It's about diving. And cats.

Me diving

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Big Sur Banks in February!

On Sunday there was a BAUE tech boat and I was diving with Team Kitty. The reports from Saturday were that the conditions were insanely flat, but it was supposed to get a bit bigger by Sunday night. We were all sort of hanging our heads regretting that we didn't go out on Saturday, but we were still hopeful for Sunday. Jim said that he wouldn't "rule out" Big Sur Banks. We started heading south and once we got to Yankee Point, we kept on going :) We got down to Big Sur, and headed out from the Point. The consensus seemed to be Sur 19, but when we stopped, we seemed really close to land. I couldn't believe this was Sur 19 -- the topside visibility is never this good out there! Since Sur 19 is relatively "shallow", we planned slightly a longer 45 minute bottom time. Then we got geared up and got into the water. Our team got into the water first, and I couldn't believe when we got in how calm it was, and how little current there was. We were actually bobbing on the surface chatting briefly before we descended -- which is usually unheard of at Big Sur due to current (and pretty much on all of our recent dives due to swell or current).

Unfortunately the epic viz from just a week or so ago was no longer. On the way down, it was quite green, though once we got down to the bottom the viz was good. But it was pretty dark due to that big layer of green above us. There was also a bit of surge at the bottom, coming through every now and then. I guess even though it was pretty calm on the surface, it was a really long period and so it reached very deep? I don't know, it didn't really make sense to me that there was so much water movement down there, considering how calm it was on the surface! There was the usual assortment of insane amounts of big bushy hydrocoral, yay, and tons of blue rockfish. I got my hero cam out and got some video. Kevin had brought his video reflector for me to borrow (which doesn't exactly fit my lighthead, but I was pretty happy with the results anyway), so I was playing around with that. Rob was taking pictures, and I just tried to stay out of the way. I figured Kevin could play the model. When we first got down to the pinnacle, the school of rockfish was pretty high off of it, but eventually a bunch of them came down to play. I thought there were a couple hundred fish when I looked up at the school during the dive, but after reviewing the video, I realized just how big that school was! It was pretty insane.

In addition to the gigantor hydrocoral and gigantor school of rockfish, there were some juvenile yelloweyes (one of which I even managed to capture on camera), and a nice big mass of lingcod eggs, with a fairly scrawny lingcod zooming around ferociously (okay not really) nearby. Eventually he plopped down to guard the eggs and tried to intimidate us, which was very cute. Near the end of the dive, we all sort of ended up in the same area and I could see all of the teams (interspersed among the rockfish!). That's when I realized that the viz was really quite good, despite being a bit dark. I posed for a few pics (after ditching the video reflector, which was sort of a handful once it was on my lighthead). Eventually the other teams sort of disappeared and before you know it, it was time to go. I told Kevin to shoot the bag, since I was feeling lazy, so he told me to run deco (my favorite!).

Deco was fairly uneventful. There were lots of weird jelly creatures and other little deco critters. We amused ourselves by watching them and generally chit-chatting. The deco seemed to go by fairly quickly, which was probably helped by the warmth of the green layer! We got to the surface and once again I couldn't believe how calm it was. I actually commented to the boys while we were waiting for the boat that I couldn't believe the conditions (and in the winter!). It was totally flat and we could see forever on the surface! Once we got back on the boat, the discussion turned to a second dive. We headed toward Lobos Rocks to check it out, even though we figured it would be pretty surgy. When we got there, I took a look and decided it looked a bit rough so I wasn't going to dive. Then as the guys were getting geared up, I took another look at all of the sea lions in the water, and changed my mind. So Rob and Kevin sat there all geared up while I got my drysuit back on (well, the top part anyway), and got my hood and gloves and weight belt on, and then got into my gear. Hehehe.

We were live boating it because of something about wind and the boat and the rocks. We were dropped in the water south of the west pinnacle and told to head west of the west pinnacle before shooting a bag. We scootered on the surface toward the rock and then dropped once we were a bit closer. We started out on the south side of that pinnacle, playing in the surge with the green anemones and ochre stars. After doing that for a while, I suggested we head to the east side of the pinnacle, to look for sea lions in the channel between the two pinnacles. We got over there, and viz was quite a bit worse. Just as we were about to give up on sea lions, some appeared, but they weren't at all interested in being caught on camera :) We headed back south and hopped over to the pinnacle just south across the sand channel at the foot of the west pinnacle. Then we circled around to the west side of the pinnacle, where there are metridium, and a bunch of blue rockfish appeared. We also had the occasional sea lion buzz, and I managed to get like 4 seconds of footage of one of them buzzing by. Well, better than nothing! When it was time to call it, we scootered to the west and eventually Rob put a bag up. At 10 feet, we looked up and it looked a bit rough, so we got back on the trigger for another minute or so before surfacing. Then we scootered a bit more on the surface while waiting to be picked up... that surf is kind of scary!

We had a nice calm ride back to K-dock, though we could tell that conditions had deteriorated a bit since the morning. I think I could get used to this storms during the week and calm seas during the weekend :)

All of the day's pictures are here.

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