It's about diving. And cats.

Me diving

Saturday, August 28, 2010

I Heart Deco

On Saturday, Rob and I were on a BAUE tech boat. I had checked the forecast earlier in the week and while it didn't look great, Rob told me on Friday that the wind forecast had improved. But when we got to K-dock, Jim and Clinton did not seem too optimistic. Well, only one way to find out. It turned out to be a bit of a rocky ride, especially as we turned the corner at Pinos. But once we were down to Cypress Point, it was relatively smooth. Nothing worth turning around for, anyway. But still a bit sporty. I don't know if I am getting soft or what, but I was feeling pretty queasy by the time we got to our destination, which turned out to be one of the pinnacles next to Dos Gatos, which we call the volcano but I believe is one of the "Three Nixies". Getting into my gear and doing the gear checks was pretty unpleasant. But alas, we finally splashed and of course it was better in the water.

We headed down and the first 50 or so feet were pretty speedy as my ears were pretty well behaved. I took this as a good sign and pointed my scooter down and tried to bomb down the rest of the way, which of course resulted in me stopped at 100 feet waiting for my ears to catch up, and looking like a big dork. We finally landed on a pinnacle, and found a channel running east-west between two pinnacles. There was a definite mucky layer on the way down, but once we got below it, the viz was quite good. I must admit, I wasn't really sure where we were during the dive. I thought we were on one of the more southern pinnacles based on the depth where we ended up. But after reviewing the map, I think we were on the volcano for most of the dive... it is a lot deeper on the west side than I realized. Anyhoo, we scootered to the west through this channel, and Rob quickly stopped me to point out some gargantuan slugs. These were the same slugs we had seen on two occasions before (once at Deep E3 and once I don't remember where... but the blog never forgets) but never with a camera. They are huge, cream-colored, with a sandy texture on their backs (I believe "dorsum" is the technical term :P), and dark brown fuzzy-looking splotches. We think they are Diaulula lentiginosa based on this post on the slug forum.

So Rob finally got a chance to get some pictures. Once he was finished there, we continued to the end of the channel and curled around to the right around the pinnacle on the right side. When we came around the corner, the bottom was a bit over 200', and it looked like sand for a while off of the pinnacle -- I didn't see any other structures too close by. So I think we were on the west side of the volcano. When we came around the corner, there was a horde of juvenile rockfish. As we scootered along, I could see the pinnacle curving around to the right ahead of me, and thought that the sand was sloping up at a pretty steep angle. Then I realized I was looking at a wall of small rockfish, not the sand curving up. It was an odd sensation when I noticed that what I thought was the bottom was moving! We stopped in this spot for Rob to take some pictures. While we were looking around, we saw several juvenile yelloweyes, which I would continue to see throughout the dive. Around this time, I noticed that my legs felt weird. Cold and unlofty. Even when I went head down to let gas into my legs, they felt like my undergarment wasn't lofting at all. I thought there must be a lot of water in there, though later I realized that it was just the fleece section behind the knees (on my DUI XM450) which, when wet, apparently lofts not at all -- I think the huge fleece panel was a questionable decision; my old Bare undergarment had much narrower stretchy bands behind the knees which provided ample flexibility without such a huge loss in warmth. Anyhoo, I digress. After a few more minutes musing about the unloftiness of my legs, I told Rob that I was wet, maybe really wet, and we should ascend a bit. The plan had been a 20 minute deep segment and a 20 minute shallower segment. But I figured if we moved up earlier, it would allow for a (relatively) quick getaway, should I decide I was really cold.

We continued around the pinnacle, working our way up. We paused at one spot, at around 160', that had an egg yolk jellyfish, and Rob took some pictures. As I posed behind the jelly, I realized it was feasting on a small fish or something. I saw the fish dart out from its bell, and then get sucked back in. Well, suck probably isn't the right term. Anyhoo, based on my extensive (web-based) research on the topic, it seems that they typically are known to eat other jellyfish and not fish. So I don't know what the deal is, but I saw it with my own eyes, and Rob confirmed that I did not imagine it. I hope the fish wasn't one of those cute little juvenile rockfish, but I have a bad feeling that it was :( After Rob finished taking pics of the jelly, we continued circling the pinnacle, working our way up a bit shallower. We could see another structure out in the distance, so Rob suggested we go take a look. I think it was probably the ridge between the volcano and the kitties. After a minute there, we headed back, and Rob posed me for a few silhouettey pictures. At this point, it was 35 minutes into the dive, and I was quite chilly, so I thumbed it 5 minutes early. We worked our way up the pinnacle and I got my bag out. Given my state of coldness, I didn't even bother trying to inflate the bag myself and just handed it to Rob :) I got surprisingly little ball-busting from Rob about that (he must have forgotten by the time we got out of the water).

The first half of the deco was cold but uneventful. Well, that's not exactly true. When we got to 70 feet, we began the final deco negotiation. Since we had done a bit less time and less time deep, I had one idea in my head of what the deco should look like. Rob had a very different idea in his head, which was totally bogus. We had a pretty spirited debate with hand signals, which ended with a compromise. Our initial proposals were 6 minutes apart, which, as I sit on the couch typing this, doesn't really seem worth the argument that we had, but well, that's the difference between 48 degree water and the couch I guess. I remember thinking during our 70 foot stop that one (never before considered) benefit of full face masks with comms is that you could yell at your buddy when he proposed a totally bogus deco schedule. After that, the deco was pretty uneventful through the 30 foot stop. There was the usual (recently usual anyway) assortment of jelly critters drifting by, including a lot of those ones with the spiky orange tufts on them. We got to 20 feet and switched onto our bottles, and I noticed that there were tons of tiny jellies in the (now rather murky) water all around us. I got a close look at one of the tiny jellies and its shape reminded me of a Hershey's kiss. I tried to convey this to Rob but I am pretty sure he thought I was blowing a kiss to him (yes, we have a kiss hand signal), which I totally wasn't after those deco shenanigans.

About 4 minutes into the stop, out of nowhere I saw a big grey thing with a fin barreling toward me. A dolphin! He swam right between us and soon one of his friends was circling us, with two more zooming around below us. I couldn't believe it -- I have never even seen a dolphin off in the distance before, and now we had a bunch of them interacting with us! They disappeared but we were continuously scanning around us to see if they would come back. I saw two swimming in perfect formation along my right side; of course Rob was totally turned away scanning in the other direction, oblivious to me screaming through my reg and waving my arms all around. Not to worry, the dolphins did a big U behind Rob and came back along his side right where he was looking. For the next 15 minutes we were treated to dolphins periodically zooming by, some of them just out of arm's reach, and several times one swam right between Rob and me. Most of the time when they appeared, there were two to four of them zooming around, but at one point I looked below and saw about a dozen of them swimming by. At some point, after a really big one kept swimming right up to us, I think we both simultaneously realized if he whacked us with his tail, it would not be pretty. Oh well! In the end, we extended our 20' stop to have a little extra time to play with them (so Rob got his way after all, pfft). At some point during the stop I signaled to Rob "I love deco" :) By the way, the dolphins were Pacific white-sideds.

We eventually said bye-bye to the dolphins and headed up to the surface. The 30 seconds at 5 feet was completely nauseating in the swell. I couldn't look at the line without feeling super queasy, so I spent most of the stop with my eyes closed. We got to the surface and John and Clinton and their bag were pretty close -- maybe 25 yards away. We shouted over the waves and confirmed that they had seen the dolphins too! We found out later that Clinton had even snapped some pictures of the dolphins -- yay! The boat was picking up the third team, so we just hung out. Rob asked if I wanted to scooter to the other team, but with the big swell it was hard to keep track of their bag so I suggested just staying where we were. It was pretty sporty on the surface as we waited for the boat. When the boat came over to get them, we decided to scooter over to the boat. I looked over at the boat and it looked like a toy dancing on top of the big swells. Scootering over to it was an interesting ride... as I came over the top of a wave, I would surf down the back of it. It was a bit big for my tastes. I got to the boat and ditched one bottle and my scooter. I climbed the ladder with my (teeny little) O2 bottle still clipped, and when I got to the top of the ladder and had to take the extra big step to get up on the swim step, there was a moment where I really wasn't sure I was going to make it without falling. I was wiped out; I think the combination of the rough ride down and the wait on the surface did it to me. I guess being extra cold on the dive probably didn't help.

Since I was really worn out and cold from the first dive, and feeling pretty seasick on the ride back up, I decided to sit out the second dive. We ended up at Outer Pinnacles, where there turned out to be about 15 feet of green viz. So I wasn't too sad to sit out the dive. John also weenied out on the dive, so Rob and Clinton dove together, and John, Jim and I entertained ourselves on the boat. The ride back was not too terrifying. After admiring the A on the way in, we headed to Turtle Bay for lunch. Rob was staying in Monterey, so John gave me a ride home. A little while after I got home, I sat down to read the news on the interwebs. I realized I was still feeling the sway of the water, like 4 hours later, and reading was making me totally queasy. I've lost my sea legs!

The dolphin pics are by Clinton; all the rest are by Rob. All of the pictures from the day are here.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Finally Up to Date

Yay, the site is finally 100% up to date, at least as far as dive reports go (there are plenty of kitty antics that remain to be blogged :P). Some of the "new" posts are actually quite old, so here's a rundown or what I posted in the last few day, in chronological order:

Bonaire trip report (November 2009)
July 4 BAUE boat (July 2010)
FL cave report (July 2010)
Three posts from the last two weekends

Isn't Oreo cute?

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Lobos Day

Photo by Clinton Bauder
On Saturday, there was a BAUE gathering at Lobos. When we first started doing these events, I tried to find new (to me) dive buddies, but I eventually got sick of inviting people to dive with me -- since no one ever invites me to dive (isn't that sad?). So this time around I was lame and ended up diving with Clinton. Not exactly a new-to-me buddy :P Matt and John were brushing up on some of there T1 skills and wanted someone to video some of it. So the plan was one long-ish dive with Clinton and then a long-ish dive video'ing the boys. Clinton and I scootered out to Granite Point. He was shooting macro, so finding nudibranchs and such was the plan.

Clinton and I managed to be the first team in the water, despite feeling like we were dawdling as we got ready. The tide was pretty high, so the walk into the water was not too treacherous. We got our scooters (and my stage bottle) off of the float, and headed out on the surface. Right around the mouth of the cove, the kelp was really thick and there was no obvious path to go through, so I suggested dropping there. I was leading, and was relieved to quickly find the sand channel. The viz was a bit murky on the way out, but right around 40 feet, it seemed to abruptly open up and get blue. We continued out to Granite Point Wall, where I would say the viz was good but not great. We first headed around to the back of the wall, and poked around in the channel there. Right as we came around to the channel, a harbor seal came darting down the wall and across the channel. I was hoping he might come and play with us, but he didn't show himself again. After poking around in the channel for a bit, we eventually meandered up to the top of the wall, and looked around in the kelp. I saw mostly the usual slug suspects, and anything that I saw that might be remotely interesting to photograph (e.g. Limacias) were tucked into cracks. So after about 15 minutes of that, I suggested we headed north to find another spot.

Photo by Clinton Bauder
I decided we should go to the little rock with hydrocoral that Rob likes. There always seem to be Dendronotus albus, trilineatas, and often Hilton's nudibranchs over there. We hopped from wall to wall until we got there, and then we clipped off our scooters and spent the rest of our time kicking around there. I found a few Hiltons, though Clinton said every time I found one, it ended up curling up into a completely unphotogenic position for him... silly slugs. There were also plenty of the expected slugs, and a lot of Hermissendas and Rostangas with egg ribbons (some pretty big). The one other strange find was this tiny neon orange thing that looked like a mini-crab or bug to me. I found it, then lost it while I tried to get Clinton's attention and then found it again after I finally stopped looking. Now that I have seen it in it's fully photographed glory, it's actually kind of icky looking.

Photo by Clinton Bauder
Something like 75 minutes into the dive, Clinton gave me some signal that I didn't quite get. He said something along the lines of "I can't see well". At first this seemed like a slightly disturbing signal to get from a buddy, until I looked around and realized the water around us had suddenly gotten green and murky. It was weird. In the space of a few minutes, we went from maybe 40 foot blue, relatively clean viz, to 15 feet of green murk. We theorized that a whale came by and peed on us. A few minutes later we decided to head in. After scootering for about a minute, the viz cleared up, though in the sand channel it was definitely worse than it had been on the way out. On the way in, we passed Mark, Dionna and Jo on the way out at about 30'. They gave us a signal about a camera that we didn't understand. Apparently Mark's camera ran away during the dive :( (I actually thought this was a joke at first, because we'd been joking about the prospect of him dropping his camera before the dive -- guess it's best not to joke about these things). We scootered back in to 12 or 13 feet, at which point I decided it was annoying to keep track of Clinton on the trigger in the murk. So we ascended there and finished the journey on the surface. I found a big hole in the ramp on the way out. I don't know if it is new, new to me, or just an extension of the old hole on the north side of the ramp.

After a surface interval and some lunch, I headed back into the water. The plan was to meet the guys out at their SMB and do some video, since they were already in the water. Cynthia and Erik were getting geared up, so I asked if I could tag along with them for the swim out. I made Ted (who was standing around in his drysuit) escort me down the ramp, since the tide had receded a bit and now the slope of it was really slippery. We swam out to the float just as they were coming up from a dive -- perfect timing. Unfortunately the camera that they had brought along wouldn't turn on, so my services were not required. So I just went on a dive with Cynthia and Erik instead. They were headed to the Hole in the Wall/Lone Metridium area. The viz in the sand channel was much worse than the first dive, and by the time we got past Hole in the Wall, it was dark and green. What a difference a few hours makes. We hopped from ridge to ridge, but I have to admit that in that viz, I didn't have a good idea of where we were at any given moment (for instance, I'm not sure if we made it past Lone Metridium or not... I just know we were on one of those parallel ridges west of HitW). At some point on the way back in, we swam over Jo and Clinton. Clinton said we were near Lone Metridium when we swam over them. So we probably did pass it and just didn't see it.

Photo by Clinton Bauder
I saw a few critters of note. First, on the way out, on top of HitW reef, Cynthia pointed out a kelpfish blending in with the coralline algae. I've never seen one that color; it looked a lot like this one. Second, out along one of those anonymous ridges, I was shining my light in a crack (looking for whatever) when I saw a small orange and white striped fish. It had a lot of narrow stripes, and the while stripes had a blue-ish edge to them. It looked like a tropical fish! The only thing even remotely similar to it that I could think of is a blue-banded goby. After a bit of googling, it looks like they sometimes have blue-lined white stripes. I didn't really find any reputable fish ID sites mentioning this color variations, but a google images search found several pictures with mostly white stripes (not that you can believe what you read on the internet...). Finally, Cynthia pointed out a San Diego dorid on the way back in (on the little ridge along the sand channel just east of HitW reef), whose spots were really small and barely brown.

As we came around HitW on the way in, it felt like we were swimming in molasses. Dionna had mentioned some "strange currents" along the sand channel on the way in from the first dive. I guess this is what she was talking about. On the way in on the sand channel, there was barely any current though. After we got out, I rinsed my gear (Rob will be so proud) and hung out until Matt and John got out of the water. I was mooching a ride home from John, since Rob was staying down in Monterey through Sunday. Beto was kind enough to take my gear back in his truck and move it to Rob's van for me. When Clinton got out, he said that they had found a new wolf eel out in the area where we were. I didn't see the wolf eel, but I'm including his picture here, since it's just too cute not to post :)

Thanks Clinton for the pictures in this post.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Back to K2

Rob, Susan, and I had been planning a deep dark and scary dive for Wednesday for a while (we picked Wednesday based on tides, and the fact that Wednesday works pretty well for all of us to take the day off). But at the beginning of the week, the wind forecast for Wednesday was looking not too good, and after a pretty sporty ride on Sunday, I really didn't want to think about getting into the water with all of that gear in rough conditions. For me, deploying off of the Escapade with 3 bottles is much more of an ordeal than with 2 bottles. So we decided to dive on Friday instead, and do a less deep dark and scary dive instead. We ended up with two teams on the boat -- Beto, Sue, and Jim; and Rob and me. We decided to go back to K2 and look for the GPO again. That crack seems like an excellent home for a GPO, so we were hopeful that he would still be there. The ride down was not too bad. It was a little sporty coming around into Carmel, but other than that, it was fine.

We deployed at anchor, since everyone was scootering. I jumped in and immediately said, something isn't right. There were bubbles coming from somewhere. I check all of my gear and found that the regulator on my 50% bottle was bubbling a lot. I detuned it, and it was still very bubbly. I took a few test breaths and decided it was annoying enough that I didn't want to dive it. We didn't have a spare regulator on board, so I returned to the swim step and handed up the bottle to Jared to see if he could work his magic on it (he is pretty good at working magic on busted dive gear). After a couple minutes, he returned with it and we dunked it in the water and it seemed to be working fine. So I clipped it back on and we were off.

It took me approximately forever to get down to the pinnacle at about 90 feet -- stupid ears. When I got down there, everyone was looking in the crack, but there was no octopus :( Oh well. We headed to the south wall. The viz was pretty good, maybe 50 or 60 feet, but not as good as it had been on Sunday. As we headed south, it got a bit darker. I don't know if it was just the depth or what. It was pretty sunny when we got in, and pretty overcast when we got out, so that may have been part of it. Anyhoo, the plan was to go to the south wall, and depending on what we felt like doing from there, we might head across the sand to what I call the "south south wall". On the way south, we stopped a couple of times. Once to look at (and try to photograph) a salp chain. It was a really nice big one, but once we stopped to look at it, we realized that there was a pretty significant current, and the thing basically blew by us before Rob even had his camera out. When we first stopped, there was also an egg yolk jelly nearby (which I was thinking might make a good subject) but it was gone with the current before I could even point it out to Rob. Also on the way to the wall, we encountered a wall of juvenile rockfish. It was the biggest group of juveys I've ever seen -- there were thousands of them. Of course every time I would shine my light to try to figure out exactly what they were, they would scatter. It was likewise difficult to get a picture of them.

So, there was a bit of current. It was running mostly to the west, with a small northward element. So on the way to the south wall, we were fighting the current while also getting dragged to the west. The result was that it took a surprisingly long time to get to the wall, and when we did, we were much further west than usual, which meant the wall was a lot deeper. I was shocked when we finally got to the wall and the top of it was 180' deep. We went down the wall a bit (as far as 18/45 would allow :P), and then headed east. I wanted to get back to the channel leading up to K2 sooner rather than later, in case we found out that our scooters weren't quite up to the task of getting us up current. It turned out to be fine, though it was definitely a slow trek back along the wall. We didn't see anything unusual, though there were a lot of juvenile rockfish all throughout the dive. Once we got closer to the path back to K2, we stopped for a few pictures and then headed up the channel. We meandered off the path here and there to look at stuff or take pictures. So once again we found ourselves drifting off path and eventually had to correct back to the east. We eventually found what we thought was the 90 foot hump on K2, which is just a bit north of the 70' peak. We decided to just shoot our bag there, instead of chancing it and not finding the 70' peak.

The deco was pretty uneventful. I was actually able to shoot a bag today :P There were tons of jelly creatures floating along in the water. There were a lot of those jellies with orange tips that remind me of a porcupine -- I have no idea what they are, but there have been a lot of them this year. When we got to 30 feet and it was time to stow my 50% bottle, I tried a new technique for doing that. My usual technique involves shoving my arm between my bottles, wrapping it around and stowing the reg; it sort of resembles wrestling a hippopotamus. Rob is always telling me I should try bringing the bottle forward (unclipping the hip clip) and stowing. He thinks that would be a lot easier; that's how he does it. However I have not had good experiences with that technique. We happened to be in the pool this past week so I decided to give it a try, and I finally understood how you control the bottle while also stowing the reg (of course that was in 80 degree water without gloves). So I gave it a try, and while I didn't go shooting to the surface or the bottom or anything, it really wasn't any prettier or faster than my usual way. So I think I will stick with what works (for some definition of works).

The ride back seemed calmer than the ride down. In fact, the cypress to pinos area seemed dead calm. We happened upon some humpbacks along the way. They came surprisingly close to the boat. Not within petting distance, but pretty close. We hung around not harassing them for a while, and eventually headed back to the dock. Lunch at Siamese Bay.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Scenic Route to Yankee Point

On Sunday, we were on a BAUE tech boat. There was another tech boat on Saturday, and they made it all the way to Sur 19. So we were hoping to have similar conditions and make it down there. The forecast was for next to no swell, but a bit of wind. The forecast had been the same on Saturday though, so we were hopeful. The ride down to Lobos was relatively calm but somewhere a bit south of there, the wind definitely picked up. I went to the bathroom somewhere just as we passed Lobos (just in case we ended up stopping at Yankee Point), and when I came up, it seemed like there were whitecaps everywhere! Well, we were not deterred and we continued down the coast, veering out to the west before we got to Point Sur. As we headed out, it started to seem obvious to everyone (except perhaps Clinton and Rob) that it was a bit snotty for diving. So we decided to turn around and go back to Mount Chamberlain.

The problem with taking the long, scenic route there was that I was not feeling so hot by the time we got there. I felt unusually seasick. Getting geared up was unpleasant, and sitting there in my gear waiting for the other teams was torture. So we got in the water and waited in the water for the other teams (which really wasn't much better, so we ended up going down to 10 feet and waiting there). Eventually everyone showed up and we were off. When the topic of Mount Chamberlain came up, I suggested K2, since I wanted to dive the north side of it. We have dived the south wall a lot, but the north side only a couple of times (and only once did we do the deep stuff there). So I insisted, to Rob's annoyance, that we head north instead of heading south to the wall. Our plan was to multi-level it, so we would start out with a deeper segment. For whatever reason, we didn't get very deep very quickly, so that plan basically fell apart. The viz was really good, I'd call it 60 to 80 feet, and it was bright and blue. We stopped for some pictures on the way to the north side (which was entertaining, since there was current, and neither Rob nor I were very good at back kicking to keep our position against the current while posing for or taking pictures), and then once we got there, Rob took some pictures on the pinnacle tops. Rob found a nice big open basket star on a gorgonian, which I thought was exciting.

Eventually we meandered down to the bottom, and Rob found this awesome crack, well more like a really narrow canyon, with the two walls running from about 140' to 180' deep. The two walls were probably about two and a half feet apart -- wide enough to scooter through, but a bit too narrow to frog kick in :) We scootered through it. About halfway down it, the bottom got a bit narrower, and a big boulder was lodged in the center. I thought there was no way I was going under the boulder -- it was too narrow. Rob of course had to try. He quickly realized it was too narrow, and slowly worked his way back out. He swears he could have made it if he didn't have his camera ;) I waited for him on top of the boulder, looking down at him as he wiggled his way out. Then we continued down the crack and soon found an area where both walls were totally covered in gorgonians. It was really cool, so of course we stopped for pictures. Then we continued out and eventually the crack veered upward, we we were spit out at about 140'. We turned around and scootered back down the crack to where we started. We eventually ended up back at the basket star, and while taking some more pictures, noticed that just down the slope, there were two more big, open, basket stars.

It was time to head back to K2, so we headed back around the east side, and as we came around to the tall peak, we saw a really thick school of blue rockfish at the top of the pinnacle. Beto and Susan were hanging out on top of the peak enjoying the fish. We stopped scootering (I thought it would be a bit rude to scooter up to them and scatter the fish), and were kicking our way over to them, when Beto turned around and started gesticulating wildly and pointing into the crack running down the side of the pinnacle. Hmm, something exciting in a crack... what could it be? We shined our lights into the crack to find a huge GPO. It's the biggest I've seen. It had suckers the size of dinner plates. Okay, not really, but the suckers get bigger with every retelling of the story :) Rob took some pictures of him in the crack (he was right on the edge of the crack really) and then moved away so I could have a look. Then Rob headed over to shoot the fish. While I was checking out the GPO, he came all the way outside of the crack. It was really neat. So I dragged Rob back over to get some pictures of him as he whipped his tentacles around. Then he retreated back to his crack and we headed up to the top of the pinnacle to enjoy the fish and join Beto and Sue for the drift.

I was on bag duty, but when I pulled my bag I realized there was no way I could inflate it; my lips were way too cold. I made one lame attempt and then handed the bag to Rob to inflate :) On deco we poked and prodded the various jelly animals that floated by. Around 30 or 40', we were relieved to finally hear the boat. When we got back on the boat, it seemed like the wind had died down a little. Or it's possible I was so seasick from the trip down to Sur and back that I didn't really take note of the conditions at Yankee Point before we got in. In any case, the discussion turned to doing a second dive. Many people seemed pretty ambivalent about doing a second dive, but of course Clinton and Rob are always up for another dive. So we headed to Locals' Ledge (I'm not sure if that apostrophe is supposed to be there; perhaps Chuck will correct me if I got it wrong). Even I had been slightly ambivalent about a second dive, since I was super cold from the first dive. But I sucked it up and got back in the water. I was definitely not entirely recovered from the first dive though -- I had more trouble standing up in my gear than I did on the first dive, but this time I had less gear :) I think by the time we jumped, half of the boat was still mulling whether to go on the dive, but during the dive, we ended up seeing everyone down there. I guess it's hard to stay on the boat at Locals' Ledge, especially given the viz we had on the first dive!

We followed the anchor down to the pinnacle (not very far, since it does come to like 10 feet :P) and then headed right, as usual. Once we were down there, I was glad I decided to come along. The viz was good and it was quite calm (which makes sense, since there was very little swell). We headed over to some of Rob's favorite hydrocoral spots. He took pictures while I searched the white sponges with brown hydroids for Cuthona albocrusta, since we saw it there before. I had no luck finding that particular tiny slug, but I found some other tiny slug, which I think was a Eubranchus of some sort. Eventually I was called in to pose with the hydrocoral. After Rob took some of his usual pictures of me looking at the hydrocoral, I suggested he get some pictures of me up above as a silhouette... I learned some new tricks from diving with Clinton :) Unfortunately a diver with a half empty Al80 stage bottle looks somewhat silly in silhouette. Oh well, I still liked the pictures.

Photo by Clinton Bauder
After we finished up there, Rob meandered around a bit, I guess looking for a new spot that was photogenic, but didn't really find much. We eventually returned back to his favorite spot, killed some more time there, and then headed back to the anchor. On the way up, there was a big egg yolk hanging just off the line that we went to play with. Eventually Rob got Clinton's attention and asked him to get some pictures of us with it. Rob always complains that he never gets his picture taken :) After a brief photo shoot, we headed back to the boat. We had lunch (dinner?) at La Tortuga, where Clinton got tricked into eating a goat. But he said it was a very tasty goat.

All of the day's pictures are here.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

NCUPS Competition 2010

This weekend was the annual NCUPS competition. Rob couldn't make it, and Clinton got down on one knee and asked me to be his model (or something), so I decided to take him up on that. So all of the pictures in this post are Clinton's. This year you could dive off of boats for the competition, so of course we were on the Escapade. After suffering the indignity of waking up at 5:45 and driving down to Monterey all by myself (in intermittent light rain for the last 30 minutes), I found a terrible parking space at K-dock and met up with Clinton, Sami, and Mike. Clinton wanted to maximize dive time on two dives, so I packed big boy single tanks (thanks to Frank for loaning them to me). I like diving single tanks in theory, and think they look way better in pictures, but man I hate schlepping the one that isn't attached to my backplate down/up to the car -- especially a 104! I've decided I should get a second backplate and STA just to bring the second tank to/from the boat. Now that I think about it, I already have a second backplate and STA. Okay, enough whining about tanks.

We got going and headed Carmel-ward. The conditions were not super flat, but not that rough either. I was wondering on the way down if we were ever again going to get those super-flat days you sometimes get during the summer. It was overcast and pretty cold on the way down. Clinton wanted to go to East Pinnacle and/or Outer Pinnacles. I guess some other boat or boats were on East Pinnacle, so we went to Outer Pinnacles. Clinton told me that there were three shots he was interested in getting at the pinnacles: hydrocoral and diver, blue rockfish, and sea nettles. We dropped down and briefly got confused about where the spot we wanted was (Jim anchored a ridge or two over from where he often does), but then headed in the right direction and found it. The viz was good though the water could have been a bit bluer... still very nice conditions for a competition. Clinton had briefed me on how to pose for competition pictures. Apparently the key is to not look DIR. I did my best, which really wasn't very good -- I really thought my legs were extended and straight, but they weren't at all! But I do think I did a good job of not doing the superman pose with my arms, and keeping my fins together. After an extensive photo shoot at the first spot (which I have been photographed at an uncountable number of times at this point, so it should really have a name -- any ideas?), we moved on. Eventually we stopped at the top of the wall that runs near there for another photo shoot. I was having a lot of trouble figuring out what the heck Clinton wanted me to do, but eventually we worked it out. In hindsight, it should have been obvious to me where he wanted me to be :P Hydrocoral and diver, check.

After a bit more meandering around, Clinton got the crazed look of a kitty on the scent of a small furry animal and led me back near the anchor where he found a school of blue rockfish. We spent the next 10 minutes or so trying to corral the rockfish while he took some shots. After he got a few, I tried getting in the picture, which the fish didn't like. Eventually after some more alone time, they got over it and let me approach from behind and pose for a few shots. Then we headed up for some sea nettle shots. On the way up, I was wondering where the nettles were, but then at 20 feet, we finally saw that they were above us from about 15 feet up. We headed up there and killed about 10 minutes with the nettles. There were not a ton of them, but enough for a few pictures. It would have been better if it was a bit sunnier out. When we got back to the boat, there was some talk about going elsewhere for the next dive. The people were rebelling because it was surgy at the pinnacles, and the people don't like surge, apparently. Clinton was not man enough to quash the rebellion, and declared that he had gotten the shots he wanted, so we could go wherever for dive 2.

Wherever turned out to be Aumentos. All I could think was that if Rob were along we would NOT have gone to Aumentos for dive 2 :) I guess the reports were that the viz was about the same in the bay (yea right) with murk to about 20 feet and then clearer water. On the way back to the bay, it was explained to us that no one wants to see pictures of hydrocoral or blue rockfish, and that sea nettles were unimaginative. That's too bad. When we got to Aumentos, I took sort of forever to get into the water. I was behind Clinton getting ready when I realized I was super hungry, so I made him wait while I downed half a protein bar and a bottle of water. As I jumped into the water, I asked him if he was ever going to dive with me again, since I know Clinton is big into being the first in the water :) The water was clear in the top 10 or so feet, then it got murky, then it cleared up again. But until very near the bottom it was sort of chunky, so even at the shallower portions of the structure it was a bit chunky. We spent much of the dive swimming around with Clinton occasionally shrugging at me like "why bother to take a picture here?". It definitely wasn't as nice of a dive as the first one. We were looking for some Metridium shots, but most of the 'trids that we found were closed. Clinton eventually found a nice open one but it was under an overhang (I really like the picture he got of it though). There were a surprising number of bigger rockfish above the site, and a lot of kelp greenlings, including one monster one. There were also zillions of juvey rockfish. It was nice to see so many fish. On the way up, Clinton took more pics of the nettles. The nettles were a lot thicker here, and the viz was crappy, so between trying to keep track of Clinton and the anchor line, I got stung a couple of times. Boohoo. The water was really milky; Clinton took a couple of shots of me with a nettle and you could see a haze across my mask in the pictures.

We came to the surface to find that pretty much everyone else on the boat thought this was a much better site than the first one. Well what would I know? I have pictures of hydrocoral, blue rockfish, and a sea nettle in my living room. We had a short ride back to the dock, during which I forgot to rinse my drysuit, ugh. When we got back to the dock, Michael somehow magically levitated my extra tank up to to sidewalk level (I don't know how he did it, it seemed like the tide was too low to pass tanks up there). Phew. It was still a very slow hobble across the parking lot with that bad boy. The guys wanted to go prepare their images for submission back at the Travelodge, so I stopped at McDonald's for the worst meat-like patty of my life and then went to look at pictures with them. After they seemed to have some general idea of what they were going to submit, I headed home (after a brief stop at the Beverly's next to the Travelodge -- I've never been there before; they have a pretty good selection of quilting fabrics).