Sunday, November 6, 2011

Enjoying the fall diving in the PNW.

As a diver in Salem, OR, I've come to terms with the joys of a day trip up and back to the Puget Sound. While some say, "You drove four hours up to get in just over two hours of diving, then drove four hours back?" I say, "Hell yes!" I'm blessed with a few good friends and dive buddies who make the trip pass by like minutes, and with visibility as it is this fall...

Doesn't hurt that my little car gets a good 40 mpg highway. If I take a picnic lunch it costs less than a great many things I could do to waste a Saturday away... and is a hell of a lot more fun.

Yesterday the Diesel Dive Bug headed to a dive site near Gig Harbor, followed by Titlow. The former is a little gem, one I've sworn to keep secret. A leisurely, quiet gear-up put me in a very zen state before even hitting the water. The serene underwater landscape was peppered with gigantic fat pink Tritonia nudibranchs, orange sea pens (from large to teensy weensy) and striped nudis mating all over the place. Coiled bundled of their eggs laid about like tumbleweeds, and eelgrass encountered near the end of the dive was covered with small nudis, some so small I deemed to call them nudi-bits.

Oh, and did I mention the visibility? Awesome. Not like, "Oh yeah, we've got at least 15" when you know damn well it's barely 10. This is more like, "I'll call it 30 only because people will think I'm crazy if I say something like 50, maybe even 60."

The beautiful fall day, the zen of the dive, and the subtle energy of one of my favorite dive buddies put me in an amazing state of mind. AND THERE WERE CORGIS! Two corgis ran out of the landscape edging one of the homes beside the beach access we were using, and greeted us before and after our dive. How awesome is that!?

We headed to our second site for the day, Titlow. In my time underwater, most visits have been made to the tried and true sites which are less current dependent, leaving a lot of sites along the narrows and other areas undiscovered. The plan was to hit the site at the slack around high tide in the afternoon. It was a high high tide, the result of an 8 foot swap, and going into a larger one for the next low tide. After moseying over to the site, sitting in the car and enjoying a little lunch and then gearing up again... we were well into two hours post peak. Entering the water there was not really a noticeable current.

55 minutes later... and it's a rodeo.

Going from the cathedral to shore took us about 10 minutes of crawling along the rocks. My buddy suggested surfacing at 10 ft and I declined, planning to not break the surface until I could stand... and good thing because even standing took a little strategy as the current was pulling out so hard. Given that I don't like current (unless we're talking about Cozumel and a live boat pickup), it was a great dive, and it's one more data point to put in my hat of, "Just what does this set of conditions result in?"

But wow... what a site! The highlight was an ADORABLE little grunt sculpin Stephen found. So tiny, and so well hidden, it was quite the find. Both dives were undertaken with the GoPro on my head, and the video is pretty good thanks to good visibility and some sunlight. Hopefully I'll get to piece together some of the highlights into a little something I'll throw up on Vimeo.

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