Dive report: Malaga Cove 7/17/05

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Posted by Dick J on July 17, 2005 at 14:19:04:

Date: 7/17/05
Location: Malaga Cove
Surf at Entry/Exit: 2-2.5ft
Water temp (at depth): 65degF
Visibility: 10-20ft
Maximum Depth: 29ft
Bottom Time: 93min.

After hearing of yesterday’s harrowing experiences by divers getting out of the water at Long Pt. (Marineland) and the Swell Height Prediction Model showing swells consistently coming from the South-Southwest, Malaga Cove’s unusual northerly aspect seemed like the ideal choice for a shore dive this morning. At least it seemed that way until it was noted how many surfers were parked in the Gazebo parking lot. In my experience, lots of surfers = challenging surf entries and exits for divers. However, a pre-dive recon to the shoreline showed that surfers were eagerly pouncing on anything 2ft or higher – a clue there wasn’t anything bigger coming in.

Being a chicken doo-doo with when it comes to rocky shore entries, I schlepped my gear all the way to the end of RAT Beach where there would be a smooth, flat path into the water. During the entry, not a single wave broke overhead – very nice. I dropped to the bottom at the eastern edge of the kelp, in about 12ft of water, and followed the undulating, rocky ridges seaward – reaching a maximum depth of 29ft before turning around. Visibility at 15ft and deeper stayed consistently around 20ft – very good for this site, probably at least partially due to the light surge. The kelp growth was thin, but animal life plentiful. A few juicy-sized lobsters, two small octopi, little apartment complexes of blennys in the swiss-cheese rock, clouds of young senoritas and rock wrasses (the most abundant species today), several perch and two bass species, rock fish, and a number of unusually large garibaldi. I stopped to make a close inspection of the golden roe of a particularly large garibaldi and was worried for a moment he might try to rip my mask off – he was pretty pissed off, and seemed big enough to do it (OK – maybe a slight exaggeration). Sheephead were notably under-represented in the reef fish population – I saw just two or three adults and a few juveniles. There were several mating pairs of sheep crabs: monstrous individuals (presumably males) dragging their hapless partners behind. A solitary bat ray erupted out of the sand in front of me and gave me quite a start. I had begun to worry that I was hopelessly nudibranch-challenged, when I found a single, albeit small navanax right under my nose on the rock as I peeked into a crevice. Notably absent were the horn sharks which are a trademark species of this site; they must be somewhere else on summer vacation.

The pleasant water temperature was conducive to a long, relaxed dive – probably the most mellow dive I’ve experienced. The only little hiccup occurred on the exit: I had carefully skirted around the outside of the last surfer in the queue, but a little dude – probably 14 years old, caught a small wave when he was behind me and inexplicably headed straight toward me. I could his eyes getting really wide, just before he bailed off his board. I turned and let the board hit my tank - no harm done, and he apologized profusely.

Next time I’m itchin’ for a shore dive and I see an indication of potentially troublesome southerly swells, Malaga Cove will be at the top of my list.

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