It's about diving. And cats.

Me diving

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Back to Big Sur

The day before our trip to Big Sur Banks, there were reports of significant fog in Carmel Bay :( The NOAA forecast also mentioned "patchy dense fog" for the day of the trip. Well, we had to go down and see for ourselves. Basically everything past Cypress Point was engulfed in fog. It was actually kind of creepy. I had no idea where we were for basically the entire trip beyond that, since there were no landmarks to be seen. Around Yankee Point (or so I am told), we powwow'd to discuss whether we should continue on or head back to the fogless north. We decided to continue on and see if things improved. We got out to the banks, and things had not improved. Clinton suggested we head landward and check out Midway Pinnacle (which, as you may have guessed, is midway between Big Sur Banks and Point Sur). It was at least as foggy there, so we continued in, and then headed north along the coast, hoping for a break in the fog somewhere. As we approached Las Piedras Wall, it suddenly cleared, and there was an area that was surprisingly free of fog for a decent distance. So we decided to do a dive there, and see how things looked after that.

The last time we went to Las Piedras Wall, we hung out mostly at the south and east sides, but there were tales of "better" hydrocoral on the northwest side. So we decided to check out that spot. We had our scooters, so we could tour around a bit until we found a good spot. We scootered down to the site, and landed on the west side. We headed north, and stopped on a little pinnaclet off of the main structure. We hung out there for a while. The viz was good (thought not as amazing as it had been the last time we dove it) but it was dark! The site was just as pretty as I remembered it -- tons of corynactis lighting up the reef. However, I didn't think the hydrocoral on this side was particularly better than elsewhere. There seemed to be a little bit of current on the bottom, enough that in certain spots I kept getting knocked into the reef. Kevin was being a big camera hog, so I mainly just poked around on the reef. I didn't see anything too interesting, until right before the end of the dive, I found a hydroid shrub that was swarming with little Cuthona fulgens. There were dozens of them on this one shrub. As I was leafing through it, pointing them out to Rob, I saw another nudi that looked familiar (as in, I'd seen a picture of it before) but new to me at the base of the hydroid. Turns out it was a Cuthona divae, which I don't think I've seen before. Woohoo! Very pretty nudi. As soon as I was done looking at that, it was time to go. We scooted back toward the anchor, and then Kevin shot a bag and we drifted. By the time we got back to the surface, the fog had cleared significantly in all directions. While the second group was in the water, the fog cleared even more and it turned out to be quite a sunny day (and hot -- Phil was prancing around in shorts!). 145 feet, 71 minutes, 51 degrees

While the second group was in the water, Phil told us that we would go back and check out Sur19 after their dive -- woohoo! After collecting the divers, we headed out there, and our group got geared up on the way. We wanted to hop right in as soon as we got there, since the schedule was tight at this point. We got there, and after a pretty significant delay in getting anchored (during which we were all wilting in the heat, fully geared up), we finally hopped in. I swam back to the swimstep to get my scooter, and I really had to hold onto the step because of the current. I got my scooter, and noticed that on the surface at least, scootering on 3 (of 5 speeds) was not cutting it without a little kicking. On 5, my little X could take it though. We got to the line, but I couldn't really see the line in the water -- the water was super foggy. After a little confusion getting started down the line, we all found each other on the line about about 10', and headed down. I was actually staying in touch contact on the line as we scooted down and we were all very tightly packed on the line, because the water was so hazy (not chunky at all, just very foggy looking). Then suddenly below 30' the viz became incredible -- suddenly I could see so far! We got down to the structure, and could see the pinnacle off to our left. The viz was really unbelievable -- if I had to give it a number, I would say 80-ish, but Rob says it is "in the equivalence class of immeasurable" which I believe is geek for "you can see as far as you want to see".

I have seen some pictures from Big Sur Banks where there are wall-to-wall rockfish, but on I last trip, I was quite underwhelmed with the fish life. Well, now I have experienced the wall of rockfish phenomenon for myself. It was quite incredible to see hundreds of fish hanging out over the fields of hydrocoral. There was current on the bottom (though not as bad as the last time), and I eventually got sick of kicking against it to stay in place, so I just drifted around a little and then scootered to get back into place. It was pretty fun :) The pieces of hydrocoral at this site were not as large as they were at Sur20, but the total amount of hydrocoral was insane -- this huge pinnacle was just covered in it! Rob was taking pictures, but I really wanted to go for a little scoot around the pinnacle, just to tour. I waited patiently and then finally when we were coming up on our last 5 minutes, I couldn't take it anymore and I insisted that we go for a joyride. It was great scooting along with the fish :) After we came back around, we headed over near Beto and Sue (who were just starting their ascent) and we started our ascent nearby. Kevin shot the bag again, and around 70', Beto and Susan suddenly came sailing by -- I guess that big bag gets dragged around by the wind more than our little bag. The ascent was uneventful; nothing particularly interesting floated by. After we were retrieved by the boat, we dropped the second group in the water. They were dropped up-current of the line and drifted into it (since they were scooter-less). It was kind of entertaining to watch them drift, especially as three different people told them different directions to swim to get to the line :) 140 feet, 60 minutes, 46 degrees

The ride back was super calm, I even managed to sleep for part of it! Rob had some sort of camera mishap (silly locking buttons) so he wasn't too happy with his pictures from the second dive. I guess we'll just have to go back again!

All of the day's pictures are here.

No comments: