlinas, including flavomaculata, modesta, and the ubiquitous luteomarginata.

I eventually meandered up to the top of the reef to look around. I found a little snail pile, with a small snail sitting on top of a bigger snail, who was trying to squirm out from under. It was very cat-like. I also noticed a lot of orange sea cucumbers, one of them curled up with a starfish. Other than that, I just poked around, checking out the usual stuff. Eventually Cynthia called turn, and of course just after that, we started seeing some cool stuff. First I found an interesting rockfish cowering in a crack -- it was one of the yellow/gold ones, but had a really strange color and pattern. Then I found a stiletto shrimp on a kelp leaf blowing around in the surge. Woohoo. I think that's only the second time that I've seen one. We also found a giant -- disturbingly giant -- lingcod in the rocks next to the sand channel in about 40 feet. On the way in, I saw more little rockfish eating krill. Around 35 feet, Rob found a super cute little fish, but by the time he got his camera out, the fishy had skedaddled. After that, we ascended and headed back in. We ran into Steve and August (sans Kenn!) on the swim in, and chatted about the crazy viz in the cove. We broke the news to them that it wasn't quite as stellar outside.

After foraging for some surface interval snacks and otherwise passing some time, Rob and I got geared up to head back in. Cynthia decided to sit the second dive out. We decided that this was a day to drop at the ramp and kick somewhere shallow. We decided to head vaguely toward the other side of the cove, just south of the opening to Coal Chute cove. We headed into the water, and noticed that the viz wasn't quite as good as it had been earlier (silly low tide). But it was still really good. So we dropped and headed out as planned. I was hoping to see some interesting sand critters on the swim out over the sand. I saw a couple of fluorescent orange worms poking out of the sand, which were interesting. We also found lots of cute little crabbies, which we stopped several times so that Rob could take some pictures. At first we just found the occasional boulder with a little bit of stuff to look at.

Eventually we found a couple of bigger structures to look at. The first one, we stopped at briefly and after taking a few pictures, we continued on. I saw a tiny little starfish with some orange and pink specks on it -- I am wondering if it was a baby leather star. After continuing on, we found a bigger structure, that was roughly round with a crack across the center of it. I found a tiny little rose anemone hiding in the coralline algae, which Rob came over and immediately scared into closing. We waited patiently for it to open again, and then as he took some pictures, I headed over to this cool overhang to poke around in. When I was about to move along, I noticed a big beautiful Hopkins rose. I don't know how I didn't see it sooner! I showed it to Rob and moved along around the corner. On the next little vertical segment, I found another Hopkins rose. I pointed it out to Rob and moved along. I swam along until I hit the crack across the center of it, and I followed along that, across the top, looking down into the crack. I found a couple of slugs in an intimate position, which I first thought were Rostangas, but upon closer inspection were actually Aldisa sanguinea. Once I made it across, I came back around towards Rob, looking in a couple of nice cracks and overhangs. I found yet another nice big Hopkins rose under another overhang. I also noticed that one of the cracks was full of black and yellow rockfish, which I had seen a few of in some of the other cracks on this reef. Oh, and tons of urchins back in those cracks too.

When I completed the little circuit, and was almost back to Rob, I found another Aldisa and pointed it out to Rob, only to find a slightly more photogenic one a moment later. After that, I headed back up to the top and was just hanging around up swishing around in the surge, when I noticed something on one of the kelp leaves swishing with me -- it was a cute little kelp clingfish, kind of reddish in color. I quickly retrieved Rob and showed it to him, and he managed to snap some pics as I held the piece of kelp for him. The little guy kept slithering over to the back of the leaf, which I would flip over for Rob and the fish would start slithering to the edge so it could go back to the other side. All the while we were getting knocked about in quite a bit of surge. Eventually the surge knocked the fish off the leaf, and after searching around for it and turning up empty, we gave up. I asked Rob if he wanted to head in, and he wanted a couple more minutes with the Okenias. While waiting for him, I found a crevice kelpfish along the wall, curled up in a little bit of kelp. Rob tried to get some pictures of it, but I guess it was not being very cooperative. We finally decided to head back in. We were really motoring on the way in, so we made much better time on the way back. Rob's light died part way, so he took over leading. We ended up ascending right at the ramp.

It was a nice day to do a couple of shallow Lobos dives. And it was nice not to have to deal with a stage bottle, deco bottle, scooter, or some combination :) After diving we joined Matt, Jo, and Cynthia at Turtle Bay (which I hadn't been to in a couple of months!).

All of the day's pictures are here.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

SoCal Shore Diving

We went to Santa Barbara for Thanksgiving, and since we were heading down the coast anyway, we decided to setup a dive in Morro Bay, which has a new dive boat. Nils has been on the boat before, and knows the captain, so he setup a little exploration trip. The plan was to do that the weekend before Thanksgiving, then head down to Santa Barbara for the week. Then Neptune decided to punish us, and the Morro Bay trip was off. Boohoo. We brought our gear anyway, and figured we could sneak off for a shore dive sometime during the week. After doing a little research, we decided to go to Refugio. I have a fear of these fabled hard core SoCal surf entries, so when I read that it was a popular site for OW classes, I was in.

We decided to dive on Tuesday afternoon, since the sea state, Andrea's work schedule, and the parking situation at the beach all lined up well. The beach was pretty empty, though there was a surfer or two off of the point. However, the surf looked very small along the straight part of the beach, where we would enter. It started raining a little when we got there, so we had to get geared up in the rain. As we were getting geared up, a big scary wave came along, but then the ankle slappers returned. We saw a few more cycles like this, where an occasional big set would come through. So we figured we just needed to avoid those, and it should be an easy entry. Once we were geared up, we walked pretty much straight down the beach from the car and into the water without any problems. On the swim out, Rob made some snide comment about scary SoCal beach entries, and I told him he should probably wait until we had made it out without incident before sneering about it.

We swam out to a little patch of kelp that we could see from the surface. Our plan was to swim out to that (which was on the right, standing on the beach looking out) and past it into deeper water, then swim parallel to shore to the left, and the circle back to around our starting point. The viz was better than we expected, which exceptionally clear water in areas, and then silty water in spots where the waves had kicked up the sand. We swam between patches of reef, pausing at each patch to look around. Eventually we found a couple of shale ledges, and one long thin ledge that appeared to run parallel to beach for a long way in both directions. So we decided to follow that ledge. Rob was shooting macro, so we poked around in the shale and the sand around it, looking for subjects. We found lots of snails and little crabs, and lots of flatfish with their beady little eyes staring at us from the sand.

Of course, the highlights of the dive required a different lens than Rob was using. As we were swimming along the ledge, we found a horn shark just sitting in the sand perpendicular to the ledge. What a cute little shark! He was probably about two feet long, and pretty tolerant of us checking him out. Then, on the way in, in about 10 or 15 feet of water, we saw a "big" leopard shark. Well, big for a leopard shark -- surprisingly big. His tail seemed to just keep going as I looked along his body. I guess the sharks shouldn't have come as a surprise, since we saw oodles of shark egg cases throughout the dive. They were all over the place! Rob also found a pretty good-sized octopus way back in a hole. He found the tell-tale pile of crustacean shells outside of a hole, so he peered in and saw it. I took a look too, but then he sort of retracted further into the hole, clearly displeased by our presence. One thing that was definitely missing from this site were slugs -- I saw a grand total of two slugs on the entire dive!

I eventually suggested we head in, because I was getting a little chilly. Mostly it was my hands that were cold -- should have brought the dry gloves! But the water was actually pretty warm. We surfaced not too far from where our car was, and swam in for an uneventful exit from the water. It wasn't the most exciting dive site in the world, but it was still pretty entertaining and I thought the sharks were pretty neat.

Saturday, November 15, 2008


Saturday I dove with Rob, Kevin, and Matt. There was quite a bit of buddy swapping that occurred before we finally ended up with this team. But long before we even discussed who we would dive with, Rob and I were thinking of heading out to Crossroads, since we always pass it on the way back from going elsewhere, when we don't really have time to check it out. We also thought it would be a good opportunity to explore the deeper areas on that side a little bit more. So, yada yada yada, we ended up diving with Kevin and Matt. Kevin wanted to lead for some reason. He unveiled his grand plan, which was to hit Beto's, go north to the metridium rocks, and then cut to the right over to Crossroads. While this completely defeated the purpose of learning the areas on the right side, oh well. So that's how we did it.

It was a very very high tide when we got in. By the time I got to the flat area of the ramp, I could barely stand! When I looked down, I could see that the ramp was unbelievably clean. I guess we have Jeff of Otter Bay to thank for that. Strong work! As we headed out, the viz was decent on the way out. Very blue. We dropped in the sand channel and then headed out. The viz was quite good in the sand channel, and improved as we headed further out. Near the end of Beto's, there were a bunch of canary rockfish loitering. From the end, we headed out over the sand, where the viz was insanely good. Before long, we hit the metridium rocks (and the more colorful, bigger rock out near them). We should check those out sometime too. Then we headed to Crossroads. When we first got there, we did a quick circle around it, just to see it from all angles. Then we clipped off and swam around for the rest of the time there. There was a male kelp greenling sort of following us around for much of the dive. The top of the pinnacle was very pretty. But overall, I don't really think the site is worth a whole dive again. Maybe it was just a bad day for nudibranchs, and I am biased :) It would make a good stop in conjunction with another spot over there (like maybe the rocks on the way to Montana). I may also be biased because I was uncomfortably cold for most of the dive :)

On the way back in, we headed east, and followed the reef structure in, which made for a slightly longer trip than expected. Which was fine, except that I was cold! When we got to Granite Point Wall, we switched and doodled around there for a couple of minutes before heading in. Then we basically just stayed on the trigger until we got to the worm patch. We paused there briefly, and then decided to continue in on the trigger until we hit 20'. When we got to about 20', the viz went to crap. It was super murky close to the bottom, but from 10' to the surface it was very clear and blue. So, we hunkered down in the crappy viz, since it was too hard to keep four people together in that. We ended up ascending inside the cove, about halfway from the ramp to the edge of the cove. Then we surface scooted in. We had been thinking about doing a second dive to practice some skills, but since we had done that the weekend before, and I was freezing, I voted no. The boys quickly fell into line, and we adjourned for BBQ, followed by a visit to Anywater Sports.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Outer Outer Pinnacles

At last, Team Kitty managed to put together a dive off of Phil's RIB. Kevin missed the last boat, and the several before that were plagued with cancellations. We decided to bring scooters along, which is the first time we have scootered off of Phil's boat. The down side of bringing scooters is that it precludes bringing more than the three of us. The conditions were not great, but not bad either. We had a list of potential sites, which were all sort of wall-ish, since that seemed like the thing to do with scooters. However, none of the sites we had in mind were feasible given the conditions. In the parking lot, there was some moping about probably only being able to make it to the E3 area. We launched the boat in a very high tide, and took a little joyride around while Phil parked his truck. Rob wanted to check out the Coal Chute Cove caves from the surface. It was definitely a bit sporty over there. A little scary with Rob driving :P

When Phil returned, we picked him up and headed out. As we got out further beyond the cove, things actually seemed to improve. Phil suggested going up to the Outer Outer Pinnacles (aka Lunaticos) area. I was very interested in checking out this area -- last time we went out, we had planned to head that way, but that planned lasted until Phil told Rob we could probably make it to Yankee Point :) So we headed up there, and it was a surprisingly smooth ride. It was really warm, with a strange warm wind. We circled around with Phil calling out depths on the depth finder, and finally settled on a spot in about 120'. The basic gist of the numbers being called out was that south was deeper and north was shallower. Then we got geared up and such, and flopped into the water one at a time, so we could retrieve scooters before we drifted off in the current. As soon as I got in the water, I looked down and saw clear blue water. Very nice. Just as we were about to head down the line, a big ball of dead kelp drifted over to us, and wrapped around Rob's manifold. As he scootered along, dragging it behind him, I couldn't avoid getting wrapped in it too. Rob looked very much like a kelp monster, and I am guessing I did too. Kevin cleaned us each up on the descent.

The water was incredibly clear from top to bottom, and very blue. We got down to the reef, which was a small wall running east-west, from 120' down to about 150'. I was leading, and pretty randomly decided to head west. Not too far from where we started, I noticed that at the bottom of the wall, there was an arch with a swimthrough. However, it didn't look that interesting to me, so I continued past it, thinking that Kevin would surely go through it. A moment later, I saw a big structure off to our south, which I wanted to head towards. I turned back to signal this to the boys, and they weren't behind me. Then I noticed that they were heading into the swimthrough. Apparently it was super cool and I missed the best part of the dive, or something. After I corralled them, we headed to the south over to the structure in the distance. From there, we basically hopped from structure to structure, looking for a good place to plop. We could see ridiculously far, so we could see all sorts of structures unfolding in front of us.

Just when I thought I'd found a nice looking area, Rob started gesticulating and I looked where he was pointing -- at a vase sponge! Neat-o. I had heard that there was one around 170' at this site, but figured it was pretty unlikely we would happen upon it. Then I started looking around and noticed a few more in a line running north-south, all in the 160-170' range. After looking around even more, I eventually counted 9, which were all visible from one spot. Pretty cool. Rob took a few pictures, and Kevin swooped in to pose. Before I could get my picture taken, Kevin started gesticulating about how we should head up a bit, since we were ermmm a bit deeper than we wanted to be. The garden of vase sponges was definitely the highlight of the dive. From there we found a nearby peak that came up to about 150', and hung out there while Rob got some pictures. After a few minutes there, we headed back in, and found a slightly shallower peak to hang out for the duration. I was thinking there was a surprising lack of fish at the site in general. It seemed like I'd seen maybe 2 or 3 rockfish so far. At that spot, I noticed a small school of blue rockfish. It wasn't particularly big, but definitely an improvement over the three fish I'd seen so far.

Phil had suggested that we just meander and then head north before we started to drift, so he would know where to expect our bag. So, we headed north, passing a few more peaks, and then a long expanse of sand. Just when I was thinking I might give up and hand over the deco to Kevin over the sand, we hit another structure coming up to about 100'. I was wondering how much further we had to go to get to Outer Pinnacles. So, we headed up there, and Rob shot a bag. When we got to 70', we saw a huge school of blue rockfish appear beneath us. It's probably the biggest school of fish I've ever seen other than at Big Sur Banks. It followed us from stop to stop until about 50', and then they left us to soldier on, with only the occasional little jelly animal to keep us entertained. Brrrr. Did I mention it was surprisingly cold? My gauge read 50 degrees, but it felt like a solid 48. We all agreed it felt a lot colder than our gauges reported -- must be some sort of rift in the space-temperature continuum.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Granite Point

On Saturday, Team Kitty was back at Lobos, and we decided to do a scooter dive in the Granite Point area. I was leading, since I always like zooming up and down and around all the relief over there. The water looked calm, which was good, since it meant we could hopefully go up to the shallow areas. I like to go up there to visit the giant green anemones. The plan was to head out to the wall, and depending on conditions, we'd either head behind it first, or we'd continue out deeper until we found calm enough water.

When we got out to the wall, it was nice and calm, so we headed around to the back of the wall. We hung out there while Kevin posed for Rob and I poked around looking for critters. After a little while there, we continued on from there, across the covelet just north of that, until we got to the next little covelet, and stopped there for a while. Rob found a neat little crack in one of the big boulders in that cove, and Kevin posed behind it for some shots. I eventually suggested we move along a bit, up into the shallows, but I didn't manage to find the green anemones. It got pretty surgy so I gave up. We headed back down to the deeper area, and poked around for a little while before heading back to the wall. As we scootered towards the wall, I headed up to the top of the wall (in 30 to 40 feet). I had never been up there before, but it seemed like a good day for that, with calm conditions. I could tell the boys thought I was a little crazy as I scootered straight towards the wall and then up and over top of it right at the last minute. We hung out there for a few minutes, where I found a couple of slugs and pointed them out to Rob and Kevin (I think I found a trilineata or two, and a Eubranchus, among others).

When it was time to head back, we did, staying fairly shallow over the sand, since the viz was so good we could see the bottom from 20' above it. When we got to the end of middle reef, I scootered over the top of that too, since, again, it seemed like the day to do that. Last time I went up there, I found a seal hanging out up there and thought it would be a fun place to scooter along. So we headed in along that and eventually ducked down to the left on the east side of the reef, then headed in. We did a quick second dive to do some drills and such. I'll spare you the details, but I am happy to report that no one dropped any bottles this time :)

All of the day's pictures are here.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Adventure No. 12: The Jaguar Shark

Saturday was David's last day in town before being shipped off to the great white north, so we gathered at Lobos for a last day of diving. Rob and I decided to do a nice easy dive with Cynthia. I've been hearing the first reports of this season's leopard sharks, so I kind of wanted to hang out somewhere where we might see one. So we decided to do a little scootering over the sand, in search of leopard sharks (which we knew was a long shot). Rob suggested we head over to the caverns in Coal Chute Cove, which I have never been to before. So we decided to head over there, and then meander around the sand for a little while on the way in.

As soon as we got into the water (with the help of a very high tide), we were greeted with stellar viz. It was definitely the day to snorkel in the cove. We surface scooted most of the way out to Coal Chute, took a heading, and dropped in about 40'. We could see the bottom the whole way out. We headed to the east and stopped to poke around on some structures. Before you know it, we hit the first cavern. I posed for some glamour shots at the entrance, with Rob shooting out at me. I noticed a rock right at the entrance that was crawling with Cadlinas. After I finished posing, I headed in and looked around. There is a small entrance on the other side, which light was streaming through. The inside was crawling with various yellow and white dorids. The water was completely still -- this was definitely the perfect day to check out the caverns (which I have been told are only really doable when it is really calm). After hanging out and posing for a few pictures inside, I headed out and poked around the rocks outside. Then we continued on, and came upon the second cavern. I thought this one wasn't nearly as pretty -- I guess there wasn't as much light coming in from the other side and it seemed siltier. There was another entrance in this cavern too, but it was much smaller. I found a big trilineata on the first big rock inside the cavern, and then another small one on a smaller rock right at the entrance. We continued east from there, just slowly moving along. I saw a couple of Limacias, and perhaps the biggest giant green anemone I have ever seen. Must be a lot of bird poop, errr, nutrients, flowing into the water there.

When Cynthia reached her turn pressure, we headed back into Whaler's and scooted along in the sand. I was in third position, and at some point as I was about to scooter across a little rock trench, I noticed a leopard shark swimming along the trench! I was stunned for a moment (I couldn't believe I actually found one, after claiming that was the plan for the dive), and then excitedly signaled the others. I began to swim alongside it before collecting all of my dive buddies (that's a bad kitty, a very bad kitty), and I was amazed by how tolerant he was... I thought they would be skittish, especially with the scooter. But he didn't mind even when I scootered along. After a nice little swim with the shark, I figured I should find Rob (Cynthia was following me at that point), and let the shark go on without me. I returned to where I first lost Rob and found him signaling not too far ahead. I went to him and told him about the shark, and asked if he wanted to go look for it again. He agreed, and we all headed back to where I last saw him swimming off. We did a little searching around, and Rob found him pretty quickly. Then we hung out for a while, Rob taking pictures until the shark got restless, and then we'd all follow him to his next resting spot. Eventually I swam up right behind him and posed for some pics with him... as I watched his gills opening and closing, I realized the benefit of being a fish is that you don't have to time your exhalations for the camera. Eventually we let him scurry off, and we headed in. Just after he left, we ran into Matt, John, Kevin, and Delia heading in. We told them about the shark and Rob showed them a pic so they would know it was the good kind of shark ;) Shortly after that, we ascended in the sand channel and surface scooted in. 40-ish feet, 60-ish minutes

On the surface interval, we regaled everyone with tales of the caverns and the leopard shark. Most of the people agreed that it was way too nice not to do a second dive, so after a little tank swapping and trans filling so that everyone had enough gas, we decided to go on a second expedition to the caverns. After debating the merits of diving as one team of eight, we decided to split into primary teams (Rob, Cynthia, and I stuck together), but to all head out there together, since none of the other teams knew how to get there. We surface scooted even further out this time, so we dropped really close by. Before you know it, we were at the first cavern entrance. The surge had picked up a bit, and the viz had deteriorated inside. It was also much less peaceful with a bunch of people scootering in and out :) After a few minutes at the first one, we headed onto the second one. We poked our heads in there, and then just poked around outside for a while. When we headed in, Rob took us west and maybe even a little north, so we ended up hopping across middle reef and heading down the sand channel (despite our plans to do a straight out and back, based on burn time constraints on some people's scooters). As it turns out, Kevin and Don's scooters died in the sand channel, but at that point we had already split from them. Whoops. We scootered all the way back in to the float line. I was trying out a new set of tanks (borrowed from Ben), so I drained them the rest of the way for a weight check. I was definitely a bit heavy, but too lazy to take my 2 pound bullet weight off my waist belt. Instead I inflated my wing just enough to get neutral, and Rob inspected it. When we got to the surface, Rob was telling me he thought I was 3 or 4 pounds overweighted. John told him he should never say that to his wife :) 40-ish feet, 60-ish minutes

As an aside, I really love the tanks that I was using -- they are the old (2250 service pressure) LP72s. They are so tiny and light, I just feel so unencumbered in them both in and out of the water. I even demonstrated to Nils that I could do (very very small) jumping jacks in them, tee hee. The only problem is that my 2/3 v-weight that I custom cut for my 85s hangs out of the bottom, so I couldn't set them up on my table easily. I guess they will need a custom v-weight of their own. I put a 3 pound piece of surplus v weight on the top bolt, and even with that, they trimmed out well (and I will probably ditch that, given the weight check).

After the diving operations were complete, we headed to the Mucky Duck for some beer and pre-dinner munchies. They we hit Peppers (shhh... don't tell Oreo) in Pacific Grove for dinner. They we headed to Cynthia's for a little dessert wine and cat harassment. David even forced Troxy to briefly be a sweetheart and sit on my chest while I pet her. She is sooo soft! We'll miss you, Troxy and David :(

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Thumbs Up Project, Day 1

Saturday was the actual project day for the BAUE Thumbs Up project. I was diving with Matt, counting slugs along the pinnacle. Clinton was sick, which meant we were photographer-less :( We wanted to survey two different depths on our two dives. The original plan was to do a survey around the base of the pinnacle (about 100') on the first dive, and then to do a survey in the 60-70' range on dive 2. However, the lack of photographer caused us to change our plans at the last minute. Mark was shooting macro on the photography team, but he would be in the water with us on the first dive and not the second. So we decided to switch the plan around, since Mark and Rob (Mark's buddy) were planning a dive in the shallower range. So we figured if we were in the same vicinity as Mark, if we found something super cool, at least he could get a shot of it. Since I wasn't really diving with a photography team, this post is pretty devoid of pictures. But I liked this picture that Rob took of Matt and me counting slugs. All of the pictures from the project days are here. The page for the whole project (including our nudibranch data), is here.

With that in mind, we headed into the water, and agreed to head along the same path and eventually we'd just bump into each other (we were getting in the water first, but expected to move pretty slowly since we were counting slugs). On this dive, I was recording the count. We dropped on the bag that was tied off on the southwest side of the pinnacle, and basically followed the shallower of the two lines that had been laid the day before. We were actually a little deeper than the line, since we didn't want to get in the way of any teams surveying the line. It was super surgy, especially in the areas where we were near the top. But the visibility was probably the best on this dive of the 4 dives over two days that we had done. When we were near the north tip, Mark and Rob appeared and let us know they'd be around for any photo needs. As it turns out, we didn't really see anything super cool. Mostly the usual suspects -- no Dotos, as I had been hoping based on the previous day's siting (although it turns out that Rob and Mark found one). I guess the most interesting finds were a trilineata, Aegires, and an Adalaria jannae. They were all on the south east side, pretty close to where we finished up. We had planned to swim out for 30 minutes, and then decide whether to turn (and stop counting) or to finish the circuit, depending on the progress we had made. Our goal was a 40 minute bottom time. When we got to the 30 minute point, we were pretty close to the end of the circuit, plus we had just passed the anchor line. So we finished the circuit and then headed back to the anchor line (which was just north of the eastern tip of the horseshoe). Then we headed up for an uneventful ascent. 80 feet, 58 minutes, 52 degrees

Matt and I weren't diving again until the third dive, so we got dumped at the Lobos ramp and swam to shore to hang out during the long surface interval. We and the other teams who weren't diving on dive 2 hung out there and ate some lunch and snacks we had deposited beforehand. When the second dive was completed, the Escapade came back into the cove to offload some of those divers and pick us up. Everything was running way ahead of schedule by this point. We headed back out to the site and headed down for our second dive. This dive, we were surveying near the base of the pinnacle. Matt was recording the count. We descended along the bag on the south east side of the pinnacle (the eastern tip of the horseshoe), and decided to head south a bit from there, to the actual southern tip of the pinnacle. Once we got there, we turned around and headed back towards the north, staying on the east side of the pinnacle for the entire survey.

We surveyed along the bottom of the pinnacle and also in the rubbly area at the base. This dive was not nearly as sluggy as the first one, but we did see a couple of slugs that we hadn't seen on the first dive (Tritona and Limacia). When we were finished with the survey, I took over the lead, as we had agreed to beforehand, since I knew the location of all of the bags, etc. We ascended along the pinnacle and continued around it, counterclockwise. I headed back to where the bag had been on the west side, and found it had already been cleaned up. So then I headed back around to the east side bag, which had also been cleaned up. The anchor line (which had been close to the east side bag) was no longer anywhere to be found either. So finally I decided we were ascending a kelp stalk :) During our deco, we noticed the other teams all seemed to be following suit. It turns out the anchor had slipped, and we weren't clueless and lost, as I was worried :) 101 feet, 55 minutes, 51 degrees

Friday, October 24, 2008

Thumbs Up Project, Day 0

Last weekend, we participated in a BAUE project at Thumbs Up. The idea was to study the pinnacle in various ways (a la the Great Pinnacle project of 2007), including a survey, fish count, nudibranch count, and video and photographic documentation. The main project day was Saturday, but we also dove the site on Friday for some setup. The main goal for the day was to set the survey lines (at 60' and 80') for the survey team to use the next day. We also wanted to take GPS coordinates for the start and end of the survey lines (or more accurately, GPS coordinates for bags shot from the ends of the survey lines). I also wanted to scope out the site for spots to do nudibranch count on Saturday.

We got a nice late start at K-dock, and had an uneventful ride down to Lobos. It was really warm out, but was pretty comfortable once the boat got moving. Beto, Susan, and Karl were to set the 80' line on the first dive, and we were going to shoot bags from the ends of the line. Beto had an idea of where on the structure they wanted to start and end the line -- at a distinctive crack running east-west across the pinnacle not too far from the south end. Due to the dependence, we delayed our entry until about 10 minutes after then entered the water. Beto had given Jim coordinates for where to anchor, to the east of the pinnacle. Jim told us there was another pinnacle to the east of the anchor, so we should make sure we ended up at the right pinnacle. When we headed down the line, the viz was nice on the surface but terrible underneath. By the time we got to the bottom, it was maybe 15 or 20 feet, and very chunky and dark. It was also really surgy. All together, this made it sort of hard to make sense of the structure (as I expected it, based on the bathymetry maps). We scooted to the west once we got to the bottom, and quickly found the pinnacle. We headed north, to circle it counterclockwise. After we turned the corner to come back down the west side, I noticed another little wall structure to my right. I wasn't really sure if this was part of "Thumbs Up" or what -- after a little conference, we decided to backtrack and circle it. When we got to the south end, the reef seemed to just peter out pretty indistinctly. This wasn't really what I was expecting. And we definitely didn't see a crack.

Anyhoo, when we got back to the east side, I sort of gave the guys the "what the heck" sign, since I had seen no sign of a crack. Rob said he thought the pinnacle was the one to the east, so we decided to check that out. We circled it clockwise. At the north, we found a cool crack running north-south, and Rob and Kevin disappeared down it (since they have a very loose interpretation of the "leader" of the team). I was skeptical of the width of the crack, and had a feeling they'd be coming back -- a moment later they popped back out of the crack, apparently they had encountered an abrupt end to the crack and beginning to a wall. We continued on to the east side, and found a crack across the pinnacle near the south side. This is what we were expecting on Thumbs Up, but the depth didn't really match. In any case, there was some nice hydrocoral on the west side of the crack, so we spent most of the rest of the dive there, so Rob could get some pics. After a quick swing past the other pinnacle to look for line, we headed up the anchor line. When we hit the surface, Susan asked if we found their line. After a few minutes of feeling lame, they admitted that they hadn't set the line (I think because they weren't sure about which pinnacle was which either). Jim told us that our bubble trail was circling the proper site at the start of our dive -- we never should have doubted Jim's anchor placement :) 94 feet, 66 minutes, 50 degrees

This left us with more to do on dive 2 than we expected... well, actually it left the other team with more to do :) They decided they would go down and run line and shoot bags. Then we would take GPS numbers on the surface, clean up one bag, and put the hook on the bottom of the other (for our "semi-permanent" downline). Since there were three tasks, we each took one -- Rob would boogie board out to the bags and get GPS numbers, I would cleanup the bag, and Kevin would be hook boy. Sitting on the boat at anchor was making me feel pretty barfy, so I laid down on the bench and continued to feel barfier while we waited. The second bag finally came up, and I crawled into my gear and tried not to barf on Jim's feet while Rob led us through gear checks. We finally got into the water, and I felt somewhat better right away. I asked Kevin who was leading the dive, and then recalled a groggy memory of Rob leading us through gear checks, and figured it must be Rob :) We headed to the first bag, and deflated it somewhat, and followed it down. When we got to the bottom, Rob immediately headed to the palm kelp that the bag was tied to and started fiddling with it. After being chastised by me and Kevin, he stood down and moved out of my way. Always trying to steal my thunder... I reeled in the bag (trying to avoid motion sickness while watching the spool go round and round), and then Rob helped me roll up the bag and stow it.

Then we followed the line to the other end. It was pretty fun to zoom along the pinnacle on the line -- so easy to navigate and keep track of the team :) It was also fun to be in the back so I could watch Rob and Kevin pileup every time the line took an unexpected turn. When we got to the other end, Kevin connected the spool to the hook and found a crack to stick it in. Apparently Rob wasn't convinced it would hold, so he piled some boulders on top of it. Quite the backseat driver. After that, we headed back to the north side of the pinnacle, which was really heavily encrusted in pinkness -- Corynactis, sponge, hydrocoral, etc. I couldn't believe just how pink everything on the wall was. I pointed to the wall and then to my suit to Rob -- I matched quite well! While Rob took some pictures, I poked around looking for nudibranchs. I noticed a bunch of reddish Hermissendas right at the north side of the reef, and then I found a couple of trilineatas on a sponge. I pointed them out to Rob, and accidentally poked the sponge in the process; it was very squishy. We continued on down the east side, and Rob found a nice overhang with a bunch of macaroni-and-cheese sponge. I was trying to set myself up for a shot when Rob came over, waved me out of the way, and placed Kevin in the frame -- ouch! So I poked around some more and noticed something on the back of a hydroid that was seriously flapping in the surge... I waited for it to come back and thought it was a Doto. After quite a bit of frustration, I managed to show it to Rob, and he agreed. It was on one of those mustard-yellow colored fractal-y hydroids. Need to check what that is. I was pretty excited by this find, and hopeful that we would see more while counting nudis on Saturday. We then headed back to the upline and headed up. 87 feet, 63 minutes, 51 degrees

It turned out to be a much longer day than I think any of us were expecting. We got back to the dock with barely enough time to make it to Bamboo Reef and Aquarius for fills, but we managed to get there just in time (although we had to load balance to both shops :P). Then we headed over to the Travelodge, where we were all staying, and hit the new (to me, anyway) sushi restaurant there for dinner. I passed on the karaoke.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Oreo the Bunny Rabbit

I've always suspected Oreo was part bunny rabbit, and I finally have proof. Dive buddy and bunny connoisseur Kenn (who we will henceforth refer to as "Cold Water Bunny") recently provided me with these incriminating pictures of his bunnies, posing like an Oreo. Rodney (on the left) is doing his "wide eyed and filled with wonder" Oreo impersonation, while Blueberry (on the right) demonstrates the "snoozing Oreo" pose.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Taking the Fast Lane to Montana

On Sunday, we scootered to Montana with Kevin and Devin. I don't know if that makes Devin an honorary Kitty, or Kevin an honorary Beaver. Anyhoo, when I have gone to Montana in the past, we have taken the Granite Point route via Crossroads. But rumor has it you can get there faster by going from the end of Beto's Reef. Rob has gone that way before I think. So we decided we'd go out there that way, but come back in along the Granite Point side. Rob was leading with primary buddy Devin, and I was stuck with Kevin :)

The viz was surprisingly good in the shallows, at least from the top. We scootered out to about 30 feet along the sand channel, and dropped there. The viz wasn't quite as good underneath -- there was a lot of stuff in the water, including a lot of teeny shrimp or something. We headed out along the sand channel and then out towards Beto's Reef. Then we scootered along the left side of Beto's and when we got to the end, we headed out over the sand. Rob said it took about 6 minutes to get to Montana from the end of Beto's. After a few minutes, we hit the rocks with Metridium on them, which I was relieved to see, since I knew they were just a couple minutes from Montana. Not too long after that, I thought I could make out the shadow of Montana and before you know it, we were there. We headed clockwise and spent most of the time on the northwest side. There was a decent current, which was dragging us in the direction we wanted to go, and then we turned a current and ended up heading into it. Hmph. It was pretty dark and green, but the viz was not bad. I was looking around for Dotos, since we've seen a lot of them around lately, but no luck. I did however find a Festive Triton that was standing completely vertical in the water. Then I realized it was sniffing around about to pounce on a gorgonian right above it. It was pretty cool to watch it extend its radula as it moved in on the gorgonian. I have never seen the approach before, just seen them once they are already snacking on the gorgonian.

I signaled to Kevin and brought him over to watch it with me. We were pretty transfixed by it, and before you know it, we realized that Devin and Rob had moved on to the next rock. We figured we should probably stick with them and headed over there. There were a lot more fish over there, lots of blues and olives hanging in the water off the structure. We posed for a few pictures by the rock which has now come to be known as The Big Schlong (thank you, Kevin). Then it was about time to leave, so we got back on the trigger and continued around in the clockwise direction, and cut through between two of the peaks, and then headed out over the sand toward Crossroads. Before you know it, we hit Crossroads, which, as always, was bigger than I remembered it :) I could tell that Kevin and Devin wanted to do a little circle around Crossroads, and I know I did too, but Rob seemed to be on a mission to break some sort of speed record, so we did not. We got to Granite Point Wall and switch to our bottles, and then we moseyed around there for a few minutes. Then we headed back in toward Middle Reef. When we got there, we headed in along the east side, which was a nice departure from the usual. When we got to the end, where the reef comes up to about 18 feet, it was the perfect spot to hang out for our 20 foot stop. I was looking through the hydroids for slugs, but didn't find anything interesting. I think Rob was doing the same. Finally our 20 foot sentence was over, and we headed in. The viz was quite murky when we got into the cove, but somehow we managed to make it all the way back to the float without any separation. Bobby gets a gold star for his navigation. 156 feet, 87 minutes, 51 degrees

We finished up with lunch at Phil's Fish Market in Moss Landing. We encountered two friendly kitties at the little hut next door (which features a "Cat X-ing" sign and always seems to have some cute kitties hanging around).