It's about diving. And cats.

Me diving

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Sea Lions over Ed Coopers Wall

Kevin and I were on a BAUE tech boat on Saturday.  We were sans Rob, since he was teaching a class that day.  There was a moderate-sized swell in the forecast, but with a long period, so we weren't too worried about that from a boating perspective, and there wasn't much wind (and I believe it was out of the south, or some non-standard direction).  We ended up at Ed Coopers' wall, which for some reason, Kevin has been antsy to dive recently.  We tried to dive it recently, but it didn't work out, so he asked for it again, and who can complain about that?  The ride down was quite calm, though when we got there, we found that at the point, there were big breakers from the long swell.  So definitely not a day to drift into the rocks :)

We got geared up and into the water, and found excellent color and visibility on the top.  But things got a bit murky once we got down to the bottom, on the reef.  It was quite churned up from the swell, and it was damn surgy for that depth!  We started to scooter out along the wall, toward deeper water, and my scooter was moving very slowly.  So slowly that it was basically unusable.  So I told Kevin, and we just kicked instead.  This was pretty easy, since we were kicking with the current :P  The topography of that wall is always quite impressive, but it had quite a few barnacles.  It wasn't completely devastated by them or anything, there were certainly still very colorful patches, but in some areas, there were a lot of barnacles.  We eventually made it out to a sort of plateau at around 200 feet, which was totally covered with brittle stars.  Weird.

When it came time to go shallower, we headed back in the direction that we'd come.  However, since we'd been swimming along the wall at 200', we didn't have anything to follow back at 150'... the wall only came up to like 170' where we were.  Doh.  So we decided to scooter, and I found that my scooter wasn't up to the task (we were now going up-current), and so Kevin towed me.  He towed me for a bit in a, umm, non-standard towing configuration, just long enough to get to a small spot in the 150' area.  But I wanted to find a spot that comes up shallower, so we could at least do our deep stops on the reef.  The spot we were on was just sort of a lone peak, without any wall to follow shallower.  So then we went into a proper towing configuration, and off we went, looking for the shallower part of the main wall.  We were scootering for quite a while, and at some point, I realized that all I could see below us was blue water.  We eventually found another peak that came up to about 160' or 170', but this still wasn't really a shallow enough spot.  After a bit more searching around, we ended up giving up and thumbing the dive, in blue water, about 5 minutes early.

So I guess overall the bottom portion of the dive was pretty meh, what with the bad viz, scooter failure, getting lost, and barnacle invasion.  But the deco portion was actually quite fun!  Once we cleared 100', the viz was stellar.  The water was bright blue, and we could see so far in all directions.  It was also, strangely, sort of warm; not what I'd expect for such clear blue water.  After we got onto our 70' bottles,
we began the deco negotiations.  Since we had aborted the dive early, I thought we could trim our deco a bit.  I had an idea of what I wanted to do, having spent a bit of time playing with different lengths of the shallow segment in deco planner, but I wasn't sure Kevin would go for it.  Then he whipped out his wetnotes, which contained this super awesome multi-level dive table (for this depth range) that Rob and I made a few years ago.  Rob and Kevin have these in their wetnotes, but for some reason I don't!  Anyway, that made it easy to confirm what I wanted to do, and we quickly settled on a new deco profile.  Not long after that, we were visited by some curious sea lions.  There were quite a few of them, and they spent a good bit of time zooming around us.  They got a bit more shy around our 20' stop, which was unfortunate, since it was so bright there, it would have been a great video opportunity.  The very fun deco made up for the somewhat disappointing dive.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Winter Conditions at Yankee Point

We were back for more on Sunday, with a BAUE tech boat.  We spent the night in Monterey, which meant that I got to sleep in, which is the best way to dive I think :P  There was still a long period swell around, which made for a very nice, flat ride down to Yankee Point.  Considering how good the viz had been at Lobos the day before, I was pretty hopeful for another day of great conditions (and pretty bummed about my lack of video light).  We decided to go to the Three Nixies, which I haven't been to in a while, so that sounded good to me.

When we got in the water, we were not disappointed.  The water was bright and clear.  The downline was on the big pinnacle (I think it's the biggest) that comes up to maybe 100'.  We headed down to the bottom of that, and across the sand to one of the nearby pinnacles.  We were just meandering around at the bottom of one of pinnacles for a while, where I saw lots of lingcods, large and small, and some nice gorgonian gardens.  The visibility was excellent, you could easily see across the sand to at least two of the other pinnacles from where we were, and it was very bright for the depth.  Eventually we decided to move along, and not too long after that, I got an excited flash from Rob, who had happened upon the purple sea fan!  We've seen this instance of the purple sea fan once before (though Rob forgot that we had, so he was extra excited to find a "new" one :P).  When I saw the sea fan, I realized that I'd been a bit disoriented about where we were, compared to where I remembered the sea fan being before.  But I guess the excellent viz threw me off a bit.

We signaled the other team (above us), to show them the sea fan, and they were a bit less interested in coming down to take a look at it.  I guess it was a bit on the deeper side of the dive plan, but I take a +/- 20 feet approach to MOD when it comes to GUE standard gases :)  Maybe that's something I shouldn't admit on the internet, but the standard gases are pretty conservative to begin with...  Anyhoo, Rob got some nice pictures of me posing with Mr. Purple, and after that, it was time to head shallower.  We worked our way back over to the big pinnacle where we started, and hung out around the 140-150 range for a bit.  The gorgonians around there are super nice and lush, and there were many passes of being lined up for photos with the gorgonians :P  There were some barnacles, but not as bad as elsewhere.  I found a little red octopus on the wall, which struck me as odd, since it was so bright out.

Eventually we moved around the pinnacle, and found a huge school of juvenile rockfish.  Rob found this nice spot where the pinnacle jutted out a bit, with a nice elephant ear sponge, and all of the little rockfish in the background.  It had all of the makings of a nice spot for a picture, until we realized how much surge there was, just a bit shallower than we'd been for the past several minutes.  It was definitely coming and going, but at some point a really big set rolled through and I thought Rob was going to be flipped upside down by the surge!  As we moved up the pinnacle, it was really sort of more of the same, so instead of trying to eek out a few more minutes on the pinnacle during our deep stops, we just left the pinnacle and put up a bag.

By the time we left the pinnacle, I was really cold.  Actually, I was really cold for the entire second half of our bottom time.  So I thought that deco would be really uncomfortable, but it turned out that the water warmed up a bit (which was odd, because the viz didn't deteriorate that much), so deco was reasonably comfortable.  Around 40 feet, I was imagining what I would do to warm up once back on the boat.  There's always the Cup O' Noodles option (which Rob likes, and I eat to get warm, but don't particularly love).  And I was thinking... what Jim really needs on the boat is hot chocolate.  Then around 30 feet, I suddenly remembered that there IS hot chocolate on the boat.  Or at least I had it once a long time ago.  So I spent the rest of deco thinking about hot chocolate, and when I got back on the boat, I did manage to dig up a packet of hot chocolate.  Ahhhh.  This could be a game changer.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Underwater Parks Day at Point Lobos

On Saturday, we helped out at the Underwater Parks Day at Point Lobos.  This is the second year in a row that BAUE has participated, by putting together a marine life display in Whaler's Cove.  We do an early dive to collect some (hardy) specimens from the water, and then put them in tubs of water, so that the visitors can look at and touch them, and ask questions that we try to answer correctly :P  This is only the second time we've done this for the Underwater Parks Day, but we do a similar presentation for middle schoolers from Carmel once a year, so we've pretty much got the whole process down to a science at this point.  The water was super flat and it was a nice high tide, so a good day to be schlepping collection gear in and out of the water.  The water was also super clear in the middle of the cove, though it was a bit stirred up on the bottom further out and along the rocks on the side of the cove (where we did most of our collection), due to a long period swell that was just churning up the sand.  I was mostly videoing my buddies (Jason and Oleg), who were collecting.  But eventually I got bored with that and so I collected a couple of nudibranchs :)

We surfaced near the ramp, handed off most of our specimens at the ramp, and then went over to the little rock near the ramp, for some Hilton's hunting.  It was quite productive, and in a couple minutes, we had collected 3 of those.  Soon after that, I noticed a stream of very small bubbles coming out of my video light, which is never a good sign :(  I got it out of the water as quickly as I could, gave it a freshwater rinse, packed it in rice, etc.  In the end, it was still toast, boohoohoo, so it's now back at the manufacturer (so no videos for a while).  Anyhoo, I digress.  We brought our nudi samples back in, and setup the specimens at three different stations.  There was a pretty good flow of people, though it wasn't quite as good as last year.  I think last year was the first year that they did the event, so perhaps there was more interest.  For some strange reason, people seem to really like the keyhole limpets.  I guess they are big and weird looking, but not really my first choice for things to look at.  They liked the nudibranchs too, of course, since we had specimens of all different colors and shapes.  Someone even managed to bring back a Hopkins rose this year!  The one thing missing from the spread this year was a  sunflower star.  They are always a big hit with both the kids and adults, but they have sadly been decimated by the sea star wasting disease.  So we decided in advance that we would not collect any, even if we found some (which we did not).

After the presentations, we returned the critters to the water.  Then I went for a fun dive with Rob and Jon.  We wanted to go back to Beto's to look for the GPO that we found on Christmas Eve, and then we also planned to just do a bit of a scooter tour of that side of Lobos.  First we headed out to Beto's.  The viz was a bit churned up in the sand channel, but it was excellent once we were past about Hole in the Wall.  For some reason, my scooter seemed a bit slow today.  Jon has a fast scooter, so at first I chalked it up to that, but I was slow even compared to Rob (who was in the lead, while I was in the back).  We went to Beto's and found the GPO without too much difficulty.  I am pretty sure he (she?) is actually in the exact same crack that the wolf eel(s) used to live in.  He didn't come out to play or anything, but he was clearly visible.  Also, he seemed a bit bigger than when we last saw him.  I don't know how fast they grow, but he was a pretty small one when we first saw him.

After amusing ourself with the GPO and looking around at Beto's, which featured several MASSIVE lingcod, and a nice little school of blue rockfish hanging above the reef, we headed over to the Sisters.  Those barnacles have really done a number on the Sisters, again.  In particular, I noticed that on the first sister, the hydrocoral shrub that is right in the center is totally covered in barnacles.  Little bastards.  They did seem to be in the dying phase of barnacleness though.  We headed from there to the second sister, hung there for a bit, then over to the third, where there were some more blue rockfish.  We eventually meandered past there to a fourth little pinnacle (maybe a stepsister?) before deciding to head in shallower, toward Lone Metridium, etc.  We stopped at Lone Metridium, where Rob was shooting some pictures.  I put myself up above for some silhouette shots, and eventually he had me position WAY up above.

After a few minutes of that, we continued in.  There had been some discussion of going to the east side of middle reef, but for some reason, we were on the west side of the sand channel.  I questioned Rob about this, so he told me to lead, and I took us over to the top of middle reef (at which point, Rob suddenly and magically became captain again, and took us over to the east side).  I posed for  some more silhouette shots at the sort of north east corner of middle reef, and by the time that was done, I'd had enough with posing and holding my breath, etc.  So then we just headed in along the east side, which was very nice and clear.  It was much nicer viz than the sand channel side.  Now if only a whale would swim by... The viz in the cove was pretty murky on the scoot in, but we made it nearly the whole way in to the ramp anyway.  By the time we got out, the ramp had become a wee bit sloshy with that long period swell, though the tide was still high enough that getting out wasn't a problem.