It's about diving. And cats.

Me diving

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Christmas Kitty Antics

Usually we go away for Christmas and the kitties are on their own (with a cat-sitter of course). But we stayed home this year, so the kitties got to experience a full-sized Christmas tree for the first time. Ever since we have had the cats, I haven't put up a tree due to a combination of not being home for Christmas and being terrified of what the cats would do to the tree. I can just imagine Pepper trying to climb the tree, and the whole thing toppling over. So I planned to put the tree up and see how they reacted to it, and then add decorations a little at a time. When I put it up, they were so disinterested in it, I decided to tempt fate and put tinsel on it too (making the tree look like a giant mylar teaser stick). After a few days with nothing dramatic happening (but the tinsel definitely moved around on the tree a little), I added ornaments and lights. A couple of ornaments did get knocked off of the tree (by Oreo, the little pretend angel!), so by the time Christmas rolled around, the bottom of the tree was barren of ornaments, as I moved them up closer to the top everytime one got knocked off :) We also noticed a cat-sized anomaly near the bottom of the tree. There were clearly some kitty antics involved in that. I think Pepper may have jumped on one of the branches and it got bent down.

Here are some pictures of the Christmas Day kitty antics.

Both of the cats were pretty interested in the stockings, but Oreo was the first to conclude that there were cat toys poking out of the little stockings:

Oreo was unusually excited by the little red mice with green tails that she got in her stocking. She was tossing one of them around and then carrying it around in her mouth (which Oreo never does with toys!). It was quite Pepper-like:

Pepper was pleased with her stocking toys too, but eventually a kitty needs to rest after laying the smackdown on so many toys:

But pretty soon, Pepper was ready to get to the main event -- the presents:

Oreo, on the other hand, just wanted a little cuddle time with Rob:

Pepper got a new tunnel for Christmas. She used to have a tunnel, which she loved (and was very possessive of). But eventually someone peed in the tunnel (I suspect it was Rob... he gets jealous when the cats have too much fun without him), and that was the end of that. I can't remember where I got the original tunnel, and I haven't managed to find a tunnel quite as good ever since. So finally for Christmas I decided that some tunnel is probably better than no tunnel. So I got her a super crinkly tunnel. It is a bit smaller in diameter than the old one, but it has a hole on the top, which is cool. The old tunnel was lined with fleece (or something soft) which may have been part of the allure. The new tunnel is not. So I wasn't sure if she'd be into the new one. She eventually figured it out, and decided to engage with it:

She seems to like the tunnel. She periodically happens upon and it has a few minutes of fun sprinting through the tunnel and popping out the top.

Oreo, on the other hand, just wanted to cuddle.

Oreo got a cat bed for Christmas. Oreo doesn't typically sleep in bed with us. She often sleeps on the floor in the bedroom, or on top of a duffel bag when she can find one (which is pretty frequent, since we never get around to putting away luggage after a trip or a weekend in Monterey :P). I was hoping I could put the bed in the same spot where she usually sleeps (and where the duffel bags often sit) and she would use it instead. So I found this bed that is a sack of sorts, since she loves to climb into bags. Basically it lies flat like a bed but she can dig around inside of it if she wants. And it is really soft and cuddly. She hasn't figured out what it is yet. We put some treats in it to encourage her to try it out. She ate the treats, and then promptly curled up in the duffel bag next to it. Sigh. I hope that one day she randomly notices that it is soft and tries sleeping on it.

In the meantime, she really just wants to cuddle:

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Twin Peaks, Try 2

After our attempt to go to Twin Peaks a couple weeks ago was curtailed by bad viz, we decide to make another attempt on Saturday. Actually, we originally had no concrete plans for Christmas weekend. We were actually planning a dive at the Breakwater (which I was kind of excited about, since I haven't done a non-night-dive there in ages). But in the middle of the week Rob called Lobos to see if by some long shot they had any space available for Saturday. It turned out they had a lot of open spots, weird. So we snagged a reservation and pondered our gas readiness. We were actually in pretty good shape, considering we hadn't been planning to dive anything other than 32% that weekend, but we stopped by Anywater at lunch on Thursday to monkey around with the mix in a couple of stage bottles. It turned out to be a good day to go to Anywater, because they were having a little Christmas shindig that afternoon.

We got a relatively late start on Saturday... Rob let me sleep until 7. I was super cold the whole way down to Lobos, and jacked up the heat in the car to an uncomfortable (to Rob) temperature. It was in the 40s outside and finally topped 50 when we got down to Lobos. Still, brrr. It was pretty deserted in terms of divers when we got there. The tide was on the low-ish side, but nothing too terrible. After schlepping a lot of gear to the float (it was a three bottle dive, on account of Rob's master plan for a monster dive to both Twin Peaks and a sizeable stop on the Road on the way back), we schlepped ourselves in. It was pretty calm when we got in. We knew conditions were supposed to deteriorate though, which is the only reason I managed to get myself out of bed at 7 AM :) We scootered out on the surface, and as we were scootering out, I thought my scooter was making a slightly odd noise. Nothing too alarming, but there was a bit of a grumble to it. So we switched scooters on the surface before dropping and Rob said he would listen to it for a bit and see what he thought. Apparently he didn't hear the mystery noise, so we kept on going. As a result, however, we dove the entire dive with each other's scooters. This resulted in some interesting findings. First of all, Rob looks really goofy diving the kitty scooter. It's just not a very manly scooter :P Second, my scooter is, I guess, just faster than Rob's. We always knew I was faster than he was, but we never knew to what extent it was caused by the extra drag from his camera, his bad trim, or actual differences in the scooters. I guess my scooter is so much faster than his that when he drives it, it overcomes the slow-down from his camera and his bad trim :)

The viz was pretty good all the way out. Even when we dropped in > 30 feet, we could still see the bottom. It got a little darker as we got further out, but not dark, just not as bright. There was a bit of surge. Even all the way out at Twin Peaks we would occasionally get blown around by surge. We took the usual route out there -- Hole in the Wall, Lone Metridium, the Sisters (though we noted that for some reason we used to always land at the second sister first, and recently we've been landing at the first sister... I think the earth's magnetic field has changed ever so slightly), the Road, to the big peak. When we got to the second sister, we did a search for the big elephant ear. It was missing last time, but I was hoping (in denial) that maybe we just couldn't see it in the bad viz. Well I am sad to report that the sponge is gone. Something traumatic clearly took place, because there was also a broken off scallop shell sort of under where the sponge used to be. You can see where the sponge used to be -- there is still a little sponge and discolored spot without other growth. Maybe the sponge will grow back. My ability to navigate depends heavily on landmarks, so this could totally throw me off.

In the past when scootering with 3 bottles, I have had a little lower back and leg pain on one side. I thought I had corrected that by changing my weight configuration a little. However, my ankle was bothering me a little on the way out, so we periodically stopped so I could shake it off. I am not sure that this was the same problem I've had in the past -- might have been a too-tight gaiter or too-tight rock-boot tie. And I was so resistant when Rob told me rock boots aren't DIR. But after a few stops along the way to slow us down, we finally got out to the big peak. We scootered along the bottom until we found a nice spot to stop and take a look at. Rob was shooting macro and I was supposed to be nudi-peeping, but I didn't really feel like I had brought my A-game. Rob asked me to find Dotos, which is usually a pretty simple request out there, and I couldn't even do that! But finally I redeemed myself when I found a tiny gold, white, and black slug. It was so small and I was so excited, that I instantly showed it to Rob and didn't even get a good look at it. I thought it might be some sort of Polycera. After Rob took some pictures (and I switched off of my stage... I actually made it a point to not switch until it got hard to breathe, so I was sitting around with my light clipped off waiting for it to get hard to breathe :P), I gave it another look. Upon later review of the pictures, it was not actually a Polycera, but a Trapania velox. That is one of those slugs that I have never seen before, but which Clinton periodically mentions, to remind me of his slug supremacy. Well, I don't think that's why he mentions it, but it does the job anyway ;) Needless to say, finding a new slug always makes my dive. Other slug finds were Spanish shawls and trilineatas. I think Rob found some Dotos, though I don't think I ever did.

Eventually we continued around the peak up a sand channel with a bunch of sea pens. Not the fluffy exciting ones, but the scrawny boring ones. There were at least ten there. Then we headed back up the road, sort of down the center of it but eventually popping out on the familiar east side. We followed that back and then stopped at a spot around 130'. We stayed there for 5 or 10 minutes, and then I called the dive early because I was freezing. Shivering freezing. I guess it was related to my inability to warm up in the morning before the dive. We headed back to the sisters and across to Beto's. At this point I realized how much better the viz was than last time. It wasn't epic or anything, but it was solid good viz. I'd say 50 feet-ish. We hit Beto's and headed south, along the sand-kelp interface until we got to 70'. We went onto our bottles and then poked around, then headed to 60' and did the same. After that, we headed over to middle reef, and came in along the east side (which Rob had suggested we do, if the viz was good). At 20', it was really surgy, which was quite unpleasant. The viz had also deteriorated. Eventually we got sick of being smacked around among the rocks and we scootered in over the sand until we got to a 20' bottom, and we finished up there. We ascended from there, instead of scootering in due to the bad viz. When we surfaced we were about even with the cliff over Cannery Point. We scooted in, dropped our gear at the float (well, some of us did; some of us walked out with a bottle and camera to prove our manliness), and then got our asses kicked at the ramp (well, one of us did, and it was not the manly one with the bottle and camera). Well, that is a slight exageration. But the tide had gone out, and the conditions had deteriorated a little, so it was definitely "exciting" getting out. But I managed to get out without any help from Rob, which I was proud of :)

Afterwards we headed over to Beto and Sue's for some chit chat and dinner.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

The 3 Nixies

Allison was still sick, so Kevin and I went out and joined Clinton, Nick and Jim for a dive :-) The conditions looked like they were still calm, so pretty soon we found ourselves motoring south toward the Yankee Point area. Jim suggested that we dive a series of pinnacles he dubbed the "3 Nixies". I'd been to a pinnacle a couple hundred feet East of there a few times, but had never seen these structures, so I was game.

Kevin and I got geared up and after solving some minor gear issues, were on our way. I was pretty impressed with how sheer the topography was here. There are a couple very distinct, very vertical pinnacles that bottom out past 200', but top out in the 100' range. Very nice. We used the scooters to work our way around a couple of the pinnacles but also spent some time "on foot", so to speak, exploring the area more closely and stopping for pictures. Pretty soon, our all-too-short 40min BT was up, and we met up with the other team at the top of the structure to begin our ascent. About 10minutes into our deco (at about 60'), Kevin pointed downward and we could see that we had drifted onto another reef system which topped out probably around 70' or 80', just below us. That made for a nice stop as we were able to watch the reef (albeit from afar) for most of it. Based on our drift direction, I'd say we probably drifted over PTP.

The ride back was pleasant, and we even got to spend some time with a large pod of over 100 playful rissos.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Mt. Chamberlin, SW loop

Allison was sick today with sort of lingering chest cold, so I decided to stay out of her way and meet up with Kevin to go diving :-) I was hoping to finally be able to do a scooter run at Mt. Chamberlin that I have been eyeing for some time (I've attached a bathymetry map of the region, and of our route).

As we lauched from Lobos, the wind was pretty snotty and we could see whitecaps just outside the cove. I took the helm, as Kevin and Phil strapped on and braced themselves and steered us due W around the point. As soon as we rounded Point Lobos, we got some much-needed shelter from the wind, and found quite nice surface conditions. Pretty soon, we were hunkered over the GPS and depth-sounder to figure out where to drop the hook.

The plan for the dive was to drop on the SW side of the wall in a little "cove" and run the deep section of the structure around counter-clockwise along the South wall, up the big valley in the middle, and North to finish out our deco on K2. For this dive, we were planning to incorporate a 190' deco bottle into the mix, and use it to help us extend the dive by multi-leveling.

We dropped into pretty calm surface conditions with very mild current and after some quick checks, pointed the scooters downward and put the hammer down :-) The structure here is very impressive, and the W and S sides of Mt. C form very sheer walls that peter out on the bottom into smaller rubble piles. As we worked our way S, we found a tiny basket star and a crinoid. It's a good thing that Allison was sick, because she hates crinoids :-) Off in the sand alone, Kevin also found this nice vase sponge that had a huge rock crab living inside of it. very cool.

After 25min, we found ourselves at the big crack in the wall, and headed up to the top of the structure around 150'ish, switched onto the 190' bottles, and poked around for another 15minutes or so. There are a bunch of weird duck-throughs and vertical holes in the reef here, and Kevin just couldn't resist trying to squeeze himself (along with a buttload of gear) through a tine hole. I watched all of this hovering above him with the camera trained on him, just hoping that he would cross his legs in defeat and ask to be pulled out :-) Alas, it was not to be.

We finished the dive by driving north for a few minutes to find K2, which is a large pinnacle on the structure that tops out around 80'. We slowly worked our way up through our 80' stops and soon it was time to bag up and leave the structure. The rest of the deco was long, but uneventful.

Mt. Chamberlin is a great dive (actually there are many different dives to be had here as the structure is so large), but this was an exceptional way to do it, being able to see many different parts of it on the same dive and have enough bottom time to really soak it in :-)

Offgassing continued at Siamese Bay lunch buffet.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Dark Day at Lobos

After a night of chili and margaritas at Cynthia's, Rob and I were at Lobos for a slug-hunting dive to the Twin Peaks area. Cynthia was at Lobos too, diving with Ted and Kenn (though they got a later start than we did). It has been a long time, over six months I think, since we've been to the Twin Peaks area. I can't believe it's been so long, but we've been doing so much boat diving lately that I guess it's not too surprising. Rob wanted to do a longer dive out there, where we would go to the peaks, spend about half of the bottom time there, and then come back to 130-ish feet on the Road, and spend the rest of the time there. So that was the plan. More specifically we were hoping to find some Okenias, which we hadn't seen since last spring/early summer. There were not a lot of people at Lobos, I think because the forecast for the weekend was not that good. But Saturday looked like it should be diveable, and indeed it was. In fact, it quite calm at the ramp, due to the west swell. The only thing tricky about the diving was that the ramp was totally covered with dead kelp that had been dragged in by a storm. But the tide was high so at least it was floating on the water so we could push it out of the way to one side of the ramp while we carried in gear and got into the water.

The viz was pretty good right at the ramp. We headed out on the surface and found good viz on middle reef too. Unfortunately as we got further down the sand channel, the viz deteriorated and as we came around the corner at Hole in the Wall, it got sort of milky. By Lone Metridium it was chunky too, and by the sisters it was dark. We hit the first sister, convinced ourselves that that's what it was and then hopped over to the second sister (which was well beyond visibility from the first sister). When we got to it, we were very confused to not find the tell-tale elephant ear on the side of it. We couldn't find it after a quick scan so we headed up the Road. From there it got really dark, and was still quite murky and chunky. Around 130 feet, I stopped Rob and told him that I didn't want to continue out because of the crappy viz. So we stowed the scooters and kicked around there. We ended up making a bit of progress by kick around the area. We mainly just meandered further out and then eventually turned to the left into the middle of the road.

Rob had been waffling about whether to shoot wide angle or macro. In the end he chose wide angle, despite the slug hunting goal. I guess it had been so long since we'd been to Twin Peaks that he just couldn't stand not shooting WA. It turned out he made a bad choice, considering how dark, green, and murky it was. But he took a few shots anyway. In the end, we found a few cool slugs, but no Okenias :( The slugs that I considered noteworthy included a couple of Doriopsilla spaldingi and a few Cadlina limbaughorum. When it was finally time to turn the dive, we headed back to the sisters and then over to Beto's Reef. The viz was so bad that when we hit Beto's, we weren't completely sure that that's what it was. But we quickly found one of the steps in the reef and then we were sure. We headed in along that, and to the left of sea mount, and then along the kelp-sand interface. When we got to 70', we switched to our deco bottles and poked around there for a bit, periodically scootering in to our next stop. After our 50' stop, we headed over to Middle Reef and spent the rest of our stops there. The viz was actually quite good there -- probably should have spent the whole dive there :) We stopped by to see the wolf eels. There was a gumboot chiton covering most of the opening to their hole, so I performed a temporary chiton relocation to get a look at the eels. Don't worry, I put him back where I found him :)

The 20' stop was a bit surgy but really not too bad. We went over to the east side of Middle Reef and hung out there. I saw a few Dendronotus albus and Rob found some tiny Dendronotus subramosus on their usual hydroids. The viz was so good that we ended up scootering all the way in to the ramp (a bit past the ramp, actually, oops :P). When we got to the ramp, the dead kelp situation had gotten even worse. And our buoy was totally entangled in the kelp. So we decided the best thing to do would be to leave one of us in the water to hold gear and swim it out bit by bit. So Rob got out and came back gear-less and I slowly brought stuff to him. It did not turn out to be quite as bad as I expected, I just had to burrow a big hole through the kelp on the way into the ramp each time. And with so little water movement, the hole generally stayed there for my path back out to the float. Once the float was empty, we were able to free it from the kelp. Climbing out over the kelp was unpleasant (and a little scary). The tide had gone out so now the kelp was just sitting on the ramp, really thick, too thick and heavy to push out of the way. So I just had to climb out over it, with Rob there to steady me. Once we were out of the water, we waited around for Cynthia, Kenn and Ted to finish their dive. We were waiting forever, I guess they really did get a late start :) We passed the time by rinsing our gear and helping other people up the slippery, kelp-covered ramp as they appeared at the bottom of the ramp. Finally Cynthia, Kenn and Ted appeared on the surface and dilly-dallied over to the ramp.

After helping them out of the water, and packing up, we headed to RG for lunch. They were amazingly not slow today. We actually got all of our shakes in a timely manner. I tried the falafel burger for the first time, and decided that it is at least as greasy as a regular burger. Oh well. I also had the special spake, peppermint. Yum, I love peppermint ice cream and hate the fact that it is seasonal. Why can't I eat peppermint ice cream all year!?! Life is so unfair.

When I asked Rob about pictures from the dive, he said that none of the pictures were good enough to post. I asked him if I posted a report, would it have to be pictureless, and he said "hmm, I guess I could give you one". So that's all you get!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Breakwater Night Dive

Cynthia proposed a night dive on Friday, followed by chili and margaritas at her place. How could we resist? So we headed down to Monterey after work, and met up a little before 7:30. Conditions were calm (and not too cold on the surface, which was an improvement from the week before). We got geared up and headed into the water. The plan was to do the usual Breakwater night dive loop out over the sand and back in along the wall. We swam out to about the bend in the Breakwater and dropped there. The viz was probably about 20 feet, with a few spots where it was murkier than that. Over the sand, we saw the usual critters -- a few octopus of varying sizes, a couple of Hermissendas, tons of shrimp dancing just above the bottom, and even one of those giant super scary brown shrimp (Penaeus californicus) that give me nightmares.

We ended up over at the wall earlier in the dive than usual, so we actually cruised out along the wall for a bit before turning. It was quite a sluggy night on the wall. We saw four or so Hopkins' roses all within about 3 feet of each other. There were also a couple of Limacias that were very warty -- lots of big bulbous processes so they had a lot more orange than the usual ones. I found a patch of reef that had over 10 Adalaria jannae within about 2 feet of each other. I also found a few Diaphorodoris lirulatocauda. But probably the most interesting find on the wall was a couple of small adult Bocaccio. Rob and I were a bit surprised to see those. It was a pretty fishy night overall. There were lots of small adults and juvenile rockfish around. In one spot on the swim back, I found a little nook behind a rock just off the wall that had a couple dozen kelp rockfish. It was cute to see then all swimming around in such tight quarters. When it was time to head in, we swam in to about 10 feet and ascended from there. By the time we got back to the "surf zone" (if you can call it that), my feet were so numb from the cold that I had trouble standing up and getting my fins off. I have become such a cold wimp!

Rob had the camera packed for wide angle for the next day, so he didn't bring it on the dive :(

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Cold, Murky Diving

On Saturday we were on the Escapade for some recreational diving with some out of town divers that Clinton was entertaining. The swell forecast was looking pretty good, so we were hoping to get somewhere down the coast. Rob originally had his camera packed for macro, but repacked it for wide angle at the last minute. We were in fact able to make it quite far south, and headed to Lobos Rocks. When we got there, we found quite a lot of whitewater between the rocks and decided it wasn't the dive site for us. So we headed just a teeny bit further south to the Soberanes wash rock (or so I was told... I saw no wash rock, apparently because of high tide). I guess we anchored on a different spot than usual to avoid the boat being blown into the rocks, but since I've never dived the site before, it made no difference to me!

We headed down the line to fine conditions that were clearly more macro-friendly :) It was green, dark, and chunky. Oh well. It was surgy too (though that was largely in sets) so not perfect macro conditions either I guess. We dropped on a ridge running north to south from about 50 feet down to over 100 feet. We headed south first, and when we got to the south tip, we turned and headed back north. Not too far from the south tip, at about 100 feet, I found a mystery yellow mollusc. It looked like a yellow with fairly large black splotches all along the edge, but it had a small shell-looking thing with a hole in the center. I thought it looked like a limpet with a tiny shell and huge foot. Rob thought it looked like a shelled nudibranch. We eventually saw another one not too far from the first one, but a bit shallower. That was the only unusual siting. Other than that, it was a lingcod here, a cabezon there, etc. There were a few metridium as well. Apparently there is a little wall covered in metridium somewhere at the site, but we did not see it. Overall it was just a murky, cold (not on the gauge, but cold to me) dive. Rob was so unexcited by the conditions that he didn't even unstow his camera at all during the dive.

When we got to the surface it seemed a bit sloshier than it had when we went down. After collecting all of the divers, we headed up to Carmel and decided to go to Outer Pinnacles for the second dive. Rob made me lead, so we stayed pretty close to the anchor :) To me, what I saw when I got down the line did not really correspond at all to what Jim had shown me on the bathy map on the boat. So I just picked a nice looking direction and headed that way. We very quickly found a little crack with hydrocoral where we had been before. Rob took a bunch of pictures and then signaled me to pose above the crack, in exactly the position that I knew I had posed before :) After a little (cold) while, we continued on past the crack and turned left to find a little "room" with sand on the bottom and walls on three sides. I looked under the overhang at the bottom of the walls, but didn't see anything very interesting. After that I turned us around and figured we could head back to the anchor and past it in the other direction to see what was there. Just past the anchor, we found a really narrow (3 to 4 feet) channel running from between two walls from about 60 feet to 90 feet. At this point I was very cold, and thinking of thumbing the dive. But Rob wanted to scooter through the channel, so I said okay. I was going to wait for him above the wall, but it looked pretty fun, so I followed him down. I came out the end and Rob said "let's go again". So we scooted back up the other way. After that, we headed back to the line and began our ascent. I saw a sea lion zipping around on the ascent, but I think Rob missed him.

The trip home was a little rocky from Cypress Point to Point Pinos. There was gear sliding all over the deck, but nothing (that we know of) went into the ocean :)