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Me diving

Friday, April 3, 2009

Small Boat, Big Seas

On Friday, we had plans to dive from Phil's boat. The swell forecast was not looking too promising, thought luckily I was busy enough that I didn't get around to looking at it until a fellow Kitty sent it to me on Thursday. So at least I didn't spend the week fretting about it. Both the wind and the swell forecasts were not very encouraging -- something like 10 to 11 foot swell, and 20 to 30 knot winds. But we were undeterred. Rob has been wanting to dive E3/Deep E3 (both in one dive, via scooter) for a while, but it's always the backup. So we were thinking we might finally end up going there (as Rob says, "Phil can always make it to E3"). We pulled in at 8-ish, just behind Phil. The conditions in/around the cove looked a bit sloshy. I disappeared to the bathroom, and when I returned, everyone was gone. I figured they were up on the hill, scrutinizing the conditions. Indeed they were, and it was super windy up there. Phil told us E3 was a no-go. Eek. He drew an imaginary line from where we were to Cypress Point and told us we could only dive to the right of the line. We asked about Outer Outer Pinnacles, but apparently that was on the wrong side of the line. So after scrounging around in our various GPS units, we came up with a list of three possible sites -- Montana and two sites we'd never dived before (one that Phil had, one that I think Rob pulled from the bathymetry maps).

So we headed out in search of Phil's spot, or wherever we happened to end up. The swells were big, but it wasn't too choppy, so it really didn't make me want to barf. However, I did contemplate the fact that the ocean is very big, and the boat is very small. I asked Phil if there was a small craft advisory and he laughed at me. I was sitting quietly in my little corner of the boat, trying to stay in my happy place, and I really couldn't hear what the boys were talking about (had the 12mm Otter Bay artillery helmet on). The next thing you know, Phil tells me we have crossed the line of demarcation and was that alright with me. We were headed to Outer Outer Pinnacles. Woohoo. In our zeal to get in the water, we dropped the hook at a different anchorage than usual. I think we were southeast of the usual anchorage. We dropped on a structure in about 130 feet of water, but as we headed southwest, we had to go over sand for some time before making it to the usual area. As we passed a little pinnaclet in the sand, I slowed down when I saw the trilineata sponge, to look for slugs. I didn't see any, and Rob and Kevin were still on the trigger, so I continued on. Just as I started to go, I did a double take -- there was a Tochuina tetraquetra. I waited for the boys to realize I had detached, and signaled for them to come back. Then it took me a moment to find the slug, worried briefly that it was a hallucination (you could only really see it from one direction).

After that, we continued across the sand and eventually found a ridge running north-south, that had a little sand channel at the bottom, and a little rock ledge running down the center of the channel. On that ledge was a vase sponge, which Rob started taking some shots of. There was another much less attractive vase sponge (it had furry brown-ness on it) nearby on the main ridge. This area looked very similar to the ridge where we first saw vase sponges at OOP, and I wondered if it was a continuation of that same ridge. After that, we continued on and eventually found our way to another familiar spot, which we had been to on that same first dive at OOP. I had just come to the conclusion that it was probably the same spot, when I saw a starry rockfish. I had seen one in that same spot before, so he must be a resident. I showed him to Rob as he backed into a little overhang. This spot was at the end of a channel between two walls, and we headed down that channel. The last time we were here, we had gone the other direction, so this was new to us. At this point we were heading north, the direction that we had planned to head before starting our ascent. We stopped and poked around on the two walls of the channel, and Kevin posed for some pictures with Rob. Eventually we continued north, and ended up crossing a rubble field, a small patch of reef, and another rubble field. Eventually we came to a small pinnacle in about 120' with palm kelp, which remind me a lot of some of the stuff over by the pinnacles (which makes sense, since we were headed that way).

We considered whether to hang out in this area for a few more minutes, but I decided to thumb it, since it was cold, and we had that chilly deco hang ahead of us. Brrr, it was chilly. The deco was fairly uneventful. There was a small bag shoot malfunction that resulted in two bags being shot, with Rob and Kevin each sailing along on a spool. At 20', I found a really cool shrimp (I guess) hanging in the water -- it had really long legs. It was very odd, definitely the highlight of the deco :) Getting back on the boat was a bit of an ordeal. Or rather, bobbing in the water while we waited to take turns sprinting over to the boat to offload gear was the truly harrowing experience. After what seemed like forever bobbing around in the big waves, it was my turn to reboard the boat. Or rather to be reboarded by Phil and Rob :) I was sad to see that Phil hadn't brought his neat little ladder contraption along, though I admitted to him that I wouldn't have wanted to take my fins off to climb the ladder in those conditions. The ride back was uneventful. Phil had the land the boat on the trailer -- the big swell and low tide made it a bit dicey.

Wow, just thinking about those big waves while I write this is making me feel a little seasick.

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