It's about diving. And cats.

Me diving

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Bari Reef and Alice in Wonderland (Bonaire Day 1)

We couldn't quite remember if we were meeting Benji at 8 or 8:30, so we were up and ready at 8, and then saw that his trailer doesn't "open" until 8:30. So we puttered around until 8:30, when Benji showed up. We chatted about our intentions for the week (a couple of tech dives at the Windjammer and Red Slave, and other than that, some "recreational" doubles diving until we got sick of the schlepping doubles). We went over to Bonaire Dive & Adventure to get our marine park passes, and then got an abbreviated (compared to what I remember from last time) briefing. Then we did our "checkout" dive out back. We did a long dive -- 140 minutes, I think.

Rob was shooting macro, so of course we saw a turtle. But there were plenty of cute little fishies too. We looked for the seahorse at its old residence, but couldn't find it. When we got out of the water, it was just in time to meet the car rental person who was dropping off our truck. Then we headed into town for lunch. We went to Papagayo, which is where the Lost Penguin used to be. I had a tasty pineapple, ham, and cheese toasted baguette. Rob got a giant fish sandwich. After a stop at Cultimara and a little resting in the room, we headed south to dive at Alice in Wonderland.

While setting up gear before leaving, I had a catastrophic flip flop failure, followed by a temper tantrum. We were going to stop in town for some flip flop shopping before the dive, but then realized we had no cash. So we just went diving. When we got to the site, Rob offered to walk me into the water and then get geared up since it was rubbly and slippery. I acted offended and then accepted his offer, which was a good idea. The second reef was further away than I remembered; it couldn't be seen until we left the first reef. But we quickly saw it. We stopped to visit the garden eels who were of course not interested in being photographed. We spent most of our deep time on the outer reef. It goes down deeper on the outside than I remembered. Then we headed back to the first reef and up it. We saw some eels on this dive. I was in search of blue shrimp on anemones, but those anemones are always hidden in cracks it seems.

We went to Casablanca for dinner. Rob was pleased to find that the mixed grill for two still comes with its own table.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Bonaire 2009

We were in Bonaire for a little over a week at the beginning of November, followed by a day and a half in Curacao. We stayed at Den Laman in Bonaire (which is where we stayed last time), and the Hilton in Curacao. The stop in Curacao was mostly dictated by flight schedules, but we figured if we were going to have to spend a night there, we might as well make it two nights and check out Curacao. In Bonaire, we dove with Benji from Caribbean Gas Training (which is unfortunately no longer in business). Picking the pictures to include in the report was, of course, painful. Be sure to check out all of the pictures in the BAUE gallery that Rob created!

Since American canceled their flights to Bonaire, we flew to Curacao and then took a regional flight to Bonaire. This sounds complicated but in reality, it was way more convenient than the all-AA itinerary we took last time, which involved spending basically all day on an 8 hour or so layover in San Juan. We even managed to get all 140 pounds of our checked luggage on the DAE flight for free. When we got to Bonaire, it was too late to get our car (this was expected), so we took a cab to Den Laman. On the way there, we noticed that there was a lot of new development since our last trip, including a new rotary!

Here are the reports, day by day:
Bari Reef and Alice in Wonderland
Hilma Hooker, Salt Pier, Bari Reef
Red Slave and Flamingo Peeping
Lac Bay, Taylor Made, Bari Reef
The Invisibles and Bari Reef
The Mairi Bhan/Windjammer
La Dania's Leap

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Forgotten Pinnacle

On Sunday, Kevin and I were on the Escapade for a tech boat. I was really hoping not to end up stuck in the bay in crappy weather again, for the second day in a row (and third diving day in a row!). The weather actually turned out to be just fine. We made it all the way down to the Lobos area, but then the wind had shifted by the time we got down there, so we trekked back up to the north side of Carmel bay, to Forgotten Pinnacle. I had been to this site once before, but it wasn't the most stellar dive. We had been kicking and didn't find the good side of the site until right at the end. However, Jim and Joakim had dived it quite a bit recently, so Jim knew the right place to anchor to find the best spots right away.

We were scootering this time, and Kevin had never been to the site before, so we decided to scooter around the entire pinnacle (which is pretty big) to start with, to orient ourselves. We dropped onto a very nice, vertical, encrusted area of the pinnacle side, and headed clockwise. We came around the end to the other side and found a relatively barren, not quite as vertical area. I am pretty sure this is where we spent much of our last dive there. I was briefly considering turning around and heading back to the start point, since it was so much nicer, but I figured we would eventually end up back there. We found some neat little overhangs at the bottom near the southwest end of the pinnacle, where there were some fish hiding. Then we headed back to where we started, and just kicked around there for a while. There were a bunch of canary rockfish hanging around near the bottom there. I also found a few cool nudibranchs -- a really small Tochuina tetraquetra, a pretty small Doriopsilla spaldingi, and a Cadlina limbaughorum. I even managed to find Matt when I saw a the Cadlina, so I could show it to someone who would appreciate it (sorry Kevin :P). After that, we just sort of worked our way up the pinnacle until it was time to call the dive. Deco was uneventful, with a few (but not an insane number of) jellyfish.

Sorry, no pictures, since Rob wasn't on the dive :(

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Bunny for a Day

It seemed like it had been ages since the last BAUE recreational boat (which I think was the July 4 boat, but I could be wrong...). Rob was out of town, so I was left to fend for myself. Team Bunny took pity on me, and since they were down a bunny (August was on trial for bad trim or something) they allowed me to play the part of Bunny #3. The bunnies have a bit of a reputation for being pretty hard core when it comes to long dives. So diving on the boat seemed a perfect opportunity to dive with them without the pressure of doing a 2 hour long death kick dive :) They even granted me permission to dive single tanks, though that didn't work out due to tank logistics (i.e. I was too lazy to get my tanks filled from the previous weekend).

Unfortunately conditions were once again not so stellar. It was really foggy out. At some point, we turned around due to the conditions, though I am honestly not sure where we were when that happened, since it was so foggy. When we pulled up to a dive site, I had absolutely no clue where we were :) Turns out we were at Aumentos. I have only dived this site once before, a couple years ago. So I didn't remember it terribly well, except for the depth range. But Steve was leading, so I figured that was okay :) It was pretty snotty on the surface. Gearing up was pretty unpleasant, and involved a lot of bracing for an incoming wave. We finally got into the water and found that there was a bit of a surface current dragging us away from the boat (perpendicular to the direction we were swimming). We finally made it to the line and headed down. It was pretty bright at the bottom, with decent viz. However, there was a lot of particulate in the water. It was also super surgy, surprise surprise. Once we got to the bottom, we basically just headed around the ridge that we landed on, going counterclockwise. On the opposite side from where we started, we were in a sand channel between that ridge and another. The channel was littered with dead/dying molas. So sad :( Once we got to the end of the sand channel, we turned around and retraced our path back to the anchor line. The one other notable critter siting (if you can call it that) of the dive was that there were a lot of cool kelpfish. It seems like a strange thing to report about a dive, but I just kept finding them!

For the second dive, we headed over to Shale Island. The bunnies had never been here before, but I told them that I thought we should be able to make it around the whole island based on the time/gas that we had. After about 15 minutes, though, I started to worry that we wouldn't make it around at our current pace. So I decided to be a very bad #2 and take over the lead to keep up the pace :) I was looking for an octopus, since I often see them there. I finally found one, a decent sized one at that. Then I realized that Kenn and Steve had no clue what my hand signal for octopus meant. But they finally got it. One other cool find was an Acanthadoris lutea. I made Kenn take some video, although I think he had no clue why I was so excited by a yellow dorid :) I was starting to get a little worried that we would make it back to the line with the gas that we had. I knew that Jim's usual anchorage for Shale Island was close to the big anchor, and since we hadn't passed it on the way back, I was waiting and waiting to find it. I was relieved when we finally found it! And not long after, we found our way back to the anchor line with a few hundred psi to spare.

The bunnies couldn't stick around for lunch (non-diving wives are such a drag!), so I headed over to the London Bridge Pub with a bunch of others from the boat. I really don't like that place very much. Since I was sticking around for the next day (back on the Escapade), I visited Cynthia in the afternoon and then we went to Susan's for dinner, and watched a very girly movie with Susan and Dionna (too girly, in fact, to admit to on the blog).

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Cynthia's Birthday Boat

On Saturday, we were on the Escapade for a boat that Matt had organized for Cynthia's birthday. Her birthday was actually 2 weeks ago, but schedule logistics prevented the boat from actually being on that date. Unfortunately the conditions were not the best, and we couldn't get outside of the bay :( So Ballbuster it was (isn't it always?).

The water was green on the way down, with sea nettles happily drifting along, but the visibility was okay (not great) on the bottom. It was dark though (isn't it always?). There was quite a current on the bottom. People always say that Ballbuster can have current, but I have never experienced current there that is more than a mild annoyance. But on this particular day, it was actually pretty unpleasant to kick against the current. Of course this did not deter Rob, and instead of tucking behind the pinnacle to hide from the current, he decided we should circumnavigate the pinnacle. Phew. It was a bit of a schlep getting around it, but then we finally came around the corner and got blown back down the other side. Rob was shooting macro -- it seems like it has been ages since he shot macro! Unfortunately he is holding the pictures from the day hostage, so I am going to go ahead and post this without pictures. I will upload them later after I beat them out of him. I would say that the coolest thing we saw on the dive was definitely a juvenile yelloweye rockfish that I found in a crack near the bottom. I was shocked! And Rob even had the right lens! I'm still not sure if he got a decent shot of it or not. Other than that, it was pretty much the usual Ballbuster suspects.

For the second dive, we suggested the shale. I think Rob suggested the anchors, which many of the people on the boat had never dived, gasp. Jim was very uncertain about whether there was actually anything at the site, but he just anchored on the numbers he had and hoped for the best. We had a pretty simple dive... down the line, to the anchors which were maybe 15 feet away. Then we pretty much stuck around on the anchors, Rob searching for little creatures on them. On the way down, we saw a couple of molas at 20 or 30 feet. Then while we were poking around at the anchors (of course after everyone else had scattered), we had a mola close encounter. One of them had this gross wormy parasite thing (with a long, maybe 8 inches, tail) hanging on it. Rob went to work "cleaning" the mola of its parasites. Ewww. It was pretty neat, it has been a while since I have had such a close visit from a mola. There was a giant (scary giant) lingcod hanging out in the anchors. Other than that, it was mostly just cute little sculpins that I found.

Lunch at RG in Monterey, which I had never been to before. I think they have the same service philosophy there as the one in Carmel :)

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Ad Hoc Big Sur

John arranged another pickup tech boat for Saturday. The forecast was looking good, so we were hoping to get to Yankee Point. I suggested Dos Gatos, since it is good fun for scooter divers and non-scooter divers alike. And has depths from like 90 feet to 200+ feet. So that was plan A. However, the forecast was looking quite awesome, so there was some hope of going further south... maybe to Midway Pinnacle? Jim referred to this as "plan B", but I thought it was more like plan A+. We headed down to Yankee Point and conditions were in fact sweet. So we kept on motoring toward Point Sur. Eventually we were down near the Point, when John emerged from the wheelhouse, and announced the "bad news" that we would not be diving at Midway Pinnacle, because we were instead heading to Sur 19. Woohoo. Since it was a rather full boat (4 teams), we split up into two shifts of diving. We were in the first shift.

A downline was deployed and we hopped into the water. The two teams were Team Kitty and Beto and Sue. When Beto jumped in, he found a significant leak in his suit, and decided to punt the dive. So Susan joined us. After that was sorted out, we scootered over to the downline. I noticed a bit of a current... had to really crank down on the gas to get to the downline. Susan schooled us with her Gavin (I can just hear Rob making a derogatory comment about how X-scooters are slower than Gavins, and Kevin denying it). We headed down the line, into the current. The water was pretty green on the way down. When we got to the bottom, it was dark but the viz was good. The darkness was actually a bit disorienting, since I have only dived the site in light before. There was a decent current on the bottom, though some areas had protection (and some were quite exciting!). We found a wolf eel, and right next to it, a juvenile yelloweye. I was quite excited by the yelloweye, though Kevin tried to push me (or my light anyway) out of the way to get some video of the wolf eel. Pffft. We ended up seeing a couple more juvenile yelloweyes throughout the dive.

Rob had been instructed to take vertical pictures of the hydrocoral, since I have been wanting to replace some of the prints in our living room. He was a good boy and took several good verticals :) Posing for him was quite a pain with the current, so I eventually gave up on that, and decided to just enjoy the scenery instead. Before you know it, it was time to head up. The deco was pretty uneventful until 20', when we started seeing some good critters. Out of nowhere, a tiny fish appeared right in front of me. I thought I was hallucinating at first :) What was a tiny little fish doing here in mid-water? It looked just like a tiny, 1.5 inch long, lingcod to me (though I really know nothing about juvenile lingcod, so that could have all been in my head). It was totally adorable. I signalled the others and everyone came over to take a look. So cute! Also at 20', I looked over at Susan and saw her with her hands clasped together like she'd caught a firefly. She opened her hands to show us this really strange little fluorescent (or should I say fluorescing) blue speck in the water. At first it looked like some sort of piece of plastic debris, but then we realized that it was reacting to our lights. It was really odd.

After the dive, I was a little worried about the swimming teams getting down to the site, because of the stiff current. They ended up having to be dropped twice, because they missed the line on the first drop. But they made it the second time, and after a few minutes without any bags, we surmised that they had made it down. Turns out they pulled the line on the way down, but ended up dropping close enough to find the pinnacle anyway. While they were down, we got a little knot-tying clinic from Michael and Jonathan (who was in town for the day, so he rode along on the boat). I guess Susan had asked Michael for some knot-tying lessons, and Jonathan (an eagle scout) is quite the knot-tyer too. I've always been a fan of knots, since to me, it is the nautical equivalent of craft hour :P However, I am sad to report that I think I can still only tie a bowline.

After collecting the other team, we headed back to Monterey. It was quite a long day for a little Escapade charter :)

Saturday, October 3, 2009

The Wharf

Photo by Mark Lloyd
On Saturday, BAUE had a little dive get-together at the Wharf. Since you have to have surface support to dive here, we never get to dive here. So we figured if we did a group thing, a lot of people could get the chance to dive with just one or two people volunteering to do surface support. Rob volunteered to do surface support for the first dive. I dove with Mark and Cynthia. I was glad that Mark showed up looking for a buddy, since I was hoping for some good critter-peeping and wanted to have a macro photographer in tow to capture any good finds :) The turnout was not that good, I'm guessing because of all of the talk about zero viz and red tide that had been swirling around during the week.

Photo by Mark Lloyd
Well, the talk turned out to be quite accurate. In stark contrast to our 80 feet or so of viz the day before south of Lobos, we had like 5 foot viz opening up to maybe 10 foot viz as we got further out. We surface swam right to the pillars because I wasn't convinced we could manage to not lose each other if we dropped in the sand and then swam to the pilings. The first several sets of pilings are covered with the red bryozoan, which, as far as I can tell, is not really home to any interesting nudibranchs (just Hermissendas). It does however seem to house tons of fringeheads. The first fringehead I stumbled upon was actually in a big chunk of bryozoan laying on the bottom (growing on a maybe football-sized rock). I saw him peeking out as I swam over it. I showed it to Mark, who started snapping shots. That particular fish was pretty cooperative for the camera, I think. Not as skittish as others. Later on, I saw several more peering out from the bryozoan on the pilings.

Photo by Mark Lloyd
It was really surgy, which made looking for (and even more so, photographing, I gather) little critters quite annoying. I didn't think the bad viz was that big of a problem for the dive, since it was all macro stuff to look at anyway. But the surge was really annoying. We eventually made it to the further out pilings where there is substrate other than red bryozoan. I prefer these pilings, since they have more of a variety of things living on them. On our last dive here, we saw tons of cool nudibranchs, so I was hoping for a repeat of that. There were a few good finds (but overall not quite as good as last time). First, I found an Acanthodoris rhodoceras. I didn't know what it was at the time, but I definitely remembered seeing it from the ID book. I quickly found Mark and insisted he get some pictures. Then I found Mike (who was diving with Clinton) and he got some pics. I could tell that Clinton was in the middle of a tense standoff with a small fish he was trying to shoot, so I didn't want to bother him. Turns out he would have preferred I had interupted to show him the slug. I told him that it was implied that Mike was supposed to pass it on. Other slug finds that I liked included an Adalaria jannae, a bunch of Melibes and Diaphorodoris lirulatocauda, and a ton of Triopha maculata.

Photo by Mark Lloyd
At some point I gave up on finding Mark everytime I found something cool to shoot, and decided I was going to just point things out to the closest photographer. Right about then, I found the first Triopha, and it was laying flat on a piling. I saw Mike, pointed it out to him, and just then, Mark swam around a piling and looked at me like I was a traitor. It's true, I was. Later on, I noticed some kind of hydroid that the Triophas seemed to like, and once I identified that, I was seeing them all over the place. So Mark had plenty of opportunities to get some shots of them. We had seen several Melibes swimming in the water, and eventually Mark pointed out a spot on a piling with some Melibes. There was a patch of Corynactis feasting on one Melibe, and then next to them, on a patch of piling that wasn't covered in Corynactis, there were some more Melibes that were happy to be alive. Mark told me after the dive that he had actually seen the slug swimming in the water and then swim into the piling, at which point the anemones clamped down on it. By the time he pointed it out to me, it was just like bits of Melibe sticking out from the piling -- it was hard to figure out what I was looking at at first! Nature can but rough.

Eventually we turned the dive and headed in. We swam all the way back to the concrete wall at the base of the pier, which I have never been to before. The wall itself looked like a great place for slug hunting. I saw more of the same (including a huge Diaphorodoris, big enough to easily point out to Mark), and I think an Aldisa cooperi. I found that interesting, since I have only seen these slugs at deeper than 100'. But Clinton reminded me that it had been spotted in a tidepool in the Big Sur area, so it's not too surprising to find one in the shallows.

By the time we got out of the water, Clinton had already looked at and ID'd Mike's pics of the Acanthodoris (and berated me for not showing it to him).

Friday, October 2, 2009


For the second Phil trip in a row, we found ourselves greeted with winter diving conditions. We were shooting for a dive site just outside of the Lobos boundary near the southwest corner of the boundary. The site is labeled "T5" on the BAUE maps site for Point Lobos, but we don't know if anyone has actually dived it (or just marked it and gave it a temporary name on the bathymetry maps). On the bathymetry, the site does not look like it has a ton of relief, with a bunch of ridges from about 180 feet to 220 feet. There are some shallower structures to the north, coming up to maybe 160 feet. Definitely not the most multi-level'able dive, at least compared to some of the other sites we frequent. As a backup, we planned to go to the E3 area. As we got to the west side of Point Lobos, we were greeted by some pretty sporty surface conditions. As we were getting our asses kicked on the drive down, I said there was no way I was getting into the water in these conditions and suggested turning back to the E3 area. Phil said that he thought there would be some protection once we got around to the south of Lobos, so we decided to continue on and check it out. Once we got south of the point, it was quite a bit calmer. It actually wasn't at all barf-inducing to get geared up and into the water.

We dropped into crystal clear water with a lot of really big sea nettles. They were not so dense as to induce fear, just to provide some scenery. We headed down to the site and from about 160 feet I could see the entire site below me. The viz was really amazingly good. As I mentioned, I was not expecting a lot of relief at the site, but we dropped on a 40 to 50 foot tall wall, which was enough relief for me. The site, which looked on the bathymetry like it might be a lot of rubble on the outskirts, was actually a lot of small pinnacles on the outskirts. The sand between the structures was very coarse, almost more like chipped rock. The structure of the site was more impressive to me than the life. However, some areas of the ridges were well-covered with Corynactis. However, it didn't have as many big sponges (such as elephant ears) as we often see at these depths. We did find a small pinnacle off to the side with three big vase sponges... they were lined up in a row. After posing for a few pictures, we headed off to the northeast to look for shallower structure. We never found much that was shallower than the main area. We eventually found some reef coming up to about 170', and spent the rest of the dive there. This area had more elephant ears. Rob got some pictures, while I just enjoyed the scenery. Did I mention how great the viz was?

When it was time to go, I just happened to look up and saw that, from 170', I could see the ripples on the surface. Very nice. There was quite a bit of current, which was a little annoying at first since I was on bag duty, and I had to figure out where the current wanted me to be without having my arm ripped out of my shoulder socket (that big bag really has a mind of its own). The deco went by surprisingly quickly, I think because we had some jellyfish to entertain us. There were some sea nettles, but not too many, and also the occasional egg yolk jelly. When we got back to the surface, we found that we had drifted back into the rougher seas. Oops. It was pretty unpleasant on the surface, but we got all our gear and then ourselves back into the boat pretty quickly. Afterwards we scurried over to Siamese Bay since we hadn't managed to make it there after a morning dive in some time. After lunch we headed over to Cynthia's, and in the afternoon (after Rob and Kevin had a nap) we went out for wine, then dinner, and then had cake to celebrate Cynthia's birthday (on Saturday). She turned 24, again ;) Then we stayed at her place for more diving on Saturday.

All of the day's pictures are here.