It's about diving. And cats.

Me diving

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Drysuit Shakeout Dive

Rob was out of town this weekend, and I was not very on top of making plans to dive. I made some feeble attempts to find something to do, and by Thursday I had given up on diving. Or given up on trying to make plans anyway. On Friday afternoon, Matt asked me if I had any plans, because he was suddenly without a buddy for his Lobos tickets. Due to some sort of scheduing snafu, Leah couldn't dive on Saturday. I had also received a call on Friday from Any Water Sports, about my new drysuit having arrived. So after work, I headed down to AWS (with like a dozen tanks in the poor RAV4, which Rob had left for me to take to AWS after our dive the previous weekend) to try the suit on. I was happy to find that it actually fit pretty well. It didn't fit exactly like my current suit, which I was a bit miffed about (since I consider that suit to "fit perfectly"), but it did fit well. It was definitely worthy of sea trials. We got a late start on Saturday and rolled into Lobos at about 10:45 :) As we pulled in, the conversation turned to where to go. Eventually we decided to head down the sand channel, and if the viz was good, we'd head toward Granite Point, and otherwise, we'd head left, to the Sisters or Beto's, or maybe the shallows over there. Since we had no clue where or what depth we would end up, we took O2 bottles along for the ride.

The water was super calm and the tide was nice and high. I donned my new drysuit and had a little photo shoot before I got in the water, since both Ted and Rob had asked me to take a pic. Unfortunately the picture makes the suit look blue, but I swear it looks purple in real life! We loaded our float with scoots and bottles (the tide was conveniently high enough that we could load it up on the ramp and then I swam it out). Then we got geared up and after some reviewing the plan and doing gear checks, we headed into the water. I got roped into leading the dive, grumble. After dealing with a bubbly right post (which confirmed for me that I could actually do a flow check on the surface in my new suit), we scooted out on the surface until we were a bit past the worm patch. We dropped in 30-ish feet. I did another flow check once we hit the bottom and found that I could indeed reach my valves in the new suit. The viz was looking pretty good on the sand channel. We headed out on the right side of the sand channel, and by the end of middle reef, I had decided we'd go to Granite Point. As we were approaching transect 1 by the end of middle reef, I stopped at the crack just before the transect and peered through it. Ted had recently asked me if I knew if the crack went the whole way through the reef. Amazingly, though I have peered into the crack on numerous occasions to look for slugs or fish, I've never bothered to look through it. And it does indeed go through -- I could see light on the other side.

After that little stop off, we headed straight to granite point wall. The viz out there was good but not great. There were tons of egg yolk jellies, and unlike the dead or dying ones I saw last weekend at Lobos, many of them were in very good shape. We poked around behind the wall first. I found a couple interesting slugs, including one that was super tiny which I think was a Dendronotus albus but it was TINY, like the size of a big Eubranchus. After puttering around there for a bit, we headed north and scootered for a bit, stopping to look at the egg yolk jellies here and there, until we got to the little cove with hydrocoral. We looked around there for a bit. The barnacles are out of control there. I frequently scour the wall on the south of the cove, and all of those pretty patches of sponges are totally covered with barnacles. From there, we continued northeast up the chute that starts in the back of that cove. We basically continued east-northeast until we got pretty shallow, up to around 20 feet at the reef tops. It was alternating between periods of uber calmness and massive surge. But it was fun to just hang up there right under the kelp canopy. Eventually we headed a little west and found a decent-sized school of blue rockfish hanging in the kelp forest. I harassed them with my hero cam, which they tolerated surprisingly well.

From there, I decided to head back to the wall-sand interface, and work our way back. We headed west from where we were, until we hit a drop off and we headed down to the sand, and worked our way south. I found a couple of Hopkins roses right next to each other on a little rock under an overhang. They were cute, though not in the best spot for looking at. On our way south, we passed some rocks that were covered in Onchodoris bilamellata eggs. I had seen a bunch of their eggs last week too, but never got a chance to look for slugs. I was hoping I would find some today. I got the impression that Matt didn't know what kind of slug the eggs belonged to, so I was hoping to find one to show to him. Eventually we ended up back at the main wall and were looking around there, right at the northern tip. In between three boulders, I found a little crack with a rock in the bottom, and saw a single Onchodoris bilamellata sitting on that rock. I excitedly signaled to Matt and he came over to look. It took him a moment to figure out what he was looking at, and while he was staring into the crack, I noticed that one of the rocks next to it was completely carpeted in the slugs. It was so covered in them that they just blended in like they were the surface of the rock. Another nearby rock had a bunch of them too, this time fewer, so they were easier to see one by one. We found another rock that was completely carpeted to. There must have been a thousand slugs in total on these rocks. Really cool but also sort of creepy!

After appreciating the slugs for a while, we continued along the wall and finally headed back toward middle reef. Once we got to middle reef, we headed to the sand channel and were scootering back, when I spied a little thing in the water column. I stopped to look, and it was a super cute tiny little fish. I signaled for Matt to come over and after a moment of doubt on his face, he looked at the fish. I originally thought it was another one of those adorable kelp poacher things, but now I don't think so. First of all, it was way darker -- dark brown to black. And it had a much shapelier tail. I am going to have to do a bit of research on it. It had a really familiar look to me but I can't quite put my finger on what it reminded me of. In any case, it was super cute! We continued in past the worm patch and eventually decided to switch to our O2 bottles, because hey, why not? Shortly after that, we found another interesting floater -- some cool looking shrimp. It had an opaque brown (or maybe grey) and white striped shell. We continued in and I veered to the right until we got to the point where I knew we were right along the edge of the cove. But I lost confidence in my ability to find the float line underwater and eventually thumbed it, about 40 feet from the ball :)

I would say it was quite a successful dive with the new drysuit. The suit is a bit bigger than my other suit in the thighs and torso, but still within the reasonable range. And I love those small Halcyon pockets!

We packed up and headed to RG for milkshakes to go, then headed back to San Jose for dinner with Leah.

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