Thursday, January 24, 2008

ScubaBoard Meet & Greet – January 19th, 2008

Finally, we hit the water.

It’s 2008 and January 19th brought with it the first ScubaBoard event of the year! And what an event it was shaping up to be. Not only were there ScubaBoard-ers but some of the folks from the North Coast Divers were also going to be coming along and diving with us, meeting up for dinner and doing the night dive.

On Saturday, I must have been excited as I woke up at about 4 in the morning. We weren’t leaving the house until 6 am, so I knew that I had some time to hang out and think about the day’s events – boy, I was energized to get the day started.

Leaving the house, we made it to the Breakwater by about 8:15 am and the parking lot was already looking pretty full. To my amazement, there were divers already suited up, and some coming back from their first dives already. That is one of the great things about the Breakwater – there is also so much energy with all the activity, divers and tourists. It just draws you in and makes you feel euphoric. Feeling the energy, we began the arduous task of hauling all of the gear out of the car and to the designated area for the get-together.
Surprisingly we were the first of the group to arrive. Soon, however, we were joined by Jon and Amy, Jim, Ron and Carrie. Tao and Michelle showed up around the same time and everyone pulling out gear and getting set up for the first dive of the day – the Metridium Field! And more divers were coming – Brad, Jeff, Anne, Ben, Mike and Nathan and some of the NCD-ers.

Just after 10 AM, the leader of the dive, Ron, gave awesome instructions on how to find the Metridium Field (*see below for instructions). So, all dressed up, we entered the water as a group, kicking out to the appointed spot. Regrouping, we descended. Although visibility was not fantastic, Mark led us perfectly following Ron’s instructions and we soon came upon the famed Metridium Field. We swam around, taking some photos for a friend’s advertising campaign and, at 2000 PSI, began our course heading of 210° back to shore. Along the way, we engaged in an impromptu ocean clean up – recovering some plastic bags, bits and even the head of a broom! Swimming up just south of the stairs in about 3 feet of water (our intended exit point), we surfaced, removed our fins and walked back to shore.

After drying off, the fun surface interval ensued. The mini-grill came out, and soon we were basking in the unseasonably warm January sun and enjoying grilled hotdogs, brownies and sandwiches together with the rest of the group. After about 3 hours, it was time to get back in the water for the 2nd dive of the day. Conditions were awesome – minimal swell and surge, so the group decided to give the Breakwater Wall a go. Having donned my gear in the sun, we were getting warm so Mark and I entered the water ahead of the group. Although this caused a little bit of a confusion on shore, everyone eventually made it out to the wall and we ended up having a great time diving, although the visibility, again, wasn’t the best which was somewhat disappointing given the relatively calm conditions.

After drying off and packing gear – throwing kelp on Laurel and having the favor returned by Dannobee – we left to check into our hotel and start the next event of the day – regrouping at Buzzard’s where Doc Wong had graciously reserved their meeting room in order for the group to hang out and swap stories. The Breakwater Divers showed up, along with some of the North Coast Divers who had been diving at Point Lobos. Also, the infamous Chuck Tribolet and his wife joined us – sharing stories of his digital photography at IBM in the late 1970s. It was such a warm dinner – everyone sharing photos, jokes and dive tales. Soon, however, the talk amongst some came to the topic of the previously discussed night dive. After enduring 52 degree water, a slight barotraumas in my right ear and being showered and warm, the thought of putting on a cold, damp wetsuit was hardly appealing. However, we had two divers who were anxious to do their first night dive, so we headed back to the Breakwater.

And I was right – that wetsuit was COLD!

Hanging out with Carrie, Ron and Jim on the pier, I was cold. Oddly enough, it was warmer in the water than it was on the surface, so getting in was an unexpected and welcome surprise. After a slight hiccup as Brad had to return to shore for his weights, we descended. Visibility was marginally better than it had been in the afternoon, but there was little sealife to be found apart from the rockfish which hang lazily around the rocks, generally overhead. Having gotten a bit chilled while underwater, when I surfaced I rushed to get out of my wetsuit and into warm clothes. Needless to say, I didn’t hang around for long as the warm shower of our hotel room was calling my name.

I can’t express my happiness at meeting all of the wonderful divers who shared in the day’s events and festivities. Sharing my passion for diving with other local divers – being able to learn from them and help other divers grow and meet other divers is truly an tremendous experience.
Thank you to everyone who came and to those of you who wanted to join us but couldn’t (zen_man!). I had a wonderful day and hope to see you all soon!

Dive Stats:

Dive #47 – Saturday, 1/19/08 – Metridium Field at Breakwater Cove – Monterey, California. 10:59 AM. Max depth 55 feet, bottom time 35 minutes (1000 PSI remaining at the end of the dive). Water temp 52°, viz approximately 10-15 feet. Great dive with precise instructions provided by Ron. Unfortunately the camera batteries were running flat and so we weren’t able to take the photographs that I wanted to take in order to test the strobe on the anemone. Visited by a ton of fish “fry” and a Sea Nettle, the first I have seen. Swim back on a 210° courseheading from the Field was great -- over the pipes and around clusters of rocks covered in algae and kelp. Saw many of smaller snails in the sandy parts closer to the shore – purple olive snails (olivella biplicata) and the obligatory sea stars. Surface interval: 3 hours, 1 minute.

Dive #48 – Saturday, 1/19/07 – Breakwater Wall – Monterey, California. 2:35 PM. Max depth 39 feet, bottom time 39 minutes (Residual time 25 minutes; about 1200 PSI remaining at the end of the dive). Water temp 52°, viz approximately 15 feet. Because of the low tide, we did a long surface swim to find deep water. Camera was working and what a great dive to have it working on. The wall was just brilliant. It felt like everywhere I looked there was something to take a photo of – and it wasn’t all sea stars! Saw many decorator crabs, coonstripe shrimp (pandalis danae stmipson, I believe), a favorite of mine - purple ring top snails (calistoma annulatum), huge sun stars and another sea nettle! But, most treasured, are the delicate nudibranchs which were out in droves! Leopard doris (dialilulli sandiegensis), an adorable clown dorid (triopha catalinae), doris montereyensis and sea lemons – and some mighty big lemons at that! It was a great dive full of wonderful opportunities to see and photograph an array of sea life. Surface interval: 5 hours and 50 minutes.

Dive #49 – Saturday, 1/19/08 – Night Dive at the Breakwater Wall – Monterey, California. 9:04 PM. Max depth 43 feet, bottom time 34 minutes (13 minutes residual time; about 800 PSI remaining at the end of the dive). Water temp 52°, viz approximately 7-10 feet. Nice night dive buddied up with Brad and Nathan. Not a lot to see other than the rockfish, who were not at all interested in the bread that Jim placed in my BCD pocket to entice them to come closer during the dive. Would love to get some better, high-visibility dive lights.

* Instructions to find the Metridium Field at the Breakwater:
Beginning from the left side of the beach (your left if you are facing out towards the water), swim out until you are directly in front of Reeside Road. Swim out, inline with Reeside, until you are the midpoint between the white rocks off the shore from the Monterey Bay Aquarium and the end of the Breakwater pier. You have to make sure that you are literally at the end of the Pier and aligned exactly between the Pier's end and the white rock. When you've reached this, you should drop down and hit a big pipe, approximately 10 inches in diameter. Continue swimming straight out from that pipe along a compass heading along the pipe and you will find the field. To get back to shore underwater, take a 210 degree compass heading and follow that underwater to the shore [but don't blame me if you get lost]!