It's about diving. And cats.

Me diving

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Three Dives for the Price of Two

Saturday I was on a BAUE tech boat. This was Ted's big BAUE tech boat debut, so I was diving with Kevin and him. But then half of the boat was knocked out by a cold (or something), and Matt was without a buddy. So we decided to just dive as a team of 4. The goal was, of course, to make it as far south as we could. There was a biggish swell but not a lot of wind when we first turned the Point. But soon enough the wind kicked up and we were in whitecaps. The wind was out of the south, so the crew recommended E3, since we would get protection from Point Lobos. They were right -- once we were there, it was dead calm. It was really nice getting geared up in such calm conditions. Just as we were all geared up, with bottles (well, bottle) and all, the down line slipped and we had to go back around again to drop it again. Once that was finished, we got in the water and headed down the line. The viz was looking pretty good.

I was a bit worried when we got down to 80' or so without seeing anything pinnacle-like. We kept on going until we got to 150', where the ball was drifting along in mid-water, with the bottom maybe 30 feet below. The viz was really good though :) We looked around and couldn't see any obvious structures around and thumbed it. By the time we got back to the surface it had been just a little over 10 minutes. Apparently we had drifted quite a bit (read: there was a lot of current), and there was no way we would have found E3 if we had searched for it. The water was still dead calm and we all quickly got back on the boat. After a bunch of hemming and hawing about what was the best way to deploy on the next try. Eventually we decided to anchor the boat and deploy a granny line, blah. We got in and pulled ourselves to the anchor line, which while not totally trivial, was not as bad as I expected given how much we had allegedly drifted on the previous dive. We started down the line, and again, it wasn't that bad. I was pulling but not with great effort, and Matt wasn't even pulling on the line. So I reasoned, based on the law of averages (or something) that if the current was mild now, it would be worse than expected later. Then we got to 50'. I swear it took me minutes to make it from 50' to 60'; it was like I wasn't moving. Just as I was thinking this, I noticed Matt was on the line too.

But eventually we saw pinnacle and just as the pinnacle came into view, we saw 3 molas too! Once we were below the top of the pinnacle, we were protected from the current, so we dropped away from the line and enjoyed the mola action. After they headed off, we swam along the current-protected side of the pinnacle. I believe that we dropped on the south side of the west end, but since I am directionally challenged, and used my compass not a bit on this dive, I really can't say for sure. We swam leisurely along the side that we dropped on. The viz wasn't as good as it was on the "first dive" but then there was a pinnacle on this dive, so who can complain? There were some fish, but not a huge number. We saw a couple of juvenile yelloweyes. Actually I saw one and then later on, Matt was trying to show me something in the folds of an elephant ear, and while I couldn't see the fish, I had a feeling that's what it was (which he confirmed back on the boat). Eventually we came to a little notch in the top of the pinnacle, and I thought I'd try my luck with the other side. I swam into the notch, looking around at the critters on each side. As soon as I got to the other side, I got completely spun around by the current, and decided to turn around and head back, with my tail between my legs. On the way back, I noticed that the wall was crawling with Diaphorodoris lirulatocauda. I pointed them out to Matt, since I thought he might actually appreciate it. We eventually meandered back around where we started, and I went a bit deeper to see what was down there. I saw a couple of simnia snails, but nothing else to report. Eventually we worked our way up to the top and headed back along the ridge. I saw two molas swimming along the top of the pinnacle just across the notch. I swam over toward them and they hung around for a minute and then headed out. Then a third once came swimming into the frame, but he wasn't really interested in hanging around long. Just a couple of minutes later, it was time to call the dive.

Our ascent was pretty uneventful for the first several stops. We did 25 minutes of deco, which I found to be delightfully quick. It was also nice and warm as we got shallower. I think it was about 57 degrees from 20 feet up. There were the usually assortment of small jellies to look at, but not much else. Then at 20 feet, as I was looking down into the abyss, out of nowhere, a sea lion was barreling towards me. He totally scared me. There were a few that were zipping around us for the next few minutes, which was fun. Just as Kevin called for us to head to 20 feet, I saw a big yellow halo below us. It slowly became more clear until I could see that it was a HUGE jellyfish. But alas, it was below us. It was slowly coming up toward us, and while I never got a clear view of what it was, it was definitely a huge jellyfish :) I lingered on my way up to 10 feet (Kevin was annoyed I think) because I was sort of transfixed by it. I was just thinking, if there were a man-eating jellyfish, that's what it would look like. I pretty much spent the rest of deco checking out the jellyfish, trying to will it to come up a bit shallower, but it was not to be.

When we hit the surface, the conditions had deteriorated a lot and it was whitecapping like crazy. It was kind of a shock considering how calm it had been when we got in (and it was only a one hour dive). Getting back on the boat was a bit of a pain -- there was so much surface current that I felt like my arms were going to be ripped out of my shoulders while trying to hold onto the ladder. Oy. When the topic turned to dive 2, we all agreed we should head back into the bay before it got worse. So we headed to Eric's Pinnacle. When we got there, I made a joke about putting a granny line in, which was funny because when we jumped in, there actually was a bit of current on the surface. Nothing big though. We did a pretty short dive; the highlights of it were the sea lion ballet -- there were about 8 of them periodically coming through and zipping around us; and the blue rockfish at the top of the pinnacle -- I swear they get bigger on every dive! There were also zillions of sea nettles in midwater. We got pretty well nailed on the way up (from all of 20 feet). I don't usually have much of a reaction to them, but this time after I pulled my hood off my face was stinging all over. I doused it with vinegar and it eventually felt better, either from the vinegar or the passage of time.

Once back to K-dock we decided to zip back up to AWS and then have late lunch/early dinner up there at Gloria's. Yummy.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Back to Twin Peaks

On Saturday, Rob and I attended a BAUE day at Point Lobos. Usually at these events, I try to dive with someone I don't normally dive with, or haven't dived with in a while. But this time, I decided to just dive with Rob. We haven't been diving together at Lobos in ages, it seems. I also haven't done a tech dive in almost two months, so I decided to ease back into it with a nice long, 3 bottle dive to Twin Peaks :) The water was so warm last weekend, I was thinking it would be a good day for a long dive. Plus everyone who was at Lobos the previous weekend reported excellent viz. It was so dreary on Friday that I was expecting rainy overcast weather on Saturday too. But when we arrived it was a clear and sunny, and the water was pretty calm, with a nice high tide. Excellent.

We had a bit of a float mishap while deploying our gear. Since the tide was so high, we put the float on the ramp and loaded it up. Then Rob swam it out. But the weight was still clipped to the float and he lost control of the float and everything sunk. Oops. Well, it was in like 10 feet of water just off the ramp, so we were pretty confident we could find it :) We got geared up and headed in. The water was nice and clear, and even if it hadn't been, I saw a little bubble coming up from one of our bottles, and that's how we found them. We recovered the ball, got our gear on, and I noticed that my stage bottle was quite bubbly at the high pressure spool. After doodling with it briefly, I decided it was fine, and we were off. We scootered out a bit, and dropped in 30 or so feet on the sand channel, and headed out. The water was warm around the sand channel, but by the time we got to the Road, my gauge was reading 48 degrees. The viz was really good though. We cruised straight out to the big peak, and kicked around for a while there.

Rob was busy taking pictures and I was just poking around looking for slugs. I didn't find much of interest, but it was still fun. I did see a juvenile yelloweye, when Rob lined me up for a picture behind an elephant ear, and he just happened to be hanging out on the back side of it. After about 20 minutes or so out there, we headed back in. There was quite a bit of current heading out along the road. We stopped along the road, about halfway back in at a big towering pinnacle, where I believe we saw a ratfish not too long ago. We stopped so Rob could take some pictures, and I kept trying to pose and getting swept away by the current. It was like the worst current I think I've ever experienced at Lobos. After getting frustrated with the current, we continued in, and stopped at a spot in about 130 feet, where we often like to slug hunt. John and Clinton scootered by just before we stopped. We were each just poking around on our own piece of reef, when Rob signaled me very excitedly. I headed over and he had found an Okenia felis (yay, I think that's the first time I've referred to it here that it's actually been the legitimate name for it!). I was super excited -- I haven't seen one in well over a year. Since Clinton and John had just passed by a minute before, we decided to go look for them. Instead we found Kevin and Charles, so we brought them back to take a look (I marked the spot with a double-ender). I'm sure Charles was like dude, wtf? I made Rob take a picture of me looking at the slug, not that you can see what it is in the picture, but I just thought it would make a cute picture.

Shortly after that, we decided to head in. Rob wanted to scooter across the sand to Beto's reef, so we headed that way. After a minute, I got a little spooked about the fact that we were over featureless sand and there was a raging current, and told him to turn right and head in. We ended up running smack-dab into the first sister. Phew. We continued in toward Lone Metridium, and when we hit the kelp, it was laying WAY over in the current. It was crazy. From there, we shot over to the kelp-sand interface along the sand channel and did our 60 and 70 foot stops there. When we got to 70 feet, there were some tense deco negotiations (as a matter of course, Rob always rejects my first proposal), so by the time that was through and Rob did his (textbook-perfect, barf) bottle rotation, I decided to wait until 60 feet to do mine. As we pulled into the 60 foot stop, Kevin and Charles came scootering by and stopped about 10 feet away. Great, an audience. What I found out later was that not only did I have an audience, but Kevin was video'ing me! So wrong! From there we headed across the sand channel and came in along middle reef. As we headed in at 30 feet, Rob told me his scooter was slowing down, so he took the lead. We made it to our 20 foot stop before it completely died, so from there were just meandered in slowly, killing the time for our stop. Eventually when we hit 20 feet laying on the bottom, we had nowhere to go, so we hung out there. I found a little juvenile vermilion to watch for a while. Rob found a lobster shell -- we were both like "no WAY!". It also made us both hungry. When that stop was over, we swam in slowly, doing a 6 minute ascent, Lobos style. We ended up at the bottom of our float for our 8 foot stop. We tried to be all cool and shoot our bottles up the line, which totally failed, because there are a bunch of knots on it that the snaps couldn't slip over. Oops.

After some lunch, Rob wanted to get back in to take Beto's new scooter for a spin, so I let the boys go have fun while I killed some time on the surface. Unfortunately it started raining in the afternoon, and by the time we got going, it was pretty ugly out. Well, at least we got a nice day of diving in!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Mola Parade

Saturday I was on the Escapade for a BAUE recreational boat. I was planning to dive with Jim, but he supposedly came down with some sort of cold and was not able to dive. I think he just didn't want to dive with me because of my recent curse when it comes to diving on the Escapade. When I arrived at K-dock, I told Jim I was sure I could find someone else to dive with, and then Kenn appeared. So I volunteered the Bunnies to dive with me, and it was so. It's been a while since I've dived with the bunnies, so I was excited! It seems like it's been forever since we've had a nice easy boat trip where it wasn't foggy and it wasn't windy and the swell wasn't big. So I was delighted to have a nice smooth ride down past Carmel, all the way to Que Paso!

We hopped in the water and saw some nice viz. We headed down the line, expecting to hit pinnacle around 40 feet. It quickly became obvious that that was not going to happen, but eventually we found ourselves on the little rock covered in metridium just off of the main pinnacle. We ended up a wee bit deeper than we expected, oops, and then headed over the main pinnacle and worked our way up that. From there, we headed counterclockwise (Kenn was ostensibly leading, but since I am a very bad #2, we were keeping it loose). For most of the dive, I was buried in the reef, Kenn was a bit off of the reef, and Steve was practically at a different dive site -- I guess he likes to take it all in. It took me a while to figure that out, so I kept "losing" him. Silly bunny. We meandered along, not moving very quickly, and eventually Kenn signaled to turn the dive. We turned to Steve and he was gesticulating out into the blue. I looked where he was pointing and saw two molas! I looked back and the boys and saw Kenn very seriously trying to tell Steve that we were turning the dive. Hehehe. Once he caught on, I decided to go in for a closer look. I swam toward the molas, and one of them just hung out while I swam right up to it, like arms reach away. He looked at me for a moment before heading off with his friend.

We headed back to the pinnacle and turned around, retracing our path back toward the anchor line. About halfway there, Steve signaled us to point out a group of 4 molas swimming along between him and the pinnacle. I guess there are benefits to not being buried in the weeds... I was literally inspecting some hydroids when he signaled me, which was pretty silly in hindsight, considering we had just seen molas a few minutes before! Anyhoo, I swam over to take a look and they gracefully swam up and away. I flipped over on my back to watch their silhouettes as they disappeared up into the water column. I saw a pile of divers hanging out above me, most of the apparently oblivious to the molas swimming past them :( Once we got back to around the little metridium rock, we still had some time to spare, so we decided to hang out near there, near the top of the pinnacle. It was a bit surgy there. When we decided to call it, we had to head about 10 feet deeper to see the metridium rock clearly, but then I could see the anchor line immediately. And before you know it, the anchor line was coming right at me, and splat, I practically smashed right into it. Hmm, the current sure did pick up! The ascent was actually fairly annoying because I was in denial about how strong the current was, and tried to back kick into it so we could all see each other. At 40 feet, another mola swam by. When I finally gave into the current and joined the boys facing into it, it got much easier. We got to the surface and literally just floated back to the swimstep. I was originally wondering if I had just been oblivious to the current on the way down, but there definitely wasn't that strong of a current on the surface when we got in. So it must have picked up.

I guess we were the last team on the boat, and everyone else must have gotten their giggles out while we were still in the water, because it seemed like everyone was very serious as we headed north. When we made it all the way past Cypress Point, I started to get suspicious that we might finally make it to Fanshell Pinnacles (which Clinton has been asking for a lot and is always denied by Jim) -- because I hoped we weren't heading back to the bay in these conditions. Clinton confirmed that that's where we were heading (I think it might technically be called "Fanshell Beach Pinnacles", but I'm really not sure). Jim told us the pinnacle went from about 70 feet to a bit deeper than 100 feet. So I brought a stage (the bunnies brought half-stages on the first dive, so I had a bit less gas than them). Thanks to Jim for loaning me the stage -- I didn't bring one because I didn't plan to use one, but when you dive with the bunnies you have to be prepared for some serious bottom time.

We hopped in and were once again greeted to nice viz (though not as good as Que Paso). We headed down the line, which was running right to a crack in the pinnacle. On the right side, the top was around 70 or so feet, but on the left it was a bit shallower, maybe about 50 feet on the top. I drew the short straw of leading the dive, so I decided to head down the crack and to the left. There was a sand channel that we could see below us at maybe 110 feet or so. The side of the pinnacle was very colorful, and then all of a sudden we hit this very vertical patch of wall that was really barren. It was strange, but kind of cool. We continued around the pinnacle, and it got less vertical and not as colorful so after a bit, we turned around and headed back. Why bother with the less colorful part? We came all the way back around and worked our way up a bit shallower. As we passed through about 80 feet, it got *really* warm. Like uncomfortably warm. I ducked back down for a moment because it was just too warm! We eventually came back around to the line and worked our way up the shallower side of the crack. A bunch of other teams were there, and Clinton was harassing, err, photographing a really pretty cabezon. It had pastel purple-ish spots, my favorite. I swam over to check out the fish; I figured I couldn't possibly be more annoying than his strobes :) The shallow side of the pinnacle was just super colorful. It was covered with Corynactis and also had some hydrocoral. It was a very pretty spot, with a dramatic wall on the deep side and a really colorful spire. When it was time to go, we headed up the line (and I did not go splat into it this time, phew).

When we got back to K-dock, I was just about to start begging for a place to store my gear while I waited for Rob to pick me up (he was off doing some "cooler" dive with Ted and John at Lobos), when I saw Ted, John, and Rob hanging out at K-dock waiting for us. I guess they decided to just do one dive. They were pretty hungry, so I was scurried off to La Tortuga for lunch -- they even helped unload gear from the boat!

Video by Kenn!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Not Diving on the Escapade

Saturday I was on the BAUE tech boat. After 3 weekends of being away, I was looking forward to some local diving. It had been foggy in Monterey recently, and today was no different. The bay looked alright on the drive in, but once we got going, it was pretty foggy. It seemed like we were cruising forever when we finally stopped and I saw (based on the very fuzzy coastline that I could see) that we were in the vicinity of the pinnacles. I don't know if we went via Japan or what, but it seemed like we were going for a really long time -- so long that I wondered if we had gone further south and then turned back. But it was so foggy I really have no idea. Or maybe it was that I was feeling rather seasick, so the time just felt longer than it was. I've completely lost my sea legs lately; I think it's from too much cave diving. After noting the fog, a decision was made (by those people who go up to the wheelhouse; I prefer to stay on deck) to keep heading south and hope the fog would clear. We again paused near Lobos, noted that everything except perhaps Montana was fogged in, and then decided to kill some more time and hope the fog would clear, so we headed a bit further south before giving up and turning back. We got back to Lobos and it was proposed that we could either dive Montana or we could do a rec dive first and then hope the fog would lift for an afternoon tech dive. What about the Outer Outer Pinnacles area? we asked. So we drove up there and had a look, and once again it was still fogged in. So it was back to Lobos for a rec dive at the Needle, which I'd never dived before.

We got geared up and once the boat was anchored, Rob and I were the first into the water. As soon as I hit the water, my leg felt cold. Then I felt water pouring into my suit, down my right leg. So I quickly exited the water. My first thought was that my suit was not completely zipped, but alas this drysuit zips up. Hmm. Greg inspected the zipper and saw nothing obviously wrong (and fixable), so I got out of my gear and Rob found another team. Boohoo. After everyone was in the water, I got out of my suit, which had quite a bit of water in the boot. I inspected the bottom of the zipper and all of the seams that I thought could be responsible for a wet leg, and didn't find anything too suspicious. After the first dive, we headed up to Stillwater, which was unfoggy, and had a surface interval there. As soon as we left there, we found that the fog had cleared up there, and we could even see Point Lobos in the distance. So we headed down there and found clear skies. So we (or should I say they) went to Pinnacle Point Wall for the second dive. While the crew was setting the downline, I clipped bottles onto the divers; I think I have a future as crew on the Escapade (although I need to work on my balance -- there was a lot of falling in people's laps while I clipped bottles onto them).

While the divers were in the water, we saw some Risso's in the distance, and had a feisty sea lion loitering at the swim step like he was thinking about hopping on. Other than that, it was pretty uneventful, with the bags coming up right on time. I did gather some interesting data on the merits of small versus big bags from the point of view of someone on the boat watching the bags. Once we retrieved the divers, it was a smooth ride back to the dock.