It's about diving. And cats.

Me diving

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Lobos Middle Reef

On Sunday we went to Lobos with Leah, and did two dives around Middle Reef. We managed to get there late (later than Leah), even though we stayed overnight in Monterey (thanks, Cynthia). Those Big Sur boats are kind of brutal. I don't think I am hard core enough to do two days of diving when one of them is a Big Sur trip. Anyhoo, it seemed pretty uncrowded when we got there, I'm not sure why. It never really seemed to fill up (in terms of number of divers). Matt and John were there too, and Al eventually showed up.

We decided to head out along the west side of middle reef, and then at some point to pop over to the east side, and come back in on that side. I suggested that we could swim out to transect 4, and cut over there, since there is that nice little cut through, but we figured we'd play it by ear depending on gas constraints. I was leading, followed by Leah and then Rob. We dropped in the sand channel just a bit north of the worm patch, and headed out along the sand channel until the viz cleared up a bit. Then we cut over to the reef. We just meandered along, pointing stuff out as we saw it -- various dorids, Hermissendas, and the occasional fish in a crack. We had told Leah we would try to show her the warbonnet, so when we got there, I used all of the tricks to find him, and I couldn't. I just didn't see any suitable warbonnet holes where he was supposed to be... then I noticed a starfish sprawled across the reef, right around where the warbonnet was supposed to be. Hmm. I asked Rob to take a look and he couldn't find him either, so we decided the starfish must be over his hole. Anyhoo, it was just about time to pop over to the east side and head in, and we just happened to be right by transect 4, so we cut through there. The viz seemed better on the east side. We swam back along the right side of the channel, hugging the wall, and peering under the various overhangs, looking at the fish, etc. that were hiding. As we got shallower and the reef structure became less distinct, I headed southwest, hoping I would soon run into something familiar looking from the west side. Then I saw some lights in the distance and realized it was John and Matt doing some drills on the worm patch. We killed a few more minutes at some right by the worm patch, while Rob went and harassed John and Matt, and then we ascended there. 45 feet, 42 minutes, 50 degrees

After a surface interval and some snacks, we headed back into the water. For the second dive, we decided to check out the reef on the other side of the sand channel. We swam out on the surface a little past the worm patch, and dropped in the sand channel, then Rob led us over to the left. We swam over the rubbly reef until we got to the bigger structures toward the west. Then we followed those out to the north. We stopped along the way for a few pictures, and to take a look at a couple of interesting critters, including a Hilton's aeolid and an interesting Limacia, which had very few cerata -- not sure what was up with that. At around 40 or 45 feet, we headed east and crossed the sand channel, to come back along middle reef. A bit further in, we then hopped over middle reef to the east side, and continued in. We ended up ascending at the worm patch again. 41 feet, 51 minutes, 50 degrees

Lunch followed at RG Burgers, where they really outdid themselves with terrible service.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Bob's Birthday Boat

Photo by Robert Lee
Saturday was Rob's birthday, so we went on the Cypress Sea Big Sur trip to celebrate. The sea conditions were not stellar, but the ride down was mostly fine. Until we got down there. Beto and Rob had some sites (including Los Piedras Wall) they wanted to go to on the north of Point Sur, and then Phil came up with an alternative which he claimed was somewhat similar. We got to Phil's site, and then he spun around the site a few times, making me want to barf. He decided it wasn't diveable. We continued on to Los Piedras Wall, and took a few spins around it (at which point, I slid off of the bench and laid on the deck, trying not to barf), and Phil decided that it too was undiveable, so we would have to go south of Point Sur. Once we got going, I felt a lot better.

Photo by Clinton Bauder
We ended up at a new (I think) site in the vicinity of Portholes, which had two peaks next to each other, coming up to about 50 feet and going down to 100-ish. The water looked pretty green when we hopped in. As we headed down the line, we encountered an egg yolk jelly which we swam over to take a look at. The anchor was laying a little ways off from the pinnacles, so we swam in the direction of the pinnacles and picked a direction to go (right, but I have no idea what cardinal direction that corresponds to). We slowly worked our way around the pinnacle, with Rob shooting wide-angle and Clinton shooting macro. The viz was probably around 40 feet, but there was a lot of particulate, and it was green. The highlight of the dive, for me, was finding a Cadlina limbaughorum. Rob and I have seen this slug once at Lobos, and I think Clinton had also seen it exactly once, at Lobos. I knew neither of them had a good picture, so I was glad at least one of

Photo by Robert Lee
them was shooting macro! When I pointed it out to each of them, they each looked at it like they didn't know why I was pointing out some boring Cadlina to them, and then it suddenly hit them what they were looking at. I have been wondering if we'd ever see another one around here. But I think they are common in SoCal, so I guess it's not that surprising that we would see it in Big Sur. Aside from that, I saw a lot of cute little sculpins, tons of trilineatas, and several Aegeris. Rob pointed out a treefish hanging out in a crack, and there were oodles of copper (I think) rockfish. The reef had a lot of neat little crevices and overhangs, that were good for fish to hide in.

Photo by Robert Lee
When it was time to head back, we swam back around the pinnacle, it was impossible to see where the anchor/line were, so we decided to just ascend along a piece of kelp, instead of searching for the line. During the ascent, we poke around at the kelp leaves, looking for nudibranchs and such. There were a bunch of Corambe, and I have a feeling there was something else cool that Clinton got some shots of, but I no longer remember what it was. When we got to the surface, the boat was not too far away. During the briefing, Phil had told me that he had lowered the swimstep a few inches (the last time I was on the boat, I spent the ride back complaining to Phil about the swimstep :P). It was WAY easier to board -- I could actually pull myself completely up on it without a tug on my manifold. 97 feet, 64 minutes, 48 degrees

Photo by Robert Lee
We motored further south, because a lot of us wanted to go to Compost. We noticed that the water was a gross shade of brown, but then it suddenly cleared up -- you could literally see a line from the surface where it went from brown to greenish-blue. Right around there, we also passed a pod of Risso dolphins. We got to Compost, where the water was a bit clearer and bluer than the previous dive. We started at poking around on the boulders on the bottom just off of the pinnacle. I was swimming around, not really even looking for slugs when I noticed a Eubranchus on a hydroid. After pointing it out to Clinton, I realized they were everywhere and he was almost certainly already looking at them :) I also found one of the yellow slugs which we thought was Aldisa sanguinea, so I pointed it out to Clinton. Afterwards, he agreed that that's what it was, so I guess that solves that mystery. Eventually we headed back to the pinnacle, and started swimming around it clockwise. Rob found a cool little jelly (or piece of a salp chain maybe?) off of the pinnacle, and I swam over to take a look. Eventually Clinton joined us to take some pictures. Then we noticed that there was a not-insignificant current, as we drifted away from the pinnacle :)

Photo by Robert Lee
We continued around to the other end, where there are some bigger structures off the end of the main pinnacle. It was over here that we saw a wolf eel last year. Sure enough, as we came around, someone signaled to me and I swan over and saw a wolf eel, completely out in the open. Of course he scurried under a rock before Rob could get any pics. Then we poked around there for a while. Rob was chasing a cabezon, who hopped from rock to rock, pausing long enough for Rob to get a shot or two off before he moved on. I was looking through the kelp at the various cute little sculpins skittering around. Eventually we decided to continue around the pinnacle. We passed Beto and Susan we hanging out under a really pretty overhang, covered in the cotton-candy colors of Corynactis and various sponges. We were swimming against the current, which was actually a bit of a fight, and then we finally came around a corner, so that we were now going with the current, and we basically got dragged around the end of the pinnacle in short order and taken for a ride back up to the other end. By this time it was time to begin our ascent. Compost comes up to about 30 feet, so there was nice scenery on the way up, and even on top, there was kelp, so we spent our 20 foot stop looking at the Corambe's on the kelp (there were tons of them!). After that, we headed over to the line and spent the ascent kicking slowly against the current to stay with the line. 99 feet, 66 minutes, 48 degrees

Photo by Robert Lee
For the third dive, we headed back north close to where we did the first dive. I'm not sure what exactly transpired, because after eating some tasty croissant sandwiches, I took a nap on the deck. It was quite cozy, especially the metal parts which were nice and warm from the sun. I have never understood how anyone could sleep on the deck, but now I finally get it... once I found a suitable pillow (Rob's leg), it was a great nap (and a great way to get sunburned). When we got to the site for dive 3, I really didn't feel like getting back in :P I got the feeling that everyone sort of felt that way, since it had been a long day already. We ended up at a site with 2 peaks, the shallowest of which came up to around 40 feet. I think the viz was a little better than the first site (in terms of the water being clean) but it was still fairly dark at depth. Right where we dropped, there was a wall from maybe 50 feet down to about 100 feet, which was pretty cool. We swam along it and eventually that petered out to a lower-lying reef from about 80 feet to the bottom. While we were poking around there, I saw a Dirona, but lost site of it because of all of the kelp flapping in the breeze. Clinton found a pair of Ancula gibbosas, which I was very excited to see (I think I've only seen one once before, also near Big Sur). Clinton also pointed out a stalked jellyfish to me, which I had never seen before.

Photo by Robert Lee
This section of the reef was a little deeper than I wanted to average, so I suggested we head back to the earlier wall part, which came up shallower. We headed back, and passed John and Matt, who pointed something out to Clinton. When I swam over to look, Clinton indicated that he didn't know what they had pointed at. Apparently they saw two Dironas. We continued along, stopping at a little ridge off to the side of the pinnacle, which had a few nice hydrocoral bushes. Then we headed back to the wall and a little shallower. We passed the anchor, and while Rob was taking some pictures, I signaled to Clinton that we should head up when he was done. In the meantime, Clinton found a really cool new-to-me slug, Doto amyra -- it was tiny! After he finished taking pics, we headed up. Once we got above the pinnacle, there was significant current. I was alternating between hanging onto the line and swimming against the current just off the line, but eventually settled on hanging onto the line :) A variety of jellyfish drifted by us while we were there, including a lot of egg yolk jellies. It was fun to watch the jellyfish parade, but not so fun hanging onto the line, so I was pretty happy when we hit the surface ;) 96 feet, 66 minutes, 46 degrees

Photo by Clinton Bauder
On the way home, we had cupcakes for Rob's birthday. Rob said later that it would have probably been better to save the cupcake for after the hellish trip home. It was definitely bumpy in spots, but not the worst trip back from Big Sur that I've had. Definitely worse than average though. I rode back in the wheelhouse, where I listened to John and Phil take turns telling jokes. The highlight was definitely the Menachem joke :)

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Back to Beto's

I've fallen a little behind on my dive reports. But since typing too much is bad for the paws, I will have to be brief in my catch-up reports. Or as close to brief as I can really be :) We had been planning to scooter with Don and Elissa, and Kevin invited himself along early in the week. Then D & E ended up not being able to make it (Don hurt himself while engaging in some dangerous hobby involving a bicycle and a mountain), so at the last minute we were stuck with Kevin. After mulling our options and investigating the gas selection in Cynthia's garage, we decided to go back out to Beto's. The viz was just so good the day before, and we didn't get to spend that much time out there. We decided to hit Beto's and then optionally (depending on how in love with Beto's we were) head over to the Sisters for the second half of the dive.

We got a late start, on account of Kevin bringing his Rock Band console and guitar (although I really prefer the drums), plus the big-enough-to-knock- a-horse-down margaritas we had with dinner. Once we finally got into the water, we headed right out to Beto's. We stopped around the wolf eel den, and clipped off. Sure enough, the wolf eel was there, and I spent a few minutes checking him out. Kevin found a Dirona right when we first stopped. The viz was not nearly as good as it was the day before, which was quite a bummer. I spent most of the time poking around on the patch of reef just north of the eel, and some time trying to find the warbonnet again. I eventually got sick of looking and gave up. Not long after that, Rob found him. I didn't go quite far enough along the reef before giving up. I found another one of the mystery yellow slugs for Rob to take pictures of. After showing it to Clinton, he said he thought it was Aldisa sanguinea. Other than that, we saw the usual assortment of nudibranchs and cute little fish.

After about 20 minutes, we decided to head over to the Sisters. We settled in near the top of the third one. We poked around there for a few minutes; I saw a few Aegires, I think, and some clown nudibranchs. I also found a cute little nook with a Cadlina luteomarginata next to a Doriopsilla albopunctata squished next to each other, like peas in a pod. I pointed it out to Rob and he had no clue what I was trying to show him; I guess he didn't think it was quite as cute. Before long, it was time to head in. We scooted back to Beto's and then headed in from there. It was a pretty straightforward trip in from there. Considering how murky it was even along the sand channel, we ascended from the worm patch and did our deco there. 111 feet, 81 minutes, 48 degrees

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Slug Hunting on the Road

On Saturday, Rob, John, and I went out to the Road for a little slug hunting. Getting up and schlepping down to Lobos was particularly brutal, because the night before, at a friend's house, I had been introduced to the most addictive substance on earth -- Rock Band. I always knew I was meant to be a rocker chick. Anyhoo, after a particularly groggy cranky trip down, we got to Lobos and met up with John. Kevy Poo was there too, diving with Delia. Apparently "just going to the Road" is below him now. Once we got there, we setup our tables and put together our gear. We usually do this the night before, but we had not due to our late night of rocking.

By the time we were all ready to go, the water level had risen a bit on the ramp. That was a relief, since it was really fuzzy with green when we got there. Rob swam stuff out to our float (with Kevin and Delia's assistance), and then we moseyed into the water. I was leading, followed by John and then Rob. I just realized that it seems like John is always #2 when we dive with him. I think it is because we do not understand and thus fear the beast, so it's best to keep two sets of eyes on it at all times. When we dropped (just a touch south of the worm patch), it was pretty cloudy and dark. As soon as we hit the worm patch, it became brighter and blue instantly, but there was a bit of particulate in the water. It was like it was flying at me as I scootered through it. Around the Hole in the Wall/Lone Metridium area, the viz improved even more. It was spectacular by the time we got out to the Sisters (easily 60 feet and BLUE). We headed out along the Road. Not too far along it as we were scooting in about 130 feet, I noticed an egg yolk jelly ahead and about 20 feet above us. I pointed it out to the boys, and did a little loop around to come up to it to take a look. On the way up, I noticed another one about 30 feet and then another about 30 feet to the left. I headed over to the next one, and from there I could see yet another one about 30 feet from that. They were all lined up, perpendicular to the road. Some of them were very sprawled out, and some not so much. After we poked around at the jellies for a minute or so, we continued out. When we got to a nice looking spot, sort of a medium sized pinnaclet (just a little further than where we often stop), I suggested we stop and clip off. As I was still clipping off, I spied a Doriopsilla spaldingi, and pointed it out to Rob and John. Rob got to work taking some pics, so I found another spot to peruse.

I found a nice looking trilineata, and then I signaled to John to point it out to him. I couldn't find it for a moment when I looked back, but then I found it and another one a few inches from it. We also noticed some Spanish shawls. Pretty soon I decided to start looking for super tiny stuff, since I figured the mystery Okenia isn't going to find itself. Of course I didn't find it (I suspect I could spend every Saturday for the rest of my life looking for it and still never see it again), but I did find some other interesting critters. First, I could a tiny white Dorid which I was pretty sure was a Diaphorodoris lirulatocauda. I was quite excited, because I had only seen it once before, on a dive without Rob (Kevin found it on one of the project transects). So I was fairly certain Rob hadn't seen one before. I called him over and showed it to him, and then left him to traumatize the slug with his strobes. I also found a mysterious (to me) slug kind of wrapped around the edge of a piece of kelp, which if I had to guess, I'd guess it was some kind of Corambe. As I signaled John to show him, he signaled me and we were caught in a standoff. I gave in and swam over to look at what he had found. It was a slug which he thought might have been the jaguar slug (which was, in all fairness, one of the main goals of the dive), but after some inspection, I decided was a Berthella who just didn't want to show us his rhinophores.

After that, I found a couple of mysteries organisms on kelp and asked Rob to get some shots for ID purposes. Then I found what seemed to be the cutest fish on earth, a juvenile painted greenling, who I swear had baby face. I stealthily signaled John and Rob so as not to scare him away, and then pointed him out. As Rob was setting up to take the shot, he kept skittering along the wall, and I was following him so we wouldn't lose him. Once Rob started taking pics I continued along. Next I happened upon a pair of Diaphorodoris lirulatocauda, and these I was really sure of the ID. Just a few minutes before it was time to head in, John signaled me to show me a nice fluffy Dirona. Just a few inches away from it, I saw a new cutest little fish on earth (which unseated the recently crowned juvenile painted greenling) -- I think a juvey sculpin of some sort (it had a sort of turquoisish color as part of its pattern; I am pretty sure we saw a similar fish at the Mating Amtracks). I brought Rob over to show him, and he was instantly attracted to the Dirona. Despite all of my attempts to show him the fish, he just kept pointing at the Dirona and saying "yea, I see it". Then he scared the fish away with his antics while shooting the Dirona :( Oh well. After that, it was time to head in.

The trip in was fairly uneventful. After switching to our deco bottles (right around Lone Metridium), we did our 70 foot stop in an area where we could actually swim along a little and look at structures. I have a feeling we saw something noteworthy at the 70 foot stop, but now I can't remember :) After that stop, we mostly did deco on the trigger, with the occasional pause in the sand channel. At our 40' pause, I noticed two Doris montereyensis on the sand in the sand channel (seemed like an odd place for them). The viz in the sand channel seemed even crappier than I remembered it on the way out, and it deteriorated from there. I had originally been thinking we could finish up counting the transects on the second dive, but with those conditions at Middle Reef, I decided that wouldn't be very fun. 139 feet, 85 minutes, 48 degrees

On the surface before getting out we had a brief exchange about whether we'd do a second dive, and we decided we would, but that it would not be counting on Middle Reef. We figured we had enough burn time left on the scoots to do a short scooter dive, so we settled on Beto's Reef. After a surface interval (with the obligatory orange salty snacks), we headed back into the water. It was a nice high tide by that point. Bob led the dive, John was second, and I was third. We headed out to Beto's passing Sea Mount on the west side. It seemed surprisingly kelpy out there. When we got to Beto's, we scootered until about the second little drop off and then clipped off. The viz was amazing out there. Rob noticed that the wolf eel was back in his usual spot (he had been missing for at least three dives in a row, so I had sort of given up) -- what a cutie pie. Not too far from there, I found a warbonnet poking out of his den. By the time I brought everyone over to see, he had retracted a bit, so just his head was peeking out. Just next to that, I found one of the yellow-ish dorids that I keep seeing, and cannot identify. So I pointed it out to Rob and suggested he get a shot. The current theory is that it is an Aldisa sanguinea.

Rob suggested we go for a spin to the end of Beto's before heading in, just to enjoy the good viz. Oh man was it good viz. When we got to the end, I couldn't believe how far out over the sand I could see! After a brief zoom down to the bottom, we scooted back along the side. Right around Sea Mount, Rob's scooter died, so John towed him. I offered to take his scooter, since last time this happened, I noticed that with so much crap clipped to him, there was a substantial slowdown when towing. Then we continued in. We paused at about 50' and for some reason, I asked Rob if he wanted to scooter and I could be towed. I thought he agreed, and so I handed his scooter back to him. He clips it to my butt and the next thing I know, he and John take off. Hmmm, I'm not sure what he thought I was trying to tell him :) I followed and we continued in until about 30 feet. From there, we ascended in the sand channel. Rob and John did a few drills at our 20 foot stop, while I tried to avoid corking feet first (having a scooter clipped to my butt made me feel really unstable when my tanks and stage bottle were so close to empty). When we got to the surface, John towed Rob. My scooter started putt-putting and died, so we did a 3 way tow from the edge of the cove. Very amusing :) 118 feet, 66 minutes, 48 degrees

After packing up our gear, John rejected our lunch overtures, so we went to the Sea Harvest in Carmel by ourselves. We had only been to the Monterey one before. I thought the food was actually slightly better at the Carmel one.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Diving with Ted

On Saturday, we had a long-awaited scooter date with the elusive Ted. Well, he is elusive at dive sites, but I actually see him at least three times a week, and probably talk to him about diving more than anyone (other than Rob). But I haven't been diving with him in ages! Definitely not since he got his scooter. Matt invited himself along (snicker) so we were a foursome. I think Matt wanted to go to Three Sisters, but I had the itch for Granite Point. It was really calm when we got there, so once Ted arrived (late) we decided it would be a good day to check out the shallows over there. I was hoping to recreate the super cool dive over there I did a few weeks ago with Joakim.

Ted and I buddied up, with Matt and Rob behind us. Ted wanted to lead out and back to Granite Point, but wasn't too confident about finding the areas I wanted to go to, so we decided that he would hand over leading to me once we got out there. After staging our stage bottles and scooters on the float, and other general crapping around, we finally got in the water just before sundown (okay, not quite). Then we headed out for a surface scoot. Once the kelp got too thick, we dropped (viz wasn't too bad in the cove, but it was quite dark). After taking us for a scenic but unplanned tour of the east side of middle reef :) we eventually made our way to the sand channel. From there, the trip out to Granite Point was uneventful. Oh, except that Ted was going balls fast for a while until Rob finally complained. Anyhoo, once we got to the wall, Ted yielded the balance of his leadership to me. I took us to the right and around to the back of the wall. We clipped off there and swam around for a little while, until we were at the end of the wall. I didn't see anything wildly exciting, but I did see a TON of rostangas, all pretty big ones (with speckles), and most of them out and about not on their orange sponge. When we got to the end of the wall, I suggested we get back on the trigger and head a little further out.

As we scootered around one of the walls, there were suddenly a ton of baby rockfish swimming around under us, so I stopped for a minute so we could check them out. Anyhoo, after hopping across two rubbly patches, I eventually headed in to the east a bit, and found a suitable place to clip off. I think we were in around 50 feet. I was poking around when Ted signaled me to tell me Rob had something for us to look at. We swam over and he pointed out a warbonnet just sitting out on the reef. Very cool. It's not often you get to actually see the whole fish! After that, we continued swimming around, and I noticed a crack between two small walls that led up. I wanted to get up to the shallows, so I swam through there to see where it led. Eventually we found ourselves in about 20 feet of water. There was a touch of surge there, but it wasn't too bad. I found some structures covered in peachy colored Corynactis. Unfortunately I didn't find any green anemones like I was hoping. However, the water was really clear and bright up there (in contrast to deeper, where it had been really dark), and I once again was thinking how it seemed like we were swimming in a tide pool :) Eventually I decided it was probably about time to head back, so I cut to the west until we found the top of the wall, and from there I did the free fall down to 70 feet. Or I attempted the free fall, until a well-placed piece of kelp arrested my fall. Hehe. When we got to the bottom and headed in, I realized that we had meandered south while at the top of the wall, because we only had one rubbly pile to cross.

Before you know it, we were back at the wall, and I ceded control to Ted. Most of the trip in was pretty uneventful, until we were in about 25 to 30 feet on the sand channel, and Matt's scooter died. Lame. Rob towed him, and they took the lead. We scootered in a bit past the worm patch, and then eventually decided we were at a good place to ascend. I asked Ted if he would watch me do a valve drill, since it has been ages since I have done one, and I know how Ted likes that kind of thing ;) Actually, it was an educational experience, because I have never done a valve drill in drygloves, and it was definitely a bit different (raising my hand above my head to reach my valves causes gas to move into the glove, duh). After wowing everyone with my inability to remember the valve drill sequence, we headed up. Ted shot a bag, and while we were at 10 feet, Rob pulled his current favorite brand of shenanigans and lost his mask. I assisted him on the way up, although in hindsight I realized I should have made Matt :) My buddy knows how to keep his mask on his face :P 71 feet, 94 minutes, 53 degrees

We had a little surface interval and scrounged for food before heading back into the water for dive 2. We decided to do a little nudibranch survey at the end of Middle Reef for the BAUE nudibranch survey. I haven't counted slugs in ages! We kept the same teams, and since Rob wanted to play around on transect 2 (which has a warbonnet), I was stuck with transect 1 (not really my favorite one to count :( ). We dropped down before we even reached the edge of the cove, because someone was too impatient to swim around the kelp. This made for a fairly long swim out, but it turned out to be worthwhile. While we were still pretty close in, I was swimming along and a piece of palm kelp right under me had a Triopha maculata on it (one of the small bright orange ones, which I believe means it is a juvenile). I was super excited. I started gesticulating wildly to Ted, and finally managed to get across the idea that he should go fetch the others (their team was leading on this dive). He brought them back over and everyone took a look. I decided that made the long swim worthwhile :P Right around then, Rob's Argon bottle started spewing gas (or maybe it always was, and no one noticed it), so he and Ted had to do some debugging (what IS the procedure for debugging a bubbling Argon post?). After that was sorted it, we continued on. We swam along the sand channel until we were in about 40', and then we swam over to the 40 foot warbonnet, and Rob showed it to Ted. I just sort of hung back since it is a bit crowded in that spot with 4 people. Eventually we got going again. I kept waiting for Ted, who seemed to be swimming along at a crawl, since he was supposed to be leading our teamlet. Eventually I just sort of lived with swimming side by side, since he seemed unwilling to pull ahead.

When we got to the transects, I whipped out my wetnotes and got right to counting. It was a pretty boring nudi day; in addition to not seeing anything very interesting, I just didn't see much at all for the first 10 minutes or so. In the end, I think I saw all dorids except for one Hermissenda. When I was finished, everyone else was already waiting to go. We head planned to come in along the east side of middle reef. So we swung around and were swimming back in there. It's really nice over there, and for some reason we don't take that route very often. I like the little channel that you swim down. We were swimming pretty leisurely, and I was sort of scanning the reef to my right as we went. My light scanned past something that looked like a fish head hanging down from the reef, and I did a double take. It was a fish (a baby rockfish) hanging out of a sculpin's mouth! I signaled the team, and everyone came back to take a look. Rob whipped out his camera (shooting wide-angle, unfortunately) and starting taking some pics. Ted said he really didn't have the gas to hang around for the photo shoot, so the two of us headed in. I noticed once again that Ted kept hanging back and refusing to lead. So we were swimming slowly side by side, and once we got to a clearing in the kelp, I thumbed it.

We ascended into a clearing that was solidly surrounded by kelp, sigh. So we decided to go back down to 10 feet and swim in. It was actually pretty fun swimming above everything. We ascended again after a couple minutes, and were still sort of surrounded by kelp. After following a little channel in the kelp that petered out, we descended again and swam in at 10 feet. We finally ascended clear of the kelp, but were a bit further east than planned. Meanwhile Rob and Matt were already out of the water :) After a bit of a surface swim across the cove (during which Ted convinced me to practice my rescue skills and tow him part of the way hehehe), we returned to Rob and Matt taunting us about where we ended up. After a little post dive debrief, it became obvious that while I thought Ted was leading the dive, Ted thought I was. That explains the slow side-by-side swimming as I waited for him to pull ahead and he waited for me to :P That's also our excuse for getting lost in the cove. After the dive, everyone agreed that we should go to the east side of middle reef more often. 63 feet, 89 minutes, 53 degrees

It was already 4 or so by the time we got out of the water. We headed over to Otter Bay to retrieve my other suit (with its shiny new neck seal) and then had dinner at Sea Harvest. Then I rode home with Ted (Rob stayed in Monterey to dive on Sunday). Ted seems pretty sold on the use of a stage bottle for 2 long dives. I'm not sure if he has dove a stage bottle on a "real" dive before. It's funny, I remember like a year and a half ago when Ted started talking up stage bottles, and planted the seed in our heads that we should get stage bottles. There we were, walking along the path between the 600 building and the Oracle lagoon on our way to the Jaywalk Cafe (which I only mention because I know Ted finds it irksome that I remember both the scenery and the content of every conversation we ever have), and he was telling us how he wanted to dive stage bottles all the time, to avoid filling his doubles every week or something. If any of the stage bottles go missing from my garage, I will know where to look :P

All of the weekend's pictures are here.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Slugs from the Deep

Rob, John, and I dove on Sunday. We met at Lobos a little after they opened, but had to do a little running around because of some forgotten gear. Once we retrieved some loner gear, we returned to Lobos and got geared up for the dive. The plan was a little scoot out along the Road, probably until we got to our favorite spot for slug hunting, and then we would hang out there for a while. While we were getting suited up, my neck seal got caught on my pony tail, and I got what could generously be called a nick in the seal :( After some inspection and trimming I decided to get in the water and bob around and make sure it still sealed well against my neck. So I bobbed around at the end of the ramp while Rob was swimming stuff out to the float (and Rob pretended to try to drown me, since I wasn't wearing my belt so couldn't get completely under). It seemed to hold, so we decided to go for it and if it leaked, we would turn back.

We headed out and the viz was pretty good but not the best ever. It was murky in the cove but cleared up in the sand channel. Rob was leading, followed by John and then me (to avoid excessive head swiveling). The trip out was pretty uneventful. As we were scootering out along the Road, I found a little wall-let with three Dironas on it. We eventually go to the area that I thought Rob said he wanted to go, but he continued past it. So I stopped them and asked if this was where he wanted to stop. Everyone agreed, so we clipped off and Rob whipped out his camera (if you can describe any operation that slow as "whipping it out"). As soon as we stopped, I saw a bunch of Spanish shawls, and then John pointed out a few more. We swam along one of the bigger structures looking for stuff along the wall. I didn't see much of interest, though, so I swam over to a smaller pile of boulders, which I am pretty sure is where I found the mystery Okenia. As I was swimming over to it, I found an Okenia of a different sort -- a Hopkins rose. So pretty. Other than that, I didn't see anything wildly interesting, but a lot of the usual stuff -- some Dendronotus albus, baby rockfish, some cute sculpins, and one yellow mystery Dorid. I asked Rob to take a picture, so we could argue about it later. But because of its location in a recess, we couldn't really decide from the picture :(

Rob and John asked me on several occasions if I was okay in terms of being cold/wet. As far as I could tell, I wasn't wet at all (or no wetter than usual). Eventually we headed back, and for some mysterious reason, we took a slightly unusual path home (via Sea Mount, but not via Beto's Reef). Shortly after passing Sea Mount, we switched to our bottles and hung out there for a bit. After that, we pretty much just hit our stops on the scoot in, with the occasional pause. As we paused at 40 feet on the sand channel, there was a ray of some sort right below us! I am not sure what it was. I could believe it was a skate (which Ted reported seeing in the sand channel on Friday), but what do I know? The rest of our return trip was uneventful. When we got out of the water, I found out that I was actually completely dry. It's been a long time since I've ever been completely dry in that suit (I recently fixed some crotch leaks, plus the neck had been intermittently letting water in). I guess being really careful about placing the neck seal paid off. 139 feet, 86 minutes, 48 degrees

We decided it would be safest to forgo a second dive, since we had a pile of minor gear problems by the end of the dive, and superstition dictates that after N minor failures, it means you are not meant to dive. While we could not all agree on the value of N, we could all agree that we had exceeded N for the day. So we retreated to Turtle Bay with Ted and Nils. I dropped my suit off at Otter Bay on the way out of town on Monday. We were supposed to dive Monday on the Escapade, but the conditions had deteriorated by Monday morning, so we decided to cancel :(

All of the day's pictures are here.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Independence Day on the Escapade

On Friday, we went on the Escapade (BAUE charter). The conditions looked like they would be pretty calm, so we were hoping to make it to some of the further south sites. Rob asked Jim about Lobos Rocks when we got on the boat. There was a big tidal exchange, but it looked like it could be doable if we made it down there for the first dive. But the weather was not on our side -- it was super foggy. On the ride out, I felt completely disoriented because we couldn't see the shore, so I had no idea where we were going. The water was also a little choppier than expected; not big waves, but there was a combination of swell (which I think was a mixed swell) plus a little wind chop making it seems like the water movement was coming from random directions.

Eventually we got to Cypress Point (which I could only really determine based on the buoy nearby, until we got a little closer to land), and not long after that, we stopped. Jim announced that we would be diving Local's Ledge for dive 1, since it was sufficiently close to land that it wasn't too froggy. I've never been to Local's Ledge; I never got the idea that it was a particularly nice spot, so I was in for a surprise. We hopped into the water, and the water looked a nice clear, teal color. It was hard to judge the viz, since the pinnacle topped at 10', so seeing the pinnacle wasn't a very good gauge for the viz :) We descended on top of the middle ridge, and as we came over the edge of it, it was an impressive drop down to about 80 feet from 20 or so feet. Very cool. We headed down the wall and then swam along between the two ridges. It seemed like there was hydrocoral on every little corner that was poking out. There were also a bunch of swarms of shrimp coating the reef in some areas. When we got to the end of the ridge we were following, I turned us one way, and the viz dropped to nearly zero because we were being tailed by a swarm of shrimp. They wouldn't leave us alone! So I turned around and headed back in the other direction. Shrimp 1, Kitty 0. Rob found some hydrocoral-laden corners to stop and take some pictures. While he did that, I poked around looking for little stuff. I found a couple of Dendronotus albus and a Dirona. I also found a bug lingcod, which I only noticed because it swam right under me about a foot from my face. Rob took some pics of it, before he bolted. After a little underwater altercation with Kevin, who snuck up on me and practically assaulted me until I flipped over and punched him in the chest before he even knew what was going on (Kitty 1, Kevin 0). I also noticed a couple little gangs of juvenile rockfish.

At some point we happened upon a line that looked like an anchor line (not ours) and I pointed it out to Rob. I was following it just to see where it led, but Rob apparently wasn't down with that. We ended up swimming around to the other side of one of the ridges, and eventually hopped over it near the end, at around 50 feet or so. As we were swimming over it, we saw some big hydrocoral bushes, and Rob stopped for some pictures, and then posed me behind it (which involved clawing my way through some palm kelp). Then we headed back over to the vicinity of the anchor line, and hung out there briefly before heading up. We ran into Suzanne and Gary at the 20' stop, and they posed for some pictures for Rob. When we got to the surface, the fog had cleared and it was a nice sunny day outside. 94 feet, 68 minutes, 48 degrees

After that, we headed down to check out Lobos Rocks. It seemed like we made ridiculously good time getting down there. Once we were there, Jim dropped the hook, and it became apparent that the current was ummm a little too significant. Something about the wind blowing one way and the current the other, and the current winning :) So back north we headed. We swung by Flintstones just for giggles, and of course the kelp was laying down at, oh maybe a 30 degree from horizontal angle. So we continued north and ended up at Inner Pinnacles. Long trip to get from Local's Ledge to Inner Pinnacles :) As we were getting into the water, Kevin dropped his stage bottle roughly at the back of the boat. At about the same time, Jim told us the anchor had slipped so he wanted to relocate the boat. We decided to just descend there (the bottom was 100'), look for the bottle, and swim towards the pinnacle (we took a heading toward the kelp patch). As we dropped, from about 30 or 40', we could see Kevin's bottle. Rob and I were trying to beat him to it, so we could take the bottle hostage, but my ears were uncooperative, and then Kevin swooped in and got to it first :(

Then we headed over to the structure, and passed the anchor on the way. Right as we got to the pinnacle, Rob spied a little wolf eel sitting on the bottom, out in the open. He pointed it out to everyone around, and then set up a shot. Of course one flash and the little guy scurried off, swimming about 6 inches past my face :) We swam along the side of the pinnacle, and I looked up at the kelp rising up from the pinnacle. I could see the surface from 80 feet. Rob was leading and suggested we hop over to another pinnacle, so we did. As I was swimming along, I saw a cool shrimp snuggled in the kelp -- he was kelp green with bright blue spots. (I found what I think is the same shrimp in a shrimp ID book at Bamboo Reef; it had a very memorable name, which I have since forgotten.) I signaled Rob and pointed it out to him, then we continued on. As we swam along, we checked out the hydrocoral and other usual Pinnacles inhabitants. Rob eventually started heading up a crack which I thought would be really fun to swim through, then he turned around and signaled we should turn :(

On the way back, Rob found a patch of hydrocoral that he was apparently very into, because I swear he was taking pictures of it for like 10 minutes, including about 5 minutes when he was posing me, and I kept having to maneuver around in the light current. As we headed back, I realized we had apparently been swimming with the current on the way out, oops. But the blue rockfish kept us company as we huffed and puffed our way back. The anchor had been in the sand a little off of the pinnacle, so at some point we agreed we were in the vicinity of where it might be, and headed off over the sand, in midwater. It was a bit of a leap of faith. Just when I think we were both starting to doubt ourselves, we found the line. Phew. We were on the line for a while, constantly kicking to keep with it, and never saw anyone else on it the whole time. Hmmm. When we got to the surface, it turned out two of the other teams had decided to shoot bags because of the current. After a little maneuvering to free the anchor (which I guess had eventually come to rest in a crack or something), we retrieved everyone, and headed in. 103 feet, 63 minutes, 46 degrees

There had been some chatter between the whale watching boats about a pod of thousands of dolphins and some whale activity, so on the way in, we took a detour out into the bay, and shadowed a whale watching boat. We saw a couple of whales, but no dolphins as far as I recall (I think I fell asleep on the way in, so I was groggy). After that we headed back to K-dock. Later in the afternoon, we were treated to an excellent BBQ on the boat, and then we headed out to watch the fireworks from the water. It was lots of fun; I especially liked Jim's lemonade :) Not a bad way to watch the fireworks, although it still doesn't hold a candle to the Boston fireworks celebration :) Thanks to Jim and crew for a great day on the water and a fun 4th!

All of the day's pictures are here.