It's about diving. And cats.

Me diving

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.

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