The first thing I want to clarify is that Cortes is indeed spelled with an "S".
So, we pushed off into the night, on our 3-day adventure to Cortes Bank, about 10 pm on Friday of Labor day weekend. The seas were calm, the stars were out, excitement was in the air, and a boatful of sleeping divers. I happened to wake up about 3 a.m., and decided to go up on deck. I had quite "the moment", being out in the middle of the ocean, with flat seas and a very detailed Milky Way above. I embraced the calmness for a bit then went back to bed. As divers started waking up Saturday morning, we were treated to an AMAZING sunrise coming up over San Clemente Island in the distance, flat seas, blue sky, dolphins, and Jules' wonderful breakfast. We were getting close.
As we pushed south, San Clemente Island became lost over the horizon, we motored for a while longer, and then we had arrived - to the middle of NOWHERE. There is a buoy that marks the shallows of the the reef, along with some kelp, and that is it. No resort, no beach, no hotel, no island, NO NOTHING. This is it, we were there! On the first day, we did 4 amazing dives around the main pinnacle. Warm weather, great viz, plentiful fish, kelp, corals... Everything is in abundance here, and the reefs are HEALTHY. The two Marine Science people on board, Adam & Amanda, commented that these are what untouched, healthy reefs & ecosystems should be like. They backed their opinions up - with lots of scientific names of the plants & animals we were seeing, to which I commonly refer as "fish & stuff". The seas were calm, the sky was blue, and we were treated to a Low Altitude Fly By from a rogue military jet fighter. The day was capped off with great food, socializing, a ridiculous sunset and a clear shot of the entire star-filled sky. Oh, did I mention it was pitch black out, and we were anchored in the middle of the ocean and nobody can hear you scream? Yep, a true Zen moment.
We awoke to fog. While waiting for it to burn off, we decided we would pull anchor and move to the north a few miles to 9 Fathoms. This move paid off big. We ended up staying and doing 2 dives on 9 Fathoms. General consensus was, that this was the best site of the trip. The anchor was in 70 feet, and you could clearly see the bottom from up on the boat. On the first dive, we splashed, and descended up to what I like to refer as "a dream". For a moment, I thought we had somehow ended up in Cozumel or Grand Cayman. The water was warm, with a shade of blue that I had never seen before, and CLEAR ! The structure and topography was comprised of reef, short kelp, "purple stuff," swim thrus, sand chutes, bowls, and a huge round arena/amphitheater with 30 foot walls and white sand bottom. The visibility ranged from 70 to over a 100 feet in spots. Needless to say we stayed and did a 2nd dive here. For our 3rd dive, we motored back over to Cortes, to the wreck of the Jalisco. This was a cement-hulled ship, with a story behind it. The dive was very surgy here and potentially hazardous. The ship itself is hardly identifiable, and there is rebar sticking out of it in places. Mixed with the big surge swings, we had to be extremely cautious as to not get hung up or caught on it. We moved to another spot on The Bank for our 4th dive. That night, (Sunday), we pushed through the fog to San Clemente Island, (50 miles away), to anchor for our 3rd night, due to pending bad weather coming out to The Bank. Arriving around midnight, we tucked into a cove in foggy, pitch-black, Zero vis conditions. Cap'n Ray, with his talent & experience, assured us that we were anchored in the right spot and and we were safe & protected. Whew!!
We awoke to some fog and a big island called San Clemente. We had 2 great dives there, then called it a trip and headed back home. From San Clemente Island to port, it was about 6 hours. While long, the ride home was great. Sun, smooth sailing, Captain Ron (the movie) and lots of reminiscing & socializing.
This trip was more than just a dive trip. It was an adventure; it was social, fun and a re-affirmation of my passion for diving, adventure and travel. I made some great new friends. Not only was this a great trip, but the mere fact that we even made it out there, with perfect conditions & weather to boot, is a triumph! Most trips planned to Cortes never make it due to weather/conditions. (Remember, this is also the same place with the biggest surfable waves on the planet.) We are an elite and humbled group of divers to have made this journey. I would like to extend a huge thank you to the Sundiver & crew, and to Deep Blue, for making this trip possible.
Amanda B: "I have to say, and I can probably speak for most of us on the trip, that this was one of the best dive trips I have ever been on. The crew of the Sundiver (Jules, Darryl, Brett, and of course Ray) and of course the Deep Blue rep, Dudley, were all amazing, experienced, and fun people to be with. I feel it was not only the literally epic conditions we experienced, but the good vibe among everyone on the boat. It felt a bit like family:) All I can really say is that we may have all had a religious experience diving 9 fathoms on the morning of September 1. I wouldn't mind making this an annual adventure... locations TBD!" Deep Blue: "Thanks for the response; we really appreciate it and are super stoked that you enjoyed it!" Amanda B: "You're welcome! Life-changing. That is all. Thanks again!"
David W: "The trip was indeed an epic experience. Perfect weather, terrific company, great hospitality provided by captain and crew and some fantastic diving."
Pretty sweet huh? We're so glad everybody enjoyed themselves and we hope to see you next time!