Arena Rock

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Posted by Eric S on May 28, 2005 at 23:53:49:

My buddy and I went up to the "Rock" today.
This was the first time for me. I've heard all the stories in the past of what it's like but none of them could prepare me for what I saw.
I left the house at 5:30, picked up Steve at 6:00 and we were up at the Point Arena boat launch pier at 8:00. They sling your boat in at this place for $20.
We had to wait in line for an hour, and finally got in at 9:00.
The trip to the rock was good. very nice seas, only a 2 foot swell.
Arena Rock sits way out in the ocean all by itself about 3-4 miles offshore and about a mile and a half north off the Point Arena light house. It is a fully exposed dive site with normally ripping currents and swells that explode over the rock. The rock itself is barely below the surface and only reveals itself as white water.
There were only 2 other boats out there at the rock so we all arranged ourselves around the rock, but not too close!
I anchored in 108 feet about 75 feet away from the top and when we went down we followed the line to the anchor, then over to the base of the rock about 40 feet away.
As we started up the rock I felt a little buz coming on and as the scene unfolded I looked up and just tripped out at what I was seeing.
Imagine taking giant slices of swiss cheese the size of a house but flat and stacking them up to form a giant dome shaped mountain over a hundred feet tall, with horizontal ledges with holes and caves and all encrusted to a profusion beyond what would seem resonable for nature to create. Growth so extreme that it really bordered on rediculous. Then there where the scallops, which I will get to in a moment.
I took one ling because I had planned on gathering some food on this trip, but the fact that I was so visually awe struck made hunting seem trivial. I unbanded my Riffe and decided to just take in the dive.
Combined with the bizaar formations I was seeing, all of the rocks were totally overgrown and teaming with life. I saw lings, black and yellows, greenlings, blacks, blues, cabezon, sculpins, rubberlips, carpets of those strawberry anemones, white enemones, big metridiums, all kinds of other different colored spongy growth, and other stuff that I don't even know what it was. I'm sure there was several nudibranchs all over, although I wasn't paying attention for those. Steve mentioned later that he saw several.

There were numerous caves with scallops growing all over. I found a scallop laying down right on the floor of a cave not even attached to anything. It was perfectly alive and I guess it just developed there on the ground in loose material.

We had 60 foot visibility, there was no wind, and the water was 57 degrees.

On our second dive we stayed put and decided to go back to the same general area. This time I left the gun because I had no interest in taking any more fish.
Instead I was armed with my scallop bag. As soon as we got back to the rock I imediatetly got into a hole cave of huge scallops. I bagged up with a hole limit in 10 minutes and not one was smaller than 6 inches. I saw some so huge way back in cracks and holes that there would have been no way to get then out. At one point I stopped and was resting my hand on a ledge and the ledge moved. I looked at what was going on and saw several of those huge 3 inch barnacles and enemones. Then underneath all that I saw the telling smile. the whole base of the ledge was a scallop! at least 10 inches accross!!

On the second dive I also saw 4 different wolf eels and had a little run in with a very large octupuss that didn't like me going into her den looking for scallops. I saw those 8 foot arms twisting around and apologetically backed out. One of the wolf eels was discovered in a similar manner and freeswam out of the hole and right past me.

Most of the scallops were in 29 to 45 feet. Steve told me he saw in a hole about 5 huge scallops all growing together. He said if he could have broken loose that whole clump it would have been half a limit in one take!
I finally got sick of seeing so many scallops and decided to go up. It's kinda like eating super rich chocolates, the first several are sheer heaven, then a few more and they start to make you sick. I think because I always dreamed of finding a spot like this, then when I actually did it was almost too much too fast.
If you want I could show you pics of the shells?
I'm not making this up.

So far I am claiming this to be the topper dive of all my dives on the North Coast. The only diving I could imagine any better would be the farallones.

Those shelves though with the holes and caves with rooms and lava tube swim throughs, this is what baffles me. Nowhere else on the north coast have I seen anything like it. These shelves almost remind me of flat plate coral or at least a giant stack of worm eaten pancakes.

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