It's about diving. And cats.

Me diving

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Magnus Test Drive

Saturday was the first BAUE rec boat of the year. I was the organizer, which isn't really as glorious as it sounds, since I didn't even get much of a vote on where we ended up going (I'll get to that in a minute). The forecast looked okay but not great. At the last minute, I remembered that I had been wanting to test drive the Silent Submersion Magnus scooter that Beto had had in his possession for a while (a demo unit, I guess). Rumor was that he was going to have to send it back soon, so this weekend was my last chance to try it out. I'm usually not a fan of bringing scooters on the rec boats for a few different reasons. But I decided that this counted as an exigent circumstance, so we brought scooters. Rob had also just installed a little scooter mount for the Hero cam on my scooter. So we wanted to play with that as well. I even asked Kevin to bring his video reflector for me to borrow for the the occasion. So these dives were really more about playing with scooters and the video camera than anything. As we headed out of the bay, it was a bit big, but once we came around Point Pinos, I thought things had really settled down. I was relieved that it was a much smoother ride. Then we started to drive out to the west, in a big arc... as if the boat was turning around! Jim came down and told us that the reports from down in Carmel were that it was pretty bad. So the recommendation was to turn around. Jim said we could keep going and take a look if we wanted to, but I didn't want to defy his recommendation and end up taking everyone on a wild goose chase. I hate it when we do a long barf-inducing drive, end up having to turn around anyway, and then I feel like crap by the time we get to dive.

So the discussion turned to where to go. I voted for Aumentos, or rather against Ballbuster. I explained to Rob that I think Ballbuster is a scary dive. Every time we go there, it's because it is too rough to get out of the bay. Well when it is too rough to get out of the bay, it's usually kind of rough at Ballbuster. So a disproportionate number of the dives I've done at Ballbuster have been rough. And no matter how many times I dive the Escapade, I still think that reboarding the boat when it's at anchor in rough seas is a little scary. Reason #385 that I prefer to live boat. Anyhoo, I was outvoted, because I guess the rest of the people on the boat are less cowardly than me. So to Ballbuster we went. Rob had brought my scooter so he could use the camera mount, and I had the Magnus. Rob gave me a little briefing on how to use the trigger on it, since he had dived it before. When we jumped in the water, the crew brought me my scooter, so I told Rob that he could take the Magnus and we'd switch once we were at the bottom. This was code for "I don't think I can figure out how to use that thing while simultaneously clearing my ears". As I scootered down the line, something didn't feel right about my tow cord. I thought it was caught on something because it wouldn't slide around on the boltsnap. I looked down and found that the tow cord was now fixed on the bolt-snap, Gavin-style. There was practically steam coming out of my ears when I concluded that Rob had changed the tow cord on *my scooter*. It turned out that he had brought my tube and battery with his back-end. Phew.

Anyhoo, when we got to the pinnacle, we traded scooters, and I was just flying around the pinnacle playing with the scooter. After the dive I was telling Kevin that I have really never done a dive before where the sole purpose of the dive was to play with a scooter, but now I have. The Magnus is a monster. When you take it up to top speed it is not just fast, but it makes this low grumbly reverberating noise that feels like you are riding on the back of a Mack truck. My one complaint about it (besides the fact that I got a mask hicky from driving it on top speed) is the way the tow cord works. Instead of connecting to the shroud at the top and bottom, it connects on the sides. This has an annoying side effect that if you start to go when the tow cord isn't exactly centered, the scooter will pull you to one side, and once there is tension on the tow cord, sliding it back to the center is pretty much impossible (without giving the scooter a good yank with your left hand). The same is pretty much true when you go into a turn, it's really hard to come out of the turn. Beto tells me that while the tow cord on the sides thing is pretty annoying at first, you eventually get used to that (by figuring out the technique to get it out of a turn). Also, my right wrist was killing me after the first dive. I think that's because after going into a turn (we were scootering around a pinnacle, so there was a lot of that), I would try to muscle the scooter back to center with my right arm which was pretty hard on my wrist and shoulder (for the purposes of full disclosure, I should mention that I do sometimes have right wrist pain when I've been mousing too much at work, so occasionally even scootering with my X bothers my wrist). But once I figured out that I could use my left hand to pull the shroud and get the scooter pointing where I wanted it, that seemed to solve that problem. But the scooter is very stable once you have it pointed in the right direction. While this isn't the best when you are scootering around a small pinnacle like Ballbuster (which really doesn't call for a scooter anyway), if you were trying to get from here to there in a relatively straight cave passage, this would be a good thing. And I think that's really what you would use the highest speed for. Also, since it is very powerful, I have no doubt that it could get me and as many bottles as I would ever want to bring on a dive down an anchor line in a pretty stiff current. I can't really say the same thing for my Sierra.

Okay, enough with the product endorsements. Even though I was primarily just zooming around on the scooter, we also saw some neat things at Ballbuster. First of all, the viz was quite good. I would say 30 to 40 feet (after reviewing the video footage, it's probably more like 40 than 30). Ballbuster has a lot of Metridiums on it. I know this sounds like an obvious statement, but when you are seeing the reef 20 feet at a time, it doesn't seem as impressive as when you can see the reef 40 feet at a time. At the bottom of the pinnacle looking up, there were Metridium everywhere. After scootering off of the pinnacle a bit, we found a pretty big lingcod on some of the rubble. We stalked it briefly, as Rob was trying to get some video. Rob also found a cabezon right at the bottom of Ballbuster, and a fringehead poking his head out among some Metridium. I think it was a sarcastic fringehead but I am not very good at fringehead ID. It was super cute -- I want one as a pet! The ascent was a bit sea nettly, and the viz was very milky from about 10 to 30 feet, so keeping track of the line among all of the divers on it was a pain. At some point Ted tried to swim over me or something and ended up totally clobbering me.

For the second dive, we wanted to do something on the shale. We ended up going to "shale island annex" which is a taller shale ledge near the island. Rob wanted to bring scooters again so we did. We pretty much just scootered and swam along the ledge looking for anything interesting. Rob was taking video of a few things. We didn't see anything unusual. Rob found one slug that he wasn't sure what it was. It was white with fairly big black splotches on it. At first I thought it was a Geitodoris, but now I am thinking it was one of those splotchier, Seattle-style San Diego dorids. I also found a nice yellow Geitodoris that had the characteristic yellow splotch on its back. Otherwise it was pretty much the usual slugs. I was hoping for some Onchidoris bilamellata eating those barnacles, but didn't see any. Boohoo. We saw a bunch of Vermilion rockfish in one area, including a younger one that hadn't yet changed to the adult coloration. At some point I put the video reflector on my light and tried to light things for Rob. Eventually we switched scooters so I could take some video. Eventually Rob suggested that we find the anchor line. We weren't anchored right on the taller ledge, so it wasn't exactly trivial to find our way back to it. We were scootering along on some of the smaller ledges parallel to the tall ledge, and Rob signaled that he thought we had gone too far and we should turn around. I said okay. At this point I was right next to Rob, so it wasn't convenient to scooter myself around. So instead, I helicoptered around. On the way around, I saw a nice sand rose anemone, so I video'd it for a moment. When I finished turning around, Rob was gone. I guess when he said let's go that way and I said okay, he took that to mean it was time to take off on his scooter. Grumble grumble grumble. Not this again. Since I was on a ledge, I thought there was a good likelihood if I just stayed there, he would turn around and follow that ledge back and find me. So I just hung there for a little while, but eventually gave up on that plan. I headed over to the tall ledge, where there were a couple of other teams. I figured if I was going to search around for Rob it would be good to be in proximity to some other divers. While looking for Rob, I happened to find a warbonnet poking its head out of the reef. But I figured videoing a warbonnet while searching for my lost buddy was probably not kosher. I asked one of the teams if they had seen him and it didn't seem so. I could hear his scooter at some point, so I headed in that direction, but still no Rob. After one last pass along the ledge we had been on when we separated, I decided I was just going to have to surface to find him. So I popped a bag and headed up. At 30 feet, Rob appeared out of nowhere. For whatever reason, when I first saw him, he was a foot or two below me. I couldn't understand how he had found me in midwater. It turns out he had surfaced, asked the boat if they had seen me, seen my bag, and then followed it down. So while it looked like he had come from below me, he had not. We finished our ascent and headed back to the boat.

1 comment:

Ben V said...

The nettles on dive 1 were not kind to me... I still have tentacle marks on the cheek. :(