|Dive Report: Santa Barbara Island Aboard The Bottom Scratcher 12/10-12, 2019|
Posted by Jeff Reeb on December 15, 2019 at 07:31:17:|
I was extremely fortunate to be invited to join a very small crew on the Bottom Scratcher to participate in a scouting trip to Santa Barbara Island. The Bottom Scratcher is perhaps one of the longest tenured boats in the Socal diving scene. Under new ownership, the boat is being renovated bit by bit to modernize it and repair the ravages of time and the scars of a hard life at sea.
There is a reason why old dive boats never retire and no new liveaboard dive boats enter service in Socal. No one can afford to build one. By Federal law, vessels used for domestic service in the USA must be built in the USA. This law was designed to protect the domestic shipbuilding industry from foreign competition, unfortunately there is very little domestic shipbuilding capability left in the west, and what there is is so expensive that the numbers simply don't pencil out to build new liveaboard dive boats. Hence we are going to continue to dive off of boats that are older than most of the divers and crew on the boat.
The goal of this trip was to scout out dive sites. Of course SBI has been dove forever with many well known sites. But even though SBI is a "small" Channel Island, its still a big place with lots of territory to explore.
Dive 1 was on an offshore reef, we were perhaps 1/2-3/4 mile off the island. We descended down the anchor to find it on the edge of a ravine, with branches leading off in different directions. We choose to descend down one to the left and as we bottomed out I could see a cavern ahead. We explored that and as we exited, the bottom slopped away again to a beautiful crescent shaped arch. Crossing through to the other side brought us face to face with the resident fish who all seemed to be congregating together to get an eye on the new visitors. We turned the dive from here and worked our way back to the anchor chain. There was a considerable amount of purple hydrocoral growing on the vertical sections of this reef.
Dive 2 was on a spot I thought looked familiar, a flat reef void of any kelp, covered in a carpet of brittle stars. Even as we dropped off the top of the reef to a near vertical wall, I was thinking, "...oh, I dove this before." As we moved North along the wall we came to a fairly good sized cavern, "What the...". This cavern opening was big enough to drive an 18 wheeler into, and it went back 75' at least. "Nope, haven't been here before." There were several lobsters hiding in nooks and crannies embedded in the ceiling of the cavern. How do they find their way up there?
We left that cavern and traversed South along the wall and found a second cavern, almost as large as the first. These were so cool to dive in as they were deep, yet straight in, straight out, with a sand bottom and a clearly defined upward sloping roof leading to the opening. The final treat in this dive was a third cavern opening, much lower to the bottom of the wall than the others. As we dropped down to check it out we discovered it was a swim through to the opposite side of the reef. So although a bit barren on the life side, this site featured very interesting terrain.
Max depth: 93', 33min, 60F, viz: a blue 50', moderate current.
These dives completed our scouting at SBI. A tip of the hat to Kevin, Jim and Loren for their hospitality on the Bottom Scratcher.
Jeff "J." Reeb
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