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Thursday, July 4, 2019

Mexico 2019: The Crack (and Beyond) at Naharon

Kevin, Karl, and Bobby dived Naharon the day before we arrived, so we had to save it for after they left.  It is one of my favorite caves in Mexico.  I like pretty much all of the sections that I've dived that are below the halocline.  Today we rented scooters so that we could make it to the crack and still have time to get some pictures and video in the crack.  We've done the dive as a kick dive, but that doesn't leave you a ton of time in the crack for photos and videos.

Since it was just the two of us, we were a bit speedier getting ready and out of ZG in the morning, and made it down to Naharon at 9.  We were the first divers to get there, but another car with divers (who we'd seen at Mayan Blue yesterday) showed up while we were getting ready.  After looking at the various sets of stairs and platforms, we decided to go with the obvious and easy set of stairs right by where you park, even though the stairs in the water were a bit broken.  We got into our drysuits and then got in to put gear in the water (and cool off).  The ropes that run across the cenote for "swimmers" to hold onto are also convenient for clipping off gear :)

The plan was to scooter to just before the second dome, and drop our scooters there.  We'd go to the crack, right at the T and turn whenever gas or something else called for it.  Then on the way back out, we'd take the jump to Southwest Sacbe and spend whatever time we had left/felt like down there.  We hadn't really decided whether we'd stay on Southwest Sacbe or go to South Sacbe.  So that was the plan.  Once we got going, Rob installed the reel.  That took approximately forever :)  By the time we had installed the reel, dropped O2 bottles, and Rob had mounted the strobe on my tank, my gauge read 12 minutes.  We finally got going and then a minute or two later, got to the Desconocido jump.  Once that was installed we really got going.

The cave was even darker than I remember.  I thought at first that the viz might be worse than usual, but it was probably just dark.  I also didn't remember how much time you spend in the halocline!  I felt like Rob wasn't doing an awesome job managing his position and the halocline and the line, but I think on the way out I wasn't doing any better, so I can't really blame him.  There were a bunch of passages where you could be either above the halocline or below the halocline or, if you wanted to be on the same horizontal plane as the line, then you are righ in the halocline.  I found that a little annoying!  Anyhoo, I didn't have any memory of how long it took to make it to various waypoints, so I'll mention those here for future reference :)  From the Desconocido jump, it took 10 minutes to get to the first dome (which comes up to 45-ish feet) and then 5 more minutes to the second dome (which comes up to 30-ish feet; in a previous blog post I said 25 feet, but I did not see it get that shallow today).  Also in a previous post I said that the second dome is "cozier" than I'd remembered, so with that thought it my mind, I was expecting it to be a squeeze.  There's really only one section that is small, and it's at the very top, when you swim through a low wide slot that's maybe two body lengths long.

From there, we kicked for a while.  I dropped my stage 9 minutes past the second dome.  I was in and out of the halocline for a long time, and actually I was spending as much time above the halocline as I could, since that was easiest to see the line without disturbing it.  I remembered the jump being after we were definitely below the halocline (not in it).  We kept going a few minutes longer and the tunnel got a bit narrower with cheesy-textured walls once we got below the halocline.  Rob started to suspect that we'd missed the jump.  I couldn't imagine that we'd missed it, but I also didn't remember the passage looking like this.  I suggested that we go another 5 minutes and then turn it if we didn't find the jump.  Then like 2 minutes later, the passage got quite a bit narrowed and headed up a slope as it turned to the right.  At this point Rob stopped again, and asked if we should keep going.  I told him to keep going 3 more minutes (hey, we agreed on 5!).  He headed up the slope and junk started raining down on me.  I grabbed the line and thought it was still not so bad that I couldn't follow him.  I took one or two fin kicks and got wedged into a spot right on the line.  I think I needed to be further to the left of the line and holding my arm out to hold the line.  At this point the viz was getting worse and worse and I decided to give up, and wait for Rob to turn around.  I waited for what felt like forever.  First I went to the bottom of the slope and waited there for a minute or two.  But the viz was getting worse and worse so then I moved a few fin kicks further back and waited there for a couple minutes.  Finally I saw Rob's light, and we headed back out.

We swam back a bit more than 5 minutes before finding the tunnel we were meant to jump to.  When we got to the tunnel, we were in a passage where I'd be swimming above the halocline, so not really even looking for the tunnel because I was sure it was after we were below the halocline :(  Anyhoo, for future reference, the tunnel is about a 10 minute swim past the second dome.  Once we found the tunnel, Rob put the jump in and I did some mental math to figure out our turn pressure and when to drop my stage.  Once we got going, Rob was stopping, turning around, and taking pictures, pretty frequently.  So we were moving pretty slowly through there.  We eventually made it to the T (where I dropped my stage), and went right.  After about 5 minutes, the passage started getting a bit smaller, and you had to put some thought into where to swim.  The passage itself wasn't really smaller, but the decorations were jutting out in odd ways so you had to swim around them.  Then there was a section where the tunnel became a bit less decorated, and this seemed like a good place to turn around, so I signaled Rob.  When we turned around, I switched lightheads to the video lighthead and got my GoPro out, so I could get some video of the passage.  I took a few minutes of video, and then put the camera away and switched back to my regular light head.

When we got back to the spool, Rob asked me to clean it up (not sure why) so I did.  I was spooling up and realized that my stage was getting pretty low, so after I had half cleaned up the spool, I handed it off to Rob, so I could switch off my stage while he cleaned up.  I didn't want to get back to the line, finish cleaning up the spool, and *then* have to switch off of my stage while Rob stared at me impatiently.  My other stage was just around the corner, so I picked that up and we were off.  The swim and scooter out was pretty uneventful.  When I came up the second dome and entered the cozy "slot" section, *both* of my feet got caught up on the ceiling which scraped both of my fin straps halfway off.  So when I got out of the small section I had to flap around a bit to pull my fin straps back on.  We got out of the dome, picked up our scooters, and headed out.  We caught up to a team of three divers (I think the ones from Mayan Blue yesterday) on the way out, and they were kind enough to scoot aside and let us pass.

When we got to the Southwest Sacbe jump, another team had installed the jump.  We ditched bottles and scooters and Rob put the jump in.  Such a long jump.  So long that the other team which had installed the jump had run out of spool (I would never do that :P) like 4 feet before the line and had to attach another spool to make it work.  (Random aside, the spool that ran out line was a mighty fine-looking pink spool.  I need some pink spools.  Or even better some purple spools.)  When we came to the South Sacbe jump, Rob asked which way I wanted to go and I said to stay on the SW line.  We probably went up the line maybe 10 or 12 minutes before I called it on gas.  When I called turn, I told Rob I wanted to video on the way out, so he handed me the video lighthead (which he was wearing since it looks dumb in pictures to have a spare lighthead clipped to your chest D-ring).  I turned off my light, swapped lightheads, then turned it back on.  It came on briefly and then went out.  I thought maybe it was a bad connection, so I tried disconnecting the EO and then reconnecting and still it wouldn't come on.  Then I switched back to my regular lighthead and it wouldn't come on again either.  Sad kitty 😿 I thought maybe something was wrong with the cord, but Rob told me afterward that striking the light takes more power than running the light, so the battery may have been low enough to not strike but not so low that it wasn't working continuously before.  So I guess I should turn off my light late in the dive if I don't need to :)

So I had to swim out on a Scout light.  Boohoo.  3 out of 4 dives have ended with one of us exiting on a Scout light so far this trip!  The swim and scooter out from this point were uneventful.  When I got back to the Desconocido line, another team was approaching and I think they were waiting to take the Sacbe jump (they belonged to the spool that was already installed, I think).  When we got back to the reel and Rob started to pull it, I was just glad I didn't have to reel up all that way on a scooter!  It seemed to take forever (though Rob was being very efficient).  When we got to 20 feet, I figured out the deco, which was 24 minutes.  Okay actually I figured it out way back on the swim out from SW Sacbe, because I had a pretty good idea of how long it would be to get out.  I tried to pin myself to the ceiling for the duration, but the slope of the ceiling isn't really friendly to that.  I did it anyway for maybe half of the deco and then got annoyed by how uncomfortable it was, so then I just hung by the line.  Before you know it, it was time to surface.

We surfaced to way more people (swimmers and divers) than there had been when we got in.  I managed to extract myself from the water pretty gracefully even though some of the stairs were broken.  There was a group of 4 or so divers getting setup to get in, who very nicely helped us pull all of our bottles and scooters.  So that took no time at all.  It turns out they are from the bay area too!

Once we were all packed up, we headed to Tulum for lunch.  We decided to try someplace new, so we went to Burrito Amor.  I would definitely not recommend this as a post-dive spot.  The burritos were kind of small (a fine size for a normal meal, but not for a post-dive meal) and they did not have chips and salsa!  We managed to get some chips (which I think they will serve with guacamole), but they don't have salsa.  Also the "smoked pork" is really just ham.  Maybe it should have been obvious that I was ordering a ham burrito, but it wasn't to me.  But the mojito I got there was excellent -- the best mojito I've had on the trip.  The good thing about not being stuffed with chips as lunch was we had plenty of room for gelato!  I got key lime pie and Rob got a double scoop (!) of mango and coconut.

Swarm of baby sea turtles
Later in the afternoon, we decided to go to the Akumal beach bar for a drink and snack.  I don't know how this plan came about... if it was supposed to be a pre-dinner thing or an in lieu of dinner thing, but it ended up being in lieu of dinner.  While we were there, we noticed something going on on the beach.  There was a woman there that seemed to be doing something science-y.  So we went to check it out, and she was standing next to a pile of baby turtles.  I'm not sure if that's the technical term, but that's what it was.  They were tiny and so cute!  They weren't really moving and then all of a sudden they all started trying to crawl out of the pile.  So cute!  She was capturing them and putting them into buckets.  The beach in Akumal is completely covered with sargassum seaweed, which smells pretty gross (part of the Great Atlantic Sargassum Belt, which I hadn't heard about but randomly happened upon an article on CNN right after we got back).  Apparently the seaweed on the beach prevents the baby turtles from making it to the water.  So I assume that's why they were being packed into buckets.

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