It's about diving. And cats.

Me diving

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Queen of Slugs

Photo by Clinton Bauder
On Saturday I had plans to dive with Clinton. Neither of us had Lobos reservations so we had a not-very-well formulated plan to try to get into Lobos and if we couldn't both get in, we'd abort nd go elsewhere. Then the week before, some spare reservations were dropped in our lap and all was well. I told Clinton I'd be interested in just about anything, suggesting a kick dive on 32%. Clinton said he wanted to dust off his scooter, so he preferred to scooter. After all of the comments from Clinton about how we always scooter, I was shocked! So we were thinking we'd scooter over to Granite Point. At the very last minute (like after I'd gone to bed on Friday night), Rob became available to dive, so I told Clinton on Saturday morning that I was bringing a surprise mystery guest dive buddy along with me. When we pulled into the parking lot, Clinton was unimpressed with my mystery guest. Yea, he's pretty boring.

Photo by Clinton Bauder
It was quite sloshy in and outside of the cove, and particularly over by Granite Point. (It was also sloshy at the boat ramp, which with a very high tide had water spilling out into the parking lot everytime a bit wave came.) So we decided to head deeper and to the left instead, to Beto's Reef. I volunteered to lead (shocking I know). It's been a long time since I've scootered straight to Beto's Reef. It seems like we always hit it on the way back from somewhere instead. I decided to follow the kelp-sand interface out instead of doing something fancier that involved more landmarks along the way. We always seem to come back along that route, so I figured I could manage it. We scootered out and dropped in the sand channel, which was surgy with not very nice viz. This surgy and not very nice viz thing pretty much stuck with us most of the way out. I was practically right on top of Beto's reef by the time I "found" it. Hehe. We hit it from the east side right about where the first drop off is. We scooted out along the west side briefly, and then clipped off and kicked around. Clinton was shooting macro (and Rob was camera-less, a consequence of deciding to join us very late the night before), so slugs and little critters were the name of the game. I really wasn't very successful at this particular game :P The only particularly exciting macro find that I made were quite a lot of Pedicularia snails on hydrocoral. Right as I was perusing those, Clinton signaled me to come look at something. He was right next to the second dropoff, the one with the wolf eel, and I swam over excitedly expecting a cool slug. I looked where his light was pointing, looking for something small, and then eventually realizing it was point at the eel's crack. I gave him the "oh yea, it's just the wolf eel" wave off. Hehe. Not that I don't like the wolf eel, I just had something else in mind :)

Photo by Clinton Bauder
We continued out along the two spits of reef just south of that. There used to be a warbonnet's hole along one of them, but given the surge (yes, surge even down there), my slight feeling of wonkiness (yes, I am a big helium wimp), and my general inability to find any cool small things today, I didn't even bother. I noticed Clinton shooting something and went over to look. He was following a cute little juvenile cabezon along the reef, and probably traumatizing/blinding him along the way :) I didn't really see much exciting in terms of slug life. I saw one Limacia, some clowns, and several Berthellas (which, for the life of me, I couldn't remember the name of during the dive... I refer you to my previous comment about helium). It seems like there are always a lot of Berthellas at Beto's. Before you know it, it was time to head back. The plan had been a multi-level dive, so we planned to spend about 20 minutes in the 50-60 foot range around Hole in the Wall. I looked at my gauge, and thought, if we don't dilly dally, I can make it there before I need to switch off of my stage. Of course that thought instantly guaranteed that there would be dilly-dallying. We followed more or less the same path back (though this time we hit Sea Mount before going over to the kelp-sand interface). Due to the crappy viz and the kelp slaloming, there were a few stops, and right around 70 feet, Clinton signaled us and I knew why. We stopped and switched off of our stages (Rob didn't have a stage, because he was using manly doubles, whereas Clinton and I were diving girly 72s/75s), and then Clinton pointed something out on a little rock nearby. There was a kelp stalk coming out of the rock (kelp doesn't actually grow out of rocks, but you know what I mean), and I for some reason thought he was pointing at the kelp holdfast. So I was scanning it for something little living on it, not seeing anything. After much searching I noticed a huge cabezon sitting on the rock right next to the kelp. Doh. I literally slapped my forehead.

Photo by Clinton Bauder
From there, we headed back to the rock just north of hole in the wall and looked around there, then went to HiTW reef itself and slowly meandered south. When we got to about 45 feet, Rob suggested we get back on the trigger and head in. The viz was getting crappier and it was getting surgier the further we got. We scootered in to the worm patch and ascended there. I swam us over to a stalk of kelp to use as a reference on the ascent, which only succeeded in getting us into a field of entanglement hazards (aka surgy kelp forest). So Rob put up a bag, because that's how he rolls, and we finished the ascent. We scootered in and then tried to decide whether to do a second dive. The plan had been to count slugs for the BAUE nudibranch project on dive 2. We were all very unmotivated about it. Given the surge and the poor viz, hanging out on middle reef just didn't seem fun. We were basically all like "well, I'll do another dive if you guys want to", which usually results in bagging it, but for some reason we decided to get back in. We left the scooters and camera behind, and did a good old fashioned kick dive. We decided to count transects 1 and 2, since they are further out (and thus less surgy), and also because they are right next to each other. So on a team of three, two people can survey the transects in parallel, with the third guy sitting in the middle keeping track of everyone. Rob volunteered to be the monkey in the middle. I told Clinton I wanted to count transect 2, since I think it has more slugs on it. He looked doubtful, so I told him he could take transect 1, and it would be a race to see who found the most slugs.

It seemed like conditions had actually improved since the morning. It was not too sporty on the swim out. We dropped in the sand channel, and Clinton led us out to the transects. I often complain about Clinton's speedy swimming, but when he leaves the camera behind, he is insane. I was continuously falling behind Rob, who was already a reasonable distance behind Clinton. At to this the extremely surginess, and the crap viz, and the kick out just wasn't very fun. When we finally got to the transects, things had calmed down a bit. I don't know if it was just because we were deeper, or the geometry of my transect (which is around the point of middle reef), but it was actually quite calm. And the viz seemed better than the first dive, but that could have been in my head (and when you are counting slugs, who really checks the viz?). It was slug city on the transect. I couldn't believe how many slugs I found, of a variety of species. The last time I was on transect 2 (not counting, just hanging out), we found a Phidiana, which I like never see when I am counting. So I was hopeful I'd see another, and was looking very carefully in the spot where I had seen it before. No luck on the Phidiana, but right near that area, I found a Flabellina trilineata. Since I hardly ever see aeolids when I'm counting (and even when I do, it's almost always a Hermissenda), I was very excited. A couple other notable sitings were tons of Tritonia and a big pile of 7 San Diego dorids right on the corner at the edge of the transect. They were right in front of Rob, so when I got over to them and did a double take, then pointed them out to him, he nodded with this look of "yep, I've been staring at them for 20 minutes". It was a fun day to count, and I was glad we decided to get back in for another dive. After we were finished, we headed in along the reef, and stopped to visit the usual suspects (warbonnet, wolf eels) and for some general poking around, before heading in.

The tide had gone out and we got mildly pummeled by the ocean on the way out. Well, Rob didn't, because he is impervious to such things. I knew I had counted an insane number of slugs, so after the dive, I quickly summed up the numbers, to get a whopping total of 45. I couldn't believe it... I don't think I've ever counted even 30 slugs on one transect. Clinton's count was somewhere in the 30s, which was also impressive, but I told him that I won and crowned myself Queen of Slugs. After cleaning up, we headed to RG Burger with Scott, who was visiting from Seattle.

Thanks Clinton for providing the pictures for today's post. I guess Clinton was sick of me constantly asking if I could use his pics on my blog, so he told me he was granting me a lifetime license to use his images for dive reports on the site. I am definitely going to have to make the most of that :)

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Whose Afraid of a Little Swell?

Photo by Clinton Bauder
Saturday was the first BAUE recreational boat of the year. Rob was otherwise engaged, so I got down on one knee and asked the bunnies if they would dive with me. Luckily one bunny couldn't make the boat, so there was a slot available for me. Considering the hellish storm that was passing through, it wasn't clear if the boat was even going to happen. I really didn't want to drive down to Monterey, just to call it in the parking lot. But by Friday, the forecast seemed to be improving everytime they updated it... from like 15 to 17 ft swell on Thursday to I think 11 to 13 by the end of the day on Friday. Plus the wind forecast was tiny, which seemed like good news. By Saturday morning, the forecast had changed again, for the worse. I got this information from Kenn, who got it from August via text message at around 5:30. I don't know what the point of looking at the forecast was, since we were commited at that point to at least drive down. At that point I really didn't want to hear about it :)

When we got down to K-dock, Jim told us that the swell was indeed 15 feet, but that there was no wind. Personally I would rather a big smooth swell with no wind than a smaller swell with wind on top. It is the chop that both makes me uncomfortable on the boat, and makes me worry about cracking my skull on the swimstep or ladder while reboarding the boat. We headed out to Ballbuster to say hello to the GPO. When we pulled up, Michael mentioned that there were jellies in the water. Boy, he wasn't kidding. I jumped into the water and while I was waiting for the boys, I felt something under my feet. I couldn't imagine it was a diver (since I was nowhere near the line) so I looked down and saw a huge mass of sea nettles. We swam to the line and when I looked in from about 8 feet away, I couldn't even see the line. Sigh. So we got right on the line and I descended in touch contact with the line. The sea nettles were crazy. I have been in what I considered "thick" sea nettles before, but it didn't even come close to this. The swim down the line included pushing the nettles out of the way while trying not to lose the line. I got stung at around 30 feet. I finally made it down the line (phew), and it was so dark and the viz so poor, that all I could see were about a dozen HID lights swinging around as people tried to figure out who their buddy was. Finally I found guy with blue gloves and blue stage bottle (August) and guy with blue gloves and green weights on his belt (Kenn), and we were off. Kenn was leading the dive. The anchor was on the northeast side of the pinnacle, so we swung around it in search of the GPO (who is on the southeast side). The viz was bad, maybe 15 feet, and it was super dark, and super surgy. The surge would come and go, but when it came, it could basically pick you up and drop you off at the other side of the pinnacle. Or worse, slam you into the pinnacle (not that I would ever make contact with the beautiful invertebrate cover on the pinnacle). We came around the corner and I saw some loitering divers and then saw the crack where the octopus lives. I got a look at the octopus just before the surge dragged me like 10 feet or so up and away. I pointed it out to August, who got a look, and then to Kenn. Apparently Kenn didn't actually get a look at the octopus :( I guess we will have to go back and have another look sometime when it isn't so surgy.

The rest of the dive mostly consisted of swimming around haphazardly, and getting disoriented everytime a big swell came and set us down in a different spot. We swam around the pinnacle, mostly near the top, but given the bad viz and darkness, for all I know, we swam around the same spot for 30 minutes :) The one notable critter siting I saw was a pair of painted greenlings. One was doing the weird mating dance that they do, but the other seemed not particularly interested in the concept of mating. When we had a little under 10 minutes left of our planned bottom time, Kenn asked which way I thought the line was and I told him what I thought (though I wasn't exactly sure). It was in sync with what he thought, so we headed that way. Just as I was starting to ponder how embarrassing it would be to have to shoot a bug and ascend off the line, we found the line. Phew. The line was running a bit off the pinnacle, which is why we never saw it the entire dive, until we were looking for it. Now we had to just manage to not lose it in the next five minutes. A couple minutes later, Kenn thumbed the dive and we headed up into the nettle deluge. I think we all avoided getting stung on the way up, though there were definitely some close calls. Other than the jellyfish dance, the ascent was uneventful.

For our second dive, we discussed either Hopkins deep, which was report to have no nettles, no surge, and 5 feet of viz, or the anchors at the deep shale, which would probably be similar. I figured with 5 feet of viz, deep shale was the way to go, for a little nudi peeping. We were a little worried that in the 5 foot viz, if the anchor wasn't right next to the anchors, we would never find them. Our team got in last, so I figured by that point, hopefully someone else would have run line to the site :) When we got down the line, though, we were right on top of the anchors. Woohoo. We poked around there for a little while and then headed of to the nearby shale ledge. On the anchors, we saw the usual assortment of sculpins and Hermissendas -- some really really red ones. On the shale, we saw lots of Spanish shawls, and the usual dorids. Kenn always says that he never sees any nudibranchs, so I made him look at a few, even though we didn't see anything too exciting. There were quite a lot of the yellow-gold Aldisa sanguinea, including a couple that were mating. There were also a couple of lingcods hanging out near the ledge. Eventually I turned us, and we headed back along the ledge. Now, on the way from the anchors to the ledge, we followed Jim's line, which I knew wouldn't have been there when we returned. I was looking out for a particular landmark I had noticed when we found the anchor chain. We were rather confused, but then I figured that Jim must have moved the anchor, so it wouldn't get caught on the anchors when they pulled it. That was indeed what happened, plus the boat had swung in a different direction. So, conveniently, the chain was running over the ledge and then when we followed it to the anchor, it left us within site of the big anchors. We still had a bit more gas/time left, so we whiled it away at the anchors. On the way up, we saw one lone sea nettle. He must have lost his pack.

After the very short ride back to the dock, we adjourned to Turtle Bay for lunch. They even had cranberry salsa, woohoo!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Not Diving on MLK Day

We had plans to dive off of Phil's RIB on Monday, since we all had the day off. Despite the storm, we were holding out hope that we could get some protection around E3. We pulled into Lobos, with warnings that we probably wouldn't dive. When we got down to the parking lot, there was pouring rain and gusty wind. Not to mention the whitecaps in Whaler's Cove. We didn't even want to get out of the car, it was so ugly out. We pulled up next to Phil and rolled down the window a little to chat. He said the wind was supposed to get worse. Hehe. Kevin was the only one man enough to get out of his car, and he walked up to the cliff to take a look (though I don't know what going up there would tell us, that whitecaps in Whaler's Cove couldn't already say). I was a bit worried he would get blown off the cliff. He came back and reported that there was a little bit of "protection" in the sense that further out beyond the point, it was even more hellish. So we passed on diving. Instead we went to breakfast at Black Bear diner with Cynthia, and then Rob and I went for a drive along the water in Pacific Grove, to see the huge waves at spots we sometimes call dive sites (e.g. Coral Street).

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Ballbuster, Deep and Shallow

Sunday was the first BAUE tech boat of the year. There was so much demand for the boats last year (and enough whining about splitting the boats into morning and afternoon shifts), that for a bunch of the boats this year, there is a Saturday and Sunday boat on the same weekend. We ended up on the Sunday boat. The Saturday boat made it down to Carmel (to E3 I think). But Sunday conditions were deteriorating into a big storm. We headed out of the bay and decided that Carmel was not going to happen. We considered diving near Pinos Buoy, but with the deteriorating and already somewhat-sporty conditions, we decided not to chance it. We ducked back into the bay with our tails between our legs, and headed for Kawika's garden. En route, we thought of Deep Ballbuster, a site that I had never been to, but had heard of. So we headed there instead.

Once we decided to head there, someone came up with the crazy idea to scooter from there to Ballbuster (everyone on the boat had a scooter), since we all wanted to see the GPO that was allegedly living there. So we hatched a cockamamy schemed to scooter (as a group) to Ballbuster near the end of the dive. The scooter caravan was necessary to ensure that we all started drifting together. We hopped into the water and waited by the downline until everyone was in the water. Then we headed down the line. It was quite dark under there, but the viz was okay (but not great). This site has a relatively low-lying reef that I would describe as being not spectacularly beautiful :) There are gorgonians, though not in the fluffy abundance that you see at Kawika's garden. Some parts of the reef are covered in Corynactis, so they are bright pink (reminiscent of Ballbuster itself), and others are less encrusted. We worked our way around the reef, poking around looking for critters. Rob left his camera on the boat, since the plan was to cover so much ground on the scooters. He was shooting wide-angle, so he probably wasn't missing much. This site is probably a better macro dive anyway. The one highlight of the dive was a giant sea pen in the sand between two of the reef structures. It was one of the huge fluffy ones like they have a lot of in the PNW, not one of the spindly scrawny ones like at the bottom of Twin Peaks. That was the one shot that would have been wide-angle worthy... a diver posing with the giant sea pen.

At the appointed time, we all met back up near the downline, and headed toward Ballbuster proper. Karl and Rob were leading. We eventually left the rubble field (which I think was a no-no, based on Jim's map and directions) and found ourselves over sand, having expected to be there by now, and not seeing anything. After a brief conference, my suggestion to head back to the left (where the rubble path was) was ignored and we headed to the right. When this proved fruitless, we turned around and went back to the rubble, and finished up the last few minutes of the dive there. I think it's pretty likely that if we had just gone a bit further along that rubble path, we would have found the site. Oh well. Jim said that based on the bubble trail, we were basically headed in the right direction, but did not go far enough. Pffft.

When we got to the surface, it had gotten quite sporty. It was rainy and gusty with wind. After we collected everyone back onto the boat, a few of us still wanted to go GPO peeping at Ballbuster. So we returned everyone else to the dock and then Team Kitty plus Susan went back out to Ballbuster. By this time, conditions had actually improved, and it was fairly calm when we got back in. We planned a quick dive on Ballbuster, using what we had left in backgas and doing a short deco on the way up. Jim gave us directions on where exactly the GPO could be found (although "right next to the wall of metridum" really isn't very specific :P). But, for some reason, we basically ended up circling most of the pinnacle before we found it :) Once we found it, we each took a turn trying to coax it out of its crack (yea right). We got a few tentacle slaps, but that was about it. Still a pretty fun octopus encounter though. Once we were finished, we circled around the pinnacle, and I thumbed it just a bit under 20 minutes. We switched to our deco bottles and found the line and (gasp) deco'd on the line. It was still very calm on the surface when we finished.

Team Kitty had Phil booked for Monday, and we couldn't decide if it was worth sticking around, considering the extremely bad forecast. Jim said he thought we could get protection in the E3 area, since the wind would be out of the southeast. So we held out hope and decided to stay. We had lunch and then headed to Cynthia's to kill some time. Then we went to Pepper's in Pacific Grove for dinner.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Doing It Bunny

Saturday we were at Lobos and we decided to do a simple kick dive a la bunny. In case you aren't familiar with the bunny style of diving, it involves getting into the water once for the day and doing a really long kick dive. We planned to head over to the Cannery Point area. It was a little sporty, but we figured we'd just head over there and if it was too rough, we could always go a little deeper to try to get out of it. It was a bit surgy in the sand channel when we descended, and viz was not too good. But things calmed down by the time we got to Hole in the Wall, and viz was probably around 20 feet. Rob wanted to "practice" running line, so he tied off right by HitW, and ran line as we headed out a couple ridges to the left. We worked our way along the ridges, and went to the top and over each one, stopping here and there. It was super surgy on top. I eventually took over the line, and man was it annoying running line in that surge :) I was looking for Hilton's nudibranchs for a while, because it seemed like they should be there. Eventually Rob found one, and then we found a bunch more along the way, from tiny to huge. After an hour or so, we turned the dive. We had planned to head over to the east side of middle reef for the swim back in -- I wanted to look for leopard sharks.

When we got back to HitW, we headed over to middle reef. We stopped by transect 2, and Rob pointed out a really tiny Hilton's. He saw it, signaled me, and then couldn't find it again. In the course of looking for it, I saw like 5 or 6 other slugs -- too bad we weren't surveying the transect. Rob also looked for his pet warbonnet that lives in a crack by the transect, but he must have been out for a snack or something. From there, we headed sort of southeast, along the rubbliness to the east of middle reef. We had no success finding a leopard shark, so eventually we headed back over to the reef, and then across it, to the sand channel. The viz had deteriorated somewhat in the sand channel, probably because the tide was going out. When we got to the worm patch, we discussed whether to ascend there or head further in, and we decided to keep going. We stopped around 15' and ascended there. I think the dive was just under 2 hours -- not sure if that is truly bunny-worthy. When we got to the surface, David and Kevin were waiting on the top of the cliff, gesticulating about their hunger.

The tide was super low, but Kevin came out to the end of the ramp to give us (well, me) a hand out. Very gentlemanly. After we rinsed and packed up our gear, we headed to Siamese Bay for lunch, where Cynthia joined us. After lunch, we headed back to Cynthia's place, where she fed us some excellent brownies.

Thanks, Kenn, for the dive-related bunny image.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Back to Mount Chamberlain

Saturday we were on the Escapade with John and Matt. The original reason for the boat was that Jim wanted to dive, but he couldn't find an alternate captain, so he drove and didn't get to dive. Poor Jim :( There was a lot of doom and gloom in the forecast. We were staying at Cynthia's apartment with Kevin, and before Kevin left to go to Lobos, he mumbled something about the buoy reading either 11 feet at 14 seconds or 14 feet at 11 seconds. And that if the boat wasn't going out, he had some Lobos reservations we could use. Boat not going out? Yea right. When we walked down to the boat to chat with Jim before bringing our gear down, he made us all feel like sissies for even hinting at the possibility of not going out. So we loaded the boat and headed out to check it out. Jim told us that there was big swell and little wind in the morning and it was supposed to change to small swell and big wind in the afternoon. The swell was big but long period, so I thought the boat ride down was pretty comfortable. Rob, John and crew were in the wheelhouse, while Matt and I were on deck. So our destination was a total mystery to Matt and me. We decided that Jim really needs a tin can on a string so that we can communicate with them. As we passed Point Lobos, we figured we were headed to one of two sites near Yankee Point -- Mount Chamberlain or the Dos Gatos/Nixies area. We landed at Mount Chamberlain, on K2.

Jim had been diving at K2 the day before, and lost one of his balls again (you know, the heavy thingy that holds the down line down). This time it was connected to a 150' piece of downline. Apparently while the boat was following him on the drift, the downline magically came detached from the float and the float magically ended up in some fisherman's boat. So we were asked to send a bag up on the end of the line if we happened upon it. We lamented the fact that Kevin wasn't with us to demonstrate the correct technique for retrieving one of Jim's balls. We were expecting some monster current since there had been monster current the day before. There was definitely a surface current; after I jumped in the water by the time I popped back to the surface I felt like I had to fight like hell just to get back to the boat to grab my scooter. But once we dropped there didn't seem to be much current, and the downline was quite vertical. It definitely wasn't like the day before. We headed down and before we really even saw the reef we saw the bright white downline from yesterday snaking around the reef. We followed the line to the ball, Rob monkeyed around with it briefly so it would be reasonably easy to pull (although apparently it wasn't). Then we followed the line to the end, moving it around any points of entanglement as we went. Rob put his big bag up on it. I was thinking he should have put his small bag up, since we could use the big bag to, ya know, be found by the boat at the end of the dive. Turns out it was a good thing he used the big bag. Apparently the bag was only above water for part of each swell cycle. Hmm. I really don't understand the geometry of that... the line was supposed to be 150 feet, the ball was at less than 120 feet, and the downline that we followed down was vertical. Even my Barbie trigonometry skills suggest that it should have worked. I guess there wasn't actually 150 feet of line.

Once that was finished, we were off. We had landed on the east side of the reef, a bit north of the peak, just by the little 100-ish foot plateau north of the main peak. From there we headed north. I have been to the east/southeast side of K2 many times, but I've never gone to the north end. I don't think I have been further north than the main peak before. I didn't realize how deep it is if you keep going north. After the little plateau, it is about 170' to the bottom and by the north side, it is 210-ish, I'd guess. If I had known that, I might not have planned an average depth of 150' :) When we got to about the northern tip, where there were some elephant ear sponges, we stopped so Rob could take some pics. There were also the usual gorgonians around. I also spied a bunch of Dotos. The viz was definitely a bit better than the day before, and it wasn't quite as dark. Still not great viz though. We hopped over to the northwest corner, and stop for another photo shoot. Rob made me pose behind an elephant ear sponge. At this point we were at the top of the pinnacle (or a little plateau offshoot anyway), and the surge really picked up. It made posing for pics interesting :P

Eventually we decide to head shallower so we continued south back to around where we started. We finished off the last couple of minutes of the dive on the plateau just north of the main peak. Then when it was time to start the ascent, we went over to the main peak. We didn't get swept off of the peak by the current this time, but it was rather surgy. The deco was pretty uneventful. When we surfaced, it had gotten a bit sportier (I guess the wind had picked up). That plus the surface current made it a bit of a pain to get back on the boat. It didn't help that bending down to remove my fins made me feel like my bladder was going to burst!

On the way back, we saw a few Risso's. The ride back was pretty smooth. I even made it up to the wheelhouse when we were stopped to watch the dolphins :) After talking about going someplace different or interesting for lunch, we ended up at Papa Chano's.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Friday Diving with Phil

It seems like it's been ages since I've been out diving off of Phil's RIB. Since I was sick for the last adventure, I have been jonesing for a fix. Kevin booked it for January 1, since Nick was visiting from LA, so Rob and I joined the two of them. I had mixed feelings about diving on January 1, especially with an 8 AM meeting time. Sort of puts the kibosh on any New Year's Eve festivities. We had absolutely not plans by the afternoon of NYE, and I was waffling on whether I wanted to drive down to Monterey on Thursday night or Friday morning. Then Leah invited us over for dinner at her and Matt's place, which was perfect, since it is even on the way to Monterey. So we went there for dinner and then headed down to Monterey. So I managed to actually get a full night of sleep and still make it to Lobos at 8 AM. Rob had been talking about targeting Pinnacle Point Wall for the dive. But when we drove past Monastery and saw the dead flat conditions, of course we had to talk Yankee Point. The boat was pretty loaded down with 4 scooters, Rob's huge camera and Nick's even huger video rig (plus the usual complement of bottles and such). But we made it down to Mount Chamberlain pretty quickly, thanks to the nice surface conditions. The water even looked pretty clear too from the surface.

There was quite a bit of current. It was one of those scootering on 5 to get to the front of the boat kind of days. Blah. Once I got to the line and headed down, I stuck right to it, which was good because around 30 feet or so the viz went to crap. There was a lot of particulate in the water. Oh well. By the time we got to the bottom, the viz was a bit better (varying up to 30 feet), but it was pretty dark from that layer above. We had dropped the hook on the south wall, to the east of the path up to K2. The plan was to run west on the wall and then hop south to what we call the "south south wall"... the ridge running parallel to the main structure. With the crappy viz, it seemed like forever before we found the ridge. But once we got there we very quickly saw the same elephant ear sponge (very tall and narrow, in a vertical cutout of the reef) that we had seen right when we got to the ridge the last time we dove it. We headed to the west, stopping to poke around a little. We didn't see anything particularly unusual. The scenery seemed so different than the last time we were there, when the viz was incredible (and Rob took what is I think my favorite picture of 2009). Last time we were there, we were shadowed by a big school of blue rockfish. This time, who knows if the fish were there? we wouldn't have seen them if they were :P We did see a few starry rockfish, which I think are pretty cool. There were a bunch of them there last time as well, so I had my starry rockfish antenna up.

We had planned the dive as a multi-level dive, so when we got near the 20 minute mark, we headed back across the abyss (it's not really the abyss... the bottom is at about 210 feet, but in this viz, you could only see it from about 190'+) to the south wall. Then we worked our way up to 150', where we spent the remainder of the bottom time. We meandered along the wall and then up towards K2. Our plan had been to eventually head to K2 to do our deep stops and start our deco on it. When we were on the way to K2, Kevin found a pretty small basket star. I had been looking and looking for them earlier in the dive (since they tend to be found deeper). It was the perfect day to see one, since it was so dark. I had eventually given up and then of course Kevin found one. He said he was searching all the gorgonians for Tochuinas when he found it. From there, we headed to K2. It was noticeably brighter there, and I really thought the viz was a bit better too (but that's always hard to judge, since it may have just been that the brighter water made it seem better). Once we headed up the pinnacle to do our deep stops, the current got quite annoying and I finally gave up and told Rob to put up a bag so we could start the drift. Rob refused (I swear he said he would do it on the boat, but he and Kevin both called it and I think then both thought the other was going to do it). So then I asked Kevin and he obliged.

The deco was fairly uneventful, other than it being currentful. The current kept pinning me up against Nick (I hope Jamie doesn't hear about this... she can be feisty) for the first couple stops until I finally found a position that made both me and the current happy. There were quite a few different tiny jelly creatures in the water at 20 feet. Well they were probably there at all depths, but only at 20 feet did I get bored enough to look at them. When we got to the surface, the wind seemed to have picked up a little bit. Or maybe we had just drifted into another subclimate :) That did not stop Kevin from taking the boat up to full speed to zip back to Lobos. It was a little scary.

We had a little trouble finding a place to eat lunch that was actually open. We finally ended up at Henry's BBQ, a relatively new (I think) place on Lighthouse. It was fine, but nothing to rave about.

Due to the poor viz and the fact that we travelled a lot on the dive, Rob only ended up with a single lonely picture to post. Boohoo.