Last weekend I braved gale force winds and 13ft high seas to travel to San Clemente Island for an exciting day of diving. Well thats not entirely true, the trip was delayed until the seas and wind calmed a bit, but it was still a bumpy ride (not that I would know, I slept through most of it!). Our scheduled 8:00pm departure was pushed to midnight in order to let the wind and high seas diminish so we could safely make the six hour motor out to San Clemente Island. This meant no Catalina night dive, but we were able to still get in 4 dives off San Clemente so there was no loss.
After rolling back and forth on my bunk as I drifted in and out of sleep we pulled up to San Clemente around 6:00am. We were up and dressing as the boat laid anchor so that we could be in the water as soon as possible, giving us the most possible time for diving. The sun was barely up as we made our first giant stride off the back of the boat.
Site #1 was called Fish Hook. We swam off the boat away from the island towards a large patch of kelp. Through the kelp we emerged onto an immense wall that plunged to below 100ft. Knowing we had a full day of diving we capped our dive around 80ft and explored up and down the wall. The visibility was fantastic, and there were a ton of critters around including all the usual suspects (Garibaldi, Kelp Bass, Sheephead, Senorita Wrasse and Blue Banded Gobies). There were a bunch of sea stars and even a baby sheephead (which I in my ignorance was rather excited about before looking it up because I thought it was a new fish I had yet to see! Oh well…just a Sheephead.) The highlight of the dive for me was when I glanced down into the depths to see a 6-7ft Soupfin Shark cruising along the wall. It was sleek, smooth and AWESOME! I had to keep myself from charging after it down into the depths. Luckily I had wicked fast video skills and caught it on camera!
Site #2: was called Wash Rock. We were told that we should see LOTS of the Soupfin sharks in the shallows, but we must have gone to the wrong section of shallows because we saw none (sadness). Upon surfacing we found that one group had seen a whole bunch, up to ten all laying in the sand just chilling. (Lame!) Anyways, we headed east from the boat exploring a very surgy shallow area. It was beautiful and full of fish, so I can’t really complain about not seeing any sharks. We did come across a HUGE bat ray with a little bat ray sleeping next to it in the sand which was great. After exploring the shallows a bit we headed slightly deeper near the boat and explored a cool section of kelp.
Site #3: After another surface interval we jumped into a site called Green Acres. I’m sure you can guess how this site got its name. Its a huge expanse of thick healthy kelp that seems to go FOREVER down and down into the water. We kept the dive fairly shallow since it was our third and we had one more to go, but the kelp and the rock formations on the bottom (as Jessica pointed out, they looked almost volcanic…which they probably were!) were fantastic. We found 2 octopus all curled up inside some holes in the rocky ground and I discovered how much I hate that I can’t bend my strobe all the way down level with my camera…it was damn near impossible to get the camera and the strobe into the small hole to light up the octopus, but I managed fairly well on the second one.
Site #4: Little Rock. This site was a bed of sea grass and weeds. We traveled along, and I brought a bunch up with me after sinking down into the weed beds to get some photos. We progressed into a kelp forest and explored before circling around, overshooting the boat and swimming back. Unfortunately for me, I learned that my camera battery quickly progresses from the “halfway dead” symbol to completely dead and ended up with a dead battery early on in the dive. I was however able to eek out one shot, not great though, when I came across a large Moray Eel in a patch of rocks.
Our group of friends, most from Eco Dive Center, made for a great trip. We had enjoyable surface intervals, full of delicious food thanks to the awesome staff of the Sand Dollar dive boat. Quick fills allowed us to keep getting in the water as soon as the boat set anchor and the gates were open. The weather was clear, the water was warm (for CA…around 59-55 degrees!) and I really don’t think the day could have been better!