When the conditions are perfect there are simply too many good sites to pick from. When the wind is blowing, choices are more limited, but finding the best site available takes a bit of knowledge of the sites and understanding how the surface conditions du jour will influence the underwater conditions at any given site. Experienced skippers in Monterey are accustomed to offering up good sites on less than good days.
When the northwesterlies are blowing, one of my favorite sites is Eric's Pinnacle. This pinnacle was named after Eric Minard brother of Dave Minard, former captain of the Cypress Sea. Like many of Monterey's offshore sites it was "discovered" when an attentive soul (Eric in this case) noticed the Fathometer jump while cruising to or between dive sites.
Eric's sits just beyond the kelp bed off of the Otter Cove entry in about 60 feet of water, and the top juts up to within 20 feet or so of the surface. Its massive rock is honeycombed with deep cracks and fissures. The rock is split in several places and the giant fissure runs all the way through the pinnacle. Most of the top and east side are covered with a thick carpet of strawberry anemones, sponges and other encrusting invertebrates. On my recent dive there we were escorted by a larger-than-average school of blue rockfish.
The cracks are home to larger invertebrates and fish. With a light you will be able to see treefish and other rockfish hiding way back in the cracks. It has been illegal for some time not to take invertebrates here, and the residents have grown numerous and fat. We found several very handsome rocks scallops tucked into one of the cracks. There were also numerous limpets. We found one rough keyhole limpet whose shell was completely covered by dozens of tiny barnacles. Limpets are preyed upon by sea stars, and maybe this one found a clever defense.
The deep crevasses are often home to wolf eels. Look for a pile of shells in a heap at the base of the pinnacle, and follow the debris up to a large crack. This day the wolf-eel was shy and did not want to come out and be photographed. On other days an offer of a crab or frozen squid will bring him or her out in the open.
Around the base of the pinnacle is mostly sand with a few large boulders. It is best to spend most of your time on the pinnacle itself, but do take some time to check out the deep area as well. There are several huge Metridium anemones that make great photographic subjects. There are often small lingcod, or bat rays on the sandy bottom, and I have seen guitarfish here. This site is, after all, offshore of Otter Cove and otters are often seen foraging on the bottom for fat innkeeper worms.
So when you or the weather is not up for a trip south of Monterey Bay, check out Eric's Pinnacle. Eric's is a popular dive with charter dive boats, so ask for it next time you are onboard. Chances are the crew will want to "check the anchor" and make a dive there as well.
Location: Offshore of the north end of Otter Cove. It is about 50 yards beyond the edge of the Otter Cove Kelp Bed and only is marked with a thin wisp of kelp. You will need GPS to find the pinnacle: 36°38.044' N 121°55.101' W.
Access and Entry: This site is too far from the beach to swim. Divers may launch boats from the Monterey Breakwater. Monterey's charter dive boats frequent this site.
Depth: 20 to 60 feet.
Skill Level: Beginner to Advanced.
Photography: Good wide-angle photography the pinnacle itself and for diver portraits. Good macro photography for fish and small invertebrates.
Hunting: This area is part of the Pacific Grove Marine Gardens State Marine Conservation Area and only finfish may be taken. There are a few rockfish here but, since this dive site is so popular you are better off taking your spearguns elsewhere.
Hazards: Watch for boat traffic, surge and swell.