It's about diving. And cats.

Me diving

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Ocean 1, Allison 0

On Saturday, Team Kitty was on the Escapade for a 15/55 boat.  This was my first dive back after our trip to Australia.  A nice long cold dive is always a good welcome home after a warm water trip :)  The forecast looked alright the night before.  In fact it looked so alright that I didn't take any bonine.  As it turned out, it was a bit rougher than the forecast predicted.  It wasn't really too rough for most of the ride down, but somewhere past Lobos, I started to really feel it.  We had been talking about going to Mount Chamberlin, but then as we were passing Lobos, we stopped to discuss if we wanted to dive at Ed Coopers' Wall.  There were no strong opinions (two great dive sites to choose from), so I insisted on Mount Chamberlin, since we'd just been to Ed Coopers' recently (and it hadn't exactly been epic).  So we kept on going, and it seemed liked almost as soon as we turned the point, oy.  I started to regret my insistence on continuing down to Yankee Point.  By the time we got to the site, the wind had kicked up a bit, with whitecaps about.  I was feeling pretty terrible as we dropped the downline, and so I was just trying to get into my gear and into the water.  We ran through our gear checks, then took bottles, and then I was deposited into the water, not completely under my own power (it was a three bottle dive).

As soon as I hit the water, I noticed that the viz was terrible, at least on the surface.  You had to be right on the line to see it.  I was drifting from the line a bit, and realized, when I tried to deploy my light, that my scooter was clipped through my light cord.  I figured it would be better to deal with it at 20', so I headed down, now off of the line, following Rob's bubbles, and hoping they would lead me to the line, which they did.  When I got to the line, Rob and Kevin were both there.  After a minute or two of wrestling with my scooter like it was a mad bull, I finally got my light and scooter sorted out, and we continued down the line.  It was really dark and snotty all the way down to about 150 feet.  In fact, as we approached the bottom, I felt like I nearly crashed into it before I saw it.  The viz when we got to the bottom (which was somewhere between 150 and 200) was probably about 10 feet.  As we cruised down from there to the sand at the bottom of the southwest corner, the viz did improve.  At the bottom, it was probably around 30 feet, but it was dark as night.  I was still feeling not so awesome when we first got to the bottom, but I did feel quite a bit better after about 10 minutes.  At that point, I realized that I'd been so out of if as we got geared up, that I hadn't checked any of my bottles as they were clipped onto me (that they were the correct bottles and that they were full).  Doh!  So I had to stop and go through them, and found that everything was fine.

Considering how bad the viz was, we actually covered a ton of ground, I guess because Rob wasn't shooting.  We came down the west wall, I think a little further north than usual, and made our way south all the way to the corner.  Then we crossed over the sand from the south wall over to the south annex, which we usually don't do in bad viz (though I don't know why, since the navigation is pretty hard to screw up).  We were pretty far to the west end of the south annex today, at the deep part, with a very dramatic wall on the back side.  After cruising around there for a bit, we headed back over to the south wall, and worked our way up shallow enough to do a bottle switch.  Aside from all of the ground that we covered, we saw some basket stars and wolf eels (well I saw one wolf eel, but apparently Rob saw three).  The viz was getting worse as we got shallower, and by the time we got to about 150', it was dramatically worse.  I would say that the very bad viz layer started around 150'.  And yet, amazingly, we managed to make it all the way back to K2.  I was feeling a bit doubtful that we would find it, even though I knew we were very close, and then I saw a big school of rockfish, and I figured this had to be K2.  And a moment later, through the murk, I saw a pinnacle coming up shallower than 90'.  It was about then that we realized that there was some insane surge right on top of the pinnacle.  Rob suggested that we head off of the pinnacle a bit to shoot the bag.  I didn't really think the surge was any big thing, but I followed him.  And then, while we were putting the bag up, woa, we got dragged like 15 feet back toward the pinnacle.

I feel like up to this point, I haven't really done justice to my experience of this dive.  It was an ugly dive.  It was dark, the viz was very bad for about half of it (the half above 200'), I was very seasick and then sort of seasick for the first half or so of it, and I didn't have finkeepers.  Yea, I know that last one is a really lame thing to mention, but I swear, I felt like my fins were going to pop off for half of the dive, and I kept worrying that on deco, they might actually pop off (I was worrying about that before deco, once I was actually on deco, they were surprisingly well-behaved).  So, by the time we got to deco, I was pondering whether I just wasn't cut out for these kinds of dives anymore.  Deco was actually fine, the only nice thing about that viz was that it was pretty toasty warm on the way up.  But on deco I was reflecting on the dive, and decided that the best word to summarize it was "challenging".

At the 20 foot stop, I developed some seriously bad sinus problems.  I spent a lot of time on that stop trying to blow something out of my nose, though that was not very fruitful.  Eventually it got to the point where I felt like I just couldn't blow out of my nose at all.  Just about then, Kevin decided to pay homage to Ted with some sort of hand-holding shenanigans, which caused me to collapse in laughter, and flood my mask.  So I spent the rest of the stop trying to figure out how to clear my mask when I could barely blow out of my nose; I blame Ted.  As we were finishing up our 20 foot stop, I started to feel a little seasick again.  I think I may have looked up at this point and realized that it was pretty rocky up there.  At some point during the 6 minute ascent, I think the 11 foot stop to be precise, we stopped for an extended (that would be more than one minute) stop, for some reason or another.  That stop completely pushed me over the edge into seasickness.  When I got to 5 feet, I spent about 15 seconds there, and decided that that was enough of a stop.

When I got to the surface, I pulled my mask off to try to deal with my sinus problems, and with really no warning at all, I threw up.  It was super snotty on the surface.  I looked up at the boat, and it looked like a little toy boat dancing around on top of the wind waves.  I know I use that imagery a lot, but that's actually what the boat looks like to me in these kinds of conditions.  The boat was picking up another team, so we were waiting for a while.  But the boat was really drifting, and it drifted enough that it was pretty close to us, so we decided to just scooter over there.  As I was scootering over, I saw that John was passing a bottle up to the boat, but it seemed to be taking a long time.  Then he took the bottle back, and one of the crew told me that John was having some problem with his bottle.  Rob and Kevin made a beeline to the ladder, and I figured someone should go help John, so I headed over to him (thinking that I was the last person that should be offering help, since I could barely keep my breakfast down).   Of course by the time I got there, he had sorted out his problem (which I knew would happen!).  But I figured we shouldn't all pile up at the back of the boat, so we hung back, and before you know it, the boat had drifted way off from us, and we decided we should just wait for them to come back around for us.  Then I threw up again.  Wind waves were breaking over our heads.

The boat finally came back around for us, and I handed up a bottle.  Then I scootered off from the boat, so John could drop a bottle off.  I unclipped my second bottle, and had one finger hanging onto a bolt-snap, waiting for John to back off from the boat.  But he didn't.  Instead, he hung there while he got his next bottle off, etc.  By the time I decided to just scooter back to the boat and loiter while he finished up, I couldn't catch up to the boat.  It was really moving in that wind!  So I laid back and waited for John to get back on the boat, so they could swing around once more to get me.  All the while, I was holding onto my bottle with one finger (on my poor RSI-riddled hand).  I was afraid if I tried to clip it back off, I would drop it.  So instead, I locked my hand around it and waited.  The boat finally came back around, and I handed up my bottle.  Phew.  I handed up my scooter (keeping my O2 bottle for the climb up the ladder), and then grabbed the ladder and took a fin off.  The ladder on the Escapade had suffered some damage the day before (it got bumped by another boat while transferring passengers, and got kind of crunched down along the rail on one side).  So, I had a bit of trouble holding on, with my hand which was now permanently claw-shaped.  So after getting one fin off, I just couldn't conceive of how I was going to get the second fin off, without losing my grip on the ladder.  And this was all unfolding as I was getting periodically mangled by the waves.  So then I wondered if I could swing my fin up above the water while clinging to the ladder with all my strength.  My fin popped up above the water, and Josh caught on, and leaned over and pulled it off.  Phew.  Now I just had to drag myself up the ladder.  That didn't go too well either.  My arms didn't seem to be working, so I asked for help, and immediately there were at least 3 people on top of me, basically lifting me (or my tanks anyway) out of the water.  Definitely not a good day for my street cred.  Let's just say I was relieved (and horribly seasick) when I sat down on the bench.

Practically everyone was seasick on the ride home.  I think we all agreed it would have been a better day to sleep in.

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