Monday, August 11, 2008

Pipe dreams

It was a perfect time to head over toward the big pipe that extends into Monterey Bay in front of Reeside just north of the breakwater. Anne had just nailed the skills part of her second Nav Specialty dive, and the three of us, including her instructor, Bob, and I, had lots of air left.

We had picked the open area of San Carlos Beach at the foot of the steps where you enter to get to the Metridium Fields because classes had completely overtaken the area by the breakwater. In contrast, our spot, maybe 50 meters north, was completely clear and the vis looked inviting in the morning sunlight.

We were not far out; depth was about 15fsw, so we surfaced and kicked out a ways past the first few kelp beds to where the inner white rock to the north lined up with the small building on the breakwater just past the bathrooms.

We dropped, dialed in 330˚ and headed out.

Earlier that day we'd gone over to the big pipe from further inshore and had transected the jumble of smaller pipes. Lots of half moons were swimming around the small pipes as we passed. Back on the sand we began to see lots of tube anemones, and there were little sand volcanoes shooting up from shellfish under the sand.

Further out, vis was opening up to about 20 feet (it had been better earlier), and soon we could see the dark shape of the big pipe materializing ahead of us. The sunlight was streaming down and the pipe was full of color as we began our easy swim out the pipe on 30˚.

The pipe is an interesting dive because the topography varies from flat sand to rocky downslopes, and occasionally inshore there is kelp. We wandered out past the section of pipe that is more than half-buried in the sand to the little down-slope at around 35fsw where there are some rocks and the pipe angles down. The bottom drops away a little to form a small arch, too small to swim through, but good for finding things hiding in among the tube anemones there. I looked and saw a juvenile ling cod who skittered away as I moved in for a closer view.

I think there was another series of rocky outcroppings further out that were festooned with bat stars and sun stars. I saw a medium-sized sheep crab on the pipe.

Soon we were at the end of the pipe, and I faced around and dropped to shine my light in side the opening. Nothing there. We had planned for the possibility of hopping out the the metridiums, but an air check at the end of the pipe made it clear that, while safely doable, our return from the met fields would probably not be as leisurely as the trip out the pipe had been.

We decided to turn the dive right there and cruised back along the pipe. Anne saw a Dirona on the right side of the pipe near the down-angle with arch section, but I didn't see it because I was over on the left side of the pipe looking for nudis.

Our slow, relaxed pace had continued, and it was a joy to constantly see my buddies close by, checking me visually, and signalling if they saw something interesting. Anne found another sheep crab in the sand which I did get to see, but was sad I'd missed the dirona.

We turned onto 150˚ at the half-buried part of the pipe and headed out across the sand, then angled in on 210˚ after a while and picked up the little pipes, which we followed into a wonderful little grove of kelp. After nagivating single file through the kelp patch we came again out into a very sunny patch of sand in about 10fsw where we surfaced just a little north of our entry spot. Here is the view inshore from right on top of the big pipe.

This dive reminded me of how peaceful and relaxing it can be simply to follow the pipe out and back without even going out to the met fields. It also reminded me of how much fun it is to dive with skilled, reliable buddies content to slowly cruise, taking in every little detail of wherever we happen to be.

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