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.

1 comment:

Lynne said...

I love your blog . . . I can SO hear your voice when I read it. Sorry to have missed you in Monterey last weekend!