It's about diving. And cats.

Me diving

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Shallow T1 Boat

Clinton had planned a boat in March that was to target a site on the shallower end of the T1 range, but it was canceled due to bad weather. I was disappointed, since I liked the idea. So since I was organizing this boat, I decided to try that again. I'm not sure that anyone else was too excited about the plan (Clinton couldn't make the boat), but I was organizing so they had to respect my authorita. I was hoping for something like Lunaticos, but yet again the weather sucked and we were stuck in the bay. So it was Kawika's Garden, the now all too familiar backup dive site. I was diving with Kevin and Matt. We had brought our scooters, in anticipation of a more scooter-worthy site. We decided to take them anyway, in part because Kevin had his scooter-cam and in part because I'd never scootered the site before. I usually just meander around and didn't really know if I'd ever made it the whole way around.

On the way down to the structure, as usual, we were greeted by a school of fish. I think they were perch or some sort. When we got to the bottom, I suggested we circumnavigate the structure to start with. It took about 5 minutes to make it back, and I decided it was quite likely I had actually made it the whole way around before :) Just as we almost got back to the line, I scootered right over a gorgonian fluttering in the surge, with a basket star on it! I showed it to Kevin and made him get some video of it. We also found the ever present school of blue rockfish on the site. Once we made it around the first time, we clipped off our scooters and just kicked around for a while. Aside from the usual suspects, we saw 2 giantastic vermilions. They were scary big, and they were not happy that I was shining my light in the cracks they were hiding in. We also saw tons of Tritonia festivas, and quite a few little baby rockfish. When it was time to go, I pulled my bag and spool out of my pocket and then watched in horror as my spool unraveled and dropped away from me. Luckily we were only about 5 feet from the bottom, so Kevin just darted down and grabbed it, hehe. It was a pretty uneventful deco after that; I managed not to drop the spool or anything.

For our second dive, we went to Aumentos. We brought our scooters just for giggles. The viz there was unbelievable. There was a crappy viz layer down to maybe 20 feet and once you broke through that, you could see the whole structure below. It was amazing. It gave me a better picture of the layout of the site! We meandered around a bit, spending a bit of time with an octopus that Kevin found (who was surprisingly friendly and tolerant of us). Other than that, it was basically the usual suspects. I called the dive relatively early because I was cold. We headed back to the line and ran into the other team around 20 feet. In the murky layer and with some water movement, it was a big pain keeping track of the line. But eventually we made it to the surface and there was the boat. We scootered back to the back of the boat where I got trounced by the big waves as I tried to get my fins off. Eventually I gave up and Matt took one of them off for me. It was surprisingly sporty for Aumentos :(

I am still pestering Kevin for a video clip of the basket star, but have not yet been successful.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

BAUE Rec Boat

On Saturday, after fixing my wing problems, we were on the Escapade for the BAUE rec boat. I organized the boat, and had dubbed it the "birthday boat" because it was Matt's birthday (and the day after Kevin's). After we were teased with the great conditions down by Yankee Point on Friday, we were ready to go south today. Luckily the weather cooperated, and we went south. All the way to Lobos Rocks. Woohoo. I was telling someone on the way down that every time I go to Lobos Rocks, I regret not going shallower on the wall of green anemones (because I am a wimp and the up and down surge is scary). So this time, armed with my scooter to zip me out of the surge, I was going shallow! When we got in the water, it was really calm. We dropped down the line, and were greeted to excellent viz. Jim always anchors on a little pinnacle to the south of the west rock, and you have to jump across a sand channel (which is kind of deep, about 120' I think) to get to the site. I think this is the first time that I could see the rock across the sand channel without a problem. It was nice not having to swim off over the abyss, assuming the site was out there somewhere :)

When we first got to the site, we curved around to the east and shot up the channel between the two rocks briefly. We were greeted by the sea lion ballet. They were going crazy. It was the best sea lion encounter I have ever had at the site (which is always good for sea lion encounters!). I tried to get them riled up for a picture for Rob, but it seemed relatively impossible to actually get them where he wanted them. I did have one fun moment where I was scootering along and then realized a giant sea lion was stopped right in front of me, and he wasn't moving. I came within arms reach of him before I stopped and was briefly terrified of what he was going to do to me, before he decided to just give me a serious scowl and swim off. After that, we headed back over to the southwest side to play with the green anemones. I had fun getting whipped around by the surge while Rob got some pictures of the anemones and ochre stars. After we'd had enough of that (and I recovered my ability to tell which way was up), we headed around to the west side. We stopped at a big patch of metridium and Rob took some pictures there. Then we continued around and eventually circumnavigated the west rock. We briefly paused at the big pink piece of hydrocoral on the north side, and I rolled my eyes as Rob pondered stopping for pics. He already has shots of that hydrocoral, and it was quite surgy! Luckily Rob came to the right conclusion and we continued on. When we got back near the south side, the sea lions were back out for some more fun.

We killed a little time on the south side and then hopped back over to the other pinnacle where the anchor was. We found the line without problems (thanks to the viz) and headed up. It had gotten a bit sportier on the surface... when we ascended, there were whitecaps everywhere :( On the surface interval, we enjoyed some birthday snacks. Leah made some awesome cupcakes that were super pretty (and really tasty). I wish I had taken a picture! We headed up to Outer Pinnacles for the second dive. We anchored in the usual spot and did the usual tour, visiting Rob's favorite hydrocoral crack for some pics. Rob was totally hogging that spot from Clinton, snicker. The viz was really good. It was a little surgy but nothing too crazy. There were also quite a few blue rockfish in the water column. Other than that it was pretty much the usual suspects.

After we got back to K-dock, we headed to Papachano's for lunch.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Finally, Some Good Weather

We had a long-standing date to dive on Friday, to celebrate Kevin's birthday. He had booked Phil's boat a couple months in advance. And finally the weather gods were smiling on us, and we had good weather. It was a good weekend for it too, since we were diving on Saturday too. It was a nice calm ride down to Yankee Point. We decided to do what Rob calls the southwest loop of Mount Chamberlain. Rob and Kevin did this dive a few months ago, when I was sick. And they saw a crinoid, so you know I was down with it. For this dive, we brought 3 deco bottles, which I had not done before (but the boys did on their last dive there). Because of the topography of this site, you can do a lot of dive even after you start your deco. In fact, you are on reef all the way up to about 70'. So the ratio of the deco off the reef versus time on the reef is nearly 1:1. Nice.

We rolled into the water, and I turned back to the boat to get my scooter. I felt like I was riding a little low in the water, but then thought, well, it is a lot of gear. I grabbed my scooter and then realized that half of my face was underwater, and that just didn't seem right. I added gas to my wing and heard it burp. I reached back and felt that the bottom half of my wing was flaccid, yet the OPV was burping. Hmmm. I asked Phil to come over to help me, and told him my wing was not holding gas. He said something like "muffle muffle tell them muffle dive". I thought he said he was telling the guys to go ahead and dive without me. So I started pulling off bottles and my scooter and handing them to Phil, who clipped them off to the line on the side of the boat. I got all of my bottles off and then mumbled something about my weight belt (as I wondered if I should take that off before my rig, to make it easier to get out of my rig). Phil was like no no no, just let me get a look at your wing. I flopped over on my side and he was rifling around on the side of my rig and then proclaimed that the string on my OPV was stuck on something and then pressed on my inflator and it held gas. Phew. Then I said "I guess they are long gone" and Phil said no, they were waiting for me. Doh! So I got all of my bottles back on (without dropping the leashed bottle, phew), got my scooter, and I was ready to go. I headed to the downline and after all of that, was in a hurry to get the heck going. The guys were still bumbling around next to the boat so I yelled something like "let's get it moving" and then they appeared. We headed down the line, and stopped around 50 feet for some cleanup and then headed down to the structure, which topped around 150 feet. The viz was excellent on the way down. It was bright and blue!

I dawdled there for a minute and then we headed down the wall. It was pretty neat looking over the ledge down the sheer face of the wall, as Rob and Kevin turned their scooters nose down and headed down. I was inspired and decided to try that too, and my ears even cooperated! When we got near the bottom, around 220 feet, Rob signaled to head across the sand. I'm not sure if he saw something or if he just knew there was something out there. We all agreed and headed out that way. We were scootering about 15 feet above the sand and it seemed like I could see forever. Finally, good weather AND good viz AND a bright sunny day, so there was actually light down there! We got to a structure, and started poking around. The structure was maybe 40 feet tall, though the spot we landed on was not that tall. It was sort of C-shaped, and in middle of the C was a little rock, maybe 10 feet by 5 feet, sitting in the sand. Kevin found a basket star that was all closed up on that little rock. He showed it to us, and then moved along to the other end of the rock for us to take a look. Two gorgonians over, I found another basket star, which was open. Woohoo. We showed it to Kevin and he was like "is it the same one" and then we pointed out that there were two. From there I hopped back over to the main structure, and found myself a starry rockfish to chat with. I also saw a Spanish shawl on the sand, which I thought was pretty weird. I'm not sure precisely what happened next, but I was thinking that my buoyancy was pretty wonky. At some point I even had to put a finger down to avoid sinking into the reef. I pushed myself out over the sand, and put some gas in my wing. Gurgle gurgle. More gas. Gurgle gurgle. I heard gas coming out on my left side. It sounded like a bit much gas to be my drysuit exhaust. I rolled a little to the left, to see if my drysuit was actually that loud, and then I heard a really big gurgle. That definitely wasn't my drysuit. As this was all playing out, I saw Rob tinkering with his camera with a perplexed look on his face. I signaled to him, and he started some sign language diatribe that I totally didn't process. I told him "you look bubble" and pointed at the left side of my butt. Then I cocked my butt up and Rob's eyes got a little big and he said yea, that's broken.

I brought Kevin over, and tried to signal (not very effectively apparently) that my wing is broken... hard to point to your own wing in a clear way with a gazillion bottles on you. Then I thumbed the dive. Rob asked if I wanted to scooter back to where we started or do a direct ascent. I made a quick decision to start the ascent there -- Phil wasn't expecting our bag at the descent point anyway, and we weren't that far (big bag, small seas, clear skies... and a few other relevant facts went into that decision). At the time I was worried that I would be kicking to hold my stops the whole way up, so I really didn't want to incur more deco than we already had. Kevin returned the thumb, and for about 5 seconds I thought to myself "why isn't anyone calling the deco?" and then Kevin called the first stop. We got to our first stop, at 160' I think, and Rob was already pulling the bag out. He put it up at the next stop, and at that stop, I realized that I was supposed to run deco. That explained that "why isn't anyone doing anything?" moment. Throughout the deep stops I was feeling a little wonky, mostly because I was so paranoid about my wing that I was in, well, not very good trim, let's just say that. There were even a couple of pushes off of Rob, because my trim was so bad that my back kick was not so effective. Kevin kept asking me (in his signature "I'm calm and in charge" kind of way) if I was okay. It later came out that he had no idea why I called the dive, which is why he was concerned. I think he was worried I had just flipped out and decided to thumb the dive spontaneously :) As we ascended, I found that as long as I wasn't completely flat, the wing would not vent. In fact, I found it kind of convenient that if I stayed in about 20 degree trim, I could just flatten out to vent my wing, hands free.

When we got to 70 feet and finished our bottle rotations, I was relieved to be done with that, having not dropped any bottles, nor plummeted to the bottom of the ocean with my lifeless wing. Then we got to talking about the deco. Kevin suggested 5 and 3s on the 50%. I personally thought this was excessive, but I could live with it. So I replied that we should do 10 at 20' and then 6 up. Then Rob said 12 at 20' and 6 up. Giant eye roll, okay. Rob is such a deco weenie. Later he told me that he thought I had proposed 12 and was just repeating it back. Hehe. From about 70 feet up, there were some sea nettles. It wasn't crazy thick, but there were enough of them. Rob was diving fingerless gloves (through a series of twists, his new gloves, which he purchased at AWS, ended up on the Escapade, and he did not end up on the Escapade, so he was stuck with the gloves he took to Florida, whose fingers he had cut off), and found that spooling up a line that was covered in nettle tentacles was not too fun. So I took over the bag at some point. At 20 feet, I saw Kevin and Rob signaling back and forth with numbers, and realized that this was the part of the dive where they compared their manliness, by seeing who went deeper on the dive. I always lose. I think I have literally never "won" this contest. Rob usually goes the deepest, because he is always shooting from below. Well for once I won, and I proudly and tauntingly told Rob that my max depth was deeper than his. He very dismissively told me that my wing was broken so that doesn't count! It's true, the deepest part of the dive was just as I realized my wing was not holding gas.

When we got to the surface, Kevin asked if I was okay. I said yes. Then I clarified, my wing is self-venting, but I'm okay. That's when it came out that he didn't know that, and he gave me the bag to use as a raft, since I was riding a little low. Phil came over and inquired about what went wrong (since our bag was up early). The most annoying thing about this was getting out of my gear without losing my rig to the bottom of the ocean. I was so excited about getting out of the rig without losing it, that as Kevin held onto it by the manifold, I started trying to get out without taking my necklace off. Or my long hose. Or my drysuit inflator. I think I literally forget everything one needs to do to doff the rig. Hehe. Once I was out of it, Kevin kept a good hold on it and the two of us and Phil got it back into the boat. Well it was mostly the two of them. Phil pulled off the OPV and found that the rubber seat thingy was not properly fitting in the plastic cap. Did I mention that I had just got the wing back from Halcyon for warranty repair, and not test dived it (very strokey, I know... I even asked Rob if he thought I should test dive it before using it on a big dive, and he said "well you dive a balanced rig don't you?").

We were pretty bummed to lose a dive on such a great conditions day. Some of us were more bummed than others, and pouted in the corner of the boat the whole ride back. So much so that this particular diver's wife had to ask if he was (physically) okay because he seemed so out of it. Kevin was in a surprisingly good mood, even though I ruined his birthday dive. Hehe. Phil let him drive the boat back, at a high rate of speed, and he even shot the gap between the sea lion rocks. After we got back, we headed to Siamese Bay for the lunch buffet. Then we ran over to Backscatter, since Rob's camera was once again reading dead battery. This was the second dive in a row that that happened, and when he pulled the camera out of the housing afterward, the battery was full. The guys at Backscatter didn't have any theories about why this would be happening, but Rob noticed that the strobe connector was a little wet on the housing end, so he got a new one, and hoped that was somehow the problem. After running a few other errands, we headed to Cynthia's. Kevin told me he had some RTV, which I could use to glue my OPV together. I went to the car to get the OPV and then went to the bathroom to wash my face. When I came out, Rob and Kevin had glued the OPV for me! I was totally ticked about this. Rob is always making fun of my gear-simplicity (which was recently bolstered by David's comments in C1) and I was fully intending to fix this myself, and they did it for me! They are such enablers!

Disclaimer: Any excessive drama in this report is more a function of the wine consumed during the writing of the report, than the actual drama during the dive.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Back to Cold Water

We didn't have much planned for the weekend after we got back from C1 (it was too hard to imagine life after the class), but we managed to get some last minute Lobos reservations for Sunday. I had some 21/35 in my doubles from the last canceled tech boat (which is a violation of Team Kitty standards... we are supposed to keep 18/45 as the default gas in our doubles for any last minute emergency tech dives :P). So we thought it would be a good opportunity to use up that gas, by doing a dive out towards Twin Peaks. I had another motive, which is that this seems to be the season for Okenia sitings on the Road (not that I have any scientific proof that the "season" is actually a season, but it's been the right time of year for two years in a row). So I really wanted to get out there in April to look for them. So Rob packed macro for the dive. When we got to Lobos, conditions were not exactly stellar. It was a bit sporty on the surface, and the tide was low-ish (though I knew it would be even lower when we got out!). But it was diveable, so we got in. It was one of those days where shortly after getting in the water, I wondered if it would have been a better day to call the dive, since I knew that getting out was going to be a pain. But given that we would have the annoying task of climbing back out of the water either way at this point, there was no sense calling it now :)

We scootered out to the sand channel, and dropped in about 30 feet of water. The viz was pretty bad, and it was really surgy. For some crazy reason, I had agreed to lead the dive, which was interesting in this viz. I generally do the run to Twin Peaks all based on landmarks, and it's been a while since I've had to do it by the instruments. We headed down the sand channel on the right side, and around 45 feet, I decided I should cross over to the left side, so I didn't miss hole in the wall. As we were crossing the sand channel we scootered through a school of tube-snouts. I didn't really see them until they were right there, and then they were all around us. We continued out, and when we got past HITW, we headed out towards Lone Metridium. I headed in what I thought was the right direction, not having the visual clues of the ridges that I usually just hop along to get to Lone Metridium. Eventually we ended up at the end of a ridge that was about the right depth, and I figured it was either Lone Metridium or one ridge before Lone Metridium. I searched around on the rock, and found the little metridium all closed up. Phew. From there we headed out towards the sisters. I am always shooting for the second sister, but recently I always seem to end up at the first one. After a couple minutes of wondering if I was going to miss them both, we ran into a rock which seemed sort of first sister-ish, and after a bit of searching I found the tell-tale patch of hydrocoral in the center. Phew. As I looked down at my gauge to reset the avg depth and time, I saw that it said it was 46 degrees. Brrr. From there we headed to the second sister and followed the road from there. The viz finally opened up to maybe 30 feet once we were on the road. But it was really surgy even down there. And it was dark.

We continued out until we found a patch where I wanted to stop and look around, and from there we pretty much meandered on foot for the rest of the dive. Shortly after we stopped, I noticed Rob futzing with his camera, and then he declared it dead, and put it away. He told me afterward that the battery indicator showed that the battery was dead, even though he thought he had charged it. Oh well. We never did find any Okenias, but we had a few other cool finds. The coolest thing was a wolf eel, that Rob found. Yay! I wasn't expecting that. We also had some cool slugs to look at... quite a few Aldisa albomarginata, which we first saw about two years ago, but I haven't been seeing for a while. And one Doriopsilla spaldingi -- I just love those! Rob also found a huge longfin sculpin, well huge for a longfin. It was kind of scary big. I think it had been snacking on radioactive waste or something. We had originally planned to do about 40 minutes at 130, but at about 25 minutes I told Rob I was feeling cold, so I wanted to trim that down. So we ended up doing about 30 minutes before we headed in.

The viz was equally crappy on the way in (no, I wasn't expecting it to get better, just wanted to remind you :P). It was one of those days where I made it all the way down the Road to the first sister, without every seeing the second sister. I hate those days. Then I headed in on the heading I believed to be the one. Just around 75 feet, Rob started signaling me and was sort of excitedly gesticulating about switching. I was like... but we're just now inching up on 70 feet, when I remembered he hadn't switched off of his stage yet (I was just diving backgas). Teehee. So he got off of his stage, and then we went onto our deco bottles. From there, I continued in, and hit a big rock which I originally thought was one of those ridges that is parallel and to the west of HitW, but then it looked sort of familiar. It was the big rock just north of HitW (which I am quite fond of, as a dive site in and of itself... that's probably the only reason I recognized it). So we headed in down the sand channel and to the worm patch. I got the hint that Rob wanted to keep scootering in from there, but in this viz, I wasn't going for it. So we ascended there. We scooted back to the ramp, and it was indeed an unpleasant exit. It wasn't terrible -- as I told Kevin afterward, it was a one-hand assist kind of day... I grabbed Rob's hand to pull myself up the step at the bottom of the ramp. But hey, that's better than needing two hands, or one hand and a manifold pull. It's all relative :) Actually the worst part of the exit turned out to be when we retrieving bottles and scooters from the float. I completely wiped out on the ramp at one point. A wave came, and next then I know I was in a pushup position on the ramp... which was a convenient position to be in to pop myself right back up onto my feet.