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Monterey Bay - Cool Waters & Warm Hearts (West Coast, USA)

(July, 2009)
As on all my (not so many) business trips I always look out for a chance to take a dip in the nearest pond or ocean with my scuba gear. It is after all a passion  of note, and besides, I have never once regretted taking my gear along just in case I get a chance to blow a few bubbles.

And so it was with my last trip to the USA where I was fortunate enough to attend the OSCON 2009 convention. You can read more about this event in my article which you will find here. Thus I had an entire Sunday to myself before the business part of my trip started and I intended to make full use of my chance.

Doing some research on the web before I left I decided on Monterey Bay as my diving destination for this trip. I felt it was the best choice as I was situated at San José, California, which was about an hour's drive away from Monterey. Having selected my dive destination and Dive Charter I was ready for my "blind date" with some fellow divers and as importantly some underwater critters that destiny decided I should meet.

I knew though that I would need to dress warmly for the occasion as the waters in this area are a cool 11 degrees Celcius, and therefore cold water diving experience is highly recommended. Lucky for me I have had quite a few cold water dives logged in Cape Town, South Africa.

Thus it was that I arrived for my launch on the Sunday morning, and at this point in my tale I hand over to one of the warm hearts (with an even warmer smile) Sharon Eckroth who was my hostess on this auspicious day as she recounts the diving we had....


"Carmel and Monterey is the Best Summer Diving
This early morning in Monterey greeted us with low fog and temps in the high 50’s.  As the ADT divers assembled in the parking lot, we geared up and prepared to board the boat.  The flat seas reported 2 days ago had changed, we had some wind and waves now. We loaded the boat with Nitrox bottles, scooters and all our necessary gear and headed to Carmel to look it over.  Passing Point Pinos’, the rock eddy presented diveable conditions.  The motoring down played havoc with some of the divers due to the motion.  The seas were mixed up; we had a north wind chop met with a southward current.  This added lots of boat rocking and spiked waves.
Captain Jim motored around looking for a good anchorage that could accommodate the scooters as well as the divers.  He selected Butterfly Reef.   This site presented some kelp on the surface and down below, several mini finger canyons.  The sand was at 95’ and the top of the structure was 50’.  Butterfly is easy to navigate because you have walls on both sides and a sand trough to follow, then swim over another wall, drop down and follow another trough.  Les and Chris were off first, with doubles and deploying their scooters.  Beezer and Rene jumped next with cameras in hand.  Soon Bob was geared and sporting the Enterprise, his video camera.  Soon Sharon and Gary stepped off with scooters.  At the anchor, Les, Chris, Gary and Sharon met and convoyed thru the canyon.  Only getting about 20’ viz, the divers stayed close to the walls.  We found all sorts of beautiful sea life.  The rocks were carpeted in strawberry anemones and orange sponges.  As we zipped along we observed the kelp bass, greenlings and rock fish hanging in the kelp forest.  Along the structure, our HID beams lit up the seascape to reveal tons of chorinactis. They were orange, blue, lavender and pink.  Some of the clusters were 10’ in diameter and looked like large blooming flowers.  These are along a site rarely visited by divers and therefore, naturally protected.   We spied several yellow lemon nudibranches, sun stars, and decorator crabs.  The scooters made short work of any surge or current.  We just puttered along.  Soon back on the anchor, we met up with Bob, Bernard and Rene.  Their faces were in the wall, watching red banded shrimp, tiny crabs and photographing a basket star.   We did our deco in the beautiful kelp forest.  We watched several spiral ringed top snails and kelp bugs wiggle around.   This was fun and made for a great dive.  Now on the boat, we motored back to the Bay in search of calm water.
The next dive was on Amentos.  The surface here was flat!  So those feeling a bit green could relay and feel better.  Les geared and hit the water with his scooter.  Soon Bob and Rene’ were gone sporting cameras.  Gary and Sharon jumped last.  Jim handed down our scooters and we were off.  Meeting up with Les, we meandered thru the site.  The top of the reef was 50’ with the bottom at about 70’.  Here we enjoyed about 40’ viz!  We saw many red abalones and scallops adhered to the reef.  These were all legal size but not in a legal take zone.  So no ab harvesting!  Other cool life we found were stars of several varieties, sea cucumbers, anemones, brilliant hues of sponges to list a few.  It seems like every cold water starfish lives on this site too.  On the corner of the rocks, we found a large stand of pearly white plumose anemones or metridums about 3’ tall.   Once back to the anchor, we saw a large sun star, he was lavender with red spots.   While we were there, Gary and Sharon pulled out the anchor chain from a crack.  This would be key to avoid the anchor fowling on the pull.  

We had two great dives and on the journey back the sun was peeking out.  
Join us soon!"

For more photos from my awesome two Monterey dives, click here (or just go to my Photo Gallery).

From my perspective the dive operation was run very professionally. The briefing was personalized for me at my experience level which was also great. The facilities on board were tops with lots of snacks and warm drinks to cozy up between dives. Best of all as is often the case in the diving industry the people were great diving companions, yeah, even you Beezer (juuuuuuuuust teasing!!! :-))) and it was the people that made the day such a roaring success for me as much as it was the diving itself!

I was able to get in two great dives, spend stacks of time photographing what I wanted to without any interference.

Thank you again to DiveCentral.com for helping me kick-off my awesome time on the West Coast of the USA in the true spirit of life-adventure and experience!


All photos in this article by © René C Schutte