While vacationing in Laguna Woods after Christmas, the highlight was the sea kayaking off Crescent Bay with Dan DeVault and Irene Foss-Richards. On Friday morning, Dan picked me up in his Toyota pickup at 7:30am with his two fiberglass kayaks. After loading Irene’s turquoise Ocean Kayak on her Toyota SUV, we caravanned down Moulton to El Toro to Laguna Canyon Road, then down to Circle Drive and the north Crescent Bay access where a half dozen divers had emerged from a morning plunge. The conditions were absolutely flat calm and lake-like: no surge, surf, swell, nor wind, and warm sunny skies.
We pushed off easily at 9:00am and headed way offshore beyond the Sea Lion Rocks, out to where shearwaters and porpoise were fishing the shelf.
Catalina commanded the horizon and beckoned us to take a long paddle, but we reveled in this place and time together amidst many other kayakers and stand-up paddlers.
After an hour of paddling around, I donned snorkel gear and dove in onto a 30′ bottom over Dead Man’s Reef with 15-20′ tall rocks forming a wonderful reef with abundant kelp. The visibility was easily over 30′, probably 60′, and there was no current nor turbulence and limited suspended particulate matter. I took a lot of pictures with ambient light and flash, and some were salvageable. At first, my ears wouldn’t clear, and I did some damage forcing them to relax, which healed after two days.
Fire and light reflections on kelp
Snorkeling down 20-30′, I wasn’t able to hover long enough to focus in in the minutiae, but the fish bowl and kelp forest were fascinating. A sea lioness zoomed past in graceful poses, and pelicans soared overhead.
Schools of Blacksmith (Chromis), Opal-eye (Girella), Halfmoon (Medialuna), and Seniorita wrasse (Oxyjulis), graced the water column along with Sheepshead (Semicossyphus, formerly Pimelometopon), Garibaldi (Hypsypops), and Kelp Bass (Paralabrax).
Southern Sea Palms (Eisenia), Giant Kelp (Macrocystis), Feather Boa (Egregia), and many forms of lesser encrusting red algae festooned the rocks along with white and orange sponges, abundant mussels, rock scallops, bryozoa, tube worms, urchins, and diverse anemones. Big fat ochre stars (Pisaster) bulged with gullets full of mussels.
Paddling on back to Shaw’s Cove and all the up to Laguna Beach at the Canyon Road, we glided over the Eelgrass and Feather Boa in the shallowest of zones where the turbulence normally precludes any views, glorying in conditions that let us explore the pacific clarity of the immediate subtidal behind the absent breakers. Rippling sandy bottoms and big boulders form a fairyland all along this shoreline, where surf perch and baitfish dominate the shallows.
But after three hours, it was time to rejoin the family, and we stuck perfect landings and hauled out. It was a perfect day, halcyon conditions in Southern California.