It's about diving. And cats.

Me diving

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Happy Catmas

Rob and I were away for Christmas, but luckily we had cat sitters who enjoy tormenting the cats as much as we do :) I always love to get pics of the cats while we are gone, since I always miss them. So I was quite tickled when we got these nice Christmas pics of the kitties.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Mt. Chamberlin, South Wall

Saturday we were on the Escapade for a BAUE tech boat. Actually I guess it was technically a John boat, since he set it up. Conditions looked like they were going to be really good, so Rob and I were plotting our mutiny against John so that we could go someplace super cool. We had a bit of an alarm clock failure, so that we woke up 40 minutes late, but we still managed to get to Monterey, get everything loaded on the boat, and even don our drysuits (I told Bob that this was just proof that we don't really need to get up as early as he always insists when we are on the Escapade). We were, however, punished with a bad spot on the boat. Somehow, despite our tardiness, Jim asked me where I wanted to go (neener, John) and I replied "south wall of Mt. Chamberlin". And it was so. Rob said I should have said "Sur 19". We had brought our scooters along, and had been wanting to check out the south wall on scooters. It turned out to be the perfect day for it! It was also a great day to model my new scooter art that Rob got me for Christmas :)

The ride down was pretty uneventful. Two of the three teams were planning on doing a longer bottom time, so we got into the water first. We got our scooters and headed down. Kevin and Karl zoomed past us on the down line -- so pathetic. We got down to the bottom and headed south to the drop-off. Then we turned right (west) and scootered along the wall. It definitely had the feeling of scootering over the abyss, which was really fun. And it was sooo tempting to go further down the wall. But that was not to be. We found a few interesting spots along the wall and stopped for some pictures. Rob had suggested that I posed with my scooter in my hand instead of clipped off, so I did that. I do think it looks a bit more natural in the pictures. There were lots of cool little channels leading up to the drop-off. While swishing around in one of the channels, posing for a picture, I saw some hydroids flailing in the breeze, and thought I saw some Dotos on them. After Rob finished taking the picture, he pointed out another nearby hydroid with Dotos. Neato. We continued on and eventually found a bigger channel to head up. There was a neat little archway along one of the reef spurs, which I peered through and decided I probably couldn't make it through gracefully. I did, however, pose for some pictures above it. Kevin scootered by while I was posing and Rob got some pics of us together (which is funny, since when Rob wants to get a pic of us together, Kevin will never cooperate!).

From there, we decided to head back towards the anchor line. We ran into John and Matt close to it, just as they thumbed their dive. We puttered around for a few more minutes. We were in a big sand channel that had a really nice wall of gorgonians on one side, so Rob took some pictures. Then we headed up along the reef to begin our ascent. I pulled my bag out, quickly determined my lips were too cold to blow the thing up, so Rob whipped it out (his inflator, that is) and we did the team shoot. The deco was pretty uneventful. It is pretty unusual for Rob and I to dive just the two of us from a boat, so the deco was a little different than usual. But we are always chattier when it is just the two of us, which helps to pass the time. When we got to 20 feet, Rob got his camera out and took some pictures of me hanging in the water. He had told me he wanted to do this beforehand. I must say, even though I wasn't really doing much, it made the time pass so much more quickly! I could tell Rob was slightly terrified of dropping his camera (was it *really* clipped off) into the abyss.

After we got picked up by the boat, we started heading north, and discussed the site for dive 2 amongst ourselves. Matt and John reported excellent viz in the bay, so some bay sites were suggested. This was passed up to Jim in the wheelhouse, who apparently balked at that idea, and decided we would go to Local's Ledge. Good choice. As we descended, we were greeted with incredible viz. Very tropical-like. On the way down the first peak, I noticed it was practically covered with piles of Doris montereyensis mating. We scootered off to some of the further off ridges, where there were bigger bushes of hydrocoral. We basically just scootered around from one patch of hydrocoral to another. Other than that, I saw two Dendronotus albus, one probably the biggest I've ever seen and one probably the smallest. Near the end of the dive, I also found a teeny tiny little slug on a sponge. I immediately thought that I recognized it from a picture that Clinton had taken, of Catriona columbiana. So that's my theory... I've never seen one before though. I showed it to Rob, and he seemed to find that plausible too. After that, it was time to head up. We got bounced around a bit in the shallows, but it was so scenic, who could complain?

We had an uneventful trip back to K-dock. No whales :( Afterwards, we adjourned to Phat Burger for some lunch. Ted and Nils joined us, and we even ran into the Escapade crew again. I don't think the food is quite as good as RG Burger, but the ability to get your food in the same epoch that you arrive is definitely a plus.

All of the day's pictures are here.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Three Sisters

After an evening of wine and margarita tasting, Team Kitty returned to Lobos for another day of diving. We decided to do a little scooter dive out to the Three Sisters, since we haven't gone there (just to go there) in a long time. Kevin and I were both being extremely lame and lazy, so we made Rob lead. And we refused to bring deco bottles because we were too lazy to bring them into the water, and predicted it would be too cold to do a very long dive anyway (it was very cold on the surface). So with that constraint, we figured we could head out to Beto's then hop across to the Sisters, and spend about 10 minutes on each of the three before heading back in. The tide was crazy crazy high, spilling over the top of the ramp, which made for an interesting entry since I could barely stand on the flat part of the ramp.

We headed out to Beto's, and briefly visited the wolf eel on the way out. After passing his den, we headed over the sand out to the first sister. I was quickly drawn to the center patch of hydrocoral and posed for a few pics, and then kicked around looking for little guys. It was pretty much the usual slug suspects. When we headed over to the second sister, I couldn't believe how deep the elephant ear on the side of it was, but I guess it was a really high tide. As a result, I ended up spending most of the time on the top half of the pinnacle. I pointed out a tiny Aegeris to Kevin. Well, I had to entertain myself somehow, and forcing Kevin to look at tiny slugs is always fun. We eventually headed over to the third sister, and I spent most of the time on the flattish area on the north side, and the peak right next to that area. I found a Diaphorodoris lirulatocauda, I guess it was small white slug day at the sisters. We ended up turning the dive 5 minutes sooner than we had planned, since we were a bit deeper than we had expected. The trip in was pretty uneventful.

After the dive, Kevin and I had completely recovered from our pre-dive ennui, and were excited to get back into the water. We had planned to do a skills dive, so we were sort of stuck with that plan. We had a terribly fun time doing skills in about 25 feet of water. Or not.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Outer Outer Pinnacles Again

We were back for another Friday on Phil's boat, and once again, the swell conditions were okay but not great. Since going south didn't look feasible, we decided to head up to the Outer Pinnacles area again, since we liked it so much last time. Once again, we brought our scooters, so we were looking forward to slaloming the various pinnacles and boulders at the site. The swell was biggish, but the wind wasn't bad. So it was a sort of slow ride out there, but only slightly terrifying. We were hoping to see some more vase sponges, but figured the chances were pretty low, since we had just randomly happened upon them.

Rob was leading, and once we got down the line, I suppose he picked a fairly random direction to go. Pretty soon we found a really cool channel between two tall walls. And what do ya know, there was a vase sponge near the bottom of one of the walls. Upon closer inspection, they were actually on both sides of the channel, about 3 big ones and a couple small ones in all. I tried to pose with one of the bigger ones, but there was a decent current through the channel, which made it pretty challenging to pose (need to practice back-kicking against a current...). After Rob snapped a few pics of the sponges, we continued on. We found another spot to stop for some pictures, a scenic reef top, so we hung out there for a while. I saw a bunch of different kinds of rockfish of fish milling about in that spot, and there was the requisite posing behind reef when I wasn't poking around in a crack looking at a fish.

Eventually we continued on and found ourselves peering into a neat little arch. This was the "swim-through" that Rob and Kevin had reported was SO COOL on the last dive. I didn't recognize it since I hadn't been down to it before. Last time, Rob and Kevin found out the hard way that this swim through abruptly curved up and spit you out upwards (or, alternatively, you could scooter into a wall). It was pretty cool. We each swam and scootered through it a couple of times, each posing for pics on the way out (which was the way in the last time Rob and Kevin scootered through it). On my second swim down the top of it, I saw a vase sponge inside of it! I continued to the archway where I gesticulated at Rob to come and look, which apparently he mistook for gesticulating about how he should take more pictures of the archway. I finally swam out and told him to follow me. I swam into the overhang, and slowly made my way through it, looking for the sponge. I couldn't find it, and started to doubt if I had actually seen it. I turned back to signal this to Rob, and then I found it. It was really only visible going one way (which explains why Rob and Kevin didn't find it on the first dive).

Shortly after that, it was about time to head up. Rob tried to convince us to push the dive by 5 minutes because he claimed our average depth was shallower than planned. I think he was rounding our average depth a bit more than I wanted to, so I said no. Then we headed north on the trigger for a minute or two, until we found a shallower peak around 110 feet, and we shot a bag and headed up from there. The deco was pretty uneventful. Kevin was getting seasick on the shallow stops. I wasn't really bothered by the big rolling swells. Kevin was scootering circles around us because apparently he felt better moving than stationary. When we hit the surface, I swam over to the boat and handed off my scooter and deco bottle. By the time I had finished that, I was horribly seasick. I guess it just didn't hit me until we were on the surface and I could see the waves.

All of the weekend's pictures are here.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Leisurely Kick Diving at Lobos

On Saturday, we dove with Cynthia at Lobos. We decided to kick (shocking, I know) out to the Hole in the Wall area. When we first arrived, we chatted Matt and Cynthia for awhile, and eventually Jo arrived to dive with Matt. After that, we got down to business. Rob and I nominated Cynthia to lead, teehee. After briefly oohing and ahhing about Cynthia's single tank (I have single tank envy, but I am happy to say I just recently came into some single tanks of my own!), we got dressed and geared up. When we got in the water, we were pretty shocked to see the viz in the cove. It was incredibly clear. You could see forever in all directions. I would put the viz at about 40 feet in there. It was definitely the day to bring a snorkel! We kicked out on the surface, looking at the scenery below.

We eventually dropped in about 35 feet, and headed out along the sand channel. The viz wasn't quite as good on the bottom; it was a little stirred up right along the bottom. Looking up, I could see where the slightly murky layer turned to blue, clear water about 10 feet above the bottom. We eventually meandered over to the left side of the channel, and swam along at the interface between the rocks and sand. There was a lot of krill or something little in the water. There were also quite a few juvenile rockfish. I think I saw at least some blues and gophers. I saw a couple of them eating the krill, which was pretty entertaining to watch. I forced Rob to take some pics of one of the juveys, but I couldn't manage to show him that they were eating the krill. We continued on and eventually made it to the Hole in the Wall reef. Rob found a nice cabezon just a little before the hole. I was poking around, not seeing anything wildly unusual. I noticed a lot of Cadlinas, including flavomaculata, modesta, and the ubiquitous luteomarginata.

I eventually meandered up to the top of the reef to look around. I found a little snail pile, with a small snail sitting on top of a bigger snail, who was trying to squirm out from under. It was very cat-like. I also noticed a lot of orange sea cucumbers, one of them curled up with a starfish. Other than that, I just poked around, checking out the usual stuff. Eventually Cynthia called turn, and of course just after that, we started seeing some cool stuff. First I found an interesting rockfish cowering in a crack -- it was one of the yellow/gold ones, but had a really strange color and pattern. Then I found a stiletto shrimp on a kelp leaf blowing around in the surge. Woohoo. I think that's only the second time that I've seen one. We also found a giant -- disturbingly giant -- lingcod in the rocks next to the sand channel in about 40 feet. On the way in, I saw more little rockfish eating krill. Around 35 feet, Rob found a super cute little fish, but by the time he got his camera out, the fishy had skedaddled. After that, we ascended and headed back in. We ran into Steve and August (sans Kenn!) on the swim in, and chatted about the crazy viz in the cove. We broke the news to them that it wasn't quite as stellar outside.

After foraging for some surface interval snacks and otherwise passing some time, Rob and I got geared up to head back in. Cynthia decided to sit the second dive out. We decided that this was a day to drop at the ramp and kick somewhere shallow. We decided to head vaguely toward the other side of the cove, just south of the opening to Coal Chute cove. We headed into the water, and noticed that the viz wasn't quite as good as it had been earlier (silly low tide). But it was still really good. So we dropped and headed out as planned. I was hoping to see some interesting sand critters on the swim out over the sand. I saw a couple of fluorescent orange worms poking out of the sand, which were interesting. We also found lots of cute little crabbies, which we stopped several times so that Rob could take some pictures. At first we just found the occasional boulder with a little bit of stuff to look at.

Eventually we found a couple of bigger structures to look at. The first one, we stopped at briefly and after taking a few pictures, we continued on. I saw a tiny little starfish with some orange and pink specks on it -- I am wondering if it was a baby leather star. After continuing on, we found a bigger structure, that was roughly round with a crack across the center of it. I found a tiny little rose anemone hiding in the coralline algae, which Rob came over and immediately scared into closing. We waited patiently for it to open again, and then as he took some pictures, I headed over to this cool overhang to poke around in. When I was about to move along, I noticed a big beautiful Hopkins rose. I don't know how I didn't see it sooner! I showed it to Rob and moved along around the corner. On the next little vertical segment, I found another Hopkins rose. I pointed it out to Rob and moved along. I swam along until I hit the crack across the center of it, and I followed along that, across the top, looking down into the crack. I found a couple of slugs in an intimate position, which I first thought were Rostangas, but upon closer inspection were actually Aldisa sanguinea. Once I made it across, I came back around towards Rob, looking in a couple of nice cracks and overhangs. I found yet another nice big Hopkins rose under another overhang. I also noticed that one of the cracks was full of black and yellow rockfish, which I had seen a few of in some of the other cracks on this reef. Oh, and tons of urchins back in those cracks too.

When I completed the little circuit, and was almost back to Rob, I found another Aldisa and pointed it out to Rob, only to find a slightly more photogenic one a moment later. After that, I headed back up to the top and was just hanging around up swishing around in the surge, when I noticed something on one of the kelp leaves swishing with me -- it was a cute little kelp clingfish, kind of reddish in color. I quickly retrieved Rob and showed it to him, and he managed to snap some pics as I held the piece of kelp for him. The little guy kept slithering over to the back of the leaf, which I would flip over for Rob and the fish would start slithering to the edge so it could go back to the other side. All the while we were getting knocked about in quite a bit of surge. Eventually the surge knocked the fish off the leaf, and after searching around for it and turning up empty, we gave up. I asked Rob if he wanted to head in, and he wanted a couple more minutes with the Okenias. While waiting for him, I found a crevice kelpfish along the wall, curled up in a little bit of kelp. Rob tried to get some pictures of it, but I guess it was not being very cooperative. We finally decided to head back in. We were really motoring on the way in, so we made much better time on the way back. Rob's light died part way, so he took over leading. We ended up ascending right at the ramp.

It was a nice day to do a couple of shallow Lobos dives. And it was nice not to have to deal with a stage bottle, deco bottle, scooter, or some combination :) After diving we joined Matt, Jo, and Cynthia at Turtle Bay (which I hadn't been to in a couple of months!).

All of the day's pictures are here.