|Dive Report; Begg Rock and San Nicolas Island 8/24-25/19|
Posted by Jeff J Reeb on August 26, 2019 at 08:37:49:|
1 spent the weekend diving on an Ocean Safari trip aboard the Peace Dive boat to San Nicolas Island including the remote pinnacle Begg Rock. San Nic and Begg are in the "remote" category, as in hard to get to with any consistency. I think this trip was my third or fourth attempt at Begg.
Begg Rock pierces the ocean's surface seven miles off the coast of San Nic, which itself is 63 miles from Ventura Harbor. The advantage of diving these more remote spots is often a greater abundance of marine life, and perhaps a chance to see more rare inhabitants.
As I watched the marine forecast prior to the trip I became optimistic we would make it, and we did. Sea conditions were in fact ideal; light winds, and calm seas greeted us the entire weekend.
Dive conditions were good, but not epic, viz was generally 20-40'. The crew on the Peace has been out to all the Channel islands this past week and said we had the best conditions anywhere, as most dive sites were running a very green 10'-15'. The best viz was generally below the thermocline at 50+ feet, with several dives descending through a layer cake with a blue band from 0'-20', then a green opaque layer 21'-50', (sometimes to 60') and then the base layer over the reef opening up to 30'-40'. Most of the best dives were deep, 80-100'.
Marine life was abundant especially large Sheephead, Lingcod and Rock fish. There were lots of the red Fish Anemones, "feather dusters", and nudibranchs. I love dramatic reefscapes like all divers and we hit a few good ones; 10 Fathom Reef on Sat. and Three Mile Reef on Sun. were both offshore from the island, offered walls, undercut ledges and deep clefts.
Begg Rock was a bit of a let down, I expected it to be a dramatic pinnacle covered in marine life. It is covered in small marine life; a small version of white metridiums were everywhere, but overall on this visit it fell short of my expectation, perhaps I'm a bit spoiled after diving the pinnacles off Big Sur.
Even in late August it was cold down on the reef with temps 53-55F below the thermocline. I dove the whole trip dry and was glad I did. Also, I recently switched from a HP-100 tank to a HP-80 for repetitive boat diving. I find the smaller size to be easier to manage transitioning on and off the boat, and even on these deep dives it held more than enough air for a pleasant dive.
If your considering a trip that involves pinnacles, I'll share an insight specific to the anchor-line. Unlike general reef diving where the boat itself may be centered above the reef, on pinnacle diving the boat is almost never centered above the reef. The boat will be standing off from the pinnacle, generally in deep water. The Captains will do their best to set the boat's hook right on the center of the best spot on the pinnacle. So it's important to be very disciplined on navigating to and from the dive site via the anchor line. Pinnacles by their nature are isolated spots, often far from shore and swept by current and swell. Losing the location of the anchor line while on the dive site means a free ascent with the current and swell which can sweep you far away from the boat in a flash.
Although the anchor line is the bread crumb trail to the site, you still have to manage your absolute depth. The Capt. may set the hook at 80', but the anchor chain may sag as it leaves the pinnacle and dip down low, before rising up to the boat. The dip can be below your Nitrox MOD or your accumulated NDL. In this case you have to release from the line and track above it at a safe depth. We used this technique on Dive Two at Begg as the chain dipped down to 110+' and again on the return from 3 Mile reef when we were close to our NDL and had to stay high above it.
Jeff "J." Reeb
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