It's about diving. And cats.

Me diving

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Gran Sabana

After a week off from diving, due to hideous ocean conditions, we were greeted by a forecast for more hideous ocean conditions. We were supposed to do a deep dive on Saturday, but the forecast was looking so bad that we called it on Friday afternoon. However, since the forecast for the whole weekend was a bit iffy, I guess basically everyone on Jim's Sunday charter cancelled. So we decided to go out on Sunday instead, and changed our gas plan in case we ended up in the bay. By Saturday afternoon, the forecast looked better, but I took a whole Bonine on Saturday night just in case :) Rob was very sleepy on the drive down, so I had to drive halfway. I was feeling pretty sleepy myself. We got to K-dock and by the time I had walked my doubles down to the boat, it seemed like the crew had moved all of my bottles and scooter down. Sweet! Once everyone else arrived and the boat was loaded, we headed out. We made it around Point Pinos without much trouble. From there, there was the occasion big (impressive) swell rolling through, but the wind didn't seem bad at all. However, the waves breaking on shore were pretty impressive looking.

Since it had been raining a lot for the past, well, forever, we were worried the viz would be crap from all of the runoff from Carmel River. The previous weekend, Rob, John and Clinton enjoyed a two minute dive in 2 foot viz at Lobos. So once Yankee Point was in sight, we decided the further south we could get, the better. Beto suggested Gran Sabana, which is a site we had been to once, about two years ago. We went there before we took T2, so it was a T1 dive. I remember looking down the pinnacle wishing I could go to the bottom :) There is a main pinnacle that has a plateau around 150 feet, and a peak that comes up to 130 or so. Then there is a little side pinnacle that tops out at 160 or 170 feet, with a bottom around 200 feet. When we got to the site, the water looked a bit green, but reasonably clear. Not brown anyway. There was some muttering about current, but once we got into the water, it did not materialize. At least not on the surface. It took me forever to get down to the bottom due to some ear trouble, and when we finally got down to the pinnacle, there was a bit of current. The viz was pretty good -- I'd call it about 40 feet. We scooted around the main pinnacle and headed across the sand to the little side pinnacle. Shortly after getting there, Rob pointed out a basket star. I decided that was video worthy, and pulled my hero cam out (the crappy pics in this post are screen caps from the hero cam; the other pics are Rob's). Beto had loaned me a video reflector, so I also popped that onto my light. The screw on my reflector was a bit sticky so it took a while to get it loose, and then when it finally came off, I was left staring at the bulb and temporarily blinded. Doh! After recovering from that, I got some video of the basket star, and a small lingcod nearby.

We continued along the bottom of the little side pinnacle. Along the sand there, we saw lots of sea pens, but they were the tall spindly ones (not the fluffy orange ones that I like). Eventually Rob signaled me and was circling his light around something on the sand, between a couple of sea pens. I went over to take a look and it was a Tritonia diomedea -- yay! Kevin had found it -- can you believe that!?! I have only seen that slug once before, and never around here. So I was quite delighted. I got some video of it. I didn't realize it at the time, but in the video footage, that slug is really moving! After oohing and ahhing about that for a few minutes, we continued on, and next Rob was signaling me to look at a fluffy orange sea pen. Yay! I tried to get some video of that, but was denied by the hero cam red disease. That is what I have named the hero cam's propensity to sometimes got totally nuts with its auto white balance and leave the footage all red and completely unusable. Rob got some pics of Kevin posing behind the sea pen. As he was shooting, Rob's light died. Hmph. And we even just burn tested all of our batteries in all of our lights! From there, we we worked our way up the pinnacle a bit, and I found a nice nook with a big starry rockfish. There was also a little school of blues near the top. I posed for a few pictures near the top of that pinnacle, and then Rob pointed out a juvenile yelloweye hanging out in an elephant ear sponge. So cute.

After that, we wanted to head shallower, since we had planned a multi-level profile. So we headed back to the main pinnacle, and played around there. We ran into both of the other teams not long after that. I found a couple of Aldisa cooperi perched atop a red sponge, as if they were thinking of mating. No egg ribbon to be seen though. After doodling around there, we eventually headed back right next to the line. Rob wanted to get a shot of me up on the shallow part of the structure, but every time I positioned myself, I would get whisked away by the current. So there was a lot of scootering back around to reposition :) When he was finished with that, we decided to scoot back around the top of the pinnacle, and then it was time to start the ascent. Kevin put the bag up while Rob was stowing his camera, and we started to drift. The viz was pretty good, even on deco, until we got to 20' and it deteriorated a bit. But still it was not too bad. Once we got to 20', a cormorant appeared and was flapping around below us. It was rather amusing. Other than that, deco was pretty uneventful. My feet were really cold. I swear, the water was like 2 degrees warmer at 18 feet than at 20 feet :) When we surfaced, it was quite sunny and still nice and calm. Phew. After collecting the other teams, we headed home. We came across a huge pod of Risso dolphins on the way home, not too far from Cypress Point. They were everywhere! After enjoying the dolphin siting, we headed in.

The crashing waves at Point Pinos were huge. And there was the occasional huge swell coming through, but all in all, it was not too bad at all. It probably didn't rate a whole Bonine. That left me totally zonked in the afternoon (I started taking a half Bonine to avoid the zonkage, so I really shouldn't have been surprised!). In fact, we were both so sleepy on the way home that we had to stop for a nap at Prunedale, and ended up late to John's birthday party that evening! Here's a picture of one of his kitties from the party. His name is Pepper -- can you believe John had the nerve to name one of his cats Pepper!?! But it is a fitting name, since his Pepper is the slinky, social, devilish one of his two cats, just like our Pepper.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Almost Rec 3 Diving

On Sunday we had a tech boat planned. Beto was organizing it and he had planned to do two light tech dives at sites that allowed for multilevel dives. The idea was to do relatively short bottom times in the 120 to 130 foot range and then work up a pinnacle and once on the deco bottle do another 15 or so minutes in the 60 to 70' range before continuing up. The inspiration for this was to explore some sites that would be appropriate for divers who had taken GUE Rec 3. I thought this sounded fun but originally thought I had to video Fundies for Rob and Susan. I was excused in the end because Matt agreed to do it (thanks Matt!) so I hopped on the boat. I invited myself along with Clinton and he obliged. So all of today's photos are courtesy of Clinton. In the end we only had 4 people due to last minute cancellations (no one ever plans in advance to fall off of a ladder). The forecast looked not great during the week then it got better. In the end, there were quite large but long period swells. On the way down to Carmel we found ourselves looking at some pretty huge mountains of water heading our way. Due to the big swell we all agreed that a site near shore would not be ideal for a variety of reasons. We also were concerned with conditions deteriorating so we thought that one longer tech dive made sense, rather than the original plan of two shorter dives. We could always scurry back to the bay and do a second rec dive in there.

We settled on Flintstones. I haven't been there in ages and I think I have only ever done one tech dive there (in the dark period where I still did kick dives). I asked Clinton to lead since I know he knows Flintstones really well. In exchange I offered to both shoot the bag and run deco (unheard of in GUE circles, I know, but I never understood what was so hard about running a spool and keeping track of time all at the same time). We got to Flintstones and the downline was dropped really quickly, it seemed. The crew reported there was not much current, yay! We got geared up (one bottle , nice) and hopped in. We drifted a bit from the ball as we deployed but we all had scooters and made it to the ball without a problem. The line was pretty vertical in the top 50' or so and then laid over below that. From about 40' I could see the reef below. Or that is where I first noticed it. I probably could have seen it sooner. We got to the bottom at 80 to 90' and there wasn't much relief. I would describe it as a bump that we were on. Very gentle slope. Definitely not the main Flintstones pinnacle. Beto and Clinton were both looking around and shrugging like "where are we?". I figured we could wander around and find something to see -- that whole area is so covered in reef; even the unnamed stuff is pretty. Clinton obviously had the same idea and pointed in a direction to go. I looked back and saw that Beto and Jim weren't following and figured they liked a different direction. In less than a minute we started to see metridium here and there and then we saw the recognizable metridium wall. Nice work, Clinton. Turns out he actually had a reason to pick the direction we went (west).

From there, we headed down the big crack, and once we popped out of the end of that, we skirted the edge of the pinnacle. The viz was very good, at least 50 feet I would say, and the water was cold (46 degrees on my gauge). There was a sand channel to our left, and Clinton started to meander across that. There was a line running along the bottom parallel to and just off of a little reef ridge that was across the sand channel. I was looking at the line, somewhat transfixed by it, looking back and forth up and down it, when Clinton signaled me and pointed out a big ratfish like 2 feet from the line. Doh! That was really cool. In addition to being pretty big, it was a very pretty specimen. It seemed like its spots were extra bright, but maybe that's just because it was big. Clinton starting snapping pictures, and the ratfish was very tolerant of it. He hung out forever while we swam around looking at it, and Clinton taking pictures. I wanted to sneak into the frame to have my picture taken with the fish, but decided that if I spooked him, Clinton might not be too pleased with me :)

The ratfish was sort of on the deeper side of our planned dive profile, so we headed up shallower once we were done with that. We ended up back in the crack, where I posed for some pictures. It was surgy here, but there were lulls. We spent the rest of the dive fairly shallow, so that we ended up averaging quite a bit shallower than planned, despite our deep foray to the ratfish. The plan had been a 40 minute bottom time, and a few minutes before that, I suggested we do one last scoot around the pinnacle. We didn't make it the whole way around, when Clinton thumbed it, on gas I think, since it was still a couple minutes early. By that point we were at about 80 feet, so we just headed up to 70 feet and went onto our bottles. Then we hung out on the peak during our 70 foot stop. It was rather surgy. Again, coming through in sets, but it would every now and then get super surgy, and just of of the pinnacle, there was a lot of up and down movement. We were mostly just hanging off of the pinnacle facing it, not really doing much. At some point I made my best attempt at singing "Ratfish Rule" to Clinton, since it was in my head. I'm not sure that my hand signals quite translated to singing the song, but he did realize I was talking about the ratfish, and pulled his camera out and started scrolling through the pictures he had taken. I swam around to peer at them over his shoulder, and then realized how idiotic it was that we were at the top of Flintstones, in great viz, looking at pictures from the dive, instead of enjoying the dive :) So I told Clinton to stop looking at his camera and enjoy the scenery.

We stayed on the pinnacle through our 70 foot and 60 foot stops. Then when we got to 50 feet, even though we were sort of still on the pinnacle (what little of it was left), I shot the bag. Before we even started deco, I was thinking that inflating a bag was going to be impossible, because I was pretty cold. I gave it a try, and indeed, after exhaling pretty much all of the breath that I had, there was not a bit of gas in the bag. Not even enough to make it stand up a little. Usually in this situation, I pass the bag to Rob and let him deal with inflating it. I didn't think Clinton would be very amused by that, though, so I pulled my cheater hose (oops, did I just admit I dive with a cheater hose?) and inflated it forthwith. I have never used the hose to inflate a small bag before. It's so quick! But so lame. The bag got a little folded over on itself and caught on my chest D-ring or something, so I am sure it was comical to watch the whole thing. And to add to that, we were in the extreme up and down surge right off of the pinnacle as this all happened. I was just thinking "Clinton had better not tell Rob about this!". I was also thinking that this is one of the reasons I like diving with Clinton... he doesn't care if my trim is crappy or I look like a monkey humping a football when I shoot a bag :)

The deco was pretty uneventful. I did in fact manage to spool a bag and keep track of time all on the same dive. As we were drifting along at 30 feet, we drifted over a big school of blue rockfish that were on some structure below us. Not sure what it was -- our best guess is PTP. It was pretty cool, though, because the fish seemed to come out of nowhere (though I suspect it was more like we came out of nowhere and they were always there). Around 20 feet, some sea nettles started to appear, but just a few. It was also a bit warmer by this point -- 48 on my gauge. I was a bit worried that the 6 minute ascent would be barf-inducing, but it turned out to be fine. When we got to the surface, the boat was right there, and I saw Beto hanging over the side looking at us. I was a bit surprised by that. We got back on the boat without much trouble, and then found out that they had not found the pinnacle, so they had thumbed the dive up the line after a little searching. So they got back in for a dive once we were back on the boat. We tried to describe (not very well) where the ratfish was so they could try to find him. Then we hung out on the boat while they did a dive. Least efficient 4-man tech trip ever :)

While they were in the water, we saw a couple of whales and more whale spouts. On the drive home, we saw a gazillion more whale spouts. We also saw a few dolphins -- Dall's porpoises, or tuxedo dolphins as I like to call them (an homage to my little darling Pepper). We also did a drive-by of one of the sites that we had been hoping to check out today. After we got back to K-dock, Clinton and I headed to Turtle Bay for lunch. It's been a while since I've been there.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Cave 2 Report

Last week, Rob and I took a slightly stealthy trip to Florida to take Cave 2 with David Rhea, but not as stealthy as the ultimate stealth trip for Cave 1. This was to be (I hoped) my last GUE class ever! Since we couldn't talk Ted into taking the class with us (super lame), David found a kick-ass third team member for us, Antonio. We didn't know him, but we bumped into him at EE in December. He noticed our names on some gear and put two and two together, so we knew right off the bat that he had excellent situational awareness :) The rest of this is day by day. I did a horrible job of taking pictures during class, so prepare yourself for disappointment in that area!

Ah, what are relief to be finished. I was just telling Rob at the gym today that I am never practicing another breath hold swim again. Actually I immediately back-pedaled on that and said "well maybe someday, but not because you tell me to" :)

Thanks to David and Antonio for a great class. We couldn't have chosen a better third team member ourselves. And now we have a buddy in south Florida to go wreck diving with sometime! I have said many times how happy I am to be finished with GUE classes "forever", and I think I went out on a high note. I definitely had some jitters about the class because I didn't want to look like an idiot, but the diving in the class was actually quite fun! The "stress" of the failures and scenarios really didn't spoil that at all for me.

And of course, thanks to the guys at EE and Edd's for all of their help.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Drysuit Diatribe: Recap and References

This is the final post in the series on drysuits. It's a bit delayed because I have been traveling (and though they can put a man on the moon, I can't figure out how to post a blog from my iPhone). More details on the trip soon :)

I'm including below links to each of the posts in this series and links to the companies and products I've referred to. Also, there are a few references and other interesting resources.


Company Links
Here are links to the various companies referred to (in order of reference), with a reminder of why I referenced them.

DUI (drysuits, undergarments, all things drysuit-related)
Diving Concepts (drysuits, undergarments, dry gloves)
BARE (drysuits, undergarments)
Anywater Sports (drysuit dealer, measurements)
Extreme Exposure (drysuit dealer, measurements)
Superior Drysuit Repair (drysuit repair and alterations)
Gamble SCUBA (drysuit repair)
SI TECH (exhaust valves)
Apeks (exhaust valves)
Halcyon (p-valves, pockets)
Santi (undergarments)
Fourth Element (base layer)
REI (smart wool socks)
Waterproof (wet gloves)