A sring day at Gerstle

Outer Bamnks diving on the Great Escape Southern California Live-Aboard Dive Boat

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Posted by Eric S on April 17, 2005 at 10:07:17:

Should I take the boat out or not? This was the question all week as I was looking constantly at the ocean reports. I grabbed the tide book and saw that there was going to be a 0.4 at noon so getting the boat out of Ocean Cove wasn't a possibility.
Bodega was having the annual fishermans festival so going out of there was definitely a no.

Steve and I decided to take the kayaks and go up to Gerstle Cove.
When we got out to Jenner at 7:00 we could already see white caps forming.
The swell wasn't bad but windchop made it sloppy.

A crystal clear morning, we got up there, got all the gear set up, loaded the kayaks, spear guns and game hooks on the boat we're out lookin fer big lings!
Amazingly there was hardly anybody there! we had the whole place to ourselves.
We went out of the cove and south out to the far outer walls off South Gerstle. The wind was not really to bad at this point but I could tell it was going to howl in the afternoon.
The dive averaged about 55' with a max of 70'.
The terrain was very up and down with lots of very large rocks, some of them qualifying as pinnacles. Not all the rocks in this area had the typical North Coast overgrown look we got down to some areas of just barren boulders with a lot of sea cucumbers rolling around on the bottom and the occational giant star. The vis was about 10-15 up around the shallower pinnacles and it got milkey and dimmer down deeper about 6-8' vis. This is fairly typicall of the north coast around this area. Not one ling to be found though, I think they probably moved out to deeper water. I managed to get 55 minutes out of an AL 80 on straight air. I started getting cold too and I noticed it hard to hold the reg in my mouth and my fingers were getting really cold. This is unusual for me, normally I can get away with wearing 3mm gloves and never get cold hands. I looked at the temp and had 46 Suunto degrees. No wonder.
On that dive I managed to skewer a couple of nice blues out of a school that was hovering around the top a pinnacle. Steve and I both got a couple scallops.

We headed back in and changed out tanks, and went right back out.
This time we decided to go out of the cove and north out to the furthest wash rocks off of the actual Salt Point.
As we were paddling out of the cove we saw the ranger driving down to the point and throwing his wetsuit on and hastily grabbing his orange rescue tube, then running down to the rocks.
I guess while we were doing our first dive a group of amature ab divers got in trouble around the inner rocks off the point and got banged up pretty good. The swell was about 5-7' so the possibility of getting thrashed still existed especially in an area they had no business diving without the proper skill level.
We paddled like crazy to get over there in case we could do something to help, but by the time we got there the ranger plucked everyone out so we weren't needed.

The wind now had actually subsided a little so the paddle out was very pleasant. I anchored the 'yak about 50 feet away from our targeted wash rock and took a compass reading to the rock. We dropped down and imediately were surprised by the growth. The spot had way more stuff growing than the last. The terrain was more rugged as well. Right off I found a nice scallop. This spot was very vertical with tons of those huge 4-5" barnacles growing on the rocks surrounded by carpets of strawberry anemones and a bright purple fungi growing on the rocks. This was one of those profuse garden spots, day and night from the last spot. Going along through the channels and cracks I stumbled upon a cave where I had to decend virtically into a wide crack then at the bottom the cave entrance went in laterally. The cave opened up into a room big enough for me to get inside and move around fine. I didn't have a light with me but the cave was illuminated from three other entrances/exits. there was a sky light that I probably could have wiggled through, another hole to the left that I don't think I could have made it through with the pack on, and then to the right and down a hall was the biggest exit that I could easily have made it out but decided not to. I took a brief look around inside the cave and saw at least 3 HUGE scallops hanging off the ceiling. I had already somewhat silted out the cave pretty bad so decided to let it go and I backed out. I'll come back here most definitly. This will be a must do dive for the Augusr campout!
This cluster of rocks we stubbled upon was amazing! when I say rocks I mean rocks that are 50-60 feet tall, and not smooth, they have deep cracks and crevasses and they are all laying around in such an order as to form cave systems and swim throughs such as the one I just described. We saw several other caves and overhangs during the course of the dive but we didn't attempt any more penetrations.

I should have just left the gun back on the kayak because I didn't take any more fish. The focus turned to scallops.
This was another long dive for the conditions and the cold. It was about 50 minutes. We did wind up getting away from the overgrown boulders and down into some deeper stuff looking for fish but no luck. At the end of the dive I did find a couple scallops way back in a crack and managed to get the meats out only.

On the way back in we saw the same ab divers that were rescued, back in the water. This time about 40-50 feet inside the reserve (big no no). Then we heard the ranger on his bull horn yelling at them.

On the beach in the protection of the cove there was no wind. It was glass calm. A few baby seal pups were playing in the water coming right up to the beach staring at us, wanting us to go in so they could tug at our fins. Or maybe they saw we had spearguns and they were angling for a snack? I don't know, but they sure are cute!
There were a few other divers there now too, but still a very uncrouded weekend.
One thing about Gerstle, even on the most crowded weekends when there's motorhomes, ab divers, scuba classes, regular scuba divers, tourists, I've never not been able to park or not have a place to set up on the beach. So I guess even at it's most crowded, compared to other places, it's still very desolate.

By now it was 1:30 and the wind was at full tilt, 20-35 knots, white cap city. The mouth of the Russian River was a wind tunnel.

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