Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Breakwater Cove – Saturday, March 22nd, 2008

While last weekend’s diving provided technical aspects/difficulties, I was looking forward to the lapse in the horrible swell forecasts and hoping to get in some good diving with Mark.

As Friday as Good Friday, we set off early to get to the LDS in order to rent Mark a drysuit. Having taken care of those details, we made our way down to Monterey with the intention of meeting up with Ron and Kent and doing a night dive at the Breakwater. After dinner, we made our way over to the Breakwater. Soon Ron and Kent arrived and we were all gearing up for the night dive, moon rising slowly over Seaside, brightly lighting the sea. After gearing up, however, our fates changed and we realized that Mark was experiencing a slow leak through his Air2. After trying unsuccessfully to remedy the problem, we decided that we’d rather retire to the hotel to watch some TV and relax rather than to deal with the equipment issues.

Saturday morning arrived nice and early and we were off to the dive shop to get Mark’s equipment checked out. Finding out that it was the 1st stage of Mark’s regulator that was blowing overly hard, we swapped out hoses and got Mark a rental 1st stage and were off to check out Lover’s Point.

Because of the northwestern swell, Lover’s 2 and 3 were not diveable and Lover’s 1, because of the shallowness of the site would have been pretty churned up. So we drove over to the Breakwater to meet up with Michelle and Greg. Soon enough we were all there and gearing up for the 1st dive – planning to dive to the Metridium Field as Greg had not been there.

Making our way down to the water, Michelle and Greg entered first. Soon Mark was finned up and heading into the water. As soon as I started to get my fins on, one of my fin assemblies malfunctioned. After trying to rethread the fin strap in the water, I reasoned that it would be easier to do on shore because of the water conditions. As soon as I swam back to shore with only one fin, I found out that it the pin around which the strap threads was missing so it would have been impossible to have fixed it without a new assembly. Fortunately I had another, unfortunately it was up the stairs, across the grass and in the car, and the key was inside of Mark’s drysuit. So up we went – hard work.

After swapping out the assembly, we made our way back. As we were walking in, Michelle and Greg were finishing their dive having been unable to locate the “big pipe.” Mark and I contented ourselves with diving the Middle Reef area of the Breakwater, checking out condition of the kelp growth.

The swim out was somewhat onerous because of the water conditions. We dropped down and the water conditions were “green” – visibility being somewhat disturbed, to put it lightly. However, we began swimming around, taking photos of the Bat stars (Asterina miniata) and checking out the rocks. Drifting past us, a strand of kelp with squid eggs attached. The kelp was beautiful, nicely growing in and making me anxious for its full growth – long fronds with blades bending around gas bladders. Snails clinging to the leaves.

Swimming along, Mark was handling his drysuit very well given that it had been a while since we were certified in them. However, because dive shops generally don’t trim the drysuit seals anymore than necessary to accommodate the “average” renter, Mark’s circulation in his right hand was soon being constricted. Approximately 20 minutes into the dive, Mark’s hand was paining him and we decided to head back to the surface and end the dive. On shore we quickly got Mark out of the suit and only then realized just how badly the suit was cutting off his circulation. However, he stayed warm – mission accomplished.

After the surface interval, Mark decided that he would rather soak up the warm sun than to deal with the tight wrist seal. So Michelle, Greg and I ventured out to check out the Breakwater Wall, each of us with our cameras in tow. Swimming out nearly to the “6” marker on the BW Wall, we descended into a flurry of particulate in the water column. We continued to swim away from the shore, down towards the area in which the sand dips down, and the tube anemone begin to appear at about 40 feet. There were tons of moon jellies floating around in the water, some inside out. We made our way back towards the Wall, and the visibility improved slightly. And the nudibranchs began to appear. Clown dorids (Triopha carpenteri), Sea Lemons (Peltodoris nobilis) and a lot of San Diego Dorids (Diaulula sandiegensis), one even hanging onto a piece of kelp, gracefully balancing in the movement of the water. A large Sun Star (Pycnopodia helianthoides) tucked into a crevice between the rocks.

While the computer was registering water temps of 50 degrees (something I normally do not have many problems with), I think that the recent weight loss has resulted in my wetsuit fitting less snug, and I kept having water flush in and out of the top of my suit, resulting in my being very cold. While I managed to stay down as long as the others, the need to put away the camera in order to kick around and warm myself up was beginning to be a nuisance. Soon we were heading back and then had to surface as we had gotten separated from Greg when he stopped to take some photos. We regrouped on the surface and since I had started with only 2500 PSI, I was at 600 PSI and we were only a short distance from the surface, so I decided to swim back on the surface while Michelle and Greg descended and made their way back.

Needless to say, the swim back was rough. The water currents were not in my favor and while I have every confidence in my swimming and scuba abilities, the movement of the water resulted in a very difficult surface swim. I walked up on shore feeling completely tired, but in one piece and safe. I waited on the beach while Greg and Michelle got out, Michelle having gotten slightly tumbled in the surf while removing her fins. The walk up to the car felt like it would never end – but soon enough, Mark was helping me take my gear off and we were relaxing post dive.

After loading up the gear, we headed back to the LDS to drop off the rental regulator and then met up with Michelle and Greg and convoyed over to Phil’s Fish Market in Moss Landing for some lunch and conversation. A beautiful, sunny day with some challenging and equally rewarding dives.

But now I am looking forward to some warm water …….. Soon ... Soon.
Dive #54 – Saturday, 3/22/08 - "Middle Reef" - Breakwater Cove. Monterey, California. 10:57 AM. Max depth 27 feet, average depth of 2o feet. Bottom time 24 minutes (approximately 1900 PSI remaining at the end of the dive). Water temp 50°, vis approximately 10 to 12 feet. Surface interval 1 hour 10 minutes.
Dive #55 - Saturday, 3/22/08 - Breakwater Wall - Breakwater Cove. Monterey, California. 12:35 PM. Max depth 44 feet, average depth 37 feet. Bottom time 35 minutes (approximately 600 PSI remaining at the end of the dive; began with approximately 2500 PSI). Water temp 50°, vis approximately 10 feet.

Favorite Photo from the Day

San Diego Dorid (Diaulula sandiegensis)

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Good Fortune!

After last weekend’s swells and “training day dives” – it seemed like the weather wouldn’t be cooperative for a while. And considering that I’ve been diving the past two weekends, I figured that this weekend would be spent dry, getting the house in order and having a quiet Easter weekend.
Imagine my surprise, however, when the reports started to come in about 6-8 foot swells on Friday, and slightly more on Saturday! Could it be a sign? Good diving, leading into Spring? Kelp growing back and no more winter storms? Well, there is only one way to find out – so off we go again. Down to Monterey on Friday afternoon, returning Saturday night. Meeting up with good friends, diving and having a great time. Hoorah!!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

ScubaBoard Meet and Greet – March 15th, 2008

Doom and gloom - all week long the Marine forecast was calling for doom and gloom. Even some of the weather reporters on TV were calling the incoming storm the storm of the season. Beware boaters! Steer clear of the coastline. Gail force winds and havoc! Reports of general mayhem resulting in my questioning the feasibility and sanity of trudging forward with the plan to dive coveted Point Lobos.

Ultimately Friday came and the report was downgraded some. And the Friday storm of the millennium (okay, I exaggerate a bit) turned out to be a blip on the radar. So, we move forward. Doc Wong, Carrie and Ron and my buddy will be there. Mike’s heading down along with Nathan and others, so we are going to move forward – everyone with the full understanding that we might be hiking.

I was up bright and early, on the road by about 5:45 AM. The roads were relatively quiet, and the first part of the trip absolutely devoid of other drivers (which can be a bit scary on 280 in the dark). Hitting 17, the sun was coming up and more and more drivers were joining me on the road. The sky was relatively clear, the winds seemed no existent. Reaching Santa Cruz and heading south on US1, the same. Calm, with the exception of some scattered and really minor showers and a foreboding patch of clouds on the horizon. Through Watsonville, into the Salinas veggie bowl, past the familiar Moss Landing power stacks and then moving into Marina and Seaside, the trip becoming one of habit after the recent trips down to Monterey on the weekends. The beauty, however, never eludes me. The thrill I see when I reach Seaside, glimpses of the bay past the sand dunes. The excitement and anxiousness to see my friends and go diving.

Today was no different. Although my excitement was mixed with a bit of hesitation as to how the day would shape up. Would Lobos be diveable or would we hiking?

I arrived at the Point Lobos gates just before 8:30 AM, first in line, and I was soon after joined by Michelle’s friend Roy. We chatted for a while and soon the line to enter started getting longer. Michelle, Nathan and other visitors were there, calmly waiting to see what Whaler’s Cove would hold for us. And so we were in to the Park, descending along the road, dropping down into Whalers.

The first thing I noticed was the foam - covering the middle section of the cove, protein foam. While I try not to be easily grossed out, having learned what sea foam is made of, I can tell you that I would never willingly paint my walls “sea foam”. Yes, I am exaggerating again, I would use “sea form” colored paint, but would I want to surface swim through it. That is another question all-together.

After regrouping and checking out the possible visibility from the rocks along the side of the cove, the rain began. As a group, we took the path up to the top of the outer wall of the cove to check out the outer cove sites and see if
they would be feasible to dive. That question was easily answered by the white seas, swirling and crashing against the rocks.

Doc checked it out and then gave us a briefing. Would this be an optimal day for diving? No. Is it diveable? Yes. It would be a training day dive. Learning how to work in buddy pairs in low viz and high surge situations, exiting the slick boat ramp in low tide with a surge, etc. My buddy, Michelle, looked at me and the decision was clear. We were going in, if only for one dive. So everyone made their decisions. Most chose to dive, while some chose not to dive. But we began to get ready.

I don’t know if it is the rainy conditions which made me move faster, but set up seemed to take a remarkably short time to get done. Perhaps I was a little nervous about the entry, but before I knew it, my gear was set up, I had my wetsuit, hood and gloves on and then hanging out with the group while others got their gear finalized. Soon enough we were heading down the boat ramp and getting our fins on, air in BCDs and putting our regulators in our mouths, preparing to move into the water, off the ramp, when the swell moved in, riding it out. When the non-scooters were all in, Michelle, Robin, Mike, Nathan and I began kicking out to the Middle Reef to wait for Doc and Greg to enter and scoot over with us. However, after a while waiting in our wetsuits in the surge, and being unaware as to when they were going to join us, we decided to descend and start the dive.

Descending, our group (Michelle, Robin and I) quickly lost track of “Team Baconated” (Mike and Nathan). While wasn’t a huge deal as we knew they were buddied up and were familiar with each other have dove together on a couple of occasions. When we all descended, we began our dive with a 90° course heading, taking us towards the far side of the cove, but with the poor visibility, the intended search for famed wolf eels, Itchy and Scratchy, was going to be fruitless. About 10 minutes into the dive, we decided that the combination of poor visibility and a very strong surge was making the training dive a bit less enjoyable than we would have hoped. In such, we decided to make our way back to shore. Finding our 220° heading, we began the surgy swim back, following the contours of the cove’s floor, being unable to see more than 5 feet most of the way back. Over rock piles, around kelp strands. Bat stars galore, a few anemone and a one lone fish are about all that I could see because of the reduced visibility.

Surfacing about 15 feet from Doc’s buoy, we were greeted by Laurel, Ron and Carrie. We were all very glad to see Ron who was able to instruct us through the exit procedure, something that had us scratching our hooded heads. After our instruction, I decided to ride the next swell in. Riding it in was great. I could feel the surge behind me and I began to kick, quickly finding myself bashing my knees on the boat ramp, but fine. Ron helped us each get our fins off, and while Carrie took them, Ron helped us up off our knees and readied himself to help the next diver.

After everyone was out and everyone had tried off, Carrie brought out the luscious lemon bars and Laurel brought out other goodies. Soon, Dan, David, Albert and the others on David’s boat were back and we were all hanging out. Soon it was off to the Breakwater where Carrie and Ron’s camper was parked, and Carrie was heating up chili. Jim, Buck and Sunny were there, along with Buck’s children.

The ride home was uneventful – a few showers and lots of very interesting cloud formations. I stopped off to get some fish at Phil’s which Mark made for dinner. It was nice to be home and relax with Mark after rinsing the gear and cleaning out the interior of the car.

All in all, it was great a great Meet & Greet and while the conditions left something to be desired, the challenge and the experience was well worth the lack of visibility. Thank you to Doc Wong, David, Michelle, Robin, Mike, Nathan, Ron, Carrie, David, Dan, Laurel, Roy, Jim, Buck and Family, and everyone else who made it out, and those of you who were going to come, but decided against it. I look forward to more diving – May 10th @ Corral Street.

Dive #53 – Saturday, 3/15/08 – Middle Reef – Point Lobos. Carmel, California. 11:02 AM. Max depth 30 feet, average depth of 27 feet. Bottom time 25 minutes (approximately 1800 PSI remaining at the end of the dive). Water temp 50°, vis approximately 5 to 10 feet. Great time working on threesome diving with Michelle and Robin.

Author relaxing @ home after her dive

Monday, March 10, 2008

Daylight Savings Diving – Sunday, March 9th, 2008

Five in the morning came nice and early on Sunday morning, daylight savings having robbed us of one precious hour of sleep. Amazing how much that can mess up your internal clock. Regardless, we got up and headed off in the Honda down to Monterey. Although we didn’t get to dive off a boat as planned, we were determined to make the best of the day and were off to find a site to dive. We immediately thought of MacAbee since I am going to be spearheading the ScubaBoard Meet & Greet there in July. However, when we got there the fog and the wave action out by the Fishmonger made us decide that we would retreat to the “safe harbor” of the Breakwater and practice our navigation and “see how long we could stay down for”.

The BW was busy. And I suppose that since it is now March, the dive classes are beginning and the winter quiet will be replaced. We surveyed the groups to determine where they were lining up on the shore and like most weekends, they stayed near the wall. In light of this, we decided that our best course would be to head out to the Metridium Fields and then do a really leisurely underwater swim back to shore, although the fog was so thick that we were wondering if it would obscure the references points on the shore, preventing us from finding the site. What was worse was the fact that the fog appeared to be getting thicker as the morning wore on.

Gear setup and wetsuits on, the fog was slowly loosing its grasp on the shore as the sun rose further in the sky, and soon we were walking down towards the stairs. Much to my surprise, I was greeted by Albert who was there taking his Master diver course. That’s definitely one of the nicest things about the Breakwater – always likely that you’ll run into someone that you know.

Down the stairs and soon we were in the water. Kicking out I could feel the effects of my previous day’s workout as my fin strokes felt weak. I was marginally frustrated but I knew that I needed to “power” through it if I wanted to make the dive a success. We finally made it out – lining up Reeside with the other visual cues although I think we were slightly off because we ultimately had to swim south a few yards to find the pipe.

Finding the pipe was great. It was absolutely covered in bat stars (Asterina miniata) and a few Feather duster worms (Eudistylia polymorpha) which are so delicate looking. Reaching the end, we peered in the hole to be greeted by two of the largest Sun stars (Pycnopodia helianthoides) I had ever seen and one somewhat curious copper rockfish (Sebastes caurinus). I couldn’t believe the size of these Sun stars – they were gigantic. And all those little legs ………….. !

Swimming out from the pipe, we easily found the Metridium Field. No one was there, just Mark and I. The visibility was approximately 20 to 30 feet, maybe slightly more and much depended upon location on the site itself. There was a lot of particulate in the water column towards to shore side of the site, but as we moved around between the two outcroppings, the water was calm and the visibility improved. I tried my hand at underwater videography for the first time. I have to check out the manual to see if there is anything that can be done about the green tint to all the images. Nice, large sea lemons (Peltodoris nobilis), San Diego Doris (Diaulula sandiegensis), doris (Doriopsilla albopunctata and Doris montereyensis), a number of giant chiton (Cryptochiton stelleri), black-eyed goby (Coryphopterus nicholsi), bat stars and – of course – Metridium (Giant Plumose Anemone) (Metridium giganteum).

At 1500, I was getting a bit chilled and since Mark was pretty enthralled by the end of the giant pipe, we reversed the course and headed back to shore via the pipe. This time, the Sun stars were out of the pipe and motoring down the pipe. Those little legs moving the star quickly along the pipe. We then headed back towards shore, over the rocky sections, checking out the small dori (Doriopsilla albopunctata) on the sand, a beautiful and tiny Hermissenda crassicornis on some rocks, finding a black-eyed hermit crab (Pagurus armatus) on its back, barnacles affixed to his shell and a Moss Crab (Loxorhynchus crispatus) holding on vertically to a small rock. Sea pens and blowing holes in the sand. Everywhere, bat stars. Over the patches of olive snails and then arrived back in the surging waters near the shore.

Nice dive, but really cold. Both Mark and I were pretty chilly and while I had hoped the sun would warm us up during the SI, the winds had picked up slightly and we were both chilled before we knew it. After rinsing off and watching the Marine Mammal Center ( http://marinemammalcenter.org/ ) herd up a stranded elephant seal from the beach, we took showers and then head off to find some lunch and walk around with the tourists on Cannery Row.
All in all it was a nice day. It was great to see Michelle, Dan and Albert and nice to do some diving. But I was really glad to get home and walked straight into my bed for a nice little nap. Awesome.

Dive #52 – Sunday, 3/9/08 – Metridium Fields at Breakwater Cover – Monterey, California. 9:43 AM. Max depth 53 feet, average depth 40 feet. Bottom time 46 minutes (approximately 550 PSI remaining at end of the dive). Water temp 53°, viz approximately 25-30 feet.

Video from the Metridium Fields

My favorite photo of the day

Hermissenda crassicornis

Friday, March 7, 2008

I am ready.
And it looks like we're getting the opportunity to boat dive.

.... Awesome. :-)