The first time I tried to dive Little Farnsworth, my buddy and I ended up over a 130-foot sand bottom. In a heavy current, the boat had slipped anchor and on the descent down the anchor line we missed the pinnacle entirely. Little Farnsworth is a tough dive but worth the effort. Recently I was a bit more lucky.
Descending to the rock face with my lights on, I was greeted by a wall of color. An orange-yellow burst into my eyes, provided by Zoanthid anemones. In parts they covered everything—rock, gorgonians, everything. Additional color was provided by copious and healthy stands of red and gold gorgonian.
Little Farnsworth gains its name from the more spectacular offshore pinnacle on the backside of the island, Farnsworth Bank. On the charts the site appears as Pinnacle Rock but virtually all divers call it Little Farnsworth. While not as stunning, this smaller reef is more protected from open ocean conditions and is divable more days out of the year.
Even so, this is an advanced dive. The rock peaks out at 60 feet but drops off rapidly on all sides. Average dive depths here are in the 80 to 100 foot range, with 130 feet easily possible. Currents are common, sometimes quite strong. This is a popular fishing spot and fishing line and hooks are abundant. Bring something down to extricate yourself if need be.
The diving area is actually rather small and can be covered in one dive. The main pinnacle is divided from a secondary spire inshore by a huge gash. It’s not quite large enough for a diver to pass through but holds shy fish, gorgonians, and lobster. At one point a boulder has fallen into the gash to make an archway of shorts. All of this is decorated with gorgonians and zoanthid anemones. Garibaldi and sheephead move in and out of the opening. It’s an excellent place for wide angle and macro photography.
And Giant Black Sea Bass roam here. Whether you see them here seems to depend more on luck than anything, but your best chances are in the summer, and be the first one in the water. They startle easily so move slowly and gracefully through the water.
There are other, smaller rock pinnacles surrounding the main spire. Out and to the west is a deeper rock coming up from a 130-foot bottom. Inshore from the secondary spire is another rising from a 90-foot bottom. Visibility is good here, 40 to 60 feet, so all of these smaller rocks can usually be seen by circumnavigating the main and secondary spire.
Finding the site is fairly easy but requires a depthfinder as there is little kelp and what little there is is usually laid over in the current. The pinnacle is about 150 yards offshore from a rock mountain on shore between two green tanks at the far end of Pebbly Beach and the trash incinerator plant on the bluff. Using GPS and a depth finder, it is easy to find as the bottom rises suddenly from 100/130 to 60 feet.
This is a stunning dive. Stunning for its topography, stunning for its color, and stunning for its potential of encounters with big sea bass and other open water visitors.
Dive Spot At A Glance
Location: A short distance southeast of Avalon. (GPS N 33°20.027′, W 118°18.458′. Do not use GPS as your sole source of navigation.)
Access: Boat only.
Skill Level: Intermediate with no current, otherwise advanced.
Depths: 60 to 130 feet.
Visibility: Very good, averaging 40 to 60 feet.
Photography: Excellent wide angle, good macro.
Hunting: A few rock scallops and lobster, spearfishing fair. Sometimes yellowtail or white sea bass.
Hazards: Currents, depths, fishing line/hooks, boat traffic.