Ship Rock - Catalina

CopyRight @ 1997

This is summer diving. I was at Catalina on the Raider. When it is not lobster season, that boat just lacks spirit. I was well informed that season was 13 days away. This was just a scouting trip actually. We had already done a dive where we planned to be for the opening night.

We had reports that by tomorrow night, hurricane Linda might start showing her windy face. For the trip out and back, it was nice wind and seas, with a few high clouds. Basically, it was a calm beautiful day. Since it was after Labor Day, there were relatively few boaters about.

Now though, it was time to check out Ship Rock. It is not so good for bugs, but it is pretty and a good spot to look for Yellowtail. This is one of two rocks offshore of the Isthmus at Catalina. Ship Rock is about 3 miles from shore. It is sharp and jagged, sticking out of the water about 30 feet, but I think that it is a bit smaller than that at its water line. There is some shallow (less than 20 feet deep) reef on the island side of the rock. On the mainland side of the rock, most of the reef is more like 30 feet. From there, the bottom tends to drop off in ledges all around the rock until about 60 feet, where it tends to drop off steeply to deep water

It was a warm enough day, about 70 degrees with the El Nino conditions, that I was only wearing my wetsuit jacket. That makes for a nice light weightbelt. We anchored on the mainland side, such that the wind was blowing the boat away from the rock. We had a problem with that later.

We all hopped in with our guns. Just to make a bigger mess, I had a camera as well. I swam down along the kelp to about 30 feet to get a look around. Visibility was near 100 feet. Everything was covered with golden laminarea algae. There was school after school of fish, some with great colors. These are big clouds of anchovy, perch and thousands of colorful juveniles.. I have no idea what species. Mel did see a school of barracuda. We were all looking for yellowtail. I saw one big green ab, but quite illegal to take. When I stopped for a minute to take a picture, I was immediately surrounded by about a dozen bright orange Garibaldi. There were some medium sized Calicos. Worth shooting, but way too wary. They vanished down the reef about 60 feet away. There were Sheephead too, but they were too small to even think of shooting. I swam all the way around the rock and checked out where a sailboat broke up on the reef on the island side. Being out in the current like that, life around the rock is amazingly abundant. I followed the anchovies down a vertical cliff to 90 feet, then went back up to the warmer water. It did get chilly below 60 feet. In the rocks, under the rocks and around the reefs, fish of every kind were everywhere. Visually, it was one of the most amazing dives I have ever made.

I came up at one point, just to climb up on the edge of the rock. I noticed that the boat was gone. I decided to go back down and continue closer to where the boat was supposed to be. When I came up again, I was staying near the rock until I knew where the boat really was. About then, I saw the boat coming towards me from about a half mile away. The anchor had slipped into the deep water and the boat took off. Luckily, Alex had been nervous about it and was up to it before it got away. Interesting caution on anchoring on pinnacles. If the anchor slips off the side, you are in big trouble.

Yellowtail? None of us saw any this trip. It was a short day of summer diving. Well, who cares? You do have to get into the water though and it was pretty. The bugs will be there and that's really what it is all about. The long, cold, wild nights of bug hunting would start soon.

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