After a tragic last weekend where 3 abalone divers lost their lives and several others required rescues, north coast diving conditions remained rough, and only a handful of divers challenged the ocean along the Sonoma coastline.
On Saturday morning the Sonoma coast was overcast with a layer of high fog and temperatures in the upper-50s and low 60s. With no wind all day, it would appear the conditions might make for a great day of diving. The ocean, however, was not cooperative. Swells of 9-12 feet brought powerful waves crashing into the rocks on the shoreline. Visibility in the water was also poor, reportedly at 1-5 feet in most areas.
The challenging condition didn’t deter all divers, however, and a few divers with a determination to get their abs headed out in kayaks or offshore to find them.
“Conditions are really awful”, said Barry Spencer, who dove at Stillwater Cove. “There is some really strong surge around the rocks so I stayed inside the cove”. Barry reported very poor visibility, but still managed to bring home one abalone. Barry drove from Livermore and is camping nearby for the weekend with his family.
At Salt Point State Park on Saturday morning, there were no divers in the water – just a few shore fishermen. The California State Parks Lifeguards had a rescue watercraft in Gerstle Cove ready to go, just in case. “There have been a few divers come through today, but we’re not really encouraging divers to go into the water right now. It’s just too rough” one State Parks employee shared.
The 2015 season brought with it new changes in abalone diving regulations, one of which requires a start time of no earlier than 8:00am. This wasn’t a factor today however – it was the swell and not the wind conditions today that created the rough waters, not the wind.
Farther south, kayak divers found a calm entry conditions at Timber Cove. Visibility underwater remained poor, however, and conditions just around the corner remained rough, especially near shore. Two of the divers we talked to came home empty-handed; another brought back two legal-sized abs.
While the swell made conditions rough today, the conditions are forecast to improve. According to current swell models, the predicted swell of 8-12 feet today is forecast to reduce to 4-6 feet on Sunday and Monday. The reduced swell should calm rough entry/exit and shoreline conditions, however the visibility will likely not improve dramatically overnight.
Divers who choose to dive the Sonoma and Mendocino coast should carefully evaluate the conditions before heading into the water, and be ready to stay ashore if the conditions are not ideal. Divers are also reminded to wear the proper amount of weight and always dive within the limitations of their dive experience and level of fitness.
Did you dive the north coast this weekend? Tell us your experience in the comments below!