San Pedro Breakwall


Outer Bamnks diving on the Great Escape Southern California Live-Aboard Dive Boat

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Posted by seahunt on February 14, 2004 at 19:10:12:

Cool! A place I've never made a dive. We were going to do the San Pedro Breakwall. Not so cool as breakwalls tend to be tough dives and that's not to say anything about the more than two hour drive to the docks. LA Traffic is bad for diving. Better yet. It's Friday the Thirteenth. I was looking forward to it though. I've dove a couple breakwalls, but never one as massive as the San Pedro wall. While driving I was considering strategies. There are usually lots of deep holes that bugs can easily back into, so I might want my small light and hold it close to my chest so that the bugs don't have warning. Mel was going to use a 50 foot or so hose so that he could go inside the wall. For all I knew, the bugs might be staying way inside the wall as I had seen before and I might see almost none on the outside. There was no real guessing for sure until we were down. It could be very good or very bad. I did guess it would a hard dive with limited vis.
I always like getting to the docks. It's always so quite and seemingly deserted. There are people there, but you will see few of them. It was chill out, even though we were having a break in the wind. Most people just stay inside. We got the gear and the boat together. It would just be the two of us. Mel said he had ideas for where to go, but the plan was to just be very casual and see what comes up. We wanted to dive areas of the breakwall that were made of irregular boulders. Much of the wall is made of cut rocks that didn't have holes and caves in them that the lobster like.
We passed Angel's Gate and went out the second gate. We found a likely looking spot to anchor in about 50 feet of water. After waiting a bit to see that the boat would set well at anchor, we geared up. Contingency plans were discussed. There were big boats going nearby, the small tugs threw up huge wakes and there was definitely a big swell moving at the islands. Here and now though, it was pretty calm.
I swam towards the wall with my 100 foot tank and figured I wouldn't use it all in the shallow water. I swam all the way to the wall and went down.
Vis was nice at least 15 feet or so and the surge wasn't too bad. Scallops are what I saw first. Scallops and huge pisaster starfish. I worked my way down the slope and there were scallops everywhere. Many of them were huge scallops. They looked far bigger than most at the oil rigs. The trouble is I really didn't want to eat filter feeders from this area. Still, they were really something to see, most were brilliant orange. They were everywhere.
The wall dropped off at a reasonable angle. Probably about 45 degrees. I immediately saw a small boat anchor. I figured I would see more before the end of the dive. At 20 feet I got to the sea fans. They were thick and healthy. While there were big rocks sticking up, I could see that the wall was old and most of the holes between the rocks were filled. It was definitely not riddled with holes here, but the life looked healthy. There could be a lot of bugs here. Because it is such a vertical dive, it was worth paying attention to buoyancy. I got heavy real fast as I got to thirty feet and put some air in my BC. I kept moving on, but went up some and did not like being light in the shallow water with it's up and down movement. I decided to try to stay between about 12 and 20 feet. This was a dive to stay negitively bouyant. The lobster might well be right at the surface, so I had to check there as well. I wasn't seeing any bugs anywhere though.
So you think this report is getting long. Well, the dive got longer. I swam and swam. I saw huge mussels, incredible numbers of scallops, large red and small purple urchins, hoop nets, ropes, a middling sized ling cod, sculpin, perch, a huge blue cabazon a hole, a 3 foot horned shark resting on the bottom and more scallops, but I didn't see a single lobster.
Finally, I decided it was time to turn around. After surfacing to look where the boat was, I went down to 37 feet, a few feet off the bottom of the wall and started the long trip back. In places the rocks went a ways into the sand. I was staying in the area with the thick sea fans. Then just to prove that even a blind dog gets a bone once in a while, I saw a nice sized bug under an overhang. When my light hit it, it didn't back up any like it would have at Catalina. If it had moved 4 inches, it would have been out of reach. These don't seem to be hunted much. Unfortunately though, it had great cover so I went to the other side of the ledge. It wasn't any better there, but I could see another one out of reach behind it. I tried to do a good swat from on top of it and got it. With my light aimed down between my legs, I put it in the bag by feel.
I just kept on swimming, but being a bit deeper, I seemed to be below a thermocline and it was noticeably cooler. My little gauge said it was 54 degrees. I was going through thick beautiful stands of sea fans. There were a number of scallops, but I was largely below them. I saw a short bug and ignored it. Down here, vis was mostly about 5 feet, so I was keeping my light at my chest and sweeping it back and forth. On one sweep, I thought 'that was a lobster antenna I just went over'. I looked back and grabbed one that seemed legal.
All I can say is that it seemed like an incredibly long dive. I wanted to come up near the boat, but also wanted to look hard. It was actually very pretty diving with lots to see. This would be a great dive for photographing life on the rocks. The starfish were easily larger than two feet across in vivid oranges, purples, greens and grays. I kept swimming and swimming and didn't seem to be using any air. At about 800 psi I came up to look for the boat. Of course I was way beyond the boat. I swam back through the mussels, scallops, starfish and urchins of the shallows. In hind sight, the trick would have been to have broken scallops when I entered. They would have marked the boat when I got back and there might have been lobster eating them.
The bugs weren't as big as I thought. Only the one was legal, but it was nice. Mel got some nice ones, but not many. We thought about it and looked around, but there had been so few lobsters to be seen and it was such a long dive that we called it a night. It was a good night though.
Enjoy the diving, seahunt


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