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Me diving

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Dos Gatos

On Saturday, Rob and I were on the BAUE tech boat. We were diving as a team of two, since Kevin was off being hard core and cave divering in Mexico (okay, not that hard core). Mark (who had organized the boat) wanted to go to Flintstones. Rob also had some new site in mind that he found on the bathymetry maps, not far from Flintstones. On the way down there, there was some sort of mutiny in the wheelhouse I guess, because John came scurrying down looking for support for E3. Everyone agreed, even though we were already south of Lobos, pretty close to Flintstones. Then the next thing you know, we were dropping anchor, in the vicinity of Flintstones. Jim told us that we were anchored on a "different part of Flintstones" than we usually go, which I guess we a diplomatic way of saying we went to the new site that Rob had numbers for.

Rob and I hopped in the water, grabbed our scoots, and headed to the line. There seemed to be a little surface current, but the line was pretty much vertical below the surface, down to about 80 feet, where it then flattened out. We got down and checked the anchor, and made our best effort to place the chain to prevent the anchor from getting stuck. We were anchored on a pinnacle that topped around 90 to 100 feet. It didn't look like any Flintstones I know of. The south side, where we hit the pinnacle, was fairly steep. We headed around clockwise, and stopped for a while on the east side, which had a much less steep slope (at least at the depth where we were -- 150 to 160 feet). There were lots of nice big elephant ears and a lot of areas had really nice gorgonian gardens. The viz was good -- bright, blue, and clear. I found an interesting little snail, which had a distinctive black and white pattern on its shell, for which I have dubbed it the "zebra snail". I have no idea what it was -- it's not in the BAUE field guide, so I'll have to do a little more research. I also found some strange little metal cylinder (about the size of a backup light) sitting there, with what looked like a bite out of it. Strange. It was also around this point that I realized I had a catastrophic pony-tail failure. The band at the end of my braid had come out, and my braid had slowly unwound itself until there was hair *everywhere*. It made it hard to clip to my right D-ring. This is definitely a weakness of the hog harness, which requires further study.

Eventually we continued on, heading to the west side of the pinnacle. At the northwest tip of the pinnacle, there was a crack with some nice hydrocoral bushes. We were recently chatting about how we don't usually see the bushy hydrocoral very deep (except at Big Sur Banks), but here was a counterexample. As we were leaving that spot, we pass Nick and Clinton. Clinton got some nice shots of a bushy hydrocoral stalk. As we came around to the north side, a school of blue rockfish came into view. Also, we could see a second pinnacle off to the north, and Rob suggested we head over there. So we did, and the fishies seemed to come with us. There was an even bigger school over there. We circled around that pinnacle until we came to a really cool little canyon on the southeast side.

It ran north-south and was in fact the east side of the first pinnacle on the right, and the west wall of a third pinnacle (which we didn't have time to explore) to the left. In between was a well-defined sand channel. The walls had the usual elephant ears and an impressive number of fluffy gorgonians. I think this was my favorite spot of the dive, due to the dramatic topography and the nice gorgonian cover. After Rob snapped a couple of pictures, I signalled that it was time to go. I wanted to follow the reef up and hop over to the peak where the anchor was (which I was fairly confident we could find), but Rob didn't quite get what I was suggesting so we just headed back around the way that we came. We got to the top of the pinnacle and shot a bag just as we saw John, Matt, and Mark doing the same. We ended up basically drifting with them for the entire deco. Rob went over to take a few pics at one stop. The deco was very cold, but otherwise uneventful.

It was overcast and chilly on the surface, which didn't help. Rob was horribly sea sick, and spent the entire surface interval hanging over the side of the boat. He didn't eat a single cheeto! I tried to pick up the slack for him in that department. While we were chatting about gear that had been lost over the years, I mentioned that I had lost many hair bands to the ocean, and Michael mentioned that he had found one on the bench after we got in the water. Phew. I was relieved to know that a baby seal wouldn't end up choking on it. I was thinking that with this viz, it would be a nice day to hit the Pinnacles. So when a few options were given for our second dive, I immediately pounced on Outer Pinnacles.

As it turned out, the viz was actually quite unspectacular. It was greener and snotty. There was also a bit of surge. We found a couple of nice patches of hydrocoral, and Rob took some pictures. We also had fun scootering along all of the little canyons. We found a very small swimthrough (I think that calling it is a "swimthrough" is actually sort of generous) and I poked my head into it. Apparently on the last BAUE rec boat, Kevin found some swimthrough on the first dive, that everyone was searching for on the second dive (and couldn't find). We were wondering if this was the same one (since we were at the same anchorage). Eventually Rob started to get motion sick, or something, from trying to take pictures, so he stowed his camera. Meanwhile I was getting uncomfortably cold, and regretting eating all of those cheetos on the surface interval. So I thumbed it. On the ascent at about 20 feet we saw a gorgeous Leucothea that had its "wings" extended and it's little "arms" fluttering. I think it was the nicest specimen I've ever seen. After getting some glamour shots of it, we continued up to 10 feet, where Rob pointed out some tiny little jelly animal (less than a centimeter long) that was sort of carrot-shaped with pink insides and tiny little fluttering arms. I have no idea what it was, but it was very cute!

When we hit the surface, we were delighted to find that we were only about 50 feet from the boat (we had ascended up a stalk of kelp on the theory that we were "near" the anchor line). Once we got back on the boat, Rob was immediately sea sick again and stayed that way for the return trip :( He eventually recovered after napping in the car while I ate lunch at the taco place :)

After we told Beto about our fun time, he asked Rob for the coordinates and the name of the site. Oooh, the name. I suggested Dos Gatos, for the two pinnacles. True, there is a third kitty which has yet to be explored, but we can save that for another day (hopefully when we have our third kitty along!). I joked to Rob that the small pinnacle is Pepper's Peak and the big one is Oreo Mountain :) Oh, and by the way... the site we ended up at is not actually the site that Rob had numbers for. The target site is 300 feet or so to the west of this one, and remains to be explored at a later date. I can't wait!

All of the day's pictures are here (including topside pics by Mark!).

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