It's about diving. And cats.

Me diving

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Pinnacle Point Wall

As I mentioned in yesterday's post, we had a tech boat on Sunday, which was nearly cancelled on Saturday.  By Sunday morning, it was just Clinton, Rob, and me.  We all brought gear for both an in-the-bay recreational dive and an out-of-the-bay tech dive, depending on conditions.  The conditions were fine in the morning, and I think the forecast suggested we could sneak out before conditions deteriorated.  So we loaded up our gear forthwith, and we were off.  The conditions did in fact hold for us, and we managed to make it down to the Lobos area, where we decided to dive Pinnacle Point Wall.

After our (sort of) recent dive at Lunaticos, which really seemed to be destroyed by the barnacle invasion, I was a bit worried we would find the same thing here.  But I was quite delighted to find quite the opposite.  The wall was just as insanely encrusted and colorful as I remembered, if not more!  And the viz was excellent.  We didn't move around too much during the dive.  For most of the dive, we were just hanging out about 2/3 of the way down the wall, and we could see very clearly to the bottom and along the sand ripples down there.  In addition to the viz being good, it was quite bright and blue down there too.  I was having some problems with my regulator, well not really problems, but more just annoyance.  I reconfigured my regs a bit for the RB (there's an extra hose on the right post, plus I changed the routing a little bit to suit the geometry better).  So instead of having to move things back and forth, I decided to just use my backup (old Apeks) regs for open circuit dives.  Note to self: don't take an old set of regs that's been languishing in the back of the van for over a year on a tech dive.  The primary was a bit bubbly, and the tuning knob was jammed.

Part of the reason that we didn't cover too much ground was that Clinton and I were on a mission.  He was down a strobe, so instead of trying to make do with one, he wanted to play around with shooting video on his camera, so I offered to light for him with my video light.  So I spent most of the dive a few feet above Clinton trying to light whatever his camera happened to be pointing at.  As it turns out, there were some technical difficulties with his housing, so the video trial was not a success.  Meanwhile, Rob was shooting his camera, which he too was having some trouble with (he's had trouble with it ever since the flood and repair), so he said he "didn't get anything".  It pains me to post about a dive with Rob and Clinton with no pictures to show for it!  So I am included a couple of screen captures from the hero cam... I think Rob may have actually taken the video.

Anyhoo, after hanging out in more or less the same spot for most of the dive (meandering shallower halfway through the bottom time), we went for a quick jaunt around a little side pinnacle at the end of the wall right at the end.  Then I think I thumbed it, because I hit min gas, which is super weird.  I never hit min gas on this profile!  I think I was breathing extra much because of the bubbly reg.  It was super annoying to hear it bubbling all the time, and when I inhaled was the only time I got a break from hearing the bubbling!  So, I hit min gas and called the dive a couple minutes early.  On the ascent, I guess Rob got annoyed with watching my bubbly long hose dangling from my D-ring.  At 20 feet, he started to get really antsy about it, and wanted to shut down the post.  I don't know why it was bothering him so much... from the switch at 70 feet, to the switch at 20 feet (including a few minutes on backgas at 30 feet), I had used/lost 100 psi.  I told him I wasn't shutting it down, and he came swimming at me, and I told him very clearly not to touch my gear.  I was annoyed.  Clinton was highly amused by our deco antics.  Rob was scolded on the surface after the dive.

Deco was otherwise uneventful, with quite nice viz.  When we surfaced, the horrible conditions still had not arrived, phew.  Diving in open circuit was a bit weird after not for a while.  Rob told me my buoyancy on deco had gotten better since I started diving the RB.  I'm not sure how to take that!

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Surge and Icky Viz at Lobos

Rob and I had Lobos tickets, and it turned out that so did Matt and Leah, so we decided to all do a dive together.  I think I've become a bit spoiled by the good viz at Lobos on my last few dives, but this brought me back to reality... the viz was pretty icky, I would normally call bad viz "green" but really I think it was more like brown :)  It wasn't like viz so bad you couldn't keep a team together, or navigate to the usual spots, but it was just pretty icky.

We basically did a tour of the usual spots on the "left" side, including Three Sisters, Beto's Reef, and then we headed back to the Lone Metridium area.  There were a fair number of blue rockfish hanging out at the Sisters, but that was about the only thing of note out there.  Back around Lone Metridium, it was quite surgy and viz was pretty brown.  But we were poking around there for a bit, including paying a visit to the GPO near there.  I was having fun watching the NDL time on my JJ controller.  So, for better or worse, the controller has a deco computer in it, which as far as I can tell, cannot be switched to a gauge mode.  This can be annoying for a variety of reasons (not the least of which is that I haven't paid for the VPM module, so I'm using Buhlmann, though I typically dive more or less VPM).  But it's also kind of entertaining to watch how the computer behaves as you move shallower.  As we headed in from the Sisters, I was perilously close (hahaha) to going into deco, but then once we got to 60 feet, I had basically unlimited NDL time.  So anyway, the fact that I was having fun watching my computer tick time away from NDL is an indicator of the quality of the dive.

Eventually the surge got to Leah, so Matt and Leah decided to head in, and we split into two teams.  We poked around the area a bit longer, and then Rob suggested we make a quick run over to Granite Point.  I wasn't too interested in going there, since I figured it would be damn surgy, but he just wanted to say hello to the GPO over there.  So we zipped over there, it was in fact damn surgy, and we said hello to the GPO and then headed back in.  We had been planning to do a practice ascent from the end of Middle Reef, which I tried to wave off, but Rob gave me a look, so we did it.  I felt quite un-spazzy on this dive, a first since I'd started diving the RB, and I didn't want to ruin that with a spazzy ascent :)  The ascent went very well though, so I guess I didn't ruin it.  After the dive, when I told Rob my reasoning, he correctly thought it was really lame.  After that, we went back to the bottom and came in the sand channel to finish the dive.

After packing up, we headed to RG Burger for some lunch and mediocre service.  While we were there, there was a flurry of text messages and phone calls about the boat on Sunday.  There was a tech charter on Sunday, with a pretty light load and a pretty bad forecast.  So there was some discussion about whether the boat should go.  Then I got email announcing that the boat was cancelled.  Rob and I were staying down in Monterey for the night, so we still wanted to dive.  We called Jim and decided to go out on the boat anyway, and just bring gear for an in-the-bay dive as a backup, if the conditions were as bad as the forecast predicted.  With that decided, we headed to the Quality Inn to checkin, and then over to the Taste of Monterey for some wine and wifi.  I wanted to get some work done in the afternoon, so I was thinking we could take our laptops to Starbucks, but then we had the idea to go to Taste of Monterey instead.  Coding from a wine bar is a brilliant innovation.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Kevin's Birthday Dive

We were scheduled to be on the tech boat on Saturday, which was Kevin's Birthday dive.  Technically his birthday was earlier in the week, but since we all must suffer the indignity of working for a living, we observed the joyous occasion on Saturday.   As it turns out, the forecast was horrible, so horrible that a bay dive was the most that we could hope for.  Kevin had just received his JJ, and had taken it for a spin on Friday.  So he was antsy to get more hours on it, so we agreed to punt the boat and go for a recreational shore dive instead.  We had no Lobos tickets, so we had to figure out where to go.  I suggested MacAbee since, well, it's not the breakwater!  I haven't been there in ages, and I do like MacAbee!  Kevin agreed with it, so there was really nothing Rob could say (he's a MacAbee hater).

One benefit of punting on the boat was that we agreed to meet at 10AM.  Ahh, so luxurious.  I actually got to sleep in, compared to my usual wakeup hour.  That never happens when we go diving.  Somehow even with the late start, we managed to get really good parking spots on the street, right in front of the beach.  We could see from the beach that the Escapade was at Mile Buoy, so we didn't feel too bad about missing the boat :P  We could also see the Beachhopper right off of MacAbee (at the spire, maybe?)  Rob didn't want to put X-tables on the beach, which I found a bit annoying, but he made it out like it was going to be this huge big deal to put the tables on the beach.  So fine, I went along with it.  We got geared up at the back of the van and did all of our checks up there and then headed down to the water.  We swam out a bit and dropped in less than 20 feet of water.  The viz pretty bad, and it was a little surgy at that depth.  The surge was only really notable because it meant there was kelp salad swirling around in parts.  I was supposed to be leading, but I was not doing a very good job of getting us deeper.  I think I unintentionally took us a bit west as we were heading out.  Rob got ahead of us, trying to lead us to where we wanted to be, and the next thing you know, he was gone.  I thought I was following his white tanks, but then I decided it was just a bright clearing ahead in the sand.  Keeping track of people without bubbles is definitely harder.  So Kevin and I surfaced and after a minute, we saw some bubbles, as Rob surfaced too.  He was quite close to us when he surfaced, but the viz was so bad, we never would have seen each other.

We headed back down and then managed to get on the right heading and get deeper.  The viz got better, until it was eventually quite good below about 40 feet.  I found a variety of nudis, including some Hopkins roses, Spanish shawls, and Hiltons'.  Eventually when we got out to 50 feet or so, we put up a bag to do a practice ascent.  That went fine, a little slow, but nothing too dramatic.  We surfaced not terribly far from the Beachhopper, hehe.  After a little debrief and Kevin telling us how awesome the JJ is, we headed back down.  This is when I realized just how good the viz was below 40 feet!  It was murky, murky, murky on the way down, and then suddenly it got really clear.  It must have been at least 30 feet, but it was a nice clear 30 feet.  It was also really cold compared to the murky water above!  We did a few more drills and poked around a bit, and then we headed in.  When we got out of the water, not too surprisingly, I found it annoying to not have a table on the beach.  I took a break on the way up, leaning against a sandy ledge, and somehow managed to get sand all over my suit, my gloves, and my face.  Rob was really annoyed when I brought my sandiness up to the van, which was excellent revenge for the X-table debacle.

After packing up our gear, we were talking about where to go for lunch, and we all sort of came up with Sonic at the same time.  It was Kevin's birthday, so we wanted to go somewhere special ;)  Since I didn't manage to make cupcakes or anything for the occasion, we stopped at Starbucks on the way and I got 3 cake pops, and then we all met up at Sonic for lunch.  Mmmm, tater tots.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Back at Lobos

The purple beast
Team Kitty-proper was diving at Lobos today.  I guess I didn't really officially announce it yet, but I recently got a rebreather, a JJ-CCR, which shall henceforth be referred to as the Purple Beast  (I took a class on the JJ in February, but my unit just recently arrived.)  So, we have a lot of easy recreational diving ahead of us, to get comfortable with the beast.  Last weekend's three-dive-day was aimed at that.  At the end of the day, I was threatening to list my JJ for sale on Craigslist.  So, I wasn't super excited about another day with the beast, but I recognized that it was necessary to get over the hump.  After a week of diving it in class, I actually loved diving the thing.  Rob and I were diving JJs, and Kevin was in open-circuit.  Kevin took the class too, and has a JJ on order, but hadn't received it yet.  He was jealous.

We pretty much did the tour of Lobos again, with some GPO-peeping stops included.  We were also planning on doing some drills on the way back in.  The visibility was pretty good, I might even call it very good.  We hit all of the major spots, including Granite Point (and its nearby GPO), Lone Metridium (and its nearby GPO), the Sisters, and Beto's.  We spent more time at Beto's than probably any of the other spots, or at least it seemed that way.  However, we did not succeed in finding either a GPO or a wolf eel in the usual wolf eel crack.  When we were on our way over to Lone Metridium, we ran into Beto (with Paul and Greg, I think), and they were gesticulating toward the crack with the GPO... so they saved us the trouble of having to find it ourselves :)  Other than the GPOs, we saw some sea hares in the sand between Middle Reef and Granite Point, which is unusual, I think.  I don't know if I've ever seen a sea hare at Lobos before!  So that was pretty coold.

After a whirlwind tour of Lobos, we returned to the end of the sand channel to do some drills.  We did some drills last weekend too, but this week was a bit more extensive, since we didn't have any time constraints.  We started out around 60 feet, where we put up a bag and dropped our scooters.  We practiced a few ascents with short hangs, some bailout drills, S-drills, and other such fun things.  We eventually moved closer in along the sand channel, and did a few more drills around 30 feet, and at least one more practice ascent, before heading in.

After the dive, discussion turned to whether we were any warmer on the dive than usual.  I didn't really think so, until Kevin pointed out that it was a two and a half hour dive.  Normally I wouldn't make it that long in the water without ending the dive because I was cold!  So maybe there IS something to this thing about rebreathers being warm.  Though I don't think that really makes up for the whole having to learn how to dive all over again :)

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Three-Dive Day

Photo by Clinton Bauder
We were originally planning on diving on Saturday and Sunday, and then Saturday's boat was cancelled on Friday night, due to hellish weather (which according to Jim turned out to be the right choice).  We had Lobos reservations on Sunday, but there had also been talk of going out on the Escapade for a rec charter in the afternoon.  When our plans for Saturday disintegrated, we decided to do the unthinkable... Lobos in the morning, and the Escapade in the afternoon!

For the Lobos portion of the day, I was diving with Rob and Matt.  After the successful visit to the Granite Point GPO the previous weekend, we decided to head over there for a visit, and also meander about on the Cannery Point side of the world too.  Sort of a tour of the shallow areas of Lobos.  We went to Granite Point and found the GPO without much trouble (Rob led us there).  He was there, and was pretty squirmy and active in the crack, but not too interested in coming out to play :(  There was a nice pile of shells outside of his crack.  Since I had apparently missed the super obvious "Lone Metridium" the last time I was there, I looked up from the crack and realized that Clinton was right... it really was right above my head, and hard to believe I hadn't noticed on the last dive.  But it was all closed up, at least today, so maybe that is a good excuse.

California Trivia Snail, aka the zebra snail
Photo by Clinton Bauder
After visiting the sure thing GPO, we went over to the Cannery Point side and meandered around between Hole in the Wall and Lone Metridium.  During the meander, Matt managed to find another GPO (maybe the one that's been around that area for a while, but I'm not sure, since I'd never seen that one before).  This one was not as big as the Granite Point one, but still a great find!  Rob was being oblivious when we found it, so I had to basically scooter over to him and demand that he follow me, in order to show it to him!  The GPOs were the only really noteworthy finds, though I did see another Limacia this week (pretty close to Lone Metridium).

On the way in, when we got to the sand channel, we did a few drills and then we headed in.  The exit at the ramp was dramatically different than last time.  The tide was pretty low, but it was lake-flat.  For some reason, I still needed a hand from Matt getting out.  I think I've lost my touch at the Lobos ramp; just out of practice, I guess.

Photo by Clinton Bauder
We headed to K-dock, with a stop at the deli across the street.  I didn't know they had tacos there; that is a bit of a game-changer.  John and Clinton were joining us on the boat, and I guess John got stuck in the afternoon traffic coming into Monterey (the downside of the afternoon boat), so we were a bit slow getting going.  But there wasn't really any hurry, since we were planning to dive in the bay.  Since we were planning to dive in the bay, I was just sort of assuming it would be a calm, easy day on the boat.  But it was actually a bit rocking and rolling by the time we got out to Aumentos, where we did our first dive.

The viz was above average for a bay dive, but it was pretty surgy at the bottom.  I think the viz was actually better mid-water, because it was just a bit churned up on the bottom.  We saw a few (tiny pacific) octopus, which was the highlight of the dive for me.  Rob kept finding them in funny places, where I would refuse to see them and then realize I was staring right at it.  And I saw another Limacia!

Photo by Clinton Bauder
For the third dive of the day we went to... drum roll... Eric's Pinnacle!  Rob has long claimed that he has never been to Eric's Pinnacle, and so he always refuses it when it is suggested.  He considers it a badge of honor that he's never dived Eric's.  I have long claimed that I have done one dive there with Rob (and several without), but I've never thoroughly researched his claim.  Turns out he has dived it before, though from the sounds of it, it wasn't a very memorable dive.  But while we were picking the site on the boat, we all thought this was going to be Rob's first dive there.  Quite exciting.  Overall, it was quite a nice dive, though there wasn't anything specifically awesome to mention.  We circled around the pinnacle like one and a half times, peering into cracks as we went.  I was thinking it might be a good spot for GPO peeping, since there are so many nice-looking potential octopus dens, but it was not to be.  For reasons that were a bit controversial on the dive (and not because we couldn't find the anchor line), we ended up shooting a bag and surfaced not too far from the boat, but just far enough to be too lazy to swim back.  So we had a little bit of a wait to get picked up by the boat.

We headed to dinner at the sushi place at K-dock, where, amazingly, I have never eaten before.  It was an acceptable meal.  John had brought his family (or two-thirds of it) on the boat, and Bev joined us for dinner, so it was quite the social occasion.

Since Rob wasn't taking pictures and I wasn't videoing today, I am posting a few of Clinton's pictures from the boat dives (gotta milk that lifetime license for all it's worth).  I really like the lingcod eye, but what I *really* like is the snail.  Why?  Because I have been occasionally seeing this snail and not knowing what it was (I've been calling it the "zebra snail") for a few years.  I actually just saw one recently, and was wondering about it again.  So it's great that Clinton got a picture and ID'd it for me.  I know it was just for me :)