While extremely optimistic that the cold would dissipate prior to the dive day, I was not at all surprised when Saturday evening came and I wasn’t feeling near good enough to dive. Regardless, Mark was scheduled to dive with Michelle so we got his gear in the car. All the while, me with the heaviest of hearts. The forecast was still looking really good, so good that even Chuck Tribolet was planning on diving. I was really bummed but was hoping that I would at least catch some rays and could try out the new camera with subjects other than Mark and Gatita.
Monastery is a beautiful beach. The beach is actually called Carmel River Beach – but it has adopted the nickname Monastery in the scuba community due to its proximity to a Monastery, just across the Highway 1, sitting proudly on the overlooking bluff. The beach itself, however, is quite dangerous. Because of the steep sloping beach, the way in which the waves come up the steep beach and then come rushing back, create an innocuous-seeming beach, which actually quite dangerous. Numerous people have had bad experiences because of this undertow, some have even lost their lives. In an attempt to warn visitors of the dangers, and prepare those divers who wish to dive Monastery, our friend Doc Harry Wong has been on a campaign to increase signage and create a video on safe diving procedures for the beach. We were onboard to help Doc Wong with the video; Mark would be demonstrating a safe entry into the water with Michelle. I would be providing surface support and photographs of the days events in light of my inability to participate in the diving.
Mark was amazingly composed about the entire event. Bringing his gear up the rocky beach, I was more nervous than he was. I suppose a certain part of that nervousness was because I have never actually stayed on shore while Mark was out diving – while he oftentimes doesn’t accompany me on a dive. But it wasn’t just that – it was my own fear about his safety. He would be diving North Monastery which is more exposed than the South, as it was necessary to show the entry with some kind of waves and the South looked like a lake. But North Monastery was rougher – walls of waves crashing upon the steep beach, each one making me more nervous as Mark suited up while listening to the dive briefing. But soon enough, Mark was down at the shoreline, listening to Doc, Guy and Dennis’ explanations on how to enter. Soon Michelle was entering the water, Mark standing back waiting as it is best to only have one diver in the surf zone at a time. When Michelle was safely through, it was Mark’s time. I put the camera down and walked down to the shore, watching with nervous anticipation as he watched the waves, waited for a lull, then moved out and, face down, began kicking like mad to ride the back pull off the beach and through the surf zone, regulator in mouth as instructed. It wasn’t until he was well clear of the danger zone that I relaxed, watching he and Michelle kick out along the edge of the kelp to begin their dive.
After about 35 minutes, Mark and Michelle surfaced and the exit procedure was begun – again, one diver at a time, all hands on deck ready to assist in event of an emergency. Michelle exited first, and then it was Mark’s turn. At this point, and due to their point of exit, the process was a relatively easy, rough surf exit on hands and knees, crawling until you are on dry sand where your fins are removed before you stand up. Whilst waiting for the right time, the small surf was actually pushing Mark onto shore, so it was a very stress-free exit for everyone involved.
Mark and Michelle were both pretty happy about the dive. The water temperature was cold, 48°, but because neither had their camera, the dive was spent swimming so they kept fairly warm in their wetsuits. They both related their journey, over the Monterey Bay Canyon, as Monastery Beach is the closest point to reach the Canyon from the shore. The visibility was approximately 25 to 30 feet, reduced somewhat because of the plethora of krill in the water, and better than the reports from other dive sites where the sandy bottom results in much for sediment in the water column.
It was important to both Mark and I to have participated in this venture to help promote a safe diving environment on Monastery Beach and it was a honor and a pleasure to have been able to help out. In the end, Doc’s video appears to have been a success although we await the final video to see how it came out…. After diving, Michelle, Mark and I went over to El Toritos to have some lunch and enjoy the vista of the Bay. MacAbee was equally tempting as we watched two divers kick out and begin their dives along side of a sea lion. Needless to say, I can't wait to post an actual dive blog from a successful dive!