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Me diving

Saturday, September 8, 2012

The Ocean Ate My Fin

Photo by Clinton Bauder
After a pretty long lull (by my standards) in local boat diving, I was back on the Escapade on Saturday, for a BAUE tech boat.  I was diving with Ted, which was good, because a T1 dive seemed like a good reintroduction.  Plus it seems like I never dive with Ted, even though I call him a "dive buddy".  Rob was on the boat too, but he was diving with another team.  When we arrived in Monterey, conditions were looking good, though I knew the forecast was for wind.  Apparently there was a small craft advisory in the afternoon... I guess the forecast had worsened since I last read it.  But we figured we could sneak one in before it got too bad.

We made it down to Yankee Point.  There were whitecaps once we got past Lobos.  But it seemed okay, so we decided to dive at Mount Chamberlain (the south wall).  Just in the time that it took for us to drop the ball and get geared up, conditions had deteriorated, and sitting on the bench in my gear was kind of scary.  I felt like the conditions were borderline for me, so I said something to Ted about being a little concerned about the wind and what did he think.  He didn't seem to care.  (He told me afterward that he didn't know enough to know why the wind would be bad.)  We were the last team in the water, since we would do the shortest bottom time (but only by 5 minutes, so we pretty much entered one team after the other).  After the first team got into the water, we had to swing around to reposition the boat for the second team to enter.  I thought we would swing around again, but then I asked and I was told to go.  So I went, unfortunately before Clinton (in the second team) managed to get his camera from the crew.  Oops.  So I jumped in, popped back up to the surface, and then immediately started to swim as hard as I could, using both my arms and my legs, and I quickly surmised that I would not be making it back to the swimstep to get my scooter.  Clinton seemed to have made the same decision regarding his camera (and he had a scooter!).  During this period, I also got the impress that I saw Ted sitting down on the deck.  I guess he slipped on his way into the water.  Oops. So a moment later, Ted and I were both in the water, with no scooters.  The boat swung back around and I swooped by the swim step long enough to grab Ted's scooter (because that's the one they had out first).  I took it, gave it to Ted, and suggested that he scooter back to the boat and retrieve my scooter :)  Once we both had scooters, we headed toward the ball, where we found Clinton's team, since he hadn't given up on the camera.  The boat did another pass to give him his camera, and then we were all on our way.

Photo by Clinton Bauder
We were anchored on the south wall, with the plan being to meet up and start the drift at the K2 peak.  This meant I had to find my way to the peak, since I knew that Ted would not be much help in that department (because we coddle him, Rob says) :P  We got to the bottom of the line, and we were literally right on the wall's edge.  The viz was not terrible but really not too good, maybe 30 feet but pretty green.  Since we were right by the canyon (if you can call it that) that leads to K2, I figured it would be best to stay nearby.  So we doodled around on the wall, within about 50 feet of the line, for the first 10 minutes of the dive, just looking for any interesting critters.  Then I suggested we head north, and I led us up the canyon.  I think I was actually one notch over (to the west) from that main canyon, but with the not-great viz, I wasn't totally sure.  Eventually I ran into a wall (well not literally) and decided to go right, and then very shortly after, I came to the little gorgonian nook that I love so much, just southeast of the peak.  Before I saw the peak, I saw a school of blue rockfish hanging in the water above us, and hoped they would stick around for the deco.  Once we were in the vicinity of the peak, I figured we could shoot north along the east side, and then turn around and come back slightly shallower.

Whenever we follow the east-side wall out, it seems like I more or less follow it along or near the bottom.  But today we headed out it a bit shallower, which was sort of different.  Because of the viz, we couldn't actually see the bottom, which made it seem a lot different.  There is a horizontal crack that extends along the side of the wall for a while, and I was pretty much just scootering along at that level, looking at the fishies in the crack.  Eventually we started to turn around the north corner, and I figured it was about time to turn.  So we came up a bit shallower for the ride back.  When we got back to the peak, I looked in the GPO crack, but alas there was no GPO :P  Since we still had 5 or 10 minutes left of our bottom time, we continued a bit back to the south, to that gorgonian garden that I love, and just hung out there.  There were an unfortunate number of barnacles back around the site, many of them actually on the gorgonians.  Not cool!  While we were in the gorgonians, Rob's team passed us.  I think Rob was confused when he found me; I guess he looked up expecting to see someone from his team, and I was waving at him instead :P

Photo by Clinton Bauder
When we had just a few minutes left, we returned to the peak and did one last clockwise circle around it.  On the other side, we found that big school of blue rockfish again.  I hung out with them for a minute, and then we thumbed it.  We tried to ascend the pinnacle, which had some wicked water movement around it.  So we went onto our bottles just off of the peak and then started to drift.  We could see both of the other teams where we shot our bag.  Deco was mostly uneventful.  The green water was pretty warm, and the stops were short :)  When we got to 20 feet, I eventually realized that Matt and Clinton were like 20 feet away from us, but I don't think I'd even noticed them until then.  As we started our 6 minute ascent, I caught a glimpse of a purple-striped jelly.  I was super excited about that.  It didn't have much for tentacles, like the really awesome pictures that you see, but since I've only seen two before (and one was very dying), I was still really excited.  I gesticulated wildly at Ted to look and then I darted back down to 20 feet and swam over to Matt and Clinton to show them.  Matt seemed amused.  I am sure Clinton has seen much nicer specimens before.

After that, we finished up our 6 minute ascent, and then the real fun began.  We surfaced, and it was snotty.  Not that this was unexpected.  Ted had been telling me his scooter was a bit off throughout the dive (apparently the battery had popped out... X-scooter FAIL!), and when we got to the surface he told me it was "dead".  I don't think it was actually dead, but I think he found it unusable.  So I hung back from the boat and let him get tangled in the current line and back on the boat.  He was getting kind of worked, but I thought he got back onto the boat pretty efficiently.  Before I let myself get too far from the boat, I checked that my scooter was up to the task of outrunning the boat, and it was.  I would drift away a bit and then scooter back until I was pretty close, and I repeated this until Ted was on the boat.  Then I approached the boat, and ditched my deco bottle.  Then I handed up my scooter, and grabbed the ladder.  I tried to wait for a lull in the waves to take my fins off.  I got one fin off (and safely on my wrist) and then I had pulled the strap off of my second fin, when a set of waves came through.  I tried to hold on to my fin with one hand and the boat with the other, but I realized I wasn't going to make it through the set with only one hand on the boat ladder.  So I basically decided that I was going to lose the fin so I could stay on the ladder.  So I held on, and with every wave that came through, my fin wiggled off of my foot a little more.  After like 5 or 6 waves, I sadly felt the fin wiggle off of my foot; talk about the long goodbye.  The set finished and I scurried up the ladder.  Luke seemed more upset about my lost fin than I did, but I knew when Rob got back on the boat I'd have some 'splaining to do :)

The worst part about the rough conditions was being the first team back on the boat, and having to sit on the boat while we circled around the other bags.  Then the even worster part was watching the other teams be retrieved.  It was tricky, with many of the scooters not being able to keep up with the boat.  It took three passes to retrieve Clinton!  Of course when it was time to retrieve Rob, the wind stopped, and he strutted up the ladder leisurely.  After we retrieved everyone, we headed out of there, for what I thought was a kind of sporty, scary ride.  This was probably not helped by the fact that circling in the boat waiting for the others made me feel pretty bad.  And I really had to pee, but I didn't want to go down into the head in rough conditions when I felt sick.  So it wasn't too fun of a ride home.  After what seemed like forever, we finally got back, and headed to La Tortuga to make up for the lack of bingeing on the boat.

Apparently Rob didn't even take his camera out on this dive, so you get to look at Clinton's macro shots instead.

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