Point Reyes

North of San Francisco, on the other side of Drake's Bay, the coast abruptly turns from west to north. It is just more of the beauty of The Golden Gate Recreation Area, but it is a special place where the land sticks out and challenges the sea. It is place of wind swept vistas over looking empty beaches, rugged shores and the peaceful waters of Drakes Bay. It is a place of forested hills and dairy farms. The ocean is usually rough there and is not to be carelessly visited for diving or even visited very often. Few days in a year are good for diving there. It is long drive, but not so bad and it is so beautiful as to be well worth the trip. At the end of the road is Point Reyes Lighthouse and the beach that is the end of Drakes Bay. The kelp is lush and thick. The birds and sea lions are to be seen everywhere. Looking out over the water, a diver must wonder what is to be seen in this wild place.

There is some diving to be done from shore, depending on the calmness of the day and the fortitude of the diver. Still, most of the diving area is outside and north of the point and is only going to be reached by boat. There is a fair amount of excellent dive area with dramatic reefs. Inside the point is the beautiful beaches of Drakes Bay. There are miles of reef in those calm waters, but few divers ever visit them. It is a place of the Sea Mists.

Really, this is an area of caution because it is the undisputed turf of Great White Sharks. My friend Eric wrote about a visit he made there.

North Coast Dive Report

by Eric S - April 25, 2004

Today (Sunday) Steve and I planned a boat dive trip out of Ocean Cove. When we got there the tide was so rediculously low there was no way to launch without doing damage to the equipment with the rocky boat ramp. We decided to drive back down to Bodega Bay and see what diving is like around there.

As I have always understood, the diving around Bodega Bay is terrible. Low vis, murky, dirty water, some rocks with lots of sand.

We decided what the heck and went south towards Tomales Bay.
I decided to aim for the furthest visible headland off in the distance and when I was most the way there I saw the lighthouse blinking and realized that I had way overshot the entrance to Tomales and was some 12 miles south beyond that point.
I always wanted to see what the Point Reyes lighthouse looked like and it looked very majestic way up on that cliff.

We pulled around the corner and into the first cove right underneath the lighthouse. The water had gotten somewhat disturbed around the point and there was 2 gnarly currents colliding off the point leaving a thick flotsam line going out from shore. Steve commented that this section of coastline looked very similar to some areas of the channel islands. I thought it looked a lot like PV from what I've seen in photos. The cliffs just plunge straight into the ocean going straight down, very dramatic.

Point Reyes Lighthouse

The water looked so so and I wasn't extremely thrilled about this spot as it is probably the sharkest waters in California next to the Farallones.
We got in and went straight down. the vis wasnt actually that bad at about 8-10 feet. We were in only about 40 feet of water and we came right down on sand. I thought whoopy! Well, about 10 feet away from the sand is where the rocks started and as we explored the rocky bottom became more and more rugged. We saw some HUGE abalone there in 35 to 40 feet. As we moved closer to the rocks on chore the surge was ripping us back and forth. We stayed low and in the rocks. A seal buzzed me once and appeared very nervous. We didn't see any more the whole dive. We got into some big overhangs and I saw the biggest black and yellow I've ever seen diving. A little further we saw a lingcod that was easy 35-40 pounds. It was enormous with a head about 6 inches across. The rocks had a profusion of life on them with massive amounts of growth of all kinds. Lots of decorator crabs and big stars.

I was blown away by this dive as it unfolded. I had absolutely no idea that this area could be this good. And that darn safety stop was the longest 3 minutes ever. We actually found the anchor line again so we came up right at the boat.

After we got going we went a quarter of a mile south or so and saw all the elephant seals. We agreed that it was probably fairly foolish to dive anywhere around there but oh well.

On the way back we found another spot just south of the entrance to Tomales. It was a lot calmer and not a bad dive. I think we only found about 40 feet but it was some rocky outcroppings shooting up from a sand bottom. Vis was better here in some spots it reached 15 feet which for this area I would think is pretty darn good. I found a huge scallop, a 7 incher, and Steve spotted the biggest Cabazon either of us has ever seen. He blended in real well so he thought he was invisible which gave us a good chance to view him.
Once we got back to Bodega Bay we got into a major boat traffic jamb for the dock. It is salmon season and there was probably 150 boats out there.
The weather was great with no wind all day and 70's on the water.


Steve looking up at the Lighthouse