Posted by Northcoast_diver on December 27, 2004 at 12:06:53:
In Reply to: Diving Monastery Beach posted by Brian Xavier on December 24, 2004 at 20:38:12:
Are you local to the SF-Carmel area?
If so, then your best bet is to join a local CenCal dive club, and go with them on their next Monastery trip. Sometimes the Monterey Express or the Beach Hopper dive boats visit Monastery as well, although it is a long ride normally only done on very calm days in summer or fall.
If you are not local, you should hook up with a local diver or else sign up at one of the dive stores for a guided dive to Monastery. MBDC offers them, and Aquarius does sometimes as well.
There are so many ways to get hurt at this beach that you really should not dive it alone, and you probably should not go there without a divemaster or instructor level buddy for the first time.
The abyss at the north end is over by a large wash rock that is about a 10 min swim straight out from the north end of the beach. At the rock, there is a rocky staircase-like boulder field that leads down to a sandy sloping plateau at 100 ft, which continues to slope downwards. This is about as far as you can follow it, without technical mix. The rockfield forms a beautiful reef all the way back to the beach from this point and back into the kelp bed. Diving the north end is usually done by swimming out to the wash rock, then dropping down, then swimming back along the reef, and doing your safety stop while hanging onto the kelp at 20 ft. The most beautiful part of the dive is the kelp forest here, with its schools of finfish. The rocks below also have a fair amount of invertibrates. You need to check your SPG and your buddy's SPG fairly often and turn back preferably after 1/3 of your breathing gas is gone. Instead of a 500 psi reserve, you are better off with a 750 to 1000 psi reserve at this site.
The abyss at the south end can be reached by a 10 min surface swim northerly towards the center of the cove from the south end. When you descend, it will put you at 65 ft on a sandy bottom. Continuing to swim towards the center will bring you to a steep sandy drop off, which you can only look into, and not enter, since it is so steep, almost vertical, and you are already at 65 to 70 ft at the edge of it. Same thing, re SPG checks and extra reserves.
Most people who dive the south end stay in the shallow 45 ft area near the rocky reef and kelp bed on that end however. There are islands of kelp growing on underwater grottos at the south end that you can explore. Most people swim out from the beach at the south end for about 5 mins, then drop down into one of the outer kelp areas, and explore the rocks below in about 45 ft of depth, then swim back on a reciprocal course, and do your safety stop kneeling on the sandy bottom at 15 ft depth. This is a stunningly beautiful dive, with rock grottos and with finfish, invertibrates, and sparse kelp. And it is normally no different than an ordinary dive anywhere else, unless the beach conditions get rough while you are out there.
Virtually everyone avoids the middle of the beach, since it has a significant rip, and since it is the roughest and steepest part of the beach on any day.
The concepts of intelligent solo diving (according to Maier's book) preclude visiting treacherous sites. The north end qualifies as treacherous on any day, and the south end when the waves are up.
Having 90 dives under your belt means that you know how to operate your scuba gear and that you probably have good buoyancy. It does not mean you should visit a site that can be treacherous for solo diving.
The sites in Monterey-Carmel-Sonoma that are relatively safe to dive solo on a good day with completely redundant gear are:
MacAbee (El Torritos)
Lovers Cove #1 or #2
Many instructors and agencies believe that any kind of solo diving is unsafe at any time. They are probably right.
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