Location: San Miguel Island, Channel Islands, California, USA
Comments: Because of the way California curves, San Miguel is out of the shelter of the mainland and smaller boats are often not able to dive it because of the winds. Our weather luck seemed to be holding and the ride was smooth. By 6am we were only at Santa Cruz and rather than arrive many hours late for our first dive we decided to dive where we were and so detoured to Gull Island, which is a small island or large rock off the south east coast of Santa Cruz.
The dive was wonderful, thick kelp on sloping rock. Much thicker even at the bottom than we had seen on previous dives. Once again the nudibranchs provided many photo opportunities, there were also rockfish, kelp fish, and a few sea lions sticking their heads up at the surface although no underwater encounters. Then it was on to Santa Rosa the next island on the way north. We stopped at The Pinnacles, on the south side of the island for the second dive.
The surface visibility was very green but once down on the pinnacles there was once again plenty to see and the water clarity increased. The water temperature was still a balmy 55°F which is quite delightful for the northern islands, apparently, although a little chilly compared to our months at Socorro. Then it was on to San Miguel for two dives at Wyckoff Ledge. A beautiful rock reef with fascinating structure. The reef starts at around 80 feet and comes up to within 9 feet of the surface. The portion that we went diving on was 35 feet at the top. The vertical surfaces of the reef were covered in different colors of small anemone and barnacles. Many different nudibranchs were seen and photographed and Alicia found a very small blue arthropod which she had never seen before. This would not mean much if I said it but Alicia studies nudibranchs in the Eastern Pacific and is Mexico’s leading expert on nudibranchs! She spends lots of time looking at small stuff in the ocean and when she gets excited, I get excited!
On the second dive we were joined by 4 sea lions who swam around us underwater and leapt over us above the water for the whole dive. As each buddy team came up they were joined by at least two of the four for their whole safety stop and short swim back to the boat. The day did not go at all to plan but we were able to dive two more islands than we had expected to on this trip and both were well worth it. As we say down south when life hands you lemons just add tequila and salt!
Surface weather: Air temperature of 70°F, clear skies, light breeze building, building to 2-4 foot chop
Dive conditions: Water temperature of 51-55°F, visibility 20-40 feet