It's about diving. And cats.

Me diving

Sunday, May 4, 2008

In Search of the Jaguar Nudibranch

Rob and I dove at Point Lobos today. We were originally slated to dive with John H, but he had a cold, so we were on our own. But it seemed like a Team Kitty dive -- Kevin was with us in spirit, or at least his scooter was clipped to my butt. Rob wanted to go back to Great Pinnacle shooting macro, since we saw so many cool nudibranchs there last time. We also wanted to look for the mystery white dorid we've seen a few times out around the Road (which we have dubbed the "jaguar nudibranch"), so he could get some more shots of it. So, we decided we'd go to Great Pinnacle (via the shallow route) and swing around to the Road on the way back.

Rob led, since he has been out there more than I have. I think this was the first time either of us had been out there without Jonathan. I towed a backup scooter, which I have never done for real before. I swam our stuff out to the float, and then we got geared up and got into the water. Suzanne and Gary were getting in the water at the same time, so we loaned them one of the scooters so they could surface scoot out with us. We got a little bit outside of the cove, and they handed it off to us. Rob clipped it to my butt for me, and we dropped there. We headed down the sand channel to Hole in the Wall, which I noticed had a decent amount of kelp just to the northwest of it (I noticed it because I was worried about the towed scooter getting tangled in it :P). The viz was quite nice even on the sand channel -- probably 30 to 40 feet, and very blue. When we got to the Lone Metridium, I went to reset my bottom timer, and I noticed that my gauge read 44 degrees! Yikes! I could feel it. It was also very clear though, probably 50 to 60 feet of viz, plus blue and bright! From there, we continued to about the 80 foot contour and followed it west. At some point Rob pointed to the structure to our left, for me to look up it, and I noticed that you could see up to the top of the structure, and then kelp came off the top of that, which you could see all the way to the surface -- very nice! I eventually started recognizing landmarks near Great Pinnacle, and then we finally came to Great Pinnacle, which I recognized by the occasional metridium dotting it on this side.

We came around to the north side, and clipped our scooters off, and hung out there for a while. At first I didn't see anything too interesting, just a lot of clown nudibranchs, and Doriopsillas. Then I finally found a Dirona on the wall below us, and after swimming down to look at it, I saw another one a little further down. I pointed them out to Rob and continued along while he got some pictures. I eventually found a Spanish shawl too, which was not in a very photogenic position, but I pointed it out to Rob anyway, since he has his little Spanish shawl obsession. He pointed out a gorgonian to me that was crawling with skeleton shrimp. It was pretty neat looking, but also kind of gross. While he was taking pictures of that, I found a little nook with a little juvenile rockfish (a rosy, I think) in it. I was watching him for a while, and when Rob finally came over, I pointed him out. Of course, he disappeared into his crack before Rob could even setup a shot. I ended up finding an area with several Hermissendas, including some smaller ones. While I was looking around at those, I realized there were also two trilineatas nearby. Not exactly the throngs of them which we saw last weekend, but at least Rob was shooting macro. Rob found a tiny little tannish nudi on a hydroid, which he told me afterwards was a Cuthona fulgens (it was too small for me to tell). I have never seen one of those before. After he was done taking pictures of that, I signaled that I was cold, and we should get going. I guess we will have to return to our search for the jaguar nudibranch on a future dive.

After some camera and scooter juggling, we headed towards the Road. I realized I should have juggled scooters (I switched to the one I was towing) when we got there instead of when we were ready to leave. Would have made for a quicker getaway :P Shortly after leaving, we passed a Scrippsia pacifica. I also noticed as we approached the Road that there was an impressive column of blue rockfish above us. We hit the Road and followed it in south. When we got to the end near the Sisters, I once again found some little rockfish near the bottom. I pointed them out to Rob, but there was no time for pictures, so we continued. When we got to the rock just past Lone Metridium (which has become our default 70 foot stop), we switched to our bottles and negotiated our deco (a little disagreement on what our average depth was, so we went with the more conservative one). We headed in in the usual manner. When we got to the sand channel, the viz had deteriorated. It was chunkier than it had been on the way out.

By this point, I was very cold, and we still had over 15 minutes of deco left. I decided that twiddling my thumbs at the worm patch wasn't going to cut it -- I needed a distraction to keep me from thinking about how cold it was! So at about 30 feet, I headed us over to Middle Reef and decided that today we would take a detour to the east for our 20 foot stop. This was inspired by the two recent dives I did on the east side of Middle Reef, both of which were at 20 feet, but with plenty to see. We doodled along the reef over there, occasionally scooting to another spot to look around. Eventually we made our way south to where the reef ended, so I headed southwest. Then I decided I really had no clue how far east I had taken us (or how far west I needed to go to get home), so I found a nice kelp stalk and told Rob we would finish up there. We were working our way up to 10 feet, when we heard a boat overhead, so Rob whipped his bag out, and after recovering his unspooled spool (hehe), he managed to inflate it (I was very impressed... sooo cold). When we got to the surface, we were pretty far to the east of the cove. Whoops. Well, that's what scooters are for. 135ft, 89 minutes, 44F.

Even though the conditions were nice, I was crazy cold and decided to pass on a second dive. It was cold on the surface too, so I figured it would be difficult to warm up between dives. Instead, we headed to Turtle Bay. Actually we stopped at Jonathan's garage briefly, and dragged Cynthia out of bed to join us for lunch. We also visited the devil's spawn, errr, Nitrox the cat. Actually she was a little angel to us -- I guess she likes us better when Oreo and Pepper aren't around.

Pictures from the dive are here.

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