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3 day 4th of July Extravaganza-2011

San Clemente Island dive report for Channel Islands Dive Adventures. Trip was on the Pacific Star on July 4th weekend in 2011 and was a wonderful trip.

4th of July is a time to celebrate and that my wife and I did along with friends on a 3 day trip to San Clemente & Catalina Islands over the 4th of July weekend aboard the Pacific Star. This was actually 2 trips in 1, the first trip was a 2 day CIDA charter on Saturday and Sunday and the next day was a Pacific Star open boat. Combined it became a 3 day extravaganza of which 7 of us fully enjoyed.

You never know what will happen with a trip to San Clemente because of the military and weather, fortunately neither kept us from getting there and diving.  The only bummer was that we didn’t get to dive the John C Butler because the military closed Northwest Harbor. I really wanted to dive the Butler because just before the trip I had been in touch with the family of John C Butler and we were going to do our best to photo and video document the wreck and pass what we had along to the family…I guess there is always next time.

As I mentioned the weather was great and the seas during the trip made for a nice ride with some fog in the mornings and clearing to sunny skies in the late morning. Our 1st dive of the trip was Little Flower then Pyramid Cove, Pyramid Flats and then a spot a little north of Little Flower for the late afternoon and night dives. The kelp was lush on all dives and the vis was a cloudy 30’-40’ with the water temp running in the low to mid 60’s. The dive site I really liked was Pyramid Flats with its tall rock structure and lots of nook and crannies to check out including a short swim through tunnel.

Very early in the morning Captain Dave moved the Pacific Star to Cat Harbor were it was calmer and then we headed out about 6:00am for Farnsworth Bank. The Vision had beaten us to the high spot so we anchored just a short distance from them. The only problem was that the anchor was sitting at 100’ deep but there was lots of chain out and as it curved, it ended up sitting on the bottom at 150’ deep and with the 10’-15’ vis it didn’t make for a good dive. Most everyone aborted their dive except for the scooter group (4 friends on scooters). They tied their reels off to the anchor chain at 70’ and headed over towards the Vision until they got to the top of Farnsworth. They had a good dive, but without the scooters it just would not have been possible.

Because of the swell on Sunday we decided to head around the west end of Catalina to the front side and dive Parsons Landing (excellent dive when the vis is good) , the vis still wasn’t that good so this dive was a mixed bag for everyone. We then moved to Bird Rock for the last dive and this turned out to be a great choice. Bird Rock has something for everyone and the vis was much better. After the dive it was time to head back to San Pedro for the end of our 2 day trip. All in all it seemed like most everyone had a good time. There were several problems that happened on the boat, but the captain & crew were able to still make things work so everyone could enjoy the trip.

Once back to the dock it was time to unload and get the boat ready for the next day’s trip on the 4th. There were 7 of us that stayed (extra special price for those that were on the 2 day trip) with a few going home to sleep and the rest of us hanging out and sleeping on the boat. It was very nice because we were going to have a late departure of 10:00am and were able to sleep in on a quite boat, we then went for a walk before everyone started to arrive. This was more like a personal charter as there were only 12 divers, my wife and the Captain & crew’s family on board.

The ride out was exceptionally nice as the weather was even calmer then the days before and the sun was out in full force. With the small group we decided to start with the 1st dive at Ship Rock. There was a little current, but not bad. I started my dive along the north side going towards Avalon and planned on going all the way around Ship Rock. The dive was incredible with a thermocline around 50’ and what seemed to be unlimited vis above 50’ and ton’s and ton’s of schooling fish. I have never seen so many schooling fish that would let me be as close as I was to them. I was in such awe that I finally thought it seemed like I wasn’t going around the rock so I surfaced only to find myself quite a ways out on the east side of Ship Rock. Luckily I always plan things and had plenty of air so I just got below the surface and swam into the current for a bit until finally getting to Ship Rock and then finishing my trip around it and back to the boat. Everyone agreed that if that was the only dive we got in then it would be worth the price we paid for the trip.

We then headed over to the Sea Fan Grotto area and did a live drop in the area between Blue Caverns and Sea Fans Grotto dive sites. This was a fun shallow dive just taking our time and then having the boat pick us up when we surfaced. Next it was over to the Goat Harbor/Italian Gardens area for some Black Sea Bass (BSB) viewing. I had another dive as incredible as the earlier Ship Rock dive. I first went west and seen a couple of BSB and then turned to the east past the boat were I came upon 5 BSB that I was able to spend about 20 minutes with all by myself. I have never had an experience like this before and it was AWESOME! There were some adults and 2 smaller ones with 2 of the adults having hooks, steel leaders and a very large lure stuck in their sides. I tried to cut them off, but only kinked the steel line and of course I only was able to get one chance at it. I know what I will need the next time I go back. I did get some great video of them all—click here to view.

Afterwards we motored over to in front of the casino, had a great BBQ burgers & dogs dinner complete with apple pie and champagne and topped it off with an excellent firework show. It was then time to get back to San Pedro and because it was late when we got in a few of us spend another night on the boat leaving early Tuesday morning.

What a weekend and I am glad I took off Tuesday from work because I never would have lasted a full day at work after such an excellent weekend!!!

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