Saturday, June 18, 2016

Lingzillas and slightly less lost at Lobos

sea_otter had a reservation to dive at Pt Lobos and with a very calm swell prediction, we headed out as usual. There was a ton of surface kelp in the cove with no discernible channel - the surface swim for the first dive was going to be a bear :/

We swam out, dropped in our usual spot and took a NNE heading with the intention of finding Hole in the Wall (which I still haven't seen). Visibility was decent, around 30ft, but there was a lot of large particulates in the water. I'm gonna go with whale snot.
Whale snot
We weren't looking for the sand channel, instead choosing to swim over the slightly rubbly reef on the left side and spotted the usual contingent of Monterey dorids along the way.
Monterey dorid
We hit turn pressure around 70ft without seeing Hole in the Wall and headed back in. A squirrelly ascent, with liberal kelp grabbing for stability, brought us back pretty much where we had dropped.
-> 70ft, 50min, 50F

We  chatted with raftingtigger and 3Ddiver during our surface interval and got some tips on finding HITW (take a heading towards the last bird poop rock at the drop point). Refueling (leftover garlic bread from 2 days ago, mmmmmmm) and a tank change later we were back in.

This time, the plan was a little more fool proof - Middle Reef. The swell had pushed the kelp towards the east side of the cove which made the surface swim a lot easier. The visibility was about the same, albeit a little clearer than before. I had the bejeezus scared out of me when I swam over some large lings and failed to notice them until they moved away when I was practically on top of them. sea_otter's backup light twisted itself on and there was some faffing around as I tried to communicate that to her. We rounded the end of Middle Reef with plenty of gas to spare and decided to continue going around on our way back in. Just around the overhang, I saw what I thought was a large horizontal crevice in the rock and went closer to take a look inside. Bejeezus scared out of me again as the crevice wasn't a crevice but another humongous ling. This is the first time I've seen one which such a dark coloration - it was almost completely black. We continued on the back side of the reef and sea_otter seemed confident in her navigation skills to get us back close to the worm patch. I shared that confidence until we ended up in about 20ft of water surrounded by some pretty thick kelp. Remember when I said the swell pushed the kelp to the east side of the cove and made our surface swim out super easy? Yeah, east side of the cove is exactly where had ended up. We ended up clawing our way back through the salad pretty much the entire way across.

-> 62ft, 59min, 50F

A fun day of diving was capped off by an absolutely beautiful day topside.

Hole in the Wall eluded us once again but we think we have a better plan for next time.
All photos courtesy of sea_otter.

 - U

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Washer and drygloves

In an attempt to get to Pt Lobos before the gate opened, I had to leave home at stupid o'clock, which meant a wake up time of stupider o'clock. Even Koda and Cousteau seemed non-plussed when I was up and about and they're usually good to go whenever; Billie didn't deign to open her eyes until she realized everyone was getting fed.
ParaMike had driven down from Fairfield which meant he woke up and left at wtf o'clock. I assume he got some sleep while driving down here since he was wide awake when we transferred all his gear into the Death Star.

I was trying out my new dry gloves system today. I had opted for the simplest (and cheapest) setup available - the SiTech rubber pullover rings - since I wasn't quite sure how much I would like the relative loss of dexterity in the water and didn't want to drop $350 on the Kubi system I was secretly coveting. The install on the ZipSeals was super easy once I popped them off the drysuit. All it is is a hard plastic ring the goes on the inside of the seal and a corresponding firm rubber ring that goes around the outside. The rubber gloves that go with simply stretch over these rings and form a seal on the 2 grooves - no O-rings to slip, tabs to break off, parts to get gunked up or any alignment needed. The wrist seal is not impacted at all and would be a secondary seal in case the glove was damaged or popped off somehow. I wore thin merino wool liners under them and was able to don and doff them pretty easily on my own. They seem a little floppy on the surface but not too bad as I was able to get my rig on and everything hooked up and arranged on my own. It's recommended to put a little piece of bungee or tubing under the wrist seal to allow some gas into the gloves (which I neglected to do) but even that didn't cause any trouble during the dive.

We were geared up and in the water around 0930. Visibility in the cove was awful and there was a lot of kelp around. We had to weave around quite a bit to get to the sand channel. We surface swam out past the Dog and dropped in the sand channel in about 40ft. The viz was pretty good as we made our down through a school of senoritas and remained that way for the rest of the dive. There were a couple of ling cods on the prowl and a mahoosive vermillion rockfish as we made our way along the Cannery Point Wall. I spotted a few Monterey dorids, Doris montereyensis, but no other nudibranchs.
We were aiming for Hole in the Wall and should have stuck to the border of the reef and the sand channel. Instead we went through all the rocks and cut between the little walls that are at the north end of that reef. It was a lot of fun and really beautiful but I was pretty sure we had overshot our target since we were in about 85ft. We hung a left to return from the west side of this reef but went too far west and ended up right in the middle of the Cannery Point Rocks.
Not good. Like, really not good. It was insanely surgy above 30ft and we were getting thrown about 10-15ft in every direction in the middle of the rocks and kelp. When I surfaced to take a bearing I realized we were in a bad spot where the swell was about 5-6ft and the waves crashing into the rocks could be heard pretty loudly even through my thick hood. After an "oh sh*t" moment, we high tailed it out of there and ended the dive early with a looong surface swim back.
-> 35min, 86ft, 50F

Good dive overall despite the navigation errors. We got some pointers later for better ways to dive the west side reef. We skipped dive #2 as I was very low energy after the surface swim - forgoing breakfast that morning had also not been one of my better ideas. Lessons learned. The dry gloves were awesome, staying dry and warm for the entire 90min we were in the water. Post dive at Papa Chevo's where I practically inhaled a giant plate of fish tacos.

 - U