It's about diving. And cats.

Me diving

Friday, December 16, 2011

Back to Cold Water

It seems like I didn't do a lot of diving in November, so somehow I agreed to a three day weekend of diving this weekend.  Three days of diving is always nice, though considering it was wedged between the weekend that we got back form Fiji, and the weekend of Christmas, it was in hindsight a bit crazy :)  We had plans for a Team Kitty dive on Phil's boat on Friday, then diving with Matt and Leah on Phil's boat on Saturday, and a BAUE tech charter on the Escapade on Sunday.  Rob really wanted to shoot for Birthday Wall.  After our first dive there, I told Rob we needed to go back with deeper gas, so we planned a 12/65 dive.  The forecast was calling for pretty calm seas on Friday that were getting progressively bigger through the weekend.  When we arrived at Lobos, conditions looked a little bigger than expected, just from watching the water over by Granite Point.  But without much discussion of conditions or where we could go, we launched the boat, and Rob headed south.  As we were coming around Point Lobos, it was actually quite snotty -- lots of wind chop.  I wasn't feeling too positive about making it to Yankee Point.  But once we got around Point Lobos, the wind calmed down.  There were still very large swells -- much bigger than forecast -- but I find those more tolerable than wind chop.  On the other hand, I was a bit nervous with Rob driving; he drove all the way to the site, and then handed the wheel over to Phil when it was time to find the spot and drop the anchor.  After a bit of driving around, we eventually found a spot in the 150s, and we dropped the anchor there.  Conditions were not too bad as we got geared up; there were big swells but they were long period so it didn't feel too bad.

After we rolled in and headed down the line, we found that the viz was pretty good, though not epic.  The water had a greenish tinge to it, and it got darker as we got deeper.  But despite the darkness, the horizontal viz was good all the way to the bottom.  We passed the spire on the way down, and paused at the little plateau, then headed down the wall.  As we approached the edge of the wall, we found a HUGE school of juvenile rockfish.  It was so dense that we couldn't really see through it, and it was probably at least 30 feet high and 100 feet wide.  It was like those super dense groups of anthia you see in the tropics, but it went on and on.  I have never seen such a large group of juveniles before.  Rob tried to get some pictures, but was having some camera problems.  So after playing around in the school, we continued down the wall, and headed to the north/west.  We followed the wall, pretty close to the bottom, for a minute or so, and then Rob headed out over the sand and sort of cut the corner where the reef juts out to the left from the main wall.  So we landed on that section of the reef, but further out than I think I have been on it (I guess, since the bottom was quite a bit deeper).  As we were over the sand, I noticed that the max depth on my gauge read 297 feet, and I decided that that would be no way to end a dive.  So I descended a little and then jammed my arm below me so it would surely read 300.  Unfortunately it came back reading 301.  I really like round numbers, so it was a bit of a disappointment :P  Rob caught me in the act of sticking my gauge below me and just gave me a disapproving look.  Anyhoo, as we were approaching the reef, we ran into a ratfish.  It was swimming along, bumping into the reef on occasion.  Once we approached it, it turned and looked at Rob, and swam straight at him, and then bumped his scooter, before veering away.  It was a great ratfish encounter.  Rob whipped out his camera, but had some sort of problem with it.  Apparently he has finally found out the depth at which the buttons don't function :)  So the camera was a bust for the whole dive, hence the lack of pics in this report (boohoo).

After that we were just kicking around near that spot, I was checking out a couple of bocaccio just off of the structure, when I got a signal from Rob and looked below to see him pointing his light at a flag rockfish.  Woohoo!  A minute or two after that, I got a signal from Kevin, and then he swung his light around and lit up a group of silver, very reflective fish.  I couldn't figure out what they were until I swam over toward him, and saw that they were ratfish!  There were 10 or 12 of them swimming along in formation!  It was awesome.  I excitedly signaled Rob, and he came over to take a look.  Stupid stupid camera!  It was just about time to head shallower, but not before Rob and Kevin found a wolf eel too.  They gave me the signal, and I was like "very nice, time to go" :)  If it had been a GPO, maybe I would have stayed to check it out.  So we headed up and back toward the anchor line, meandering along around 200 or so feet until we got back to the spire.  Then we came up a bit shallower so we could switch onto our 190 bottles.  I noticed that there was the same little swirling current around the spire as the last time, though this time it was pretty insignificant.  After switching to our bottles, we wiled away the time on the top of the spire, looking for nudibranchs :)  Rob found an Aldisa albomarginata, which I haven't seen in a while.  Once he pointed one out, I saw at least one more.

Once it was time to go, we started our ascent, not moving too much from the structure.  Kevin put up a bag and we were on our merry way.  When we got to 70' and I switched onto my bottle, I got a mouth full of water.  I went back onto my backgas reg, hack hack hack.  My first thought was that the valve was closed (but the line was pressurized, since gas came out when I purged it), but I checked and it was in fact open.  I was thinking to myself "I am NOT sharing gas for the next 45 minutes" (not that I would have needed to, since we conveniently had a bunch of 190 regs no longer of use to us).  After a bit of futzing with it and purging it, and confirming that gas really did come out of it, I tentatively put it back in my mouth and took a small breath; it was a little wet but definitely breathable.  It seemed to improve after a few more breaths.  After all of the excitement, we just hung out for a few minutes, and then Rob rotated his bottles.  On deco, we always go around and report our max depth.  They each reported theirs, and then when it was my turn, I saw a little flinch from Kevin :)  I never go deeper than the boys, except for that one time when my wing failed on the bottom :P

At 60 feet, Kevin rotated his bottles, and I decided to just wait until the next stop.  I guess that was a good choice, considering the shenanigans that would ensue.  We got to 50 feet, and I signaled that I was going to rotate my bottles.  I brought my leash forward and moved my 190 bottle to it.  Then I took my O2 bottle and went to clip it to my chest D-ring.  I kept thinking that I needed to aim low, since I remembered that that pesky D-ring is a bit too low.  But I just couldn't find the D-ring.  I kept going for it and not being able to find it.  I think it was pulled even lower than usual because I had an 80 of 50% (whereas I usually lame out and bring a 40 when I'm diving 3 bottles).  So I finally decided to move the 190 bottle back first, to free up both hands to deal with the O2 bottle.  And then I couldn't get IT clipped!  I finally gave up and handed it to Kevin while I dealt with the O2 bottle.  Then, with two hands free, I tried to pull the 50% bottle out of the way, and get that bad boy clipped.  But it just wasn't happening, and my hand was starting to feel cramped up holding onto the clip, and all I could think of was my O2 bottle plummeting to the bottom of the ocean.  So I told Rob to come and clip it for me.  Hehehe.  It was terribly embarrassing, and I signaled as much as soon as he finished it.  Then I turned back to Kevin and gave him the "give me that bottle" signal.  He was like "no, don't worry about it" and then I was like "give me my freakin' bottle" and he handed it over :)  I think he thought I was too frazzled to be trusted with it :P  I guess that is what we call a "team bottle rotation"!

After that, deco was pretty uneventful.  There were tons of deco critters; lots and lots of salps from about 40 feet up.  When we ascended to 30 feet, we went through like a layer of salp chains and then at the stop we were looking down at tons and tons of them.  Aside from that there was the usual menagerie of unnameable jelly creatures.  No deco mola today :P  We surfaced to biggish swell but still not really much wind.  The ride back actually seemed calmer than the ride down, though it was still a bit dicey coming around Point Lobos.  Once we got back to Whalers, we noted the good viz in the cove, and then hurried to get packed up and out of there in time to get to Siamese Bay for lunch.  Yum!

Phil broke the news to us that he had to cancel for Saturday, so we were left to ponder the plan for the next day.  But to soften the blow, Phil let us stop by in the afternoon to meet his million-toed cat :)


Lynne said...

One of the things I love the most about reading your blog is the honesty with which you tell stories on yourself . . . it's just so nice to hear that even people who are doing these sorts of dives all the time have "clip-challenged" days!

But what's wrong with Worthington 85s? They beat those floaty, nose-heavy Fabers all hollow!

gecko1 said...

I'm sure Rachel was happy to tell you ALL about polydactyl cats! :D