Sunday, August 15, 2010

Diving in Sea Monkeys.

A muse of creative energy hit me Friday night, keeping me up until 1:30am. That would have been fine, but the alarm went off at 4:45a, because I had to leave at 5:30a to pick up Jonathan in Gresham and head to Sund Rock where a group of our underwater friends were diving. (Most made a weekend of it staying Fri and Sat night.)

This would be my first time in Hood Canal! Didn't do open water there, and had never been to any of those sites in all the trips I've been making up north.

The ride up seemed quick; fueled by stops for food and caffeine we shared samplings of our musical tastes. My mood soared thanks to the remaining creative buzz--and I was headed toward a date with Poseidon! (It had been a whole 13 days since I'd been in the water.)

A quick stop and some gab at Hood Sport 'n' Dive, we had our pass and we squeezed the Beetle into a spot in the small lot at Sund Rock. Friends were in various stages of dress and undress as they prepped to go in. Smiles, waves and hugs ensued.

We got into the water; I promptly tripped over a rock and ended up flat on my back. Christopher was kicking back in the water and came to my aid. The water was oddly warm, some 62 degrees!

I'll be honest, we missed the North Wall. (Yeah, I now know: descend the buoy to the base, and go north. Boom, you hit the wall. Duh.) But just like wrong turns sometime create the best road trips, so was the case here. We went deepish (90 fsw) through two thermoclines, taking the temp down to about 50. The last was at around 65 fsw and right below it was some nice clear vis... but it was very dark, which is cool in its own right.

Sea whips are amazing, and very striking with nothing else around as they gracefully stretch up with their frilled edges. We glided over the ropes and cables (some amazing groupings of life on those)! At this point I hadn't taken any photos, I was keeping up with Zoomie McZoomZoom. ;-) We found ourselves looking at a very liberal sprinkling of thumb sized nudibranchs, translucent with white tips against the dark green and red seaweed. I was trying to get positioned for a photo when J starts tugging at my arm. I'm thinking, "Leave me the heck alone, I'm busy here!" but then I look and just to the side of what I'm focused on is a nudibranch larger than any I've ever seen! Large and frilly with white tips, I'm shocked to see another one just a few feet away... and then ANOTHER one. And... another one, but this time brown and orange tips. And... another one! And... a PILE of them, about 5 of them! For a moment I thought they were dead but no... they were doing quite the opposite of death, it seems.

(Insert porn music here.)

We were above a very large field FILLED with these awesome large, colorful nudis. Consulting my book... Giant Dendronotids? Wow!

After poking around for a while longer, J signaled his pressure reading meant the ride was over, and we headed toward a leisurely safety stop and then surfaced near the south wall exit. My tank was still sporting almost half its contents. (It amazes me how much my air consumption has gone down since Maui.)

Not the dive we planned, but I wouldn't have wanted it any other way!

After a nice relaxing (and warming) surface interval, we headed back into the water w/ Stephen. To the buoy and down to the base, head due north and TADA, the north wall! We poked and crawled along, and I totally lost myself taking photos. S gave some excellent technique advice (the most complicated communication I've ever had underwater, and I learned not only something about photography but also about communicating underwater).

We poked around slowly. Looked in a few holes, crevasses and under ledges but saw none of the big players--which oddly enough is fine; it's the little guys that I love!

During the si, Dan had commented on the thick layer of krill that was affecting light at depth. He wasn't kidding; we went through a large band of Sea Monkeys, the water almost murky with them!

At some point J peeled off from us due to air, and S and I continued to slowly poke around the wall, then up and over into the fishbowl. I could have stayed there for one whole hour long dive thanks to the wonderful lighting and great array of stuff to see.

Once out of the water, the parking lot was emptying and we had a very leisurely time stripping off and packing our gear, chatting with Hilo and basking in the sun.

Good times.

I was conflicted; on the one hand I really wanted to socialize with everyone (they were having a pot luck) but having to drive home meant if I did it would be another very late night and on three hours of sleep that didn't seem wise. So J and I headed on down the road, stopping briefly at Hoodsport Winery for a taste. The cabinet behind the wall was filled with medals; I noticed most were from the Indiana State Fair and other related contests! I see why -- by far their best production was their raspberry, a rich and fragrant sweet wine. (I loved the sweets from Oliver Winery when we lived there.)

Then it was on to the casino where multiple plates of crab met their end at our table. Before leaving, a video slot called Kitty Glitter turned my $20 into $70, and I called it quits right there. That pretty much paid for my dive weekend.

Thanks, universe! Already planning for next weekend; we're helping some friends find their comfort in the water Saturday (somewhere boring like Dash Point) and then something like Alki on Sunday.

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