Santa Rosa Island Lobster Dive

I always like the night at the docks before a dive. It's cool and smells like the sea. The sea gulls wheel over head softly calling out "mine, mine" as they settle down for the night. The sunset was golden over the ocean before I arrived at Sea Port Village. What I didn't like seeing was the flags stretched out by the strong west wind. The swell map indicated that it would be middling rough, but we might still be able to make it to Talcott Shoal. I wasn't so sure, but I still hoped. I got my stuff loaded and gabbed a bit with other divers, some who I knew from dives past. I heard that the boat had just come in from a three day trip to Santa Barbara Island and they had gotten some real big bugs up to 9 pounds. Out of the dark came a familiar face. He looked at me to be sure and I told Fidel "yes, you're looking at your worst nightmare". As the evening wore on, the wind died down. I went to sleep pretty fast, but woke when the engines started. As we left the harbor there was some swell, but nothing impressive. Through the night I occasionally felt swell, but it still never got rough. I figured we would go up the backside of Santa Cruz Island to stay in the calm. In the morning I wondered where we were, but I didn't know the time and didn't want to get up before I had to. Then the engines slowed. I and most everyone else was out of their bunks immediately. It was a gorgeous clear morning with a golden sunrise developing nicely.
Sunrise Santa Rosa Island
I could tell we were at Santa Rosa, but it was on the starboard side of the boat rather than on the port as it would be at Talcott. Eric said that there were 30 knot winds over there and it was breezy where we were.

The first place we stopped was a bit south of South Point, but had a bit of current, so we headed south some more and anchored. There are deep canyons carved in the steep sides of the island above the shore cliffs.

Eric warned us to watch for currents and the gate was open. The water felt great, brisk, but hardly cold. As the bottom came up at about 60 feet, vis looked to be about 25 feet. It was sandy with some rocks and kelp, so I took off across the current to look for structure. After a little ways I found a line of rocks and looked around some before continuing on to look for more structure. Soon enough I was over more rocks and right away saw a short peeking up at me from under a deep ledge lined with big Franciscanus urchins.

There were nice overhangs, but not so many rock piles. I travelled up current following it. It was a healthy reef with lots of small kelp and some macrocystis, but not a lot of fish and little cover for bugs. There were a lot of tube anemones and lots and lots of big black Franciscanus urchins. I kept travelling and seeing lots of neat stuff, but few bugs. I crossed back across the current, mostly covering sand and surfaced thinking I had better be a little less tight on my air. My navigation was good though. I was right in front of the Peace, a ways up current. It was an easy ride back. Some people took bugs.

We headed south some and Eric said this was about the most like Talcott that we were going to find. Again I headed across the current at 70 feet to the second set of ridges before heading up current. Again there were urchins, anemones and lots of big picnopodia subflower stars.

This time I was seeing some bugs, but most were short. I came to a great area of rock piles. I grabbed at one, but it was long gone. I grabbed another and it was a legal so it went in the bag. I saw a large scallop sitting in the sand, so I threw it in my bag. There were more sheepheads here, but most were females. I saw a couple lemon nudibranchs, but there were numerous half inch to quarter inch Spanish Shawls. There were some nice feathers too.

I grabbed two more bugs, but they were short. It was a great rocky area I found. Unfortunately I moved off it. That was a mistake as I found little else as I moved up current. In some small rocks I found a nice red ab that looked near 9 inches.

Again I was able to come up in front of the boat, but I think leaving that rocky area was a huge mistake. It was a large good looking area.

The Peace headed down and we continued to the east end of the island. I was familiar with the area and I hadn't done well there, but I knew bugs did come up out of the big rocks here occasionally.

There weren't many holes, but usually there were scores of small sheepscrabs there. The rocks were covered with sand worms and the scallops could be pulled off by hand. Eric said to be careful as the wind was going one way and the current was going the other. Vis was nice at about 30 feet and the rocks were covered with small colorful corynactis anemones. I headed over the side of the rock to about 55 feet and headed out to look deeper. There just weren't many holes for lobster, but I did see a small one under some rocks. I found one ledge that could have held a 100 bugs out of reach, but it was empty. It was very pretty and I did see a couple sheep crabs, but I saw no scallops. I turned in to go shallower and make a square back to the boat. There was a large angel shark cruising down between the rocks. I was travelling fast, but didn't see much. I headed out and it became shadowed. The Peace was right above me. Gas was low, so I just leisurely floated up. No one did well, but it was a pretty dive.

We crossed to Santa Cruz Island and passed the reserve at Gull Island with Picacho Diablo (2434 feet) behind it. It looked like a moonscape.

The backside of Santa Cruz Island was dry before the winter rains. Every so often we passed by coves where made by streams that came off the interior of the island. They had nice beaches and small trees growing on them. Often there are sailboats parked in these coves that are the residences of itinerant sailors. Nice digs.

Kevin put out a nice lunch of pesto pasta and roast chicken. About half way down the island we passed a small boat and Eric announced that he had wanted to check out the spot, but there were already urchin divers on it unanchored so we probably shouldn't stop. We continued down and anchored about 1/2 mile off the cliffs of Yellow Banks.

Eric said to measure well as there were lots of shorts. I jumped in and was reminded that I hadn't pulled up my wetsuit zipper all the way. I figured I would enjoy the refreshing brisk water rather than wasting air trying to pull it up. There was lots of kelp and little current. The vis was good. There were rock piles everywhere and lots of macrocystic kelp. I grabbed a bug, but it was a little short. I kept heading out. There was a lot to see and lots of small fish. I came to a real big rock pile and this time I covered it carefully. I saw two legals in a ledge and made a swipe at them, but wasn't quick enough. I think I should have used my right hand. I did see a nice, but smallish ling cod.

Even though there was little current, a lot of the kelp was sideways and I had to move through it carefully to make sure I didn't pick any up. I saw a bug, but its antennaes were twitching so I moved below it. I popped up and grabbed it, but it was just barely short. I saw some more, but they were short too. It was time to go up. I had to swim a bit, but it was easy with no current.

The end of a day of diving. Time to enjoy some ice cream and lemon cake. As we headed around the end of Santa Cruz Island we could see the backside of Anacapa Island. Fun diving there.

Time to dump gear and take a dip in the hot tub. Time to chat and take a nap. We passed Anacapa and then platform Gina. It was a calm trip back in a breeze under the warm sun. Some people had done fairly well and I think a couple limits were taken. It was a great day of diving on the Peace.

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