It's about diving. And cats.

Me diving

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Team Kitty Take SoCal

For the second half of Rob's birthday bash, we headed down to LA for a little "wreck diving". Maciek and Nick had setup a boat charter for the day, so we piggybacked on that. They had a few different sites in mind, but since none of the names meant anything to me, I think we settled on bringing 21/35 and just going somewhere appropriate. I think that the original goal was to go to one wreck (whose name eludes me) in the 140' range, and then do a second dive on the Palawan (in 110' to 130'). But the weather did not allow for that plan, so instead we ended up doing two dives on the Palawan. We were on a boat called the Giant Stride, which had been described to us as a "slow boat". So slow in fact that it was supposedly three times slower than another boat that Maciek and Nick sometimes used. Rob and I were pretty much in disbelief about this claim, but it was true. It was just a really slow boat. Un .. be ... liev... a ... bly ... slow. I think we could have moved faster in a kayak (but perhaps not with the 5 tech divers X 2 dives gear). However it was a very stable ride. I guess there was "weather" since we were prevented from diving other sites, but we got protection from Palos Verdes (I know absolutely nothing about SoCal geography, so I may have gotten that totally wrong). In any case, once we were on site, it was very calm. It was like gearing up in the Lobos parking lot.

For some reason, it took forever to anchor on the wreck. Once we finally did, we got geared up. There was no crew other than the captain, so Nick and Maciek helped us gear up for the first dive. They gave us a bit of an overview of the site. I asked Nick if there were nudibranchs on the wreck. He said no. Then he told me that he has trouble seeing anything smaller than a diver underwater, so I should take that with a grain of salt. So noted. We splashed, and headed down the line to find... sand. Kevin whipped it out, the reel that is, and swam away from the anchor until we could (pretty quickly) see an outline of the wreck. I'm not sure how it is that we didn't anchor on the wreck, since it seems like a pretty big sonar anomaly :) Once on the wreck, we dropped the reel and headed along the top of the wreck. The wreck is very encrusted with strawberry anemones. There are also a lot of gorgonians. I forgot about all the different kinds of gorgonians that they have in SoCal. Their red gorgonians are so spindly, but they also have those neat sea fan-ish gorgonians that are like a 2-dimensional mesh. I saw some purple ones, which I found exciting.

There were a decent number of fish on the wreck, quite a few in some spots, but since I don't know SoCal fish, I can't really be more specific. Lame, I know. We ran into the other team at some point, or more accurately, we were caught in the beams of some sort of extraterrestrial :) On the first dive, I proved Nick wrong by finding two Cuthona divae, which I found exciting. Staring at tiny hydroids on a big wreck sometimes does pay off! I think that was the highlight of the dive for me. What can I say, I'm just not really cut out for wreck diving :) As Kevin was cleaning up the line (reeling in on the trigger, so hot), Rob and I noticed a crapload of bubbles spewing from about Kevin's left post. It was basically a zillion streams of tiny bubbles, which were coming from his SPG hose. It was the first real unfixable post failure I have ever experienced. So exciting! We deco'd on the line, which was uneventful other than the occasional reminder that Kevin was down a post (I figured if we do it in class, we should do it in real life too :P).

There was some brief discussion about other sites we could go to for the second dive, but we agreed to just stay on the Palawan. The boat had a good selection of surface interval snacks. It was quite hot on the surface, so we hopped into the water to cool off. Eventually we got back in the water. For this dive, we helped Nick and Maciek into their gear and then geared ourselves up. We headed down to the wreck and went to the other end of the wreck, swimming through a couple of swimthroughs along the way. On this dive I noticed that the wreck was crawling with Cuthona divae's... they were everywhere and so were their eggs. Once I recognized the hydroids they were on, I could scooter along the wreck and pick out all of the slugs on the side. Neat. I also found a pair of Ancula gibbosa's, which I showed to Rob. After the dive he denied having ever seen one before, but I reminded him that we saw one at Ventura Rocks with John Heimann in August of 2007 (shortly before we almost got our heads lopped off by the swinging anchor). That was pretty much it for cool sitings on dive 2.

On the ascent, I realized the vents for my drygloves were not installed. Oops. I removed them on the surface interval when we went for a swim. As a result, my hands got all poofy from about 20' up. I guess that moving my wrists around allowed gas to vent into them on the descent, but not to vent out of them on the way up. When I got to the surface, both of my hands were essentially unusable. Won't make that mistake again :) The ride back was slow and uneventful. A good time was had by all. The sundeck was a nice place for a nap, and a good place to get a sunburn. I don't recommend the latter. Of course once we headed back to Adrienne's we were treated to some canonical LA traffic. Ugh. The morning traffic had been non-existent -- that's the good thing about a 6 AM load time :)

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Mount Chamberlain Deep

Saturday we were on the morning installment of the BAUE tech charter. Since the conditions looked nice, we decided to head down to Mount Chamberlain. I'm not sure whose idea this was, but I suspect that since Rob was organizing the boat, he may have had something to do with it :) Since the site has a lot of different depths to chose from (especially if you are scootering), we planned to do a multi-level dive with the first segment at 220' and the second segment at 150'. If we couldn't find a worthy piece of reef shallow enough to make a 150' segment, then we would just skip that part of the dive. I have to be honest, I really didn't know where on the reef we were during the dive. I thought the original plan was to do K3, but then when we got to the site, we were briefed on a wall, and how to get to the wall, which way the wall ran, etc. So I basically just followed directions and did not think too much about the mental map I had of the site.

Turns out, we were diving the wall that is to the west of K3. On the way down, we were treated to quite the menagerie of deco critters -- lots of salp chainlets, jellies and the like. I figured this was a good sign of what was to come on deco. We dropped in the vicinity of K3, and then headed west until we hit the wall. We passed through some amazingly narrow canyons, which were totally fun to scooter through. We got to a little sandy area on the way back where it seemed like we had lost our way. But sure enough, we continued on and found the wall. We also passed a huge school of thousands of some kind of little fish. Not sure what they were, but I did see one lonely juvenile rockfish trying to fit in. Once we got to the wall, we found an interesting up current on the wall. It was like the ocean just didn't want us to get below 213'. I kept dropping down the wall and then finding myself at 213' again. The other team decided to employ scooters to outsmart the ocean, and ended up quite a bit deeper than us :) We meandered along the wall for a while. The life wasn't really too much different than what we'd seen in shallower areas of Mount Chamberlain, but we did see a basket star. There were also tons of egg yolk jellies all around, many of them hanging just off the wall at various depths. It was neat to look down the wall and see the jellies.

We eventually headed back to the east, looking for the shallower ridges we had passed on the way out. We found a pinnacle coming up to like 160' just east of where we were, and just as we were mulling a leap-of-faith scoot over the depths to the south, we saw the other team's lights to the south of us. Sweet. We headed over there, and along with them, we scootered in along a shallower wall, which eventually topped out at like 70'. Very convenient that we could stay on the reef all the way up to our bag shoot and deco switch. For some reasons, the deco critters seemed to have gone into hiding during our dive. There were still some, but they didn't seem quite as prevalent as they were on the way down. It was still a nice drift with what we had to look at.

After we got back to K-dock, Team Kitty (in a streak of insanity) headed down to LA for more diving on Sunday. I thought the plan was relatively insane, but Sunday was Rob's birthday and he wanted to do it. We left straight from K-dock, and made pretty good time getting to LA. The only traffic snafu was an accident on I-5, where they shutdown the highway so a med-evac helicopter could land on the highway. While the delay was inconvenient, how often do you get to see that? :) Luckily we were like 100 yards from the point where they shutdown the highway, so once the helicopter was gone, we were on our way very quickly. LA dive report to follow.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Granite Point Sprint

On Sunday, we were back at Lobos. Rob was helping with Fundies again, so the plan was that I'd go hike around Lobos and then we'd do a quick dive together in the afternoon. Of course once we'd pulled into the Lobos parking lot, that plan disintegrated. Mark and Joakim were there, and I asked where they were headed, and eventually invited myself along on their dive :) They were planning to scooter over to the deeper areas around Granite Point. After negotiating a plan, we headed out there. The viz was still spectacularly crappy. It opened up a teeny bit over by Granite Point wall. Once we got over to the wall, we headed out along it, and skipped along the structures out to about 90 feet. I think we had just gotten to the big pinnacle by Q-tip, but we didn't make it far enough around to see the Q-tip, so I'm not completely sure. On the way back in, we cut over into one of the little nooks along the wall. In my opinion, this was the nicest part of the dive -- much more colorful in these shallower areas than the deeper spots. After hanging out there for a few minutes, we headed back in. We had been planning to scooter in along the east side of middle reef. Just as we were about to head up the channel there, I could feel that my scooter was about to die. So I clipped it off and we kicked in the rest of the way. Swimming up the east side turned out to be a bad idea, due to the horrible viz, so eventually I cut over to the other side, and surfaced before we made it back to the worm patch. Joakim and Mark were planning on a second dive, but Mark had some light problems, so we called it a day.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Cannery Point

All week I had been very wishy washy about diving this weekend, so I never managed to make plans for the weekend. But Rob was heading down to Monterey for the weekend to help with a Fundies class, so Friday night I decided to bring my gear and go with him. I figured I could hike or something at Lobos on Saturday and then find someone to dive with on Sunday. But of course, when I got to Lobos, there were plenty of people to dive with, and I did have my gear. Kevin and Karl wouldn't take no for an answer. After some scooter and stage bottle swapping so that everyone had a scoot (Rob had brought his scooter to loan to Cynthia, but I didn't bring mine) and enough gas, I went diving with Kevin, Cynthia, Dionna and Karl. I was in team 2, buddied up with Karl. The plan was to head out along the pinnacles/ridges by Cannery Point, toward Bluefish.

We scootered out along the sand channel on the surface, and dropped in about 40 feet. The viz was pretty bad. The water was green and milky. We headed out down the sand channel, and the viz really didn't improve. We turned at Hole in the Wall and headed out a ridge or two past the Lone Metridium. Then we clipped off and kicked around. Viz still had not improved very much -- it was probably 20 to 30 feet. We kicked around for 25 or so minutes, with the occasional short scoot to a different spot. We were in 50 to 60 feet of water for the most part. We saw a couple of notable things. First, there were tons (dozens) of Hilton's nudibranchs. I was pretty excited when I saw the first couple, and then we got to certain spots where I could just scan the wall and see slug after slug. Pretty neat! Kevin signalled me to come look at something, and he showed me a Cuthona divae (next to a pair of Hilton's, of course). It was a pretty big one too. Other than that, we saw a bunch of sheepheads, and I found a sculpin (snub-nose I think) with a longfin sculpin in its mouth! I actually first noticed it because another fish was tussling with the one who had the fish in its mouth. He looked like he had made this great catch but wasn't really sure what to do with it :) It was pretty neat, but it made me sad that he had killed such a pretty fish! Eventually Kevin called turn and we headed in. We scootered in to the worm patch, and ascended there.

We decided to pass on a second dive, and Cynthia, Kevin and I headed to Wild Plum for lunch. I've never been there before, but it has now been added to the list of approved post-dive lunch venues :) Then Cynthia took me back to her place to baby sit me (and taste wines) while Rob was finishing up with his Fundies class.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Mid-Week Insanity Dive

Photo by Clinton Bauder
Rob was out of town for the week so of course I had to do something extra exciting to get him back. Clinton suggested a mid-week night dive, since the swell forecast looked really good. So we headed down to Monterey after work, with Ted in tow. I always invite Ted along on these night dives, knowing he won't join me. But he had to punt me for a dive we had planned for the following weekend, and to make it up to me, he came along for the night dive instead. Ted and I met up with Clinton at AWS and headed down to Monterey. We were running a bit late, due to Ted's 4 PM meeting and a stop at Beto and Sue's to drop some gear. But eventually we made it over to the Breakwater, which had a surprising number of people milling about (not ideal for changing at the car :P). We got geared up and waddled into the water.

Photo by Clinton Bauder
On the swim out, the visibility was not very encouraging. We kicked out a little bit, hoping the visibility would improve. It did not. We dropped over the sand, and look around over the sand for most of the dive. Then we headed to the wall and swam in along that. The viz was under 10 feet for the whole dive. The was was super milky, making it hard to see anyone more than a few feet away. I kept having to cover my light to find Clinton's light, which was just at the limit of visibility. Then I would kick once or twice and be right next to him. So it was a slow-moving dive, since keeping everyone together was a pain. We saw a few cool things, though. First, we came upon a few stalks of kelp with tons of Melibe's on them. And they were HUGE, like radioactive big :P It was surreal watching their giant oral hoods expanding to grab food from the water. Ted found a sailfin sculpin (my first in Monterey!). This, of course, was after Ted told us that he never finds anything interesting. We also saw two sea mice. I have told Clinton on many occasions that I've never seen a sea mouse. He told me I have almost certainly seen them before, but just not realized what it was. He was right. He showed me how if you flip them over they twist around and flip back over. They are pretty cute with their bristly fur. We also saw some Aeolidia papillosa, and two Hopkin's roses with realllly long cerata. And I found a tiny translucent clingfish.

It wasn't the best night dive, due to the poor viz, but it was still a good way to spend a hot Wednesday night.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Allison 3, Rob and Kevin 2

Photo by Clinton Bauder
On Saturday, Kevin and I were diving on a somewhat last-minute tech boat. Rob already had plans, so he couldn't make the boat :( It was pretty odd being on a boat without Rob, and I must admit I was a little nervous about it. But I figured Kevin would take good care of me :P Along with us were Clinton and Matt, and Joakim and Jim (gasp... apparently Jim actually can dive, it's not just a myth). We were shooting for E3. The last time Jim had been to E3, they had lost the lead ball at the bottom of the downline (plus the actual downline). So Jim mentioned that we might find this, and asked us to either send up a marker on the ball if we found it, or if we felt so inclined, we could shoot the line on our bag. I didn't quite understand all of the details, so I told Kevin if he wanted to do any such ball rescue, he was going to have to lead that effort. Anyhoo, we headed out towards the edge of the bay, seeing all of the other boats retreat into the bay. Hmmm. We got surprisingly not too far out before turning around. So then we discussed where to dive. We discussed Mile Buoy for a while, and it seemed like that's where we were headed, when someone suggested instead that we got to Kawika's Garden. I have been wanting to go back to that site ever since we first went there, so I was definitely up for it! Kevin had never been there. So we headed there.

I borrowed Rob's 104s since I have been auditioning bigger tanks. I was a little worried about my ability to get in and out of the water with them, since they are beasts. The one time I have used them before, in the pool, I felt like I had a Mack truck on my back. We deployed pretty speedily, as Greg backed us right up to the ball, and I managed to make the two steps into the water without tripping or anything :) Kevin and I were the first in the water, and we headed down the line. At about 20 feet, the viz got terrible, and we literally were in touch contact with the line. But then around 30 feet, it cleared up again and right after that, I could see the outline of the reef below. I was actually wondering if we were at the right site, since it seemed way too shallow to be seeing the reef (which was supposed to be at 110' to 120') below. But it turned out the viz was just that good. When we got down to the reef, there were gorgonians as far as the eye could see (which was pretty far). We followed the line to the end, just out of habit I guess, since we usually check the anchor. We got to the end of the line and found a carabiner or clip of some sort, but no ball. Oops. We looked around briefly, and then Kevin started doing some form of underwater break dancing, which involved undoing the waist strap on his harness. I had no earthly idea what was going on, and thought maybe he was going to clip a weight to the line or something? Turns out he felt water coming into his suit, so he wanted to give his zipper an extra tug. Then he asked me to secure the buckle on his waist strap. He has like 1 spare inch of webbing that feeds through the buckle, and as I was fixing it, he got a giant underwater eye roll for having so little webbing, and expecting me to secure it for him with dry gloves :)

Once that was resolved, we gave up on finding the ball -- all of the teams were down the line at this point, so if the ball drifted, I figured the crew would figure it out and pull it. There wasn't much current though, so it was more or less sitting there stationary. So, now we got to the task of actually doing the dive :) We swam around the structure clockwise. The last time we were there, we saw lots of interesting fish. This time, we saw a lot of fish, but not a lot of interesting ones. There was a huge school of juvey rockfish, and I even spotted one with a diamond on its side, which I think is a halfbanded. I called Clinton over to get a shot, and of course the fish swam off by the time Clinton got there :) The viz was incredible -- probably 80 feet or so. With such great viz, we could really see how crowded the site was with gorgonians. It was really neat. We swam around mostly just taking in the scenery, even though we didn't see anything particularly interesting. I was hoping to find either a basket star or a Tochuina on a gorgonian, but found neither. I was really really cold on the bottom, for no good reason. I was actually wondering what was in my Argon bottle, I was so cold. Eventually after circling around much of the structure, we came over the top and were just poking around. I was thinking of calling the dive early in a few minutes, since I was so cold. Then Kevin started monkeying around in a hole, and he hefted out the ball, which had escaped from the downline. Just to be clear, it's a 30 pound lead ball.

Kevin and I both pulled out our bags. I was thinking we could shoot a bag and let the crew decide what they wanted to do -- send a diver down (it was in just over 100 feet of water), take a mark, etc. But Kevin had other ideas :) At that point, I saw Jim in the distance, and thought he'd know what to do, so I signaled for him to come over. The look on Jim's face was priceless... he made a signal saying "that's my ball!" and we nodded, "yes, we know". By then, Kevin was pretty entrenched in the ball recovery. So entrenched that he failed to notice the continuous stream of bubbles shooting out of the top of his bag. Whoops. Joakim and I eventually convinced him to look up and see the bubbles. Then I handed over my bag, as Kevin deflated his. Kevin inflated it enough to make the ball neutral. The plan from there was to shoot a bag, and tie the line to the ball, so that it could be pulled up from the surface. Right around this time, Clinton started signaling us pretty incessantly. I gave him the okay a few times, to make sure he didn't actually need assistance (Matt was right next to him, so I figured he just wanted to show us something), and he finally returned it, but continued signaling us. Okay, he really wants us to come look. So I swam over just far enough to see him pointing to a basket star, gave him the "okay that's cool" signal and headed back to Kevin, Joakim, and Jim. By the time I got back, it seemed like everyone had a bag out, plus there was a reel in the mix. Without going into too many more details about how NOT to recover a 30 pound lead ball, let's just say that we eventually managed to shoot a bag to the surface, with a line running down to the ball, and a bag keeping the ball neutrally buoyant at 90 feet. I still haven't mentally worked out the geometry, but in the process, we managed to involve a big bag (with a hole), a big bag (without a hole), a small bag on a spool, and a reel. If you are wondering how the reel was employed, umm, don't ask :) It was definitely a contentious issue. After we were finished with that, it was time to start our ascent. During the first couple deep stops, I was reeling said reel (which I was not too pleased about), until I realized I could just clip it off to the conglomeration of gear attached to the ball, and then I had my hands free for the rest of the deco.

From then, the deco was uneventful, but slightly interesting. When we got to 30 feet, it was way warmer than it had been deeper. And there was also a layer of complete muck right above us (actually we were at like 32 feet, because we didn't want to be in the muck at 30 feet :P). When it was time to move to 20 feet, I was dreading it, since I was sure we'd be in touch contact for the duration. But right at about 22 feet, the muck cleared. Phew. So we instead spent the 20 foot stop looking down at the muck, holding our hands down to it like it was a camp fire. It was so toasty! The water was toasty enough at 20 feet too, but not quite as toasty. The rest of the ascent was uneventful. Unfortunately we timed it just wrong, so that we hit the surface right after the other teams, I guess. So we had to wait for the rest of the teams to be picked up before we were picked up. I think they should have picked up the diver without a p-valve first! The crew was able to successfully retrieve the ball from the surface. And I was able to climb the ladder in 104s, although I swear my arms were sore from pulling myself up on the top step :)

For the second dive, we went to Eric's Pinnacle. I had never been to this site before, which Clinton found unbelievable. Rob always uses Eric's Pinnacle as an example site when he is making condescending remarks about open boats, which I have always found amusing since he's never been there anyway. So we pulled up to the site and hopped in with doubles and stage bottles. I think we looked like really big dorks. Clinton looked like an especially big dork, because he had a big camera and a scooter too (scootering Eric's Pinnacle? come on...). I, on the other hand, decided to go light... with just my doubles. Although I'm really not sure which is worse... diving that site with doubles, stage, scooter, and camera, or diving it on 18/45. But I really wanted to figure out how the 104s performed with not a lot of gas in them. And when does one have a chance to drain a set of tanks containing 18/45 (sans catastrophic failure)?

Anyhoo, we headed down the anchor line and it was crazy warm above 25 feet. When we made it down below the warm layer, it was like someone threw ice water on my face. I couldn't believe how much colder it was at 27 feet versus 25 feet. We hung at the top of the pinnacle when we first dropped, looking at a school of blue rockfish hanging out near the top. As we were swooshed around in the surge, we kept moving between layers. We finally descended down the pinnacle on the west side and circumnavigated it clockwise. When we got to the end, I was pointing out some teeny tiny juvey rockfish to Kevin when he showed me an octopus in a crack. It was a pretty good-sized octopus. Clinton had mentioned wolf eel potential, so I think we were both scouring all of the cracks. All that I turned up from that were some treefish (still cool). We hopped off of the pinnacle to some of the other little pinnaclets, where we found some Metridiums and Spanish shawls. Once back to the main pinnacle, we headed up the east side in the little sand channel. We saw a couple of ling cods posing on the rocks, and I saw a small cabezon. Eventually we all sort of wandered up to the very top of the pinnacle, in the warmth. It was covered in various colors of Corynactis, including the light pink/lavendar colored ones (my favorite). There were also a bunch of trilineatas around there. Eventually I thumbed it and we headed up the line. I decided that the 104s were tolerable with little gas in them, but I had to pretty consciously keep my head back. I couldn't drop my head to look under a ledge and then just pop back into position. But I felt so hard-core in them!

Kevin decided that since we took two bottles on the dive, it was officially a "Tech 2" dive. Rob and Kevin were both pretty bitter that I now had more tech 2 dives than either of them. Especially appropriate since I am the one team member who really doesn't care about such things, except to the extent that it bugs the boys. Neener.

Thanks to Clinton for providing the single, lonely picture in this report. I think the basket star looks like a little alien; it sort of reminds me of Felix.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

July 4th on the Escapade

Saturday we went on the 4th of July BAUE recreational boat. Usually the drill is to dive in the morning, then barbecue in the afternoon, and watch the Monterey fireworks in the evening. Since the fireworks were scrapped this year, we had to settle for just the diving. I was quite excited to dive single tanks on the boat -- I think that's a first for me on the Escapade. I didn't quite understand why Rob took it so well when I announced my intentions, but then I realized it was because I currently have the only set of doubles with 32% in the house, and he was hoping to use them. So underhanded... It was just me and Rob diving -- Kitty #3 was off cave divering in Mexico.

There were some suggestions for dive sites, but none of those panned out due to wind I guess. So for the first dive, we ended up at Outer Butterfly House. That was fine with me, since I had never been to the site before. I volunteered (or maybe was volunteered?) to lead the dive. Jim showed us a bathymetry map and suggested a route to take from the anchorage. We hopped into the water and headed down the line. I followed in the general direction that Jim had suggested, and then I saw a ridge-like structure across a sand channel and decided to head over there. Rob's hydrocoral radar quickly went off and he found a little patch on the wall. I posed for a few pics, before heading around the pinnacle counterclockwise. When we rounded the western tip, I saw a lingcod perched on a little plateau. Once we got around to the south side, there were lots of vertical crevices. I was on wolf eel spotting duty, peeking into each crack. I didn't find a wolf eel, but I did find a not-too-small octopus slinking up into a crack, then disappearing into a hole in a plume of silt. It was really cute how it slithered away (probably because of my light :( ). There were also a bunch of juvenile rockfish, mostly blues I think.

Eventually we sort of hopped over the pinnacle, back to the side we started on. On the way across it, we found some channels cut into the top that had lots of hydrocoral. There was one crack totally filled both pink and purple hydrocoral. So we hung out there for a while, and Rob took pictures of me hanging in the crack, and then we switched positions for some more pictures. It was getting kind of tiring, mostly trying to time my bubble blowing with his shooting. I was watching the little baby rockfish swim by to pass the time :P He finally finished, and we headed back around the pinnacle and then I hopped over to the reef where the anchor was. We got back to the point where we could see the line, and we ran into Clinton and Melissa, who were about to begin their ascent I think. Before the dive, Rob had asked Clinton where he had taken some particular pictures (of John with hydrocoral). He described it to us, but we hadn't found the spot. So when we met up with Clinton he showed us where it was (on yet a third structure) and then he headed back to the line. Rob shot a few pictures and then it was time for us to head back to the line, for an uneventful ascent. Back on the boat we snacked on pineapple and strawberries (plus the usual Escapade snacks) on our surface interval.

For the second dive, we headed to East Pinnacle. Rob was leading this dive. We dropped down the line to the pinnacle top around 50'. There was lots of kelp around. Rob picked some arbitrary (to me) direction to go, and I followed. We were basically just meandering for a while. I practically swam smack-dab into a piece of palm kelp with a little orange Triopha maculata right at the branching point (sorry, my knowledge of kelp anatomy is lacking). That was cool. I also eventually found some Flabellina trilineatas, which I felt I deserved to find based on the characteristic white-sponge/hydroid combination where I often see them. Also I saw a few Eubranchus (while Rob was posing me for a picture -- it only looks like I'm looking at the hydrocoral :P). Actually for the first 20 or so minutes, Rob didn't make me pose for any pictures. I was sort of relieved, since I found the photo shoot tiring on the first dive. Then we found a really nice little rock peak with hydrocoral all over it and a vertical crack with a bunch of hydrocoral, and I was called to duty :P Beyond that, Rob just meandered and I followed. We eventually found this little swimthrough, if you could even call it that, at about 90'. I didn't think it was actually big enough to swim through. Rob turned to me and handed me his camera, and off he went. Once I saw that he could get through, when he came back I handed his camera back to him and I was off. It was a bit tight :P

After that we headed back to the anchor. We met Harry Wong and team and he posed for a quick picture. Then we continued on until we got to the peak at about 50'. We searched around for a bit and couldn't find the anchor. Rob was seriously on a mission to find the line, but I eventually insisted that we just ascend on a piece of kelp, since we thought we were close. This turned out to be a good choice, since I made two cool finds on the ascent. First, I found a Dendronotus frondosus on a kelp leaf. I accidentally pulled it off the piece of kelp to show to Rob, but Rob managed to coax the slug onto another, intact, piece of kelp. It was an advance maneuver :P Then I found Corambe on a kelp stipe (not sure of the species). I haven't seen one of those in a long time, so that was pretty exciting. At about 20 or 30 feet, I saw the line, behind Rob. I pointed it out to him and we swam over to it. Phew, no one would ever know we couldn't find the line ;)

We had a nice ride back to the harbor, but no whale sightings :(

Friday, July 3, 2009

Ed Cooper's Wall

Friday we had the day off for Independence Day, and Phil just happened to have the day available on his boat. So Rob snapped it up. "Unfortunately" Kevin was in Mexico (diving without us) so he was left out of our first post-T2 dive expedition. Instead we brought Susan and Beto along. The boat was pretty loaded down with all of our gear (those Gavins are real boat-hogs). The forecast looked totally sweet, so we decided to shoot for Ed Cooper's Wall, which is just off of Lobos and only really diveable in good weather. Team Kitty plus Beto dove there a few months ago. There is a network of walls and canyons, that run from like 240 feet (at the bottom of the deeper areas) all the way in to 20 feet at the top as you head towards Lobos. It is the perfect spot for a nice deep multi-level dive. So we planned a 210 foot segment and a 150 foot segment.

On the way out to the site, we encountered a pod of dolphins. Mostly there were Risso's, plus a few white-sideds. I have no memory of the events that immediately followed (I think it was the Haitian...), but before you know it, we were all in the water, with fins and masks. The dolphins were not very interactive with me and Rob, but they were totally into Susan and Beto. I think the dolphins were singing Happy Birthday to Susan. But it was still fun to flop around in the water with them. After Phil rescued us from the perils of the ocean (and I managed, for the first time in the history of the world, to get back into the boat with no assistance), we continued on to the site. I think Phil was disappointed we didn't want to go south. After a painstaking search for the precise spot on the GPS, we dropped the hook. We had to clip the scoots off and toss them in the water in order to have enough room to gear up. We got geared up, and rolled in. For some reason, my left arm was not behaving as usual, and I got smacked in the jaw with my bottles. I don't even know what my arm was doing instead of holding the tanks, but I suspect it's because I was preoccupied with not breathing from my backgas. Well, I won't make that mistake again. I'm just glad it didn't leave a visible bruise, since that would be embarassing for Rob ;)

We retrieved our scooters and headed down the line. I am sad to say (as you may have guessed), Rob did not bring his camera on the dive. Since this was likely to be a scooter-intensive dive, I think he didn't want to slow the team down. There was current on the bottom, though I didn't notice much on the way down. We were anchored in about 130', and when we got down to the reef, there was this strange crater in the reef. I think Rob wanted to swim into it, but we continued on to find this awesome canyon with sand on the bottom (probably around 240') and two walls that were probably around 60' tall on either side. Beto and Susan were on the right wall, and Rob was poking around on the left wall, and I was just hanging in the center with a goofy grin. Beto pointed out a Tochuina tetraquetra on a gorgonian. It was a relatively small one. As we were looking at it, we got sucked down the wall in the current. Yikes. We also found a really nice looking vase sponge, which was like the most perfect shaped vase sponge. It was a bit deep though, so we had to admire it from afar. I also found a small basket star sprawled out (I think Beto and Sue may have found another one too).

When we were on the surface playing with the dolphins, my dryglove leaked. So when we got back in the boat, I reseated the glove and did a test dunk, and it seemed to be fixed. On the descent, I noticed my wrist was cold, but I thought it might just be from getting wet earlier. Of course this was just denial, and it got progressively worse. By the time I was wet up to my elbow, I had reached the Nth stage of drysuit floods and decided it was time to call the dive. Rob and I told Beto and Sue and headed off on our own. Just before we parted, a big school of blue rockfish appeared. It was like a dense wall of fish moving towards us. Very cool. Anyhoo, we scootered off in the direction that Beto and Sue were planning to head, and then left the reef around 120 feet and drifted. It was a pretty cold deco, but not unbelievably cold. The 400gm thinsulate is definitely a lot warmer during a flood than my old 250 :) By the time we got to the surface, I was wet basically everywhere except my left arm and right leg (weird, I must have lopsided trim in the water :P). Not too long after we surface, we retrieved Beto and Sue from the water, and headed back into the cove. I was glad I had a full change of clothes and even a towel in the car!