It's about diving. And cats.

Me diving

Saturday, January 26, 2013


Photo by Clinton Bauder (my hero)
The title of this post might be a bit of a spoiler, but I think at this point, everyone has already heard about the awesome encounter that we had on our dive.  It was hands down, the coolest dive I've ever done (yes, even cooler than when we re-found the Okenia!).  But we'll get to that eventually...  Rob, Clinton, and I had made plans to dive at Lobos a few weeks ago.  We had a fourth slot on our reservation, which we offered to a variety of dive buddies, but no takers.  Earlier in the week, the forecast was looking like slightly big swell, but out of the west, and slightly long period.  But diving with Rob and Clinton, the forecast was of no concern :P  We all carpooled in the van, and when we got to Lobos, we found that it was quite choppy on the surface.  It was definitely a good day to be shore diving (I found out later that the tech boat on the Escapade had been cancelled.)  The tide was quite high, and with the choppy surface, I swear it just looked like the water was about to overflow the cove in all directions.  There was no beach on the south end.  There were also very few divers.  I think there were like 4 other teams.  Three or four guys were going out on their Port-a-Bote (more on that later), plus there were two other teams getting ready when we arrived.

The dive du jour was a 32% kick dive.  Can you believe it?  With the high high tide, entry was easy.  The swim out was kind of annoying because of the wind chop.  It's been a while since I've done a kick dive at Lobos with Clinton, but he usually likes to swim really far out on the surface.  We got just a bit past the worm patch, and I finally cried uncle over the choppy swim.  I asked if anyone wanted to drop, and Clinton immediately agreed.  Phew.  We dropped into quite good visibility by the sand channel, just north of the worm patch.  The plan was to go to the Lone Metridium area, via what I call the "back way" where you cut over to the left of the sand channel, on the mini-sand channel that goes behind Hole in the Wall over that way, via Oyster Rd.  We were swimming around in the quite shallow, quite clear water off to the left of the sand channel.  But we didn't hit the sand channel after a bit, and I think we were all a little confused by that.  (I would normally just take the sand channel to the start of the mini-channel, which was probably why I was a little disoriented.)  But we eventually did find the mini-channel.  Rob was experimenting with time-lapsing with a hero-cam, so we dropped a camera in the mini-channel, configured to get a picture every 10 seconds.

Photo by Robert Lee
From there, we slowly worked our way to the Lone Metridium area.  The viz was quite good.  It was also quite surgy once we got further along the path.  Because of the good viz, you could see all the way up the tall kelp stalks, and it was pretty impressive to watch them swooshing around in the surge.  Would have been even nicer if the kelp were slightly thicker!  We finally made it to the ridges, and when we got to the end, we were greeted by a very large school of blue rockfish.  There is often a school of blues out there, but I don't remember it being so big.  Clinton told me afterward that the school there has been that big for a while, so I guess I just haven't been diving out there enough lately.  It was quite surgy, especially when I went up shallow to the school.  All three of us were shooting the fishies, and getting sloshed around in the surge.  We spent maybe a half hour there, and when we had had enough, we decided to head in.

Photo by Clinton Bauder
We eventually made it back to the time-lapse cam, and we had a brief conversation about whether we were going to do a second dive.  We decided no.  From there, we headed back to the sand channel, and headed in.  We were swimming along on the right (west) side, and I was looking off to the right, since there is actually reef and stuff over there instead of the boring sand channel.  Then, just as something caught my eye up ahead on the sand channel, I felt someone tug my fin (turns out it was Rob).  I looked up, and for a few moments, time nearly stood still.

Photo by Clinton Bauder
I saw what was unmistakably a whale, headed down the sand channel, right toward us.  It was quite surreal, almost cartoonish-looking, when I first saw its nose headed toward us.  I guess it was cartoonish looking because it was just so ridiculous to see a whale was swimming at me, on the Lobos sand channel no less!  The first moment that I saw it, I was kind of stunned and froze, just staring at it.  With the excellent viz, we got a really good look at it swimming toward us, and then past us, and we could see the whole thing really clearly.  I had the sensation that I could feel a wake off of it, though I have no idea if that was in my head, or just the surge, or if there was actually something to it.  And just for the record, since a lot of people have been asking, we were approximately 35 feet deep and between the three of us, we all estimated the whale to be somewhere between 20 and 30 feet long.

Photo by Clinton Bauder
Rob and I both had our cameras stowed, and while I was slowly trying to unclip mine as I watched, it was not to be (which I'm rather disappointed by, since I've literally told Rob on many occasions that the hero-cam is perfect for carrying in your pocket "for when a whale swims by").  I think part of the reason I couldn't unclip it was because I was so awestruck that my fingers weren't really working properly.  Luckily Clinton is more hard core than us, and he swims with his camera unfurled and ready to go.  So he was right on top of snapping some shots of it.  After it passed, we all looked at each other like "did we just see that?".  I realize that you can't actually have your jaw hanging on the ground when you have a regulator in your mouth, but we all sort of had that look on our faces.  Then Clinton looked at his camera, pushed some buttons, and flipped it around to me.  He got the shot!  I gave him a high five and then hugged his camera.  After a bit more celebrating and commenting on how we were all either out of breath/our hearts were pounding, we decided to head in.

Photo by Robert Lee
Most of the dive after that was a blur, as we headed straight in, riding the we-just-saw-a-whale high.  On the way in, I do remember hearing a boat overhead, and being surprised that it sounded like it was really moving, and we were very close in.  Way too close for a boat to be zipping around like that.  Somewhere between 15 and 20 feet deep, Clinton thumbed it.  We surfaced a bit further to the east than I would have expected, probably because we were all a little out of it and off in our navigation.  After the expected cheering when we first surfaced, we noticed a lot of emergency vehicles in the parking lot.  Ugh.  That explained the fast-moving boat that we heard -- it was a rescue boat.  When we got in, we found that there wasn't a diver emergency, per se, but a boat emergency.  Apparently the Port-a-Bote was not up to the 20+ knot winds that day.  I don't know exactly what the winds were at Lobos, but in the morning, the buoy was reading something like 20 gusting 24.  And when we were gearing up, it was freaking windy.  Too windy to go up on the cliff, so we sent Clinton (and I was relieved when he made it back).  I guess the boat essentially sank, and two rescue boats brought the guys in and then towed the boat in.  Luckily everyone was fine.  I did feel sort of odd about the fact that before the dive, we all thought that it was, umm, not the best idea to take that boat out, but we didn't say anything.  I've seen that boat out at Lobos before, and I've never thought it was a good idea, so I didn't think my concerns would be welcome.  No one wants to be the "you're gonna die" asshole, but sometimes it is warranted I guess.

The boat rescue
As you can imagine, there was a lot of excitement in the parking lot about Clinton's whale pictures, even just looking at them on the little screen on the back of the camera!  After Clinton finished giving autographs, we mulled where to go for lunch.  Rob had BBQ on the brain, so we ended up at Little Chicken Hut in Pacific Grove.  We haven't been there in ages (and Clinton had never been there).  I got some very tasty ribs.  Also, I noticed for the first time ever, that there is a really good view of the bay from there.  I guess I've always been sitting facing the wrong direction!  It was a nice sunny day by the time we got there, so the view was great.  The bay was practically frothing with whitecaps.  After that, we headed to Anywater, which I haven't been to in quite some time (Rob keeps going without me).  So we had an extended visit while I caught up with Frank, and we traded stories about squirrels, rats, gophers, and all other manner of furry vermin.

This is how big my eyes got when I saw the whale
All of the day's pictures are here.  The whale pictures are awesome.  I love the fact that the viz was so good, that you could see the whole whale very clearly.  Though its quite a bit different than the image of the whale that is seared in my mind, which is of it head on, swimming at us.

And for those of you who are curious about the time-lapse experiment, it was a successful trial.  The criteria for success was that the camera actually stayed in one place, and we were able to relocate it at the end of the dive.  Nothing much was caught on it though, except a very still starfish wiggling his toes.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Lost at Birthday Wall

I've officially had it with Blogger.  For the second time in a couple weeks, it has lost a huge portion of a post that I had finished and saved.  And which it said was saved.  So here is a somewhat abbreviated version of this post, since writing the same post over again is annoying.

We were on the Escapade on Sunday, and as luck (or something) would have it, we once again found ourselves with a very light load -- just me, Rob, and Matt.  There were originally two teams, then two people cancelled, and we were four, and then Kevin got sick and had to punt the night before.  Since it was such a light load, with only one team, we had to seize the day and do a 12/65 dive.  Based on Saturday's conditions and the forecast, we figured it would be pretty calm on the surface, with a not very big, but very long period swell, so surgy at depth.  This is pretty much what we found.  There was a bit of wind chop from Point Pinos to Cypress Point, but once past Cypress Point, it was quite glassy.  That continued all the way down to Yankee Point, where we eventually ended up at Birthday Wall.

It was amazingly calm on the surface, making for a very easy deployment.  We headed down the line, and had a little pow-wow at 30 feet, where we made sure that the surge didn't affect our ability to hold a stop.  As expected, it was imperceptible in open water.  There was also very little current, as we were able to just hang at 30 feet by the line.  The viz was reasonably good, though there were quite a few small jelly animals in the water column.  We got to the plateau by the pinnacle and switched to backgas.  Then we headed down the slope, and went I don't know where.  I was just following Rob.  That's my story and I'm sticking to it :)  We got to the sand, and found pretty poor visibility.  Nothing was as we expected it.  The bottom wasn't deep enough, and nothing looked right.  With the bad viz, it was impossible to get our bearings based on landmarks.  So we basically scootered around for 15 minutes, trying to find something we recognized.  We did eventually make it to deeper water, and we found a structure with the tell-tale very-decorated (for that depth) wall.  But still nothing I recognized.  We found a pretty cool patch of wall that was overhanging past vertical, which I don't think I've seen there before.

As we were scootering around lost, we did see some cool critters.  Four (yes, one two three four) ratfish!  A Tochuina perched on a gorgonian flapping in the surge.  A basket start perched on a gorgonian flapping in the surge.  And a lot of other gorgonians flapping in the surge.  It was impressively surgy at the bottom.  Probably the surgiest I've seen at those depths.  Now we know where those deep ripples in the sand come from :)  When it came time to come shallower, we were, not too surprisingly, not able to find the shallower part of the structure.  We headed shallower and scootered around a bit looking for shallower reef.  After a bit of scootering around in the blue with no sign of anything, we gave up and put a bag up and started our ascent.  Deco was uneventful.  Even though there had been a lot of jelly animals on the way down, there were surprisingly few on the way up.  Until 20 feet.  When we first got there, there were none.  But eventually we found ourselves in a cloud of small jelly animals.  We must have drifted into them (or they drifted into us).  Rob passed some of the time at 20 feet trying to shoot them.  Then on the way up from 20 feet, quite a few sea butterflies appeared.  Where were they during the rest of our boring deco? :)

I don't mean to give the impression that I had a bad time on this dive.  It was kind of an adventure... who doesn't like scootering around in midwater at 150', with no structure in sight in any direction? :)  Plus I found the surge on the bottom to be rather amusing.  And I love ratfish.

When we surfaced, it was equally calm as when we started the dive.  It was quite leisurely reboarding the boat.  While we were still around Yankee Point, we encountered a pod of dolphins, who were quite happy to ride the bow even as we puttered along slowly.  This made for a nice video opportunity.  After that, we had an uneventful ride home.  I was disappointed to not find any orcas, since they saw them on the boat last weekend.  Hmph.

After looking at the maps, we determined that we must have dropped on the wrong side of the pinnacle (where none of us have ever been), and after heading down to the sand, we just never got our bearings due to the poor viz and our lack of familiarity with that area.  So we'll have to wait until next time to reunite with our flaggie friends.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Underwater Parks Day at Lobos

On Saturday, we participated in the Underwater Parks Day at Point Lobos, an event to celebrate the MPAs in Central California.  The event included a marine life display at Whaler's Cove, where visitors could play with some of our local critters.  We collected the critters in the morning, and after an hour or two on display, they were returned to the water.  I partnered up with Mykle and Ian.  It was a great day for the event -- warm and sunny, and nice flat seas.  The water was insanely flat on the surface, though there was some surge at depth -- there was a small, very long period swell.  But the surge was still not much, and the entry was insanely still.

Mykle is pretty well-versed in collecting specimens (since he is a pro), so I figured we'd have a good time, and come back with some really good critters.  And indeed, I was not disappointed.  I was primarily in charge of the nudibranch collection.  The viz was excellent in the cove.  We could have dropped right at the ramp to swim out, but instead we swam out on the surface about halfway to the mouth of the cove, and then we dropped and swam over to the rocky area along the parking lot.  We found a variety of snails, crabs, sea stars, and even some small fish around there.  I found a bunch of nudibranchs, but nothing particularly awesome -- nearly all dorids, and all rather small and monochromatic.  Eventually I suggested that we swim a bit further to the north.  I knew that if we made it to the southern tip of middle reef, there were be a bit more variety.  I was not disappointed, with some larger Tritonia festiva, plus a few Triopha catalinae and Doris sandiegensis.  I wanted to find a big slug, like a nice big Doris odhneri, but that was not to be.  I did find one larger Peltodoris though.  We eventually turned it on time, since we were supposed to meet back in the parking lot at some specified time.

I was a bit disappointed by the lack aeolids in my bag.  But on the swim in, I remembered that the rock out in the middle of the cove, just south of the ramp, is a Hilton's haven.  And with the really flat conditions, it seemed like a great option.  So once we got back to the ramp, I convinced Ian to head over there with me (Mykle headed up to the parking lot, with some of our finds).  I wanted to swim on the surface, because I had no confidence that I could actually swim in a straight line and find it underwater.  So Ian said he'd lead, and he found it without a problem :P  Basically right when I got there, I found one Hilton's.  I turned to Ian, to get the bag from him, and when I turned back, I couldn't find it.  Not to worry, I saw another one.  Then I found the original one.  The plan was to setup three separate stations, and I wanted them each to have at least one aeolid, so I really wanted a third.  But after looking for a few minutes, I was about to give up.  Then I found one floating in the water column, curled up.  Quelle chance!  So we then headed back to the ramp and submitted our finds to the petting stations.

I setup two little nudibranch tanks at the station where I spent most of the time.  We ended up with two Hilton's and a Hermissenda at my station, plus several different kinds of dorids.  One of the Hilton's was quite small, and ended up spending a lot of his time perched on the arm of a little crab.  It was pretty cute.  The marine life stations were quite a hit, so much so that we ended up keeping them open a little longer than originally planned.  I talked to a bunch of different people, mostly about nudibranchs, since I don't know much about anything else :P  And I managed to convince some of the kids to pet the slugs.  When it was time to shut down the marine stations, we returned all of the critters back to the water.

The Monterey Herald covered the event, with an article as well as a supplemental slideshow which even includes a pic of the Hilton's on a crab :)

As I was getting out of my suit, Beto stopped me and said that they were going back in the water to play with the monkey-face eels at the bottom of the ramp.  It's been ages since I've seen them, but Beto found one on the first dive.  So we got back in, and spent 15 minutes or so just playing around in 3 feet right at the ramp.  We ended up finding three different muppets, err, monkey-faces, all pretty large.  One of them was quite friendly and we had an extended playtime with him.  And when we were finished with the dive, we just had to stand up.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

New's Years Trip to Florida 2013

In what is becoming a tradition, we once again spent New Year's in Florida.  This time around we convinced Kevin to come too, so it was all Team Kitty, all the time, or something.  It wasn't until the second day, on the way out from Madison, that I realized that Team Kitty hasn't done a cave dive all together in ages!  This occurred to me because I was thinking... it's just so much easier diving with Rob and Kevin.  It's very predictable, and everyone is pretty laid back (well as laid back as Rob can be), and dives don't have to be over-planned or over-debriefed.  Anyhoo, Kevin brought his new hero-cam along with a video reflector for his primary light.  He got some pretty cool clips, and put together a video from all of the footage he took on the trip.  Be sure to turn on the sound when you watch it... I didn't the first time, but I love the music!

Anyhoo, without further ado, the day-by-day reports:

Peacock to the Crypt
Madison: The Courtyard and Godzilla Circuit
Emerald Sink to the Black Abyss
Ginnie Past the Hinkel
Orange Grove to Challenge, etc.

And the winner is...

Thanks to everyone who left a comment about their 2012 diving.  It was fun to read what everyone else was up to over the past year.  Don, it sounds like you will just have to try a little harder to be on the top buddy list next year :)

The randomly selected winner of Rob's 2013 calendar is Commenter #2, Dsix36.  Since I do not know who that is, can you please post a comment on here with your name and address?  (I have enabled comment moderation, so it won't get posted for the world to see.)

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

2013 Calendar Giveaway

Now that I've given away a calendar two years in a row, I guess it's a tradition, and you know I can't break from tradition.  Here's a thumbnail of the photos in this year's calendar:

This year's calendar has surprisingly few pictures from around here, and I guess Rob would say that's because he didn't do "any" diving last year.  It does sort of seem that way... we had a bunch of boat cancellations, plus plenty of travel (especially Rob) sprinkled around, so it seems like we weren't doing as much diving, or at least local diving (we'll get to the numbers in a moment), and more of the dives were sans camera.

I noticed that in my previous "new year's" post, I resolved to have more pictures on the blog.  I'm not sure that I lived up to that, but I think I made up for some of that with videos this year.  The stars have finally aligned so that I can actually get some reasonably good video (with my "new" Hero2, which is already obsolete!), and process it easily from anywhere (thanks to the MacBook Air that I got myself for Rob's birthday).  And conditions have allowed me to get some pretty cool videos this year... sea lions, juvenile rockfish and molas, more sea lions, sea nettles, and a big mola.

I guess my blog resolution for this year is to give the blog more attention.  It seems like it has been chronically behind, and I just noticed (to my horror) that a trip we did to Florida in May is *completely* missing from the blog.  (I'm still trying to figure out if I have some unpublished posts lurking somewhere, because I just don't know how that happened!)  So I will try to work on that.  My first order of business is to write about my New Year's trip to Florida.

Anyhoo, back to the calendar.  If you want a shot at the calendar, leave a comment on here before Monday, January 14 at 11:59 pm (Pacific time), which says something about your diving in 2012... maybe a favorite dive, or a favorite critter, how much you love your p-valve, or whatever.  I don't think I can pick a favorite dive, since I've had a surprising number of really good dives (despite a somewhat low number of overall dives).  But I really liked the flamboyant cuttlefish that we saw in the Philippines (which is, of course, featured in the calendar).

Once again this year, I ran some numbers to summarize the year in diving (and once again I punished myself by using Excel, instead of a relational database).  I did 86 dives this year, which is only barely lower than my count for 2011 (88), but since like 25 of those were concentrated in one week (in the Philippines), you can see why it seems like I didn't dive very much.  Also, only 37 of the dives were local.  (I didn't include any dives assisting with classes, which was probably another 8 days or so.  Plus for some reason I didn't count the dives for the BAUE project, I guess because they weren't blogged, which was another 7 dives, I think.)

This year I dove with 18 distinct dive buddies, which is up a bit from last year.  The top 5 buddies by dive count has changed only a little:


And the numbers by type of dive are:


And I know those numbers don't add to 86, but you're all smart, and I'm sure you can figure out why if you think really hard about it.

Happy New Year!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

New Year's 2013: Orange Grove to Challenge, etc.

Rob is not really a fan of Peacock, so I often cannot even talk him into one day there on a trip; but amazingly, we managed two days on this trip!  We were diving with Rachel today, because this was her one day by herself between dive buddies coming and going.  So Kevin, Rachel and I conspired to go to Peacock, without involving Rob, and then we told him that he was outvoted.  Woohoo.  There are a couple of tunnels on the map from the Orange Grove side which I have been wondering about -- the tunnel just before Challenge that goes to Woody's Room, and the Distance Tunnel.  I've asked a couple of people about them, and no one really had anything to say about them.  So I wanted to check them out, and everyone else agreed to it.

Since I masterminded the dive, I also got to lead it.  We were diving as a team of four, but I guess Kevin was my primary buddy, since he was #2.  The plan was to go up to Challenge for a quick peek, and then to go back to the jump up to Woody's Room.  Then on the way out, we would head up the Distance Tunnel.  I haven't been to Orange Grove in quite a while.  The viz was really good in the basin.  I recall in the past having to search around quite a bit to find the main line, but I was pretty sure I knew where it was today.  But then as we descended, Rob swam over to the really shallow ledge above where I thought the entrance was, and he was very insistent that I go up there.  So insistent that I thought he must have seen the line, even though I was sure that the last time I was there, I had to go to over 40 feet to get to the mainline (because the last time I was here, we did the grand traverse, and I had a lot of trouble with my ears on the 2 minute cleanup dive, and ended up stuck at 40 feet).  But before much argument could happen, Kevin was like "NO".  Thanks, Kevin.  So then we headed in the right way :)  I forgot to drop my (silly) O2 bottle until I was around the 100' marker, oops.  I think Kevin actually had to remind me, doh.  So, we brought a stage, which was pretty convenient, because we dropped it just before the Distance Tunnel, making it really easy to recalculate on the way out.

The viz was excellent.  I think it was the best viz I've ever had on this dive.  I always think of Peacock as being brown and green -- brown cave, green water -- probably because the first few times I dove there, the viz was quite crappy.  But I was pleasantly surprised with how much of this dive struck me as being more of a white and blue dive instead :)  On the way in, I managed to find both of the jumps that we wanted to take on the way out.  The Distance jump is within 100 feet of the change of arrows, right as the line drops down a little chimney and turns to the left.  The tunnel is pretty obvious.  The jump to Woody's room is also quite obvious, but there are actually two jumps you can take (starting from essentially the same spot on the mainline), which T back into each other, so you can take either.  I found the one to the left, and Kevin found the one to the right.  I was pretty sure that I remembered from the map that they both led the same place, but the left was more direct, so that's what we took.  But I am getting ahead of myself.  Pretty much the entire swim in, I was looking forward to the swim out, when I would be in the back, and everyone else would be lighting the tunnel for me.  I knew that would look nice in this viz.

We got to Challenge and surfaced briefly, since Rachel said she didn't think she'd been to Challenge before.  We headed back down after a minute or two, and I had a bit of trouble with the ears on the descent, so I was hoping we wouldn't find any big ups or downs in either of the other tunnels.  We were back to the Woody's room jump in about a minute, and Rob (who was now in the lead) led us into there.  This was a fairly wide tunnel for Peacock, with some smaller bits of tunnel connecting especially wide "rooms".  The bottom seemed comparatively untouched too, so I guess that's why no one could tell me much about this jump :)  We passed a T to the right not very far in, which I presume was that other jump from the mainline.  Eventually we got to a second T, and past that it was getting low.  Rob told us to wait a minute while he looked ahead.  He continued ahead for a moment and then returned and said it got smaller up there so we should turn around.  I asked him afterward if it was too small to go, or just too small for four, and he said too small for four.  I've been told that it eventually becomes a side-mount tunnel back there, but I have not verified that as fact, obviously.

So we headed back out to the mainline.  When we got there, I made us re-order the team so that I was in the back again.  I wasn't going to be cheated out of my exit in the back!  When we surfaced at Challenge, Kevin mentioned that we had passed a tannic dome on the way in, and he had dropped a cookie on the line so we would remember to check it out on the way out.  So when we got to his cookie, we went and played in the dome.  There was a layer of tannic water sitting on top.  I just looked at it from below, because I didn't want to disturb the layer.  But Kevin actually went into the layer.  Once he was in it, I couldn't even see him; it was amazing.  Looks like a good spot for a lost buddy drill :)  Kevin got some neat video of this.  After playing in there, we continued on to the Distance Tunnel.  I was still in the back when we headed in there, and it was a nice view, though it is a reasonably silty tunnel.  It is a small tunnel, in the sense that you would travel single file, though you could travel side by side if your cat's life depended on it.  I liked the tunnel a lot, because it is small and so it was really lit up with all of our lights.  And the walls are pretty white.  And it is a pretty evenly-sized round tunnel, which I find aesthetically pleasing.  I was trying very hard not to be a silty kitty.  Rob noted with surprise after the dive that I managed to get through the siltiest passage we'd be through on this trip without stirring up silt; he couldn't understand it.  When I explained that I was being careful not to drop my fins and cause siltiness, because it was a silty passage, he was very disappointed to learn that I am actually capable of not dropping my fins, but just usually too lazy not to :)  Anyhoo, eventually we came to a spot where there is like a gravel pile sloping across the tunnel, and it was a bit low getting over the pile.  I was wondering if it was going to continue getting lower, but then once we were through there, it went back to the same height as before.

Eventually we got to a point where there was a little room before it got tunnel-y again, and Rachel signaled turn.  Kevin was looking around, so even though he was between us, I saw the signal first, and signaled it to Kevin.  So we turned and headed out.  I didn't know why we turned.  It didn't seem like it could possibly be on gas (we had agreed to 500 psi up this line, and I had used like 200).  So I assumed it got really small and that was why we turned.  But since I didn't know the reason, I just headed straight out, without any suggestions of checking out other tunnels (I saw a jump to the left, on the way out, which I assume was the Martz offshoot.  We got back to the mainline, and I had been planning on making us reorder again, so I would get my rightful exit in the back.  Unfortunately there was a team of three divers on the mainline, heading in.  When they saw me, they got that usual deer-in-the-headlights must-give-way-to-exiting-team look, and I tried to tell them to go ahead (since a pile of four divers was about to appear, and I was hoping to loiter in the chimney so I could reorder the team).  But they didn't go ahead, then just hung out in the chimney.  I don't know if they were waiting to take that jump or what.  But I scooted on ahead, and waited in the tunnel before the chimney (where one of the team of three was also waiting... it was a very busy intersection!).  I retrieved my stage and continued ahead as I clipped it on and prepared to go onto it (since the team was now in reverse order, this was slightly inconvenient for picking up stages).  I turned back to Kevin to have him verify my gas, and I verified his.  Then I looked back ahead of me, and saw a bottle with Kevin's initials on it, and Kevin's color scheme.  I was super confused.  I looked back at Kevin, and he was in fact on his bottle.  Is there someone else out there with the same ugly yellow tubular webbing and similar initials on their bottle?  Turns out that in the big bottle shuffle in the truck, Rob decided to just bring one of Kevin's bottles, since it required moving fewer bottles.  But I hadn't noticed on the way in, because he was behind me.

After that the exit was pretty uneventful, except that I was leading, hmph.  When we got back to our O2 bottles, I (as is typical for dives at Peacock) wondered why I brought that :)  We did a min-deco ascent in the basin.  When we surfaced, I asked why we turned, and it turned out that no one would confess to turning the dive.  It was one of those, I thought you called turn, so I returned the signal, so you thought I turned it, and passed the signal on.  Which was kind of unfortunate, since we were all having a nice time before we accidentally turned it.

This would end up being my last dive for the trip, though I didn't know it at the time.  I'd been slowly acquiring a cold for the last day or two -- a gift from Rob.  So the next morning, I decided to not bother schlepping to Ginnie only to find out I couldn't clear my ears.  But don't worry, Rob and Kevin went on an awesome dive without me.  Their dives are always significantly awesomer in the retelling when I wasn't on the dive.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

New Year's 2013: Ginnie past the Hinkel

We went to Ginnie on New Year's Day, so we could sleep in a bit.  I was expecting it to be crawling with people, thinking everyone else would have the same idea.  But it turned out not to be too crowded there at all when we got there.  It was thankfully not nearly as cold as it had been the previous couple of days.  It was actually pretty comfortable out.  We got our gear into the water, and got going.  The plan was to go up Mainland, and then hit the Insulation Room on the way out.  We thought that Kevin would like to get a little video footage in both of those spots.  Rob was leading, and I was in the middle.  I seemed to get stuck in the middle a lot on this dive!

We headed into the cave, and I immediately made a fool of myself when we got to the Lips.  I have never figured out how to go through the Lips on the trigger.  In fact, I have never even tried it.  I just pull myself through while pushing the scooter ahead of me.  But I had a good vantage point to watch Rob scooter through the lips, so I decided to give it a try.  And that didn't happen.  I got spit out.  So I tried again.  And got spit out again.  And finally I just went through like I always do, pulling myself and pushing the scooter.  This would have been slightly less embarrassing if Kevin hadn't been behind me, watching me get spit out twice.  When I finally made it through, Rob didn't even ask :)  We continued on, and when we got out of the Cornflakes, we saw that the park bench jump was installed, and I could see a team up the tunnel.

Considering the very few cars in the parking lot, there was quite a lot of gear in the cave.  Pretty much every jump that we passed up to the maple leaf was installed (except maybe the mud tunnel).  There was a stage bottle on stage bottle rock, and the river intrusion tunnel jump was installed too.  We eventually paused at a jump around 2300'.  I'm not sure why we stopped there.  At first I thought that it was the Insulation Room jump and Rob was showing it to Kevin.  But it wasn't.  But since we were stopped, I decided this would be a convenient time to drop stage, so I did.  We finally made it to the Mainland jump, and we found not one, but two jump spools installed.  Hmph!  So, as much as we wanted to go in there, we thought better of it, and decided to head up past the Hinkel instead.  Sort of a bummer, but not that much of a bummer.  We still had one more day at Ginnie planned, and this would most likely have been the dive we would have done anyway.  We dumped our scooters at the Mainland jump there, and continued on.  Just after that, we also passed a bottle dropped on the line.  I think that brought an end (finally) to the insane amount of gear that we passed in the cave.  Solitude, at last!

Before I went to the Hinkel the first time, Rob told me there was a part of the tunnel where there is a lot of flow, and not a lot of places to pull on.  It is really only a few body lengths, but he got it into my head that it's there, so I was once again pleasantly surprised that the swim isn't as bad as I expected.  We got through the Hinkel, and I pointed out the plaque to Kevin.  After that, we just meandered up the line, pausing in the various rooms to look around.  We made it further than I've been before, and eventually Rob found a jump and asked if we could take it.  Sure, why not?  Once we made the jump, it was fairly small and a little bit crumbly in there.  And there was some flow.  We came up to a T just in time for me to thumb it on gas.  Rob wasn't very happy that he didn't get to go past the T.  He peered up to the left, which I think he said got a little wider than the tunnel we had been in (which was single file, so I didn't even get a glimpse of what was past the T).  And so we turned and headed back, and rode the flow out.  Kevin got a little video footage back there as we drifted out.  I really do like that area just past the Hinkel, and it is always too short on the way out :)

We got back to our scooters, where we found both of those jumps to Mainland still installed (so I am quite sure that they had been left there, and thus we could have gone in there after all).  We picked up our scooters and pretty much headed straight down the mainline until we came to that first stage drop.  Then we headed to the Insulation Room jump, and ditched all of our gear on the mainline, and went up there.  Kevin was leading at this point, and since he didn't really know the way, he went a slightly different route, and ended up tying in after the T, on the right side of it.  So we headed up that way, going counterclockwise around the little loop.  We stopped and played with the "insulation" a bit as Kevin got some footage.  Then we got to the room with the tannic layer on top, which was WAY more distinct than the last time I was in there, when it just seemed like the viz was crap.  After playing around there a bit, we headed back out and picked up all of our gear from the mainline, and out we went.

On the way out, there were even more jumps installed, as there were now actually a few teams in the cave with us.  We eventually made it back to the gallery, and headed up the eye.  There weren't any teams at the 20 foot spot when we got there (though there were two O2 bottles on the ledge), so Kevin and I took the ledge, and Rob went over and pouted in the corner (I'm not sure why he was pouting, I think it was because I thumbed it before he made it past that T).  Kevin and I shared a sudoku puzzle on deco, which was a lot of fun.  We made a lot more progress working on it together, so it was much less boring.  I also have to mention that after an unpleasant deco yesterday, I plugged in today, and oh what bliss!  Eventually a team came to claim their O2 bottles from the ledge, and after not too long, they headed out.  Then another team appeared, and I don't know how to explain it, but one of them was giving us the stink-eye.  We all noticed it.  First he stared at Rob for a while.  Then he stared at me.  I thought maybe he was staring because he was annoyed that we were hogging the ledge.  I would have shared if he had asked, but no, he just gave me the evil-eye.  Eventually it was time to go and I slithered past him and we slowly bobbed to the surface.  It was pretty early when we got out, so we actually had a while to hang around and do nothing in the afternoon.  My favorite thing to do on vacation!