Monday, September 8, 2008

Beating the Heat off Carmel


With inland temps hitting the 100s last weekend it was a great relief to sit a quarter mile off Carmel's "Butterfly House" in a cool capsule of fleecy white fog. The sea was calm and glassy, and there was no wind early Saturday as the Silver Prince dropped anchor over a pinnacle near the lip of the Monterey Undersea Canyon.

Silver Prince was crowded with groups of divers from both southern and northern California, in town for a "meet and greet" in Monterey. The agenda called for a dinner later and then shore dives Sunday, though I had to get back home Saturday night. The picture is from the ride out of the bay. That's Robin and Mark.

Anne and I dropped onto the pinnacle, and I followed the anchor chain over a few little peaks at about 50' to see it resting on the sand bottom at the base of the west wall of the structure in about 110'. Visibility was good at about 25-30'.

We dropped over the side and through the stalks of giant kelp and down the face. Anne aimed her light at the wall and it exploded in bright reds, purples, and oranges of big blooms of strawberry anemones, hydrocoral, and sponges. Immediately I saw a lemon nudibranch. In addition we saw lots of sea stars on rocks and in cracks and rock fish diving in and out of the kelp. We contented ourselves to traverse the wall at about 80' and after a while reached the north end of it, following the curve to the east.

On the way back we saw a blue ringed top snail on a blade of kelp. I tried to get a picture but it was always moving out of the frame.

Just about that time we saw
Michelle and a few other divers converging with us on the anchor line. I took the opportunity to get a couple of photos which were closeups due to the fact that we'd swum into a narrow canyon that barely had room for all of us. Everywhere there were beautiful undersea gardens of hydrocoral, worms, corynactus, and palm kelp.


The water was 57˚! I can't remember it that warm in Carmel, and the warm water combined with the 70˚ sunny conditions topside made me glad I ditched the drysuit for the weekend. Diving wet in such warm conditions is simpler and very comfortable, though I do prefer the trim I get with the drysuit.

As the boat moved we sat in the sun eating Cliff Bars and drinking water. Soon we were positioned over the outer Pinnacle off Pescadero Point. This structure, one of three or so pinnacles out there, had a number of tall spires jutting up from the depths.
We dropped into the midst of these steep peaks at about 75' and marvelled at the lush profusion of invertibrate life competing for every millimeter of rock face. Palm kelp waved gracefully in the light surge. Hydrocoral reached with pink and purple branches everywhere, towering over the beds of corynactus.

This would have been a better first dive of the day, since the pinnacle's spires jutted up from greater depths that would have been fun to explore but for the fact that divers on air, following the earlier deep dive at Butterfly House, had very short no-decompression limits at the upper reaches of the spires at 75'.
We elected to cruise around at that depth to get as much bottom time as we could, and it was fun swooping around through the spires like birds dodging mountain peaks.

After an hour or so boat ride back to Monterey we turned the corner and almost immediately dropped anchor on Outer Chase Reef. This was to be a nice offgassing dive at about 30 - 40' on a nice reef with a kelp forest to the south. But the visibility was not good, maybe 5-8'. Anne and I elected to simply follow the rock dike we'd dropped onto. It ran roughly parallel with shore at about 40', and we wove our way through some nice structures and canyons, headed roughly back to the east where we could ascend on the stern of the boat.
At one point we ran out of rock; it just dropped off out of sight in the crummy vis, so we shrugged and went up with around 1200 psi left. We'd timed it about right, though, because there was the stern of Silver Prince just to the north of us past a little kelp patch which we ducked under on our short swim to the boat.

On the way back into the harbor we chatted with the SoCal divers and made new friends. Now there is already a plan for a get-together next year on Catalina. Sounds like fun.

Here's one last photo of one of the incredible living rock faces near the Monterey Submarine canyon.

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