It's about diving. And cats.

Me diving

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Way South

Saturday we were on the BAUE tech boat. Rob was organizing the boat, and he had decreed that we would have one long charter (rather than the two shorter ones we sometimes do) so we could try for Midway Pinnacle. Apparently all Rob had to do was decree that we would shoot for Midway, and Neptune rolled over and wagged his tail. The seas were oh so calm, a perfect day to head way south. Midway Pinnacle is so named because it is halfway out from Point Sur to Big Sur Banks. It is a long way, but the boat trip seemed to fly by, probably because of the smooth ride. Once there, Jim deployed a downline with a float, and the teams were dropped one by one, and were to drift to the ball. There did not seem to be much current when we got in. On the descent, the current seemed practically non-existent. When we first hit the pinnacle, I was wondering if the scooters were even necessary.

Turns out they were. There was a fairly significant current on the bottom. On two sides of the pinnacle, there was a wicked current that would have made it nearly impossible to swim around. On the the upcurrent side, there was a wicket current dragging us up the pinnacle, and on the other side, a current dragging us down the pinnacle. We dropped on the downcurrent side, and it wasn't immediately apparent what was going on (since we were on the way down, anyway). We paused on that side, and I found some hydroids with Dotos on them. Once I was looking at that, I noticed a little hole with a warbonnet sticking out right next to it. Kevin signalled for me to come look at something, and he showed me some more Dotos (wow, Kevin pointing out Dotos... I have trained him well). Then he suggested we head around the pinnacle. This is when the current became very evident. As I came around the side of the pinnacle, I could feel my mask being pressed against my face by the current. And I felt like I was barely moving on speed 3.

We finally made it around (phew) to find a more vertical dropoff, covered with Corynactis. And a current that was sucking us up towards the top of the pinnacle. We didn't spend too much time on that side, and when we got to the other end, we were treated to a garden of big hydrocoral bushes. It was like a miniature Big Sur Banks! The hydrocoral was on top of a plateau, with no protection from the current (not that there was really protection anywhere, although the up/down currents were marginally less significant). Rob was trying to kick against the current so he could stay still long enough to take some pictures. Meanwhile Kevin and I were having fun scootering across the pinnacle against the current, and then taking a ride back across the top. We did this over and over again, taking in the scenery as we went. Eventually I think Rob got the idea to do something similar, except he was shooting on the ride across the pinnacle. Before you know it, it was time to start our ascent. Rob and I did a team bag shoot on a reel, which went fine except that we tried to hide behind the pinnacle and instead ended up getting sucked down. Oops. We got blown off the pinnacle as we started our ascent on the bottom, but once we were in mid-water, the current seemed to settle down. We spent the deco entertaining ourselves with the deco critters.

After the first dive, we were polled about doing a second dive, and enough people wanted to that we decided to do it. Kevin opted out, because he is no fun I guess. We headed to Lobos Rocks. On the way, we enjoyed some food, including some chicken that Jim had grilled, some super tasty pineapple, and the croissanwich variety platter. The water was dead calm when we hopped in, and I could not detect any current. We took the scooters so we could do a run around one of the rocks. We circled the west rock counterclockwise. On the north side, we found a big hydrocoral shrub, which Rob stopped to get some pictures of. Meanwhile I entertained myself by pinching the trilieatas' cheeks. I also saw several Dendronotus albus flapping in the breeze. Once we got back to the south side, we stopped at two of the spots with green anemones and ochre stars, and watched the sea lions dive bombing above us. When it was nearly time to call the dive anyway, I went OOA (out-of-argon). Oops. Rob tried to convince me to go 20 feet above him for a silhouette shot, but I didn't feel like managing my Argon constraints through more ups and downs than necessary, so I passed on that. We scootered out from the pinnacle and found a nice kelp stalk to ascend. Turns out, Rob had also gone OOA, pretty early in the dive. He decided to use a puff of backgas, which he found... cold. Duh. When we got to the surface, we fought our way around the kelp to get to the back of the boat. On the way back into the boat, my foot slipped on one of the rungs of the ladder not once but twice. I guess there was kelp goo on my boot. Eventually I managed to get my knees onto the swimstep and got a boost from Jim :) No long term damage except a giant bruise on my knee.

As we motored between the rocks on the way out of there, someone noticed a big red streak on the rock, which was presumably blood. Then we noticed a tiny little wriggling sea lion that must have just been born. Right next to him was a pile of afterbirth (eww) with a sea gull pecking at it (even ewwwer), and a mother sea lion with that "I should have had the epidural" look on her face. The baby was just so tiny! Very cute.

I barely even remember the ride back, probably because it was so calm that I was in a semi-conscious state for most of it. When I wasn't eating chocolate.

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

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