It's about diving. And cats.

Me diving

Friday, December 10, 2010

Friday Diving with Jim

I had been planning to take Friday off to catch up on my Christmas shopping (which was horribly behind, or really not even started). Then Jim sent email to the BAUE list looking for a dive buddy for Friday, so how could I turn that down? Christmas shopping would have to wait. Conditions were forecast to get big Wednesday night and then calm down again on Thursday night. When we finally made the call on Thursday, I told Jim I was game for driving down and possibly thumbing it, so it was on. I got up early (even earlier than Rob, Susan, and Beto who were starting a fundies class that day!) and headed down to Monterey. In Gilroy, it was super windy; in Prunedale, it was super rainy; and in Seaside, it was super foggy. As I drove into Monterey, I was half expecting to find a swarm of locusts. Instead, it was sunny and clear, and the flag on Del Monte beach was limp. Woohoo. I suggested Lunaticos, since I haven't been there in ages and I know that Jim likes that site.

The ride out was calm, and when we got to Point Pinos, it was basically dead flat. However, there was some fog. Around Point Pinos, the bilge alarm went off, so we stopped and the crew climbed down into that mysterious compartment below the deck, and eventually it was deemed okay to proceed. In the meantime, I was marveling at how calm it was sitting there where it is often the roughest part of the trip. As we continued, the fog had mostly lifted, but it was still there in patches. However, since we were just one team, the boat would follow our bubbles just in case a patch of fog descended upon us. They dropped the downline and it looked like there wasn't much current. Jim jumped with his bottle and scooter clipped to him. I told the crew that I would take my scooter in the water, and noted that Jim was making me feel like a girl. We got into the water and it was totally flat without any noticeable surface current. Why can't every dive be like that? It was nice to have a moment to doodle with my gear before we headed down. After doing a scooter-down descent on my last dive, I decided to try it again. At around 60 feet, I had to put the brakes on, of course, and stop to clear my ears for a while before proceeding. Oh well. We got down to the top of Lunaticos (I think we were shooting for the pinnacle next to it, the "Annex" as we call it, but I thought we were on Lunaticos based on the depth). There is a channel between the two pinnacles, and we followed that to the south side, and headed west (I think those are the cardinal directions, but keep in mind that I am seriously directionally-challenged, so they could be completely wrong). It gets deeper at the bottom as you go west. So our plan was to do a deeper segment out there and then head back up the structure for a shallower segment. The last time I was at Lunaticos, we stayed pretty shallow. So when I was thinking about what I would see on the dive, I wasn't thinking of vase sponges, but of course as soon as we got down to 150' or so, they started appearing (not surprising, since they are quite common on the nearby Outer Outer Pinnacles sites, which come to think of it, I haven't dived in a while either). There were lots of them, yay! We swam off of the pinnacle a bit and there was a little structure running parallel to the main pinnacle. I thought it was just a little structure, but it turned out to be a small ridge running parallel to the pinnacle to the west for a while. We meandered along that structure, where I saw a starry rockfish. Eventually that structure gets taller so that we were scootering between what I would describe as a canyon. It was pretty cool. I guess this canyon eventually gets to at least 200 feet, though we didn't go that far to the west.

Eventually it was time to head shallower, so we turned around and headed back to the east, working up the pinnacle as we went. As I was scootering along, I saw a slither along the reef and stopped. Was that an octopus or a brittle star? I scanned the reef and saw a teeny red octopus. I didn't really know if this would be Jim's kind of thing but I decided to make him come back and take a look anyway. By the time he got there, the octo had settled into a totally camouflaged color and position. I sort of pushed some water past it, hoping it would slither a bit and Jim would see what I was pointing at. I guess I was a bit rough, because it took flight and instantly turned bright red. Oops. After we marveled at it for a moment, we continued on. We eventually ended up back at the original, slightly shallower pinnacle. When we got to the top, I remembered that I had my hero cam in my pocket. I wanted to experiment with it a bit just to see what kind of video it would take deep. So I shot a little sample footage of it 120' (most of the footage turned out red, but a small amount of it was passable). So I whiled away the last several minutes of the dive just scootering around with the hero cam on my hand. I put it away and pulled the bag a minute before I knew that Jim would call the dive. For some reason I had a lot of trouble getting my bag out -- it felt like my hand just wouldn't fit in my pocket. Then while I was inflating it, it seemed like everything didn't fit in my hand as well as it should. I chalked all of this up to rustiness (for whatever reason, it seems like it's been a while since I shot the bag), until I was spooling up to 90' and realized that my light was still on my hand :) Doh.

I cleaned that up and then at 80', Jim pointed out that we were in danger of drifting into the downline. I told him I knew, and we could swim a bit to avoid it. As we were about to swim, I saw a mola swim by and I signaled to Jim and pointed to it. He replied with an "okay, let's swim", thinking I was pointing in the direction I wanted to swim. I gave him an emphatic "no, look over there" and finally he saw the mola. Ahh. We headed up to 70' and as we were switching onto our bottles, I saw that the mola had followed us up to 70'. After a minute or two of enjoying the mola, I suddenly remembered that I had a video camera. Hehe. So I handed the bag to Jim and whipped that out and got video of the mola. We headed to 60' and there was the mola again. He swam around us for the whole stop. For a while, he swam behind Jim and was just at the limit of visibility. Then he came swimming back toward us and as he headed straight toward me, we had a very close encounter. At some point, something must have spooked him because he sort of shook all over and took off swimming in another direction. That was cute. When it was time to head to 50', the mola literally moved with us, and I was actually videoing him as we ascended. At 50', he was still on the edge of visibility, but not close enough to video. But that was the last that we saw him. It was a pretty uneventful deco from there, though I did shoot a little video at 20', just to see how the video quality compared at different depths.

When we surfaced, the water was dead calm, and it was sunny. As we headed home, we did come across some stubborn patches of fog that were still around, but overall the conditions were great. It was supposed to get only better over the weekend, of course, since I was confined to the pool, video'ing for Fundies. Hmph. I think it was definitely worth falling even further behind on my Christmas shopping to do a little fun diving with Jim :) Thanks to Jim and the crew of the Escapade!


Kenn said...

I don't know what was more surprising - how friendly the mola was, or how empty the Escapade was!

Lynne said...

Oh, I'm so envious! Seeing a mola is still on my "someday" list.