It's about diving. And cats.

Me diving

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Two Days of Diving by Braille

Karl was in town for the weekend, so Kevin book Phil's boat for both days, and we all stayed down in Pacific Grove for the weekend.  The forecast looked to be pretty good, though it turned out to be a bit sportier than I expected.  It was unexpectedly swell-y in Whaler's Cove, and by the time we got to the point, the conditions seemed pretty unappealing for going any further.  However, Phil claimed that it would flatten out once we were around the point, and he was right.  By the time we got down to Mount Chamberlin, it was flat!  So flat that I think I even stood up in his boat to get into my gear, which I never do.  So that was a pleasant surprise.  We anchored at the South Annex, and while we were getting geared up, the Escapade drove by, headed south.  Bastards.  (Did I mention that we were originally scheduled to be on the Escapade, but since there wasn't room for Karl, we cancelled those plans?)

We flopped into the water, and there was a howling current.  I was diving Ted's Cuda (more on that later), and I was thinking it was a good thing I wasn't diving a Sierra, because I'm really not sure if I would have made it to the downline on a Sierra.  Or if I had, I may not have made it down the line.  There was a screaming current pretty much the whole way down to the bottom.  The viz was terrible too.  I kept expecting at least one of (the viz improving, the current slackening) on the way down, but that never really came.  I was a bit slow coming down the line, and I only knew we were at the bottom when I saw Kevin's and Karl's lights.  And then there was pinnacle.  Just like that.  Right in my face.  So it was a bit deeper than 150' when I nearly ate pinnacle, and we headed down the south side of the wall from there.  The viz could not have even been 15', and it was *very* cruddy in the water.  We basically just inched along on the bottom, inspecting the wall a couple of feet at a time, spending an unusual amount thought on keeping the team (of four) together.  At least that is how it felt to me.  I did manage to see a basket star on a gorgonian somewhere along the wall.  Rob did not ever get his camera out.  I don't blame him; he had wide angle.

Eventually it came to that time of the dive where we wanted to come up the wall to get shallower.  On a normal day, we'd hop across the sand channel to the south wall, but in this viz, I had my doubts.  We came up the wall, and as we were coming up the wall, I realized that we were not on the South Annex at all.  We couldn't be.  It wasn't a ridge with a slope down the other side.  We were now on Mount Chamberlin.  So, we'd been on the South Wall all along, and in 15 to 20 minutes of inching along the bottom of the wall, I had no idea ;)  The viz was actually a tiny bit better on top of the mount, or at least it seemed that way to me.  Maybe it was just a tiny bit brighter.  We started to head north-ish toward the shallower areas on the Mount Chamberlin, and though there was a bit of back and forth and searching around, Rob did what I never imagined he could actually pull off in this viz.  He found K2.  At some point I thought we were very close to K2, but it took another 5 or so minutes of searching (during which I thought we'd lost the scent), before we finally rounded a corner, and there was K2.  Or at least I thought it was K2.  I wasn't sure until I inspected the crack down the side (because in this viz, I couldn't see to the top of the pinnacle!).  Indeed, Rob had done it.  We popped a bag and had a drift.  Wooohooo, did we have a drift.  Of course it didn't feel like there was as much current as there had been on the way down, but when we surfaced, we had drifted quite far.

We saw some dolphins on the way in, seemingly right on top of Great Pinnacle.  The conditions had flattened out by then, so we had a nice ride in.  We lunched at the Little Chicken House (Hut?), Rob's new favorite lunch place.

We'd heard that there was a Bacon Festival going on at the Monterey Fairgrounds, so naturally that was the plan for the afternoon.  We headed over there, and found that parking was impossible.  We did some quick math and determined that parking plus admission for the 4 of us would cost $80, and we all decided that we didn't want to go to the bacon-fest that badly, so we headed over to Taste of Monterey for cheese and wine/beer instead.

The conditions were so bad on Saturday that I normally would have punted on Sunday, but since Karl was in town and we had Phil, it didn't even seem like an option :)  It was flatter on Sunday, so we could pretty much go wherever.  We'd heard from the peeps on the Escapade on Saturday that further south of Chamberlin was no better.  We'd also heard that shore diving at Lobos had terrible viz.  We didn't really have any intel on Carmel diving further north, so we talked for a while about somewhere in the Outer (Outer)+ Pinnacles area, but for some reason then we decided to go back to Yankee Point instead.  Then, as we were coming to the point, we noticed that the water color on the surface actually got worse.  It was green around Lobos, and then it got more like brown all of a sudden.  On that basis, we decided to head back and dive somewhere near Lobos.  We picked Deep E3.

Well, the one good thing about this site was that there was not a ripping current.  On the other hand, viz was even worse, which is hard to believe.  I would say it was more like a 5'-8' viz day today.  But considering the viz, we had a pretty decent dive.  We saw the purple sea fan, and two wolf eels.  As we inched around the pinnacle.  We sort of corkscrewed around up the pinnacle, ending up right by the down line, and when it came time to shoot our bags (we shot 2), it actually got *really* hard to keep the two pairs together in that viz.  But we somehow managed to get two bags up while staying together, and once we were above like 50 or 60 feet, the viz did improve.

So there you have it, two days of diving and zero pictures :(

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Rec Charter on the Escapade

On Sunday we were on the Escapade for an open charter.  This was interesting, because I am pretty sure we have literally never been on the Escapade for an open charter before.  Weird.  But we wanted to get our friend Tom back in the water, after our successful dives at Lobos in March.  And we thought it would be fun to get him on a boat this time.  So sometime during the week, when we realized we had no real plans for the weekend, Rob had the brilliant idea to see if the Escapade had an open charter, and if Tom wanted to go diving.  Everything worked out perfectly, with an AOW class scheduled on the boat, and some extra spots available.

The conditions were not good enough to make it to Carmel, and I guess it was a bit windy out by Ballbuster, but it was actually pretty nice and comfortable closer in in the bay.  For the first dive, we went to Aumentos.  We were pretty much geared up and ready to jump in as soon as the anchor was dropped, since we didn't want to do a nice long dive, and leave a bunch of people on the boat in wetsuits, freezing waiting for us.  We got into the water and found it was pretty green, with what I would call typical bay viz (20 feet, maybe?).  But it wasn't dark or scary or anything, and Tom seemed like he was having a good time.  We swam out and back along the pinnacle (ridge?) that we dropped on for the first roughly 20 minutes, and then we continued past the anchor line along the same ridge, but in the other direction.  During the first portion of the dive, I was kind of unimpressed with what we saw.  It seemed like there was a lot of barren, barnacle-encrusted rock.  It just wasn't that colorful.  But eventually, right near the end of our second jaunt out from the anchor line (right before we turned, for the second time), we found a super colorful little wall.  There were metridiums, and the wall was just insanely encrusted with corynactis and various colors of sponges.  I regretted that it took us so long to find the "good" spot.  Tom was definitely impressed with this part of the dive.  One other nice find that I made on the dive was a cabezon, which I don't think Tom had seen before.

For the second dive, we headed to Rob's favorite dive site, Eric's Pinnacle.  Rob always claims that he has never been to Eric's Pinnacle (even though I think he's been there twice), and on that basis, he refuses to dive it.  So today he finally dived it for the (third) "first" time :P.  I, on the other hand, had just dived it three weeks ago :P  Tom was going to lead the dive.  I had some ear troubles that slowed me down on the descent, and somehow, when I got to the bottom, Rob was leading.  I wasn't sure what had happened, but I guess Tom wasn't sure where to go, so he handed the lead off to Rob.  It was quite dark down there, compared to Aumentos.  We circled the pinnacle, clockwise, and at some point, where there are the little mini pinnacles with metridium, we headed off of the main pinnacle, and explored some outlying areas, actually probably further than I've gone off of the main pinnacle before.  There were a lot of hermissendas on the dive.  (I noticed a few on the first dive, but quite a few more on this one.  Guess they're in bloom.)  Eventually we headed back to the main pinnacle, and continued our circumnavigation, coming up shallower along the pinnacle as we went, then coming up the anchor line.  When we got back on the boat, I demonstrated proper donut-eating protocols to Tom.

After we got back to the dock, we headed to La Tortuga for lunch (because we lack imagination).  We ran into a couple of our BAUE pals there, and joined them for lunch.  Diving with Tom is always fun, and listening to the diving tales he tells at work on Monday is even more fun :)

Saturday, June 6, 2015

A Little Green at Sur 19

Photo by Robert Lee
After what seemed like a long dry spell (though I suppose Eric's Pinnacle does technically count as diving, if you ask anyone other than Rob), I was back on a BAUE tech boat on Saturday, armed with a new set of wrist and neck seals after the dreaded neck seal crack on the last trip.  And to greet my triumphant return to diving, we had nice weather.  Nice enough to make it down to Big Sur!  Woohoo!  We had to make the tough decision of where to dive... Sur 19 or Sur 20.  As frequently happens on these trips, we end up at Sur 19 based on the following logic.  Someone on the boat has never been to Sur 19.  Everyone else on the boat agrees that if you have never seen either site, you must go to Sur 19.  Hence, we never seem to go to Sur 20.  But I can live with that :)  Today, we had Paul and Christophe along, who had not been to Sur 19.

Photo by Robert Lee
We got there to find not much current, pretty clear water, but it was a bit green.  I would definitely call it very good viz, but just a bit green, and after being spoiled by insanely clear blue water on a lot of dives at Big Sur, well it wasn't that :P  Viz reports from the previous weekend had been pretty bad, so I can't say I was too surprised by the green water, and was actually glad it was clear green water, as opposed to the other options.  The water was also plenty cold.  The site was, as usual, beautiful and full of big heads of hydrocoral.  It was not the fishiest day ever for Sur 19.

Photo by Clinton Bauder
One thing that I found super odd about the dive was that we saw an unusual number of vase sponges.  There have definitely always been a vase sponge here or that at the bottom of the pinnacle.  But we saw a big cluster of them, somewhat smaller, and further up the side of the pinnacle.  I have no idea how quickly they grow, but I always assumed they were slow growing, so the fact that they could appear there, out of nowhere, was pretty surprising.  Clinton also noted the strangeness of this, and got a picture to document it!

Photo by Robert Lee
The stories of bad viz from the previous weekend included reports of tons of different jelly critters in the water.  I think Gary used the term "jelly soup" to describe it.  So I was hoping we'd get to deco in jelly soup, since I do enjoy some deco-time jelly peeping, but the soup never really materialized.

Photo by Robert Lee
When we surfaced, there was an albatross circling.  I thought this was pretty cool, and starting yelling "albatross, albatross!" through my loop to Rob, so he could get a shot.  You may find it surprising that he was not able to understand me.  Finally I yelled "ROB!" though my loop and that one he got.  Then I flailed at the bird, and he caught on.  The boat was heading toward us, but we waved them off so Rob could try to take some pictures.  Of course as soon as the camera came out, the bird landed on the water right next to us.  He briefly got into a squabble with Kevin's bag, but they eventually worked it out.  Rob did manage to get some pictures, but not while he was in flight (the bird, not Rob).

Photo by Robert Lee
After the dive, I was very happy to find that Paul and Christophe thought the dive was amazing.  We've occasionally taken new-to-Big-Sur divers (you know who you are!) there and they were kind of like "eh" after the dive.  What the heck?