It's about diving. And cats.

Me diving

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.

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