Colby Reef

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Posted by seahunt on October 02, 2002 at 20:38:03:

Sea Ranch 2002 Dive 3

Colby Reef

We headed to Eric's camp in the campground up the canyon from the cove. It
is in an incredibly beautiful forested canyon. With a fish cleaning station
and a gear drying rack, Eric's camp looked even more like a dive camp than
some of the other nearby sites. Since it was still overcast, people were
enjoying a nice warm fire. We talked with people and consumed some calories
in preparation for the next dive. I got to check out the incredible looking
Puget Sound crabs that Dale had found on the previous scuba dive. I found
out that Dale and Steve were highly into technical scuba, so they loved the
challenge of the local waters. Dale actually was qualified and knowledgeable
enough to take divers on tours where ever they might want to visit on the
North Coast, through his company, Scuba Cowboys.

The other divers were ready. Luxury of luxury, Eric warmed a pot of water
on the camp stove for me and then poured it down my wetsuit before we set
off. Diving may be roughing it some, but that doesn't mean it has to be

We headed back, organized and got all our gear loaded into Eric's boat.
Even with the five divers and doubles for Dale and Steve, it did not
seem to load down the boat much at all. Shortly after we took off
though, Eric decided to change the prop for better running with the
heavy load. We went out of the cove to the left, heading south in what
Eric considered a 3 to 6 foot swell. The boat had no problem with that.
Eric commented that on a big day, it was like riding a dune buggy offroad
through dunes.

About a mile south of the cove and a mile offshore, there was a boil
that Eric said was the top of the pinnacle at Colby Reef. We were
going to dive just south of that. Eric metered around a bit and then
said to throw the anchor. This was seriously open ocean.

Yes, I have a framing problem

The plan was that Dale would tie off a reel to the anchor line and we
would all follow that. We started into the water and waited for everyone
to be ready to go down. There was almost no current. Looking down,
numerous blue perch were visible and showed the visibility to be around
40 feet. I'm not used to descending on the anchor line, but obviously it
is an easy way to go. I expected to encounter a very cold thermocline,
but being in the open, it just got colder as we descended. I let my
buoyancy get heavy and just stood on a rock when I reached the bottom.
As Eric worked to adjust the anchor I took a look around. It was
basically bare rock, too deep for much kelp, with a number of large
urchins and some small fish. I saw a chrome snap that obviously come off
of someone's gear, so I hooked it to the line from the reel. By this
time Eric was done, so I adjusted my buoyancy and turned around. That
was when an incredible dive started.

I may have been aiming at the fish at the bottom of the image.

We were at the start of a corridor in the reef that was perhaps six feet
wide and eight feet deep and it was full of fish. There was a nice, near
legal sized Ling Cod right in front of me so I started taking pictures
of it. The next thing I knew, a bigger one swam up from behind and next
to it. I looked around the small area that was in and saw all kinds of
other fish as well as numerous invertebrates on the rocks. There were
individual patches of brilliant colored Corynactus Anemones as well as
the four inch tall barnicales that were also covered with them. I could
see many types of sponges as well. On the bottom in the rocks, were
numerous bright orange Sea Cucumbers.

I always look for these and have
seen them on the central coast, but nothing like these. They covered
the bottom. I was taking pictures as fast as I could. Then, on the top
tip of a large rock next to me, there was a red abalone that could not
have been more than 1 1/4 inches across. I think it was a bit lost.
There was very little for it to eat there.

I don't often see these Sea Cucumbers, but I always try for a pic

As we started to follow the line I saw at least 4 more large Ling Cod as
well as other large rock fish. They did not seem familiar with divers and
were not at all spooky. We went about 30 feet before the line went
into a hole in the huge boulders that made up the reef. The hole was
about eight feet wide, six feet deep and turned upwards about 10 feet
before going out the other side where the corridor through the rock
continued. I immediately turned on my light to get a look all around.
the hole was even more full of fish. There were large China Rock Fish
with their bright golden heads that turned into a pattern of diminishing
spots down their body that became mostly black by their tail.

China Rockfish

It was exhilarating going into the hole and fascinating when we came
out the other side. Now, the corridor through the rocks was deeper with
the rock extending about 10 feet up on our right and more than 20 feet
on the left. It was still full of life. I saw small crabs, urchins,
Lemon Nudibranchs and various Star Fish, including a Blood Star.

I just kept taking pictures while following
Eric along the line. Most of the time I was not at all aware of the divers
in front of us until we came up to Dale who was at the end of the reel.
It seemed like it had taken almost no time at all. Eric wanted to start
back, so I quickly signaled him my tank pressure and started to follow
him. I was still seeing things on the rocks that I did not noticed on
the way out. The huge anemone covered barnacles, rythmically sweeping
the water for plankton, were as fascinating as they were colorful. Then
as we approached the hole through the rocks, about eight feet up on the
rock wall, I saw what looked like a patch of Sulfur Sponge with what
looked to be a fist sized Lemon Nudibranch on it. It was very hard to be
sure of what it was, but my pictures clearly show that is what I saw.

This shows how big the Nudibranch was. That's a full grown urchin there.

Decent pic of the smaller one with part of Big Brother on sponge.

We went
back into the hole and I looked around to try to take in the amazing
sights. One of the large China Rock Fish was just laying on its side in a
crack in the rocks. The Ling Cods were still there. As I came out of the
hole, I looked up about 10 feet on the wall and saw some large white
Metridium anemones to finish off my film on. By this time all of the divers
were coming out to the anchor line. The ascent up the anchor line was
uneventful, though Steve had gone deeper and needed to do some stops. Using
the reel in these conditions was extremely convenient. In this case, going
up the anchor line was a very easy way to surface. Under the rough
conditions typical of this area, use of the reel could almost become a

We worked together to get all gear into the boat and all of us were grinning
ear to ear from this amazing and unique dive. This is what Eric was
looking for. This kind of dive is what any diver with a sense of
adventure wants to go on. To go to some remote spot and explore a place
where the fish have no fear of divers.

...After the trip, Eric told me about the next goal for him and his
buddies to explore. Off of the Shelter Cove area, on The Lost Coast,
is the submarine canyon, Delgada Canyon...

The Barnacle there sticks up about 6 inches. There were many of

them on the rock walls, all covered with brilliant Corynactis Anemones

It was late. It would have been nice to stay, but it was time to drive
back to Sea Ranch. Besides, though the camp was well appointed, it had
nothing like the beds waiting for us back at Soundings.

It's such a beautiful drive.

We did stop for a snack at the beautiful Heritage House Hotel, perched on
the sea cliff.
As we got back towards Sea Ranch, the sky had cleared. In
a couple of hours it would make for a nice sunset, but I wondered if the
diving would stay good with the weather change.

Enjoy the diving, seahunt

  • Sea Ranch 2002 - Dive 1 - Evening In The Slot
  • Sea Ranch 2002 - Dive 2 - Abs At Van Damme
  • Sea Ranch 2002 - Dive 4 - Smuggler's Cove

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    I've taken hundreds of pictures with the built in close up lens in my MX 10 camera. I usually don't do good.
    Well, I noticed that while my last pics were as good as I do and near in focus, no part of the pics are
    actually completely in focus.... It's the camera... Lets see how I do with my other lens..

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