Diving Assorted Rocks - Part 2

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Posted by seahunt on November 15, 2001 at 15:16:36:

Diving Assorted Rocks - Part 2
Ah, those wasted days of youth, but they weren't completely wasted, they
were fun. Malibu and Santa Monica Bay were local playgrounds for me.
Whether it was Diving Malibu, rollerskating at Venice Beach or traveling
the bicycle paths to Redondo, it was great fun. Even before that though,
I had visited Santa Monica Pier for fishing. Drawn to the sea as I am,
I wondered about the breakwall off of Santa Monica Pier. I was
always fascinated by offshore rocks, open places of wind and wave. It's
a long time since I have been fishing from Santa Monica pier. It's been
a long time since there was a fishing boat that went out from the pier.
Eventually, the breakwall was officially abandoned and it has slowly
sunk into the water over the years as wave and storm have ceaselessly
challenged it. Since I took up diving, I always wondered about diving
there and ocasionally heard stories of rare, but interesting dives that
were made there. Legend was, there were lots of lobster. Many, many
years later, it was my turn.
The ocean was glassy, as calm as it gets. A good night for something like
this. The pier is well lighted and the multi-colored lights of the Ferris
Wheel flashed in different patterns. I had never seen these lights from
this side.
We anchored about 40 feet from the breakwall, near the northern end. This is
the only part that still normally sticks above the surface. For about 30
feet, the rocks still rise above the surface perhaps 4 to 6 feet. The
breakwall extends something like 150 yards south, but is almost all
I went down before I got to it and came to the bottom of it in about 30
feet. There was a lot of life visible immediatly. It was the second dive
of the night, so I wasn't surprised to see lots of healthy Gorgonian Sea
Fans growing along the lower rocks. There were also sculpins everywhere.
Big sculpins, little sculpins, sitting on rocks in the open with the
nonchalance that can only be achieved by a poisonous critter.
I headed south and though I was hunting lobster, the last dive
had been so clear and beautiful that I figured I had to bring my camera
this time. I pulled it down in my left hand in case I saw anything
interesting on the way. Again, the vis was great, probably 25 feet,
except where the rocks met the sand and vis went to less than 10.
This meant that the smoothest dive was between 10 and 20 feet looking
into the holes between the big rocks.
There were a fair number of big Franciscanus urchins showing all
different colors of red and burgandy in my light. There was no kelp,
but there was a lot of foot thick growth of a red, almost coraline
algae. I saw a big (maybe 20 inch or so) golden pisaster star that probably
terrorized the patches of mussels and in a hole was a vividly colored
Spanish Shawl. I followed a middlin sized stingray with my camera for a
while, but there wasn't much sign of lobster besides a few shorts and
one big molt that got my heart to spin for a moment or so. I figured
it was time to look at the inside of the breakwall.
I like crossing shallow rocks for the same reason it's got to be
done carefully, the water can move really fast. Sure, it's a calm day,
but that means it's just like the day when that merry joker Magellan first
saw our ocean and called it the Pacific. It's just not. Still, crossing over
was no real problem. It was mostly about 4 feet deep. There was a fair amount
of Feather Boa kelp at the top, but it wasn't really thick. The water was
clear and it was easy to see that the rocks were very worn down. The top
of the breakwall was about 20 feet across here. I went down the other
side and could immediatly see differences. There were lots of small purple
Purpuratus urchins on this side, but few reds. There was less plant growth
and few sea fans, but the sculpins were sure here.
I saw a maybe legal peeking up from a hole and made a wild grab. A
big sculpin popped out of the hole, which was made more impressive by
the fact that I had well stabbed myself in the palm of my hand with a
grab right onto the lobster's horns.
I continued south, but had moved up to between 10 and 15 feet deep.
I was seeing some bugs, but not that many. I was guessing that I knew
where they were. Probably, they were on top of the breakwall, but I didn't
want to go up there yet without getting a good look along the bottom. I
figured I would go south as far as I wanted and then head back towards
the boat along the top of the rocks. It would be a tough dive there and
I could still perhaps find bugs here... It was an easy, pretty dive here,
with lots to see and things to click at. There were lots of fish, small
bugs, stars, an octopus and other things to see.
I worked to use up my film and it was time to get serious and move
back. besides, my sinuses were protesting the constant up and down as I
moved along the face of the wall.
The top was pretty wide here, perhaps 30 feet wide, between 2 and 6
feet deep. The surge was fairly strong and unfortunatly, but not too
surprisingly, at this depth, I was a bit light. That would just make the
dive a little more challenging.
Now it was a matter of moving fast, riding the surge and avoid
hitting rocks. In places the kelp was thick, but at least there weren't so
many sculpin and sure enough, there were more bugs out. They were still
shorts, but most places there are shorts, there are a few legals.
There is a lot to see. The challenge is that if you go the direction
of the rock wall, you have to resist the surge, fight the kelp and
avoid hitting shallow rocks. The sensible thing to do is to ride the
surge back and forth across the top of the wall. You cover a lot of
territory with little swimming, but you are moving fast and you have to
keep twisting your body and flashing the light around real quick to see
everything you are passing in your flight. Each surge moves you at least
30 feet across the worn rocks. Since I was forced to align my
body with the surge, that means that I was no longer moving back towards
the boat where I wanted to end up. This was getting to be a long rough
shallow dive.
There were a fair amount of shorts and every so often I was seeing
some legals, but they tended to be in holes. I made a wild grab for one
in a hole and managed to cramp my right calf and left thigh while missing
the lobster. Neeto. A bit further on I did the same thing again with
another bug in a hole, with the same result or lack there of. At this
point I was wondering why I was hunting at night if all the bugs were
in their holes still. Then I came to the first legal of the night that
was out of it's hole. There was a nice one in the open between two
small rocks. I grabbed, but did not compensate enough towards the
tail and felt it take off. Obviously I was in great form.
A bit further, I found the 'huge bugs on the breakwater'. I was at
about 10 feet when I looked about 10 feet under a ledge and saw the legs
of a huge bug moving further back in its hole. There was about a 5 pounder
and a few other legals with it. I checked around a boulder and got
nearer the hole, but no closer to getting any bugs. They just weren't
out walking tonight. I think they do get some persistant visitors
here at night. They were all pretty cagey.
For the umteenth time I popped my head up and saw that the boat
was still a ways up the wall. It seemed a good time to relax so I looked
for a shallow rock to haul out on. It was great to look at the lights of
the pier. I flashed my light some and watched to see if anyone was looking,
but it was a bit damp so I think no one was braving the dark and mists at
the end of the pier.
I continued on, still pouncing my way around rocks to see if there
was anyone to surprise. I didn't mind at all when I got back even with
the boat and swam out. It was a beautiful dive with lots to see and I
finally had gotten to dive the Santa Monica Breakwall, but it was still
one long tough dive with scant crustacean results.
The next dive could be expected to be no easier, maybe worse.
Enjoy the diving, seahunt

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