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Me diving

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Valentine's Dive

On Saturday, Rob, Kevin, and I had a romantic Valentine's dive for three planned. I recently realized that we haven't done a macro dive on the Road in ages. I miss all the little slugs out there. So I penciled it in for our Valentine's dive, and somehow Kevin managed to invite himself along :) Unfortunately the conditions were looking pretty bad all week, and we kept postponing a decision about whether to go. Finally on Friday evening, we "decided" to check the buoy and various web-cams in the morning and have a final call about whether to drive down at 7:15. Getting up was painful, especially with the rainy overcast weather. However, I couldn't stand the idea of sitting at home in the rain, wondering if we should have gone. So we decided to meet down at Lobos and take a look.

The crappy topside weather disappeared by the time we were halfway down there, but it was quite cold. But once we got to Carmel, the temperature seemed to magically rise 5 degrees, so it was a balmy 55 degrees at Lobos. The water didn't look too rough. It looked diveable, but the water level on the ramp was low, so with the swell, it didn't look like the most fun entry. But we decided to go for it. While Rob and Kevin would staging gear on the float, they helped a guy who got sort of stuck in the rocks on his way out. That caused my level of ramp-fear to spike beyond its usual already-unreasonable level. Anyhoo, we finished gearing up, did some final checks and headed down the ramp. Rob claimed it took about 8 minutes for me to make it down the ramp because of the overly careful, baby steps I was taking. He claims that the longer I take getting down the ramp, the more likely I am to fall. I don't completely disagree. I got to lead, since it had been my idea to go out to the Road (and Kevin was just "along for the ride" as usual). We surface scooted out until the viz was good enough.

We dropped in the sand channel in about 30 feet. The viz was not very good and it was quite surgy. But it was actually fairly bright. That wasn't necessarily a good thing, since Kevin's primary light was dead. It was kind of disorienting to navigate in such poor viz. I could handle the sand channel, but once we turned the corner at Hole in the Wall, things got much sketchier. I actually had to navigate with my compass! I never actually found the Lone Metridium, but I eventually decided I must be there-ish, and headed out over the sand. I eventually hit the first sister (or so I thought). Rob was signaling emphatically that I needed to head left, as if I was going the wrong way. So I was like.. what the heck, isn't this the first sister? He agreed that it was. I guess he was worried I might have spontaneously forgotten how to get from there to the second one :) After we hit the second sister, we headed out along the Road. By this point, it was really dark. The viz never really cleared up; there was tons of particulate. Due to the bad viz, I was skittish about going out too far or around any curves that would be non-trivial to navigate. So I basically went straight out along the reef-sand interface until about 130', and suggested we clip off there.

Even down there, it was surgy. The surge seemed sort of variable. It was definitely worse on top, but even on the sides it would occasionally be pretty surgy. However, there were periods of calm, which was good for Rob. We started looking around for macro subjects. Rob had told me I should look out for Dotos and other tiny hydroid slugs, but with the surge and the particulate, I was having trouble getting my eyes to focus on the swaying hydroids. I pretty quickly gave up on that. I found a gaggle of Diaphorodoris lirulatocauda. When I saw the first one, at first I thought it was an Aegires, until I got close enough to see its loong rhinophores. After I spotted the first one, I found 3 more right in the same area. I would eventually find another three in a different spot. I also found quite a few Adalaria jannae. I usually cannot tell these apart from Onchidoris muricata, but for once, the white gland thingy behind the gill plume was very obvious (on the first one that I saw, anyway). After I saw that first one, I kept happening upon more, probably at least half a dozen in total, scattered around the reef. Those two species were the most interesting finds on the dive. Other than that, I saw a couple Spanish shawls, and I noted the lack of Dironas. Turns out Kevin found one, and tugged my fins to show me. When I turned around, he wasn't even vaguely looking in my direction so I figured I imagined the tug and went on my merry way. Kevin also pointed out a Berthella, which he seemed quite excited about. Apparently he has never seen one before. I keep telling him it's not safe to dive with your eyes closed, but I guess he doesn't listen :) In all fairness, it was the only Berthella I saw on the dive. Rob also found a super cute little fish with really pretty orange and aqua markings. I was not sure what it was, but I think we saw one along the Road once before on a dive with John. Clinton says it is a longfin sculpin. In the non-macro category, I found a decent-sized ling cod, and showed it to Kevin, who was taking video.

The return trip was pretty uneventful. I carefully followed the reef-sand interface back. Usually, when we get to the second sister, we peel off (even though the rocks continue back to the first sister). I was watching for the second sister, but I never did see it... eventually we ran smack into the first sister, and we had to do a quick pass over the center hydrocoral to be sure. Yea, not such good viz. From there, we headed along the Lone Metridium-hat vector, until I started to doubt my navigation and we were in 70'. Usually we switch to our deco bottles at the ridge just past (west of) Lone Metridium. So when we got to 70' and hadn't hit any ridges at all, I gave up and stopped us so we could switch to our bottles. Then I swam about 8 feet, and hit one of the ridges. Yea, the viz was that bad. After we meandered around there looking at critters for a few minutes, we headed on to 60', where we took another pause on the back side of Hole in the Wall reef. There was a Diaulula orgy there, and a pair of Flabellina trilineatas in a very cozy position. After that we hopped over the reef and headed in along the sand channel. When we got to the sand channel, I decided we should ascend there, given the poor viz. After passing the time with some antics for the video camera, we ascended to somewhat better conditions. The tide had come in, which meant that getting out was a much more civilized affair than getting in.

Afterwards we hit Baldemiros in Seaside for lunch. Mmmm, burrito.

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