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Me diving

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.

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