It's about diving. And cats.

Me diving

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Coldest. Dive. Ever.

Photo by Clinton Bauder
For the first time in ages, we were scheduled to be on a boat on the weekend, and the forecast was actually looking good.  It was looking really good around midweek, and then it took a turn for the slightly windy (but not epicly windy), but with tiny swell.  Well, you can't have everything.  When we got to the dock, Jim was fretting about the wind, and didn't understand why everyone was so optimistic.  As we came around Point Pinos, Jim pointed out the white caps to the northwest, and Rob pointed south and said "but we're going that way".  The weather was interesting.  Around Cypress Point, it was dead flat, and the water had that glassy look.  But if we looked out to the west a bit, we could see a line beyond which there were whitecaps.  We eventually crossed the line, but it still wasn't a rough ride.  Not a Big Sur day (despite Rob and Kevin's best efforts), but we made it to Yankee Point without a problem.  After discussing site options, I voted for something in the Dos Gatos/Three Nixies area, so that's where we ended up.

Photo by Robert Lee
We headed down the line to find very good (but not epic) viz.  I have to admit that after diving here a bunch, I can recognize many of the features and pinnacles underwater, but I have trouble figuring out exactly what corresponds to what on the bathymetry map.  It sort of drives me crazy.  This would probably all be much clearer to me if I got Jim's mark where the anchor is dropped.  Anyway, that's not really important.  We dropped in a very familiar channel, which is the channel where we (and I say "we" loosely) first photographed Diaulula lentiginosa. We headed down the channel, and on the left side, in a little nook on the wall, I saw something on a gorgonian.  I went to check it out, and it was a teeny tiny basket star.  Adorable.  I looked up toward Kevin, to signal him, just in time for him to signal me.  We had a bit of a standoff, with him telling me to come over there and me telling him to come over here, but eventually I won.  It occurred to me that he might be looking at a basket star too.  He came over, looked at my little baby star, then swam me over to another much bigger basket star, near the mouth of the channel, also on the left side.  Nice!  From there, Kevin headed to the right, across the channel from where I was, when I realized that he had just scootered right over a purple sea fan.  Sweet!  I signaled the boys to show them my awesome find, and then posed next to it for some pictures.  After that, we headed back in the direction that Kevin had been headed, and I found another (smaller) purple sea fan.  Woohoo.  It wasn't as lovely as the first, so I just showed it to Rob, and we continued.

Right around this time, I was thinking my hands were insanely cold.  I was thinking these gloves hadn't lasted as long as my last pair.  Until I looked at my gauge and it said... 44 degrees.  No way!  My gauge often reports ridiculously low numbers right at the start of the dive, but this was a good 10 minutes into the dive.  Eek!  We ended up over sand at the bottom of a pinnacle, and Kevin zoomed out over the sand to find a giant basket star.  It was so huge, at first I thought it was two big ones, but no, it was just one super big one!  That was a pretty cool find.  From there, we meandered back toward the pinnacle, and found some fluffy sea pens in the channel between our pinnacle and the next.  I also spied a starry rockfish in a crack on the pinnacle across the channel.  It was a pretty productive dive considering we were only about 15 minutes into  it.

Photo by Robert Lee
Eventually we circled back around to the downline as we were heading shallower.  We discussed where to go next, and Rob was lobbying to head to the east to Dos Gatos.  So we agreed.  We headed over there, and found ourselves in that nice channel with really pretty gorgonians on the walls on each side (which we found on our first dive at Dos Gatos).  We meandered through that, and curled around the pinnacle to the left, and on the back side, we found a huge school of blue rockfish.  Below the school, I saw two lingzillas swimming about too.  Rob continued on, and Kevin and our loitered in the big school, enjoying the fish, until we decided we really should follow Rob.  Pfft.  Shortly after that, we agreed to head back.  We came to a structure, which I thought was the ridge between Dos Gatos and the Nixies.  We got to the southern tip, and Rob wanted to keep heading south.  I told him I thought that was wrong, but in the end, I was like... whatever.  So we headed south and after a minute of finding nothing (and seeing the bottom get deeper), we just thumbed it there.

Photo by Clinton Bauder
Kevin pulled the bag as we started to ascend, and I'm not sure what exactly happened, but the spool got dropped.  There was a moment where I considered going for it, but once the moment was past, I knew it was too late.  So Kevin just shot the bag and let the spool come back to him (thank you, current or wind), and then reeled it up.  It went surprisingly smoothly.  It was pretty entertaining to watch.  On the ascent, Rob told us that his 50% reg was breathing badly.  We offered to share ours, but he waved us off.  Anyway, Rob was looking pretty displeased throughout the deco.  But it was otherwise pretty uneventful.  Rob felt like crap and had a horrible headache when we got back on the boat.  He later decided that his (new) drysuit had an undertrimmed neck seal, and that's what was probably making him feel horrible.  (He determined this after the reg passed inspection with Frank, so then he put his neck seal on at home and sat with it on for a while, and found that it was uncomfortably tight).

So for the second dive, we were Bobless.  Kevin and I were going to dive, then we were going to dive with Clinton, but then Erik needed a buddy too, so in the end, I dove with Clinton.  We went to Mono-Lobo Wall, which amazingly, I've never been to before.  Well, not from a boat anyway.  I've scootered a long way south from South Monastery to an area which we thought was Mono-Lobo.  So now I could finally find out :)  Considering the freakin' cold conditions, I was thinking it probably wouldn't be a terribly long dive.  I was also wondering if I had enough Argon left for the dive.  Well, one way to find out.  So we dropped there, where it was actually pretty surgy.  The viz was really good, and it was still really cold.  As you can see form the pictures, the water was quite blue!  We just meandered around a bit, not really getting too far from the anchor line.  Clinton took a bunch of pictures, some of which I posed in.  We found a small school of blue rockfish, and a couple nice looking cabezons.  One was nose-to-nose with a lingcod, which I found very amusing.  And of course there was hydrocoral.  It looked pretty dang similar to the area that we'd scootered to before, whether it was technically Mono-Lobo, I don't know.
Photo by Clinton Bauder

About 15 minutes into the dive, I found that I was out of Argon.  It was okay, though, because we were already at 60 feet.  So I just closed down my exhaust valve a bit, and stayed right around 60 feet until we were ready to ascend.  That worked fine.  Eventually we called it, on cold or just being done.  I'm not really sure which :)  It was actually sunny on the ride back, so I laid on the deck to try to warm up in the sun.  Brrrr.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The story reminds me of the day that Claudette and I scootered out to Beto's. A crew from Backscatter was going in to do some time-lapse photography, and they got in the water after we did. When we came back, they were already gone. I talked to the guy at the shop later that day, and he said they made it 20 minutes before they were freezing, because the water was 43 degrees.

Claudette and I had done about 70 minutes. Those Backscatter guys would never make it in Puget Sound :)