It's about diving. And cats.

Me diving

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Counting Slugs

Photo by Clinton Bauder
On Sunday, Rob, Clinton and I counted nudibranchs for the BAUE nudibranch project. Last time we managed to do all of the transects in one dive, so we decided to try that again. Conditions looked like they had deteriorated further since Saturday, though. When we came over the hill and could see Monastery, Rob and I both said "woah!" at how sloshing it was there. We figured we'd see how it was and then possibly do a second, all-fun (not that counting slugs isn't fun :P) dive. We each planned to count the transects that we didn't count last time.

The swim out was a little choppy, and the kelp seems to be making a comeback, which made it even more annoying. There was also lots of really nasty foam on the surface (which Rob affectionately refers to as whale piss). We dropped in really bad viz not too far out along Middle Reef. The viz was so bad, that as we swam out along it, I really couldn't recognize many of the usual landmarks, until we got to the end (the first two transects) and we were suddenly just there. We each counted a transect, in parallel, which was pretty uneventful. I didn't see anything particularly interesting, but I did see a lot of slugs. The surge made it a little challenging, though for periods of time the surge would die down. After we were finished, we headed to the next transect, which Clinton was counting. I poked around on the ledges behind the transect, and saw just a couple of slugs. I also saw one Rostanga on the transect. As it turned out, Clinton saw very few slugs on that transect (which was a bit of a relief, since the last time we surveyed, I saw next to nothing on it and felt a bit lame). Rob was taking some pictures with Clinton's camera while Clinton counted, and I was basically swimming backwards and forwards in place, trying to stay warm enough to make it through another transect :) I did stick my head in the crack dividing the two walls of the transect, and saw a pretty big lingcod in there.

Photo by Robert Lee
Then we headed to the final, shallowest transect. We actually got a little lost on the way there. We were too shallow, but we hadn't pass it yet. It turned out we had accidentally hopped over to the reef to the left. Whoops. We hopped back over towards the sand channel and found the transect pretty quickly. I was counting this one. I saw a ton of slugs on it, despite getting knocked around in the surge. I didn't see anything too exciting, but there were a lot of Berthella's, which I haven't seen on the transects very much. Rob signaled me to show me something and I swam over and saw something small and orange, that looked like a piece of sea trash. I looked closer (trying to avoid having my head banged into the reef in the surge :P) and it was a Triopha maculata (that picture is of a cream colored one, but they come in a bright orange color too)! That's not something you see everyday :) I also ran into a huge sheephead hiding back under an overhead on the transect. I was sticking my head under there scanning for slugs, when all of a sudden I saw a big eye. It was a monster. I called Rob over to show him, and he was gesticulating about how big it was.

Photo by Robert Lee
When I was finished, we headed in and ascended at the edge of the cove. The water had actually calmed down on the surface, which was good. I was not looking forward to climbing up the low-tide ramp with waves sloshing across it. Even better, when we got to the ramp, Jonathan and Greg came down to take our stage bottles and give us a hand up onto the ramp. We all quickly agreed that it was definitely a one dive day, and headed to Turtle Bay for dive 2 with David, Cynthia, Ted, and Jonathan (after finding out that apparently all of the Thai places in Monterey are closed on Sunday). 99 minutes, 60 feet, 50 degrees

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Diving with Rob

On Saturday, Rob and I did a dive at Lobos. We realized afterwards that it's been a really long time since we have dived as a team of two, without other people. So I guess you could say it was a romantic stroll (err.. scoot) down the Road to Twin Peaks ;) One downside to diving as a team of two, is I have to actually drag all the gear down the ramp to stage on our float. I can't conveniently have to go to the bathroom while that is magically going on without me :) Despite diving as a team of two, it seemed like everyone was at Lobos on Saturday. There were some SoCal visitors (Nick, Maciek, "The Swede" and Jessica), some of whom Kevin was diving with, plus a lot of the usual crowd -- Don, Elissa, Kevin, David, Jonathan, Cynthia, Kenn. And I am sure I'm missing some people.

Anyhoo, we surface scooted out to near the worm patch and dropped. Only we weren't actually quite to the worm patch, and the vis was horribly horrible in the 20 foot range. We actually got briefly separated about 10 feet before the worm patch, when we had to go single file between some rocks. Once we met back up, I planted myself right next to Rob, so he could see me out of the corner of his eye for the rest of the dive :) There was a ton of particulate in the water as we headed down the sand channel. I saw a little school of perch off to the left along the sand channel. Through the haze, I eventually made out the wall before Hole in the Wall. Rob circled the hole with his light and we headed out towards Lone Metridium. When we got there, Rob circled the metridium with his light, and then we headed out over the sand towards the Sisters. At some point over the sand, we saw a group of four canary rockfish. As it turns out, we were never to find the Sisters :) As we got deeper, and it because evident that we had missed them, I was pretty sure we were too far east. We veered a little more west, and before you know it, we hit the Road.

It was really dark, and the viz was bad enough that it was hard to figure out where we were in the grand scheme of things. We followed the rock-sand interface, but I just didn't have a feeling for where we were with respect to various landmarks along the road. We eventually found a spot to hang out at, in maybe 125 feet of water. Then we started looking around. It's unfortunate that Rob was shooting wide-angle, because it was definitely a day to shoot macro, given the conditions. I poked around while Rob took some pictures. I saw a few notable things. First, I saw a Hopkins rose, which while not totally unusual, I hadn't seen in a while (and I'm not sure I've ever seen one at Lobos). Then I found some white nudibranchs mating, which I at first thought were Berthellas, based on their color and spots, but then I noticed their weren't. I'm still not sure what they are, but if I had to guess, I would say Cadlina modesta or Cadlina sparsa. I am not sure how one is supposed to distinguish between the two (but Clinton says it is hard, so it's probably beyond my capabilities ;) ). Next I found a Cadlina limbaughorum, which I was quite excited to see since I have never seen one before. I didn't really know of its existence until a few weeks ago, though, so I didn't know if they were unusual or not. More on that later. Just as we were about to head out, Rob showed me something with his light. At first I thought he was pointing out a cute little fish in a crack, but then I realized there was a simnia snail on a gorgonian.

When we headed in, we managed to miss the Sisters again, and instead we basically just crossed the sand until we got to the Lone Metridium-ish area. The trip in from there was uneventful. The vis and surge were terrible in the sand channel. We got to the worm patch, and Rob kept going. I started to signal him, to suggest that maybe this would be a good place to ascend, and then he turned around, realizing how terrible the viz was getting, and we headed back to the worm patch and ascended there. Then we surface scooted back to our float. As we were about to start clipping stuff off, a steady stream of people appeared on the ramp to take our gear piece by piece. Very convenient :) Then someone gave me a hand up (I don't think the SoCal guys thought I could make it up on my own ;) ), which was nice, since climbing up that ramp with numb feet is always a challenge :) The ramp has grown quite a layer of green fur. 139 feet, 92 minutes, 48 degrees

Everyone but David and Jonathan were already out of the water. Pretty soon after, Jonathan and David returned, but with one fewer stage bottle than they set out with :( Apparently a stage bottle got "dropped" (well, floated away) out by Hole in the Wall. I guess they did their deco along a kelp stalk out there and looked for it briefly, but could not find it. We searched for it from the cliff with binoculars, but couldn't see it. Jonathan wanted to go back out and search on the surface with his scooter. So, we ended up with a scooter team on the surface, and a bunch of us on the cliff giving direction. Rob ended up finding the bottle from the cliff, and we directed Jonathan to the bottle. Rob said he could see Jonathan hugging it through the binoculars when he found it ;) After that, we headed to Black Bear for some lunch.

On Sunday, I told Clinton about the Cadlina limbaughorum that we saw. He was quite excited. Apparently they are typically found in SoCal (and pretty common down there), but were not originally thought to be around here. He has seen one once up here, and didn't have his camera at the time. Rob managed to scrounge up a fuzzy image of the one we saw, by zooming way in on a W/A picture that he took. Just for proof that we really saw it :)

Friday, March 28, 2008


On Friday, Kevin, Susan, Rob, and I went diving off of Phil's boat. We had originally been planning to go to E3, but Susan had been diving in the E3-ish area the previous day, and reported terrible viz (and that it was night dive dark at depth). So we decided to try heading south to get some cleaner water. We talked about the various sites down by Yankee Point and decided to try for Flintstones. Phil's talk about the topside conditions worried me, but the ride down turned out to be fine once we got south of Lobos. The weather topside was really nice. It was a great day to be out on the water.

When we got down near Flintstones, Phil motored around finding the deep and shallow spots. He dropped the anchor in about 100 feet, and pointed us in the direction of the side that drops down to 160 or 170 feet (Rob and Kevin were very concerned about making use of their 18/45). We got in, and swam like hell against the current to get down to the structure. The water was very green and yucky on the way down. Eventually we broke through to clearer water, but there was still a lot of particulate. When we got down to the structure, we were on top of a plateau next to the main pinnacle, in about 100 or 110 feet. We were still basically on top of the structure, though, so we had no protection from the current. We fought our way to the edge, and then dropped down into a little channel between two walls, where we finally got some relief from the current. It was about 150 feet to the bottom of this channel. We swam down it (Kevin was leading), and found a boulder at the end of the channel. We came around a corner, and eventually made our way to another, even narrower channel with the bottom at around 170 feet. It was narrow enough that two divers swimming abreast was cozy in spots. The walls were covered with corynactis and the other usual fare. We eventually started to work our way up the reef, and we ascended the walls of the channel and up over the structure. Then we hopped along some of the smaller structures off to the side of the main pinnacle. The visibility was probably around 40 feet at the bottom, but it was really dark, due to all the junk in the water column.

So, we eventually worked our way up the reef. We found a lone metridium that was open and posing for a picture. I tried to orchestrate a team picture, but Kevin just doesn't get it when it comes to team pictures. I guess he just wants all of the camera's attention to himself :) I have to say that things got a lot more colorful from about 120 feet up. However, the topography was more interesting deeper. The only critter that I saw that I thought was particularly cool was a simnia snail. Other than that, it was just a colorful dive (as it always is at Flintstones). Eventually, it was time to go, and we left the reef at about 100'. As soon as we left it, the current was moving us along pretty quickly. When we were at 70', I looked up and saw reef again. We were sailing past the shallow part of the main pinnacle.

The rest of the ascent was pretty uneventful, but we were joined by a menagerie of gelatinous animals. First, I saw two separate little salp chains (both quite small, not very impressive looking). Then at about 30 feet, I saw a moon jelly. At 20 feet, we saw a really cool jelly below us, that was all sprawled out as if it were playing dead. When I shined my light on it, it popped to life and started swimming fast towards us, and it looked much more compact while swimming, like it had pulled its tentacles in. I don't know for sure what this is, but I suspect it to be Aglantha digitale, although depending where you read, it is possibly out of range for us. So I don't really know. At 10 feet (and maybe 20 too), we saw a Pleurobrachia bachei, giving us a nice light show. There was also a solitary sea nettle swimming by. Oh, and at the bottom, I saw a Solmissus sp. I think. 168 feet, 66 minutes, 48 degrees

When we got to the surface, it was calmer than when we got in. It was amazingly calm, in fact. Phil told us that he saw a group of six whales swim by while we were in the water. Then, on the way in, we saw whales pretty far off. We headed in their direction and watched them for a bit. At one point, we were lined up for a perfect head-on view of a fluke, and also a head-on view of their bodies as they breached. There were at least three, I think.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Kitty Eats String

This is Nitrox (I call her Troxy). She belongs to David, a frequent character on Cold Water Kitty (and a big dive dork, as you can see from his cat's name). About a month ago, Nitrox ate a 3 to 4 foot long piece of string. She had to have surgery to remove the string :( Luckily she did not require too serious of a surgery (no cutting into the digestive tract required).

Nitrox has since made a full recovery. She's out of her lampshade. I'm not sure if her fur has completely grown back in. But luckily she's got plenty of fur, so hopefully that will cover up her scars. Isn't she a cute little furball!?! She is a Norwegian Forest Cat (aka Skog cat). Apparently skog cats have waterproof fur (I'm not sure if David has tested that theory though). That means she will make the purrrfect diving companion for David :P

By the way, here's more info on what to do if your cat eats string. It includes a very cute graphic of a cat with string hanging out of its butt.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

"Night Dive" at Beto's Reef

Sunday we went on a scooter dive with David. We decided to do a long dive at Beto's Reef. We got a slightly late start (had to take the in-laws to the airport), but once we got down there, we geared up pretty quickly, staged our gear, and headed out. We had a minor scooter glitch (the battery got knocked out while they were bobbing on the float, so Rob took the scooter back out of the water and fixed it) before we got going. We scooted out on the surface until just about the worm patch, and descended there. I was leading, with David (with his headlights blazing) second, and Rob in the back. The water was pretty green and milky in the sand channel. As we scootered down the sand channel, I could barely see the reef on the left hand side.

We got to Hole in the Wall and after a slight pause, we headed north towards Beto's Reef. Out here, the vis opened up a little bit, but it was still really green. We came up on the right side of Sea Mount, and right around there, we became engulfed in a swarm of krill. I could barely see anything because of my light reflecting off of all of them. After a minute, I adjusted to it, and we kept going. And then it got really dark. I was thinking that I might not be able to find Beto's Reef in these conditions, since I often come up on it from the side and see it off to the side. Then before I knew it, I noticed that there was reef below me. I figured it had to be Beto's, so I continued along it and found the first dropoff, so I was convinced it was. I asked Rob if he thought it was Beto's and he agreed. I dropped us down to the west side of the reef, and we scooted along the side. It was a pretty interesting ride -- when the reef jutted out in areas, I couldn't really see until we were right there. We got to the end, and then parked there for a while. At this point it was as dark as a night dive. The visibility was probably around 20 feet, but it was just dark.

Rob took some pictures (it's a good thing he was shooting macro) and David was videoing. David's lights really lit things up, as long as you don't look directly at them :) I was just doodling around. I found a variety of cute little sculpins, plus many of the usual nudibranchs. There were lots of Festive Tritons. Rob was taking pictures of one for a while. I went over to see what it was and noticed a nice-sized Tritonia. What I didn't see, however, was when it started munching on a gorgonian. But Rob got some nice shots of it. We periodically kicked our way shallower on the reef. We saw several different types of rockfish hanging out in the various cracks -- canary, vermilion, coppers, olives and of course the little blues hanging off the reef. As I was scanning the reef, I saw something orange hanging out of a hole. I looked closer and it was a tiny octopus, like the little guys you see at the Breakwater at night. I have never seen an octopus at Lobos before (except the one that Clinton and Rob rescued from a sea gull on the Lobos ramp a few weeks ago :P). I was super excited, and sure I wouldn't be able to find it again when Rob came over, but luckily I did. I also found one Spanish shawl, a nice sized one for Beto's reef, and a pile of three Geitodoris heathi with an egg mass nearby. There was one white one and two yellow ones. I thought it was pretty neat to see the two different colors together. I called Rob over to show him, but he didn't take pictures. I guess he wasn't as intrigued by the inter-racial slug lovefest as I was.

I was ridiculously cold, so I ended up calling the dive a few minutes early. When I gave Rob the signal, he made a face and questioned it. Back to his old antics I see. Anyway, he was to be deco captain, so I told him he could take us in. He scooted us along the reef, which was as interesting as the scoot out. As soon as we got a bit beyond the reef on the way in, there was actually light again. In about 70 feet, it was green but bright. It was once again safe to look in David's direction without being blinded :) However, the water was quite milky and it only got worse as we got further in. It was hard to distinguish one ridge from the other in the Hole in the Wall to Lone Metridium area. We knew we were around there, but we didn't really know we had gotten to Hole in the Wall until we were actually there. Then we hit the sand channel and headed in. It was quite challenging to keep Rob and David both in view, because our scooter speeds were not very well matched. By the time we got to about 25 feet, the visibility was probably something like 8 feet. Oddly, once we got a bit past the worm patch and into the cove, the visibility seemed to open up a bit. But maybe it was just brighter and less green -- still very milky. We were hanging in 20 feet, with the bottom about 26 to 28 feet, and I couldn't clearly see the kelp laying on the bottom. We surfaced right around the edge of the cove and surface scootered in. I was very happy to see it was high tide :) 130 feet max, 87 minutes, 48 degrees

After we cleaned up, we headed to Cynthia's for a tasty Easter meal. Thanks Cynthia!

All of Rob's pictures are here. I am sure a video is forthcoming from David.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Whale Watching on the Way to G3

Kevin, Rob, Susan, and I went diving on Phil's boat today. After getting a slightly late start, we headed out from the Lobos ramp. Rob made a beeline for the console, since he wanted to pilot the boat off the ramp :) Other than a tense moment where I was sure he was going to ram the boat into the rocks (and Phil, as he waited to be picked up), that went alright. When we were about halfway to the edge of the cove, we saw a grey whale like 20 feet from the boat! We were all pretty shocked; there were expletives flying. We stopped and watched and saw him again a couple minutes later even shallower in the cove. We ended up spending around 45 minutes just drifting around in the cove, watching the whale. At one point he passed behind the boat and broke the surface about 5 feet behind us. I have never seen a whale that close up before. It was just zipping back and forth around the cove the whole time. Probably trying to figure out how to get out :) Phil said he thought it was about a 25 footer. Neat.

We finally headed out after it became clear that the viz in the cove (and the possibility of a hefty fine for marine mammal harassment) would preclude snorkeling with the whale. The viz in the cove seemed to vary from... can't see my outstretched hand to can see just beyond my fin tips. We were hoping for something a bit better out where we were headed. We headed out towards E3. The ride was rather sporty. Basically as soon as we got out to the Cannery Point Pinnacles things got big. It was a very wet ride; I was thinking it would be a good idea to put my mask on :) When we finally got out around there and Phil starting looking at the depth finder, he mentioned some structure south of E3 that came up shallower and bottomed out around the 150-ish range. So we said we'd give it a try. After a little motoring around, Rob dropped the hook (after a somewhat humorous false start). We got into our gear and just when I didn't think I could take anymore bobbing around on the surface without vomiting, we splashed. We headed down the line and my ears magically didn't bother me at all (which I suspect had to do with me pausing at about 6 feet and 20 feet on the way down). So we dropped pretty speedily after that. The water seemed sort of milky in the shallows but it opened up nicely by the time we got to the bottom.

We came to a structure topping out in about 100 to 110 feet of water, with the sand at maybe 120 to 130 feet. It was a pretty small structure, long and not too tall. Off to the right (east), barely even detached from it was a larger structure that topped off in probably 80 to 90 feet. We swam over to that and were swimming along the north side of that and a bigger structure appeared to the north across the sand. Kevin and Susan headed over in that direction, and we followed when Rob was finished taking some pictures. This is when I first noticed how incredible the visibility was. I was thinking that Kevin and Susan were getting a bit away from us, but I could see way beyond them. I would estimate the viz at 80 feet. It was also surprisingly bright down there, considering the milky water on top and that it was pretty overcast on the surface. It just seemed like I could see everything everywhere without even shining my light. It was also around this time that Susan pointed out that it was freezing (not that she needed to point that out :P) and that according to her computer, it was 44 degrees. Yowza! Anyhoo, this new structure was much bigger. It had a lot of elephant ear sponges, but they weren't very big ones. I also noticed some reasonably-sized clown nudibranchs as we swam towards it. We swam west along this structure. There was sort of a rubble field at the base of it which eventually gave way to sand. This left many nooks for fish to hide in. Rob pointed out a treefish in hiding out in one. Rob signaled a spot on a rock to me, and I looked at it. He was shining his light on a clown nudibranch, so I circled it and he continued on. I couldn't figure out why he was pointing that out to me, but it turns out there was a Dendronotus albus (apparently pretty big) right next to it. Oops. I also found a little Festive Triton nearby on the same rock.

We swam around the pinnacle clockwise. When we got to the west-ish side, there was another structure in sight across the sand (more on that later; let's refer to it as structure X). On this side of the pinnacle we were on, there were lots of neat crevices in the reef to stick your head and light into. I think I saw a Geitodoris heathi, but I think I need to discuss that with Clinton, since my white-nudibranch-identification skills are questionable. I was showing Rob a Berthella that was all curled up in a crack when Susan came over and told us to come look at something. She told me to cover my light and pointed up into a crack -- there was a yelloweye rockfish (which as far as I know, I have never seen before, or at least never identified :P). Further along we came to some nice big elephant ears. I also spied a really light colored Peltodoris which was so light I at first thought it was white. But it was actually a really light shade of yellow. As we came around to the north side of the pinnacle , I realized that this was the good side. The other sides had in hindsight been relatively barren of encrustation. This side had tons of strawberry anemones and sponges of various colors covering the reef. I noticed bunch of sponges that were bright red-orange and very bumpy that I haven't noticed before. There was also a pretty sheer wall on this side, from about 70-ish feet to 130-ish feet. From about 120 feet, I looked up and saw some palm kelp flapping around at the top. There was also a column of rockfish, blues and olives, hanging out by the wall.

It was time to head up, so we followed the reef up for our deep stops and did our switch still along the reef. We actually ended up staying on the reef until the 60' stop, so the reef topped out somewhere between 50' and 60'. Watching the palm kelp swaying at the 60' stop was making me a bit queasy. But once we left the structure it was fine. The ascent was freezing but otherwise uneventful. Susan was running deco. When we got to 15', she suggested doing part of our 10' stop there so we didn't get seasick. When we got to the 10' stop, I was very glad she suggested it :) It was still pretty sporty on the surface. But happily it was a quicker ride in than out, thanks to the direction of the wind. Phil dumped me off at the ramp because I was whining about having to pee (that extra 45 minutes in the cove at the beginning pushed me over the edge), and I was too much of a wimp to scramble up the rocks like Phil does. So that meant I got to miss the fun of trying to get the boat on the trailer without Phil in the boat. Let's just say that Susan had to school Kevin in the ways of driving the boat :) 142 feet max, 64 minutes, 46 degrees

So, after we got back, we checked out the bathymetry data, to figure out exactly where we were. We are convinced that the pinnacle we spent most of the time on is G3 (aka Garden of Gorgeous Gorgonians, but I have to say I wouldn't describe it that way -- there were gorgonians but nothing out of the ordinary). I think the structure (X) that appeared to our left at one point was probably the end of F3. It is, however, possible that it was E3. Kevin thinks that the first structure we dropped on was F3 (which would mean X would have to be E3), but I am not convinced. The sand was not as deep as the sand around F3 on the bathymetry, so I am thinking it was actually H3 that we initially dropped on.

All of the day's pictures are here.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Cold Water Kitty Gets a Logo

You may have noticed the stylish new logo on the upper right corner of this site. Thanks to Don Chennavasin and his brother Tipatat for hooking me up with the logo. It actually all started with a Photoshop'd image that Rob created (below). You will notice that Oreo's body bares a striking resemblance to Chris Cali :) Then Don took that and did some magic, to produce a super cute kitty cat on a scooter cartoon. Tipatat did some final touches, and tried to make the kitty look cuter and girlier.

Ted says it's a totally unrealistic image, because with a head that big, that kitty would have terrible trim!

Thanks Don, Tipatat, and Rob!

Saturday, March 8, 2008

K2 (Mount Chamberlin)

Photo by Robert Lee
On Saturday, we were on the BAUE tech boat aboard the Escapade. I dove with Rob and Clinton. The conditions were quite cooperative -- it was a very smooth ride down, and a nice sunny clear day. The view from the boat was quite scenic -- I love looking back at the cypress trees after turning Cypress Point. We went down to a site near Yankee Point called Mount Chamberlin, to a pinnacle called K2 specifically. I guess Mount Chamberlin is a big area so it is more like several sites. By the time we got down there, it was a little windy. Jim anchored the boat, and we all hopped in pretty quickly. I have come to prefer flopping into the water with the bottle already clipped to me, even though I resisted it in T1 (although I would probably change my tune if I were diving big boy tanks like Clinton). The swim to the line was a bit of a chore with the current.

Photo by Robert Lee
We headed down the line, which I did way too fast for my ears in my zeal to get down to the pinnacle and out of the current. As soon as I could see the pinnacle, I saw patches of white that were elephant ear sponges. We hit the pinnacle around 100 feet, and then followed it down to the 130-ish range. The vis at the bottom was quite good (at lunch, we debated whether it was 50 feet of 60 feet, but you get the idea). There were tons of elephant ears all over the place, of all sizes. There were also lots of gorgonians, including some patches where they were very concentrated. I also noticed tons of grey puffball sponges -- usually I see one here and one there, but they seemed to be all over the place. We were on the east side of the pinnacle, heading northwest-ish. There was another little structure to the right, with a little sand channel between it. We swam down that channel. We were moving pretty slowly, since Rob and Clinton were each stopping to take pictures. We saw the other team shortly after we first got down there, but they pretty quickly left us in their dust (much to Rob's and Clinton's disappointment, since they wanted Dionna as a model -- apparently Pinky is just too ugly for them).

Photo by Clinton Bauder
Somewhere along this little channel, Rob signaled me and asked me to pose behind an elephant ear on that little reef to the right. Of course he wanted to pose me with the current, so every time he paused to ponder the shot or move his strobes, I had to back kick like mad to keep myself in position :) After that, we continued along, and noticed a wolf eel poking his head out of the main structure. It was as if his head was just floating in a hole -- he wasn't really back in a crack or anything. I signaled Rob and showed him, and then I signaled Clinton. Clinton swam over, but instead of taking the eel's picture, he started taking pictures of Rob taking the eel's picture :) Nearby, there was a nearly vertical crack with a bunch of gopher rockfish lined up in it; there was also a treefish hanging out nearby. (Aside from the blue rockfish hanging out in the water column off the pinnacle, these were nearly the only fish I saw down there.)

Photo by Robert Lee
We continued along, with Rob and Clinton occasionally telling me where to pose for a picture. At some point, after Clinton finished taking pictures of me with a big patch of elephant ears, Rob told me to pose on the other side of the same elephant ears :) Right at the end where we were about to turn, we came upon a nice stalk of pink hydrocoral, which Rob and Clinton took a few pics of. Up until this point, all of the hydrocoral I had seen was the more flat sheet type that is magenta (which I do not like as much as the pink and the bluer-purple kind). While they were doing that, I noticed two very pretty Hermissendas. They were the kind with all orange/red cerata without the grey. On the swim back, I noticed a few other slugs, including a Dendronotus albus and a Triopha catalinae (which isn't that interesting, except that it was the first one I had seen).

Photo by Robert Lee
When it was time to head up, we meandered up the peak as we did our deep stops. At one of the stops, we found a nice stalk of the bluer purple hydrocoral. We reached the top of the pinnacle at 80 feet, and I shot the bag before we left the pinnacle. Once we got above the pinnacle, the current picked up. I was getting dragged along by the bag; Clinton said it looked like I was flying a kite :) I just happened to be facing into the current, so my arm was getting pulled back and I was being dragged along. I reoriented myself so that it was a bit better. The ascent was uneventful (and cold :P). When we got to the surface, the boat was not too far off, picking up the other team. The wind had picked up, and the waves were a bit bigger. When we were waiting to be picked up, as we rode up and down the waves, I was feeling pretty tiny. When the boat came over to get us, I had to push Rob out of the way to assert my feminine right to go first (actually I think he quite conveniently started bumblef---ing with his fins and let go of the line and got blown behind me so I could go first :P).

The ride back seemed so much longer than the ride down, but I think that was just because we were all depressed that we didn't get to do a second dive :( After we finally got back, we packed up our gear and headed to Turtle Bay. On the walk over, we passed Harry Wong, whose Tech 1 team had the Escapade for the afternoon, to do their experience dive. Rumor has it they have officially passed Tech 1; congrats guys!

All of the days pictures are available here.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

The Right Side of Lobos

Photo by Ben Villao
On Sunday, we did a scooter dive with David and Kevin. We decided to go to the "right side" instead of the left, like we usually do. So we planned to go over to the the Granite Point Pinnacles area, towards Thumbs Up. I was not entirely convinced that we would make it to Thumbs Up in the 20 minutes of trigger time that we allowed, but figured it would be cool to check out the area out in that direction in any case. Kevin and I were team 1, and Rob and David were team 2. Kevin was leading. Both Rob and David left their cameras behind. It was kind of strange to be on a dive where no one was shooting at all.

Photo by Ben Villao
We staged our copious quantities of gear on our float, which we quickly realized could not support the weight of 4 people's bottles and scooters (well, 3 people's scooters -- Kevin is vehemently opposed to staging his scooter, and he gets very touchy about it if you try to :P). Clinton and Mike had put out a float (for their cameras I guess), and since they and Melissa had already headed out, we decided to borrow a little float real estate from them (shhh don't tell). Then we schlepped ourselves in through the low tide and headed out. The visibility definitely was not what it was on Saturday :( On the other hand, the surface was much less choppy than it had been on Saturday afternoon, so that was good. We scootered out on the surface to just past the worm patch, and dropped there. We headed out along the sand channel, and then over to Granite Point Wall. From there, we followed the reef for a while, and then skittered from reef to reef in a north-northeast direction. We passed some familiar landmarks on the way out, including one pinnacle that David, Rob and I had spent an entire dive on before, which had a memorable big elephant ear on one side, and a small rock with a Metridium family about 20 feet away. Not far from there, I scootered right up to a small jellyfish that was cup-shaped with 4 reddish tentacles going straight down. I stopped to look at it, and Rob and David (who were behind me) looped back to look at it. Unfortunately, Kevin did not get the memo, so I had to leave it behind. I need to figure out what it is. David says we saw something like that the last time we were out there, which seems vaguely familiar.

Photo by Mike Jimenez
After crossing some more sand and reefs, we eventually came to a big impressive wall and decided to clip off there and swim around. By this point, I was already really cold, so it was good to get off the trigger and swim around. I didn't really know if this was Thumbs Up or not, but whatever. When we first got there, the bottom was probably in about 120 feet, and it must have risen at least 40 feet above us. On a better visibility day, looking up the face of the wall would be a spectacular view. The wall was not nearly as covered in life as other sites, which is sort of surprising since other areas on the Granite Point side are incredibly colorful. But there were cool critters to be found. Kevin pointed out a Cadlina flavomaculata, and then I showed him a teeny tiny Festive Triton nearby. I also found a few small Spanish shawls. We eventually meandered over to some boulders on the sand a little bit off the wall. Kevin signaled me and pointed out a nudibranch. As I was swimming over, I saw some sort of yellow dorid and was thinking he was pointing out something really boring. Then I realized it was not boring at all! It was a Doriopsilla spaldingi, which I have never seen before. I signaled Rob and told him to come over to look at something, and he signaled me to come to him to look at something, and I was like no, you come here, but he wouldn't budge. I figured my cool thing probably wasn't going anywhere, so I swam over and he pointed to a gorgonian. I swam up close and looked where he was pointing, and there was a simnia snail (another critter which I have never seen before!). Then I took him back over to the nudi and showed it to him.

Photo by Mike Jimenez
I was getting colder and colder, and kept jamming on my drysuit inflator to add more Argon. Then at some point I started to suspect nothing was going in... I wasn't sure though, since I was already pretty puffed up, so I thought maybe I just couldn't feel the addition of a small amount of gas. I reached back to my valve and turned it, and it felt a little loose, but not like empty tank loose, so that was inconclusive. By this point we were at the deepest point of the dive (130 to 140), though, so I figured it didn't really matter. Not long after that, we headed in. We passed Crossroads, which I guess is a waypoint on the trip to Montana (so David and Kevin recognized it), and eventually passed our elephant ear pinnacle again too. Somewhere between the two, Kevin circled a rock as we were coming up to it, and I saw a nice big Dirona albolineata. We all stopped to check it out. I've only seen one once before, and it was not as big as this one. It was flapping in the breeze. At some point on the way in, Kevin did a barrel roll, and I decided it would be a good spot for me to work on my scooter acrobatics... we were probably 15 or so feet off the sand, and there weren't any structures near enough for me to accidentally run into :) So I gave it a try and managed to successfully barrel roll. That was fun, so I did another one. Kevin saw them both, but apparently Rob was oblivious (I don't think he believed I actually managed to pull it off, with a bottle and everything). Soon enough, we were back at Granite Point Wall, and we switched to our deco bottles. There was a decent amount of surge out there as we did it. Then Rob took the lead, since he was running deco. We crossed the sand and hit Middle Reef right where we usually do. We followed the reef briefly, but then after some run-ins with kelp, we ended up back over the sand channel. Eventually we got to the worm patch just in time for our 20 foot stop. David and I each shot a bag, since we both wanted to practice that. I thought it would be completely impossible to do since I was so cold, but I had actually warmed up a bit -- I guess going from 130 feet to 20 feet, that 12 mm hood gets a lot warmer! We finished off our stops there, and when I got to the surface, I was delighted to see that my bag was fully inflated. Apparently David had a flaccid bag, but I didn't get to see it before he added air to it on the surface to deceive me :) We rolled those up and scooted back to the ramp. 137 feet (max), 84 minutes, 48 degrees

Photo by Ben Villao
The tide was even lower when we got there. We were about to start clipping stuff off on the floats when Ben appeared and told us to just hand stuff up to him. He took all of our gear piece by piece, and then helped us each out one at a time. Thanks a lot, Ben. I managed to avoid crawling out (on my bruised knees from Saturday) by finding a little nook to stand in while I took my fins off and then stepping up to the ramp. Unfortunately I bruised my foot by getting knocked around in the nook. Woe is me.

After we packed everything up, we went to RG Burger, which we haven't been to in quite a while. They managed to remind us why we stopped going -- they are chronically understaffed and somehow it takes 2 hours to get a burger and a milkshake. Not that I mind wasting time at a restaurant with friends after diving, but we were hungry and thirsty!

After reviewing the bathymetry maps, I think we were somewhere along the ridge that Thumbs Up is atop. David put a report up on his site, which has a nice map of the path we think we took. Check it out here.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Slug Hunting at Lobos

Photo by Clinton Bauder
At long last, we finally managed to count nudibranchs on Saturday. We had been scheduled to do it last Sunday, but then we got blown out. So we decided to do it this weekend instead, and Clinton joined us. We wanted to do one fun dive further out, just for general slug-looking, and then on the second dive, we would count all 4 transects. For dive 1, we decided to go out to Beto's, since I always like looking for slugs out there. Since we were planning two fairly long dives, we all brought stages (Rob and I brought them on dive 1, and Clinton on dive 2). I haven't done one of those long surface kick dives in ages (a "death swim" as some would call them), and doing it with a stage was especially painful :) I was leading, so when I got us to about 35' (we could see the bottom, by the way), I decreed that we would drop there. I could tell they were both rolling their eyes on the inside.

Photo by Clinton Bauder
We swam down the sand channel, and then from Hole in the Wall, I took a 340-ish degree heading. Rob kept telling me I needed to go more north, and I kept slipping off course again. Eventually we hit the first sister, whoops. I actually like to err on the west side of Beto's and come up on the left side of it. This has the nice side effect that if you miss, you end up at the sisters :) Or at least, that's my excuse for getting us lost. We decided to just hang there (since we had been swimming for a while at this point). When we first got there, I noticed some lingcod eggs in a crack between two rocks, and there was a ling cod sitting on one of the rocks. Later on I eventually found a second bunch of eggs in a crack on the other end of that rock. The ling seemed to be alternating between which nest he protected.

Photo by Robert Lee
Rob and Clinton got to work taking pictures, and I was meandering around looking for cool stuff. There were lots of clown nudibranchs, including some really tiny ones. There were lots of cute little fish, sculpins, kelpfish, and the like. I pointed out a small red rockfish to Clinton (which apparently was a rosy rockfish). Rob found a nice little Dendronotus albus on a piece of kelp that was flapping in the breeze. He kept waiting for it to flap back in his direction so he could get a picture. A little while later, I noticed a bigger on sitting on top of the reef, in a much more photogenic location. I pointed it out to Clinton and moved along. Not long after that, we headed back in. We hit one of the ridges parallel to Hole in the Wall, and we were looking around at the stuff on it, when Clinton started poking at something in a bryozoan. Then whatever he was poking at fell off and was in his hand. He laid it on a rock, and showed it to us. It was apparently some sort of nudibranch; it looked like one of the ones that has a partial shell. It was definitely something I'd never seen before. It turns out it wasn't actually a nudi, but a snail -- Marsenina stearnsi. While we were hanging out there while Rob and Clinton took pictures of it, I found a bunch of Limacia's. Then I noticed Clinton taking a picture of something but he was really far away from anything. I swam over to see what was going on, and there were two painted greenlings doing some very odd mating dance. They looked like they were having seizures, and bumping heads while they vibrated. There was a sculpin curled up on the rock next to them, watching. After that, we headed in. In the sand channel in the way in, I could feel the tide going out, and there was tons of junk in the water being dragged out with it. I was dreading the condition of the ramp when we got out. The tide was very low, but the water was calm enough that getting out was not too bad. 111 feet (max), 92 minutes, 51 degrees

Photo by Clinton Bauder
We hung around on the surface for a while, and then we headed back in. The water was a bit choppier on the surface, and the swim out was not too fun. The plan was to survey all four transects. Two of them are right next to each other, so two of us could survey while the third hung out between and kept an eye on the others. Clinton and I were counting, and Rob was watching (and holding Clinton's camera, snicker). Rob left his camera behind (I told them to thumb wrestle over who got to bring their camera, and I guess Clinton won). We dropped a little earlier than usual because the surface conditions were so unpleasant. We dropped on the east side of middle reef, so it took a moment for us to get our bearings and head out. We got to the two far transects, and got right to counting. We had decided to start counting all nudibranchs, not just the ones on the list. I was glad, since there are almost always some that I see that aren't on the list, and I'm bitter that I don't get to count them. Of course, now that we had this new rule, I saw exactly zero that weren't on the list :) I didn't see anything wildly exciting.

Photo by Clinton Bauder
After we finished those first two transects, we headed over to the next one, which I counted while Clinton took pictures and Rob looked around. I found a Berthella, which I was happy about, since I don't know if I have ever managed to count one on the transects. Other than that, nothing too exciting on that transect. A lot of Cadlinas. We headed on to the final transect, which Clinton counted. Rob held his camera and took some pictures with it. I was just poking around, trying to stay warm. I found a Limacia and two Berthellas (one on the transect and one just off of it). I was totally jealous that Clinton got to count the transect with all the good nudis :) Clinton finished just in time for us to head to the sand channel and ascend. The conditions had deteriorated even more, and it was a bit of a choppy swim in. I was in a hurry to get out so I was swimming like mad, and kept having to stop and wait (which is funny since usually on the death swims, I can barely keep up with Rob and Clinton on the surface). Luckily the tide had come in a bit, though, so when we got to the ramp while it was a bit rougher, it wasn't too hard to get ourselves out. 61 feet, 85 minutes, 53 degrees

Oh, and we also visited our pet warbonnet. I even managed to find him this time, and I did a little jump when I found him, because he kind of "popped out" at me as I was scanning for nudis.