It's about diving. And cats.

Me diving

Monday, April 28, 2008

E3, Finally

We took Monday off to go diving off of Phil's RIB, as a send off to David, who is leaving us for a while :( We were a team of four -- Team Kitty plus David (who is most definitely an honorary kitty -- he has an adorable and truly evil cat, who recently traumatized Oreo and Pepper during a "play date"). We were hoping based on the swell model that we could get down to Yankee Point, but the wind seemed like it would not allow that. Phil told us it would probably be fine on the way down, and fine during the dive (for us) but very unpleasant on the way home. So we went to Plan B, which was E3. We have attempted to go to E3 a couple of times, but Phil always finds some great looking pinnacle on the depth finder on the way out there, and we end up diving elsewhere instead. Once we got outside of Whaler's Cove, it was just a little sporty from the wind waves. We got to E3, dropped the anchor, and wriggled into our gear, with Phil's help of course. Rob got into his gear first, and I got into mine last. Rob said he wanted to shoot the bag, and Kevin wanted to call deco, so I volunteered to lead. By the time I finished going through our gear checks, Rob declared that if he had to sit in the boat and do anymore gear checks, he was going to barf. So he splashed first followed quickly by the rest of us. Rob was shooting W/A and David was videoing.

As we descended, it was green and murky in the shallows, but once we got below about 20 feet, it cleared up. At about 70 or 80 feet, I could see structure below us. The anchor was in the sand (which Phil had warned us was probably the case) so we peeled off from the line and swam to the structure at about 130 feet. The first thing I noticed were white patches from the elephant ears (surprise surprise). The second thing I noticed was a giant Doris odhneri, which, as Kevin put it, was the size of a loaf of bread. It's rhinophores were finger-sized. It was pretty scary looking :P We were on the southwest-ish area. Phil had told us he liked the northwest corner the best, so I headed in that direction (which was against the current, but I figured as soon as we turned the end of it, we'd be moving with the current). The section we were on had lots of elephant ears and gorgonians. It wasn't insanely encrusted, however. I found a Spanish shawl around 150 feet. There were also some small rockfish cowering in the cracks, including a juvenile rosy (I think).

As soon as I got to the point and turned it, I could see why Phil said that was the good side. Everything was covered in strawberry anemones. The whole reef looked pink! Shortly after turning the corner I found a little nook with some more juvenile rosies. I made David come over and get some video of one of them :) At this point, we were moving with the current, so I mainly just let the current do all the work. I slowly worked my way up shallower, since we wanted to average 130' at the bottom. Someone signaled me to show me a big Dirona, which open closer inspection turned out to be two right next to each other (mating, I assume but with all the fluffy cerata, who can tell?). I also found a crab on an elephant ear in a very intimidating pose, so I swam behind him and posed for a picture :P If Kevin had been closer by, I definitely would have put the crab on his head. By the time we drifted to the other end, it was nearly time to go. I drifted around the south corner a little bit, and noticed a Limacia. From there, we worked our way up the reef and then Kevin thumbed it and took over as deco captain.

The ascent was pretty uneventful. At 60 or 70 feet, I noticed Rob was futzing with his camera, so I took the spool. Then he didn't really do much with it, so I gave it back. For some reason, It was clipped to his right shoulder D-ring (usually he clips it to his left shoulder and hip like a bottle). Apparently he realized at that point that it was clipped wrong, but was too afraid of dropping it to unclip it :P The deco was pretty boring because we didn't have any visitors -- no jellyfish like we have been treated to on recent dives. When I hit the surface, I was glad we didn't go any further. It had gotten a bit rougher. It was nice to just have a short ride in. 152 feet (max), 65 minutes, 44 degrees

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Point Pinos by Scooter

We dove on Sunday with David and Jonathan. Since the swell was supposed to be small, someone (Jonathan maybe?) came up with the idea to dive Point Pinos. I thought it was unlikely to actually happen, but I suggested we swing by on Saturday afternoon to do a little recon. That didn't end up happening, but we looked at the bathymetry to figure out what we could do. After we saw the 1.8 foot reading on the buoy, we went by to take a look Sunday morning after we hit Starbucks. The entry was a little beach with a tiny cove that was lake calm. There were a bunch of geese hanging out on the surface there. There was also a seal and its baby bobbing around on the surface. The entry had lots of slippery looking rocks in the water that would need to be climbed over/around, much like Coral St when the tide is low. There was a little climb (maybe 8') down some rocks and then a big flat beach that we could stage our gear on. We decided we'd do it, and we returned to Jonathan's to wait for David. When he arrived, we headed back over to the site. Rob and I got there first, and since no one was around, I agreed to let him carry my doubles down to the beach :) Of course as he was walking across the parking area to the little rocky staircase, David pulled up. Doh!

Anyway, we staged everything on the beach, and decided to human buoy the scooters. David, Rob, and I got into our gear and climbed into the water past the rocks, and then Jonathan brought our scooters out to us, and then geared up and joined us in the water. David and Rob left their cameras behind, so no pictures today :( Anyhoo, after we were all set to get going, we scootered out on the surface to about the last rock, and descended there. It was quite sporty on the surface by the time we got to the drop point. The plan was to scooter out to the 60-ish foot contour and head to the west. We descended in about 30 feet, but it dropped quickly to 40 feet. The were a series of sand channels between reef structures; it was very canyon-y. We were in the 40 to 50 foot range for a while, it seemed. I noticed a grey puffball sponge at about 45 feet, which is shallower than I have ever seen them before. When we got out to about 60 feet, we started seeing the occasional patch of hydrocoral, which I wasn't really expecting to see. When we got out to about 60 feet, we continued along the reef (which ran NW-ish). At 15 minutes, we had gotten to a nice sized reef structure, which came up to 60 to 70 feet, and bottomed out in about 90 feet. Jonathan asked if we wanted to clip off here or continue out, and I said we should clip off (we had agreed to only put 15 minutes of burn time on the scooters on the way out).

We started poking around, and Rob pointed out a couple of Flabellina trilineatas to me. Then I noticed there were two more in the spot he was pointing to. Then he pointed out a nearby spot with a few more. We soon realized they were everywhere. Every rock I looked at, I'd see at least a couple. There must have been hundreds of them in total. It was really cool. I also noticed a couple of Dendronotus albus together (surrounded by trilineatas), and we eventually found several more of those as well. David found a teeny tiny Dirona, less than a centimeter in length. It was adorable (and surrounded by trilineatas :P). Rob eventually found another tiny slug on a hydroid, which I am pretty sure was a Dendronotus frondosus, and another tiny one that was really pretty. It was likely some sort of Eubranchus -- it looked a bit like Eubranchus sanjuanensis, but that is quite out of range. It was about 5 mm in length, but it was quite bushy. Finally there was a slug which I was sure was G. heathi, but which Rob swears was orange. I thought it was just a slightly oranger shade of yellow. It had a white gill plume and some black speckles. Rob thinks it was too long and skinny to be G. heathi. Aside from that we saw a lot of the usual stuff, including the longest, skinniest Limacia I have seen (which had a really prominent gill plume and would have been a fantastic photo subject :( ), D. sandiegensis (including the darker tan/brown ones), A. hudsoni, Triopha catalinae, various Cadlinas, and several Rostangas off the sponge. It was quite the slugfest. And all of this was interspersed among the occasional nice hydrocoral shrub of various colors. The water had a lot of particulate in it, but the viz was still pretty good (though green) -- probably about 40 feet.

Eventually Jonathan signaled it was time to head in, and we headed back. At about 30 feet, we sent a party up to check out where we were, and then we continued heading in. As we were stowing our lights to ascend there, we got dive bombed by two sea lions. After determining that we should continue in on the same heading, we continued. As we got in closer, it got very surgy. At times, we were scootering, but moving backwards. When we got to 20 feet, we thumbed it. While Rob and I were hanging at 10 feet (and I say "10 feet" loosely, since we were getting churned around), David and Jonathan ascended. There was rock coming up to about 10 feet, which should have been a sign that we were about to ascend next to the rocks. But it wasn't at the time :P On the way up from 10 feet, we got our scooters out and in position in case we had to move in a hurry. That turned out to be a good decision. When I came up to the surface, I was alarmingly close (but not in the about-to-get-my-head-bashed-in sense) to the rocks. I wasn't sure which way to go until I saw blue gloves flapping around and headed toward them. David was waving at me so I would know which way to go. We met up with them and headed in on the surface. It was still pretty sporty, but once we got into the cove, it was dead calm again. Jonathan went in first, dropped his gear, and came out for the scooters. Then we trudged in, and after falling on the rocks twice, I made it up the beach :P Actually the second time, I believe I had technically cleared the rocks and just fell in the sand :) 84 feet, 74 minutes, 46 degrees

It was a really cool dive, and I liked the site. But I would probably do it from a boat next time. When it is calm enough to dive there, there are likely "better" diveable sites in Carmel. But since the marathon was going on, we didn't want to deal with going to Carmel and fighting with all of the other divers for the few accessible sites.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

BAUE Lobos Gathering

Photo by Robert Lee
On Saturday, I attended a little BAUE event at Point Lobos. The idea was to get together and mix it up in terms of who we all dive with. So, in that spirit, I had to find a buddy other than Rob. After reviewing the list of attendees, I crafted a carefully worded email to John K and Mark, proposing that we dive together, and extolling the virtues of diving with her Kittiness. I felt like I was asking them out on a date ;) I guess neither of them could come up with a better excuse than "I'm washing my hair that day", so we dove together. I proposed Granite Point, since I have recently become obsessed with that site. I think it is an insanely nice site, both for kicking and scootering, and we spend way too much time on the left side of Lobos (breathing those funny gases that require two numbers on the analysis tag).

Photo by Robert Lee
After going through the motions of asking who wanted to lead, I insisted on leading because, ya know, I'm bossy. After discussing the navigation (John had never been there before), etc., we got geared up, did I super fun gear checks, and got in the water. It was low tide, grumble, but at least it was super calm. John and Mark climbed down the little "steps" at the end of the ramp on the left, but since I have found that often leads to getting my foot stuck in a hole, I opted to try a new entry technique, which involved getting into about 18 inches of water, then falling on my knees, laying on my stomach and pushing myself out into deeper water. It worked quite well, and I am sure it looked very graceful. In contrast to the death swim I did the last time I took people out to Granite Point, we decided (at Mark's suggestion) to drop just outside the cove and swim out underwater. I dropped literally 5 feet from the worm patch, and then took us out along the sand channel. Actually I was on a little sand channel-let just to the west of the sand channel, and I quickly realized it and cut over through a little patch of kelp. Then at around 30 feet or so, I cut over to Middle Reef. I noticed a Limacia on a rock in the rubbly area to the west of the reef, and stopped and showed it to the boys. Mark stuck his finger out and pretended to squish it like a bug :P I continued on to the wolf eels, and stopped there to show them to John. I saw the red one's head, and could see flashes of grey behind her. Then I saw the grey one's tail as he was maneuvering around in the den. Mark and John each took a look. Then we continued on to the warbonnet. I think John saw it right away, but it took a moment for Mark to see it. I was trying to shine enough light into its hole for him to see it, without blinding (and scaring away) the fish. He finally found it after I circled the hole with my finger. We continued along, passed the V rock at the end of middle reef, and headed out over the sand.

After a few minutes, we hit the wall. While we were planning the dive, I said that if conditions were good (good viz and no surge), I would take us around the back side first. But the viz was sort of chunky, so I decided that going shallower was probably not called for. So instead, I headed north. I saw a couple more Limacias, and pointed at least one of them out. I also pointed out various other interesting (to me) slugs that I found, including two Hilton's. One of them was right next to a pink stalk of hydrocoral, so they looked quite pretty together. The second one was actually falling through the water nearby (hopefully that didn't have anything to do with me or my fins). We eventually happened upon Rob and Ildiko (who obviously lack creativity and stole our plan to dive Granite Point :P), and Rob pointed out another Hilton's to me. I also some some Festive Tritons out there, which Mark seemed to think were really cool. We ran into Rob and Ildiko again, at Rob's favorite little boulder that has a lot of nice hydrocoral on it. I kept swimming up and posing for Rob to take my picture, but he wouldn't :( I noticed two Dendronotus albus fluttering on some hydroids, and I signaled everyone to come take a look. Apparently there were more on that rock, but I was so transfixed by those two that I never really saw any others. At that point, I decided I was officially freezing, and turned the dive. I saw a big vermilion on the way back to the wall, and then we headed out over the sand towards Middle Reef. We hit it right at the V rocks, and followed the reef in. I stopped at the wolf eel den again, hoping that John would get to see Itchy's head (in its full glory), and Itchy was back in his usual position, with his huge head filling the hole :) After that we headed to the worm patch and ascended there. As we pulled up to the worm patch, I heard a boat hauling ass (oops, I try to keep the blog PG) above us, so I thought it would be good to pop a bag. As it turned out, my fingers were completely useless because I was so cold... I swear it took a minute just to pull the little bungee loop off of my bag. Then when I went to inflate it, it quickly became apparent that that wasn't going to happen. I tried to give it to John, but he didn't understand what I wanted. Then I handed it to Mark who gave me quite a scowl in return. I suddenly remembered I have a spare drysuit inflator on my left post (very bad, I know, please don't tell the DIR police) which would be quite useful at this moment. By the time I pulled it out, Mark had already popped his drysuit inflator off, so he shot the bag. Hehe. 83 minutes, 70 feet, 48 degrees

Photo by Mike Jimenez
The tide was still really low when we got to the ramp, but I managed to get up on my feet and walk out all by myself. I was very proud of myself :P After the dive, I confirmed what I had suspected -- my tummy was totally soaked! My neck seal was not seated properly (which is easy to do, since that seal is getting pretty worn out, so it's a little floppy). I was soaked down to my butt and ended up changing completely so I could hang my undergarment in the sun to hopefully dry. Between dives, we snacked on the various food that everyone brought -- it was quite a spread. Even the squirrels were impressed. Several of the people decided to do just one dive, so I was left buddyless and we had to switch the teams around. I got stuck diving with Matt :P Everyone decided to head over to the east side of middle reef. Last time Clinton and I went there, it was quite the slugfest. So, while we were all heading in the same direction, we split up and headed out in our separate teams (Rob dove with Harry, and Melissa, Clinton and Mike dove together). When we got into the water, the tide was a bit higher, so it was reasonably easy to get in. On the swim out, a mom and baby seal were swimming around near us, and then suddenly they popped up in between us, probably less than 5 feet from each of us. When they disappeared under the water I stuck my head under and saw them, and the baby was looking up at me quite curiously. It was adorable, but unfortunately they swam off after that. We swam out to about the mouth of the cove but a little east of the middle, and dropped there.

Photo by Clinton Bauder
We dropped in sand and swam north for a minute until we hit reef. Then we just meandered around. We were mainly looking for slugs, and we each pointed out what we found to each other. We saw several Berthellas, various Cadlinas (including flavomaculata, which were all over the place at Lobos for a while, but I hadn't seen lately, and sparsa I think but maybe modesta), two mating Aldisa sanguinea's, quite a few Rostangas, and several very plump Hermissendas. We ran into Clinton, Mike, and Melissa a couple of times, and posed for pictures for Mike once. I had originally been planning to basically dive until I was low on gas, but after spending 50 minutes at 20', I realized I would probably freeze to death before that happened. So I suggested to Matt that we head in a few minutes later, and as we were heading in, I saw something grey swimming through a crack. Then I realized it was a huge wolf eel. I was totally shocked and screaming through my reg at Matt (who was looking in the other direction), then I grabbed his arm and yanked him over towards me. I think he was somewhat alarmed by this behavior at first, until he figured out where I wanted him to look :) The eel swam through the crack towards us and out into the open. So we followed him. Maybe 10 or 15 feet from there, he just settled down on the bottom and laid there while we watched him. We estimated he was between 6 and 8 feet long. I was wondering if it was Itchy -- how many big wolf eels could there be on middle reef? :P I was hanging there, hoping that one of the other teams (with cameras) would come by. After a couple minutes, I gave up and we headed in. We ascended not far from there and swam in. Shortly after we got out, as Clinton, Melissa, and Mike were flopping around on the ramp, a seal swooped in between them, and then the seal and its baby proceeded to climb up on the rock at the bottom of the ramp (on the left) and nurse. Clinton and Mike were snapping away with their cameras. 63 minutes, 27 feet, 50 degrees

All of the pictures are here.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Diving with The Beast

On Sunday, Rob, John and I went diving at Lobos. The plan was to scooter. We've never scootered with John before. He brought his long body Gavin, and when I saw it in the back of the car, I told him it was quite a beast. He told me that not only is it "a beast", but it is "the beast" -- scrawled across the side of his scooter it says "The Beast". Quite an accurate name. It weighs about 80 pounds, and looks to be about the same size as John :) We had originally planned to go out to the right side, to the Crossroads area, but since we were all a lot more comfortable with the navigation on the left side, we decided to go there instead. We decided to head out to the Road to Twin Peaks. We staged our gear on the float, got geared up, and headed into the water.

We decided to put John in between us, since there might be scooter speed dissonance to work out. So I offered to lead. Rob also assigned me to be deco captain. So I was mad with power. Rob had been diving on Saturday and he reported that the viz in the cove was terrible but then around the worm patch it suddenly opened up a lot. So we scootered out just a bit past the worm patch and descended there. We headed out along the sand channel. John's scooter was a bit too fast, as he kept nudging past me a little. I would speed up to catch up to him, and eventually Rob called shenanigans and told me to slow down. So John fiddled with his scooter and matched my speed on 3. After that, we had no problems matching speed. Anyhoo, before you know it, we were at Lone Metridium, and I headed off toward the sisters. Errr, something. I saw a structure out on my right, and I figured I must have veered slightly off course, and it was Beto's Reef. But I thought I'd better check just to be sure, so I took a little detour over, scooted along for a moment and decided it was, and then cut west over to the sisters. Before you know it, we were at the second and then the third, and we headed out along the road.

Did I mention the incredible viz? I would say it was 50 or 60 feet and the water was super bright and blue. So you could see everything. We were traveling at least 10 or 15 feet off the bottom, so we could get a nice big picture view of everything. Anyhoo, we scooted out, and I couldn't believe how much of the bigger structures we could see along the way. We eventually found a spot to settle on, and clipped off. We were on one of the bigger structures out there. Rob was shooting macro, so we didn't cover much ground from that point. I found a couple of Spanish shawls which Rob took some pictures of. I also found a white dorid, the same kind that I saw two mating the last time we were out there, but couldn't identify. So I asked Rob to take a picture (even though it wasn't a very interesting-looking slug, and not in a particularly photogenic position, but I wanted a picture to show to Clinton so I could ID it once and for all!). He shot some pictures, and while he was doing that, I found a Doriopsilla spaldingi hanging out from under a little ledge. I showed it to John and then Rob, who took some pics. Other than that, I don't think I saw anything wildly interesting -- a few little red rockfish. But the vis was great. We ended the bottom portion of the dive at the top of the structure, and looking down to the sand was pretty scenic :)

We headed in, and on the way, I sort of wandered over to the other side of the road (I could tell Rob thought I was getting us lost, again). You could actually see the sand on both sides at the same time, so I was just meandering, trying to take advantage of the good viz to get a feel for the layout of everything. Somewhere along the way, we encountered a school of several dozen rockfish -- mostly olives, but some blues were hanging around too. They were organized in a column and I could look up and see tons of fish. Very cool. Right before we got back to the sisters, I saw maybe 10 of the little red rockfish, in varying sizes down to about 2 or 3 inches. I had to get a closer look, so I did a big loop and my scooter and went down to the reef (we were traveling off of the bottom, since that gave a better view) to look at the smallest one. I think they were probably rosies, but I'm not completely sure. I would have liked to ask Rob to take a picture, but his camera was folded up for transport, and we really did need to get to our gas switch. Rob and John were looking at me like I was having some mental malfunction because I looped back, and I signaled that I was looking and pointed at the littlest fish. Then I zoomed off back toward the sisters. Turns out, Rob thought I was signaling to tell him to look at the fish, and I left him behind. Whoops. After he flashed me, I stopped at the sister and waited for them to catch up. Then we headed in, and were following the parallel ridges in the Lone Metridium-ish area. I got to a familiar spot (wondering "where is that silly Metridium!?! Did I pass it?") where I know we have done bottle switches before, and we switched. We hung out there for a couple minutes and then headed in. Of course the Lone Metridium was about 10 feet past the limit of visibility :) The ride in from there was pretty uneventful. We stopped to visit Itchy and Scratchy, and only Scratchy (or is it Itchy? ... the red one) was in, which I don't think I've seen before. Shortly before we reached the worm patch, we passed Don and Elissa with a gaggle of new-to-the-area divers in tow. When we got to the worm patch, we decided to ascend there, since the viz was bad further in. By the way, did I mention it was freezing? I am too lazy to retrieve the numbers from my computer right now, but as I recall, it was 46 degrees.

Rob and John wanted to do a second nudi counting dive, but I was freezing. So I told them I needed some extra time to warm up (and inhale a ton of the SpongeBob Cheez-Its that John brought). Based on the intersection of my time constraints (to warm up) and John's time constraints (to get home in a timely manner), we decided to scooter out to the transects, because we are lazy, errr... so John could get going on time. We went to the far transects, and the plan was that I would count one, and John would count one, and Rob would just doodle around and take pictures. We surface scooted out to about the same place we did on the first dive, and once again dropped in the sand channel. Rob led us out to the transects. I could transect 2 first. A couple minutes into it, Rob came over with is wetnotes, and showed me a note that basically said he scooter was about to die so we would have to tow him in. I told him that was fine and continued counting. I didn't see anything unusual, but I did see a decent variety of the usual slugspects, and a couple that I find mildly exciting -- a Limacia, a Festive Triton, and a Geitodoris heathi (exciting not for its looks, but for the fact that I don't see them all the time, and find them slightly tricky to ID). When I found the G. heathi, I brought John and Rob over to see if they agreed that was what it was, and also had Rob take a picture. Before I knew it, I had spent more than my allotted 20 minutes counting my transect, so I finished up and told John it was his turn.

At this point I was pretty chilly, so I mostly just hung out, swimming around in a little circle to keep warm. I eventually got bored of this and swam over to look at the transect. It was pretty amusing to watch John counting nudibranchs with The Beast at his side. In hindsight, I probably should have offered to take it for him, so it wouldn't deter him from getting his face right up against the reef to look for slugs :) He signaled me at one point and pointed out a little yellow dorid in a very precarious position and gave me the "what is it" signal. I looked at it and saw that it had dark/black rhinophores and thought "what the heck?". I took his wetnotes and wrote "black rhinophores" to make sure I wasn't hallucinating. He agreed, and we agreed we didn't know what the heck it was. We brought Rob over to take some pictures. Not too long after that, John was finished, and we were ready to head in. Rob clipped his scooter to his butt, and moved his stage bottle to his hip so that his precious (camera) wouldn't bang against the bottle while he was being towed. Then he swam over to me and signaled for me to tow him. I waved him off to John, because I figured if Rob's scooter was dead, mine probably didn't have much juice left, and towing a bad-trimmed Bob :P probably wouldn't help. So we got going, which was interesting, because John was significantly slower, so even in first gear, I was too fast for him. But we only had a 5 minute ride, so it was alright. When we got to about 20 feet, we decided to ascend from there. On the surface, Rob scooted until his scooter died (about 30 seconds) and then I towed him in, in an ummm, alternate tow position. Apparently towing a diver next to you, who is holding onto your argon bottle is not a very efficient position :P

When we got out of the water, for some reason Rob did not want to swim out to the float. I don't remember why, but I said I would swim. I have never done that before -- I always try to avoid it, I guess because the water is cold. So I swam all of the gear in, and realized the swimmer has the easy job! It's much easier than carrying gear up and down the slippery ramp. After we cleaned up, Rob and I met Jonathan at Turtle Bay for dinner.

Oh, and about those two mystery slugs (the white dorid on dive 1, and yellow black-rhinophored dorid on dive 2). We sent the pictures to Clinton, who forwarded it on to his vast network of nudibranch experts :P The current thinking is that the yellow one (last picture) is Hallaxa chani, and the white one (third picture) is Aldisa albomarginata (although that would be a significant range extension).

All of the pictures are here.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Carmel River Beach

On Sunday, Rob, Jonathan, and I did a dive at Carmel River Beach. I have never been diving there before, but a lot of our friends seem really into this site, and the water was calm, so we decided to give it a try. We schlepped all of our gear down to the beach -- first the tables, then the doubles, then the scooters. The schlepping down isn't bad, it is the walk back up between schleps that sucks. Then we got into our suits as fast as humanly possible (it was so hot on the surface), and went down the final time and plunged ourselves in the water. Brrrr, it was freezing. Well, my hands were freezing, but it was otherwise refreshing. Then when I went back up to my table and realized I forgot my weight belt :( So I hobbled back up to the car and got it. When I came down, Rob and Jonathan were helping David and Kevin with some gear getting into the water. They were scootering to Jawdropper, so they had an extra scooter and some deco bottles. I walked into the water and pretended to be helpful as they were heading out.

Then we got into our gear and waddled into the water before we overheated. We scootered out on the surface just a little bit and then dropped in about 10 feet of water. We hugged the reef-sand interface to our right, and came around the point, until the eel grass gave way to the reef. We continued out, and hopped from boulder to boulder in the 40 to 50 foot area. The viz was not that great -- there was tons of particulate in the water. The tide was going out, and I think a lot of crap was being dragged out with it. Around 15 minutes into the dive, we saw the first stalks of bushy hydrocoral (which I think was the main draw of the site for Rob). But we continued further out. Eventually I scootered over a rock with two big Dendronotus albus, so I stopped, and signaled the others. They both came over and I pointed them out. They were big and in a great position for having a portrait taken, but of course Rob was shooting wide-angle. Jonathan pointed out a tiny Hermissenda right near the D. albus's, and then we started noticing that there were tiny Hermissendas all over the rock, both the orange and red ones. We hung out around that spot for a while. There was a little bit of hydrocoral, corynactis, etc. But some sides of the rocks were quite barren. It wasn't a particularly spectacular spot. Jonathan stole Rob's camera and played with it for a little while. After a while there, we moved on.

Shortly after that, we found a nicer spot with more hydrocoral, and we settled down there. I almost immediately spotted another pair of D. albus, about the same size as the others. It seems like there have been a lot of reports of these guys around lately. I also found a small Flabellina trilineata. Then I mostly just sort of followed Rob around while he took pictures. At some point, I realized I was OOA (out-of-Argon, that is), and signaled Rob. I have a backup inflator on my left post (don't tell the DIR police), so I shutdown my Argon bottle and popped the inflator off. But I couldn't get the spare one seated on my drysuit. So then I had Rob take a crack at it. He could not get it either (frozen fingers? I'm not sure), and the next thing I know, he reaches back and whips out his Argon bottle. At this point, I handed the camera off to Jonathan, who proceeded to take pictures of us while we swapped Argon bottles (you might wonder why giving Rob my empty Argon bottle would help, but he has an extra inflator too, and could actually get it to work). Luckily Jonathan was not adept enough at using Rob's camera to get any good pictures of that :P

After that, we continued looking around. Rob was swimming around taking pictures, and he eventually swam us over to a different boulder that was the best spot we saw. There was a lone metridium on one side, which was otherwise covered in pink corynactis (the slightly bigger bushier, more three dimensional looking ones). As we swam around it, there was a crack with a bunch of bushy hydrocoral. Rob was wedged in the crack, shooting the hydrocoral, so I swam over to the other side of the crack and posed. I was thinking that a picture of him where he was would look good, and along those lines, we eventually switched sides. Not longer after that, we headed in. On the way in, we saw a cool jellyfish, which Rob took some pictures of. We left it, and a minute later, we saw another of the same kind. I'm thinking it was a Scrippsia pacifica. The navigation back in is really easy, because you can just go in the right general direction until you hit the reef-sand interface, and then follow that all the way in to the beach. We did that, and ascended from about 6 feet. Now the fun begins -- getting up the beach and up the stairs. David and Kevin came out to get our scooters, and Kevin also gave me a nudge up the berm (I was waiting for the next wave to push me, but I guess Kevin was too impatient!). We walked up the beach to our tables, had a little rest there, and then headed up the stairs to the car. It was actually not as bad as I imagined it would be. I didn't feel like I needed an AED standing by or anything, but my legs were definitely burning! Then after about a zillion more trips up and down to clean it all up, and then we headed to Turtle Bay. 63 feet, 97 minutes, 46 degrees

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Joy-Riding at Lobos

On Saturday, I dove at Lobos with Rob and Jonathan. We decided to go to Great Pinnacle, which Rob and Jonathan did last weekend, but I have never done on a scooter before. But we decided to do it slightly differently -- they had hit Great Pinnacle and Twin Peaks, but we were going to just go to Great Pinnacle, so we could spend more time there for Rob to take pictures. Since it was so calm, we planned to take a shallower route out there, leaving the sand channel early and cutting behind the Hole in the Wall and Lone Metridium reefs, and then popping out a little to the west of Lone Metridium. Jonathan was leading, and towing an extra scooter. I managed to worm my way out of that by telling Jonathan that I planned to practice my scooter acrobatics, and towing the spare would hinder that goal. I got to lead deco, my favorite :P The tide was low when we got there, but we were hopeful it was on its way in. Errr, try again. Gary told me that low tide was at about noon, which I really didn't want to hear :)

After staging our gear (with Suzanne and Gary's assistance), we waddled into the low tide ramp and headed out. We descended around the edge of the cove, and headed to the sand channel. When we got to the break in the reef, we headed down the little sand path shooting off from it. Rob was being horribly slow, and he realized his scooter was pitched down, so we stopped and he tinkered with it, and then we kept going. I think he was still being a little poky though, so I'm not sure he got it quite right. Anyhoo, we scootered along at about 70 feet, and then skirted Shortcut Reef, until we got to the southwest side of Great Pinnacle. First we checked out some of the little pinnaclets to the south, and then we headed over to the main pinnacle. Rob got his camera out and I started looking around. A minute later, I noticed Rob wasn't taking pictures so I went over and asked him what was up. Apparently the battery in his camera was mysteriously dead, so he clipped it off and we had a wetnotes conference about whether this changed our plan. So that is why you don't get any Bob pictures today :( We eventually headed around to the north wall of the pinnacle, and clipped off to look around. There was a nice little current so that we could just drift along the wall. Rob was a little below me, and he signaled us. I swam down, and he pointed out a Dirona albolineata. They are so pretty! A moment later, I found another about 15 feet down the reef. We kept seeing more, for a total of about 5. They were all different sizes. One was a monster, and another was the size of a big Hermissenda. We also saw about 5 Spanish shawls, and a tiny Hopkins rose.

When we eventually left Great Pinnacle, we circled by Twin Peaks and then eventually hopped over the Road and scooted in over the sand between the sisters and Beto's. Somewhere along the way, when we were near a little pinnacle, I saw a Spanish shawl swimming a couple feet off of the structure. I looked back at it after I passed it, and tried to signal Rob and light it for him to see. But as I narrowly averted scootering into a wall, so I didn't get a chance to see Rob's reaction. Apparently he completely missed it :( At some point around 90 to 100', we paused for a moment (not sure why), and while we were stopped, I went to check my SPG. While I was looking at it, Jonathan started to scooter and Rob pointed towards him. I was like, um, busy, give me a sec. By the time I clipped off my SPG and looked up, Rob was rolling his eyes. Apparently, there was a wolf eel swimming out in the open, but he darted under a rock before I looked over :( We headed in to Lone Metridium, and switched to our deco bottles there. Then we hopped reefs to the east on the way in. When we were hopping over the Hole in the Wall reef, we ran into Ben, Matt, and Don on scooters. Ben and I ended up in a game of scooter chicken. I'm not really sure who chickened out first :) I think we both did. We continued up the sand channel, and then stopped at the worm patch for a few minutes. Ben and crew showed up again to harass us. But we had the last laugh when Don got wrapped in kelp :P As we were leaving the worm patch, we ran into Gary and Suzanne and had a little Gavin vs. X race on the way in :) 136 feet, 85 minutes, 46 degrees

When we got to the ramp, the tide was super low, but since it was dead calm, it wasn't too terrible getting out. We climbed up the rocks on north side of the ramp, although I somehow still managed to end up on my knees on the ramp, and had to get a hand up :) Rob and I decided that since the conditions were so nice, we should go for a second dive. And we even had two spare scooters to use (Kevin's and David's), so we decided to scoot for the second dive as well. Since it was so calm, we decided to head to Granite Point and to go behind the main wall, which we've never gone to before, and possibly the caves over in Coal Chute Cove. After we waddled back down the ramp, Jonathan, uhhh, assisted us in launching the scooters. Suzanne and Gary were getting in at the same time, so we offered them a surface tow out to Hole in the Wall. We actually dropped almost right on it (strong work, Bob). Then we headed over to the end of Middle Reef, and out to Granite Point.

When we hit the first wall, we went to the right instead of our usual left, and circled behind that wall. We meandered through the various small canyons and cut-throughs back there. It was a fun spot to zoom through on scooters. There was a nice kelp patch and color little walls. We clipped off at a couple of spots and poked around. I showed Rob some skeleton shrimp like I found last weekend (he looked at me like "what the heck are you trying to show me?" at first). I also found a couple of Limacias, one really small. Other than that, nothing too crazy exciting. It got quite shallow back there, we were at about 30 feet for a while. Eventually we decided to head out and go north past the wall, where we usually do. We got to some of the nice hydrocoral-y spots, and then I turned the dive, because I wanted to leave some time to check out the east side of Middle Reef on the way in.

Right as we turned, the viz was actually getting worse, with more particulate. When we headed back, Rob cut behind the wall again (not sure why) and eventually I guess he decided that was a bad decision and we hopped back over it. We ran into some other divers, and just as I was thinking it would be a good time to do a barrel roll, Rob did one, and then I did one. Hehe. We then headed into Coal Chute cove, and Rob looked around for the caves (which I have never been to before, but Rob has). After looking for a minute, I suggested we just punt. I am fairly certain he was looking on the wrong side of the cove for them :) We headed back to Middle Reef and intercepted it on the east side, and headed along that side. We stopped somewhere along there briefly and looked at some Tritonias and Berthellas. Then we headed in. We eventually found a worm patch and headed west. We found a big sandy area, and I practiced my barrel rolls. I have a tendency to go up a little when I do them, so Rob was giving me some pointers. I think I improved a bit, but I can still only roll to the left. I just can't bring myself to go to the right. It feels weird.

I eventually signaled that we should head in and we continued until we got to about 15 feet, and I thumbed the dive because my scooter started to give the put-put that indicates it is nearly dead. I was also trying to avoid having to switch off of my stage. We stopped at 10 feet, and after a minute, I thumbed it. Rob insisted on staying for another minute, so I was forced to switch off of my stage, grumble. When we got to the surface, we were on the west side just outside of the cove right by Cannery Point. It is a good thing we came up instead of continuing west :) We scootered in on the surface, and after about 15 seconds, my scooter was totally dead. So Rob towed me in the rest of the way. When we got to the ramp, I was relieved to see that the tide had come in and the water level was just right. We didn't even have to float our gear, we just pulled the float onto the ramp and let the stuff bob on the ramp since the water was so calm. 70 feet, 58 minutes, 44 degrees

Photos in this post are all by Ben Villao.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Granite Point and Middle Reef

Aldisa sanguinea
Photo by Clinton Bauder
On Sunday, I dove at Point Lobos with a gaggle of dive buddies. I was diving with Ted and Matt, but Clinton, Mike, and John were there too, so we decided to all go out to Granite Point together. The water was really calm, and it was warm and sunny. It was a nice day for a surface swim :) We ended up swimming forever -- all the way out to Granite Point in fact :) But with the dead calm water, it was a nice swim out. Ted was singing the Trogdor song for most of the swim out. When we got out there, we descended, and I noticed that the other team stopped around 20 feet, and by the time we got to the bottom, they were nowhere to be found. It turns out, John's light canister was bubbling on the way down, so they aborted. So they got to enjoy a surface swim all the way back from Granite Point too.

Rostanga pulchra
Photo by Clinton Bauder
We dropped in about 50 feet, and were within site of the kelp along the wall. We swam over to it and followed it out north. We were informally surveying for slugs, as in, keeping track of all of the species that we saw. So I was poking around the reef looking for slugs. I actually saw quite a few different species -- the standard yellow dorids and Cadlinas, Berthellas, Tritonias, a Limacia, a Hermissenda, and Rostangas. While I was leafing through some hydroids, I saw a cool red-striped shrimp. He skittered away and then I noticed the hydroids were crawling with skeleton shrimp, which I have never seen before except at the aquarium. I am sure I've seen them many times, actually, but never noticed them :) I was just looking at them at the aquarium recently, and I guess now that I've seen them there, I can see them. After a little slow poking around for a while, I decided we should cover a little more ground, since I was getting chilly. We swam to the point where the wall turns, and then swam across the sand/rubble north to the next wall north.

Photo by Ben Villao
At some point, I realized that now that we were without a single tank diver, we had more options for the length of our dive. So I whipped out my wetnotes and took a poll of whether we still wanted to do two dives, or one long dive. Ted voted for one, and Matt voted for two. I abstained, so they roshambo'd to decide. The first time was a draw, but on the second round, Matt won. I had been secretly rooting for Ted, but oh well. Not too much later, we turned, but not before finding a few nice stalks of hydrocoral. At the point where we turned, the visibility had deteriorated a bit -- it was chunkier further out. After turning, we headed back to the original wall and then out over the sand. We came back to Middle Reef, on the east side. I swam us over to the west side, and followed the reef in. I passed the warbonnet spot, and then a minute later, decided I should show it to Ted, since I didn't think he had seen it before. So I doubled back, and Ted looked at me like I must be going crazy. But I found the warbonnet, and managed to show it to him. Then we continued back in, and stopped to visit the wolf eels, who were both there. Not long after that, we headed over to the sand channel and ascended just outside of the cove. A moment later, we saw another bag come up, so we swam over to harass whoever it was... turned out it was Ben, John K, and Rob R. We went down there and I threw Ben an OOA drill, just because he is the king of surprise drills :P On the way back up, Ted flipped over on his back, and was air guitaring and head banging to the Trogdor song. In hindsight, I realized all the muffled sounds coming out of his regulator during the dive were probably the same thing. 77 feet, 76 minutes, 48 degrees

Eubranchus rustyus
Photo by Clinton Bauder
The team sort of disintegrated on the surface interval, and after a lot of waffling (and Ted wowing us with his ability to read his watch incorrectly), we ended up with me, Rob (who had been diving with Jonathan in the morning), Clinton, and John. John and Rob decided to do a quick scooter dive, and Clinton and I dove the shallow end of middle reef, looking for more nudis. We were briefly waylaid by the presence of a mother seal nursing her pup on the rock at the bottom of the boat ramp. It was very cute, but caused a bit of a delay getting back into the water. We finally got back in, and swam out to about where the worm patch is but to the east. We dropped in about 20' of water, but the reef came up to nearly 10' there. We just doodled around without covering too much ground. We found a bunch of neat ledges and overhangs that were nudi cities. We saw tons of nudis, and a lot of variety. There were scads of Rostangas, of various shades of orange, and various sizes. We also saw some really fat Tritonias. I found a very pretty trilineata -- it was a nice magenta color instead of the reddish-orange that we usually see. Clinton found a Eubranchus, which I don't think he has seen at Lobos before, so he was pretty excited. Clinton also pointed out some Aldisas. The first one he pointed out, I looked at briefly and wondered why he was showing me a Rostanga. Then the second time he pointed to a little orange nudi, I figured it had to be something else, and when I looked closer, I realized it was. I don't see those very often, but maybe I just haven't been looking close enough :) Eventually Clinton gave me the cold sign (which I totally agreed with), so we thumbed it at essentially the same spot where we had started. It was a pleasant swim back in on the surface -- the water was dead calm. 32 feet, 57 minutes, 48 degrees

After that, we headed to RG for some slow service and stingy water refills :)

All of the day's pictures are here.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Mile Buoy and Shallow Shale

Photo by Robert Lee
On Saturday, we were on a BAUE tech charter on the Escapade. Rob, Kevin and I were diving with honorary Kitty Clinton (yes Clinton, it's official -- the coronation ceremony will be at a date to be determined). Unfortunately, it was very windy :( It was especially unfortunate since the swell was tiny, so if we could get out of the bay, I'm sure we would have had some nice diving :( Oh well. Jim said he would head out to the edge of the bay and see if we could get around, but it was not likely. As we got closer, it seemed pretty unlikely and then we abruptly turned around. I think that plan B was deep Ballbuster or Mile Buoy. I'm not sure why deep Ballbuster was knocked out (I think it was pretty sporty out around there) so we ended up at Mile Buoy. Since there is a lot of boat traffic around there, drift deco was not a very appealing option. Jim left it up to us, but said that if we were to drift, both teams would have to shoot bags and start the drift at the same time. We decided to just deco on the line, since that seemed like the safest option.

Photo by Clinton Bauder
Since we had to return to the line, we ran a line. That task was given to Kevin (since Mr. Cave Diver loves demonstrating his mad line skillz), so that meant he was also stuck leading the dive. Conditions were pretty calm when we got in the water, and there was essentially no surface current. It was a leisurely swim to the line and an easy descent, with no current on the way down either. The water was green on the way down, but the vis wasn't too terrible. I saw tons of sea gooseberries floating in the water on the way down. When we got down to about 100', I could see white splotches on the reef below, which were bunches of metridium. When we got to the reef (about 130'), there were big bunches of big, tall metridium. They were really tall. It was dark down there, but the viz was probably around 40'. Kevin led us northwest-ish. The main feature was the tall metridiums and the bushy gorgonians. There were also tons of Spanish shawls and Festive Tritons. We eventually got to a part of the reef that sort of petered out into rubble and sand. On the edge of the reef, Clinton found a torpedo ray. I swam over and followed it for a minute, but since our other buddies were oblivious, I had to go back over to the team :(

Photo by Robert Lee
We eventually turned on time, and as Kevin hauled ass reeling in, I periodically hauled ass past him so I could pull his ties. I was very amused by it, and I knew he would be too (and he did make fun of me afterwards for being so eager to pull his ties). When we got back to the line, we headed up and did our deco on the line. It was pretty uneventful, although it seemed like every time we got comfortable and facing each other for a couple minutes, some water movement would knock us all around so we were facing the wrong directions :P The other team reported the same thing, so I guess it wasn't just us. At around 40 feet, I realized I wasn't really cold at all. The water seemed warmer than the recent Carmel temps, although my computer denies it (see temperature below -- I guess that is at the max depth). Once we got shallower, I started noticing tons of sea gooseberries again. 151 feet, 59 minutes, 46 degrees

The anchor was pretty wedged, so Jim was struggling to get it out of there. As he did that, Rob who was sitting on the bench, having recently removed his doubles, got knocked off the bench when a wave came up on the side of the boat, and his doubles tumbled with him. Yikes. I asked if everyone was okay and Rob was sitting on the deck looking like a sad, wounded puppy dog because one of his valves was spewing gas. He was fine, though. But moody at the prospect of missing the second dive. After some heroic measures by Jim, he managed to have a perfectly working set of doubles for the second dive -- Jim replaced some parts in Rob's valve with parts from one of the tanks on the boat.

Photo by Clinton Bauder
We decided to head to the shallow shale for the second dive. I guess there is some spot that Jim and Clinton usually know by the kelp on the surface, but the kelp isn't there right now, so we just had to wing it. We headed over there and bobbed around during the surface interval (while I endeavored to eat all of the chocolate on the Escapade). We eventually got in the water, and found a little shale ledge in 30 to 40 feet. We swam along it for a while, peeking under the ledges. I didn't see anything too cool, but did see a bunch of cute little fish (sculpins and kelpfish and such) that I kept pointing out to Kevin. Rob and Clinton were both shooting wide-angle, and it definitely was not the dive for that. The viz was probably around 20' but it was a murky 20'. At some point, under a bigger ledge, Rob pointed something out which neither Clinton nor I could find. Apparently there was a big octopus under there. Boohoo, I missed it. After a while, we were all just a little bored, so we decided to thumb it. I shot a bag just for giggles, and we ascended. As Jim was heading over to pick us up, the other team came up too. 44 feet, 54 minutes, 50 degrees

All of the day's pictures are here.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Night Dive at the Breakwater

Photo by Mike Jimenez
Since the forecast looked great, Clinton, Mike and I did a night dive on Wednesday. We were a bit late getting down there, which had the unfortunate side effect that all of the restrooms at the Breakwater were locked. But luckily the nice man at the restaurant on the breakwater did not mind me using theirs. Then it took us a while to gear up and get in the water, which was mostly my fault I think. I was borrowing Ted's single tank rig (for no particularly good reason :P), to which I had to add pieces I had cannibalized from my rig. Then after I got into my harness, my argon bottle (with strap attached) flopped down. This isn't the first time it has flopped off from a DSS backplate -- the hole location does not seem optimal for affixing an Al6 (which is, by the way, Pepper's tank of choice). Clinton managed to fix it for me, and we were on our way.

Photo by Mike Jimenez
The water was dead calm, and crystal clear as we walked into it. You could see every ripple in the sand beneath. But once we were in water too deep to stand in, it was green and murky. We swam out on the surface, and things looked better as we got far out. We swam pretty far out, although it seemed pretty quick, since we were flying in those single tanks :P We dropped in the sand in about 45 feet, where the visibility was at least 20 feet, and the water wasn't really murky at all. The plan was to hang out there for about a half hour, and then head over to the wall. Mike was shooting macro; Clinton didn't bring his camera. I pretty quickly found a little octopus; he had his arm looped around a tube worm. Not sure why he was holding on, there wasn't really any water movement :) By the time Mike came over and setup to take some pictures, he was cuddling with a starfish. Not long after that, I saw a bigger octopus (Breakwater big, not really big). Apparently he was munching on a crab, which I did not notice. However, Mike got a picture of him with a crab leg hanging out. I saw a few more little octos doing standard octopus things. I was really shocked at the lack of nudibranchs. Usually the sand is at least good for some Hermissendas. Finally, more than 15 minutes into the dive, I saw a Hermissenda. Then about 15 minutes later, I saw another. What the heck!? Clinton also found an Acanthodoris brunnea, which was scurrying over the sand. We also saw some lizard fish. Really not a lot of critters on the sand.

Photo by Mike Jimenez
We eventually headed over to the wall. On the way there, Mike stopped to take some pictures of a turbot, or some such fish whose eyes were poking out of the sand. Clinton also found an octopus curled up in a shell. Just as he pointed it out, the octopus withdrew completely into the shell. When I tried to show it to Mike, he was looking at me like "what the heck are you pointing at?" Eventually he saw it, and took some shots, including the adorable one above with the octopus poking his head out. Mike dubbed it the "hermit octopus" :) When we got to the wall, we saw the usual night wall fare, including lots of small fish among the rocks. We meandered along the wall toward the beach. When we got into about 20 feet, Clinton buried his head in some hydroids and found some Dendronotus subramosus, which I have never seen before. Once Clinton pointed a couple out, I was able to find more on my own. I can't wait to take Rob back there and show them to him. They were all over the hydroids -- Clinton said he probably saw 50 out there. Clinton also pointed out a small red cabezon pretty shallow along the wall. By this point, I would freezing. In fact, at around 15 feet on the wall, I was starting to think that cold water diving isn't for me. Clearly I was delirious from the cold :) I was also convinced that I had a leak in my left foot, which turned out to be imagined.

We eventually ascended from about 8 feet and swam in. The water was still dead calm, and the walk up the beach in a single tank was delightful. Mmm, I love single tanks. 82 minutes, 53 feet, 51 degrees

All of Mike's pictures are here.