Sea Ranch 2002 Dive 3

Colby Reef

We headed to Eric's camp in the campground up the canyon from the cove. It is in an incredibly beautiful forested canyon. With a fish cleaning station and a gear drying rack, Eric's camp looked even more like a dive camp than some of the other nearby sites. Since it was still overcast, people were enjoying a nice warm fire. We talked with people and consumed some calories in preparation for the next dive. I got to check out the incredible looking Puget Sound crabs that Dale had found on the previous scuba dive. I found out that Dale and Steve were highly into technical scuba, so they loved the challenge of the local waters. Dale actually was qualified and knowledgeable enough to take divers on tours where ever they might want to visit on the North Coast, through his company, Scuba Cowboys.

The other divers were ready. Luxury of luxury, Eric warmed a pot of water on the camp stove for me and then poured it down my wetsuit before we set off. Diving may be roughing it some, but that doesn't mean it has to be rough.

We headed back, organized and got all our gear loaded into Eric's boat. Even with the five divers and doubles for Dale and Steve, it did not seem to load down the boat much at all. Shortly after we took off though, Eric decided to change the prop for better running with the heavy load. We went out of the cove to the left, heading south in what Eric considered a 3 to 6 foot swell. The boat had no problem with that. Eric commented that on a big day, it was like riding a dune buggy offroad through dunes.
About a mile south of the cove and a mile offshore, there was a boil that Eric said was the top of the pinnacle at Colby Reef. We were going to dive just south of that. Eric metered around a bit and then said to throw the anchor. This was seriously open ocean.

The plan was that Dale would tie off a reel to the anchor line and we would all follow that. We started into the water and waited for everyone to be ready to go down. There was almost no current. Looking down, numerous blue perch were visible and showed the visibility to be around 40 feet. I'm not used to descending on the anchor line, but obviously it is an easy way to go. I expected to encounter a very cold thermocline, but being in the open, it just got colder as we descended. I let my buoyancy get heavy and just stood on a rock when I reached the bottom. As Eric worked to adjust the anchor I took a look around. It was basically bare rock, too deep for much kelp, with a number of large urchins and some small fish. I saw a chrome snap that obviously come off of someone's gear, so I hooked it to the line from the reel. By this time Eric was done, so I adjusted my buoyancy and turned around. That was when an incredible dive started.

We were at the start of a corridor in the reef that was perhaps six feet wide and eight feet deep and it was full of fish. There was a nice, near legal sized Ling Cod right in front of me so I started taking pictures of it. The next thing I knew, a bigger one swam up from behind and next to it. I looked around the small area that was in and saw all kinds of other fish as well as numerous invertebrates on the rocks. There were individual patches of brilliant colored Corynactus Anemones as well as the four inch tall barnicales that were also covered with them. I could see many types of sponges as well. On the bottom in the rocks, were numerous bright orange Sea Cucumbers. I always look for these and have seen them on the central coast, but nothing like these. They covered the bottom. I was taking pictures as fast as I could. Then, on the top tip of a large rock next to me, there was a red abalone that could not have been more than 1 1/4 inches across. I think it was a bit lost. There was very little for it to eat there.

As we started to follow the line I saw at least 4 more large Ling Cod as well as other large rock fish. They did not seem familiar with divers and were not at all spooky. We went about 30 feet before the line went into a hole in the huge boulders that made up the reef. The hole was about eight feet wide, six feet deep and turned upwards about 10 feet before going out the other side where the corridor through the rock continued. I immediately turned on my light to get a look all around. the hole was even more full of fish. There were large China Rock Fish with their bright golden heads that turned into a pattern of diminishing spots down their body that became mostly black by their tail.

It was exhilarating going into the hole and fascinating when we came out the other side. Now, the corridor through the rocks was deeper with the rock extending about 10 feet up on our right and more than 20 feet on the left. It was still full of life. I saw small crabs, urchins and some small Lemon Nudibranchs. I just kept taking pictures while following Eric along the line. Most of the time I was not at all aware of the divers in front of us until we came up to Dale who was at the end of the reel. It seemed like it had taken almost no time at all. Eric wanted to start back, so I quickly signaled him my tank pressure and started to follow him. I was still seeing things on the rocks that I did not noticed on the way out. The huge anemone covered barnacles, rythmically sweeping the water for plankton, were as fascinating as they were colorful. Then as we approached the hole through the rocks, about eight feet up on the rock wall, I saw what looked like a patch of Sulfur Sponge with what looked to be a fist sized Lemon Nudibranch on it. It was very hard to be sure of what it was, but my pictures will clearly show what I saw. We went back into the hole and I looked around to try to take in the amazing sights. One of the large China Rock Fish was just laying on its side in a crack in the rocks. The Ling Cods were still there. As I came out of the hole, I looked up about 10 feet on the wall and saw some large white Metridium anemones to finish off my film on. By this time all of the divers were coming out to the anchor line. The ascent up the anchor line was uneventful, though Steve had gone deeper and needed to do some stops. Using the reel in these conditions was extremely convenient. In this case, going up the anchor line was a very easy way to surface. Under the rough conditions typical of this area, use of the reel could almost become a necessity.

We worked together to get all gear into the boat and all of us were grinning ear to ear from this amazing and unique dive. This is what Eric was looking for. This kind of dive is what any diver with a sense of adventure wants to go on. To go to some remote spot and explore a place where the fish have no fear of divers.

...After the trip, Eric told me about the next goal for him and his buddies to explore. Off of the Shelter Cove area, on The Lost Coast, is the submarine canyon, Delgada Canyon...

It was late. It would have been nice to stay, but it was time to drive back to Sea Ranch. Besides, though the camp was well appointed, it had nothing like the beds waiting for us back at Soundings.
It's such a beautiful drive.
We did stop for a snack at the beautiful Heritage House Hotel, perched on the sea cliff. As we got back towards Sea Ranch, the sky had cleared. In a couple of hours it would make for a nice sunset, but I wondered if the diving would stay good with the weather change.

Enjoy the diving, seahunt

  • Sea Ranch 2002 - Dive 1 - Evening In The Slot
  • Sea Ranch 2002 - Dive 2 - Abs At Van Damme
  • Sea Ranch 2002 - Dive 4 - Smuggler's Cove

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