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Me diving

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.

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