It's about diving. And cats.

Me diving

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.

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