It's about diving. And cats.

Me diving

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Scooting Stillwater Cove

After our super cool dive at Point Pinos a month or so ago, we decided that diving new-to-us sites (with scooters :P) should be a semi-regular thing. Kevin in particular was really interested in "exploring" some new sites. So he put together what he believed to be the first of many such adventures, a scooter date at Stillwater Cove. I claim it is the second, but since Kevin missed Point Pinos, he is in denial. We set the date several weeks ago, and as the date drew near, it became apparent that Stillwater would likely be a waste of good conditions. However, since we had been planning it for a while, and a bunch of people were supposed to come, and we lack imagination, we decided to do it anyway. Of course, as the date drew near, some of our so-called buddies were overcome by flakiness (which seems to be an epidemic among West Coasters), and in the end it was just the four of us -- Rob, Kevin, Jonathan, and her Kittyness.

Since we all stayed at Jonathan's on Friday night, we managed to get a good night's sleep while still starting at a respectable time. We caravaned over to Seventeen Mile Drive, where the nice gate attendants let us pass without payment when we told them we had a reservation to dive. When we got to the water, we noticed just how disgusting the water looked. But we were hopeful that it would clear at the edge of the cove. We brought our gear down to the beach, and then moved our cars and got into our suits. Did I mention it was about 85 degrees by 8:30? Yet another unpleasant day for climbing into drysuits. When we got into the water, the viz was at least as bad as we expected. I think it would be fair to call it zero viz -- I kept tripping over rocks that I couldn't see, even in 1 to 2 feet of water. When I got into the water I realized that my scooter strap (to carry it) had fallen off on the way to the water. I saw it on the beach and decided to take my chance that it would still be there at the end of the dive. We scootered straight out on the surface, zipping around the patches of kelp, until we were at a buoy almost to the rocks at the edge of the cove. We dropped there (in about 15 feet) where the viz was still not great (maybe 15 feet), and with Kevin as our fearless leader, headed for deeper water. The viz was cruddy until 30 to 40 feet when it abruptly got much better (30 feet). We passed some structure in the 40 foot range, but kept going to see what else was out there. Eventually we found a spot with some reef and kelp in around 60 feet, and decided to clip off the scooters and hang out there.

The reef struck me as being nearly identical to Middle Reef at Lobos (as far as life goes). The relief ranged from 5 to 10 feet off the bottom. There were blue and kelp rockfish, plus some unknown-to-me juvie rockfish. Among the interesting slugs I found were a Limacia, several trilineatas (including one that I told Rob afterwards was the most beautiful one I'd ever seen), and a couple of Dendronotus albus. I was thinking at some point that it would be good warbonnet territory, so when Rob signaled me and told me to cover my light and look, I had a good idea of what he was about to show me! Yep, a little warbonnet poking his head out. It definitely would have been better for Rob to shoot macro. Oh well. Eventually I told Kevin I was cold, so we headed in. On the way in, we passed some more canyon-ish structures that looked like they might be a bit more interesting structure-wise (and better for shooting W/A -- whoops). We ascended from about 20', just a little bit beyond where we had dropped, and we surface scooted back through the muck. 66 feet, 95 minutes, 50 degrees

When we got out of the water, I was sad to see that my scooter strap had apparently been lost to the rising tide. But I later found it next to the stairs, with some other apparently "lost and found" stuff. Phew. After all was said and done, I definitely think we squandered a good conditions day by going to Stillwater. I wouldn't rule out diving there again, but it doesn't really seem worth the swim/scooter out to get to a site that looks like Middle Reef (not that I dislike Middle Reef, but if I want that, I'll go there and forgo the long trip out). On the other hand, there was some nicer looking stuff that we passed on the way in, so maybe next time we will find an area that I like more that is not quite as far out.

After we packed everything up, we drove the rest of Seventeen Mile drive and stopped at Pescadero Point so Jonathan could get some pictures. We were treated to a pretty neat lightning show over the bay. The storm was heading towards us, and luckily it was accompanied by about a 20 degree drop in temperature (which was a relief since we were roasting on Friday, but it had to be better than at home). We also stopped at a few of the other beaches along Seventeen Mile Drive to scope out potential future dive sites. Then we headed to Turtle Bay to meet Matt and his out-of-town friend for lunch.

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