In ways, this picture didn't come out as good as some, but I still like it. It shows so many
things if you know what to look for and maybe can look in your memory for the details.
Look to the left. It starts with the North Coast's finest scenery. Completely unapproachable cliffs
protected by stone teeth challenging the open Pacific Ocean at the southern face of Bodega
Head. In the distance is Pt. Reyes. Both of these are lonely rocky sentinels on the Pacific
plate to the west side of the San Andreas fault. The rest of California is east on the
other side of the fault and so moves the opposite direction when the Earth decides to adjust.
Between both of these isolated ancient granite mountains are long beaches extending to the
other side of the fault. These are lonely, windswept places that are land, but belong to the
sea. Off these craggy cliffs is nice diving if you can do it. Around this point is one of the whale passages and many
people stand above the cliffs watching the grand beasts rounding the rock headland on their
yearly ocean spanning trek. It is OK for whales, but as a diver, I recommend that you don't
find yourself in a current there.
Look below, right in front of you. See those long offshore rocks. They look protected a bit.
It is a challenging climb across the steep rock faces to get down. There are pocket beaches
in the rocks. Kelps of every color, flotsom of every type lie strewn in natural artistic jumbles,
left on the shore by waves and tide. Yes, I dove there a couple of times, which is just proof that
I'll try anything twice. You see, those long rocks have very steep sides and even on a calm
day the waves just rise and then bounce back off them. You have never had so many waves
coming at you from so many direction at once, in between those long rocks. That was
interesting diving, but really a bit too wild for great site seeing. There were a few abalone.
Basically a stupid place to dive.
Look at the natural beauty, but be careful. See that light brown rock right in front of you
and underfoot. It's decomposed granite. It looks solid, but can explode to fine gravel in
your hand or under foot. Many people get hurt this way. Hiking can be more dangerous than
diving, but here it is an open question that changes day to day.
Then again you can do like a buddy of mine when I went to school there. I think it was his
birthday. I think he was inebriated. He ended up hiking to the top of the headlands around
midnight on a very dark night. Apparently at one point, he found himself within a herd of
deer. What is no doubt, is that he found the uniquely potent poison oak that only grows on the
Now look all the way around the corner to the right. There are cliff flowers at your feet.
Be careful going into those channels near shore. They can be hard to get out of and the waves
go in them just fine. Look a
bit more to the right. That is to the west and north now. There is Windmill Cove just beyond.
That's my dive spot. Few people really go there to dive, partly because the diving above the
Russian River is just as close and more accessible. This is the only spot that can
be easily reached by car for many miles. The accessible spots north towards the river are
pretty treacherous and the river may limit the visibility. Then again, maybe it is its
reputation Bodega Bay has as one of the corners of the White Triangle. Oh yes, whether you
see or not, the Landlord is certainly there. What did I care? It was great diving and I
could get to it on my bicycle.
When I went to school at the Marine Lab there, I visited the cove for a dive every few days
for a season. From the waves and howling winds of early Spring to the relative calm of summer.
I went with other divers on the occasions I could, but mostly it was just me and a few people
fishing or watching the waves from the parking lot. I learned to stay to the south of the
cove and not get in the current that entered the south of the cove and barreled out on the
north side. The rocks may not look friendly. The corridors between them are narrow and rough,
but that is better than currents. Rocks stick up, but most dives, you go into the placid
water in the cracks well below the dancing waves, foam and white water of the surface. Find
the bottom of the hole between rocks. Drop into it, relax on
the bottom and look around. The life is vivid. The beauty is intoxicating. There are fish
and invertebrates everywhere as well as all the exotic sea weeds. Abalone are common. Don't
take any too soon or it will ruin the flight of diving. Look for big ones, unless of course
it is one of the rough treacherous days of waves and currents. Then you get in, grab and
get out. Time and again, as you move through the tight channels between the rocks, you have
fish encounters that are of the close and fast kind. I was there on days with nasty storm
waves. I was there on calm days when I tried to climb out on all the rocks that stuck up
high enough. I swam off the points where fishermen died each year in the treacherous surf
and saw that the rock channels were there and could have protected them if they had known.
On one dive with five people from the lab, I saw a white shark swim behind them. I saw no
reason to mention it at the time. They were going in. Times were when I was slammed into
rocks and smashed by rogue waves. I had so much fun and adventure that this place is etched
in my mind until I die.
There is so much more that the picture records if you know where to look. There were the abalone parties on Sunday nights and the Spring Ball at the Lab. I hitch hiked home there
from Santa Cruz for my twenty first birthday. That evening I stood in that huge empty intersection
after the rain. In the west the water painted the ground a golden red from the brilliant
sunset above. In the East were two rainbows. It wasn't the only magic. I learned much there. Too,
there was a lot I didn't learn. That was when I knew Salli..
Look up. No, not the next cove. There wasn't that much to see underwater there besides
purple urchins. Look at the next headland far beyond. On this side of it is Horse Shoe
Cove where no one is allowed to dive anymore. On its shore is the Bodega Marine Lab.
This is the most private of private places. A marine preserve in between two state parks.
It takes some permission and qualifications to dive there even if you are at the lab.
I never did. Still, all the rest was my playground to explore. Every day when the other
students walked the path from the dorms (where the "Birds" was filmed) and then up the road
to the lab, I went the other way. Straight west were the untouched dunes that led to Salmon
Creek Beach. Rabbits, deer and hawks were the owners here. The plant life was hearty to
survive in these shore dunes. It was then a half mile walk along a lonely, misty
beach, that ended at the other side of the ancient granite of that headland. It was a steep
climb up it through the marine chaparral. Then it was a the most beautiful part of the walk,
above the jagged cliffs of the headland with the crashing sea in front of you and colorful
fields of wild flowers behind. The journey came to an end at the lab at Horseshoe Cove, but
did the journey ever end? The pursuit of natural beauty and wonder goes on.
After school, I went there many times, year after year, each trip an adventure. It has
been so many years enjoying the rugged coast and softness of the sea. In the coves is
not just great diving in thick kelps of every variety. It is not just the fish
that suddenly appear in the fast moving water or sleep under the deep protected cracks.
It is not the stars, the scallops, anemones, urchins and so much more. It is the best
things in life. It is adventure and it is beauty.
Enjoy the diving, seahunt
More about diving at Windmill Cove, Bodega bay
Diving Bodega Bay