Catalina Backside & Farnsworth Bank on the Orion III

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Posted by Ross-O on March 27, 2005 at 21:48:41:

Yesterday was great but today was even better. We loaded 4 people, 4 sets of dive gear, and 11 tanks aboard this morning and set off in search of adventure. The plan was to head towards the West End of Cat and possibly slip around the back side if conditions permitted. It turned out to be a wonderful trip over. There was a tiny bit of chop leaving San Pedro but there was almost no swell or wind. We encountered 2 different pods of dolphins numbering in the thousands on the way over. They literally stretched for miles! I slowed to 12 knots and everyone got up on the bow and watched about 10 of them ride the bow wave. I wanted to maintain my 22 knot crusing speed through the second pod but they were so thick I was afraid of hitting one so I slowed again. I know they always stay out of the way but there were some little ones and I figured they might not know better yet. The moment of truth came when we rounded the West End. Surprisingly, it was smoother and calmer on the back side than it was on the front. We're talking glassy smooth like a lake. It was really incredible. We continued on towards Farnsworth as everyone kept commenting on how amazingly good conditions were! We anchored up at the 10 Fathom shallow spot since a small boat of FREE DIVERS were already on the 9 Fathom spot! Those guys really impress me. Vis was about 60-70' above 60' and dropped to maybe 30-40' at depth. After checking the anchor and convincing myself that the boat would still be there when we got back, we headed off to enjoy the fish and purple hydrocoral. It was a wonderful dive! After Farnsworth, we headed over to Ben Weston Point for lunch and to have a look around. I've been so focused on my back yard (San Pedro Shelf) that I haven't spent much time researching Catalina so I spent a significant part of the trip with a map in hand trying to put names to the various coves, points, and rocks that we encountered. Ben Weston didn't look too appealing for a dive so we motored over by the isthmus and then headed over to Whale Rock for dive #2. A small fishing boat was sitting right over Whale Rock so we continued West of him a little and anchored near this big blowhole like feature in the cliff. I'm not sure if it has a name or not, but Claudette couldn't resist calling it "Dragon's Breath" since it put a heavy mist into the air with every wave and made a big scary sound. It turned out to be an amazing dive with 70' walls, three different colors of gorgonians, some of the largest Sheepshead, Calicos, and barred sand bass that I've seen at Cat, and nice little kelp forests near the top. After this dive we planned to round the West End and do a dive at West End Cove on the front side. I didn't get a good feeling about anchoring there today so we continued down to Johnsons Rocks for the last dive. It wasn't quite as interesting as the other spots, but it was still pretty. Vis on the front side was only 30' or so. The ride home was just like the trip over -absolutley smooth and gorgeous. The view from the west end was spectacular - we could clearly see Palos Verdes, San Clemente Island, and Santa Barbara Island.

For those of you with small boat or an interest in such things, here's my fuel economy numbers from this weekend. Today we traveled 69.7 nm and burned 46.5 gals so we got 1.5 nm / gal. This is on a 24' SkipJack Flybride with a Volvo Penta Duoprop sterndrive, Chevy 351 engine (running heavy as stated above) and crusing at 20-23 knots. Yesterday I was running really light (2 ppl, 4 tanks, 1/4 fuel) and I averaged 1.9 nm/gal on a 45 nm cruise around the San Pedro Shelf. With a 117 gal tank, I have a range of about 1.5 *117 = 175 nm. I can easily carry an extra 30 nm of extra gas in cans on deck. This put places like Nic, Begg Rock, and Cortes just within my reach - especially if I top up at Cat Isthmus or Avalon on the way home :-)

115 nm of adventures this weekend on a near perfect sea with 5 dives, lots of new knowledge gained, and no mechanical problems. Whoohoo!


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