It's about diving. And cats.

Me diving

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Kawika's Garden

Sunday I went out on the Escapade with Rob, John, and Jim. I actually wasn't planning to dive over the weekend (other than Friday), but then on Saturday it was so hot at home that we decided to escape to Monterey, where it was more tolerable. So we stayed down there Saturday night and I joined the boys for a dive on Sunday. Rumor was that the forecast was not looking so hot, but we decided to go for it anyway. Jim apparently called John to "warn" him that we might not be able to make it out of the bay, and if we wanted to cancel, we could. But we were not deterred. It was a bit foggy in the morning, and Clinton (on the Cypress Sea) reported that it was foggy pretty much throughout Carmel as well. We steamed out to the edge of the bay, and stopped. Then we quickly retreated with our tails between our legs. I don't think the conditions really precluded going around the point, but Jim was concerned that we might just find fog in Carmel anyway, and not be able to dive it. So we headed back in and the call was Kawika's Garden. I'm not sure who made the call, since I was on deck and everyone else in the wheelhouse when the decision was made. I was happy to go there.

On the way down, we found the same layer at about 20 to 40 feet that we found further out on Friday. Below the layer the viz was good but not great. We were greeted to the now-usual layer of sea nettles on the way down, which gave way to egg yolk jellies deeper. The bottom seemed a bit churned up, but I would give it about 40 feet. Rob was shooting wide angle, which would not normally be the lens of choice for this dive site, but it turned out to be a good opportunity to get some shots of the site. I was ostensibly leading, but it was more of a meander, with Rob constantly ending up ahead of me :) This site is usually pretty fishy. There were the usual suspects, but nothing particularly interesting. I did find one interesting little fishy. It was white and black striped, and had a very "tropical" look to me. I had sort of forgotten about trying to figure out what it was, but then later in the week I was perusing Tom Laidig's powerpoint presentation on juvenile rockfish ID, and I happened upon a picture of a juvenile treefish. They are "yellow and white" but the yellow can be somewhat pale. After an email exchange with Tom about it, that seems to be the most likely ID. I spent the rest of the dive poking at the egg yolk jellies and posing for pictures with the gorgonians and metridium.

Before you know it, it was time to go. I was looking forward to the warm layer on the way up, and I was not disappointed. I was, however, disappointed by the swell at 10 feet, which made me totally nauseated. Once we were back on board, it was a quick ride back to the dock. In fact, we got back to the dock before 11:30 which was pretty strange! We decided to go somewhere a little different for lunch, and headed up to Phil's Fish Market in Moss Landing. Yum yum. It was insanely crowded but we split up and managed to get both a table and food in pretty short order. All in all a nice day, and definitely better than sitting at home in the ridiculous heat!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Lingcod Nursery

Friday we were back out with Phil, and we decided to hit a spot in the bay. We wanted to see the spot we tried to hit for our last T2 experience dive. I don't really know why. I guess it was because we saw some weird things, and thought it was a shame there was no camera along for the dive. Plus the site was apparently known for flag rockfish (at least a few years ago), so that seemed worth checking out. Anyway, after the first failed attempt to dive it, I was keeping it in the back of my mind for a future adventure. Then for whatever reason, Kevin started talking about returning there and before you know it, that was our plan. The conditions were really good, so some might claim it was a waste to go to a site in the bay. I thought it was a great day to zip around in the bay on a little boat. It was sunny, warm, and the water was glassy calm. We almost headed out sans plug, but you know, Phil is a professional so he figured it out before the boat actually sunk :P

The site is this tiny little blip on the bathymetry, so finding it and anchoring was definitely a challenge. We kept motoring around the spot not really seeing anything interesting on the depth sounder -- the depth was changing over a range of about 10 feet, but nothing substantial enough to believe it was structure. Then we finally saw an abrupt change of about 10 feet on it, and I could believe that was the ledge that was supposed to be on the south side. So we dropped anchor and got geared up and flopped into the water. I had some last minute problems getting my dryglove seated on the ring, and we lacked any sort of respectable grease. So Phil offered to help me with some "nose grease". I will say two things about this: 1) it did the job admirably, 2) we should all hope never to find ourselves in a situation where we need Phil's nose grease to make the dive a go. Once in the water, we found that there was basically no current, so deploying was very relaxed, which was nice in contrast to last week's shenanigans. We headed down the line for the long descent. The water was reasonably clear in the top 20 feet and then we went through a layer of complete muck down to about 40', and then it cleared up again. There were tons of sea nettles on the way down, and eventually as we got deeper they gave way to egg yolk jellies. At around 180 feet, I could suddenly see a bunch of metridium below. Yay! When we finally got down to the bottom, we found the anchor was perfectly placed. I thought this site would be more ledgy, but it was more of a tiny, gently sloped mountain. The center was highest and then it sloped down to the sand, with various rocks creating little ledges for the fishies to hide under. It was pretty dark and green at the bottom, but not nearly as dark as it was the last time. I mean, there was actually ambient light!

Rob pretty quickly found a basket star right near the anchor. Yay! There was also a small vase (boot) sponge nearby. And there were a variety of rockfish milling about over the reef. And tons of little juveniles. I didn't know what they were, but I was hopeful that Rob would get some pictures for later identification. Tom reports that at least some of them were pygmy rockfish (which I know absolutely nothing about, but apparently the juveniles have an orange-ish stripe along the body). The adult fish were many of the usuals, blues, olives (some quite big), canaries, plus some bocaccio -- yay! I spied one under a ledge pretty close to the anchor, and Rob said he saw some as well. We just kind of meandered around for a few minutes, and eventually I suggested heading out over the sand to look for critters. Right along the edge of the reef by the sand, we found a ton of small (12 inches, maybe?) lingcod. We eventually saw maybe a dozen of these little guys, so I decided the site should be named "Lingcod Nursery". Beto had tagged it "Flag Rockfish Triangle" in his GPS, but since we saw no such rockfish, I think it needs a new name. I am sure the next time it is dived, it will contain no baby lingcods, and will need yet another name :P

Anyhoo, we headed out and just poked around for a minute or two before getting bored and heading back. I was on the lookout for those pink worm-ish things we'd seen before. I did see one thing retracting into the sand that could have been the same thing, but as it was retracting into the sand, I really didn't get a good look. While we were out over the sand, I realized how good the viz was -- at least 60 feet! We headed back to the reef and continued the meander. I found a much bigger vase sponge sort of poking out from under a ledge. Kevin also found another big one, which he got some video footage of. At some point, Rob was signaling me, and I came over to have a look at what he was pointing out. For some reason I was looking and looking and just couldn't figure out what he was trying to show me, and then all of a sudden I saw a crinoid under his light -- sweet! I've never seen one of those around here.

We eventually meandered back to the line, and right around there, we shot the bag and started our ascent. During the race to 160', I noticed two things. First, there were some seriously giant egg yolk jellyfish off in the distance. I wished I could go play with them. Second, from like 180' or so, I could see the whole reef, dotted with metridiums, laying out below me. It was an awesome view. The deep stops were pretty freaking boring. A million hours later, we finally got to 70' and switched to our first bottle. We were diving with 3 bottles (god knows why), and I was relieved to not drop a bottle when I rotated them. It wasn't necessarily pretty (not as pretty as Rob's!), but it got the job done :P From there, things got a bit more entertaining, as the nettles were quite a bit more prevalent in the shallower depths. When we got to 40', we found ourselves right below the muck, and at 30' we were engulfed. The upside was that it was quite a bit warmer. At 20', the viz was a bit better but still not nearly as good as it was below the layer. It was, however, a toasty 59 degrees. That was really nice. Just after we got to the 20' stop, Kevin motioned that he was hungry, then reached into his pocket. I was sure he was going for wetnotes to negotiate the lunch venue. Instead, he pulled out a Capri Sun, and offered it to me. I waved him off -- I have never had occasion to drink one of those underwater, and as I am not entirely clear on the physics behind it, I thought there was a high likelihood that I would either drown myself or end up spitting fruit punch out my nose, both of which would be a definite rule 6 violation. Definitely seems like one of those skills to master in more benign conditions first. Kevin drank his and about 3 minutes later I was overcome with a totally parched throat -- the power of suggestion. I think I made a good decision though. On subsequent discussions (with Phil and then Susan) I realized that drinking one of those with 20 minutes of deco left could result in extreme bladder discomfort. We finished up the deco swatting away the nettles, and ascended to conditions just as nice as we had left.

After a short ride back into port, we packed up and scurried off to lunch, hoping to catch the Siamese Bay lunch buffet before it ended. Unfortunately they were closed, doing some plumbing work in the kitchen :( Then we wandered aimlessly for food, and eventually ended up at the Thai place next to Wild Plum, which of course pales in comparison to Siamese Bay. But sometimes post-dive hunger overcomes you and you do what you must.

The video of the dive is here.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Shallow Lobos

On Saturday, Rob and I had planned to do some easy, single-tank diving at Lobos. Well, I was diving single tanks, but since we only own two of them, Rob drew the short straw. The plan was to survey two nudibranch transects on dive 1, and to do some unspecified kick dive for dive 2. When we got to Lobos, a few people from Southern California (including Nick and Maciek) was there. They had a friend, David, who was looking for a dive team. So he joined us. For our first dive, we were surveying transects 4 and 5 (the shallow ones). We swam out to about 30' in the sand channel, and then headed over to transect 5 first. I did the counting on both transects. Rob brought his camera, but claims he "got nothing" on the dive. I saw and counted a ton of slugs, but nothing too interesting. I did see a Diaphorodoris lirulatocauda, which I think I have only seen on a transect once and never counted (back when we only counted the ones on a set list). It was kind of surgy and the viz was pretty bad, so I was glad when I was finished. Then we headed out toward transect 4, stopping along the way to visit the wolf eels, who were both in. Once we got to transect 4, I surveyed that one. I sort of dread transect 4, since it seems to always be relatively devoid of slugs, but it had quite a few today. Nothing spectacularly interesting, but basically all of the usual suspects. I noticed that the viz was quite a bit better on top of the wall; I guess the bottom was just stirred up. It was also less surgy out at transect 4. Once we were finished, we headed back in (and Rob cleaned up some line he had run "for practice"). We swam back to the worm patch and ascended there.

For our second dive, we decided to kick a bit further out, to Hole in the Wall and the Cannery Point area, hoping the viz would be a little better. We dropped in the sand channel around 40 feet, and headed out. It was still pretty murky around Hole in the Wall, but as we hopped along the ridges to the west, it eventually cleared up. It was a really nice swim along the tops of the reef, looking down the little walls to the sand. I found a bunch of trilineatas, and one really really cute little fish, which looked familiar, but I had no idea what it was. I showed it to Rob, who had seen (and photographed one) before. He couldn't remember the name of it, so in the meantime I dubbed it the "cutest fish on earth". After chatting with Clinton, he said it was a kelp poacher. Well, I like my name better. By the time we turned the dive, the viz had really improved. We ascended up a wall to about 40 feet and it was really bright up there. We turned the dive and after a brief pause at Hole in the Wall, we headed straight in to the worm patch, and ascended there. Of course Rob didn't bring his camera along on the second dive, so no pics of the super-cute fish :(

We headed to RG with Clinton and Kathy for a little post-dive food and chat. They were amazingly unslow for once.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

n3 for some n in {E, Deep-E, D, ...}

On Wednesday we went out with Phil. We were originally planning on the usual Friday with Phil, but a scheduling snafu caused us to switch to Wednesday. Unfortunately Kevin couldn't make Wednesday, so it was just Rob and me. We wanted to go to Ed Cooper's Wall, or thereabouts. Our backup plan was Deep E3. We met Phil at the luxuriously late hour of 9 AM, and after doodling around in the parking lot while someone else launched their boat, we were off. We headed around the point, and just when we decided to start paying attention to the GPS to figure out where we were going, we smelled a whale, literally. In fact there were two. Humpbacks. After watching them for a few minutes, we headed to the site. Rob's GPS was on the fritz (well, actually it was just in some horribly unuseful mode), so this was a bit painful. We finally found the spot and dropped the hook. Not long after that, Phil pointed out that there was a wake around the line and back of the boat. So, some current.

I asked Rob what he wanted to do and he said something like "let's get in". So we got geared up, and Phil deployed us one at a time. I flopped in, holding onto a line and then grabbed one of the loops on the side of the boat, while Phil handed me my scooter. I kept one hand on the line and was kicking constantly, as Phil helped me clip my scooter on and held it in the water until I was on the trigger, and he let go. So, yea, some current. I dropped down to 10 or 15 feet and waited for Rob to appear, which he did momentarily. I couldn't see the line at the front of the boat (or, as Rob would correct me, the "bow"). Once Rob appeared, I looked up to figure out where I was with respect to the boat, and yep, I was still under it. Doh. After another minute of scootering and still being under the boat, we thumbed it. Rob had some scatter-brained idea that we could make it on a subsequent try, though I didn't really see how that was going to work. In any case, Phil gave up on us making it back to the boat under our own power and started to pull anchor. We were waiting for a while and he finally appeared, and told us that the line broke and he lost his anchor. Doh! We got back on the boat, after Rob gave me a quick demo of how not to doff your gear (or, alternatively, how to drown yourself under the weight of a full set of doubles). Then we discussed our options. The current was out of the south, so we figured the E3-area would be protected from it. However, we no longer had an anchor, so we were going to have to deploy and drop live. Fun fun. We headed over there, and got back into our gear. Once we were fully geared up, Phil maneuvered back to where we wanted to drop, and off we went. We erred to the shallow side, so that if we hit sand instead of pinnacle, we would just follow the bottom contour.

We dropped through tons of sea nettles and egg yolk jellies. It was pretty neat. As we got deeper, it got quite dark. Eventually we could see the ripples in the sand below us. But once we were down there we turned in the deeper direction and could see a wall in the distance. So we headed to that. We scootered around it and then sort of skipped from structure to structure, heading deeper. It was dark and murky, so I really wasn't sure at what points we were hopping pinnacles and at what points we were just skipping across a gap where the pinnacle jutted in. We were also never really certain at any point what structure we were on :) We may have been on Deep E3 at some point, or we may have been on the structures to the east of that. Since neither of us has been to Deep E3 before, we didn't really have anyway to know. We saw a few cool, notable things. First, a basket star, munching on a jellyfish tentacle. I found it, and I was very excited because it seems like I never find basket stars, someone else always does :P Rob pointed out that it is the first time he has seen a basket star that wasn't on a gorgonian. Then there was this big tall vase sponge (or, as Clinton would correct me, "boot sponge"). It was tall and shaped like a perfect cylinder. It was covered in the brown sludge that they sometimes have on them. We also found a monster nudibranch. It was white, so at first I thought it was Doris odhneri (there was another one right nearby, which also planted that seed in my mind). But it had big brown splotches. At first I thought it was silt, and I literally tried to wipe it off (which reminded me of how I laughed at Susan when she tried to wipe off Pepper's white spot). No, they were splotches. Then I also noticed that the texture wasn't nearly as bumpy as Doris odhneri, more sandy textured. Rob put his arm down next to it, and it ran from the tips of his finger up to about 3/4 of the way up his forearm. Monster. Every time we see any mystery (or even not-so-mystery) nudibranch in the white-to-tan color family, Rob tries to convince me it could have been Diaulula lentiginosa. I guess he really wants to see one :) This time I actually agreed with his theory though. It looked very much like the top one shown on the Sea Slug Forum. We also later saw a similar-looking smaller slug.

Our plan was to multi-level it, so we eventually headed to the top of the pinnacle we were on, which was about 150'. Then we scootered off into the darkness hoping to find something else that came shallower. After a minute or so, we hit a pinnacle coming to about 120' on the top. I at first thought this was E3, but then I became convinced it wasn't -- it had this strange structure jutting out at an angle near the top, which didn't look at all familiar to me. Also, it seemed a bit too small and pointy. Rob apparently went through the same mental process while we were down there, though after looking at the bathymetry, we really aren't sure. Anyway, after spending a couple minutes there, we decided to try heading in further to see if we could find another shallower pinnacle to start our deco on. After going for a minute or two and finding nothing shallower than 120', we thumbed it and drifted from there. Apparently my spool work met with Rob's approval, unlike last weekend :P As we ascended, it got brighter, and full of sea nettles. There were egg yolks too, but after we got to 70' or so, they disappeared and it was just the nettles. By the time we were at 20', I really felt like I was drifting in the aquarium's sea nettle tank. I could see so far and the seascape was dotted with nettles. But they were not so dense as to cause any serious problems. The deco ticked by, and just as we were almost ready to leave 20', I saw a single, purple striped jelly drifting below us. It was big and beautiful. I immediately started gesticulating wildly at Rob. Unfortunately since it was below us, and we were on O2, we couldn't go get a close up look. But we watched it for a while as it drifted around below us. I was very excited to see that -- I've only seen one before and it was in the throes of death at the Breakwater. We finished up the dive and managed not to nearly drown anyone getting out of gear this time.

No pictures today. Rob wasn't feeling well on dive-day-eve so he went to sleep early and didn't pack his camera. But I think it was a good day to leave the camera behind, since we did a lot of traveling during this dive.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Big Sur Banks

On Saturday we did our first Big Sur trip of the season -- the trip we'd all been looking forward to since last year's Big Sur trips :) And planning for nearly that long, it seems. Luckily, Beto and Rob did most of the planning, so I mostly just had to agree to a profile and show up :) Last year, I was endlessly stressing about the trips beforehand, but this year it just sort of snuck up on me (for a variety of reasons -- too busy at work, too many other things to stress about, etc.). I think it was better this way! Last year each team did two dives, in two shifts, so the schedule was really tight. This year, we changed it up a bit and two of the teams (one shift) did 2 shorter dives, and one did one longer dive. With 3 dives instead of 4, the schedule was a bit more relaxed. The boat was also a little less crowded, especially because fewer total dives meant fewer bottles and sets of doubles. So overall the trip just seemed a lot easier than last year. Leading up to the day of the dive, there was some doomsday talk about the swell forecast. I have mostly stopped looking at the forecast -- either way, we were going to Monterey to see how it turned out. As far as I can tell, obsessing about how bad the conditions will be doesn't actually affect the sea state, so why bother? I guess it's a way to pass the time during that 5-day surface interval that we call the workweek.

We loaded the boat on Friday evening and stayed the night in Monterey, so the 6 AM departure time didn't seem as horrible as I remembered/imagined it. It was overcast and hazy, but the surface visibility looked good (some of the doomsday predictions involved fog). We headed out, and it was actually slightly punishing as we turned Point Pinos. But then it calmed down, for a pretty nice ride down, during which I pretended to sleep and eventually gave up and sat in the wheelhouse, where John and Matt kept me warm. Since I wasn't diving until the second shift, I wasn't bothered with the details of dressing or gearing up on the way down. Once we got down to Sur19, Phil set up the downline, and we (the shift 2 divers) helped the divers into their gear and into the water. And then we got to watch as they tried to drift into and not past the line. All were successful and down they went. We waited for a while, and I carefully timed getting dressed and sealing myself into my non-p-valve-enabled drysuit (there's a p-valve, it just wasn't enabled :P). Before you know it, bags were up. And then more bags were up... not one but two bags got eaten by the down line, and had to be abandoned. Hehe. When the first shift of divers were recovered, they seemed way less excited than they should have been about the dive, even though they reported little (on the descent) to no (on the bottom) current and about 70' of viz. I didn't really get the seeming nonchalance about the dive, but both of those things sounded great to me!

We got geared up and hopped into the water. I used to be really terrified about the leap from the Cypress Sea, but for some reason it seemed much less spectacular than I remembered it. That was a relief. In the past we have jumped off the side and then swam back to the swimstep to get our scoots. We asked the crew to instead just lower (or throw :P) the scoots down to us as we jumped. I thought this worked out really well and was much more efficient, though one member of the team was a whiny bitch about it. We met up at the line, and headed down once everyone was accounted for. The current on the way down did not seem too substantial. We passed some jelly critters on the way down, including a reasonably cool salp chain, which I paused to look at. When we first got to the bottom, I realized that something just didn't feel right about my rig. It was digging into my bag in various spots and was totally uncomfortable. I think this is because the 120s are too tall for me to comfortably get into on the Cypress Sea -- I need a booster seat! (On the Escapade, there is that little channel that the tanks sit in, and with that, the height is just perfect.) So my harness waist strap wasn't tight enough and it was sort of sagging in a funny position. After wrestling my harness into a better position, and wiggling my Argon bottle around a little so it wasn't digging into my ribs, we were off! The viz was amazing. Not only could we see ridiculously far, but it was really bright. Bright warm water blue at 130'. This was a big contrast to the conditions last year, where even with good viz, it was quite dark.

With the incredible viz, we could see a landscape covered with hydrocoral stretching in all directions. And fish, so many fish. There was a huge school of blue rockfish, which at points appeared like a wall of fish, crammed nose to tail. There were also various little schools of juvenile rockfish atop the hydrocoral bushes. It totally reminded me of a warm water reef, where there is a cluster of little tropical fish above a coralhead. Actually it reminded me of Finding Nemo :) We also encountered quite a few lingcods, from scrawny small to lingzilla-sized. We basically meandered from patch to patch of jumbo-sized hydrocoral. Rob posed me behind a variety of specimens. We eventually ran into the other team. Looking in Beto's general direction was painful, because of his ridiculously high-powered headlights. At some point he signalled me to scooter toward the camera, and I just tried to avoid looking directly at them. Then he and Rob did that cute little video-stills thing that videographers and photographers like to do, where they point their cameras at each other and each get a picture of the other doing their craft. We were on the long-dive shift, so we got a luxurious 45 minute bottom time. This seemed luxurious for the first 25 minutes, but then the last 20 went by in a flash. It's easy to lose track of time in such awesome conditions.

At the appointed time, both teams shot bags and began the drift. When we first left the pinnacle we were so close to the other team that we literally had to swim away to avoid bag entanglement. But after a few stops we had drifted apart a bit. The deco was pretty uneventful. I totally biffed the bag shoot, and my punishment for that was that Rob took the spool and manned the spool for the rest of the deco. I don't really see what part of this is punishment, but I wasn't complaining :P I was freezing for the first few stops. It must have warmed up a bit in the shallower water. It was also quite a bit more murky shallower. I didn't think the viz was particularly bad on the shallow stops, but from about 60 feet looking up, I could see a brown layer above us. But when you are comparing to 100-foot-ish viz, I guess the comparatively murky water was still pretty nice. There were a variety of deco critters in the water, including those sea beans (pelagic tunicates, or so claims Clinton) we saw a couple weeks earlier. They are entertaining since you can harrass them with your fingertip. Whatever passes the time :)

We finally got to the surface after what seemed like forever, but in normal human time was about 50 minutes. I think the deco was probably overkill -- we planned for a 140' dive, but our average depth was less than 130'. But there seemed to be no point in negotiating a new deco profile to shave 5 minutes, especially considering the nice conditions. Plus long deco hangs are good practice for our big dive to (insert big dive of choice here... some of Rob and Kevin's favorites include "Doria", "Britannic", "Portuguese Ledge", ... hehehe). When we got back to the surface, the boat was already picking up the other team. You know you are a deco weenie when Beto's team makes it to the surface first :P When it was our turn, as usual, I pushed the boys out of the way and told them I was boarding first due to bladder constraints. I was impressed with myself when I managed to both pull myself onto the swimstep and onto my knees under my own power, and then stand up from that position under my own power (after the deck hand took my fins off of course :P). Corey totally burst that bubble when he told me they lowered the swimstep for us before the trip!

After back on the boat, I scrounged for sugary foods and drink with a crazed look on my face, as is typical after a long cold dive. I finally found the hot chocolate mix -- phew. The first shift decided to stay at the current spot, so we helped them into their gear and got them back into the water. Then we just hung out for the duration of their dive. It was a great day to be out on the water -- the sun had come out, and it was nice and calm. Calm enough to sit at anchor without wanting to barf (Rob might not agree with that assessment). The ride back was similarly calm. Around Carmel, I headed back to the deck and took a nap on the deck. It was great! I should have spent the whole ride back out there. We got back shockingly early (around 4:15), I guess due to the 3-dive schedule. Then we headed over to Cynthia's for some delicious lasagna. And wine. We stayed over on Saturday night, and after breakfast at First Awakenings and a quick swing through the Aquarium (the current nudibranchs are not too exciting), we headed home.

All of the trip's pictures are here.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Naia's Wall

I am writing this report quite a bit after the fact, so I am going to keep it short. Luckily I sent a little blurb to Susan shortly after the dive, so I can crib from that without any degradation of my memory of the dive :) Matt set up a tech trip on the Escapade because apparently there haven't been enough of those lately. I say that quite sarcastically since as it turned out, this would be the first of something like 6 consecutive weekends where I had a tech boat (or two) planned. Matt's plan may have lacked look-ahead. We were shooting for Naia's Wall. Kevin and Rob insisted on planning for a relatively deep average depth, which I just didn't get... the wall goes up to like 70 feet, so why would we want to spend our time deep? But I figured we could always adjust our deco if we ended up shallower (which I definitely expected).

I hadn't been to Naia's wall before, but Rob and Kevin had (when I had an ear infection, whimper, and they left me at home while they went diving!). It is really cool. We basically jetted down to the bottom and were scootering along looking at all of the cool overhangs and stuff near the bottom of the wall. I quickly started to understand why Rob and Kevin insisted that we plan for a deeper dive. The overhangs on the bottom are great to look under, and the fishies seem to congregate there. It wasn't until right near the end when we were swimming about 20' below Clinton's team that I really bothered to look up at the wall, which was definitely the best sight of the whole dive, the wall towering above us, looking like it's about to tip over on top of us. We didn't see anything too spectacular in terms of life but the topography was really cool.

I tried my new (old) 120s yesterday for the first time and they were excellent. It is a relief to finally have found a set of big boy doubles that I feel stable in, since I had written off the heavy 120s and 104s as being not quite right for me. But everything went very smoothly in the lighter 120s. Except I got chastised by one of my team mates for being too slow about putting the bag up :P (as we sat on the reef, not drifting at all at 70', eye roll).

We punted on a second dive. We had the option of going to Ballbuster, but no one except Rob was terribly interested in getting back in. I thought the first dive was so good, it was really unnecessary and it felt a bit rushed since Jim had an afternoon charter. So we decided to go whale watching instead. We eventually found a couple of humpbacks (mom and baby), but first we found a big mola floating on the surface. It was just floating, barely moving, so at first we thought maybe it was injured. But then Rob and I jumped in the water to snorkel with it, and it perked right up once we were annoying it. It was huge. I would have estimated it was about 6' long, but once I was swimming alongside it, it actually seemed quite a bit longer than me. It was awesome swimming along with it.