It's about diving. And cats.

Me diving

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Chapter 6: Explorers Club

On Saturday, I dove from the Escapade on the bi-monthly (or so) BAUE charter. Actually it has been ages (6 months to be precise) since a BAUE recreational charter -- the last one was canceled due to weather. We had the boat for 6 or so hours, so the plan was to go south if possible. Jim informed us that the conditions were supposed to get better throughout the day, so it would just be a matter of how the timing of the weather worked out, whether we could make it down. We made it around the point (outside of "the bay" as some might say) without any problems. The ride was quite smooth, as far as I could tell. I was happily munching on an Escapade muffin, having a yelling-over-the-engine conversation with Matt, half of which we probably both couldn't hear. We got down past Lobos, to the Yankee Point area. Clinton came down and told use we were going to Pinnacle of Tremendous Proportions, which I haven't been to before, but I'd seen pictures, and it sounded good to me.

We all got geared up, and Rob asked Jim what he thought the current was like, and someone pointed out that the jellies in the water sure were swimming fast :P After a little experiment
with line and a bolt snap, Jim became concerned. Clinton eagerly volunteered to be the test dummy, so he hopped into the water. By the time he popped up from the splash, he had already drifted a bit away from the boat. Based on the amount of effort it took to pull himself up the line, Jim decided to go elsewhere for the first dive. So we all sat down in our gear and held on while we motored back up to Honeymoon Rocks, another site which I have not been to. Matt and I were diving together, and Ildiko and Rob were diving together, so we decided to stick together as a foursome. We headed down and there was not much current at all. At around 40 feet, I felt tugging on my fins, which I thought was actually pushing, because I was descending slowly. Then a few feet down the tugs got a little more aggressive, so I looked back and Rob handed me his camera -- his drysuit inflator had popped off and when he went to add gas, he got a nice shot of cold water instead :P After he took care of that, we continued down the line.

The anchor was on the southeast side of the western-most rock (or I am totally confused...). After doodling around at the anchor while Rob took some pics, we swam counterclockwise around that rock, and then hopped south to the next rock south, which had some metridium, which I posed with. In general, the reef had scattered patches of corynactis and other encrusting stuff and metridiums, and the occasional stalk of hydrocoral. Oh, the viz was great -- 60 feetish, and the water was super-blue! Anyhoo, then we hopped back to the original rock, and continued east, and curved around north, following a wall with scattered metridium. At the end of that, it sort of petered out to rubbleness, and we turned back. Across from that wall (to the east), was another rock, which I swam over to. Here I saw a treefish, which I pointed out to the others. It was about time to head up, so we headed back to the line and up. Keeping track of 3 others on the line was a bit of a chore. Eventually Clinton and team appeared below us and I kept seeing flashes going off, so I tried to pretend to have good trim and whatnot. Rob, apparently, did not get the memo. 96 feet, 50 minutes, 48 degrees

When we got back onto the boat, Rob got out of his gear and immediately took his spot on the gunwale. He basically alternated between that spot and sitting on the bench in a cat-atonic state for the entire surface interval, which was substantial. We motored up to Stillwater for the surface interval, and had some sandwiches and chowder. Then after a brief poll, Jim decided to head back to PTP and see if the current had improved at all. When we got down there, Rob hopped in the water (sans gear) to see what the current was like. He said there wasn't very much, so we all got geared up and got into the water. On this dive, I was just diving with Rob. On the way to the anchor line, there was some current but not too much.

We dropped and I could immediately see the reef, since the pinnacle tops in about 30 feet. We got down to it, and the current was pushing us south. We swam to the east side and dropped down, and then it was calmer. We swam north along the east side. Where we first dropped down, there was a little ledge below the top, which we swam along. There was a lot of palm kelp on it. As I was swimming along, I noticed some hydroids in one of the palm kelps and without even looking for it, saw a Dendronotus frondosus on the hydroids as they blew in the surge. From about 50 feet down to 100 feet-ish, it was a pretty straight wall, which was cool to look down. There were some nice hydrocoral shrubs, lots of corynactis, and some metridium. There was also a smaller pinnaclet off to the east across a small channel. I noticed a few nice stalks of hydrocoral, so I swam over to it, turned around, and positioned myself for a shot, but then I realized Rob was busy taking a picture of something on the main pinnacle. So I went back over to him. Then a minute later, he swam over to the little one, and signaled to me to pose for a picture by those stalks of hydrocoral :P Apparently Clinton and Sami had the same idea. Anyhoo, we continued to the north until we got to the end of the pinnacle.

We were told that it was too large to swim around (which was false), so we turned back there. On the way back, I don't even know why, but I decided to pick through some feathery hydroids, to look for slugs. The first bunch of hydroids I looked in, I found a bunch of Dendronotus subramosus (I think). I showed them to Rob, and then I noticed that John and Matt were just about to pass us, so I decided to share them with my fellow slug geeks. While we were fighting the surge to look at some tiny slugs, Rob found a very photogenic lingcod, which I completely missed. Anyhoo, we continued on, and I found some more sluggy hydroids, and a small Hilton's nudibranch. When my gas was getting low, I suggested we pop our heads up on top of the pinnacle and check where the anchor was. I popped up and immediately saw the line, so I suggested we just hang around there for a few more minutes before heading up. I found some other kinds of slugs (which I couldn't identify without magnification) on the red lacy hydroids. Rob also found a really cool looking one on a feathery hydroid, that was actually big enough to look at. I couldn't get a good enough look at it in the surge, but Rob thinks it may have been Eubranchus rustyus, which I find highly plausible.

We headed up the line, and were greeted by a variety of jellyfish. First there were the moon jellies, which were plentiful. Then while we were at 10 feet, we saw a Scrippsia pacifica, which I was fascinated by. Then a spotted comb jelly came by -- I love those (probably because they remind me of a chocolate chip jellyfish), and this is probably the nicest looking specimen I have seen. I went to signal Rob, and I noticed he had drifted off the line, with a jellyfish of his own, and was taking pictures of it. Turns out it was a sea nettle. 88 ft, 46 minutes, 47 degrees

The ride back was uneventful and quite calm, I thought, although Rob returned to his catatonic state for the trip :( But about 2 minutes after stepping foot on land, he was ready for Turtle Bay, so there was clearly no long term damage :)

All of the day's pictures are here.

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