Trip report

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Posted by Brad on June 20, 2004 at 09:59:04:

Last tuesday afternoon the spring winds finally broke so wednesday morning it was off to the island! It was a very nice run with a gentle whitecapp flow from the south/east all the way to the Island of the Blue Dolphins...

The first destination was a small isolated kelp forest adjacent to a sandy beach up along the back of the island. The water was 57-58 and the vis was 20-25ft, overcast skies, gentle breeze and diminishing swell. About a half hour into the dive, i had a very intense visitor come right up and check in :) Hello big fella! This huge sea lion swam right up to me with the same degree of caution i would use when approaching a potted plant... He had no problem just gliding straight in from the distance and getting as close as he wanted. For some reason he really enjoyed swimming with my fins inches from his nose. Needless to say, it was exhillerating to swim with such a beast at that desolate location.

The night was still and warm and dry. The next morning i made my way up the back side and swam on a shipwreck. The vis was only about 15ft but i managed to see a bunch of neat fish. The weather report remained favorable for a trip to the Cortes Bank some 52nm to the S/E so i stowed all the gear and made the run into a gentle flow. I can't tell you what a thrill it is to break away from the back side of that island and head straight out into miles of open water. That stretch of water is always fascinating!

When i arrived the swell was neglegable, the water was 58 but the vis was less than 15ft so i stayed in the skiff and took in the sights and sounds. As i stood on the back deck of the skiff over looking the engine, i could see a few big beautiful fish swim by. There were schools of forage fish (green mackeral, spanish mackeral, and sardines) everywhere in the kelp and outside. Thursday night was calm and warm...

Friday morning the vis had improved somewhat so i slipped into the water. The big fish were very shy and i couldn't get any nice pictures, only good enough to ID them even though i had numerous encounters. I swam through the kelp and out into the clear water and out to the big schools of forage fish hoping to get a glimpse of what made them roar to the surface every few minutes. No such luck in the bad vis..

A little while later, a commercial gillnetter came by and wove his net right through the thickest part of the kelp on the entire bank! It was a disgusting sight to see this decrepit looking boat lay his nets where so many sea lion and seal pups are feeding. That afternoon, a tiny seal pup swam right up to my skiff frantically looking for it's mother. Was she alright or did she get caught in the net?

I moved down the bank to the wreck and swam on it even though the bad vis made it a very tough proposition. I saw a few more fish that afternoon while standing on the deck.. The wind blew about 10 kts friday night, but it was dry and the swell was still down. I left the bank at 7AM saturday morning in a gentle whitecapp flow from the west. It was a wonderful 3 night adventure after having been kept off the water for the last month due to the winds. I had many great encounters, dolphins, whales, that HUGE sea lion in my face!, a seal pup swam up and put her little face in my hand, many beautiful fish and other creatures just trying to survive despite all odds against them....


(loves the sea)

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