Dive Report For August 24th and 25th, 2018 "Not Begg Rock!"

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Posted by J. Reeb on August 27, 2018 at 20:41:28:

Begg Rock! I have a friend who is a UK expat living in LA that was part of the Sport Chalet diving heyday back in the ‘80’s. He likes to joke; ”…I’ve been to Begg Rock thirty times, I seen it from every possible angle, never gotten in the water there once!”

My story isn’t much different. This past Friday the dive boat skipper didn’t even attempt it as the wind and swell forecast were not conducive to diving, making my personal Begg Rock record zero for three.

Our alternate destination was Santa Barbara Island, which before this trip I would have described as “not my favorite…”, after this trip its now up there with San CIemente. Friday August 24th was perhaps the single best day of diving I’ve ever had in the Channel Islands. Conditions were superb; water in the 70’s (74F), viz 60-70+’ everywhere, little current or surge, it was just bluebird.

Day One dives I, II and IV were cathedral like. Dive I was at the Arch. As we approached the large underwater arch, Gabe Lu (Ocean Safari Dive Shop owner) motioned me to go through first so I could film its resident school of Black Rock fish that were balled up tightly against the roof. They scattered gently as I approached them with my video lights, while the other divers passed below.

Dive II found us at 7 & 1/2 Fathom Reef, prior to the dive Gabe described finding a huge sump on a prior dive there years ago, shaped like a giant solution pocket that sprouted purple hydro coral from the walls and branched out at the bottom with overhangs that held big lobster. As the dive progressed we were slowly moving along the terrain taking photos and generally sightseeing when I spotted a break in the reef with a drop off beyond. I finned over the break and saw that the drop off was actually the lip of a sump over 50’ in diameter and nearly as deep. I flashed for Gabe’s attention and together we descended along its vertical walls to the bottom where it flared out to a wide swim through back to the main reef. Just amazing.

Dive III at Nine Fathom Reef was somewhat anti-climactic after I and II, a simpler dive through healthy kelp (photo 1, link below) and boulder style reef terrain. The entire surface of the reef was covered in brittle stars, I’ve seen this before but recognizing your looking at perhaps millions of individuals is still remarkable. Several divers spotted Giant Sea Bass at this site also.

Dive IV was Sutil Island. The boat skipper gave us a briefing on the site but as we geared up Gabe explained that the Captain’s choice is a nice dive but he had another destination in mind which was even nicer if we were up for the swim. (Of course!) We stayed high in the water column and transited about a 100yds underwater over white sand to reach a dramatic vertical wall (photo 2) which plateaued to a flat top reef that was bathed in sunlight. The top of the reef was blanketed in palm kelp undulating in the swell. Garibaldi were darting everywhere along with other local fish. It was really cool to hang next to the wall suspended 75’ over the bottom with a view of the marine life cavorting about the top (photo 3). I set out Dive V at the Sea Lion rookery, I’d had enough mileage for Day One.

Day Two started with an O’Dark-Thirty wakeup call at 4:30AM. We wanted to get a pre-dawn dive in prior to sunrise so we splashed at 5:00AM on an unnamed sight close to the Rookery. It was perfect night diving conditions, nearly full moon, warm water, great viz and no current. I like many others prefer to do night dives without turning my lamps on, once your eyes adjust there is usually enough ambient light to see clearly. We began the dive near the bottom, looking for lobsters but as the dive progressed we finally convinced everyone to turn off their lights, and finished the dive amongst the kelp tops. The scene was surreal as we floated suspended in liquid space with shafts of moon light stabbing through the kelp fronds.

Dive VI was at Webster’s Point. Once again Gabe lead us on a dive that wasn’t in the Captain’s briefing. For this dive we did another 100yrd swim through thick kelp and numerous clefts in the reef substrate to reach the side of the island, then traversed along its edge until we surfaced in a series of sea caves. From the mouth of the caves we could look out on the anchored dive boat. Both prior to, and after the dive, I could not spot these caves from the boat, their openings blending in with the background, perhaps a true secret spot.

Dive VII for me and eighth for the trip was the Arch NE Corner. This large above surface arch is an island landmark. I soloed this dive to practice with my camera rig, so it was a pleasant but unremarkable dive.

Besides the great conditions, the other special aspect of this trip was the dive guiding by Gabe Lu. I’m a self-sufficient diver, but there is no way I would have found the locations we visited conducting my own dives. Gabe has an extensive knowledge of Channel Island dive sites and is one of the few dive operators that guides his clients on SoCal dive trips. For three of the dives, we visited destinations that were not covered in the dive sight briefings conducted by the Captain.

Photos here: https://www.instagram.com/p/Bm9MihWFMSb/?taken-by=dark_thirty_divers

J. Reeb
Dark-Thirty Divers

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