It's about diving. And cats.

Me diving

Friday, May 1, 2009

Between a Volcano and a Kitty

Friday we went out with Phil. Rob was a sleepyhead in the car, so around Gilroy, he made me take over the driving (not bad, usually he only makes it to Morgan Hill). Just after getting to 1 from 156, I noticed something moving slowly across the road ahead, like a fat cad waddling (a really slow, fat cat). I couldn't believe it when I saw the characteristic beaver tail. I had no idea there were beavers in the area. I don't think I've ever seen a beaver in the wild before, so I was quite excited (nature's engineers and what not). When we got to Lobos, we quizzed Jim (who was diving with Beto) and Phil about whether beavers were common in the area. Jim questioned our ability to pick a beaver out of a lineup, which we were much offended by, since we are, after all, MIT Beavers. Then he admitted that they are pretty common in that area, because of some nearby stream.

Anyhoo, the swell was small, so we headed down to Yankee Point. But first I had to endure a boat driving lesson from Phil (and the boys). Phil gave me some tips and left Rob and Kevin to fill in the blanks :) I managed to back the boat off the trailer, idle in the cove, and come back to pick Phil up without damaging anything other than Rob and Kevin's nerves. After I made it out of the cove and beyond the kelp, to the fun part, Phil insisted on taking the helm :( So we headed down to Yankee Point, against a south wind. We wanted to go back to the "Dos Gatos" area. We were shooting for the first (west) kitty on the GPS. We drove over a peak around 90 feet, and then couldn't find it again. We finally found a structure at about 100 feet, and decided to drop the hook there. Turns out there was a little bit of "user error" with the GPS, which might explain our difficulty in finding the spot.

We dropped down into fairly green water. There was a lot of particulate in the water on the way down, but it was fairly clear at the bottom. As we dropped onto the pinnacle, a big column of blue rockfish greeted us. After enjoying the fish, Rob, who was leading, led us north. We really weren't sure what structure we were on. I don't know how Rob decided which way to go. Once we got off of the pinnacle, we passed over a rubbly bottom, at about 140 feet. But it might as well have been in 30 feet -- the little rocks had some Urticinas on them, plus a lot of the usual encrusting life and nudibranchs. Eventually we hit a low-lying ridge which was not too exciting, so Rob decided to head west. Before you know it, we were in deeper water, and it was suddenly getting much darker. It was like I could see a point where we suddenly crossed into the darkness. Very eerie. As it became clear that we were getting deep without finding much of interest, Rob curved around back to the south, and we eventually hit a big pinnacle. We spent the rest of the dive there. There were spots with very bad viz, but generally it was about 40 feet, but very dark and green. The pinnacle dropped down to at least 200 feet in spots. There were some tempting sand channels below us, that looked like they would be fun to scooter along.

I don't know if it was because of the contrast to the green, dark water, but the reef just seemed to light up. It was extremely colorful. It was also a very sluggy day. It seemed like I saw all of the usual suspects. There were also a bunch of Doto amyras, including some very large (for Dotos) specimens. It would definitely have been a better day for macro. We ended up circling around the pinnacle, eventually working our way shallower. On one side of the pinnacle there was a garden of lush gorgonians. That is one thing I really like about this group of pinnacles -- there are so many really lush, fluffy-looking gorgonians (unfortunately Rob doesn't find gorgonians very interesting to shoot -- hmph!). There were also a bunch of very craggy, pointy elephant ear sponges. It was odd. Eventually it was time to go, so we said goodbye and started to drift. I put the bag up, and we settled in for the deco.

The deco turned out to have nearly as many critters as the bottom segment -- the deco critters were out in full force. It was crazy -- there were so many interesting, tiny jelly creatures, I would find something really cool and as I tried to point it out to Rob, he would be trying to point something out that he had found. There were tons of little comb jellies, and little jellies that looked sort of like tiny moon jellies, and the ubiquitous sea gooseberries. Rob found this crazy little creature that looked like some sort of tiny transparent squid -- no clue what that was. We eventually found a bunch of sea nettles, and some moon jellies (one really nice big one). But by far the coolest thing was this beautiful little jelly that was shaped like a little sea nettle but the bell was maybe 2 inches in diameter. There was a yellow spot on top of its bell, right in the center. Upon closer inspection, it was a tiny crab, along for the ride. It was so cute. Definitely would have been a good macro day! Eventually the parade of jellyfish either ended, or we lost interest, so Kevin posed us for some video at 20 feet. Then Rob whipped out his wetnotes and spent several minutes practicing his underwater page flipping (don't ask). Before you know it, the long cold deco was over. Actually it wasn't that cold -- my computer had 48 to 50.

When we surfaced it was raining a bit, but the water was pretty calm. Just some wind. We got back into the boat, after I narrowly avoided watching my rig drop to the bottom of the ocean. Oops. Kevin drove on the way home. He was clearly trying to test out the top speed on Phil's boat, which was certainly helped by the wind. I swear we made it back to Whaler's Cove in like 5 minutes. I was just holding on and trying to avoid falling out of the boat. Then I took the helm, and wowed everyone with my drop off and pickup (very low tide) of Phil. Okay, maybe it took a couple of loops to retrieve him from the ramp :P

After reviewing the bathymetry, we think the structure we originally dropped on was a ridge running between the west pinnacle of Dos Gatos and the "volcano" structure that Rob first found on the bathymetry, which led us to the area. If this theory is correct, the big pinnacle we spent most of the dive on was the volcano.

Kevin's video of the dive is here.

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