Monterey RULES, ok? There, I've said it and I mean it.
Rocks? Pinnacles? Rockfish? Godzilla anemones? Nudibranch hordes? Scooter race-ways? Wolf eels? Great friends with mad skills?
Monterey RULES!!! (We're going to have to alternate the DIR Gathering between here and Puget Sound... because the fun never stops in either place!)
This was the third day of diving for Ken and I on this MoCal Roadie, and it was superb!
We'd enjoyed 2 days of great shore diving at Lobos and the Breakwall, and it was time for a boat ride.
Rejuvenated by wine, pizza, a slew of diving videos, and warm hospitality at Jonathan's place the night before, we piled stuff onto the Cypress Sea under blazing blue skies. Captain Phil lived up to all the praise I'd heard heaped upon him, with an hilarious boat briefing, a top-notch crew, and fantastic site selection/anchoring. The big-screen bathymetry of each site is a big asset on this boat, and Phil used it wisely to enhance the diving.
Dive #1: Honeymoon Rocks:
119fsw max, 57 minutes, 50F, 50-60 foot vis, some frisky surge but not bad. X-scooters, hp130, nitrox. Buddy: Mo2vation
5 to 7 foot rollers meant that Phil looked and passed on several sites before putting us on Honeymoon rocks at the edge of the Pt. Lobos reserve. Experienced locals looked very happy as we anchored, and now I know why.
WOW! Shear walls and playful pinnacles greeted our eyes as we slipped down to 90 fsw in Very Clear Water... must have been 50 foot viz and the world was blue. We alternated scootering and kicking around, like kids in a museum rushing to the next cool thing, and then stopping to play. Ken shot some spectacular images of nudibranchs, hydrocoral, tiny crabs, and lovely sponges. We kept seeing Warren and Ben, also exploring and shooting and having a great time. I kept expecting Ben to mug me for a scooter and rush off, cackling with laughter, but no heists were made.
I found the most amazing slot canyon I've ever seen: Sandy bottom, shear vertical walls about 8 feet apart and 30 feet tall.... and the channel curved back and forth in the most perfect S-Curves, just SCREAMING for someone to run the X-Scooter Slalom!
It had to be me . While Ken captured beautiful images of the thick life on the walls, I tucked and zoomed from end to end... and back again. Then, upside down. Then, half-way and a vertical loop to double back. Then... wow... I lost track. Ken tucked the camera away and joined the fun before we continued around to the next side of the pinnacle. I was laughing up a storm and having a great time.
Ben, Warren, Ken and I were the last to helix upward to the pinnacle's tip, and begin the beautiful ascent in all that blue, Blue water. Sealions swooped by to our delight.
The crew gathered us all back up, weighed anchor, and turned us back toward Carmel.
Dive #2: Outer Pinnacles... and then some .
98 fsw max, 55 minutes, 50F, 40 to 60 ft viz, X-scooters, nitrox. Buddy: Mo2vation :-)
Now it was my turn to be excited as I'd been here in October 2006 for Peter and Lynne's big visit. Josh, Peter, Lynne and I had kick-dived this wonderful set of pinnacles while a bunch of wild hooligans had buzzed us on scooters, over and over and over again!
The props were now turned, and Ken and I were bringing our own X's to Monterey for the first time. Captain Phil gestured towards the many areas of kelp visible all around the boat, not just on the pinnacle where he had anchored. "It's huge", he said. "Pinnacles in all directions."
Needless to say, Ken and my trigger fingers got to itching just a li'l bit .
We powered downwards on the anchor line, head first into blue water and hydrocoral gardens. It was as beautiful as I remember it!! What a place!!!
Ken lead southwards, as we'd taken a compass heading from deck for a particularly thick patch of kelp. We jumped gullies between the looming pinnacles, and then raced along curving slot canyons and over saddles bristling with multicolored hydrocoral. Right, left, then left again and southwards.... this area was much bigger than I'd expected. It was so beautiful in the blue sunlight that I knew I could never do it justice in words. Ken's photographs were reassuring back on deck: Truly gorgeous individual images from acres and acres of thick beauty. But it's an experience too big for either words or images. We are fortunate indeed to visit this beauty. We checked our compasses less, and absorbed the beauty more.
As we turned the dive and headed north, we made eye contact and agreed instantly on one thing: The boat was probably in this direction. Both scooters were well charged, gas was abundant, we had a spool and SMB, and the current was almost nil. So we did our best to navigate, but quickly became engrossed in the big and small treasures of this site.
We chose a big fat trunk of giant kelp for our ascent, while Ken discovered beautiful life on the stipes and fronds to photograph. We flew gently upwards, shot an SMB, and finally emerged.... a rather impressive distance from the lovely Cypress Sea. As we scootered back, the fun continued as we submerged for Ken to photograph a gorgeous jelly beneath the undulating blue/gold surface. As I watched him work, a HUGE golden sea lion cruised smoothly up behind him... passing no more than 3 feet behind him as he intently focused on the jelly. Photography complete, we took turns rolling and spinning with this big playful animal. The sunlight caustics raced over its golden fur. It hung head down, looking sideways at us, flippers straight up out of the water. We made eye contact and the dance began again. Swoop, swirl, fins and scooter twisting to match the sealion... eye contact over and over again... it was the most exhilerating playtime I've ever had with a full-grown sealion. The puppies and teenagers in the Channel Islands are frequently this playful with us, but never have I twirled alongside the bulk and power of an adult. It was smoother and calmer, more expressive than the bursting puppy-play of the youngsters.
Back on board, I couldn't even begin to describe it. Splendid times.
We got some teasing about our "navigation", and I began some lame-assed explanation of compass headings and slot canyons..... when Captain Phil stopped me with a big laugh. "Yeah, yeah... forget about it! You had bugs in your teeth and were heading for the open road... You had Harleys in your hands and all of America in front of you... yeah, you were having the time of your life!!!"
I gave up. He was right. It was fantastic fun. "Bugs in my teeth." I'll always remember that one... hee hee...
Ken was all smiles and joy at these dives. His enthusiasm is beyond contagious, and the photographs he previewed just added to the fun.
What else was there to do, but join the most wonderful MoCal family at Turtle Bay for lunch: Kevin, Rob, Allison, Warren, Ben, Jonathan, Yun Ju, Jaye, Ken, Dan, Laurel, and even more new friends gathered for stories, laughs, and good grub. Al and Chris: You were both missed! Next time! Many, Many thanks to all the wonderful friends who made this trip so much fun.
Ken, you make every dive a celebration, and Monterey was more fun than I could ever have hoped for. Dive Buddy Extraordinaire! (...that would be you.) Thanks!
So.. when are we diving Monterey next?
It's only 59 songs and 5'15" north from home.... I gotta do THIS more often!