Cortes/San Nicolas

Great Dive Trips at Bargain Prices with the Sea Divers

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Posted by Brad on September 22, 2002 at 14:07:56:

Took the good skiff back to the bank last Thursday leaving at the leisurely hour of 8AM (How presumptuous of me!). Beautiful run around the East end of Catalina, west end of San Clemente and out to the bank. I saw a couple of orca fins disappear some 20 miles past Clemente. I hung around for a few mins, but they never showed themselves. Like the Blue Whale i saw on the way to Nic last weekend, they were shy...

A couple of miles from the bank, i see a speck on the horizon.... As i approach i realize there is only ONE spec on the horizon, the buoy! I am delighted to have the whole bank to myself. From a mile or so out, you can see the swells that heap up at the high spot. As i approach the wreck, i am mindful of the sets, anchoring just adjacent to the wreck. The vis was 50+, the temp was 64-65. Not a lot of activity on the bank. Some birds working to the north and east.

I set up next to the wreck and get aclimated to the swell (depth meter going 27 to 37ft every 8 seconds). Swells were pretty hairy so you had to set your anchor in an area that you know won't hang up on the bottom and tie it such a way that would allow it to slip if a set of sneaker swells came through. That happened to me a few years ago. i was anchored east of the high plane in 70ft, it was about 10:30PM, two bare feet over the side when a set came through. It pegged my anchor line and sheer green water split off both sides of the good skiff. I never forgot that....

Gear on, check list done, i slip into the realm. A quick swim over to the wreck and my first dive down i see a triggerfish about 35ft away! I go back to the surface grab another breath and back down.... i'm watching as he turns and goes into the kelp, i follow but never see him again. I really wanted that picture! I see many sheephead and calico bass, all under about 5lbs. All of the sheephead had a grey shade to their coloring, no distinct sexes could be seen in their coloring....I turn to see a couple of small yellowtail in the clearing above the wreck.

The wreck withstood the ravages of that incredible swell that happened out there a couple of years ago. The surfers brought that bank to international notoriety during that event. Time has taken its toll on the wreck as the Ferro-cement hull is slowly deteriorating, leaving exposed rebar that could be a danger to any unwary diver...

After that dive, i deiced to move off the high area as the swells were a little disconcerting. I moved south a few hundred yards south and anchored on a lovely plateau in 45ft. The swell was only about 3-4ft there. The night was calm and dry with a thick cloud cover. The next morning, i made my way back to the wreck and the swell was still up. I put on the suit and went looking for that triggerfish. He was no where to be found and there was a lot of debris in the water column so after an hour or so, decided to move up swell to San Nicolas, leaving at 11AM.

It was a beautiful 52nm run to the wreck at the West end of Nic. I had spent 3 nights at Nicolas last weekend, but it was very inhospitable with the wind and seas. When i arrived, the temp was 62, but the vis was only about 15ft. That makes for a very tough go when freediving, so i let the wind keep me in the skiff. Later on i made my way down the island looking for better conditions, but didn't find any that afternoon so i spent Friday night at the East end. One boat came in from the East just before sundown and left at sunup. Saturday morning i went around the East end to continued my exploration of the underwater topography...

Well, i finally found Shangri-La! I found an area that had such incredible habitat that i saw lobster, huge fish, a compliment of all the shallow water species that inhabitant that incredible place. Nature as it once was, a true representation of what life must have been like everywhere so many years ago, it was a spectacle of grandeur! It warms my heart to know there is some place like that left...

Every shelf, every grotto, every little crack in the rock has inhabitants, painted greenling, tiny rockfish of many varieties, annenamies, starfish. Lichens of yellow, red and orange. Every inch of surface plush with life! Colors that rival any tropical setting.

The wind was up Saturday morning, but i stayed at the island until 9:30 swimming in Shangri-La before climbing back down that mountain. Gentle flow of whitecaps all the way back to safe harbor for the 55th time from the Island of the Blue Dolphins....


(seafaring vagabond...)

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