It's about diving. And cats.

Me diving

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.

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