Trip Report: Monterey

Tell us your tale of coming nose-to-nose with a 6 gill [--this big--], or about your vacation to turquoise warm waters. Share your adventures here!
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Trip Report: Monterey

Post by camerone » Sun Aug 10, 2008 10:00 pm

Well, I just flew back into Seattle after a few days down in Monterey for a wedding; I got to play minister (yea, Internet churches...) for two of my closest friends in the whole world. Since the bride and groom, as well as most of the wedding party were divers, there was little choice but to spend Friday out diving Monterey Bay as a pre-wedding activity.

We decided to charter the Silver Prince, via Monterey Bay Dive Center, right off of Cannery Row. I was a little worried about going down there, as MBDC doesn't have any small cylinders to rent - the minimum size they've got is basically a 72/80, which meant I was scrambling to find some rebreather tanks for my Evo. Fortunately, I'm not _too_ picky, as it's in a travel frame, and not the yellow box, so anything from 13 cf bottles up through about 40s will work.

Russ, next door to MBDC, at Backscatter (one of the coolest underwater photo/video stores I've ever seen) was generous enough to offer to loan me a personal set of 19s and a 40 on a sling, under the condition that whatever mix I found in the dil bottle would be refilled. No sweat.

I'm packing the night before and realize the box I've got to haul my Evo around in has a huge crack down the hinge... the Evo's going nowhere, as I don't have another suitable hard case for it. So, I'm scrambling to find a set of O/C hoses... Lately, let's just say the supply of Apeks first stage kits has been a little thin, so I've got more than a few regs waiting to be serviced here at the old workbench, so it took a bit of creativity to get a working set of regs, but I managed to find a DS4, a couple of TX50s, and a suitable set of hoses (actually, got to try out a new set of MiFlex hoses, and all I can say is that they freakin' rock...tough as nails, light as a feather, and they pack down into some really tiny spaces.)

We get down to Monterey, grab some weights the day before at the shop, arrange to get me a couple of HP100s to dive on, and experience the utter chaos that is a ton of newbie divers (10) trying to check out rental gear, wetsuits, and the like, all at once. Two hours later, Heidi and I walk out with 58 lbs of shot between us and a 9 AM Friday departure time from the K dock at the Marina.

We head to our hotel (priorities! Dive gear first!) only to discover that the geniuses at the TSA have gone through our luggage on the way down, and, in the process, they've stolen/lost/misplaced/whatever Heidi's computer... actually, it's _my_ computer - an old Aladdin AirZ O2, which works okay for recreational O/C diving, but is really the other half to the Oxy2 for _her_ rebreather. So, I've now got to file a TSA claim, have them deny it (what? Us geniuses steal your stuff?), and now find someone who wants the Oxy2, since it's useless without the wrist unit, and they don't make them any more.

Anyway, 9 AM Friday rolls around, and we head out on the boat. We've chartered the whole thing, and so we're at a relaxed pace... we depart around 10:30, stop at the dock by the breakwater, pick up a BC for someone who's forgot theirs, and head out.

We do two dives - both are very shallow. One's at a set of pinnacles in around 55 feet of water, just around the point, south of Monterey. We start at a nice set of rocky pinnacles, and work our way back to the kelp forest, finishing up in about 30 feet of water. I'm tripled with Heidi, and another friend of mine from Seattle -- someone with lots of dives, and good skills, but no cold water experience. We do a nice 45 minute dive - viz was around 50 feet in the rocky section, but drops down to around 15 feet in the kelp. The girls call thirds at about the same time, we meander up to some safety stops, and then surface in the kelp, followed by the California Kelp Crawl back to the boat, at anchor.

Back on the boat, I find my other friend is actually shivering - we get her some hot chocolate, some dry towels, and she elects to bail on dive number two. She was so enthralled by the scenery that she refused to signal to me, "I'm cold" until we're on the surface. Heidi, meanwhile, has flooded her drysuit (zipper's shot, it seems), so she's sopping wet, although not chilled at all, and bails on dive number two.

Almost everyone else on the boat had, apparently, been waiting for us for over 20 minutes to surface. I still had half a tank and neither of the girls does a particularly good Hoover imitation :) Most of them decide they're cold, wet, and miserable, and bail on dive number two. We're now down to six divers, of the 14 people we started with on the boat.

For dive number two, we go back into the bay and drop anchor offshore from the Aquarium, about 100 feet or so from the two yellow buoys that mark the intakes for the aquarium's plumbing for the tanks. There's a nice kelp forest a bit shallower that they keep directing us to, but I'm diving with the groom, and he's done this a few times, but never checked out the aquarium intakes, so we jump in, take a bearing, and head over there.

We do about 40 minutes on the intakes and the pipeline, meandering back to the aquarium. Viz is an impressive 40+ feet, and the intakes are just covered with life. The sandy bottom around there isn't much to look at, other than lots of cucumbers, but the pipelines are covered with kelp, crabs, some strange large dorids that I've never seen, and just schools and schools of fish almost "hovering" around them. Way cool. We guesstimate how far we've wandered in towards the shore, make a bearing towards where we think the boat is, and head out. We eventually decide to do a midwater ascent (from 50 feet), come up, do a safety stop, and find ourselves about 50 feet from the boat, just outside our underwater viz.

All in all, two outstanding dives, other than I would've _loved_ to have done a couple of hours at each site. The life was a lot like it was up here - perhaps less of the big stuff - but the cool stuff in the kelp made up for it... and hanging out with hundreds of yelping sea lions on the breakwater afterwards is an experience not to be missed.

This morning, we took a stroll down by the beach - I have to say that weekends are to be avoided diving there... there must've been 200+ divers in the water from every class within a hundred miles. If I _ever_ thought Cove 2 sucked on a weekend with bad tides, I changed my mind...Monterey Bay would be worse :) Weekdays, though, are definitely made for spectacular fun...

We had a great crew (Captain Mike, with DM Luke from MBDC) and friendly folks from Monterey Bay Dive Center helping us out, and I'd definitely do it again... Russ invited me back down for some serious rebreather/scooter diving again, and after getting just a shallow taste of the Bay this weekend, I'm definitely going to have to head back.

I also managed to bump into another friend of mine at the wedding reception, and already have lined up my next out-of-the-US dive trip... After next year's repeat Antarctic run, I'm off to Clipperton Island, in the eastern Pacific, to do some more-or-less expeditionary grade warm water diving, which should include a couple of days in Socorro again -- last time was awesome down there, and a repeat chance on the way to Clipperton can't be missed.


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Re: Trip Report: Monterey

Post by LCF » Sun Aug 10, 2008 10:30 pm

Well, you persevered past your obstacles and pulled off a couple of good dives!

I've got to get back down to Monterey. There's a super community of divers down there who have been very welcoming, and I love all the hydrocoral and color.
"Sometimes, when your world is going sideways, the second best thing to everything working out right, is knowing you are loved..." ljjames

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