A helluva dive!

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Posted by Eric Sedletzky on August 03, 2000 at 00:01:56:

Last sunday my buddy and I decided to go do 2 tanks at fisk mill cove in Sonoma county. It was a very pleasant morning, a little fog but it would burn off. We got up to the site and took a walk to the edge of the cliff to look at the water and it was definitely dooable. We geared up at started the 1/4 mile walk all the way down the hill then the small path down the cliff to the water. My buddy is doing his DM program and needed to draw a map of a dive site so this seemed to be the perfect spot. Nobody in their right mind would lug 150+ Lbs. of gear that far unless your looking for virgin diving, and O'boy did we find it! When we finally finned out past the kelp and descended, oh my god I could not beleive what I was looking at!
WE dropped into about 40 feet and the vis was easy 40 feet. By the way some of you laugh but to us up here thats like 100. I came down direcly onto a trophy size Cabezon. I popped him and knew that my family and I were eating good that night. Unfortunately somehow when I was wrestling the fish the gun came loose from the shock line and was nowhere to be found. No problem, we continued the dive and I saw some of the most bizaar and radical terrain ever in my life. Giant boulders and underhangs. We came across this gorge that was a giant crack in a rock about four feet wide that wound around in a curvey path that when you looked up all you saw was two verticle walls going up on each side. The thing that got me most was the amount of massive abalone we saw. The fish also, Jesus! At one point we stopped over a lingcod that was easy 36" (of course no gun). He was laying on a rock not moving, and we just looked at each other shaking our heads. We headed back in and when we aproached 25' we knew we were close to our entry point so we came up and headed to shore.
After discussing how cool the dive was we headed up the hill to change out our tanks and get some food.
The second dive:
The low tide on Sunday was at 7:00am and the high tide was at about 11:35am. We were in the water for our second dive at 11:30 am. The second dive was not as good as the first. My buddy wanted to check out a different area, and there was a lot more stringy bull kelp. So thick in areas that I was constantly unwrapping myself and not able to enjoy the dive. I had gotten my pole spear from my truck during our surface interval and was constantly trying to avoid gettig tangled. We finally broke out of the forest and I got busy hunting. There were clouds of blacks overhead and many varieties of rockfish all over the bottom. I took a few of what I needed and we cruised for the remainder of the dive. We both use 30 CF ponies so we decided to extend our bottom time by using them up. When we burned our primaries down to 600 and did our stop. When we came up we realized that we were a great distance from shore so thus started the suface swim from hell. I had a seal pestering me the entire time, darting back and forth underneath me wanting that bag of fish in a bad way! All I could think was he was going to make a grab for it and get his teeth stuck in the mesh and pull me down. I took a precaution and unclipped the gamebag and held it in my hand. At this point the tide was moving out at a good pace which made the swim even harder. The stress of the seal, tide, and now the kelp was making for a very challenging situation. As we aproached the entrance to the lagoon that we departed from, the water was rushing out in a fury. There was no other place to land on shore due to crashing waves and cliffs. At one point I was finning as hard as I possibly could and was making absolutely no ground. My buddy was ahead, and due to my gamebag and spear I had more drag to deal with. Note: pony bottles are not very hydrodynamic. I actually began to overbreath my snorkel in the crashing surf and took measures for self rescue. I grabbed onto a hunk of kelp and filled my bc and rested to avoid outright panic. By that time my buddy had dumped his gear near shore and was on his way back out to pull my ass in. I was completely wrapped in kelp and 100% spent only 20ft from shore!
I'm glad to say that we were both safely back on shore with no lost lives or secondly - gear.
Just another helluva dive in Northern California.
**The only thing is we still had to pack all that crap back up to the truck.
A few thoughts about the dive:
1. Freedive the site first to check the terrain nearshore to assess tide/current drainage. (Lack of cumbersome equipment would make this easier) Pry off a few hogs while I'm out there.
2. Pay better attention to the tide tables.
3. Consider if a pony bottle is worth the extra bulk.
4. Only do 1 tank at a site this treacherous no matter how alluring it may be.
5. Get a boat.
6. Use nitrox (36 or higher) especially for the damn hike up the hill!
7. Don't act like that seal. Dump the gamebag and polespear, and worry about saving your own ass.

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