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Dive options - mid May in Califoirnia


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#1 Julian D

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Posted 30 April 2013 - 01:54 AM

Hi.  I'm heading to California in about 10 days time.  Will have a spare weekend to go diving for a day.  I have been out to Santa Cruz on the Peace Boat (Ventura) previously, which was great.  I've also been over to Monterey but the vis was poor so I'm a touch gun-shy about Monterey.  Having said that the great photos of Carmel by another poster are quite encouraging!

 

Can anyone recommend any great locations/dive operators for this time of year?  I'll be in the central valley so can easily travel anywhere from Monterey down to LA (or even further south).  With only one day I am really looking for a relativeIy safe bet with some interesting subjects. A chance to do some wide angle would be great but Id be just as happy with Macro also. 

 

Many thanks.



#2 gecko1

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Posted 30 April 2013 - 10:50 AM

Hi Julian,

 

Central California is always a bit hit and miss from a conditions standpoint but there are ways to maximize your chances. Visibility is nearly always significantly better in Carmel than in Monterey. Shore diving Carmel is best done with some local knowledge so a local buddy or a guide from one of the local shops is a good idea. Probably your best option is Point Lobos State Reserve. You need a buddy to dive there per the park regulations so if you don't have one you might think about hiring a guide. You also need reservations since they limit the number of divers per day. This usually isn't an issue for weekdays but you need them well in advance for weekends. The local dive boats mostly dive only on the weekends but they are also a good way to get to the better dive spots both in Monterey and Carmel.

 

http://www.pointlobos.org

http://montereydiveboats.com

 

Clinton


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#3 Julian D

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Posted 01 May 2013 - 02:17 AM

Thanks for the info Clinton.  Much appreciated. So would you do a couple of shore dives at Pt Lobos over heading out via boat (there are spaces available for pt Lobos).

 

Also do you prefer any particular boat?

 

Julian



#4 gecko1

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Posted 01 May 2013 - 11:23 AM

Point Lobos is the safer option in some ways - you can usually dive there even if the weather isn't cooperating whereas the boats have to go around the peninsula from Monterey to dive Carmel and if it's windy you'll end up staying on the Monterey side. I dive on the Escapade but the boats are all fine.

 

If you dive Point Lobos be sure to swim far enough north before dropping down. The southern part of Whaler's Cove is shallow and usually has pretty bad vis. As you get past Cannery Point (the bluff next to the parking lot) it starts to get deeper, you get reef and the vis typically improves dramatically.

 

Clinton


Edited by gecko1, 01 May 2013 - 11:24 AM.

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#5 gina

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Posted 01 May 2013 - 02:07 PM

You should know that May is the middle of upwelling season along the Central California coast.  Winds push the coastal surface waters south and west, and the deep, cold, nutrient-rich waters replace it, making for low visibility.  This doesn't mean every day at every location has bad vis--just that there's a greater chance of it than during winter.

 

I don't know how far south the upwelling goes, so So Cal may or may not have better vis in general.

 

Upwelling season also means lots of whales in Monterey Bay, so if you have a chance you may want to do that, too :)

 

-Gina


Edited by gina, 01 May 2013 - 02:07 PM.


#6 Julian D

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Posted 02 May 2013 - 12:18 AM

Thanks to both of you for the info.  I've booked in for two guided dives at Point Lobos so I'll be keeping my fingers (and toes) crossed for some good vis!

 

I come up to california from time to time and would like to get out to one of the oil rigs off LA and maybe out to Catalina some time.  So if anyone can recommend good operators for these or other good spots I'd really like to hear what you think.

 

Cheers



#7 vetdiver

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Posted 06 May 2013 - 10:08 AM

Hi, Julian -

 

(Sorry for the delay - I tried to reply last week but was having trouble logging in...)

 

Gina is right on about May.  In general, IMO, March through May are not ideal in California. Springtime = storms and upwellings, so although we sometimes get great nudibranchs and jellies...they are often in mucky, green water.  We dove Catalina a week ago, and although we found pockets of decent vis, it was not great by any stretch of the imagination, maybe 40 ft max at one site; I heard that wreck alley had 10 ft vis max on the same weekend.  We also dove twice in La Jolla over the past week, but San Diego's been experiencing a south swell, so we've had weird currents and less than optimal visibility. 

 

San Clemente Island is consistently good and can range to incredible, but the biggest issue this time of year is the crossing - you need calm seas.  If it's iffy, you can cross to find yourself trapped in one lame anchorage for the whole trip. 

 

The oil rigs are one of my favorite So Cal sites, but I try to avoid diving them between February and about July simply because I can - I've experienced worse visibility and current in the spring than any other time of year - the rigs are daunting on a good day, and on a 15 ft vis day with a 1+ kt current and/or lots of surge, it is tough to see what the fuss is about. 

 

In short - while the weather/vis here is always hit or miss, if you can plan a trip for August through October, you're giving yourself the best chance to get a great day.

 

For San Diego, we love Waterhorse Charters for the wrecks/day trips.

For San Clemente, if you can do a multiday, Horizon out of San Diego is a nice boat; if you're farther north, check the Sundiver (out of San Pedro) schedule to see if they are running to SC and/or Santa Barbara.

For the oil rigs, Catalina (including Farnsworth), and even day trips to San Clemente, we use Selky Charters (out of Huntington Beach).  This is a six pack operation with no compressor on board, and you'll have to prearrange any gear needs (including tanks/weights), but the captain will tailor to your wants/needs - book ahead, as she is in demand.  The Sea Bass (out of San Pedro) also runs rigs and Catalina day trips, and they have a compressor on board (EANx was being fixed last time we were on, but he should have it running by now).

 

Hope this helps you plan future visits - California is incredible, even with the hit-or-miss nature - keep coming back, it is worth it!  Hope you enjoy Point Lobos - what an incredible site. 

 

Allison


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#8 Julian D

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Posted 13 May 2013 - 09:51 PM

Just wanted to update and say thanks to all for the tips on where to go.  Luck must have been with me and I had a great day at Pt Lobos with 40 ft visibility and calm seas.  What a fantastic dive location!  My first time in the sea with my wide angle lens so I didn't do it justice but I put my macro lens on for the second dive to get a few keepers.  It was so nice that at times I just forgot about photography to take it all in.  Have attached a couple of shots.

 

Thanks again for the advice.  I'll be coming back too Allison so I think the islands or the rigs are next.

 

Julian

Attached Images

  • Point Lobos 12 May 2013-2.jpg
  • Point Lobos 12 May 2013-4.jpg
  • Point Lobos 12 May 2013-1.jpg


#9 jjoy

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Posted 30 May 2013 - 04:41 PM

I hope I'm on topic.  I moved to Santa Cruz less than a year ago, but I've not been diving (before I was in landlocked Texas).  Don't laugh, but I almost froze my ass off in 71 degree waters at Aquarena Springs in Texas, so I've been totally scared to try diving in CA.  I love taking photos and would like to experience the Pacific.    I've also had enough of diving in <10' viz for the rest of my life (Lake Travis I do not love you).

 

I don't want to live here for years and realize I was missing something special.

 

It is worth working with someone to learn how to cold water dive?   I see some pretty neat photos, but I don't know if that is an exception or with planning and experience more a norm.  Like I know that every dive in Bonaire is going to be awesome at some level.  Does that happen here?



#10 vetdiver

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Posted 31 May 2013 - 06:25 AM

Hi -

 

I dove warm water for 10 years before I ever pursued cold water - and I am a wuss like you wouldn't believe.  I took my drysuit class north of Boston the week after Thanksgiving when the air and water temps were in the 40's - and I knew the water was cold, I could feel the cold on my face - but once I knew I could handle it, I was fine. 

 

If you are willing to accept the additional/different gear (and give yourself time to get used to it), cold water diving is for anyone.  Conditions in California can be widely varying, and I think it is fair to say that every dive here is not Bonaire awesome (and may, indeed, involve 10 ft vis) - but you have an incredibly rich environment very close by, and on a good day, absolutely nothing beats a local dive.  Bonaire included, IMO :)


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