It's about diving. And cats.

Me diving

Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day Rec Boat

Since Lynne and Peter were in town, Kevin setup a boat on Memorial Day. I dove with Rob and Lynne. Of course since we were on a boat, the conditions were crappy :( When it became obvious that we weren't going to make it to Carmel, we discussed Ballbuster. I stated my interest in not Ballbuster, since that seems to be where we always go when we can't make it to Carmel. I told Rob I would prefer Aumentos, but either was fine, and he promptly relayed to the wheelhouse that I had no preference. Nice :) But Kevin was on my side, so we ended up at Aumentos.

It was mucky on the surface, but the viz was alright on the bottom. Not as good as the last time I was there though. I was leading the dive. I didn't notice at first that there was a pretty stiff current. So I accidentally swam us with the current, then after a few minutes, when I noticed it, it was a bit of a huff to get back to the area of the line. Doh. After that, I pretty much just did a shot-gun pattern out a bit from the anchor line and then back, since I wanted to ensure that we would actually make it back to the anchor in the end :) I made a couple of exciting finds on the dive -- a wolf eel (yay!) and a medium-sized octopus. I was pretty excited about the wolf eel, and Rob didn't seem to care. I guess he was just pouting about going to Aumentos. He did, however, take some pictures of it. Aside from that, we saw several kelpfish, which Aumentos always seems to have a lot of, and quite a few Dendronotus albus. Eventually I called the dive, as we were approaching an hour. The ascent was in pretty icky viz.

For the second dive, we went to Shale Island. I thought this would be a good spot to find some nudis to show to Lynne. Unfortunately I don't think I lived up to her nudi-finding expectations. I just didn't bring my A-game I guess. I think the best thing I found was a Limacia, but I lost it by the time I got Lynne's attention. I also found two little octopuses. Both were out on the reef, so it's not like they were hard to find. One of them looked like he was standing up on his little tippy-tentacles. It was very cute. Unfortunately we didn't make it the whole way around and after about 55 minutes I had to call it. I have no idea how that happened, I guess we were just moving a lot slower than I thought! We shot a bag and watched the reef blow by as I was ascended. It was a bit of a swim back to the boat once we got to the surface. For the first couple minutes of swimming I was convinced I was not getting any closer to the boat, but eventually we made it back. I guess we drifted quite a bit. At lunch, Jim asked where we went on the dive (to which I replied "uh, Shale Island, isn't that where everyone went?") -- apparently by the time our bag went up at 30 feet, we had already drifted off of the site. Afterward we (plus some other buddies who didn't make it for the boat) went to La Tortuga for lunch.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Twin Peaks

Rob and I were diving at Lobos on Sunday, all by ourselves. Well, there were other divers at Lobos, but we were a team of two. That seems to happen less and less frequently these days (I blame it on Rob's screwed up priorities). We actually drove down to Monterey on Saturday afternoon and after making the rounds to Backscatter and Beto's house (the two best places in the greater Monterey area to debug a misbehaving L&M video housing), we ended up at Cynthia's. Rob and Kevin went for sushi while Cynthia and I tended to the wine drinking. Eventually, Lynne, Peter and Kirk showed up and it was a par-tay. After sleeping that off, we headed to Lobos in the morning.

Rob suggested we do a scooter tech dive of some sort, and of course the default was something in the Twin Peaks-ish area. We hadn't been all the way out to Twin Peaks in a while, so we decided to go for it. Somehow I got talked into leading. I guess it is good to lead so you don't forget how to, but I think I led last time we went to the Road (but who's keeping track?). When we first arrived at Lobos, the tide was really low. As we were carrying gear down the ramp to stage it, I joked to Rob that if we dilly-dallied enough, the tide would come in by the time we got in the water. In fact that's exactly what happened :) It was a good viz day, so after I got myself stuck in an area with kelp all around, I suggested we drop early, at the mouth of the cove. I managed to find Middle Reef pretty quickly and then headed over to the sand channel. The viz was especially good once we turned the corner at Hole in the Wall. Before we got there, there were quite a few tube snouts, some quite baby-looking, along the sand channel. Other highlights of the trip included finding the Lone Metridium actually open! It seems like it's been a stump of a metridium a lot lately. From there we headed out towards the sisters. As has become my custom of late, I ran smack into the First Sister, and after swooping over the center to check that it was really the First Sister, I headed to the Second. I paused briefly to lament the lack of elephant ear sponge on it, and to reset my average depth and time, and then we were off down the Road. I followed the rock-sand interface pretty closely and basically had the pedal to the metal, so to speak, for most of the ride out. We were traveling along the top of the road, pretty shallow, for most of the trip, since the viz was so good. It was a nice view down from the top. The one stop that we made along the way was when we ran into the tower of olive rockfish that seems to often hang out near the end of the road. Right next to it was a big school of blue rockfish. I stopped to just hang with them for a minute. Then we headed on out to the big peak. Right as we got to it, I pointed my scooter down and zipped down to the bottom.

Rob was shooting macro, so we stowed our scooters and started looking for critters. We settled on the northwest tip of the big peak. It seems like we have a tendency to settle there; perhaps we should mix it up a bit next time. I definitely didn't feel like I brought my macro-siting A-game on this dive. I saw a couple of Dotos, but that was pretty much it for exciting slugs. I am pretty happy with the Spanish shawl picture that Rob got (which I can take no credit for). We eventually meandered around the peak and down the south side, and eventually across the little sand channel to the next rock over. There were quite a few sea pens in the sand channel there, but not the fluffy kind that I like. We eventually decided to head in a little shallower, and we made it back to the spot with all of the rockfish and hung out there for a few minutes before I thumbed the dive. On the way in on the Road, we saw a bunch of squid eggs on the sand below us. We briefly zipped down there to take a look and then continued in.

We had discussed cutting over to Beto's Reef on the way in. I really don't remember why we wanted to do this, but I have a feeling there was some reason. In any case, as we got to the shallow end of the Road, Rob started gesticulating and pointing in the Beto's-hat direction. I rolled my eyes and ignored him, since I was captain, dammit! Then when we got to the Second Sister, I headed across the sand to Beto's. We intercepted it basically right where the reef steps down by the wolf eel's den. We looked for the wolf eel, but did not see him. Then we headed in along Beto's and then the kelp-sand interface towards Hole in the Wall. Kevin told us they had seen a bunch of squid eggs around 70 feet along the kelp-sand interface, so we spent our 70 foot stop looking for them, but did not find any. When we got to Hole in the Wall, I suggested we cross the sand channel and so we did our 50 foot stops on in along Middle Reef. We visited the warbonnet on our 40 foot stop and the wolf eels on our 30 foot stops. It worked out quite well :) When it was time to do our 20 foot stop, we headed east to find somewhere that the reef actually came up to 20 feet. We found a spot, switched onto our bottles, and then hung out for a few minutes. We eventually tired of this and Rob suggested we joyride around the east side of Middle Reef. I told him fine, but he could lead. So we zipped around for a while, and I knew we were headed in the east and somewhat south direction, but was glad that Rob was responsible to getting us back to the ramp. Then on the way south just about when it was time to start heading up, I heard the tell-tale putt-putt come from Rob's scooter and he turned to me and told me it was dead. So I offered to tow him. We could have ascended there, since we were in the cove, but I figured it was good practice to tow him (which I haven't done in ages, and don't know if I've ever done when he was toting two bottles and a camera). We continued in at a crawl, and then around 10 feet, I decided I wasn't sure how much west versus how much south I should go from there, so I thumbed it. When we got to the surface we were in the middle of the cove, almost to the ramp north-south. I started to tow him on the surface and about halfway to the ramp, my scooter died. So we had to kick in the last 50 feet to the float. Boohoo.

After we got out and retrieved our gear, we chit-chatted with James, Merlin and Danny for a while, and chatted about a potential trip to Tahoe sometime. Eventually we cleaned up gear and headed to RG for lunch with the Seattle crew and friends. I had the peanut butter milkshake, and found it quite tasty. From there we headed to Cynthia's for a little while and then met Kirk and Lynne and Taste of Monterey. Peter eventually joined us. When we were finished there, Kevin, Cynthia, Rob and I went to Pepper's for a small dinner. I'm starting to feel lukewarm about that place.

Errata: Turns out the wolf eel picture I posted here was actually from Monday's dives (those wolf eels all look the same to me!), so I have removed it.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Back in the Water

If you've been wondering if I have been slacking on the blog, in fact I have just not been diving for the past two weeks. First I was sick two weeks ago (though I did manage one day of surface support for the BAUE project) and then I was out of town the following weekend. I was planning to dive Sunday and Monday of Memorial Day. Then on Thursday morning, Kevin asked if he could tempt me to join him (with Lynne, Peter and Kirk of Seattle) on Phil's RIB. No, I need to work, I said. Then after mulling it for a couple hours, I decided to go diving instead :) After a late night of nudibranch making (more on that in a later post), I got up early and headed down to Point Lobos. We were planning a mild T1 profile, and were thinking of K2 if we could make it down there or F3/G3 as a backup. The tide was super low when we put the boat in the water, and after a bit of gear shenanigans, we were off. It was looking good for making it down to K2, so we decided to go take a look. Kevin was driving most of the way down, which made for a not very pleasant experience for my back. He doesn't quite have the finesse that Phil has ;) We got down to K2 and it was looking good. The water looked a bit bluer than it had around Lobos (where it looked green, though pretty clear even in the cove). However, it also looked like there was some current, blah.

The wind and current were going in opposite directions, so that the line was nearly vertical right near the surface. But once we started down it, it flattened out considerably, and it was a looong pull down. The current wasn't horrendous though; it was a one-armed pull down the line. Still, I wished I had my scooter :) In my haste to make it down through the current and my inability to tell who was who on the line, I accidentally left my team (Kevin and Lynne) on the surface. Bad kitty! So I made it down to the bottom with Peter and Kirk. After a minute, Kevin appeared and said he had left Lynne on the boat. Apparently when she rolled into the water, cold water came gushing into her suit. So it was just the four of us. Kevin was ostensibly leading, though I was being a very bad #2, and kept pulling ahead. The water was rather green, but the viz was decent -- I'd call it about 40 feet. But it was pretty dark, as there was a layer from about 30 to 60 feet. Given the darkness and less than stellar viz, I can't be 100% certain where we were at all points during the dive, but I think it went approximately like this (though I would not swear to it in a court of law): when we dropped, we were on the north of what I consider the main K2 pinnacle. Further northwest it sort of plateaus out and eventually drops precipitously, but we were at the bottom of the peaky part on the south half, on the north-northwestish side. We swam south through the channel between K2 and the structure next door. We were swimming into the current, but I figured we wanted to go south, so either way we'd be swimming into current. And when we got to the southern tip, then we could ride the current back up around the other side. As it turns out, once we got to the southern side, we just sort of meandered along up the pinnacle on the south side (protected from the current).

We really didn't see anything particularly interesting, but it was a nice dive. Once we were on the south side, we saw quite a few Dendronotus albus. Kevin pointed out one to me, and then I just kept seeing them everywhere. That was, sadly, the most exciting slug that I saw on the dive. Eventually we headed up shallower along the pinnacle. As we approached 80 feet, we got whipped around to the north side of the pinnacle by the current. I was thinking at this point that we could manage to get to 70 feet and switch to our bottles and then put up the bag, but it quickly became clear that it was time to put up the bag. So I did that on the way up to 70 feet. We drifted as one team under one bag. The deco was pretty uneventful for the first half. There was definitely a layer midwater. At about 50 feet, the viz was bad enough that I told Kevin to come closer. I could see him just fine and then we ascended into the muck. But the viz actually got better again at 20 feet. From about 30 feet up, we saw quite the parade of deco critters. We kept signaling each other to show what we had found. There were all sorts of tiny jelly animals, and of course I don't know what most of them were.

When we got to the surface, Lynne and Phil reported having seen a big purple striped jellyfish. I was super jealous. We headed back to Lobos at a snail's pace, because I was driving the boat, and I am a really big wimp when it comes to driving. When we finally got back, we packed up our gear and headed to Siamese Bay for lunch. Then I headed back to AWS for some fills for Sunday. It was quite a lively day at AWS. I guess everyone was getting fills for the weekend!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Mount Chamberlin SW Loop

Sunday we were back on the Escapade. After our excellent dives on Saturday, we were excited for more of that great viz. I was a little concerned about the extreme cold, so we rejiggered the bottom profile a little to shorten the deco by 5 minutes (yes, I realize it is sort of silly since that's basically in the noise). When I went to sleep on Saturday night, Rob and Kevin were negotiating the site, which I already knew would be the southwest loop of Mt. Chamberlin, since that was the site of our epic dive fail on Kevin's birthday. When I woke up on Sunday, sure enough, that was the plan. This plan worked out nicely because there was some lost gear from Saturday that Jim was hoping we could recover. When we headed out, it was a bit overcast and definitely not as pretty of a day as Saturday. There was a chance of thunderstorms in the forecast, but Michael assured me that a lightning strike on the water would actually be less hazardous than on land (sorry, I'm not buying it). The water was calmer than it was on Saturday, so we had a nice easy ride down to Yankee Point. I did, however, regret the fried jalapenos that I consumed the night before -- those are definitely on the pre-dive blacklist from now on. I think they were already on the list, but I forgot.

We got to the site and let Joakim and Karl splash first. Then we hopped in and after resolving some bubbliness, we were off. The water was amazingly calm on the surface. We used the same numbers that we used last time, so again we landed on a hump at around 150 feet. Once again we were greeted with stellar viz. We headed down the slope to the sand, and just like last time, we headed across the sand to the north side of the little cove that we were in. We came upon the same little rock where we saw two basket stars last time, and we started scouring the rock for basket stars, and sure enough we found one. We continued on along the little wall of that cove, this time without any gear failures to sabotage our dive :) Kevin pointed out a starry rockfish (I think) which was kind of orangey colored. Eventually we got to the end of the cove and headed over to the wall on the west side, that drops into the abyss. We made it down to about 250' and could not see the bottom of the wall (not that the viz was bad, but it is dark down there!).

Kevin signaled me and I came up the wall to see him pointing at some strange eel-looking thing. I had no idea what it was, but I knew it was an cool find! Rob came over and took some pictures (wrong lens, but we at least wanted to ID it). Turns out it is a pacific hagfish. From my research on this species, it seems that around here they are typically seen below 300'. I guess he followed the cold water up :) Before you know it, it was time to move along and get shallower. We headed around toward the south wall, skipping along from peak to peak. Eventually when we found a spot in the 150' range, we hunkered down for a bit more bottom time. I've always thought that the 150-ish areas of Mt. Chamberlin are prettier in terms of colorful reef than the deeper spots. As we were coming around the corner to the south wall, it was amazing how the reef suddenly became more colorful. So I guess it is not a depth thing, just a matter of which side of the Mount you are on. We headed north towards K2, but didn't take the usual chute that we follow up from the South Wall. I think we were one chute to the west. On the way in, I found another basket star, which was pretty closed. At about 120 feet, I saw Kevin's light swoop across the reef and light up a ratfish. I couldn't believe it when Kevin just kept going -- I wasn't going to stand for that! I signaled the boys and had a nice little encounter with the ratfish, until they came over and scared him away. Rob whipped out his camera and the fish actually swam right in front of him, but he was having some technical difficulties so didn't get a shot :( Meanwhile Kevin was signaling that it was time to head shallower (he's such a downer), so we had to say bye bye to the ratfish. We scootered in to the 70' peak at K2, where we promptly located Jim's lost ball and line. We switched to our deco bottles and then put up a bag on the line attached to the ball. Once that was sorted out (and we'd rotated bottles -- hey, why not do it over a hard bottom if you can?), we put up our own bag and started to drift.

Just like yesterday, we saw a variety of jellyfish on deco, including a Scrippsia pacifica, a few sea nettles, some comb jellies, sea gooseberries and a variety of tiny nameless (to me) jellies. It was a really really cold deco. When we got back on the boat, the crew told us that just after we got into the water, the skies opened and it was pouring. But by the time we came up, it had cleared and was a nice blue-skied day. The ride back was calm and nice, and we encountered a huge pod of dolphins that included (at least) white-sideds and northern right whales. We watched them jockeying for position under the bow for quite a while, and eventually headed back to K-dock.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

K2 and Locals' Ledge

Photo by Clinton Bauder
This weekend there were two BAUE tech boats. We initially signed up for the boat on Sunday, but then there was still space left on Saturday so we decided to dive back to back. I think Rob was trying to make up for time lost in the last few months with classes. So we packed the car to the gills (turns out you can fit 4 sets of doubles, 10 bottles, two scooters, and a camera into a RAV4) and headed down on Friday night. It was pretty windy when we got down there on Friday night, but by Saturday morning, it had calmed down. I don't really know who decided where we would go, but we ended up heading down to K2 at Mount Chamberlin. Rob and I originally talked about dropping on K2, scootering down to the south wall, and then coming back up to K2 for the end of the dive. But at the last minute I remembered that the last time we were at K2, I thought it would be nice to do a dive on the north side -- we had gone around the north side on that dive (for the first time) but didn't get to go very far down the wall. Since we were looking to do a multi-level dive, it seemed like a great spot to go for the deeper portion of the dive. So that's what we did. When we got in the water, the downline looked more or less vertical, though by the time we descended, the boat had drifted over the line, so it was at a steep slope, but not due to current.

Photo by Robert Lee
The viz was incredible. I could see the top of K2 as soon as we emerged from the (only very) slightly murky layer on the top 15 feet. We headed down the pinnacle on the south side and then scootered around the east side. When we got to the north side, we hopped across the sand to a smaller pinnacle from about 150' to 210' (I'm guessing). We scootered across the sand about 20' from the bottom, and it seemed like we could see the ripples in the sand forever. The sand was quite free of critters, except for a lone, big, sunflower star. When we got to the little pinnacle, we noticed that there was a little plateau on top at about 170', and it was teeming with canary rockfish (and a couple vermilions). They seem to always hang out at the bottoms of walls (for instance, at Beto's Reef, they are always right at the rock/sand interface), so this struck me as odd. They tolerated a brief photo shoot with me. When we were finished there, we headed west through the sand channel north of K2. Rob found a Tochuina on a gorgonian in that area. We also found a little swimthrough near the bottom back on K2, which Rob went to recon but decided not to scooter through it.

Photo by Robert Lee
We hopped back over to K2 and came up a bit shallower and then headed back to the east side, stopping for pics here and there. Eventually we ran into Clinton and Mark, and Clinton started taking pics of Rob taking pics of me. It was pretty amusing, because Rob was completely oblivious to it until he was finished. Rob found a patch of bushy hydrocoral, so of course he had to get some pics of that. I entertained myself up at the top of the reef, looking for nudis in the hydroids. I found one Doto and one Dendronotus subramosus. There were also tons of Spanish shawls throughout the dive and a few Dendronotus iris. After Rob finished with the hydrocoral, we headed back to the shallow peak where we were greeted by a huge school of blue rockfish (with the occasional olive and of course a single vermilion). There was also a sheephead cruising around.

On deco, there were a few kinds of jellies, including some sea nettles and two Scrippsia pacifica. A big sea nettle tried to attack Rob while he was switching to backgas at 30', and in one fluid motion, Rob stuck his reg in his mouth and sucker punched the sea nettle. Poor nettle. The water was insanely cold... I had 46 on the bottom consistently, then 48 from 70 up and 50 from 20 up. Brrr. When we got back on the boat, Clinton and Mark reported seeing a ratfish. I was totally jealous!

Photo by Clinton Bauder
For our second dive, we headed to Local's Ledge. Yay! The viz was once again crazy good. You could see all of the little side pinnacles and rubble across the sand from the main structures. We settled on a little pinnaclet off to the side with some nice hydrocoral. Rob found a tiny white slug that neither of us recognized. When we first got to that rock, I could see Mark and Clinton, so I suggested Rob look around for Clinton. He found him and brought him back. Clinton pulled out his camera, rigged for wide-angle, and got ridiculously close to the reef to take some pics. So I figured it was a slug he wasn't familiar with. We think it is Cuthona albocrusta, which none of us has seen before -- pretty cool to find a new to us slug at a site we've all dived so many times! After Clinton finished taking pictures, we headed over to the next rock, which had some particularly picturesque hydrocoral, which Rob and Clinton shot. While they were doing that, I was poking around looking for slugs and found another 4 or 5 of the same slug. I also found a single Cuthona divae and tons of Flabellina trilineatas. Eventually I got cold, and it seemed a reasonable time to thumb the dive, so we headed back to the line and headed up.

Edit: Rob was sad when I posted this that I did not include his favorite picture from the day. I explained that there was only one paragraph for Local's Ledge, so only space for one pic, so it got bumped. Well, here it is:

All of the pictures are here.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Kick to Beto's Reef

Cynthia invited us to dive with her at Lobos on Saturday, so we decided to do a little kick dive out to Beto's. It's good to kick every now and then, otherwise you forget how (or realize what a slow poke you are when your team leaves you in the dust!). Rob didn't bring his camera, because he decided that conditions did not look promising enough to schlep it. Of course this guarantees epic conditions, and that's exactly what we got. The viz was really good. So it was a great day for a long kick dive. There was quite a bit of scooter traffic going by, I guess because the LA crew was in town, and they always come packing lots of scooters :P I don't think we saw anything out of the ordinary, but it was just a really nice day. We did say hello to the wolf eel at Beto's. Rob and Cynthia swam way too fast, and kept leaving me in the dust. I guess I need to do more kick dives.

After the dive, we swung by Cynthia's and then walked down to Otter Bay, where I scored a new PINK can cozy for my light. Woohoo. Then we headed down to Taste of Monterey for some wine tasting with Nick, Jamie and Maciek. A good time and a lot of wine was had by all.