Sunday, April 13, 2008

Sparkling, clear vis in Gerstle Cove

Dive stats:
Me, Anne, and Michelle

First dive
max depth: 46 fsw
time: 58 minutes
temp at surface 48
temp at depth 46
Gas: O2 29%
Vis: 25 feet

The forecast was for a perfect storm of good conditions this weekend. No swell, no early wind, sunny and warm, basically a diver's wet dream.

Annoying weekend work was behind me by Sunday morning, and Anne and I headed north on Hwy 1 along the Sonoma Coast. Surfers were getting good rides on 2-3 foot glassy waves. The ocean looked great.

After our arrival at Gerstle Cove, and before we had even peeked over into the cove, Michelle drove into the parking lot directly in front of me as I walked out of the bathroom. What a great surprise! The three of us schlepped our gear down to the beach and by 10:40 were in the water. Here's what the cove looked like when we arrived.

I had equipment issues. My Air Source 2nd stage was leaking a steady stream of air so i unplugged the low pressure inflator hose from the corrugated hose coupler. This stopped the leak but also put me in the position of having to inflate my BC orally. OK, we're trained for that.

Here's a shot of Anne and Michelle in the background as we got ready for the first dive.

On the way out to the boundary I wondered why Michelle was swimming with her face in the water and then realized that she could see the bottom! Vis was the best I'd ever seen it in the cove. You could just see the entire bottom and it was utterly beautiful, aflame with red and orange bat stars and red and white telia anemones. Blue rockfish swam lazily around as we descended, and as we reached the bottom a very large Ling cod skittered under a ledge. Immediately after the Ling retreated we stumbled onto a big, black-grey Cabezon. He or she didn't run away.

We skirted the rocks on the right side of the cove on a 210 heading for about 8 minutes and then switched to 180 and headed out of the cove into deeper water. There were billions of krill in the water and this hampered vis a little bit. Still, the sunlight lit up the rocks and made the colors of the coraline algae, grasses, palm kelp, and inverts come alive. We began to see lots of corynactus the further out we got.

Finally, we ran into a huge rock dike running roughly perpendicular to the shore. It had large overhangs and went up in two pinnacles with a notch in between. I looked up at the top of the wall, about 10 feet above me and saw a crop of very large Metridiums. The were striking all backlit against the sun. Michelle took pictures as I swam through the notch to the sunny side of the dike. The wall on the other side was brightly lit and covered with Metridiums. They were huge and took up almost the entire wall. The bright sunlight on them, even at 45 feet, made them positively shimmer while the rocks they clung to were full of saturated color from corynactus and other invertibrates. It was magnificent.

We hung around the wall just marveling at the beauty, but then hit turn pressure and headed back. I neglected to switch to 330 degrees on the way in, and so 15 minutes on a due north heading bounced us off the east point of the cove. Dumb. We poked up like little water prairie dogs and then ducked back down for the promenade back up through the cove to the beach.

Second dive:

Surface Interval: 1:35
max depth: 50 fsw
time: 44 minutes
temp at surface 50
temp at depth 46
Gas: O2 29%
Vis: 25 feet

This dive was to be an out and back to the big rocks and (hopefully) the swimthroughs on the left side of the cove. We took a 150 heading from the boundary, dropping once again in the clear water, scanning the entire bottom of the cove on the way down.

I was happy to have somehow fixed my leaking alternate second stage connection and very much enjoyed automatically inflating my BC. I gave it a few bursts as I descended and heard the satisfying little hisses. No more blowing air and water into my BC for bouyancy adjustments.

We cruised out in the 46 degree water moving down the contour past large boulders with curious small circular pockmarks all over them. I'd seen these before and wondered what made those marks. Soon we were on the flat, slabby rock bottom heading into about 45 deet or water. I guess we weren't close enough to the shore to hit the swimthroughs, but it didn't matter. Suddenly in front of us was a massive pinnacle jutting up from the bottom. We swam around it finding lots of ledges and irregular rock faces covered with corynactus and anemones. Around the south side of the pinnacle we again saw a crop of huge Metridiums glowing white in the sun.

I'd never seen metridiums at Gerstle before, and this was a special treat.

Half way back into the cove I looked up and saw Michelle to my right and Anne to the left and all around us, swimming slowly among us, was a large group of blue rock fish. It was as though they had identified with us, and we were just more blue rock fish as far as they were concerned.

This time we hit the middle of the cove and swam all the way back to the beach.

After the dive we just sat in the sunlight warming ourselves and taking in the splendor of the North Coast. Some families were out in boats and kayaks, and we watched them play around in the still-glassy water of the cove.

As i climbed back to the parking lot to bring down my van I saw Michelle taking a picture of the cove from the bluff. I walked over to where she was standing and realized I could see almost the entire bottom of the cove as though it were just covered with clear glass, at least out about the first hundred yards or so. The purple coraline algae was beautiful and you could see every little sand patch in among the gold and purple rocks.

Once in the parking lot to retrieve our vehicles, we could see the wind rising over the water and the fog coming onshore. it was suddenly chilly, but the memories of a perfect day of diving at Gerstle Cove remained warm and inviting.


Anonymous said...

A perfect dive day with perfect buddies. I can't wait for the next one.

Anonymous said...

Oooooh, sounds like a wonderful day other than the equipment issue. Glad you got to enjoy the second dive without those hassles. Sounds like a perfect day!!