It's about diving. And cats.

Me diving

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Mutiny on the Cypress Sea

On Saturday we went on our first Cypress Sea Big Sur trip of the season. The idea was to do a farewell boat trip with Jonathan, since this would be his last weekend in town :( As a result, our dive clique had nearly all of the spots on the trip. Even some of the more elusive boat divers (like Don and Elissa) made an appearance. The festivities really started the night before. Given the 6 AM boat departure, no one wanted to have to drive down in the morning, but the Monterey Blues Festival made hotel rooms crazy expensive. Since all of Jonathan's furniture had already been moved out, we had a slumber party (sleeping bags and all) in his living room. We also had a bonfire on the beach on Friday night, which was fun.

Anyhoo, after boarding the boat, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed at 5:30 AM, we headed down the coast. The water was crazy calm. It was like we never left the bay (or the harbor for that matter). On the way down, I enjoyed some oatmeal -- they have a fabulous new cinnamon roll flavored oatmeal on board which I highly recommend. Rob bossed Phil around and convinced him that we should go to a site we went to last year, that was a long crack that we thought would be fun to scooter. But we would do a site north of Point Sur first. The whole Big Sur coast smelled like a campfire throughout the day. We ended up at this site which Phil called "Castle Rock" (which is apparently the site that Beto calls "Las Piedras Wall"). This pinnacle goes from about 70 feet down to 140 or so feet, and is long and thin. It's about 500' long and maybe 100' wide. After we saw the bathymetry map, we decided it would be a good site to scooter, since the navigation would be trivial. We hopped into the water, and swam back to the swim step to grab our scooters, which was pretty crowded with 5 scooters on board. But mine was easy to identify as the one with the Death Kitty on it (care of Ken Gwin). There was a bit of current at this site, so scootering was nice. We headed down the line, and it was quite easy to stay with the line and with each other on the way down. This was my first scooter dive from a boat. It was very nice to be able to pause to clear my ears without either having to hang on the line or kick kick kick while waiting for my ears to cooperate. The visibility was not spectacular from the surface, and it was pretty green. By the time we got down to the pinnacle, it was quite dark, but the visibility was really good.

The anchor was on the east side of the pinnacle, near the south end. We decided to scooter down to the south end first, to check it out. Down at the south end, there was a cool overhang at about 120'. We continued around the tip and it got much less pretty as we came up the west side, so we turned around and headed back to the overhang, where we poked around. The wall and overhang were covered in pink corynactis (which looked just smashing next to my pink drysuit), so they were impressive just to look at. There were some rockfish hanging out under the overhang, including a treefish and a China. Across the sand at the bottom a little to the south was a rock with a bunch of metridium on it. We eventually continued scootering back north on the east side, where we seemed to pass pretty much all of the other divers. We made it to the northern tip and then meandered back along the east side. There were scattered hydrocoral shrubs. Rob stopped to take some pictures of them, and I was poking around, when I found the smallest clown nudi I have ever seen. Kevin also pointed out some pastel purple corynactis to me (my favorite color corynactis :P) which I guess he'd never seen before. Before long, it was time to head up. The line was pretty crowded on the way up, with Jonathan and Kevin zipping around on their scooters (we had ours clipped off... so much more civilized). We eventually got sick of having to stay with the line and left it after we left 20 feet. Then we surface scooted back to the boat. 127 feet, 63 minutes, 46 degrees

After the dive, I was really cold, and it didn't seem to improve on the surface interval. I finally figured out why when I took my suit off to go to the bathroom (I can just hear Rob chastising me for not calling it "the head"), I was super wet! The backs of my legs from my butt to my knees were soaked. That's a new development :( I downed a cup o'noodles and some tea to try to warm up. Anyhoo, for the second dive, we went to the site Rob wanted to go to, which Phil calls "Monte Sur". Or maybe it is a site near Monte Sur. I'm not sure. The water was super flat and there was no current there. There was lots of kelp, and it was just lying lazily on the surface. We got into the water (I am perfecting the giant flop off of the Cypress Sea, which used to be a source of great stress for me), and got our scooters from the back. We descended at the swimstep because of all of the kelp, and headed over to the line in about 10 feet. The line was amazingly vertical. As we headed down, it was like we were on a different site than the last time we were there. Why? Because the viz sucked today :( I have memories of near tropical viz in blue water, where you could see the canyon/crack stretch out in both directions. Today, you couldn't even see across the channel in some spots. Oh well. We headed off in one direction and the wall sort of petered out pretty quickly. So we turned around and went the other direction. We scootered for a few minutes, getting the lay of the land, and eventually we stopped and clipped off and kicked from there. We passed a lot of blue rockfish and some olives. We moseyed along the reef, Rob taking some pictures, while I looked in the cracks for anything interesting. I found a few nice slugs -- trilineatas (including some "big" ones), several Aegires, and a mating pair of Adalaria jannae (or are they Onchidoris muricata?), plus lots of Hermissendas in different shades.

We eventually decided to head back to the line. Rob asked me which way the line was, and I told him, and confirmed his suspicion (we had actually meandered past it, I think, but it was across the crack so we didn't notice). So we headed back in that direction and after scootering a couple of minutes, we both started doubting ourselves. I told him let's go for another minute before we turn around, and then we saw a bunch of lights from the other divers (we had moseyed a lot further than we realized!). Nils had found a red (young?) wolf eel in a crack right next to the line. We checked it out and Rob took some pictures, and then we headed up. The line was pretty crowded, especially since once we got past the top of the crack, there was kelp everywhere on one side. I think I beaned someone in the face (who was above me) as I was ascending. When we got to 20', I noticed that a big dense school of blue rockfish had appeared in the kelp on the other side of the crack. I asked Rob if we could swim over and hang with them. So we went over and pretended to be rockfish, hanging with the school, for the rest of our hang. It was a very pretty scene, with all the rockfish and all of the kelp in the background. We swam to the back of the boat underwater (since there was kelp everywhere), and I found a little hole where I could ascend. I couldn't really even see where the back of the boat ended, so I was hoping this would be close enough to board. Nope. I was sent back under and had to clear some kelp with bubbles (actually, Rob cleared the kelp and I shared the hole in the kelp with him -- very romantic). Getting up on the swimstep, covered in kelp, was a slippery proposition. 96 feet, 68 minutes, 48 degrees

After dive two, we had sandwiches (a variety of meat and cheese on croissants) for lunch. Croissant sandwiches definitely get the Cold Water Kitty stamp of approval. A big improvement over the sandwiches from last year :)

For the last dive, we headed back to the north, since the viz was apparently better up there. We went to G spot, a pinnacle that tops around 40', and is about 100' at the bottom. I warned Rob that this would have to be a shorter dive, since I was really cold. We decided to leave our scooters behind for this dive. As soon as we started to descend, I sort of regretted that, as there was a bit of a current to swim into on the way down. Nothing terrible, but probably the worst of the day. As we got down the line, almost to the pinnacle, a really pretty egg yolk jelly appeared. I swam over to look at it, while Rob took some pictures. I felt a little bad to stick my face in the frame, but I really wanted to get a look! But alas, it was headed up, and I didn't feel like following it, so we continued down. When we got down to the pinnacle, there was a big vertical crack through the pinnacle right near the line. I wanted to go check it out, but first we had some business to attend to. Cynthia had been wanting a photo shoot with Rob for some time, and it kept not working out. So we met up with Cynthia and Al at the bottom of the line, and Rob took some pictures of Cynthia. After he was finished and signaled to move along, I suggested he get some glamour shots of Al too, so he did, and then we headed off. I wanted to check out the crack but for some reason, Rob whooshed past the crack and along the outside of the pinnacle. Whatever.

We continued along the side of the pinnacle, and eventually hit some rocks off to the side. We stopped at one of these rocks, which had some hydrocoral, which Rob of course wanted to shoot. So I looked around. I found another treefish in a crack on this rock. I noticed a lot of hydroids that were some different kind that I haven't seen around here before. Then I realized they were crawling with trilineatas (at first I pointed a couple out to Rob, and then I realized how ridiculous that was when I realized they were everywhere!). There were also some very pretty Hermissendas with bright red tips on yellow. After Rob was finished with the hydrocoral, I signaled that we should turn around because I really wanted to check out that crack. We headed back to the line, where the viz had deteriorated significantly -- there was a lot of particulate in the water, and the current direction seemed to have changed. When we got back to it, I am pretty sure Rob was expecting me to head for the line, but instead I swam into the crack. I went a little further into it than I should have (I was thinking I could ascend a little, since it widened higher up, but that somehow didn't quite work), so I had to back out until I was far enough to turn around (which required contortions). Then I figured once I was jammed in there, I might as well pose for some pictures :) Then we headed back to the line. During the ascent, I was constantly kicking to stay with the line, but it wasn't too bad. When we got up to 20', Rob finally gave up and decided that hanging on the line so he could face me would be easier. When we got up to about 15', I noticed that the granny line was heading in the opposite direction of the boat. I'm pretty sure it wasn't like that at the start of the dive :) Swimming to the back of the boat against the current was a bit of a chore. Rob wouldn't hand over his O2 bottle to Phil while he caught his breath. I was, however, in a hurry to get out of the water, since I was really cold. I was also sort of pooped, but Phil picked up the slack and lifted me out of the water by the manifold :) 94 feet, 52 minutes, 46 degrees

We had an incredibly smooth ride back to Monterey.

All of the day's pictures are here.

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