I went out on the Great Escape last Sunday. We were scheduled for Santa Barbara Island, but weather forced us to Catalina. That was OK since my my main interest was photography this trip rather than hunting. I also wanted to work on getting a feel for my new wing type BC. It was calm, clear and sunny when we got to the island. We ended up at Eagles Reef for the first dive. We were right near where the main pinnacle comes up to about 12 feet from the surface. The kelp was up, so there wasn't any current to consider. I was tentatively planning to compass out to a deeper pinnacle that I know of, but it is deep and problematic enough that I was figuring that if anything wasn't perfect, I'd stay on the main pinnacles. One of the things I'm interested in with a wing is if I can do head first entries. The Great Escape is pretty high though and I have to admit the impact was pretty drastic. It would not matter as much perhaps, but my sinuses were unhappy as well, Other than that it worked well, since I was at 30 feet almost immediately. Vis was only about 20 or so feet, but that's plenty. I was moving straight down the face of the pinnacle, but my sinuses were really complaining so at 60 feet, I found a ledge and sat down to take off my mask and try to clear out my head. It's one of the times you notice the difference between the buoyancy of a wing and a conventional BC. Whatever attitude you go in, a wing tends to hold you there. Well, my sinuses were still unhappy, so I scratched the plan for the deeper pinnacle. It is a difficult dive when everything goes right. Well, Eagles Reef is beautiful dive ... no matter how many times I've done it. I know that a good dive when not hunting is just to work all the way around at 60 feet and then work up the pinnacle at the end, so it was now time to look for photo ops. I found a couple of very pretty bright blue nudibranchs. There were a lot of fish, though they were all smaller. There were also lots of very healthy Gorgonian sea fans. The kelp was healthy and fairly thick. After a while I found another kind of nudibranch. It was brown with blue spots and about 4 inches long. I took a couple shots of it and then waited because it was heading towards a small starfish. I figured it would make a good shot even if I had to wait on it traveling at a snail's pace. It got there eventually, then there is still the problem that I am a lousy photographer. At least the Sculpin I found was happy to pose, but poisonous critters often seem to be. I continued working around the pinnacle slowly. It is a very pretty dive. I ended it by working very slow to the very top of the pinnacle and relaxed there for a while to look around. All the kelps were lush and brilliantly lit by the sunlight. The next stop was on the outside of Ship Rock. Since I more often than not am hunting, it's not a spot I frequent, but even when hunting I like to visit it because it is such a beautiful dive. Positioned where it is so far offshore, it almost always has excellent visibility. Today was no exception. As usual, my plan was to swim all the way around it. It drops off pretty fast around ship rock, especially on the mainland side, but there is some reef at 20 to 30 feet and another larger area at 60 to 70 feet. Then it drops off deep, fast. On the island side is a fairly large area of reef 30 feet and shallower. There are the remains of a sailboat there as well. The kelps and algaes are spectacular all the way around and give the whole reef area a golden glow. I swam towards the rock through the deep kelp to the shallows. Vis looked to be about 50 feet or more. There were a lot of small fish everywhere. There were lots of Garibaldi, bass, sea cucumbers and other assorted critters. I just worked my way around slowly in the well lit shallows, taking occasional pictures of whatever looked interesting. I like taking pictures from underneath of waves washing up on the rocks. The kelp on the island side was extremely thick and I enjoy going into the thickest parts I can find. While I didn't see many large fish, I saw one nice Calico bass about 16 inches. It was way to spooky to have gotten a shot at even if I had brought a spear. I collected a couple of cleaned urchin shells to bring home to the kids. The challenge is to get them to the boat intact. To make it more interesting, I climbed out onto the rocks on the mainland side for a bit. It was just a beautiful, shallow dive in the thick kelps. The next dive was along the shore at a place I didn't recognize, but I strongly suspect that with the number of dives I've done in the immediate area, I've been there recently at night. The 'beach' is steep and 20 feet wide or so, made of rocks from the size of a small bowling ball down to pebbles. Scrub covered cliffs rise behind that. Rocks of various sizes, none bigger than a washing machine, make up an algae covered reef that goes down to 20 or 25 feet at 150 feet from shore. In terms of dive spots, it wasn't any kind of a special place, but a lot of times, a dive is what you make of it. I traveled slowly west along the outside of the reef at perhaps 20 to 25 feet, either over the sand or a bit into the lowest part of the reef. The kelp was a bit down in the current, so it constantly provided interesting swim throughs. Where the reef met the sand, the rocks were big and there were lots of nice cover for critters. I saw a fair number of lobsters. Actually more than I expected. There were lots of fish including a number of sculpin. I just continued to swim up current in the shallow water for quite a while enjoying looking in holes for things to photograph and making my way through the kelp. Eventually, I figured it was time to turn back and I had something specific in mind for the return trip. Where is the most beautiful diving? Where did diving start out? In many cases, it was right here, along the warm, shallow sunlit shores that could be reached by any diver with a mask and perhaps some fins. There are less fish than there once were and it's not covered in green and pink abalone like it once was, but it is still thick with all kinds of small fish swimming in the lush brilliantly lit kelps and algaes. I stayed between 10 and 4 feet deep, moving back towards the boat, taking advantage of the brilliant sunlight to take pictures that I could never get with any camera flash. There were bright orange juvenile Garibaldis with their iridescent blue spots dodging me almost as nervously as they avoided the mature, territorial members of their own specie. In holes were large urchins and small sea cucumbers. There were some bright colored anemones. Clouds of young blacksmiths were everywhere as well as a fair number of anchovies. The real display though were the lush algaes. There was only so much macrocystis this shallow, but there were all different varieties of exotic looking red, green and brown algaes of every color. Even if this were 25 years ago when I studied algaes, I would know the names of few beyond some Gigartina's and Halysacyon's. I had a long way to go back to the boat. At this depth, air was no issue. I moved slowly trying to get a good look in the holes under the kelp for the more hidden life of the reef. After a long mild swim, but still too soon, I could tell it was time to head out the boat. I popped up to get my bearings and check out the island from close up. Then it was a matter of following the reef out to its end and then staying at 20 feet until I could see the boat above me. It was about as generic a dive site as can be found at the islands, but it was still spectacularly beautiful.
Enjoy the diving, seahuntBack To Home Page