BAUE Trip Reports
7/11/2009 Kawika's Gorgonian Garden aboard Escapade
by Clinton Bauder -- [View this report only]
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Clinton Bauder, Matt Vieta
3' - 100'
49F - 60F
||Double LP80||Deco Tanks:||AL80|
10,5, Slow Up
The last 6 weeks or so have been a bit of a rough patch for me as my usual background melancholy slipped backwards into a rather profound depression. I'm not quite sure how this happened but I guess it's how life works sometimes. Now frequently depression dulls your sensations and makes it hard to care about much of anything, but other times, such as recently for me, it makes things seem that much more intense. It certainly seemed to work that way on this day and I have a funny feeling I'll be remembering the dive for a long time. Maybe not so much for any specific thing that happened, but somehow the gestalt of the day really hit me in a profound way.
Our plan for the day had been to Dive E3. Jim was taking a day off from running the boat and was diving today in the hopes of making use of his shiny new Tech 1 certification. Unfortunately the weather didn't want to cooperate and strong winds forced us to turn around before we even reached Point Pinos. Our backup plan had been the Mile Buoy Reef but there were two fishing boats already working the area so we went to plan C; a spot on the deep shale called Kawika's Gorgonian Garden.
Kawika had discovered this spot a few years ago after the CSUMB bathymetry data had been released. It is a really pretty reef with 20-30 feet of very dramatic relief and structure, especially given that the bottom is shale. It is covered in lush gorgonians with patches of Metridiums and sulpher sponges. Some of the last dives I ever did with Kawika were at this spot. I've always liked it but before today I'd never really seen it with good visibility.
This time it looked like we'd get our good vis with beautiful blue water on the surface. We jumped in with 3 teams of 2; Myself and Matt, Jim and Joakim and Allison and Kevin. Descending down the line our joy over the clear water turned to despair as the visibility at around the 20 foot mark disappeared entirely; literally going from 60 feet to less than 3 in a few inches. Happily it just as quickly cleared and as we exited the murky layer at 30 feet we could already see the Metridiums on the bottom below as we felt a chill from the clear, cold water underneath. Later we all agreed that our first thought was that we must be at the wrong spot as there was no way we should be seeing the reef at 120 feet from 30 feet. But see it we did and the vis, was, in fact spectacular.
Arriving on the bottom we first squared away a few minor equipment issues; both Kevin and I had backup lights turned on from the pressure. Then, unknown to me, Kevin and Allison inspected the downline and noticed the large lead ball anchor was missing. More on this later. Meanwhile I got out the camera and started thinking about taking pictures. Except that I couldn't think about taking pictures. I had brought the macro setup which would normally be a great choice for this site but the visibility was about 100 feet! And there were schools of rockfish of every size and variety everywhere. And the gorgonians seemed to have been placed as in a finely manicured formal garden. I was dumbstruck by the beauty of it all but also overcome by a deep sense of sadness that my friend Kawika wasn't there to see it. Jim told me after the dive he felt the same way.
After half an hour of just soaking it all in Matt and I wandered back to the top of the reef where we had begun the dive. The first thing I saw was a large surface marker, mostly inflated. I checked my bottom timer and it said 30 minutes. "That's odd" I thought. "We planned for 40 minutes, why are they sending up a bag now?" I looked at Matt and he just shrugged. Getting closer we realized there were 2 bags deployed and both of them were attached to our lead ball anchor which Kevin had apparently found and retrieved from a crack. One of the bags had a constant stream of bubbles leaking from it and the ball was clearly nowhere near neutrally buoyant. Matt and I decided to get out of the way lest we get brained by a falling ball from a failed lift bag.
While we were keeping an eye on the salvage operation I found a nice little basket star on a gorgonian and managed to get my one decent picture of the day. I think Kawika would like it. Certainly it seems appropriate to only post one picture from a dive at his site since he was so picky about pictures that he would rarely post more than one himself.
Finishing up my picture taking I looked up to see that the ball was now off the reef, but only barely. There was a line going from the ball to the surface so I assumed (correctly as it turns out) that there was a third bag which was on the surface also pulling on the ball. Matt shot our bag and we started our deco a prudent distance from the salvage. The deco was incredibly smooth and we could still see the reef up until we hit the 30 foot stop. We even had a small contingent of blue rockfish keep us company until we disappeared into the murk. Now I must say I don't like not being able to see more than 3 feet but the murky water and everything above it was 60 degrees! Certainly does make the deco more comfortable when you're warm.
Back on the surface we had an extended and completely hilarious debrief of the salvage effort. Many sarcastic comments were made about the merits of gate snaps, various types of knots, different brands of lift bags, lift bag techniques and Jim's reaction when Kevin and Allison showed him his expensive anchor separate from the upline which had already been retrieved by the boat. Jim does a really good Alan Raabe impersonation both underwater and above.
Dive two was at Eric's Pinnacle Dammit. Vis was nice there too, being at least 50 feet once you got under the layer. I tried to take pictures there too but it was just too damn nice to shoot macro and instead Matt and I decided to meander around in the kelp with the scooters admiring the nice vis and schools of fish.
My one, lonely, picture is here: