2 Day Begg Rock, San Nick & Santa Barbara Island trip-August 24 & 25, 2012
Begg Rock is one of those places that is hard to get too and when you do and have good conditions all at the same time you know it is the making of a trip you will never forget. Begg Rock is located eight miles northwest of San Nicolas and is directly exposed to weather from all directions and because of this Begg Rock is for the experienced diver only. My last time there was over 10 years ago and even with a big swell and the swim step flopping all about it was a trip I never forgot. At that time you could take scallops and fish but now it is an MLPA and even if pictures and memories are all you can now take it is still worth a trip back. I have tried several times over the last 10 years to go back but with it so exposed it is not the easiest place to get to but this time the weather, stars and mother nature all lined up for a fantastic 2 day dive trip.
I had been watching the weather like I usually do before a trip and things were very much looking like they would be on our side. Thursday night arrived and we boarded the Peace and the weather was still looking good and I knew we would be in for a treat. The ride out was very nice with most everyone getting a good sleep. The ride out is about 5 hours with us getting there with plenty of time to get a bite to eat, get ready and start the 1st dive of the day at about 7:30am. It was overcast but the water looked clear and even with the swell we had it was still very nice out. The anchor was set at about 75’ deep and as I descended with my buddies Cindy & Nick I could tell it would be an excellent dive with the good visibility and little current we had. With Begg Rock being a high current swept area and far from civilization there is always a lot to see there with tons of invertebrates, scallops and big fish. One thing I saw that really amazed me was when I was on the anchor line at 75’ I seen a cormorant diving down right past me to where I couldn’t see it any longer, it had to have gone well beyond 100’ looking for a free meal. It was so nice at Begg Rock we decided to stay and make a 2nd dive there.
The Peace then pulled anchor and we headed over to Three mile reef, a spot off of San Nick that the Peace hadn’t been to in over 2 years. Three mile reef sits at about 60’ deep and was a nice rocky reef with some good ledges & small crevices (no big rocks or structure) with tons of large anemones, nudibranchs, dorids and small critters along with lots of short bull kelp. The visibility was still good running about 25’-30’and with no current it made for a good dive. My buddy Cindy really enjoyed this dive. Afterwards we moved in closer to San Nick to a spot that was between Dayton Beach and Dutch Harbor. It had some good structure except the swell was bigger here causing quite a bit of surge and not the best visibility and topside the wind was starting to pick up. Because the conditions were getting to be not the best we decided to leave and go to Santa Barbara Island (SBI). The Peace had been to SBI just a day or two before and said the diving had been very nice and they were right.
We left about 4:30pm for the 3 hour ride to SBI getting us there in time for dinner at 7:30pm in a nice calm location close where we would spend the night. After dinner there were 3 of us including my buddy Mike and myself that did the night dive, what an awesome dive. Probably one of the best night dives I have ever had. Mike and I seen some large lobsters and one VERY LARGE dog sized lobster along with a bat ray, angel shark, octopus and some small squid swimming around. I have never seen squid while diving and to top it all off the visibility was at least 30’ or better and a water temp in the low 60’s. It was just an excellent beginning to what we would get the following day!
Day 2 we moved a very short distance to Sea Lion Wall where we stayed for 2 dives. The conditions were AWESOME with blue water, warm water (for So Cal) and visibility of 60’-80’. This was the closest you could get to tropical diving in So Cal without having to travel anywhere very far. If there were palm trees on SBI you could have thought you were diving at some tropical location. Sea Lion wall is an excellent SBI dive with a beautiful shallow area with lots of kelp and rays and then drop over the side and enjoy diving a steep with more to see including some giant black sea bass. Afterwards we moved to Sutil Island and with as calm as it was we were able to get in close and dive areas you would not normally be able to. My buddies Cindy, Nick & I dived an area with very large rocks, lots of kelp and big schools of fish..what a beautiful sight it was to see and with very little surge and the excellent visibility it just couldn’t get much better or so we thought.
Our last dive was just a short hop to Webster Point and only about a 30 minute surface interval away but then it was going to be a shallow dive in hopes to get some good sea lion action in. Guess what? It was. We got in right up against the island underneath where all the sea lions were hanging out and played with some larger ones and then I got up on a ledge that was about 2’ deep where all the smaller kids were playing and had some of the best fun I have had with them in sometime. Then below them we watched a couple of big lobsters that looked like they were fighting and then short distance from that we seen a large bat ray, thank you Nick for pointing them all out. We thought we were doing good only to find out after we were back on board the Peace that my friends Ernest & Gen came across an area with about 15 bat rays and they got it all on video…how cool is that!
Some trips just don’t work out but when you get trips like this with such awesome conditions you just can’t help to keep trying. From SBI it was about a 5 hour ride back with the sun shining and great dive stories to tell. What an excellent way to spend time with friends and make new friends! As always the Peace did a fine job and I have to thank Steve for the yummy cookie dough ice cream we had on the way back to Ventura