When a visiting friend from Grand Cayman mentioned he would like to try out California diving on Memorial weekend I placed a call to PacStar Charters to inquire about several spots for a Memorial Day trip. Though my request was several weeks in advance, the dive shop that had chartered the boat for the day had it booked solid, but were kind enough to take my name just in case.
Friday afternoon before the holiday weekend, the call
came in. Two spots were open and after a bit of
rescheduling other plans, we were confirmed for a one
night/day trip on the PacStar.
We boarded 6:00 pm Sunday night and eventually received our bunk assignments and completed the obligatory paperwork. That done, we were free to roam Monterey at will with the only provision -- be on board by 5:00 am for departure to the coast south of Monterey Bay.
|At 6:30 am we arrived at Stillwater Cove for breakfast and a dive orientation. Breakfast was offered as either oatmeal or a baked egg dish. Following this organization, we anchored at the Inner Pinnacles, usually an exceptional site. Chris and I decided to wait for the deck to clear before gearing for our dive however after watching a mostly green group of divers fiddle with gear but too tentative to actually enter the water (where was their dive leader?), we moved through to our equipment and got wet. The warm weather of the last few weeks had spawned a fair algae bloom that cleared some at the reef below, but a moderate surge made photography more of a distraction than productive event.|
|Back on board, we motored south to the south side of Lobos State Reserve off the Carmel Highlands which the Captain referred as "The Gray Zone". This area proved to be less prone to both surge and the algae bloom and my next two dives were much more promising. I had switched to macro and found some good subjects, several Sculpins nesting in a rose anemone and a Spanish Shawl Nudibranch.|
|Three dives completed, I was disappointed to learn we were pulling anchor and returning to the Bay with no more dives planned though it was not quite 2:00 pm. It seems the Captain (or Charter leader) determined most of the divers had already had a full day. We were promised some whale watching on the way back and did have several sightings but in my book this was a poor substitute for another dive or two.|
Though the boat was reported to be able to accommodate more divers, I found the 27 present to cause significant congestion on deck and moving through the galley and bunk areas. Two heads on board proved adequate and all equipment functioned well, the crew efficient but not overly friendly. The food also was not remarkable, but certainly filling. No surprise for a single day outing.
All in all, I found the PacStar to be a bit expensive for the day -- $120 -- and a bit overbooked to be comfortable. Keep in mind as a photographer, I do tend to be a bit space sensitive.
The dive conditions and divers are subject to chance and the luck of the draw this time out was not in our favor. We were blessed with calm seas and sunny skies to which my sunburned face will attest.
© 1997 John Petrak