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Friday, June 26, 2009

T2, Day 5: Deep and Dark in the Bay

On Friday, we were doing our final experience dive for T2. The forecast for the day was worse than the previous day, so we weren't sure where we would end up. However, our target site was Deep E3. We wanted to see this supposed purple sea fan at the bottom that Beto has seen a couple of times. With that in mind, we were planning a 210' dive. It was sort of sporty in the bay as soon as we got out of the harbor, and it deteriorated from there. We decided to be bold and try to make it around Point Pinos, at which point it got super sporty and we scurried back into the bay with our tails between our legs. Rob had a backup spot in the bay, which Beto had given him numbers for. The site was a shale ledge from like 210' to 220', where Beto had seen some flag rockfish before. The lack of relief sounded disappointing, but I wouldn't mind seeing some flag rockfish! We anchored in 220'. Since it was deeper than planned, we had to rejigger our plan before getting into the water. I didn't want to have to memorize a new deco schedule at the last minute, so we decided to shorten the bottom time to work with our existing schedule (assuming we got down there to find a 220' site -- if there was enough to occupy us at 210', we'd stick with the original plan). We also had to plan to shoot the bag from the bottom.

Jim circled around to drop us at the downline, and after a couple of "go, no don't go"s (always fun with 3 bottles clipped to you), we got into the water. We decided to regroup at the float, since the going in negative thing was likely to not work in bay-viz. When I got to the float, I grabbed onto the line, expecting current to try to blow me off of it, but was relieved to find no current at all. So we could just hang for a minute before beginning the long descent. I was planning to lead the descent, because I was worried about the state of my ears. At the last minute I backed off on that, because I was too scared to lead us into the blackness, and told Kevin to lead. In the end I ended up rocketing down to the bottom ahead of the boys anyway. It was very strange to be the faster descender on the team! The descend was interesting. The line dropped basically straight down, since there was little to no current. Once we were below about 40 feet, it was very dark, until it eventually became completely black. It was eerie looking down the line into the blackness. At about 120', I could see the line get more shapely below me, as it made a loop into the current. Eek. I repositioned myself to be facing into the current and waited to feel it. It was a brisk current, and just as I was beginning to worry about being able to keep up kicking against it and maintain visual contact with the line, the bottom appeared, about 10 feet below me. Phew. It was a long descent.

Next thing you know, Rob and Kevin are swimming into the current. The observant blog reader may recall that on our T1 experience dive, the boys swam us into current the whole dive (not very significant current, but still...). I decided I was not going to allow that to happen again, so I just sort of hung back, waiting for one of them to look back and signal which way they wanted to go. Rob got to the anchor, checked it (which is kind of funny, since we were on a barren sand bottom), and then quickly decided he was going the wrong way. The anchor had apparently slipped from the alleged shale ledge, because there was flat sand as far as the eye could see. We all quickly agreed that we were going with the 220' plan, and then we drifted around for the very short time we had left on the bottom. The sandy bottom had some usual sand critters, like sea pens (the skinny ugly ones, not the cool fluffy ones), and those little worms that look like brittle star arms sticking out of the sand. We also did see some brittle stars, and a few flat fish. Rob saw a sailfin sculpin but I guess we'd all drifted past it before he could point it out :( There were also some interesting pink branching things, which I am trying to identify -- my best guess is some sort of worm. These were definitely the coolest thing I saw. I also saw some a brittle star with something clear and translucent perched on one of its legs. It looked almost like a janolus standing on end, but without any distinct color.

Before you know, it was time to shoot the bag and start the ascent. I was deco queen, yay. At around 70 feet, we saw an egg yolk jelly hanging out nearby us. Aside from that, there was the usual (these days) assortment of anonymous deco critters, which helped to pass the long boring deco. When we got to the surface, we all agreed it was a pretty lame site, that worth the deco. Susan had joined us (well, Dean really) for the dive, and I felt pretty bad that we dragged her along on such a boring dive. The worst part was that she and Dean were hanging above us, so they really couldn't see much at all, except our lights moving around in the darkness :) Dean was clearly trying to keep us in suspense when we got back on the boat, so Susan asked if we were allowed to celebrate yet. After pretending to not hear her the first time, he finally said yes. Phew.

After a quick steam back to K-dock, we headed to Fisherman's wharf for lunch, and posed as tourists. In the afternoon we talked about repetitive diving and some final questions that we had. Then we went to the Breakwater to see the baby sea lions (which were piled *everywhere*). Kevin had to execute the lost frisbee protocol, because Naia refused to bring her frisbee back from the water and then it drifted further out. Kevin volunteered to swim out (in his drysuit) to rescue the frisbee. What a dork. We had dinner at the Fishwife. Yum.

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