Author Topic: Beginners Cove, just north of Fort Ross Reef, same camp ground parking area  (Read 590 times)

Offline todd

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I got to the blocked gate at Fort Ross campground hwy1 really early, at 4:30am April 1st 2010.  I was the first one parked next to the chained-off entrance gate, the waning moon was blazing away and one could see huge sets glisten off the moon light during the drive up. I was the first one at Fort Ross Reef for sure.  Lots of big rigs kept going by and then I see what usually happens at the reef, a couple big vans pull up to the gate, 10 Chinese guys get out and are perplexed by the gate being closed, "Why would the gate be closed" , "This must be new" , they read the sign on the gate over and over, and wondered what to do. "Closed state park,,, but no one told me?"  One guy even came up to my window and asked what the deal was. He was surprised I spoke his language, maybe he thought I was undercover agent because he didnt talk to me again till after the dive. Not a good sign, gate blockers, big swell, not looking good. I told him parkings free but not to park in front of the gate or my car. "meiyou wenti" means no problem, but the problem was not parking, the problem was the massive swell targeting our coast for the past few days.   I must be the only Italian who speaks cantonese and fluent mandarin, they should have some multi-language signs at least like stillwater cove. Did you know Confucious (born 551-bc)  extolled lengthly about the greatness of abalone.  Both for its gluttanous properties and its medical(leave the black stuff on the foot, its good for you!  Also dont cut off the tan foot, just pound it a little more and eat that too, it will be tender if you take your time, put that under Confucious's recipie)  This being said he never ate abalone or let alone saw one during his lifetime! Interesting, and there is another old chinese saying "you cant have abalone and bear paw at the same time" meaning you cant have the best of both worlds, right? Yet in California, where its legal to hunt black bear, you really can have it all!!! They would steam the bear paw by the way.  At 5:30 10 cars were blocking the gate and I took off for the reef on foot, down the dirt access road across the bluff.  I brought along a small monoscope to check out huge swells comming in from the bluff above,I hide it on the beach when I dive and pick it up later.   Watching a full half hour of swell helps give me a mental map of surge awarness, -.73 feet low tide in a 15ft swell at 15 seconds, thats a 25-30 foot breaking wave, 15 seconds tells me that there is alot of power in the sets, which will cancel out much of the low tide. Great, the nightmare conditions for an opener and its reality.   Not heading out to the main reef today, the waves were detonating, barreling over the highest rocks out there 1 hour before low tide. Mavrick's has been going off in half moon bay the days before, was I really going out for abalone, maybe just to look, right?   The best spot when things are blown out at Lake Ross is to go to the little beginners reef just north of the Fort Ross reef itself.  You can head down right from the reef main parking area and get to an area called beginners cove.  It is a smaller reef from shore going out in a triangle with the tip extending 75 yards from shore 6-7 feet deep on outer edge. I last hit up this spot on Nov 2, 2009 for a similar low tide in the afternoon with a similar big swell.  This place is very accesable for beginners, kids and older people who cant make it way out to the main reef and thus  this small reef gets picked over by late summer,  yet I knew during the off-season abs were crawling all over it. A week before when models were predicting 30ft seas I looked to beginners reef and knew that was the best option if I really wanted to taste them again. Too tempting to pass up this overlooked, and often looked-over spot.  Even with the swell up, no waves would come all the way in over this smaller near-shore triangle shaped reef during the half hour I watched, waiting for the tide to go out further.  I knew the edges of the reef would have some abs. But the edges are open to the brunt of the swell.  Must be mindfull at all times.  I spied two flashlights going down the cliff face on the north side.  Are the warens staking it out, mayby for rescues?  Nope- they had tube floating device, are they going diving?  The decent is more dangerous than the waves on most days, I could see these guys were going down slow, now the pilgrimage has begun!   Half hour before sunrise I made my way in, moon still lighting my way.  The swell was up but only had to pay attention every 5 minutes when some white water would come in, it was very protected.   I made my way to the outside south end and worked the rocks, was surprised to find alot of baby and undersized abs by brail method, after 3 hours I found my limit of 7+inch abalone, I was deeply satisfied to have scored on such a bad day for an opener. I looked up and noticed at least 20 other people, even in summer there's not this many here due to better pickings  on the main reef visible just to the south.  This April 1st, people detered came away with nothing and a good lesson, some undaunted, got limits.   I headed in to pick limpits, sea lettuce and turban snails for seafood buffet later( salt point produced pounds of hedgehog mushrooms for our feast from this late rain on april 1st as well!). One more story, one set came in during the three hours that was way bigger than all the rest, I could see and hear it comming in, I looked around and made ominous eye contact with fellow unknown hunter nearby. Hope he and I are here when this thing blows over. The swell knocked me off my balance, looking back the other abalone hunter managed to hold on as well.  I couldnt imagine diving on a day like this, yet people diving too.   Looked like bull kelp was way thin and not starting to grow yet, probably from all these el Nino storms lashing the area.  I saw 3 other people get limits on this small reef, including the gate blockers, what fun to laugh about the heart attack conditions and compare abalone sizes back at the opened hw1 gate,  The rangers, upon seeing all the cars being a harzard near the hw1, opened up the reef bluff parking lot for one time only or something.I thought all those cars on the bluff were rangers watching the action:) I dont think they planned on so many people comming out and getting wet.  It was like a silent protest and abalone hunters gained coveted parking access for a day during a time when all other park facilities, toilets and access around the state are closed, good karma for those who didnt have to walk in like me!  I went by stillwater and ocean cove around 9am, looked rough,swell was comming in undisturbed, way worse than Fort Ross area.  Did anybody else see the two surfers at Fort Ross Cove??? Thats when you know its not a good abalone diving day, two guys hiking in from the road with huge gun surfboards to catch the epic reef break.  Give Beginners cove a shot, especially on blown out days with low tide, get there early and you may see my car parked somewhere,(its a shame no one could camp this year).   Rockpicking the native way, the best bet for the blown out opener of 2010, paid off at beginners cove, Fort Ross-
Todd Stagnaro


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