It's about diving. And cats.

Me diving

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas Eve at Lobos

We had a boat cancellation the weekend before Christmas, but I was too lame to organize alternate dive plans.  Then when I saw pictures from the weekend, with awesome viz, and also saw the excellent forecast for the next few days, I decided we should go diving on Christmas Eve.  When we got there, the surface conditions were excellent, as forecast.  It was also a nice high tide, ahhh.  We decided to go to Twin Peaks.  When we were discussing the plan the day before, I asked how many bottles that required, and shockingly, Rob said it was up to me.  No pressure.  Then I thought about how annoying it is to have to turn the dive on gas, so I called for three bottles :)

We got all the gear setup, which was pretty easy with the high tide and barely moving water, and got into the water pretty quickly.  It wasn't very crowded at Lobos, which I found sort of surprising, but I guess most normal people were attending to family obligations.  The viz in the cove was really good as we scootered out, but when we dropped in the sand channel, we found that it was a bit churned up.  The viz wasn't terrible, but not at all what I was expecting based on the cove.  Once we got to Hole in the Wall, it was like someone had flipped a switch, and just like that, the viz got really good.  It only got better as we continued on.  We went out via Lone Metridium and the Sisters, and pretty much headed straight down the road all the way to Twin Peaks.

The viz was really good, with bright blue water.  We played around a bit with lighting pictures with my video light and Rob's strobes, which consumed a bit of time.  Aside from that, I was mostly looking for little critters.  But Rob actually made the best macro find of all, which was a nice plump Cuthona divae.      We swam around from the main peak, meandering around the surrounding pinnacles.  There were some sea lions that kept swimming down and buzzing us.  There were at least two, but maybe a few more.  Eventually, I noticed that one kept swimming behind an elephant ear sponge.  It seemed like it was gnawing at something back there, but I couldn't imagine what it was.  I was watching it, and videoing it, since it kept predictably returning to that one spot.  Then all of a sudden, it zipped down to the sponge and chomped down on it, breaking off a huge piece of the sponge!  I couldn't believe it.  I suppose I shouldn't be too surprised to see that from a creature that likes to play mola frisbee.  It did make me wonder about the fate of the elephant ear sponge on the side of the second sister, which I always assumed was destroyed by a diver's fin, a boat anchor, or a big storm.

We headed back in, and went via Beto's Reef, since that's how Rob likes to go.  I prefer to go back the way we came, because we get to our 70 foot bottle sooner, but today it was a good move.  We were scootering back, and I was basically just zooming along, kind of antsy to get to 70 feet, when Rob signaled me rather excitedly.  He was at one of the little drops in the reef, near the old wolf eel's den.  So I was thinking he was showing me the wolf eel, though his signal seemed a bit too excited for that.  I swam over, saw that he was giving me the "octopus" signal, and really couldn't believe he was stopping me to show me an octopus.  Until I looked.  Ooooh, that kind of octopus!  There's a GPO in the wolf eel's den!  It even had the nice tell-tale pile of crab shells just outside of it.  It was a pretty small one, but still a great find!

We headed in, and after getting onto our bottles, I suggested we hop over to Middle Reef.  It seemed like the bottom was even more churned up than it had been on the way out, but I was thinking that with the viz above the bottom being quite nice, the top of Middle Reef could be a rather scenic ride in.  So we headed over to Middle Reef, and Rob kept ignoring my overtures to go up to the top of the reef.  Then finally, when we got to our 40 foot stop, right by transect 4 (where we looked for, but did not find, the old resident warbonnet), I made it clear that I wanted to stay there for the 30 foot stop too.  Rob finally got it, and then realized that it was a gorgeous day on the top of the reef!  The water was bright blue and there was a nice school of blue rockfish hanging out in the kelp.  We pretty much spent the rest of deco, both our 30 and most of our 20 foot stop, in that spot, with Rob shooting pictures of the kelp and the rockfish (and occasionally me).  I think he got some of his best ever pictures of rockfish in the kelp!  Definitely a great way to pass the time on deco!

Once we finished up with the photo shoot, we headed in.  Rob's scooter got quite slow while we were in the cove; I think I could have swum faster than he was moving :P  When we surfaced, conditions were still great on the way out of the water, making for an easy time retrieving all of our gear.  We high-tailed it out of town, so we could make it back to San Jose in time for the Christmas party going on at Anywater Sports.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

CRB (Meh)

Photo by Clinton Bauder
We were supposed to be on a boat on Saturday, but it got cancelled due to weather.  Considering how long it had been since I'd been diving, and I didn't have plans for the following weekend, I figured I should come up with some sort of alternative.  Sunday's forecast was looking pretty good, and it just kept getting better looking.  So Clinton, Rob, and I decided to head to Carmel for a shore dive on Sunday (no Lobos tickets, wah).  We went to Monastery first, which was definitely diveable, but not as epically calm as I was expecting (from the forecast).  There were also a TON of divers there, like so many that you might have to trip over them on the way into the water :)  So we decided to head to CRB, where I haven't been in years!

It took a bit of circling around before we finally found the right road to take to get to the stairs, but once we found it, we got the prime parking spot right across the street from the stairs.  We looked at the water, and while there were pretty big breakers out past the rocks, the entrance was protected enough.  Since its a long swim out to the "good parts", we brought scooters.  We also brought single tanks (since we'd had our eye on Monastery), and I think this may literally have been the first time I've ever scootered in just a single tank (that is, without a stage... not that I make a habit of single tank + stage dives either :P).  We schlepped the scooters and cameras and some tables down to the beach.  I decided to stage my rig down on the beach too.  I headed down to the beach, and as I was getting into my gear, I was having a ton of trouble with my drysuit inflator hose.  It just didn't want to connect to my drysuit inflator!  After forcing it a bit too much, I guess, the hose started to free flow.  Of course I was standing on the beach, by myself, in a not too convenient place to do a valve shutdown (on the left side of my H valve).  After some contortions, I got the thing shut down, just as Rob and Clinton arrived.  I thought it might be a bad Schrader valve, but Rob determined that it just needed to be tightened.

Photo by Clinton Bauder
It was a beautiful day on the beach, sunny, blue sky, nice-looking water, but man was it cold!  It was probably in the low 40s at its warmest (glad I wasn't one of the wetsuit divers at Monastery!)  We human buoyed it to get our scooters and cameras into the water, and although it was pretty calm and I just had a single tank on my back, it stilled seemed like I did everything in my power to almost drown as I got into the water.  I guess I need to shore dive more often.  Once we were all in the water, we headed out on the surface.  The color of the water from the surface was excellent.  It was bright blue, and we could see to the bottom even when we were in the 20 to 30 foot depth range.  Woohoo.  I was sure it was going to be an awesome dive.  We eventually decided to drop, somewhere in the 30 to 40 foot range, and when we got to the bottom, boy was I disappointed.  The bottom 5 to 10 feet had a layer of crap viz, I guess stirred up from the big swells.  Hmph.  We headed out, eventually getting to around 80 feet, and the viz did not improve.  It was actually kind of a chore to keep the team together, though that could have been related to Rob and Clinton taking pictures (and me occasionally video'ing).

Photo by Clinton Bauder
In addition to the crap viz, CRB has become a barnacle wasteland.  It was just ugly!  All of those little pinnacles that used to be covered in color are now just barren rock with barnacles.  I found some tiny patches Corynactis, but for the most part, there was none.  Like I said, I haven't been to CRB in ages, so I figured this is what the years of barnacle cycles have done to it.  But Rob and Clinton were there just a few months ago, and they said that this is a new phenomenon (which is good, I guess).  So hopefully it will bounce back soon.  Eventually we got to a patch of sand with tons of squid eggs (we'd since a bunch of patches of them already, on the way out), and we amused ourselves with those.  Clinton took some pictures of us with the eggs.  We killed a bunch of time out there and then headed in.

We scootered in almost all the way to the beach (to less than 10 feet), and then last part of the ride, above about 25 feet, the viz was excellent.  Unfortunately there was nothing to see in the crystal clear water except sand.  After we exited the water, I though my face was going to freeze on the way up the stairs.  Brrr.  Clinton said it was better than no dive at all, but I really wasn't sure.  Between the three of us, no one had anything worth posting from the day, but Clinton did send me some squid egg pics, so at least I have something to go along with the unenthusiastic report :)