It's about diving. And cats.

Me diving

Saturday, November 13, 2010

A Surprise Trip South

Photo by Clinton Bauder
Rob had friend in town -- Peter, from Belgium, who Rob met at his GUE ITC. He was looking to dive, so Rob setup some diving for the weekend. For Saturday, he put together a tech boat. It was originally a T2 boat, but after studying the forecast during the week, we decided to bring 18/45, in case we ended up in the bay. So that way some others could join the trip too. In the end, we had 3 teams. I decided that I just wanted to dive on Saturday, so Rob and I drove down separately. The upside of this is that I got to sleep in an extra half hour; Rob wanted to meet Peter early since he was loaning a bunch of gear to him. The forecast wasn't looking so good, so we really weren't expecting much. We were just hoping to make it to Carmel. When we got out there, the conditions were not too bad. There was big swell, but it was a big, long rolling swell without much wind, which I don't really mind. We got surprisingly not too trashed on the way around the point to Carmel. We knew that the wind was supposed to pickup later in the day though. But I guess Jim was feeling bold (or trying to teach us a lesson, maybe) and said we could try to make a run south of Lobos and see what it was like down there. Woohoo. We made it all the way down to Yankee Point, to Mount Chamberlin. Enter the wind. As we were getting geared up, it became obvious that conditions were not quite as favorable down here as they had been on the ride down. There were some gearing-up shenanigans that delayed us a bit -- Rob and Peter didn't do a very good job of assessing whether Peter would fit into Rob's plate before loading gear on the boat (amateur, right?). Once that was all resolved, we finally got into the water. One of the other teams had already jumped and was waiting for us at the ball.

Photo by Clinton Bauder
Once I was in the water, I realized the swell was quite big. As I scootered to the ball, it kept disappearing (or I kept disappearing, maybe) in the trough of a wave. But I finally made it there, only to find that Rob and Peter had fallen behind. I guess the boat swung around on another pass to drop Matt and Clinton into the water, and it seemed like there were divers scattered everywhere. Eventually they all appeared at the ball, but while I was hanging out at the ball, thinking about how ridiculous it was trying to muster 8 divers at the ball in these conditions, I wondered if it was a good decision to get into the water. On the other hand, the pickup is always less chaotic because we do it one team at a time. We headed down the line into somewhat murky conditions. It was also incredibly surgy. By the time we hit the pinnacle, we were at maybe 100 feet, and the surge was wild. As we got a bit deeper, it relented a little, but it was still surgy basically all the way down to 200 feet. It was also quite dark, and I would call the viz 30 to 40 feet (though Rob seemed to think it wasn't quite this good). But there was a lot of particulate in the water.

We had planned to head to the north side of the pinnacle, and hop over to some of the structures just north of K2 for a deep segment and then come back to K2 and multi-level it from there. Scootering in big surge is always amusing, since for a moment you are barely moving (if at all) and then suddenly you are flying forward. Rob led us to the north side and across the sand channel to a little pinnacle which I think we have been too before (I think we saw a lot of canary rockfish there once, and a couple of basket stars on another dive). Rob doesn't know, since he is mostly stateless as it pertains to landmarks on dives. Usually we go to the top of it, but today (I'm guessing due to the surge), we stayed kind of low and scootered around the south side. We eventually came to a little channel between this rock and another, and Rob and Peter headed through it. I scootered towards the channel and there was ridiculous surge coming through it, against me. It was the kind of water movement where if you try to scooter through it, it feels like your mask is going to implode on your face. I backed off to the side and waited for the surge to change directions. Once it did, I scootered into the crack and literally got spit out the other side, where Rob and Peter were waiting. Phew. Not long after that, as we curved around to the north side of that pinnacle, we found a couple of basket stars. The first one was all curled up with just one tendril extended. There were also gobs of fishies on this pinnacle. If you looked up, the water was filled with the silhouettes of small rockfish.

Photo by Clinton Bauder
We eventually headed back to K2 working our way shallower up the east side. We stopped to look at a few fish along the wall, including a juvenile yelloweye (those guys have been everywhere this year), a mystery juvenile rockfish (I think) that was yellowish with some fluorescent orange-pink on its head, China rockfish, and kelp greenlings. Plus there were the usual schooling blue rockfish. Peter was pretty impressed with the fish life on the dive, which was evident from the squealing coming from his regulator :) We also saw some Dotos and a lot of Flabellina trilineata along the side of the wall. We eventually passed the high spot on K2 and ended up in a little canyon where we went on my first BAUE tech boat, but we seem to never go anymore. It has lush gorgonians and elephant ear sponges along the sides. After poking around in there for a couple minutes, we headed back to the high spot. We were killing the last few minutes of our bottom time, at maybe 120 feet on the east side of that high spot, when I found the mystery "zebra snail" which I have seen exactly once before, on our first dive at Dos Gatos. Needless to say, I was delighted to see it again, and even more delighted to show it to Rob, so someone else could vouch for its existence :) I should really try to figure out what it is. (Unfortunately, Clinton was nowhere to be found -- he was shooting macro). I also looked into the GPO crack, but alas there was no GPO. Just some rockfish and a huge urchin. When it was time to start the deco, Rob put up a bag and off we went. We could see both of the other teams all leaving the peak at the agreed-upon time.

Photo by Clinton Bauder
On deco, we had the usual assortment of jellies drifting by, including some nettles, but nothing too exciting. It was noticeably lacking the warm water that we had on deco recently. Getting my fins off on the current line was a difficult task since my fingers were basically numb by the end of the dive :) For some reason, climbing the ladder to get back on the boat seemed unusually hard. Perhaps Kevin is right -- everything gets harder once you turn 30 :P The conditions had actually not deteriorated as much as I expected, phew. We were talking about doing a second dive, but decided to head back to Monterey Bay, since we wanted to do the travel before the wind got worse. On the way from Cypress Point to Pinos, it actually seemed like the swell was smaller than it had been on the way down, but maybe it was a bit more windy. It wasn't a bad ride at all though. We made a brief stop a bit north of Pinos to play with a gaggle of dolphins -- there were Risso's and Northern right whale dolphins, at least. I guess Jim saw a Dahl's porpoise, but I don't think anyone else did. The Risso's seemed awfully frisky, with a bunch of them jumping completely out of the water. After we were finished with that, we headed into the bay, and started talking dive sites. Clinton was interested in diving the deep shale, so we went to check it out. The water on the surface was quite brown. Jim was getting reports that the sites in the bay (Aumentos or Eric's, not sure which) were reporting like 5 to 10 foot viz. We expected the viz to be worse on the shale, so we decided to punt (yea, we're soft) and go get some lunch instead. Laura at AWS told me the breakwater had like 2 foot viz, so I can't imagine the shale was much better.

Rob was nominally shooting wide-angle, but I don't think he ever even took his camera out. I guess it was the combination of darkness, surge, and the fact that the dive was more like a tour around the pinnacle. But Clinton got some nice macro pics, which I am including in the post. Thanks for the pics Clinton. And of course, thanks to the crew of the Escapade for letting us show Peter a pretty nice first dive in California.

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