We cruised out of Channel Islands Harbor with no detectable wind, and the waves were the flattest I’ve seen them since we first moved our boats up here in late August. We had a very smooth ride over to Anacapa Island, where we intended to dive a site on the south side of the island, near a feature called Cat Rock. The dive site was right next to a deep water rock formation; the spire rising to 65 feet. We named it “Jonathan’s Pinnacle” in honor of our volunteer Jonathan Hanks who informed us of this debris site.
You may recall, the last time we tried this site we could not get in the water due to a very strong current that was running by the site. This time, thanks to the Santa Anas, the place was like a lake. Albeit, a marine one!
The boat was loaded to the gills with divers (6) and deck crew (3). Our boat the Clearwater is forty-feet long, but seemed to shrink in size as the day wore on.
We arrived at the site around 10 o’clock. The divers had already suited up and were ready to jump in the moment we dropped anchor. The dive team consisted of: Kevin Augarten, Jeff Connor, Mark Eaton, Jonathan Hanks, Mike Jessen, and Jeff Larson. Rex Levi served as 1st mate and Kevin Glen helped out on the deck.
As soon as we got in position, all divers descended. Kevin Augarten and Jeff Larson (technical divers) went down to the base of the pinnacle at 130 feet. Jeff Connor and Mike Jessen dropped to 100 feet. Jeff did dive deeper to film Kevin and Jeff Larson for a short period of time.
Within five minutes the first lift bag hit the surface. Jonathan jumped in with just a snorkel and attached a line to the bag while he pulled it over to the boat so we could haul it onto our deck with. When Rex and Kevin got it onboard, it turned out to be a huge trap.
As we were wrestling with that trap, the Park Ranger boat pulled up alongside of us. They asked what we were doing and when I told them, they were all smiles and said that they had heard about ODA and Operation Deep Sweep and thanked us profusely for doing what we do. We are thankful, too, to all the Rangers for protecting our precious Channel Islands on a regular basis!
Shortly thereafter, two more lift bags surfaced. Jonathan did the same thing and we soon had two more traps tied up to the side of the boat, ready to be hauled in once the divers got back on deck. About 30 minutes after the guys had initially gone down, a forth bag popped up!
On that first dive alone we had removed four traps, three of which were uncommonly large, about 200 pounds of debris, and roughly 400 feet of line. By this time the boat was filled to the gunnels and I had to make the decision that we wouldn’t do a 2nd dive due to lack of free space. Not to mention, Rex, Kevin and I were exhausted from pulling up all that junk!
We accomplished our goal but our divers reported that there is more gear down there. There is also a net that is entangled on the reef structure.
We had a great ride home, flat seas and an escort part of the way by a pod of 1,000 or so dolphins.
Even though we had four divers who had never been out with us before, everyone contributed mightily. Jonathan Hanks was the hero of the day though, because he navigated us precisely to this small pinnacle that is very difficult to find even with GPS coordinates.
Thanks to all of our volunteer divers, deck crew, and all of you that support our continuing efforts. Operation Deep Sweep is proving to be a huge success, and we couldn’t do it without each and every one of you!