It's about diving. And cats.

Me diving

Saturday, October 27, 2012

While the Kitties are Away...

Rob, Kevin, and lot of my other usual dive buddies were out of town this weekend.  I thought I didn't have dive plans, so at some point during the week, I started asking around to see if I could find myself some plans.  Then I got email from John, reminding us of the tech boat on Saturday, that I was signed up for (to dive with John), and completely forgot about.  So suddenly I didn't have to worry about finding something to do.  Leading up to the weekend, the wind forecast looked pretty marginal (I think there was small craft advisory), but we decided to ignore that and see what we got on Sunday.  John and I carpooled down together, and when we passed the flag in Seaside, it was hanging like a limp noodle.  That's what I liked to see.  It got a little sporty once we turned the point, but we made it to Lunaticos, and that was okay.  But since it was expected to deteriorate throughout the day, we decided not to push our luck with going further.

Once we got into the water, we found quite a lot of sea nettles in the top 30 or 40 feet.  It was pretty crowded getting down the line.  The viz in this upper layer was good but green.  But once we passed about 50 feet, it opened up to stellar viz, with pretty bright blue water -- yay!  We headed down the pinnacle and into the sand channel along the south side, which has another little pinnacle across it, and some scattered smaller reefs beyond that..  It was a great day to scooter through the channels between these little reefs.  You could see everything!  At some point, we stopped to look around a bit, and I found a young starry that looked like it was transitioning from its juvenile colors (yellow) to its adult form.  Pretty neat.  We also saw a bunch of little schools of small rockfish, and then we came upon a pretty big school of small bait fish, not exactly sure what.  But they were silvery in color.  I decided to take a little video of it, and then we started to work our way up the pinnacle.  We ran into Doug and Erik, who had apparently just seen three molas, which we didn't see :(

After watching the blue rockfish on the top of the pinnacle for a bit, we decided to check out the next pinnacle to the north of us.  We could just make it out in the distance, and I was wondering if it would come up a bit shallower than the one we were on.  We scootered over to it, and found that actually it didn't come up quite as shallow, so after a minute or two back there, we headed back to where we started, to finish up the dive.  John found a cool little red shrimp on a piece of kelp fluttering around on the top of the pinnacle.  It was shaped like a stiletto shrimp, but it was a solid bright red.  Attempts to capture it with the hero cam were futile.  A few minutes after that, we started our ascent.

The water was significantly warmer on deco.  From 70', my gauge was reading 57 degrees!  At 60 or 70 feet, I looked up to see lots of sea nettles waiting to torment us when we got shallower.  While looking up at them, I also saw what I thought looked like a bunch of small squid.  But I couldn't really tell, so I figured I would have to wait to find out.  Right near the end of our 50 foot stop, I saw a purple striped jelly maybe 20 feet away and just a bit shallower than us.  I was super excited.  This was without a doubt, the biggest and nicest looking purple-striped that I've ever seen (though it was not that big, by their standards).  So on the way to our 40 foot stop, I swam over to it, and took a bit of footage of it.  Of course once I got to it, it started to swim a bit deeper, so I was hanging out with it for a couple minutes at 45 or 48 feet when I was supposed to be at 40.  When I finally finished with it, I looked all around, and couldn't find John, when he signaled me.  He was right above me, at 40 feet, where he was supposed to be :)  I joined him there and continued to watch the purple jelly for a while.  As we got shallower, the nettles got thicker, though never as thick as they were on the way down.  Even though there weren't that many of them, the ones that were there were super long, many of their tentacles reaching at least 10 feet.  So their tentacles were everywhere, and I had to blow some out of the mouthpiece of my O2 reg when I got to 20'.  I never did see the squid, or anything else to explain what I thought I saw.  But after the dive, I heard from a few people at Lobos that there were schools of squid at Lobos.  So I think they must have been out there as well.

Once we finished up our dive, we headed back to the bay.  No one other than John and I wanted to do a second dive, so we picked Shale Island.  When we got to Shale Island, there was another boat on it, so we went to the annex, which has a fairly tall shale ledge that I have been to once or twice before.  As we were gearing up, the crew told us that there was a purple-striped jelly on the surface right by the boat.  So once I got into the water, I swam over to check it out.  The water was very green on top, so it was not worth trying to video.  It also wasn't as pretty as the one that I had seen on the first dive.  We headed down the anchor line, and when I got to 15 feet, I realized that my left ear (the one that usually clears with no problem) was totally locked up and unwilling to clear.  I inched up shallower and shallower and just couldn't clear it, so we came back to the surface, I cleared it a few times, and then we headed back down the line very slowly.  It took 6 minutes to get to the bottom (50-some feet), though that included the first attempt.  Once at the bottom, we found that the anchor was not on a ledge, but just sitting on top of flat shale.  I guess it had slipped.  Unfortunately I was leading, so I picked a pseudo-random direction to go, and went looking for a ledge.  We found a variety of small ledges and eventually, 15 or 20 minutes into the dive, I found the tall ledge we were looking for.  We saw the usual sort of shale critters.  I found a very small Limacia that was so small, it seemed like it was all tubercles.  At first I couldn't figure out what it was, because there was so much orange and so little white.  The viz was pretty good for the shale, probably about 30 to 40 feet at the bottom (but pretty murky on top).  After swimming around for a bit and then heading back into the general direction of where we started, we decided to just shoot a bag, since there was no reason to believe the anchor hadn't slipped further.  We surfaced pretty close to the boat, but they came to get us anyway.  Sweet!

After a very short ride back to the dock, we headed to La Tortuga, Anywater Sports, and finally home.

I put together a very short video, since I love the purple-striped jellyfish, and I finally got a little footage of it!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Philippines 2012

Rob and I recently spent a week in the Philippines, diving near Puerto Galera.  We stayed at Atlantis Dive Resort, and did most of our diving there, plus a couple of days of tech diving with Tech Asia, the local GUE-friendly tech shop.  I am going to do this report a little bit differently, with some summary entries and shorter (in theory anyway :P) daily entries.

Getting There
Atlantis Resort
Dive Operations
Day 1: Local diving with Atlantis
Day 2: Two dives with Tech Asia
Day 3: Some more tech diving
Day 4: Verde Island Day Trip
Day 5: A little of this, a little of that
Day 6: Macro Day!
Getting Home

We had an awesome time.  The macro critters there are unbelievably cool; we saw 30-some different species of nudibranchs (and Rob got pictures of nearly all of them).  There is only so much room for pictures in the report, so check out the rest of Rob's pictures in the BAUE gallery:

Philippines 2012

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Surprise Deep Dive

A nice day on the water, with a light load
We had a tech boat scheduled for Sunday, and after a couple of diver cancellations, we were toying with the idea of switching it to a 15/55 boat.  Then there were even more cancellations, and in the end, it was just Team Kitty on the boat.  So we decided to bring gas for all possibilities, and make the call at the dock on what to bring (I love the dive van).  When we got to the dock, Jim said he thought Yankee Point would be totally doable, so we loaded the 15/55 and assorted accessories.  Having the boat to ourselves was pretty sweet, though I did feel bad that Jim was crewing the boat instead of diving (his eye was broken, so he couldn't dive).  And conditions even turned out to be pretty cooperative, which seems like a rare occurrence these days!  We made it down to Yankee Point without a problem, and we decided to do something a little different today.  A little different, not a lot different.  Almost all of our deeper dives lately have been at Birthday Wall.  Which is an awesome dive, but I've been wanting to do a deep dive at Mt Chamberlin for a while.  (This was my proposed birthday dive, but it got fogged out).  So, that's where we went -- the southwest corner.

You may recall that in the past, this site has been a little bit cursed for me, and today would turn out to be no exception.  I somehow managed to get myself and my gear into the water, and then to retrieve my scooter.  Actually that in itself was a minor fiasco... the wind was blowing the boat too fast for me to get my scooter, so they had to maneuver back upwind of me so I could get it.  Once we were all in the water, we were pretty far from the buoy.  I took a heading and suggested we drop a few feet below to scoot to the buoy.  So I scooted for a bit, and eventually had to surface.  Kevin suggested that I could scoot below and he would scoot on the surface, and I could follow him.  So we tried that.  But as soon as I got back to 5 feet, my scooter started making the "vroom vroom" noise that indicates that it is about to die.  Hmph!  This was no one's fault but my own... the last time I used my scooter, I inadvertently left it plugged in after the dive.  For two weeks.  Not good.  But the charger claimed it was charging, and I believed it.  I gave it two cycles and didn't burn test it.  So, I surfaced, and told Rob and Kevin that my scooter was dead.  Then I said "can one of you tow me?" to which Rob replied "we can kick". I was sort of WTF about that response and just said "okay, can someone tow me to the line?"  So Kevin gave me a tow to the downline.  Then as we headed down the line, Kevin stayed just above me (like my guardian angel, said dreamy-like), and every time I was getting a bit away from the line, he would scooter over, grab my manifold and deliver me back to the line.  (Where was Rob, you ask?  Good question.)

We eventually got to the reef, where Rob was circling around the line waiting for us.  The viz was good, though not spectacular (maybe 40 to 50 feet), and it was pretty bright down there, though not super bright.  Having a dead scooter is annoying, but it gets significantly more annoying with more gear.  We kicked around a bit, and then when I got annoyed with that, we would tow for a bit.  It was a nice dive, but I felt like the dive sort of became a bit too much about how to get from point A to point B.  We ended up spending time in basically three spots.  The first spot was fairly close to the dropoff on the southwest side.  It was quite deep, with 250' being not quite to the bottom (though we could see the bottom from there).  I am pretty sure this was close to the spot where we found the anchor, though we didn't actually see the anchor.  There were quite a lot of fish in this area.  Lots of little fish schooling above the reef.  I think that was the highlight of the dive overall -- just a fishy dive.  After we tired of that, Rob towed me for a bit, and after a bit of a ride, I was deposited on what I thought was the west end of the south annex (which I had said I wanted to go to, if the viz was good).  So I asked Rob if that is where we were (yes, I managed to convey that with hand signals), and he said yes.  (I really couldn't see much of what was going by while I was being towed.  It was worse than usual because I was sharing that spot with Rob's O2 bottle).

After we poked around there for a bit, it was about time to head shallower, so we headed back over the sand, and this time Kevin towed me.  I managed to make myself a little window between Kevin's thigh and his O2 bottle so that I could watch the scenery go by :)  When we got up the wall a bit, we stopped and went onto our 190 bottles.  Actually I think we may have stopped because at some point I just had to let go to vent my drysuit properly.  From there, we (I) waddled up the channel that leads to K2.  We passed the little underpass swimthrough thing that Rob and Kevin like to go through.  So, whenever we pass it, it seems like one of them has to go through it.  But oddly, I don't think I've ever gone through.  Maybe once.  Anyway, they both took off through it on their scooters.  So I was like... we'll if they're doing it, I am too!  So I waddled through there, and I totally felt like yelling "wait for me guys" as I very slowly made my way through.  When I came out the other side, Rob and Kevin were both clearly surprised/amused that I had followed them through, kicking my way through with three bottles and a busted scooter.

After that, I went back into a tow, and we continued on up until we hit the gorgonian patch before you get to K2. And we kicked from there.  We made it all the way to K2, did the requisite GPO check (negative), and headed up the pinnacle to start our deco.  There was one exciting moment on deco, when we were visited by some molas.  They were the smallish ones that you usually see dying at the bottom of the bay.  I failed to capture them on video; of course once I had the GoPro out, they didn't come back!  Deco was otherwise uneventful.  No bottles were dropped, the boat picked us up, and no one got bent, which are my criteria for success (and really, even if a bottle got dropped, I'd consider it moderately successful).  It was actually pretty warm on deco, in the mid-to-high 50s!  Yet still I started to feel a bit cold near the end.  It's definitely time for a new undergarment.  It's been time since about May, I just haven't gotten around to ordering one!  Rob brought his camera on the dive, but it never made an appearance.  I think he was just having a good time looking around, though the inconvenience of shuttling me around may have played a part.  I'm such a drag!

When we got to the surface, I made some big gesticulations to tell the boat that my scooter was dead.  Then I realized that was moronic, since they had surely witnessed me being towed to the line at the start of the dive (though I guess occasionally that happens even when my scooter is "working").  Jim told us over the intercom that he was going to pick us up one at a time because of the wind, but then the wind didn't really materialize, so when he came to get me, there was plenty of time to retrieve the others too in the same pass.  It turned out to be quite a simple pickup, considering I was scooterless.  They didn't even need to deploy the line.  Once back on the boat, we had a nice ride home, and regretted that we were only doing one dive that day.

When we were loading gear into the van after the dive, Rob said he couldn't believe I was going to abort the dive.  I had no idea what he was talking about.  Apparently when I said "can one of you give me a tow?" he thought I said something like "you guys should just go".  Which explained his strange response about how we could kick.  I assured him that if anything, I would have commandeered his scooter and sent him back to the boat!