It's about diving. And cats.

Me diving

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Why Not to Read the Forecast

Remember how last weekend I noted that it was a "good thing we're not on a boat" because the conditions were bad?  Well this week's forecast looked eerily similar to last weekend's.  I think I must have unintentionally cursed it when I made that comment.  But hey, it's not everyday you have a forecast for 3 to 9 foot wind waves.  Really?  They can't be more specific?  That's like saying my blog gets between twelve and 10 trillion page views a day.  Anyhoo, with a really bad wind forecast and a not-too-stellar swell forecast, well, it wasn't looking good.  It was only a matter of time before the email chatter started.  The subtle mention of the forecast, to soften the blow when the suggestion of cancelling the boat comes.  I was opposed to cancelling the boat without at least showing up at the dock in the morning.  So I did the best thing I could think of to ensure that happened; I convinced Clinton the signup for the boat at the last minute :)  And what do you know, when Saturday morning rolled around, we met up at the dock to see how conditions looked.  On the way down, we saw the flag standing at attention, but it was pointed the wrong way... the wind was out of the east.  It was pretty weird to see the flag pointing out to sea.

We didn't even talk about whether to not go out once we got to the dock.  That's the way I like it.  If the conditions are undiveable, that will soon become apparent.  So we headed out, and the conditions in the bay were pretty okay.  As we were approaching (and I mean that in the loosest sense of the word) Point Pinos, it started to get a bit snotty.  I volunteered the fact that I was not trying to prove anything by making it to Carmel, and was perfectly happy to dive in the bay.  At precisely that moment, Michael appeared from above (the wheelhouse, that is) and asked if we should turn it around.  Yes, please.  So we retreated to Mile Buoy, that much maligned site which I think I've actually only dived once before.  When we arrived, Jim announced that the wind/current allowed us to drift, rather than having to deco on the line.  Yay.  We (Team Kitty, that is... I was diving with Rob and Kevin) got geared up and into the water first.  We headed down the line and hit the structure a little shallower than I expected.  The viz was quite good.  In fact, I'd say for the bay it was "great".  Once at the bottom, we found a couple of Tochuinas in pretty short order.  Then Clinton signaled us to show us a basket star.  Sweet!  Those were pretty much the two critters I was hoping to see at Mile Buoy, so within about two minutes of the dive, mission accomplished.

After getting some pictures of those critters, Rob suggested scootering off of the main site to look at the surroundings.  Yes, we were scootering Mile Buoy.  Yes, it's silly.  But Rob wanted to test out his scooter, so he refused to leave the scooters on the boat :)  It turned out to be a good decision.  We meandered over the sand and eventually hit some other smaller reef structures.  I was poking around, admiring a weight belt with like one bullet weight in every color of the rainbow that was laying on the bottom (does that sound familiar to anyone else?) and looking at the usual slugspects.... the Spanish shawls, the Tritonias poised to strike on unsuspecting gorgonians, when Rob signaled me.  Sort of excitedly.  He was on the other side of the big boulder that I was on.  I swam over and saw that he was pointing to the sand.  I looked down.  I saw what first looked like some sort of flatfish.  A flat oval blob with two eyes poking up off the bottom.  Okay.  Interesting, but not that exciting.  Then I swam around and looked at it from a different angle, lower and more on its level.  That's not a flatfish, it's a giant slug!  The "eyes" were its rhinophores.  And it was some sort of slug that I'd never seen before, with its gill plume on the side.  The gill plume was really cool, because it was sort of tucked up under it on the side and it could extend it.  It was like it had a sea pen sticking out of its side.  Very neat, not like any slug I've ever seen before.  And scary big.

Photo by Clinton Bauder
After getting quite a few pictures, we eventually left that spot and cruised over the sand and to a couple other small structures.  We saw lots more of these slugs.  Probably about eight total.  And there were some giant slug eggs too, which I suspect were its eggs.  After the dive, Rob showed the pictures to Clinton, who ID'd it as Pleurobranchaea californica, which he said he has seen once before (at the Breakwater I think).  Definitely a new one for me!  Aside from the man-eating slugs, the one other cool find on the dive was a little Pepper-sized wolf eel.  He was loitering in a crack, just poking his little head out.  I was very impressed with myself for finding it, and managing to show it to Rob before he (or was it a she? I think it may have been a she) hid.  As our bottom time was coming to an end, we headed back toward the main structure.  We were scootering for a while and didn't hit anything.  Then there was a bit of a disagreement (mostly between the boys, but to be honest, I didn't agree with either of them either) on which way to go to find the main structure.  I found their bickering annoying, and didn't see much point in scootering around over the sand for another two minutes, and thumbed it.  So we had to suffer the indignity of popping our bag off of the structure, though apparently we were actually quite close (so says the boat crew).

Deco was uneventful.  It got warmer as we got shallower.  Oh, speaking of that, the water was insanely cold.  My gauge read 46 degrees, which for the bay I consider insanely cold.  I heard jingle bells the whole deco.  The whole dive actually.  It was driving me nutty, and I wonder if I was hearing things.  But there's really no hand signal for "do you hear the jingle bells?" so I just had to wonder.  Apparently it is the chain from the buoy jingling around.  So if you are ever diving Mile Buoy and you hear jingle bells, no you are not suffering from auditory hallucinations.  All in all, it was a pretty awesome dive for a day where we almost didn't dive!

For the second dive, we suggested a rather unorthodox site -- the mating amtracks.  We wanted to do a little recon on the site for some future diving.  I wasn't sure if others would be interested, but there was a lot of interest, because no one on the boat other than Rob and I had ever dived it before.  The boat crew was not sure if they were right on it, so the boys and I jumped in first, with scooters, so we could search for the site, and put up a bag.  We headed down the line, and found the tracks like 3 feet from the line.  It seemed sort of silly to pop a bag, but we had said we would, so we did.  That came in handy later in the dive.  The viz was still quite good here, maybe 30 feet.  We just doodled around on the tracks and I got a little hero cam footage, and after about 25 minutes, we thumbed it.  We were all freezing!  And conditions had really kicked up.  By the end of our short dive, sand and eel grass were spinning around in the water.  We had agreed to head to the anchor line, which was like 8 feet from where we were, and then all of a sudden, the anchor line was gone.  I guess the boat slipped anchor just at that moment.  At least it didn't come crashing down off of a wall between our team.  So we just ascended up the line of the bag we'd shot.  Rob had tied it using some super special tie that Jim taught him, so it could be pulled up from the surface.  When we hit the surface, it was snotty.  There were whitecaps all around us, when there had been none when we got in the water.  Wow, that was fast.  The boat came and retrieved us, and then the other teams as they appeared.  Then the bag was pulled (and that special tie actually worked!).

After we got back to the dock, we headed to the 17th Street Grille, which I would normally whine about, but I sucked it up and ate some chicken tenders, so I could strong arm Rob or Clinton into going someplace they don't like at a later date.

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