It's about diving. And cats.

Me diving

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Breaking the Curse

Matt had reserved Phil again for Saturday, and after our failed attempt to dive the Mt. Chamberlin SW loop two weeks earlier, we decided to give it a try again. Rob made the helpful suggestion that I bring a working regulator this time :) Unfortunately he did not remind me to bring a mask, so when I was pulling my gear out of our gear bag, I found that my mask was left in my other set of fins (which I wear with my other suit, which I wore the previously weekend). Hmph. Luckily my backup mask is now a mask that I actually like (my old primary mask), so I just used that. The weather forecast seemed eerily similar to the previous trip, with the wind forecast to get big in the afternoon. But once again it looked good when we showed up in the morning. We managed to get the trailer in the water without it falling off the ramp this time, so that was a good start. Still, I felt like this site (and possibly all of the deep diving I have done lately) was cursed. As we pulled up to the site, I told the guys that if any gear failed on this dive, I was done diving this site for good. Which in hindsight was a pretty foolish thing to say, considering how much gear was on the dive, and thus the high likelihood of *something* failing. Surface conditions were pretty good, but bouncy enough that as we got geared up, I was starting to feel pretty queasy. At some point as we were doing the gear-up shuffle, Phil asked me "how I was doing". I told him "oooooh, I think I could use a bucket". Matt concurred. In hindsight, I guess Phil was probably asking me if I was ready for him to pin some bottles to me.

There was a bit of current, so I let the guys roll in first, so Phil could give them their scooters and Rob's camera, and then I rolled in and he handed me my scooter. We stopped at 20 feet, for bubble checks and ear clearing. Unlike our last attempted dive here the water was clear and blue. Woohoo. After our pause at 20 feet, we headed down the line, and I did a pretty good job of making it down at a reasonable pace. The viz was good all the way down, but oh my was it cold on the bottom (I had 46 degrees). When we got to the reef, and started going, I confirmed what I suspected based on the circle-circle-drop anchor on the surface -- we were anchored on a different spot than we usually do. So, for instance, I did not have my bearings well enough to know where the purple sea fan was. After a minute or two on the trigger, Rob found deeper water. We ended up scootering across a sandy bottom with some rubbliness at just about 250'. And Rob scootered right over a crinoid! I was shocked, and signaled him to come back and take a look. While he was getting his camera out, I saw another one on a nearby rock, and also a basket star. Yay! I was trying to get some hero-cam footage of the first crinoid when Rob very rudely swooped in with his camera and nudged me out of the way. So it was good that there were two crinoids, since apparently this one wasn't for sharing.

We got going again and maybe a minute or two later, we hit the wall, and by the time I got there (I was in the back, I guess) the boys were gawking at something on the bottom, below them, in a sort of vertical nook. I looked down to see a very encrusted anchor of some sort. It was a weird looking anchor and it had obviously been down a long time. I could totally see how the anchor could have been stuck into that little nook that it was at the bottom of. The anchor was a bit on the deep side, so we didn't get to spend too much time looking at it. But Rob got some pics and then we headed a bit shallower and continued along the wall, which is impressively vertical in that area. The viz was so good, we could look off of the wall and see the sand just going and going. Eventually we came around the southwest corner and Rob suggested we headed out over the sand to the "south south wall". I love to go over there when the viz is good, but we usually do it when we are diving the south wall (on 18/45). So I've never been over there with deeper gas, to give us the option of checking out the deeper (west) end. Also, we usually are approaching it from the center of the south wall, so we haven't even been to the shallower parts of the west end.

For some reason I have this idea that the south south wall is even more beautiful than the usual spots on Mt. Chamberlin. I think it's because we generally only go there when the viz is really good, so nearly every memory of it involves clear, bright blue water. Today was no different. We hit the northwest end and stopped to look around. We saw a couple of juvenile yelloweyes when we first got there. Rob snapped a couple of pictures and then suggested going around the back (south) of the ridge. Strangely, we'd never thought to go to that side before :P We ended up finding this absolutely awesome wall, that was so vertical it was maybe a bit overhanging at the bottom. And it was super covered with life. While the deeper spots of Mt. Chamberlin are always full of interesting critters, I've always thought the shallower areas are a bit better covered overall. This wall is clearly an exception -- the wall runs from probably about 160 feet to 220 feet, and is absolutely covered with corynactis, and all different colored sponges. I love the picture Rob got of Matt and me hanging beside the wall. We look so tiny next to the big wall!

After that, we continued east along the wall and at some point I suggested we hop over the top of it. I totally underestimated how high the top came, though, as it took surprisingly long to get to the top and then over it. Right as we came over the top, we found a little peak with a nice school of blue rockfish, and we paused there so Rob could get some pics (and we some video footage). Then we headed back over the sand to the south wall. We were scootering probably 30 feet off of the sand and could see forever in all directions. When we got back to the reef, we switched onto our first deco bottle, and continued up the canyon to K2. On our last dive here, I was impressed with Rob's navigation to K2 in the green murky viz. But after this dive, I told him even I could have found K2 in this viz! When we got to K2, we did a GPO check in the crack, but of course there was none. We worked our way up K2, and I was thinking we could stay on the pinnacle until after we switched onto our 70' bottles. But as we came up, it became apparent there was oh, a wee bit of current. At 80' we agreed to put up the bag and start to drift, and basically as soon as we decided not to actively stay on the pinnacle, we basically flew off of it. But after a couple of stops, the current calmed down. The water also warmed up, and it was a toasty 51 degrees by the time we got to 20'. My bottle rotation went pretty smoothly for once, because I just kept telling myself not to drop my head while I was doing it. I told Rob that after the dive, and he basically gave me a big DUH for that :P

Deco was pretty uneventful. There weren't as many jelly critters in the water, but we saw some of the usuals. And also found a neat tiny shrimp floating along in the water. When we got to the surface, conditions were still fine. After I handed off two of my bottles and my scooter to Phil, I noticed that I was feeling a little heavy in the water. I reached back to feel my wing, and it was flaccid on the bottom. Hmph. Not that again. I just kept my reg in my mouth and was sort of treading water to keep my head comfortably out of the water. After a minute or so, I decided that this was not sustainable and, having drifted a little bit away from the boat, I told Phil I needed "a little help" and asked him to send Matt over. Matt came over and futzed with my OPV until it agreed to hold a seal again. Then he helped me out of my gear, in case my wing decided to vent itself in the process (it would be a bummer to lose my entire rig to the abyss -- I really love my 120s and they are hard to find these days :P). Once we got the rig back into the boat, Phil pointed out that the wing was still not holding as much gas as it should and probably had a weak spring in the OPV. But since the problem happened on the surface after the dive was complete, I'm not going to count it against my vow to never dive MC again if I had any gear failures. Loopholes :)

After getting back to Lobos and cleaning up, we headed to RG (again) for lunch.

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