January 22, 2011 – It’s always great to be invited for a milestone dive and 100 is the first big one for all scuba divers. Traditionally, you’re supposed to dive naked. But I really think that’s a warm water tradition. In Monterey, there’s nothing like marking your 100th dive in low viz (5′), surgy conditions, and rough shore entry.
December 18, 2010 – Cynthia, Ben, Brian, and I meet up at Breakwater (San Carlos Beach) for a Grand Tour scooter run. While we had hoped for stellar winter conditions, we got the standard 10′ – 15′ viz. We were blessed with a few sea lions at Metridium Fields though. Usually they don’t hang around this long, but could be curious teenagers.
On a sunny Sunday morning, Kevin, Ted, and I gathered at Pt. Lobos to wrap up Kevin’s Hole in the Wall mapping project. Having worked through logistics with other dive teams on Friday and Saturday, we were batting clean-up – literally. We had a few stations to map, but we also had to pull all the survey lines at Lobos.
Kevin stressed that we shouldn’t be goal oriented, but we couldn’t help ourselves. In the 90 minute dive, we completed the survey and successfully retrieved all survey equipment.
Here’s a short video.
For those who are interested in what Essentials in Monterey looks like, here’s a video.
Met up with Erik and Elissa to dive Pt. Lobos. Our initial plan was to do two dives, first one to Granite Point wall and the second dive passed Lone Metridium. The goal was to get the team familiar with the major navigational landmarks.
After meeting Matt and Leah in the parking lot, we revised the plan to dive Lone Metridium first. They were on scooters and planned on pushing westward. It’s always good to have a familiar dive team in the waters, in case something happens.
We doddled in the parking lot for a little bit but eventually got in the water. I brought my new (certified pre-owned) camera along to take my first stobe enabled photos.
Surface conditions were good, and we were able to kick past the worm patch before dropping. We could have gotten further, but I’m not much of a surface swimmer. Plus, Elissa was in doubles in she doesn’t know how to surface swim without a scooter.
As we decended, I’m pleasantly surprised by the 20′ viz and soft green glow. Had expected worse, but we actually saw each other and the nearby rocky reef.
After a little kicking, we reached Hole in the Wall and proceeded westly towards Lone Metridium. We swam through the dark kelp bed and popped out against the wall at 70′. Lone Metridium was closed, so we headed along the wall. At the corner of the wall leading West, we checked pressure and called the dive.
Lots of rock fish tucked away in the crack and fissues of the walls this dive.
AG and I meet up to dive The Road at Pt. Lobos in Carmel. As we roll into Carmel, Monastery welcomes us with mirror flatness.
At the Three Sisters, visibility is easily 40′ if not more. On the Road, it is even better. When I turn the dive at one of the pinnacles, AG can only look at me in disbelief and wave his arms in frustration. The views are amazing – schools of rockfish, light penetrating to 130′, and calm waters.
Well, when he wants to buy me a rebreather, then we can stay out longer. Until then, I have gas limits to adhere to.
Using 1:1 Ratio Deco, our schedule is
20′ 10 min
Tuesday morning, I’m at the computer (surprise, surprise) and I get an early email from Kenn looking to dive. Sure I had errands to run, a bathroom to demo, and dinner plans in the evening, but who am I to resist?
Turned out to be a spectacular day of diving. Topside was sunny and cool, surface conditions absolutely flat, and underwater was 40’+ of visibility. Really hard to ask for more, especially in the summer time.
Definitely watch these in HQ, otherwise the compressing/video quality is rough.
This past Sunday, first hand reports and the swell models kept us home. On Monday, MAV was visiting Monterey for the first time so we scheduled to dive together. I crossed my fingers as the Monday and Tuesday swell reports where not spectacular. They were a significant improvement over the weekend though.
Monday, June 22nd. Long swells, causing big breaks outside outside of the cove. However, in the cove, pretty calm. Underwater, the cove was 2′ viz. Around Middle Reef, it was 15′ at best. Lots of substrate in the water. Below 60′ viz opened up, so Hole in the Wall and the end of Middle Reef was nice. Beto’s Reef at 100′ was even better, with at least 30’+ viz.
At Beto’s, the resident wolf eel was back.
Tuesday, June 23rd. Shorter swells, so both inside and outside the cove proved nice on the surface. Underwater, the cove was still 2′ viz. Middle Reef was also 15′ at best, and lots of stuff in the water. Things didn’t open up till Lone Metridium and we saw at least 40’+ viz. Three Sisters was incredibly nice.
Monday and Tuesday would have made very nice Technical 1 dives. Great conditions at 100′ and deeper, and not much to see in the shallows. As long as you’re comfortable doing deco in 2′ viz, it would be a spectacular dive.
Today, Kevin and I meet up with some friendly UTD divers visiting from SoCal. It’s their first trip to Pt. Lobos, and Kevin and I are eager to show them a good time.
By the time I arrive at 8:30am the parking lot is already full of divers. It’s one of those rare Fridays that a reservation is required – 5 divers were already turned away by the time I arrive. It’s also one of those Fridays that looks absolutely beautiful. The cove is glassy flat and viz, even top side, looks impressive.
I attempt to take an iPhone photo to taunt my friends with, but the iPhone freezes. Hurray for the iPhone — the most overrate electronic device ever. Fortunately, Christian has his camera and is gracious enough to share (including the pictures below).
As we gear up, Kevin and I marvel at the amount of gear that keeps coming out of the SoCal divers’ van. The picture below is missing 3 add’l sets of doubles, Cubas, and bags and bags dive gear – all of it which went into one vehicle.
Ted and Matt pull up and we trade dive plans. Our first dive with the LA crew is a kick dive to Hole in the Wall. Ted and Matt will scooter west of Lone Metridium and play in walls and valleys towards Marco’s Pinnacle. Although uncommon, that’s a spectacular dive.
In addition to taking our LA friends on a tour, I am eager to get in the water and try out the Razor harness. A couple weeks prior, I had used my wife’s old sewing machine and made a cover for my camelbak BCD. Today would be my first cold water sidemount dive.
First task is to stage the sidemount tanks in the water. Low tide can be dangerous and uncomfortable for doubles divers. However, carrying one tank at a time, navigating the slippery ramp proves to be far less challenging. +1 for sidemount.
As the backmount divers start getting ready, I jump in the water and start donning my gear. Since it’s the first dive, I want to the dive the rig as I did in Mexico. As the result, I am using the mini 1/2 inch D-rings. Definitely not that smartest decision, but I wanted a baseline for comparison.
Well, as you can imagine, I struggle to don the tanks. Clipping small bolt snaps onto even smaller D-rings proves to be chore with drygloves. I climb up onto the ramp and use the low tide to my advantage. The conditions couldn’t have been better, but it still takes me almost forever to get set-up. -1 sidemount (with warm water harness gear)
I finish donning just in time for the LA divers to get in the water and I help here and there. It’s mostly Kevin providing good direction on entry.
One of the big concerns I had before the dive was surface floatation. In Mexico, the Razor harness system is optimized for under water movement. Surface floatation does not exist. The good news is that my makeshift BCD keeps my head above water. The bad news is that every time I raise my left arm, the cuff dump burps and I’m at eye level. If sidemount becomes a cold water habit, I’ll have to plug up the cuff dump on those days. -1 for cuff dump.
We surface kit to above the worm patch, and it’s visible from the surface. After a minute to regroup the teams, we descend. I do a masterful job tangling my lightcord and twisting the canister so Kevin sorts me out at the bottom.
Under water, the sidemount tanks feel pretty good. Movement is easy and trim is spot on. With the LP77’s -6.8# buoyancy on each side of me, I’m physically locked into horizontal trim. In fact, when I rotate laterally, the tanks will snap my back to the horizontal plane. Personally, I like the ease of movement with lighter sidemount tanks, but overall it’s still a pleasure to dive. +1 for sidemount.
Dumping air from the camelbak BCD is more involved because of the cuff dump. When I raise my left arm to dump the BCD, the cuff dump would activate. As the result, I end up unrouting the BCD hose and dump from the right side of the body. Fortunately, I only had to do this a couple times during the early parts of dive. The BCD was sufficient to offset the extra weight of the gas in the beginning of the dive. In the later parts, I compensate buoyancy with my drysuit. -1 for cuff dump.
As we head away from the the worm patch, I immediately regret not taking my camera. Given the Razor harness’ maiden cold water voyage, I thought it best to leave my small point-n-shoot on shore. Visibilility is stunning, at least 50′. With the bright sky above, the entire ocean is lit up. I have a ton of dives at Lobos, and it was still nice to see a certain area and say, “Wow that’s what it looks like in it’s entirety.”
Not too long in the dive, teams start to separate and head their own way. Our team consists of Kevin, Christian, Tim and I and we continue to Hole in the Wall. As we round the rocky reef just passed Hole in the Wall, I spy a 3′ leopard shark. I enthusiastically wave down my dive buddies and point out the shark chilling on the ocean floor. Kevin says that my shark motion was so enthusiastic that he thought I saw a great white.
Most leopard shark sitings are fleeting, however this one is different. The shark allows for pretty close encounter and doesn’t move an inch as four divers hover nearby. We effectively swim 270 degrees around the shark, without causing a stir.
After the shark, we reach turn pressure and head home. Kevin leads our team to Middle Reef and we meet up with Itchy, the male wolf eel. His head gets bigger every time I see him. Kevin and I insure that the Christian and Tim get a chance to look and then we kick home.
Doffing the sidemount tanks is easier, but still cumbersome and finger numbing. If I choose to dive the tanks again, I’ll definitely replace the D-rings and bolt snaps. I’m tempted to try AL80s as well, but the prospect of wearing another 12 pounds on my waist isn’t that enticing.
Second dive, we plan to scooter to Beto’s. After two 25/25 dives to Beto’s, this will be my second 32% dive to the reef.
This time donning, I need assistance. Kevin swims over and even remarks that it’s hard. Probably just to make me feel better.
As we surface scoot out, the visibility in the cove has decreased. At the worm patch, the water is no longer clear and viz drops to about 30′.
After a little coordination and corralling by Kevin, our entire group of divers arrive at Beto’s. You can see Kevin be a model diver by checking his gas and then checking the team at the destination. Sorry for the last scene on the video, my camera must have gotten narc’d at the deeper depth.
At Beto’s, Kevin and I look for the wolf eel and the ling cod guarding her eggs, but both are no longer there. Though we miss our animal friends, there’s still a lot of Beto’s to see. Both Kevin and I take turns swimming through the crevices and cracks of Beto’s.
After 20 minutes of wandering Beto’s, we head home. With additional SoCal divers with us, we make a return trip to Middle Reef to visit our wolf eel friend.
By the time we reach our 20′ and 10′ stops, I’m very low on gas. As the result, I do an automatic weight check and could add a couple of pounds to be extra comfortable. However, as is, the weighting is pretty good.
After last week’s premature dead scooter incident, Elissa and I were eager to revisit Beto’s Reef. Kevin joined us today, and I had plans to make him lead the way. Not only did I want to test a new scooter mount for my point-in-shoot camera, but I was interested in his path to Beto’s. Even though Beto’s is quite popular with the twinset crowd, it’s interesting to see the different paths that people take.
After we compare dive plans and deco strategies, we agree on a 110′ avg depth dive on 25/25 with 02 deco. Kevin will lead out and I will run deco and lead the ascent back.
Since I had a new camera mount, Elissa wanted me #2 – calling me names as weak link, etc. I protested, and eventually was put in #3.
Using the large Team Kitty buoy (we like buoys), we gear up and get in the water. Surface scooter out and Kevin shows us his line up for the worm patch.
We descend and my Dive Rite primary doesn’t strike. I am starting to hate this light. With a light failure, Kevin and Elissa sandwich me as #2. Fortunately conditions look quite good, at we have around 30′ of viz in the sand channel.
Within 4 minutes we arrive at Hole in the Wall. Kevin checks the team and we start our clocks. 5 minutes later we’re at Beto’s and cruising at a comfortable 100′.
Our previous dives to Beto’s have been mostly at the top of the reef, but with helium we venture deeper and spend more time on the east wall. Kevin looks for nooks and crannies to explore while Elissa and I enjoy the larger structures of Beto’s.
Kevin then shows us the resident wolf eel (he was surprised we never had seen him before), and we then run into a large lincod protecting her eggs. The water is teaming with life as krill and small fish abound.
At the end of Beto’s we pause and enjoy the color. With good visibility, no surge, and bright colors of strawberry anemone on the reefs, the dive is feeling quite tropical. I hate to admit that helium makes a difference, but it really does. It’s like cruising at 80 mph in a bmw 5-series sedan vs a honda civic.
As we head back, we run into familiar faces at Beto’s. Rob, Kenn and August kicked out and we meet up at 100′. After exchanging photos and video captures, Kevin leads us back up Beto’s.
With 5 minutes to left on agreed upon time, Kevin signals that we should do one final scooter around Beto’s. We agree and Kevin leads the way – slaloming and diving through crevices in the reef.
When it’s time to head back, I take the lead and we head to Hole in the Wall. My path back is different then Kevin’s as I skirt the edge of the kelp and sand interface. Heading due south leads into heavy kelp and makes communication more difficult. I’ve been accused (rightfully) of slipping through tight kelp openings and causing my teammates to hunt for their own holes. As the result, I’ve been trying to be better.
According to plan, we’re on the trigger for our deep stops up till 30′. 30′ we kick through the sand channel for our stop, and then reach the worm patch. At this natural navigation point, we ascend to 20′, switch to O2 and then do our 20′ stop. We end the dive with a 5 minute ascent. This is our second dive out of class so I’m happy that things go according to plan. Plus, we’re with Kevin and we want to make a good impression 😉