Friday, May 30, 2008

New Dive Buddies, Great Diving - Saturday, May 17th, 2008

I have not been diving since our trip to Florida at the end of March so I was really looking forward to spending a Saturday in Monterey and diving with some new friends from ScubaBoard (and an already known Mike Guerrero). We planned to dive at the Breakwater in order to make it a nice, simple dive that wouldn’t be overly-exerting for anyone since we were a group of mixed experience levels, new gear and other such things.

I arrived at the Breakwater at 7:30 AM, fully expecting to find a half empty parking lot and a good spot near the top of the grass. Imagine my surprise, however, when I saw the mass amounts of people, all over the grass, the parking areas, the lower lots and wall. I parked and walked along the upper lot to find Tom, who was easy to find in light of his bright blue PT Cruiser. Soon Katherine came around and we were off to get a lesson from Tom on how to lineup the points in order to get to the Metridium Field. On our way back, Neil, Mike and Daniel found us and soon we were planning the day and getting geared up.

Our first dive was scheduled to start at about 9 am and my computer indicates that we dove at 9:20, so we must have entered the water around the scheduled time since the kick out to the Metridium Field takes a while. We landed the Metridium perfectly having had Tom line us all up but descending we were in a swarm of sea nettles, large and small. They were everywhere and in an underwater environment, you need to have eyes all over your head as you must remain conscious of what is above, below and surrounding you. Unfortunately because of the sheer number of the jellies, both Mike and Neil got stung on their faces and I can only hope that both of them are recovering from the stings.

After swimming around the Metridiums and surround areas, Neil and I began our 210-heading swim back to the shore. As we got into the shallows, however, I noticed that we were surrounded by quite a different landscape than is typical of the shore along the beach. Surfacing, we found we were slightly south of the beach and so we headed back at about 150-160 degrees and came up near the beach in about 5 feet of water. The visibility on the dive could have been better, especially around the Metridium Fields since I thought that we were out quite a bit further than the students, so I was slightly disappointed that it wasn’t as great as I had hoped. That being said, the dive was wonderful – full of life, kelp and a buddy with just about an equal air consumption given our tanks – so I was happy.

After a nice surface interval in the hot sun, we swapped the tanks and geared up to go out again. This time the plan was to kick out a ways, then take a 300 degree compass heading and follow the shoreline south at about 30 feet. This course would take us over the remains of the pipes and infrastructure of the old cannery facilities that historically dotted the coast of Monterey. As I had never actually even considered diving that locale but having had witnessed a bit of it on our return from the Metridium Field, I was quite interested in diving it. Kicking out, we encountered the bubbles from a group of students who were obviously underneath us. As to avoid disturbing them and to steer clear of any finned-up areas, we went out a bit further hoping to find a clear patch in which to begin our dive. Soon we were descending and heading along the 300 degree heading and off on our dive. Checking out a pile of rocks, Neil and I were separated from Tom and Katherine, which wasn’t a big deal as we knew they were buddied up having discussed the buddy plans on the surface. The dive was beautiful although I think that we were slightly too deep as we didn’t see as much of the pipes and other areas and saw more sandy patches covered by bat stars. When we returned, we headed a closer to shore and hit the pipes and saw lot more, including a pipe covered in barnacles,

Overall, I was really amazed by the sheer numbers of nudibranchs that were present – doris, rainbow nudis (Dendronotus iris), etc. What was most amazing was the mass presence of Opalescent Nudibranch (hermissenda crassicornis) – large, small and super-small. Everywhere there were Orange Sea Cucumbers (Cucumaria miniata), Sea Nettle Jelly (Chrysaora quinquecirrha) and Spaghetti worm (Terebellid polychaete) with their fine threads out of their holes. It was a great day for finding Kellet’s Whelks (Kelletia kelletii) and their eggs all over the Metridium Field and tiny little halibut and sanddabs floundering around in the sand. I even got to see a hooded nudibranch swimming through the water column. The sun was shining and I think we all had a great day.

After the 2nd dive, we all went our separate ways. I got cleaned up, packed the car and took the new dSLR over to Backscatter Photography to talk about housings and the appropriate underwater set-up. Needless the say, the price tag associated with the new set-up will put the entire idea on the backburner for quite sometime, but it was great to mingle and hear about the intricacies of these amazing u/w systems. After that, I popped into MBDC and then took a walk along the BW Pier where the sea lions were in full effect. Pups playing inside of the harbor while more mature lions were sunning themselves on every available semi-flat rock along the wall. I stood and watched them, barking at each other while one rubbed himself (herself?) on some barnacles just below the water line – no doubt getting a fantastic back scratch. Soon, however, it was time to begin the trek home, rinse the gear and download the photos. Next stop – Lake Tahoe.
Favorite Photo:
Hooded Nudibranch (Melibe leonine) swimming through the water

Dive Statistics:
Dive #58 – Saturday, 05/17/08 – “Metridium Fields” – Monterey, California. 9:20 AM. Max depth 49 feet, average depth 36 feet. Bottom time 50 minutes (approximately 950 PSI remaining at the end of the dive). Water temp 52°, vis approximately 12-20 feet.

Dive #59 – Saturday, 05/18/08 – “300° from the Breakwater” – Monterey, California. 12:06 PM. Max depth 41 feet, average depth 30 feet. Bottom time 55 minutes (residual time 38 minutes) (approximately 490 PSI remaining at the end of the dive). Water temp 52°, vis approximately 15-20 feet.