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Sunday, October 2, 2022

Cordell 2022 Day 5: Northern East Ridge

Today was supposed to be the flattest day of the year (by my definition anyway) according to the forecast. As we first headed out, it was flat but not spectacularly flat, and it improved as we got out to the Bank. But still not really flattest day of the year conditions. As we were setting the down line, apparently they had trouble finding the top of the structure because of a big school of fish on the depth sounder. So I was expecting that. The water looked clear from the top, and as we headed down, it was warm but not murky, but also not quite as clear as it was midwater on yesterday’s dive.

As we approached the structure I was a bit disappointed by the lack of schooling fish. But the viz was great and the reef was as encrusted as I remembered it. One thing I like about this spot is it has bigger heads of pink hydrocoral than the other sites on the bank. Plus tons of elephant ear sponges and corynactis. There was a bit more dark red algae than I remembered. This dive reinforced my belief that the unnamed site from last weekend was most similar to this spot. I spent a bunch of time video’ing the area around where we dropped, mostly on top of the structure. There were tons and tons of rosy rockfish, a few big yelloweyes and lots of young ones, and quite a few not-that-big lingcod.

At some point I followed Rob and Kevin to a different ridge to the East. On the north end, there was a big school of rockfish. Actually two schools, one of adults, one of young of year. The adult school was mostly blues, which was different. In addition to being fishy, this part of the reef was prettier. More densely covered, plus less algae. I think this is the spot we have dived previously, or at least the one I have a picture of in my head.

We had left the boxfish over on the first ridge, so at some point Rob signaled that he was going to get it. We followed him over, and only at this point did I really appreciate how insanely good the viz was! You could see the light from the boxfish across the sand channel and down the ridge. Rob picked up the boxfish and moved it to the other ridge, where I think it got some great fishy footage.

When it was time to go, the two teams left in pretty close proximity, in time and location. Right as we were getting ready to leave, I heard whale song and Rob signaled that he heard it too. Kevin popped the bag, and squirrellyness ensued. It was like Kevin was flying a kite, or maybe the kite was flying him. I was worried his bag was caught on the downline or the other team’s line, but there was just a strange, strong current in midwater. The other team had a similar experience. Deco was fine, but I think this was a bit annoying for Kevin. The viz wasn’t quite as crazy good on deco, so it wasn’t like you could see everything in all directions, like yesterday. There were also fewer deco critters, but there were some nice sea nettles at 20’. Rob got his camera out to take some pics (which is always nerve wracking to watch!). Unfortunately the whales that we heard did not make an appearance today.

At the 20’ stop I could see the water on the surface near us that was a bit stirred up from the boat. I thought that was a little strange but sometimes when it’s really flat, the boat will stay really close. When it was time to leave 20’, I looked up and realized just how calm the water was. It was so flat that we did a 5’ stop, much to Kevin and Rob’s surprise. When we hit the surface, it was definitely calmest day of the year conditions, and the boat was like 50 feet from us, just hanging out.

While we didn’t know it at time, this was our last dive at Cordell for the year, and I would say we ended on a high note!

The following weekend, we attempted to dive one last day, and figured if we couldn't dive, Jim and Rob would bring the boat back, and I would bring the van back (Jim rode up in the van with us).  We met up on Friday night again, and it was foggy.  Saturday morning was just as foggy, and we didn't really want to try to wait it out, because if we waited too long, it would be too late to move the boat.  So we called it on fog, Rob and Jim headed back to Monterey in the boat, and John, Clinton, and I went to breakfast and then hiked at Bodega Head, and then got lunch.  The fog finally cleared around 1pm, so we definitely made the right call not to try to wait it out to dive.  I had to drive the van back by myself (ugh), and Jim and Rob actually beat me back to Monterey!

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