August 27, 2005
Story and Photos © Patrick Smith, may not be reproduced in part or whole without advanced written permission
A reasonably prompt departure at 06:00 and light traffic on PCH, allowed us to hit the Channel Islands launch ramp just after 07:00. The sea conditions we watched all the way up the coast were tantalizing - flat, glassy calm, with little swell to be seen. It promised an easy, glorious day at the islands - it was a promise partially met.
We launched and clearing the main channel and turning beyond the protection of the breakwater, we were surprised to find a short, ugly swell, encouraged by a rather unexpected NW wind and the associated wind-chop. It was a short, bouncy ride across, although it was uncomfortable enough to seem longer than it was. However, the sea color was spectacular.
Our planned first dive was to be on the north side of Anacapa, but once on site, the GPS numbers weren't jibing with the depth, and we were still too far out to benefit from the wind shadow of the islands. Rather than try to resolve the errant GPS numbers then (which wouldn't have been fun.), we opted to head to the backside of the island and go diving (which would be fun!).
First dive was at the "G" area - a moderate wall that drops from about 70-feet to a sand bottom at just over 100-feet with large boulders scattered at the base. Visibility was in the 60+ foot range and the water temp was actually one degree warmer on the bottom than on the surface - 64 vs. 63 degrees. Since Dave and I were doing SOD, he was in a slightly different area than me. A better area since his was loaded with lots of black sea bass juveniles estimated between 75 to 150 pounds. For me, I encountered the usual suspects - sheephead, chromis, garibaldi, and hoards of calico bass, particularly on the outlying rocks.
For the next dive, we moved west, offshore from East Fish-camp. The area here was again kinda wall-y with the top in about 70-feet and the bottom at 135-feet. As I rolled into the water and descended, I could see Dave below me, and below him, a length of blazing white, brand new line. Working together we recovered and floated a brand new (price tag still adhering to one fluke) Fortress anchor FX-16 with a bout 25 feet of chain and several hundred feet of ½ in. nylon. Almost like picking up a couple of "C" notes. During the recovery at one point, Dave pointed excitedly over my shoulder down at the base of the wall. For a moment I didn't see the source of his excitement. Then I did. Cruising slowly across the sand channel at the base of the wall was a truly impressive black sea bass. At least 5-feet long, we watched it as it moved with stately grace and disappeared at the limits of visibility. I just love things like that!
The last dive of the day found us just inside the West end. A couple of the guys wanted to ride the rather substantial current down the finger reef at the tip of the island, and a couple of us wanted to poke around up in the shallows. Cruising the shallows there, it was amazing the amount of dead lobster trap remains were to be found. Also, a plethora of pugnacious Garibaldi's carrying out the nest guarding duties.
God save me, but I had my camera and was sucked into trying to capture piscatorial portraits of these progeny-guarding parents. This board is doing strange things to me. Pretty soon I won't be able to tell the bow from the stern on the Palawan.
It was a spectacular day of diving, but getting there (and home) was NOT half the fun. The trip back was bouncy too, though the wind and waves are in a better quarter for the ride home. Except for dodging the container ships in the channel the crossing was uneventful.
What was interesting, was the water conditions just outside Channel Islands - cold - 55 degrees and liquid mud. Not a day to go beach diving.