Posted by Elaine on May 20, 2005 at 00:36:36:
San Clemente Island on the Encore
Trip with Scuba World
Story and Photos © Elaine Jobin. May not be reproduced in part or in whole without advanced written permission.
On Sunday May 15, 2005 I made a trip to San Clemente Island on the Encore with a group from Scuba World.
I haven't been on the Encore in several years. Except for new crew, the boat looked just as I had remembered it. Everything looked clean and well maintained the woodwork meticulously shiny. The rare commodity of three (count 'em) bathrooms on a California Dive boat was still there.
The Encore is berthed at Pierpoint Landing. There is a lot of surrounding tourist attractions and night life. The Aquarium of the Pacific is a stones throw away. Restaurants, bars, and shopping are all within easy walking distance.
The group boarded the night before and settled in for the after midnight departure. There was pizza in the galley, card games at the going at the tables. There was lots of room to stretch out as there were less than 20 divers on board. I didn't know anybody but they made me feel right at home.
After a smooth overnight run to San Clemente Island we had an early, cooked to order, breakfast of pancakes, sausage, etc. The itinerary of breakfast before the first dive gave everyone plenty of time to wake up and to get their dive gear organized.
It was a bit of a search to find a dive site with good conditions. San Clemente Island usually has some of the best diving conditions to be had in Southern California - today the island was experiencing current and less than optimum visibility. A short trip around to Pyramid Cove finally produced a favorable drop of the anchor. It was here at Blockhouse Reef that our dive day began.
Visibility didn't look that good. I took my Nikonos V with the close up kit on this dive. I found wandering underwater terrain with canyon like cut through passage ways. Visibility improved with depth and there was some mild current and surge. At 80 feet I was in a vista with beautiful gorgonians on the reef walls. It was terrific scenery. I couldn't capture it without the wide angle so I took some time to let the sights soak in without an eye behind a lens. With the close-up kit I found Garibaldi, Sheephead, and Lobsters. I thought that I was looking at legal sized lobsters, but, since San Clemente Island is the famous "Island of the Shorts", maybe I was hallucinating. I also saw gun shells that reminded me that I was diving at an island owned by the United States Navy.
Some divers were not comfortable with the current and the surge that they encountered here. Captain Pam moved the boat in an attempt to find calmer water. We enjoyed a relaxing surface interval as the Encore moved to a new site..
The anchor dropped for dive number two at Hawks Reef.
Until Next Time...........
Optimistic about the improved conditions at depth that I had found on the first dive, I took my wide angle equipment. I got off the boat and started heading away from the island to get some depth. The water was dead calm. There was no current. There was no surge. There was also no visibility except in the first 20 feet. The deeper that I went, the worse it got. At about 70 feet visibility was 8 to 10 feet. I wasn't seeing many fish only plants and some kind eel grass. I felt sorry for any of the newer divers that might be following my same general direction - what if they decide that all that California diving has to offer is "mud holes." At least, even in ghastly visibility, the water at San Clemente is still a very interesting shade of aqua.
During the dive I kept thinking that I was approaching a large angel shark or swell shark. I could just barely make out the shapes through the murk. I had this experience several times. However, all of my sand creatures were nothing more than "kelp mirages" - strands of kelp in the sand. I wasn't finding a lot of interesting photo material. As I swam back up the hill, I ran into a group of divers at about 50 feet. Whoa - photo subjects! Hold it right there I signaled and they all posed for photos..
Back in the shallow water visibility was good. This was a large sea hare climbing over a rock.
The group opted to stay at this site for the last dive. I was a little surprised at the decision, but it was a prudent one. After all, isn't the last dive supposed to be the shallow one? I decided to hunt in the shallows for macro subjects. I also took a long shallow swim to the point and encountered some huge schools of jack mackerels and a large bat ray along my route. I didn't have much luck finding macro subjects. The thing that I found most interesting about the shallow areas of Hawks Reef was the plant life. Some plants I could identify, and some plants I couldn't.
There was an opportunity at this site to do three dives. I just did two long ones. With everyone back on board we started the trip home. Hamburgers, chicken, and corn on the cob were a reminder that summer was almost here. The great weather and warm California sunshine made it actually feel like July
The trip ended with the "Long Beach Harbor Cruise" past the Queen Mary and back to the dock.
Thanks to the crew of the Encore for a great job. Thanks to everyone at Scuba World for treating a stranger like family. I don't know how I didn't get a photo of Captain Pam, but I didn't.
Until Next Time.......
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