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Me diving

Friday, December 22, 2017

Back to Birthday Wall

It's been a few years since we've been to Birthday Wall, but it's still one of my favorite sites. So I figured finally getting back there was worthy of a post. Even without pictures from Rob :(. We both had Friday off; when I pointed this out to Rob the week before (he didn't know he had the day off, and first denied it), he made a Lobos reservation. Then a couple days later he told me he got Phil. Woot! That's another thing we haven't done in ages. Unfortunately, Kevin had already shipped stuff to Florida for our New Years' trip, so he could not join us :(. Also unfortunately, Rob's camera has been leaking a bit on deeper dives lately, so it wasn't allowed to come on the dive (it's now at Backscatter). So Rob convinced me to bring the GoPro, and he brought the video light.

Conditions were pretty flat in terms of both swell and wind. It was pretty much a perfect day to be out with Phil except that it was cold!  Brrr.  I asked Rob to slow down on the way out because it was so cold.  When we got out to the area, we briefly had some problems with the depth sounder but after Phil went for a little dip in the water, we got that fixed and found the site without a problem.  We dropped the hook in about 150'. There was roughly zero current on the surface. It was a good day to lollygag on the surface while getting geared up :)  When we finally flopped into the water, we found very clear water.  We met up at 20' for bubble checks and I noticed that Rob's O2 bottle was leaking at the solenoid what I would describe as a non-trivial amount.  I told him to keep an eye on it.

We headed down the line and eventually found a little current closer to the bottom, but overall it was nice clear, still water. We dropped on the pinnacle, got situated, and then headed down the wall.  Rob was really flying down the wall. I just can't drop that fast!  But eventually I nad it down to him. In the sand off of the wall, we saw a wolf eel just sitting in the sand. Then a lingcod swam over and sat next to him, just staring him down. Rob convinced me to get some video, but I didn't want to get up in his face and disturb him. But mostly I was thinking... a wolf eel is not worth my time to video at 280'!  So we continued along until we got to the flag rockfish den (flaggle rock, as I like to call it).  Rob points out a flag rockfish, which I hang out with and video' for a couple minutes. Rob later claimed to have seen three or four flag rockfish, but that was the only one that I saw (which is annoying and makes him a bad dive buddy!).

From there, we continued a bit further along the wall until we came to a small group of Boccaccio, which we always seem to see somewhere around there, though never in one particular spot. Today there was one especially big one, which I think was pregnant.  I got a bit of video before signaling that we needed to head shallower. We headed up the wall a bit, and followed along near the top of the wall until we got back to around the pinnacle where we started. The viz up there was really blue, it was much brighter than the bottom of the wall. There was a school of juvenile rockfish on top of the wall, and a big school of rockfish just off of the wall, which we watched and video'd for a bit before heading up shallower on the pinnacles.  Up there, we poked and peered into holes, looking for little stuff. I saw several juvenile yelloweyes.

Eventually it was time to go, and we shot the bag within sight of the line.  At the 70' stop, we finally heard the boat. But then not again for the rest of deco, which made me a little squirmy. I guess that's what happens when there's no current :). At 20', Rob started gesticulating about his O2 bottle and trying to hand me his spool. Remember back to that bubble check?  Well Rob had been keeping an eye on his O2 bottle and decided it was time to switch. I would have just gone onto my deco bottle, but I guess I'm lazy. Rob rotated his bottle forward and then plugged in the spare hose on his O2 bottle to the MAV (I guess that's why he has the spare hose...). I was prett impressed. I was less impressed when I found out how little O2 he started with, which explained why a not-catastrophically-bad leak left him with not enough O2.  He got a big eye roll when he confessed that to me.

After quite a bit of looking at nothing (I remember one lone sea nettle and the occasional gooseberry), deco was finally over.  Phil was waiting right next to us when we surfaced.  It had been a while since I had to get out of my gear on the surface. Rob offered to help me out of my gear (after he was out of his). I forgot that while he was holding onto my rig, he expected me to jack on the inflator.  So I almost lost my rig (and possibly Rob) to the bottom of the ocean, but Rob managed to hold it up while I found the inflator.

Phil has a ladder on his boat now. It's been there for a while, but always sort of experimental when I've used it before. Maybe it still is, but he was really pushing it this time. Especially for Rob, who has a tendency to get bent in the shoulder. There was a moment when climbing it that I was sure if I took another step, I'd fall in the water. There was a bit of whimpering but after some assurances from Phil, I managed to do it. Pretty civilized, though I kind of like trying to pull myself over the side, as a feat of strength (which I always fail). Rob was not so thrilled with the ladder due to what I was generously call a "sports injury" (running around like Jack Bauer shooting at coworkers is a sport, right?), but we all lived and no one got bent. We made a pretty hasty return back to Lobos, and despite his best efforts, Rob did not run into any rocks on the ramp with the boat.

We debated our lunch options and went with La Tortuga instead of Thai. This was a mistake for two reasons, well maybe one.  Thai has food immediately, and that food is hot (two kinds of soup!). Won't make that mistake again ;)

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