It's about diving. And cats.

Me diving

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Solstice Night Dive

After our dud of a dive on Sunday, I thought it would be good to schedule some sort of dive during the week -- Rob would be teaching the next weekend and then we were dry for the next week or two due to travel and a family visit. So it was either a weekday dive or 3 weeks of grumpiness from Rob. When Clinton asked if we wanted to do a night dive on Tuesday, I thought this sounded like a good option. I guess Vanessa wanted to do a night dive, so Clinton rounded up the usual suspects, including Mike and Sami. We decided to meet a bit later than usual, since sunset was not until 8:30. Whose idea was it to do a night dive on the longest day of the year anyway!?! We got into the water around 9. The water was super flat, and the viz looked great on the swim out. The squid boats were out in full force in the distance (toward the mouth of the bay).

Rob and I were diving as a team, but we swam out with Mike and Sami on the surface. We dropped maybe 30 feet from each other, but that was the last we saw of them. The viz on the bottom was not as good as expected based on the swim out -- it was kind of milky. But I wouldn't describe it as bad viz. We dropped in about 30 feet, right near the area where it pretty abruptly slopes down from 20 to 30 feet. There was a field of kelp salad where we were, and we meandered about looking for critters. Almost immediately we saw a photogenic turbot, and Rob started to get his camera out, which of course led the fish to swim away. Clinton saw some nice slugs at Breakwater on Sunday, so I was in a sluggy mood. I was looking and not finding much but Hermissendas. I happened upon a Dendronotus iris as I was checking out some crabs in a neat position on a tube worm. I was waiting for Rob to finish shooting whatever he was shooting to show the crabs to him, when he signaled me and seemed like he must have something interesting. I swam over and saw him pointing to an Acanthodoris rhodoceras! I've only seen this slug twice, both times on dives without Rob, so I wasn't sure if he had ever seen it. I was very excited by this found (and felt even lamer that all I had found so far was a few Hermissendas and a rainbow nudibranch!).

We just worked our way around this area for the whole dive, and we ended up seeing quite a few more of the A. rhodoceras -- I counted 5 total, yay! We also saw the usual array of octopus, though an unusually high portion of them were "big". I think I only saw 3 of the TPOs but at least half a dozen of the medium to big sized ones. Eventually it got to the point where I would point out an octo to Rob and he wouldn't bother taking pics :) My one other good slug find of the night was a little orange Triopha maculata. I haven't seen one of those in a while. I just now noticed that Rob must not have gotten a good-enough-to-post picture of that, hmph. Aside from those, I think the coolest thing of the night was that we saw lots of little fish in general, and lots of fish feeding. I saw three different small fish with another small fish in each of their mouths. And let me say, those other fish weren't necessarily going to go quietly. One of the fish had a sand-dab in its mouth, which was flapping its tail around. Another one had something small and goby-shaped (though I don't know what it was) that was having a hissy fit trying to get out of the fishes mouth -- can you blame him? Both of the fish were really flailing all around, the one trying to keep his catch and the other trying to get away. In the end, dinner managed to get away, phew. There were also just a lot of cute fish including like the smallest kelpfish ever, which Rob found kind of curled up in a little ball of eelgrass weeds. And there were a few cute little fishies which I thought were juvenile cabezons, plus the usual array of cute little sculpins.

I suggested we head in with about 1200 psi left, since you never know what you are going to find on the way in, and don't want to miss an epic photo opp because you are low on gas. We made it to 15 feet and I was starting to think that was folly, because we were in the bland boring part of the sand and hadn't found anything on the way in. Then Rob found the third fish-eating-fish of the night; a juvenile lingcod had a tiny fish-tail hanging out of its mouth. Rob went right to work taking pics of it, and was engaged in a photo shoot for maybe 10 minutes. The fish wasn't scared off by our lights or Rob's strobes, though he was moving around in the water column, which led to an amusing amount of flailing, breaking trim, etc. on Rob's part in order to keep with the fish. I was actually getting pretty bored by the time he finished with the fish, but based on the pics, I think it was worth the wait! We surfaced from there and were maybe 50 feet from Clinton and Vanessa, who were swimming in. So we caught up with them and swam in together. They saw a squid on their dive (eating a shrimp!) plus an octopus eating a crab. Lucky them. But no Acanthadoris's for them. As we swam in, there was a squid boat that had moved into the bay and was not too far from the breakwater (well not too close either, but it was probably due north of the breakwater as opposed to further out where they had been). The bright lights and the fog were kind of eery.

Considering the late start, we decided to pack up gear and hit the road. On the way home, we stopped for a McFlurry. I'm a fan of the new Rolo McFlurry. Mmm, chocolate and caramel are the best. We managed to get home at a not-horrendously-late 1 AM.

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