It's about diving. And cats.

Me diving

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Sur 20

There were tech boats scheduled for Saturday and Sunday this weekend. I was diving Sunday, and Rob was on both boats. The Sunday boat was originally slated to be a 15/55 trip, but early in the week, Jim told the organizer that the forecast was looking really stellar and making it to Big Sur was a real possibility. So we voted or something and it was agreed that we would switch it to 18/45, so we could try to get down there. As the weekend arrived, the forecast looked good for both days, but extra super good on Saturday. Hmph. Anyway, Rob called me Saturday afternoon to tell me that (a) they made it to Big Sur Banks (Sur 19 to be precise) and (b) he was horribly sick for basically the entire trip back, despite the dead calm water -- so sick that Ted had to drive him home (luckily they carpooled, so there was no car-ditching required). But the report from the day's diving was dead calm seas, raging current (especially on the bottom), good viz, and blue whales on the trip home. Rob ended up punting on Sunday, and it was just me and Kevin. On the ride out, I pointed out that without Rob, our team lacked leadership. How would we know which way to go? I suggested that once the site choice was finalized, we call Rob so he could plan our dive for us :)

Quite a while later, we were almost to Point Sur, and debating whether to go to Midway, Sur 19, or Sur 20. The viz the day before was reported to be good, so I decided it was time to give Sur 20 another try -- seems like the couple of times I have been there, the viz has been pretty bad, so I have a preference for Sur 19. So eventually we settled on Sur 20. In the end, I somehow drew the short straw and ended up leading to dive (and deco, but I like that). There was some bizarre new experimental plan for deploying the divers. I thought it sounded bizarre and rather unpleasant. In an effort to deploy all of the teams at the same time, the first teams got in the water and waited on a current line for the final team, then we would all let go of the current line and drift to the downline (which had been set in advance, before the boat was anchored). I didn't think hanging on a current line in a stiff current sounded too pleasant. So even though Kevin and I were geared up and ready to deploy first, I pulled the "oh, after you" with Beto, Sue, and Jim's team, since (for once) I was actually quite comfy sitting on the bench waiting to deploy. The seas were really calm, but apparently the day before had been even flatter! So we got in second, and after I popped up from my jump in, I had to swim like hell to make it back to the boat to get my scooter. Not a good sign. I couldn't manage to hold onto the line with any force while clipping on my scooter, so I found myself just getting dragged along toward the end of the current line (I had my elbow hooked around the line, so I could use my hand to clip my scooter). I quickly saw the ball at the end of the line approaching, with Susan holding on for dear life, and decided that I had to let go, or I was going to end up dragging her off the end of the line with me. So I let go, clipped my scooter forthwith, and got on the trigger. I was making slow progress back toward the line, which, I supposed, was all that really mattered. Before I managed to get back to the line, we were instructed, as the final team deployed, that we could let go and head to the downline. So, remember that part about "drifting" to the downline. Due to some sort of current miscalculation, the current line was actually down-current of the downline. Doh!

I was struggling to make headway on my itty bitty scooter in the big bad current. I found that if I was on the highest speed plus gave the occasional little kick, I was making forward progress. Just barely. Kevin (with his Cuda) looked concerned and hung back for me to catch up. Once I caught up to him, I grabbed his elbow, and we scootered along basically holding hands. Teehee. Eventually I decided to grab his manifold instead, so that was a little easier to grip. We made it to the ball and then had to wait for everyone else to materialize, scootering at top speed to stay with it. Beto eventually signaled his team to descend, so we descended as well. The current was reasonably bad in the top twenty or so feet, but by the time we cleared fifty feet, it was noticably less. Two other things happened around 50 feet... we passed Beto and Susan who had halted their descent, and the lights came on, as we cleared the slightly mucky layer and were suddenly greeted but much clearer, bluer water. Not that the viz was terrible in the top layer, but it was significantly better below. I'm terrible at judging viz, but I'd guess it was 50 or 60 feet on the bottom. It was pretty good -- definitely the best viz I've ever had at Sur 20.

We got to the bottom and agreed to hang out near the downline for the other teams to arrive. Actually we agreed to wait there for 5 minutes. Five minutes came and went, and there were still no other teams. This was not much of an imposition though, since the downline was set along the crack in the center of the pinnacle, and the top of the side that we were on (the south side) was probably the nicest part of the pinnacle, hydrocoral-wise. As we approached 10 minutes, I wondered what we should do. Considering the rather stressful deployment, if we surfaced and had to re-deploy, I didn't think I would have the gas for a reasonable dive. So I figured if no one appeared, we could just do an abbreviated dive, and the others could dive in a second shift. At around 12 or so minutes, Beto and Sue appeared, but without Jim. Weird. I later found out that his scooter was not up to the task of getting him to the downline. Anyhoo, once we saw them, we headed off and initially did a big circle around the whole pinnacle, just to have a little tour and see what was where. As we came around the northeast side, we were greeted by a giant school of blue rockfish. I don't know where they were when we started the dive... maybe I just couldn't see them because I was on the south side of the crack, but it was like we went from having hardly any fish at all to this giant swarm of them. I've included a crappy hero cam screen capture so you can get an idea of the fishiness. That was really cool. We enjoyed the view there for a bit, and then Kevin found a neat little arch/swimthrough at the bottom of the pinnacle, and of course he had to go through it :)

At some point at least 20 minutes into the dive, we were scootering around and passed Dionna and Mark. I guess they had some current-related snafu that caused them to get there late. But at the time, I was wondering if they had been there all along and I had just not noticed them :) Anyhoo, we eventually headed back to around where we started, and spent most of the rest of the dive just looking at the hydrocoral. We also found a nice big egg yolk jelly, quite a few big lingcods, and a few of those little juvenile yelloweyes (no adults though :( ). And more hydrocoral. Now that I've seen Sur 20 in good viz, I think it has more interesting structure than Sur 19, but Sur 19 has better hydrocoral. There's lots of hydrocoral at Sur 20, but not as many really big impressive bushes.

Eventually it was time to go, and after making sure we were down current of the down line, Kevin shot a bag and we were off. Starting from around 70 feet, there were a bunch of jellyfish, of the random, medium-sized, anonymous variety (meaning I don't know what they are called :P). At one point we also saw a weird floating thing that I've seen once before, and have no idea what it is. This time, it appeared just as we were about to move up a stop, so I decided to bring it with us. Well, encourage it to come with us by flapping my hand upward under it. I hope that doesn't make me a bad person. Anyway, in the process of this flapping, I touched it, and it didn't feel at all like I was expecting -- I thought it would be squishy but it was rigid! I have included a grainy hero cam picture of it. I'd love to know what it is. Just above 40 feet there was a very clear line where the murk began. I knew it was going to be warm in the murk -- Rob told me it had been 59 or 60 degrees in the shallows the day before. The entire 40 foot stop I kept reaching my arms above me because I could feel the warmth up there! Indeed, once we got to 30 feet, it was toasty warm! It was so warm, I decided to push our 20 foot stop a bit. And I'm totally not a deco pusher usually (unlike Rob and Kevin).

We were the first team to surface, and I commented on how nice and unusual it was to get back on the boat in such calm seas. We retrieved the other teams, and went back to pick up the anchor and the ball. I guess they had trouble retrieving both, but when we went back for them, it was not a problem at all. As we were about to leave the area, I saw a whale in the distance. Everyone else missed it. I was accused of imagining it. After describing it to Susan, she thought it was a Minke whale. I'd never seen one of those before, but I thought it looked like a dolphin fin, but then there was a really long back, that was clearly a whale. Now that I've done a bit of web research, I think Susan was right. So woohoo, I've seen a Minke whale now :) On the way home we did a little more targeted whale watching and saw at least one (maybe two) blues, and several humpbacks. I was excited to see a blue whale, which is what I really wanted to see, but I wouldn't call it a super awesome blue whale encounter. It sounded like they had much better encounters the day before :(

We finally got back to the dock around 4, so I headed straight home.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Rob's Birthday Dive

We managed to not have any dive plans on the weekend adjacent to Rob's birthday, I think because of a combination of generally being busy and pondering some sort of travel. So fairly last minute I tried to put together some diving for the weekend, and Kevin suggested seeing if Jim was available for some Friday diving. The swell and wind forecast were looking good leading up to Friday, though Jim reported insane fog throughout the week. When we showed up on Friday morning, the fog situation looked good, so we headed out. The water was actually a bit rougher than I expected. We motored past the Lunaticos area to see how things were looking once we got around Lobos. We gave up on diving Yankee Point and were offered a site near Lobos or Lunaticos. We decided to head back to Lunaticos. By the time we got there, I was quite seasick. I had skipped the Bonine because of the forecast (and I didn't want to feel drugged on the drive home for no reason). We decided to just dive as a team of 4, with our standard 200/150 profile.

As soon as I jumped in, I could see that the water was brown and the viz was crap. As we headed down the line, the crappy viz did not relent, and all of a sudden, the reef was there. I had to put on the breaks (that is, jank on my inflator) pretty quickly because by the time I could see it, I was quite close to it. Rob was leading and I was #2. He signaled to head in a particular direction, but I guess Jim and Kevin weren't quite ready to go. But Rob took off anyway, and then I was left trying to keep him in sight while waiting for the rest of the team. I briefly thought that I lost him, until Jim or Kevin pointed out a tiny beam of light coming from below us (of course). In the first five minutes of the dive, I lost Rob a second time. The viz was less than 10 feet, there were big particles swimming around in the water, and I was feeling horribly seasick. Trying to keep the team together was just too much for me, and the thought of losing the team and being left alone was stressing me out. I told Rob that I was feeling bad, and I think I somehow conveyed the fact that I was having trouble keeping track of everyone. Or maybe I didn't convey that and he just knew. In any case, he asked if I wanted to split up into two teams of two, and I agreed. We proposed this to Jim and Kevin, who agreed only after Kevin got a confirmation that I was feeling okay enough to continue the dive :)

Once they took off, I told Rob to forget about scootering and our plan and let's just kick around near where we were. So we did that. We did eventually scooter a little bit just to move around, but we definitely didn't cover much ground all in all. We headed a bit deeper, though in the end it was a shallower dive than planned. Despite the consistently horrible viz, we did make some good finds. First Rob found a couple of vase sponges. Not at all unusual for the area, but they were on the shallower side of where you find them -- I think we were around 150 feet when we saw the first two, and then a little deeper when we saw the third one. But all were above 170 feet, which is where I think of vase sponges as typically getting "common". Eventually we meandered over a rubbly patch off of the structure, and I got a quick signal from Rob. I looked toward it, and saw a snake-like tail flapping along under his light. I momentarily thought it could be a hagfish but it was actually just a wolf eel -- a very skinny wolf eel. It was long but skinny. I have never seen such a skinny one. It was grey though, not juvenile red. Rob got his camera out and took some pictures of him. We eventually meandered back to the reef and started to head shallower up it. Eventually I saw another wolf eel swim by. I wondered at first if it was the same one, but this was a more normal-sized eel, so definitely a different guy. Rob took a few pictures of that one as well. Other than the eels and the sponges, the one other good siting was a starry rockfish. Not terribly exciting, but I like them.

Since it was his birthday dive, I was kind enough to let Rob run the bag while I called deco :P Once we got to 70', we adjusted our deco a little since we were shallower than planned. The deco was uneventful. I felt that for the amount of junk in the water, the quality of jelly critters on deco was pretty low. But the water was a bit warmer than usual on deco, so that was nice.

I was hoping to see some blue whales on the drive back, since there had been a lot of talk of the blue whales being in town. Jim checked the radio for chatter from the whale boats, but it sounded like there weren't any blue whales around. So we just headed straight back to the dock.

I am a bit delayed in posting this report, because I was waiting and waiting for a picture of one of the wolf eels. Rob thought that the photography prospects were so bad that it wasn't even worth opening his camera and retrieving the pictures. So I had to wait a while to get pictures!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Best GPO Encounter Ever!

The title doesn't leave much up to the imagination, but here goes anyway :P On Sunday we (Team Kitty, that is) were on a BAUE tech charter. The plan was to do something in the 15/55 range. For some reason, which I don't think I had much say in, it was decreed that it would be a 3 (deco) bottle dive. Well hmph. I am not the biggest fan of 3-bottle dives off of the Escapade, since I find it difficult to get myself into the water in all of that gear (on Phil's boat, on the other hand, you just have to roll yourself in with the gear on, which is much easier than having to stand yourself up and get to the swimstep). But this was the plan, and who was I to question it? It seems like we have had a lot of cancellations of 15/55 boats this year. Well, there have been a lot of cancellations of boats in general but in the 15/55 range, it is particularly bad, since there aren't as many sites in that range, so the weather can really limit whether there is any place to do a dive at all. Anyhoo, on Saturday conditions were great, and Jim said that the boat could have gone "anywhere" in those conditions. We were hoping for more of the same on Sunday. On the way out of the bay, Jim mentioned the small craft advisory and the wind forecast, which I had not previously been aware of. Then he checked the weather again and said there was no longer a small craft advisory. Phew.

As we neared Point Lobos, there was talk about diving the Deep E3 area versus Mt. Chamberlain. I didn't really know why we were even discussing Deep E3 without trying to make it to MC first. Jim decided that MC would actually be preferable since based on the direction of the wind, there were some concerns about where we might drift near Lobos. So we continued down there, and when we got there, conditions were actually pretty good. There was a bit of wind, but nothing too uncomfortable, and the swell was quite small. We got geared up and did a first round of gear checks as the crew set the downline somewhere on the southwest corner, and then once they were finished with that, they helped us with our bottles. Our team was to be deployed first, since we had the longest bottom time. I was sitting closest to the gate, since that is, after all, my seat on the Escapade. I very bossily told the deck hands (Michael and Derek) where I wanted each of them to stand and what pieces of gear they were each to handle as they helped me into the water, followed by a brief lecture on the perils of hypoxic backgas. Bossy, yes, but the deployment went quite smoothly, and I like to think my careful choreography helped ;) After the boys got themselves into the water and collected scooters and camera, we headed down the line and met at 20-some feet to get situated and do bubble checks. Then we headed down the line. I think my descent was pretty speedy, though occasionally I had to flatten out (from my head down scootering position) to clear my ears. We got down to about 170' or so on the reef and paused there until everyone gave the okay to continue. It was quite dark, and the water was rather green. There was an icky layer down to 50' or so, but at the bottom the viz did clear up to maybe 40 feet.

In the darkness (and the not totally stellar viz), I didn't have a very clear idea of where we were. Luckily Rob was leading. We scootered down a crack of sorts, and as we came to the bottom of the crack, there was a basket star that was totally unfurled on a gorgonian on the right side. We then headed left, following along the side of a wall, with the bottom in maybe 230' of water, if that. We were definitely on the shallow side of our planned bottom depth for a bit. As we were scootering along, I was wondering if the dive was really worth all the effort and the gear. I am sure I've said this before, but I just don't think the deeper reef (> 200') at MC is quite as beautiful as it is shallower (around 150'). It just doesn't seem as colorful. But it has the potential for interesting critters (like the hagfish or sometimes crinoids). Eventually we left the wall and hopped across the sand to our right, until we came to a low-lying reef. At the time, I thought this was in the same general area but a bit further south than the usual low-lying patches of reef in sand on the southwest corner. But now I think maybe we were actually on the back side of the very south of the west-side wall. Since we really couldn't see far, it is possible the little reef patch we were on continued and I just couldn't see it.

Anyhoo, once we got there, we stopped and started to look around. I found a Diaulula lentiginosa and was about to signal Rob to look at it, when he signaled me to come look at something. I figured my slug wasn't going anywhere (and was certainly big enough to find again :P) whereas whatever he was looking at might go somewhere, so he won. I headed over and there was a small-ish lingcod with a little rockfish in his mouth. He was just perched on a rock with this treat. And he even let Rob get some pictures. That was pretty cool. I eventually swam around Rob, toward Kevin, so I would be out of his way and wouldn't disturb the fish. Then I was innocently poking around on the reef when I got a light signal from Kevin and as my eyes swept across the reef to look at him, I saw the object of his light signal. A big! GPO was just sitting out on top of the reef, a couple feet from me. According to Kevin, he heard me squeal through my regulator when I saw it :) I turned to signal Rob, but Kevin beat me to it. Kevin managed some sort of disco-ball effect with his light to signal "GPO!" to Rob (it reminded me of diving at 40 Fathoms Grotto with some single tankers on air). Poor light etiquette perhaps, but after the dive we all agreed that it was way too panicked to mean someone was out of gas ;) Rob came over and we all watched as the GPO basically just skittered across the top of the reef, not really in a hurry to get away and not really attempting to take cover anywhere.

Rob skittered along with it, shooting a zillion pics of the octopus. Kevin and I posed in the background above the reef for the first few pictures. Eventually I just hunkered down off of the reef, on the opposite side of Rob from the octopus, so I would be out of the frame. I laughed to myself as I saw the teeny tiny tip of one of the octopus tentacles groping for Rob's strobe arm, and then slowly winding its way around the strobe. Rob was so busy taking pictures that he didn't even notice it at first. I pointed it out to him and then decided that if there was going to be a diver-GPO skirmish, I wanted to get it on video. I was getting out my hero-cam (which I realized had like 0 chance of producing usable footage at this depth, but one must try), and when I looked back up, I was rather confused to see that the diver with the camera and the diver in the grey suit were no longer the same. Kevin was holding the camera, and Rob was entangled with the GPO, who was tasting Rob's arm. Kevin was just going click click click, taking pictures without really knowing how to use the camera, while I was trying to get anything on my camera. We were clearly really concerned about Rob's welfare. Eventually Rob retrieved his arm from the octopus, and his camera from Kevin, and the octopus skittered across the sand and rubble field. We followed him as he would stop and pose, then move a few more feet, and stop and pose again. Kevin and I took turns posing behind him, and posed together a couple of times. Somewhere during the meander across the sand, there was a crinoid siting too. I lamented after the dive that that rubble field was probably teeming with crinoids -- it had that Mount Chamberlain crinoid feel to it. But who has time for crinoids when you are playing with a GPO?

Eventually it was really getting to be time to go, especially as we were now on the deeper side of our target depth :) Kevin signaled Rob to look at the time, and surprisingly, Rob did not ask to push it. We said goodbye to the octopus and headed for the top of the south wall. When we got to a reasonable depth for the occasion, we switched onto our 190' bottles and continued in. We eventually made it to the channel. We paused along there from time to time, and Rob took a couple of pictures of the reef and Kevin, and also pointed out a Doto amyra which had an egg-ribbon alongside of it. We also saw quite a few lingcods in the channel. As we were approaching K2, Kevin started to signal us excitedly again, as he had found a huge skate laying on the bottom. Unfortunately it seemed to have recently expired -- it had some crabs walking on its back, though it didn't look decayed at all. So it must have died super recently. It was quite an amazing sight even though it was dead. It was huge, at least 5 feet long I would estimate, and the swirly pattern on its back was really cool. After Rob took some pictures of it, we continued on to K2 and we actually made it the whole way there, even in not-so-stellar viz.

As soon as we started to ascend up the peak at K2, from about 90' up, the current was totally sweeping us away. Whoosh. Rob put up a bag at 80' and the bottle shenanigans commenced. Off the 190' bottle, up to 70', onto the 70' bottles, and then bottle rotations all around. I was quite pleased with my bottle rotation; it was speedy and not too spazzy. I feel like I have finally conquered the bottle rotation (2 years after T2, I know). As I told Rob after the dive, to great eye-rolling, the great secret of a non-spazzy bottle rotation is ... keep your head back. Yes, it's a very advanced technique that I first learned in Fundies. The deco was pretty uneventful. It was long, and somewhat cold (but not that cold, as I was wearing my near-new undergarment), and I was hungry. Rob kept shivering and I told him to stop because it was making me cold :) As we approached the surface from 5', I was thinking that now comes the hard part, getting our gear and ourselves back on the boat. I was expecting the wind to have increased, but in fact when we surfaced it was rather calm. We re-boarded the boat quickly without much drama, and then went to pickup the other teams. The trip back to the dock was pretty smooth, then we headed to Phat Burger for lunch.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

BAUE Wharf Dive

On Saturday, we attended a little BAUE get-together at the wharf. I think the wharf is awesome, because it can have lots of different kinds of nudibranchs. And it is best to dive with a group, so you can spread out the pain of having a surface support person. The last BAUE wharf dive featured a lot of surge and terrible, terrible viz. You don't really need very good viz for a good wharf dive, but the surge was pretty annoying. The forecast was looking a bit better this time around. When we got there, the water was crazy flat. After a little briefing, and the realization that nobody else wanted to dive with us, Rob and I got geared up and headed into the water. We trudged through the water for as long as I could stand and then we put our fins on and I instantly thought we should have trudged further :) Because swimming in almost-standing-height water is pretty dang annoying too. After what seemed like forever, we got to the bend in the wall, and we dropped and swam to the pilings.

The first few pilings closer in always seem to be very encrusted with the red bryozoan. They are a good place to look for fringeheads, but otherwise kind of dull, in my opinion. The pilings further out seem to have better nudibranch substrate (unless you are looking for Hermissendas). But when you are at the wharf, you have to look for fringeheads; it is part of one's duty as buddy-of-macro-diver. I find it not that hard to find fringeheads in the red bryozoan, but pretty tedious. So I looked around and after finding I think 4 fringeheads for Rob, I decided that was enough and suggested we swim out a bit further. There were a couple of slugs I was hoping to see here -- Polycera atra, because I almost never see it, but have seen many at the wharf before; and Doto amyra, which I see all the time, but always deep (except at the wharf). We swam about for a bit and I spotted a nice looking piling that was all fuzzy with hydroids and quickly set my sites on that. I found it was teeming with Eubranchus rustyus (first), and then some more leafing through hydroids eventually turned up some Dendronotus frondosus. We ended up seeing zillions of both of these slugs all over the place throughout the dive. Rob was not very pleased with my insistence that he take pictures of the Eubranchus, but eventually he found some good specimens.

Rob found the first Polycera atra (and maybe the second and third), but eventually throughout the dive I saw quite a few, and I assume Rob did as well. In the end, I did not find any Dotos at all :( We did see lots of Spanish shawls, and a couple of their egg masses, oodles of Hermissendas, mostly of the grey variety, and some trilineatas. I also found a cute little Adalaria jannae (or was it Onchidoris muricata? :P) slithering across a red bryozoan. On such a tiny little backdrop, it really seemed to be moving quick! There was one other interesting slug find, which was a yellow dorid with white dots. I thought at first it was the usual Doriopsilla, but it didn't look quite right. Then I wondered if it was the Doriopsilla mimic -- Baptodoris mimetica, which I have "never seen" in the sense that I have never noticed I have seen it :P Its back seemed way bumpier and more spotted. I made Rob take some pictures (which of course he thought was crazy, since he thought it was a Doriopsilla). After looking at the pictures, I think that's probably what it was and Rob "could believe it". But when I suggested it might be worthwhile to process and post one of the pictures (after he was already finished with the pictures from that dive) he didn't seem to agree. Hmph!

We headed in and I told Rob that I wanted to look at the concrete wall on the south end, since it sometimes has different stuff on it. We eventually made our way back there, and while I was looking on the wall and about to give us, Rob pointed out a Pacific electric ray that was swimming around. Woohoo! I knew I stuffed my hero cam in my pocket for a reason! So I whipped that out and followed the ray around for a while. It was just swimming around, then would lay down for a bit and then get up and swim around again for a while. It was really neat. Plus it was fun to use the hero cam for the type of thing it is more meant for... videoing in very shallow water.

From there, we headed in. We stopped in a couple of feet of water to look at the green anemones, and eventually we surfaced in about 3 feet. Rob took his fins off before surfacing and then found out the hard way that we weren't actually quite shallow enough for him to comfortably walk :P I swam for a while longer on the surface before popping my fins off. The beach was much more crowded than it had been when we got in. Once we were out of the water, I got out of my rather sandy drysuit, and we joined everyone for a potluck picnic on the pier. After that eventually broke up, we headed to Taste of Monterey and then Oh Sushi with Kevin (who, like us, was staying in Monterey that evening, since we had a boat on Sunday).

All of the pictures from the day are here.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

A Little Different at Lobos

Matt made reservations for Lobos on Saturday, originally trying to get Phil to take us out. That didn't work out, so then we were just left with two reservations and no real plans. I originally thought we were diving with Matt and Leah, and didn't give much thought to gas plans or logistics, until late in the week, it turned out they didn't think we were diving together. So the world was our oyster, or something. My scooter was recently repaired, but had only been garage-tested, with a new set of electronics (that's the magical little box in the back of an X-Scooter that can just decide to die one day, leaving your scooter utterly useless). I didn't want a repeat of our last somewhat failed dive at Lobos if my scooter crapped out, so I was leaning toward a 32% dive. That way if my scooter died, we could just go for a dive without a big change of plans. I suggested we do a long dive in the 80' to 90' range out at Three Sisters, Beto's Reef, etc. So we decided to bring some O2 and just head out there and go wherever we felt like going for however long. Plus I'd get to test out my new 32% + O2 deco heuristics locally :)

Rob let me sleep in, and we got to Lobos at just about 9. It was very calm, and the tide was pretty civilized. We got geared up pretty quickly, put our scooters and bottles into the water, and headed in. Rob was shooting macro, I think because that's what his rig was setup for, and he was too lazy to change it :) We scootered out on the surface and dropped in the sand channel in just over 30 feet. Since the dive plan was my idea, I was stuck leading the dive :P We headed out along the sand channel, where the viz was good but not great. It was kind of dark. As we came around Hole in the Wall, I could see that the water was clear and bluer/brighter to the north. We followed the ridges until we got to Lone Metridium and then headed out toward the sisters. I paused briefly along the way when we came to a kelp stalk with a bunch of kelp rockfish, and a few olives stacked up along the kelp stalk, pretending to be leaves. Later on we paused when a huge school of blue rockfish appeared above us, probably at around 60 feet. Then we continued on and hit the first sister in no time. We stopped when we got there and sort of meandered along there, but weren't there even long enough for Rob to get his camera out. Then we headed to the second sister.

Once there, I started to look around for some nudibranchs for Rob to shoot. I very quickly found an exciting one, which I wasn't immediately sure what it was... it had a familiar look though. It had orange rhinophores, and the cerata were translucent greyish-white with what I'd call white "piping" along the side. The rhinophores also seemed slightly bulbous to me. I showed the slug to Rob and he started to unfold his camera; it was on a little piece of red salad kelp that kept fluttering in the breeze. After Rob got his camera ready, he was staring blankly at the spot I had pointed out, and I realized he'd "lost" the slug. So I looked for a moment and found it for him again, and then I moved along. While waiting for him to finish with that, I found several Hilton's nudibranchs, which were the first of many many of those that I found on the dive. I was also stewing on what that slug was called, feeling like it was on the tip of my brain, and then finally I remembered -- Catriona columbiana. I was fairly sure that that's what it was, and after a bit of research (well, mostly accosting Clinton over IM), I am sticking with that story -- the only thing that doesn't quite fit is the lack of orange in the cerata. Sadly, Rob lost the slug again and never managed to get pictures (and I guess he wasn't that interested in getting pics of it, since he didn't ask me to find it again!). We wandered around the second sister for a while, seeing more Hilton's, several trilineatas and some Diaphorodoris lirulatocauda, and I marveled at a nice big egg yolk jelly hanging just off of the pinnacle. We had seen several on the scoot out, but this was a particularly nice, big specimen.

Next we headed to the third sister, and the rocks in between the two. On those rocks, I found zillion more Hilton's nudibranchs, plus a solitary Dendronotus iris. I also noticed zillions of skeleton shrimp, some quite big, all over a bunch of hydroids on the rocks. I think Rob briefly tried to get some pictures and quickly gave up -- the little bit of surge made that pretty impossible. Eventually I suggested heading to Beto's Reef, so we did. On the crossing over the sand, we saw some more of the egg yolk jellies. We finally hit Beto's and I thought we were right at the spot where the wolf eel lives, but we were actually a bit south of there. We swam around a bit and then eventually scootered out a bit further north before heading back. The two good finds there were quite a few Dironas, and a juvenile yelloweye, who was willing to sit for a picture or three. Oh, and the biggest lingcod I've ever seen was swimming around Beto's. That thing was a monster! We stopped to look for the wolf eel on the way home, but he was not in.

We stopped briefly at Seamount on the way in, and other than a particularly friendly lingcod, and more the the same slugs, didn't see too much. We likewise stopped at the rock north of HitW for a few minutes, but I was getting chilly so I called it. Then on the way in on the sand channel, I realized that what looked like a little bit of kelp trash in the water was swimming. I pointed at it to Rob and then without any warning, did a 180 on my scooter and scooted back to the little thing. Then as I was approaching it, I started to thing it was just a bit of kelp trash and I was about to look really foolish. No, it was a cute tiny fish. I pointed it out to Rob and he was like "why are you pointing at a piece of kelp trash". I pointed at it more forcefully and made him look and his eyes got a bit big and he pulled out his camera. Then he shot pic of the adorable little fish for 5 or 10 minutes. I wasn't sure what the fish was, but I knew I had seen a picture of it on the BAUE field guide -- it is allegedly a juvenile kelp poacher. Eventually Rob was finished and we headed in. At the worm patch, we went onto our deco bottles, and then we agreed to scooter in a bit further. The viz was not too good, so we basically just went until we were right in 20 feet, and hunkered down on the bottom for our 20 minutes of deco (brrrr, a bit longer than I meant to incur). While we were there, some juvenile rockfish were around us, and I saw one interesting looking one that had a dark patch across one side of its face, around its eye. I showed it to Rob, but he was not impressed. With a couple more minutes left, I suggested we continue in a bit, so we did, but then I suggested just surfacing, since the viz was quite bad and I had no confidence in finding our way back to the float. Rob said he would lead instead and then he scooted us around, over pristine sand with somewhat better viz, and this just didn't seem right. Eventually we surfaced (at my insistence, I think) to find that we were just in line with the ramp, but in the east half of the cove. Doh! We took a heading and headed back down and toward the ramp. Rob soon left me in his dust, and since we were in 8 feet of water, I decided meeting at the surface would be easiest. Then I got to see his bubble trail going back and forth, back and forth, obvious searching for me. Um, it's 8 feet deep, why wouldn't you just surface? He finally did, to a big eye roll from me, and we headed in.

Lunch at RG, with Matt, Leah, Kevin and Don.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Blog is Officially Up to Date

I've posted a zillion posts in the past few weeks, some of them out of order. So here is a quick rundown of what's new, from oldest to newest:

Rob and I found a cool anchor at Mount Chamberlain in May.

Rob and I, and a few others, went on a cave diving world tour to Mexico and Florida in May and early June, and dove at:
Rob took a ton of pictures on the Mexico part of the trip (which are pretty nice, if I do say so myself!).

Rob and I (and a slew of others) found a ton of critters at the Breakwater at night.

There was also a bunch of assisting with classes in there, but that doesn't get blogged. It's been a busy couple of months!