It's about diving. And cats.

Me diving

Saturday, July 14, 2012

The Big Sur Dive Season is Officially Open

Photo by Clinton Bauder
I was on the Escapade on Saturday for a tech charter.  Rob was out of town, so this ensured optimal diving conditions :)  After a bit of shuffling of teams around due to a few roster changes, I ended up diving with Kevin and Matt.  But I carpooled down to Monterey with Ted, so all was not lost.  Everything was looking pretty good in the forecast, with small wind and small swell, and the fog was really the only unknown.  After a few recent days of motoring around in fog, I was pleasantly surprised by the general lack of fog when we got to the dock.  There was enough wind for the flag to flap a bit in the breeze, but nothing too significant.  I was even riding in the wheelhouse as we left the bay.  I was the "organizer" of the boat, and before we even hit Cypress Point, Jim was giving me options for where to dive around Yankee Point.  I assumed this was "in the event we can't make it to Big Sur" (because isn't that always plan A?) and picked the south wall of Mount Chamberlain.  Apparently there was a miscommunication and Jim didn't understand the implicit plan A.  He thought I wanted to go to Yankee Point no matter what (huh?).  Luckily Clinton clued into this and, as we slowed around the Yankee Point area. explicitly asked why we weren't going to Big Sur.  So once that was cleared up, we were off, again, and had a pretty smooth, though not epically smooth, ride to Big Sur Banks.  Then we had to make the tough decision of Sur 19 or 20.  I always favor 19, but was willing to go wherever.  This is how we end up never going to 20.  Doug had never been to Sur Banks at all, so it was settled -- Sur 19 for the first-timer.

Photo by Clinton Bauder
It was pleasantly calm as we geared up, and when we dropped into the water, there wasn't too much current on the surface.  As we headed down the line, the viz was good, though a bit green on top with lots of salps and other jelly beasts.  Once we got a bit deeper, the viz was excellent, though not the bet I've ever seen there.  The green water above made it just a bit darker than it has sometimes been in the past.  In any case, the viz was very good on top (maybe 60 feet?) and even better along the bottom (80 feet?).  We started out with a little circle around the structure, near the bottom.  On the way to the bottom, I got a bit distracted by the huge school of blue rockfish off of the pinnacle (they were sufficiently off of the pinnacle that I don't think any of the pictures here show them in their full glory).  There were quite a few olives in the mix today.  You could maybe even say there was a little side school of olives.  I saw a few juvenile yelloweyes in the cracks along the side.  I was inspecting all of the cracks for wolf eels.  Eventually I found this very nice vertical crack down the side, and was pointing out a juvenile yelloweye to the boys, when I realized that just above it was a full-grown yelloweye.  Sweet!  Once I saw that, I was even more interested in peering into every crack I could find to look for fish.  As a result, I saw quite the array of rockfish across the entire dive.  In the end, I saw a total of 3 adult yelloweyes, which is probably the most I've ever seen in one dive!  Too bad there wasn't a photographer along for it.  I also found a juvenile starry, which now that I can ID (thanks to Tom), I am sure I will be seeing more of.  Other than this, I saw vermilions, rosies, Chinas, tree fish, and all of the other usual suspects.  Plus quite a few ling cod, a few very big.  It was overall a pretty good fish day, with slightly more variety than usual, though perhaps that's just because I spent 15 minutes peering into cracks :)

Photo by Clinton Bauder
After the circumnavigation, we came over the top and just played over the fields of hydrocoral for the rest of the dive.  That never gets old.  There was a bit of a current sweeping us across the top, but nothing ripping.  It was definitely a swimmable day (even though everyone had scooters).  There seems to be a lot more kelp salad among the hydrocoral on top, which is not terribly photogenic, so I wasn't very happy to see it.  As I recall, there has always been a bit of this on the top of Sur 20, but I don't remember it, at least not in such large amounts, on Sur 19.  There was also some bull kelp on top, which I do not remember ever seeing before, but I can't be sure of that.  Eventually it was time to thumb it, so we let ourselves drift just off the pinnacle, enough to make sure we wouldn't shoot our bag into the downline (that never happens), and then we put up the bag.  We had a relatively short deco, during which we entertained ourselves by inspecting the salps and jellies that drifted by.  It got a bit warmer as we got to the shallows in the slightly murkier water.  We surfaced to still-calm surface conditions.  The boat was busy picking up Ted and Doug, and after what seemed like an eternity, finally came to retrieve us.  After I was back on the boat, someone (probably Jim) pointed out an albatross circling.  Neat!  Eventually we retrieved Clinton and Pete, and headed out of there, toward Lobos Rocks.

Photo by Clinton Bauder
We had a lot of fun with the sea lions last week, despite the relatively rough conditions and murky water.  Since it was calmer and clearer today, it seemed pretty obvious that we should go back.  I was happy to see significantly less whitewater sloshing around the rocks when we arrived.  We dropped into nice clear water, and scootered over to the rocks in mid-water.  Once we found what we were looking for, we came up a bit shallower to play with the puppies, errr, sea lions.  They were very friendly, and the water was indeed calmer and clearer, so it was not as barf-inducing to get up in the shallows with them.  I spent most of the dive in the 8 to 12 foot range, in the sea lions frenzy as much as I could, just pointing the camera forward and letting them do their thing.  I am really pleased with the footage I got... this is probably the best video I've ever taken with the hero-cam.

Once we were finished with the fun, we scootered back toward the boat in mid-water.  I was expecting to just surface eventually and find the boat, but much to my surprise, we ended up scootering right up to the downline.  The good viz certainly helped with that.

We had a nice ride back to K-dock.  I was zonked, and laid on the deck in the sun for part of the trip.

Kevin also has a video from the day, but I don't know how to embed it :)  And Clinton has more pictures on the BAUE gallery.

No comments: