North Coast Dive report-Stillwater Cove

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Posted by Eric S on July 01, 2007 at 11:01:50:

Saturday, June 30th 2007
Dive spot: Stillwater cove, Sonoma County
Air temp: 60ís Ė 70ís
Water temp: 48 degrees
Winds 5 kts. morning, 10 to 20 kts. By afternoon

Dive #1:
50 foot max depth, 35ft average.
Vis 40 feet
55 minute dive.
32% nitrox

Dive #2:
Very similar

I met a few friends up at stillwater yesterday for a couple quike shore dives.
The water has been very clean lately due to the winds. The wind has died down a little but still howls in the afternoons.
Itís not as bad up north along the mountain as itís been in Bodega Bay, thatís horrendous.
A friend of mine Jim was there and a another friend was doing an open water class there as well. On our second dive another guy joined us names John who read about North Coast diving on both northcoastdivers.org and on scubaboard where heís known as fishdiver. He has been living in Australia but has lived and dived all over the world.

The dives:
I decided to wear my super heavy M&B wetsuit to do these dives. I need to get it broken in plus I want to get used to it. The surface swim was murder in that suit. Once underwater Iím fine but gearing up and trying to manage putting fins on and all the stuff is a workout in itself.
We kicked out just past the furthest little wash rock and headed straight out. Iíve never really been keen on stillwater but this time was different, probably because the vis was so good we could see everything. We went far enough out the we came upon a couple finger reefs running perpendicular to shore. The two reefs were separated by a nice sand channel and we went back and forth checking both structures out. One of the reefs I realized was a man made reef from the logging days when the sail ships would offload ballast boulders to make way for timber destined for San Francisco. This reef now was home to thousands of fish and all the other cool stuff that grows on California reefs.
We saw many nudis of different sorts and some impressive schools of blues in the water column. I also saw some sort of greenish brown splotchy colored rockfish laying in a crevice that was huge! I believe it was a nesting female. Sorry I donít have any U/W pics of all this, but if anyone doesnít believe me then I guess theyíll just have to come up here and see for themselves.
From what Iíve seen the reef life is similar to Socal, we have many of the same things you have, but there are also things we have that do not exist in socal like the amount of red abs we saw past 40 feet. They were all gathered up at the base of the rock reef right at the edge of the sand. I was seeing groups of 5-7 every few feet and big! many over 9 inches. We also have some slight differences in algae that grow on the rocks. All in all I think there is probably slightly more diverse growth on the reefs in Northern California but only in protected areas. On the most exposed locations to the prevailing seas it seems that the rocks are more barren because of the relentless wave action.

Dive 2 was almost identical. We took John out to see the same reef structure weíd been to on the first dive and he was very impressed with his first ever dive on the North Coast.

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