One of the most difficult tasks is to please a group of divers with widely different experience and purpose. Novices generally look for calm waters with relatively shallow depths. More experienced divers look for new adventures and can easily handle a bit of current and depth. Photographers and hunters look for the same thing, but to a different end. While few sites can handle all expectations, Ruby Rock is a sure bet to please most, if not all, of your group.
Ruby Rock is located on the front side of Santa Cruz Island, near the west end. Most boats anchor near Ruby Rock on the east side of the cove. Because of the prevailing wind and current, it is generally a good idea to drop a bow and stern anchor at this site. Directly west of the rock is a shallow area (10-20 feet), that consists of large boulders. Hiding in the cracks between the rocks are quite a few lobsters. Most of these are undersized, and the rocks provide a maze of good hiding places. This is also a particularly good place to photograph horn sharks. These normally hide among the bugs during the day. However, at night and in the early morning they may be found hunting in the open.
Heading north from the shallow area the bottom drops off sharply to a vertical wall. Near the shallow area the wall bottoms out at around 50 feet, but as you head west the wall drops from the surface vertically to over 90 feet. This wall is not smooth but is scarred with deep cracks and crevices. Many small, red gorgonia adorn the wall. Divers should take the time to examine each gorgonian, since each is its own community of life. Some are home to simnia snails. These parasites feed on the gorgonian polyps, and have a mantle that mimics the polyps and stems of the gorgonian, making them very difficult to find. If you are lucky you might catch them mating or laying eggs. The bubble-like eggs look like pearls on a string.
The wall is dotted with little colorful critters to photograph. Look for rock scallops with their orange mantles extended, orange and yellow sponges, and nudibranchs. The nooks and crannies of the wall have abundant hiding places for fish. Rockfish may be found milling around at the back of deeper cracks, and gobys, kelpfish and sculpins are found in the small cracks. At the bottom of the wall is a gently-sloping sand bottom that drops off to over 130 feet. Look for halibut and rays buried under a thin veil of sand.
The bottom around Ruby Rock drops off more gradually than the north side of the cove and consists of a jumble of boulders. Look for horn sharks and swell sharks sleeping during the day. There are also a few caves that go beneath the island for some distance. Exercise caution when entering an overhead environment, particularly on surgy days.
While no site can offer everything to everyone, most divers will enjoy a dive or two at Ruby Rock. When the current is not running, divers will find Ruby Rock to be an easy and comfortable dive with lots to see.
Dive Spot At A Glance
Location: On the North side of Santa Cruz Island, about two miles east of West Point.
Access: Boat only.
Skill Level: All levels.
Depths: 10 to 130 feet.
Visibility: Good, 30-70 feet.
Photography: A great place to shoot invertebrates on gorgonians and other colorful, little critters. Good wide-angle shots of walls and gorgonians.
Hunting: A few small lobsters in the shallow water, a few small rock scallops. Look for halibut in the sand.
Hazards: Watch for currents along the outer edge of the cove. Divers who choose to enter caves should have proper training.