It's about diving. And cats.

Me diving

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Three Days in the Bay

For Memorial Day weekend, we had a tech boat scheduled for Saturday, and tentative plans to go out on the boat on Sunday and/or Monday for some ascent practice in the JJs, depending on the weather.  As it turned out, the weather was not on our side AT ALL.  The forecast for both Saturday and Sunday was amusingly bad.  It was something like 4 to 7 foot wind waves on top of 8 to 10 foot swell at 8 seconds.  I didn't even notice the "at 8 seconds" part when I first looked at the forecast, and decided it was horrible.  Then Rob pointed it out, and I just had to giggle.  So, Saturday's tech boat was cancelled on Friday afternoon, but Rob, Matt, and I decided to go out for some practice ascents in the bay anyway.  It's not like you need very good conditions to go to 80 or 90' in the shale!

Conditions turned out to be just as bad as they were forecast to be.  Just coming out of the breakwater, it was super bumpy from the short swell.  I thought we were caught in someone else's wake at first, but it was just that crappy!  We waddled out to a random spot in the shale, around 80', and the plan was to do a couple of practice ascents (with simulated deco profiles), and then go back down for a little dive, with another simulated deco profile on the way up.  We decided to just stay in the water between "dives".  There was a really crappy viz layer down to about 40', but below that it opened up to what I would call pretty good viz for the bay, but it was dark as night.  The ascents went pretty well, getting progressively better.  On the "dive" portion of the dive, the critters of note included tons of little octopus, a HUGE fringehead, and a Spanish shawl missing almost all of its cerata... would have liked to be there to see that go down :P  By the end of the last ascent, I was feeling a little cold.  But when I got to the surface and attempted to climb back onto the boat, I realized my fingers were completely numb.  So numb that I needed a lot of help to climb the ladder; an embarrassing amount of help, really.  Rob had noticed this phenomenon with the RBs too, where you don't really notice that you are getting cold, until you basically lose the use of your hands and feet because they are numb with cold.  I guess I have experienced that with my feet on a few of our long Lobos practice dives (which makes walking up the ramp a little tricky).

Based on what we saw on Saturday, and the similar forecast on Sunday, Sunday's charter was cancelled, and we decided to grab the boat again for some more practice dives.  Kevin came along with us (so we were four).  We decided to do two practice ascents in a random bay spot again, but then to get back on the boat and re-locate to a real dive site for the real dive.  When we descended, we were happy to see that the viz wasn't quite as bad on top, but then the down side was that it wasn't quite as good on the bottom either.  After our ascent practice, we got back on the boat, and were discussing options for a real dive site.  Mike said that Ballbuster was too rough (seriously!?!), so someone had the interesting idea to do Kawika's Garden.  We decided to do a short bottom time there (what someone jokingly referred to as a "Rec 3 dive"), which seemed like a good mini-tech dive after all of the practice ascents!  We had a nice dive there, with sort of average viz for the site.  Before you know it, our short bottom time was over, and we did a longer-than-required ascent for some more practice.

On Monday, we finally managed to get a little group of divers together beyond just Team Kitty (expanded), who were willing to do a tech dive that would almost certainly be in the bay.  Clinton was one of the divers who joined us (on the boat, not on our dive team).  He grimaced when he saw that we'd be diving the RBs.  When I told him we had gone to Kawika's yesterday, he grimaced some more.  We managed to get to Mile Buoy, which as bizarre as it sounds, was I think the furthest we made it from the dock all weekend :)  We had surprisingly nice conditions there -- it was a lot brighter on the bottom than I expected, considering the conditions that we'd seen the rest of the weekend.  But it was sort of chunky in the bright water.  This was our first real, full-length blue water ascent deco on the breeevers, and it went quite well.  Rob told me after the dive that I looked better on the ascent than I usually do on open circuit.  I wasn't sure if I should take that as a compliment or an insult.

Even though we didn't make it out of the bay all weekend, it was a nice few days of diving.  And it was good to get a lot of ascent practice in a short period of time.  By the last dive, when I left the bottom to start the ascent, it all felt pretty normal.

Edit:  I accidentally posted a video from a different dive at Mile Buoy (I should really figure out how to set the date on my hero-cam...).  I've removed it and put it on the correct dive report!

Saturday, May 17, 2014

A Pile of Kittens

Okenia felis

On Saturday, Rob, Kevin, Matt and I were diving at Lobos.  We decided to do a baby tech dive, to finally put the JJs to good use.  Okay, maybe a baby tech dive isn't actually putting it to good use.  Anyhoo, when we were discussing what to do, Rob suggested we could go Okenia hunting on the Road to Twin Peaks, so that's what we ended up settling on.  The forecast for the day was pretty "interesting" in that it looked like it was basically Armageddon from the boat-diving perspective (big wind, very short period swell) but okay from a shore diving perspective (smallish swell).  So it was just good luck that we were at Lobos and not on a boat!  And the weather turned out to be just fine for our dive.

The viz, on the other hand, was no exactly ideal.  In fact, it was really really crappy.  When we got to Hole in the Wall, the viz was pretty bad, and I was hoping that when we came around the corner, it would get better.  It did not.  Instead, it seemingly got worse, or maybe it just stayed the same and got darker.  I decided I was going to take some video, so I brought my video light.  Oh man, was that a mistake.  I had the light clipped off for a while, but then I decided I needed a light, since it was so dark.  So I got the video light out, and oy, the water was SO dirty, and add to that a video light, it was like I was diving in snow!  When we got to the base of the road, I found it was so disorienting to dive with the video light, that I had to stop and switch onto a backup light.  I had been falling behind the others a bit, and didn't want to stop and fall behind further, without a good light for signaling, but I managed to get Kevin's attention and stop and make the switch.  After going just a bit further up the road, I suggested that we stop and kick.  The viz was just too bad for me to scooter any further.  I kind of can't believe we even made it that far in that viz!

So, we started meandering up the road, looking for some critters.  It turned out to be a pretty successful critter peeping dive.  First, I found an Aldisa albomarginata.  And while showing that to the others, I realized there was a basket star right next to it!  Not too surprising, considering how dark it was.  But then, Matt made an uber-find... he found a pile of Okenia felis!  That's right, not just one or two, but a pile... of four!  One for each of us :)  We were all of course immediately transfixed, and oohing and ahhing at them.  Then Rob started to swim away, and I signaled him, to ask why he wasn't going to take a picture.  Then I looked down at his camera, and realized he had packed wide angle.  Doh!  Who brings a wide angle lens to an Okenia hunt!?!  But I'm not sure if that was the best find of the dive.  We continued along, and I eventually ended up on a small wall, and I was just inching along with my crappy little scout light, when I saw a cute little fish head.  And an even cuter littler fish tail.  I couldn't believe it, but I was staring right at a grunt sculpin!  Needless to say, I was SUPER excited.  I managed to call the boys over and they got a look without the fish getting scared away by our lights.  I was really sad that Rob didn't have a macro lens.  Sigh.  I think this is probably my best find so far this year.

Every kitty's favorite slug
Not too long after that, it was time to head back.  Just like on the way out, I was lagging behind a bit, I'm not really sure why, but it seemed like Rob and Matt were leaving us in their dust, and I was just barely keeping up with Kevin.  Then right as we approached the first Sister, my crappy little backup light started flickering.  I signaled Kevin, who stopped so I could switch.  I only had the one backup light, so Kevin gave me his.  There was then a very confusing and amusing exchange, where Kevin gave me his backup light, and I gave him mine, so he would have a backup if his primary went out.  He had no idea why I was handing it to him, since he still had one backup on him.  He figured I was just too lazy to stow it myself, hehehe.  Then as he was stowing it, it got cross-clipped, and I had to fix that. Phew, once that was all set, Matt and Rob were long gone.  We didn't think there was really much chance at all of finding them, given the viz, and since they were elbow-to-elbow when we last saw them, we quickly gave up the search and just continued on in.

Kevin led us in, and I must confess to being a little disoriented by the time we made it to the sand channel.  I thought we were still to the west, and was surprised when I discovered the sand channel.  But we headed on in from there without any (more) drama.  We ended up thumbing it from the sand south of the worm patch, but still in over 20'.  We scootered in on the surface and found that Matt and Rob hadn't returned yet.  I was a little surprised, since it seemed like we got a bit delayed.  I guess they looked for us for longer than we looked for them, so they were even more delayed (or maybe they were having fun, and they just claimed they were looking for us :P).

We went to RG Burger for lunch, where we met up with a few others who had been diving at Lobos.  The service at RG is reliably pretty bad, but they really outdid themselves this time.  I think they might be on the blacklist for a little while.

Rob was back at Lobos on Sunday again, and this time he brought the proper lens and managed to find the Okenia pile again and get some pictures (included here).  Sadly, he could not relocate the grunt sculpin :P

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Steam Engine

Photo by Clinton Bauder
We setup an afternoon dive in the bay to get some more ascent practice in the RBs.  After all of our recent Lobos dives, we all felt like we needed to do some real ascents off of a boat.  It ended up being four of us... Rob, Kevin, Clinton, and me.  Clinton isn't exactly a fan of the RBs, so I was glad he was willing to do a dive with us :P  A recreational dive, but still a dive.  I think it was Rob's idea to do the Steam Engine, which I've never done before, and having done it, I'm still not sure I could distinguish it from any other piece of the shale at about 80' (that's not a complaint, just a statement).

Photo by Clinton Bauder
After we dropped down, we found the nearest shale ledge, and just followed it for a while.  The viz was quite good, and so we were pretty well spread out over the shale.  I was right next to the ledge we followed, but Kevin was kind of far off of it, probably harassing crabs.  We passed the steam engine proper after not too long.  It was smaller than I expected, though I guess I never really gave it too much thought before.  Aside from the random human junk on the bottom, we made some quite good finds.  The best find of all was a very cute little muppety sculpin, which I wasn't sure (at the time) whether it was a bull or a buffalo sculpin -- turns out it was a buffalo sculpin.  I don't think I've ever seen one here before (only in Seattle).  So that was a very exciting find!

Photo by Clinton Bauder
After quite a bit of meandering along the shale ledge, and quite a few little octopus encounters, we happened upon a big chain.  Naturally, we had to follow the chain.  It was running perpendicular-ish to the ledge, heading shallower.  I became sort of obsessed with following the chain.  I had to keep following it until we reached the end.  Which turned out to be a good plan, because when we got to the end, there was a Tochuina right next to it!  A sort of surprising find, since it was in about 80'.  I think that's the shallowest that I've ever seen one.  At that point, it was getting close to wrapping up the dive, but first Clinton had to switch off of his bottle.  He ended up cross-clipping (or so it seemed) his camera when he clipped it off, though when I went in to investigate, I found that it wasn't clipped off at all, but was instead resting in a frighteningly precarious position; good thing we were still on the bottom.  By the time that was all dealt with, it was basically time to thumb the dive (actually it was already pretty borderline from the "min deco" perspective), so we started the ascent.

Photo by Clinton Bauder
The viz was quite terrible on the ascent, and with four of crowded around one back, it felt a bit spazzy. The original plan had been to practice a couple of ascents, but when we surfaced, it was a bit snotty.  I got pretty beaten up getting back on the boat.  Somehow after I had my fins off, hanging from my wrist, a wave came and sort of pushed me to the side of the ladder, and sucked my legs under the swim step.  I still had a good hold on the ladder, but I couldn't get my legs back under me without my fins on.  Eventually I had to ask one of the crew to swing me around to the ladder.  A bit embarrassing.  Meanwhile, Rob and Clinton also got smacked around, and I think Rob ended up somehow getting his hand smooshed under Clinton's tanks.  It was weird, since it seemed only marginally snotty from both the surface and the boat, but we all got seriously worked getting back aboard.

Photo by Clinton Bauder
After that, I decided I'd had it, well mostly that I didn't want to get back into the water in order to get beaten up again getting back on board.  Clinton agreed, so we stayed on the boat while Rob and Kevin got back in just to practice an ascent.  They went to the bottom, and almost immediately put up a bag and practiced an ascent.  I felt a bit lame to skip it, since I thought my first ascent was pretty poor.  Rob claimed otherwise, and it would be out of character for him to say I did a good job when I did not (though he may have had an ulterior motive, since he's invested in me not selling my JJ on Craigslist).

Overall a very fun dive, especially for "just an afternoon rec boat in the bay"!  And finally some pictures to post here.