dive flagLaunching at Stillwater Cove

Stillwater Cove offers two choices for launching a boat. Either hand launch from the sheltered beach or employ the Pebble Beach Beach and Tennis Club's hoist which is operated by their harbormaster. The harbormaster's name is R.J. and he is a diver as well as a hell of a nice guy. Diving access is limited to 10 divers per day to "protect the natural character of the beach and the Cove". There is a public restroom at the foot of the pier on the side towards the beach club buildings.

If you opt to hand launch the parking rules/advice outlined later in this document are the same. A small inflatable boat with a small motor can be easily launched from the beach. There is a short set of wide stairs with long low risers that allow you to hand carry it from the parking lot to the sand. It is a very short schlep. Carry the bare boat (no motor) down the stairs next to the pier, set up the launching wheels, load the fuel tank, then attach and set up the motor. Launch the boat and start the motor. Load the anchor with rode and the dive gear. Finally load the divers with the boat pointed out to sea and be ready to hit it as soon as all are seated. Time this with the wave action. Waves are "usually" negligible at Stillwater Cove (hence the name). However, I have done a shore dive there where - upon exiting - my buddy was flipped head over heals onto his back by the surf - he was OK but startled (I exited OK by crawling up the beach more rapidly). So, don't assume there won't be some surf action. I have launched a 10' Avon with an 8hp outboard motor and launching wheels. It wasn't too hard to launch, but hauling it back up the stairs was a drag. You can also launch and drive the boat out beyond the surf line, anchor the boat and then have the buddies swim out with their gear. This is the best way to deal with tank changes between dives, in a small boat you can't usually take more then one tank per diver. Kayaks are totally easy.

Available from Memorial Day to Labor Day, 9am - 4pm. The availability of the hoist is based on the harbormaster's university summer vacation and so may not match the official dates (it didn't in Y2K).

You pay $15 for the hoist to the "sports desk", which is in the lobby of the Beach and Tennis Club, or can pay the harbormaster, for the launch and retrieval combined. It is also nice to tip the harbormaster $5 or more (depending on your wealth and the situation). It is suggested that you take care of him, it is accepted practice. Being the harbormaster, what he says goes and he has a bit of leeway on the rules.

Usually it is best to arrive at the Pebble Beach Beach and Tennis Club Pier by 8:30am in order to get a start on positioning the boat and staging the gear. Try to get everything ready in advance of the harbormaster's arrival, which is 9am. Unload all possible weight from your boat (this will depend on your faith in your launching cables / straps) and set up the straps / cables so they are ready to be hooked in advance of his arrival.

My routine is to get there early and drive my truck with boat (backwards) down the pier to unload gear by the retractable steps that lead to the small boat dock. The steps are cranked up at night, so you will usually unload at the head of the steps. Un-hitch the trailer at the steps and roll it the rest of the way to get it in position near the hook. Not directly under it as the harbormaster usually has to launch his boat first.

My truck is still at the steps. I unload my dive gear at the steps and then park near the base of the pier. I still have to take the trailer to the coastal access parking area after the boat is launched.

Now you are ready to launch. When the harbormaster arrives he will lower the steps and you and your buddy can shuttle the gear down to the floating dock. They don't like it tied up tight to the retractable stairs or the dock grinds itself and wears out. So, pull it close each time you need to hop over to the dock. You will know what this means when you see it.

The harbor master may have to launch his boat with the hoist before yours and so you will have a bit of time to deal with your gear. Once he is ready to hoist your boat into the water you help him position it under the hook, hook the straps/cables on and he lowers it into the water. You then climb down the steel ladder into the boat, start the motor and unhook the hoist. Drive around the pier head to the dock and tie up. You can let your buddy load the gear while you park the trailer.

Sometimes there is space to stash the trailer along the pier, sometimes not. Ask the harbormaster nicely and, if there is room, he will probably let you leave it on the pier. Otherwise, you must take it to the 17th fairway Coastal Access parking area. I usually park it against the hedge, past the designated parking spots.

Once the trailer is stashed I drive back to the pier area and park This is technically not allowed, but it is usually tolerated. So, be discrete and if challenged, move your car to the 17th fairway Coastal Access parking area as that is the "legal" place to park unless you are a member of the Pebble Beach Beach and Tennis Club. The designated parking area isn't far from the pier - about as far as from the breakwater upper parking lot to the breakwater launch ramp.

You can come and go as you please during the day, the dock is small and tight. I have always had a place to tie up but I can see it could easily get packed so that there wasn't a space to tie up. Tie ups are supposed to be very short term. You may want to return between dives to use the toilet or get something - it is OK.

When you return after diving you unload at the dock and stage all gear to the top of the steps before driving to the hook. Talk to the harbor master and get his OK to position your boat and trailer for retrieval. Next, get your trailer from parking (if it is still on the pier you are lucky) and walk or drive it backwards down the pier and position it under the hook. Your buddy can deal with the vehicle and load the gear from the top of the steps. Drive the boat around so it is also under the hook and wait for the hook to be lowered (watch your head).
Use the ladder to temporarily tie up your boat (or just hang onto it till the hook is lowered). Hook up to the hoist and then climb out using the pier's ladder. RJ will hoist the boat and set it on your trailer - you can help with the exact positioning of the boat on your trailer. There is a hose on the end of the pier. If it is not busy, and you are nice, and the harbormaster gives his permission, you can hose your boat off right there. Don't flush the motor. That is asking too much - unless it is a DEAD day and the harbor master says OK.

Once the boat is hoisted onto the trailer you roll it to the already gear loaded vehicle hook up and drive it off. If you have to do more travel prep to your boat you can quickly do it on the pier, unless someone else is waiting to use the hoist in which case you must drive it off the pier and to the parking area by the coastal access parking spots at the 17th fairway - best to back it down that short street (watch out for golf carts). You might get away with very short term parking near the base of the pier. But, you will be blocking the club parking areas and this usually gets busy in the afternoon.

You need your own lines/lifting straps. Their system will hoist very large boats. I saw 32', large keel sailboats there that they'd launched. The hook on the hoist is so big I had to buy chain to go around it as my little triangle ring for my straps only got around the tip of the hoisting ring. Later I bought a large shackle that fit it nicely (Chuck's suggestion). Their hook is very heavy, I had to be careful not to whack my head on it while attaching my boat Chuck Tribolet has steel cables that connect to eyelets in the stern (2) and one in the bow. West Marine sells inflatable lifting straps, though I bought mine from www.clevel.com in Southport, CT. Universal Dinghy lift - $60. 350 lb load capacity. I lifted my boat with motor but NO dive gear or anchor box - as bare as possible. At first I was also removing the gas tank (6 gal) but later hoisted with it in the boat. The lifting nose ring of my boat started to look tweaked and so I think I was over stressing it. The hoist strap system I used said not to hoist with the motor on the boat. That wasn't practical. Not sure I'd do it anymore, but I did it about 16 times last summer without incident.

You have to make a parking reservation for Stillwater. It is free, just call 'em up and say you want a coastal access parking reservation for scuba diving.. Call 831-625-8507 (Beach and Tennis Club main number) or 831-625-8536 (the pool desk, where they make the reservations).. Parking is limited to 6 cars per day, 365 days a year and the club is allowed to completely restrict parking 40 days per year - though restrictions are less frequent then allowed. You can get one reservation for each car, but they like you to car pool because the parking is very limited. Reservations are taken two weeks in advance.

Officially, there are six spaces marked Coastal Access. If these are full you can park in another spot along the 17th fairway parking area or, if the 17th is all full then in the club lot. Also, from their official letter: "The Beach and Tennis Club parking lot (one by the pier) will be closed to vistor vehices between 11am and 2pm daily (lunch rush), during special events and for maintenance one day a month. Vehicles left parked in the Beach and Tennis Club's parking lot during these times will be towed at the owner's expense. Visitor parking reservations will not be taken during the restricted periods."

While the they say to park only at the 17th fairway parking lot in the spaces marked Coastal Access - enforcement is lax and I usually park near the base of the pier (other divers and boaters I have seen do the same). Parking anywhere other then the Coastal Access parking spaces (by the 17th fairway) is technically not allowed. Be aware of the official position, be discrete and if challenged, move your car to the 17th fairway Coastal Access parking area (after unloading) as it is the "legal" place to park for the day unless you are a member of the Pebble Beach Beach and Tennis Club.

Bring all the food and drinks you need as there aren't tourist facilities at this location. There is a small burger shack located next to the Beach Club's pool which divers and coastal access visitors are allowed to patronize - swim suits are expected, so divers are allowed in scuba attire. You may also make a reservation for a meal at the opulant restaurant at the Lodge at Pebble Beach - but expect to be very nicely dressed or be scorned and denied entry. There is a small "village" of shops and restaurants on the 17 mile drive. You would pass through it a short distance after the turn off for "Beach and Tennis Club" and "The Lodge at Pebble Beach" off of the 17 mile drive. This is the closest place to go if you forget food and miscellaneous supplies. This is also where you are said to be able to use your $7.50 receipt for entry to the 17 mile drive (if they charged you) as a credit on purchases of $25 or more. This remains to be verified by anyone I know.

It is a very short run to the Inner/Outer/East Pinnacles of Carmel, Mono Lobo, Monastery and Butterfly House. I have also motored to Big Sur in my 12' Zodiac from this location. When the sea is flat you can go pretty far at 10-15 knots. I drove to Diablo Pinnacles, Lobos Rocks and Yankee Point.

Hwy 1 to the "Pebble Beach / Hwy 68 to Pacific Grove" exit. It is at the top of a hill after the Hwy 68 to Salinas exit. As you exit, follow the signs to Pebble Beach, 17 mile drive. You'll be at a pay gate.

Say you have a scuba diving / coastal access reservation and they will probably let you pass without paying. I say probably because they don't usually charge me but the Pebble Beach Club people always tell me that I will be charged. I don't think they should charge because we aren't going in for the 17 mile drive, we are going in to use the Pebble Beach Pier - so, it's like we're a guest of that facility and guests are not charged. If you are charged, you are supposed to be able to use the receipt as a credit (on purchases of $25 or more) in the Pebble Beach market or restaurants within the community.

After the guard gate, follow the signs to the 17 mile drive and after a few miles you will see a sign for the Pebble Beach "Beach and Tennis Club" and "The Lodge at Pebble Beach" - turn left.

Take that towards the lodge and just before the lodge is a sign for the Beach Club and Coastal Access - turn left.

That is the final road and leads to the pier. Before the pier you will come to their lobby where you need to stop and check in. Tell them you are here to scuba dive on a coastal access reservation.

There is a hose by the base of the pier where you are allowed to rinse gear (no one ever stopped me). Just don't get in the way of the pier's access road and don't spray the club members. You could probably also rinse your boat here, if it is a very slow day at the pier. This is off the pier and so the harbormaster doesn't care - but the club might as you'd be blocking the road.

You are not supposed to leave the boat in the water overnight unless you are a member or a guest of a member - I have done that twice (once it was half sunk from leaks in the floor, I had never left it in the water more then a couple of hours at a time and so didn't know the small leaks were present). With the aforementioned, you must have the OK of their harbormaster. Be nice and he will be nice to you - just be flexible so when it IS crowded (which happens when the club has a big day or a regatta). Usually they close the pier when there is a regatta, but I also was allowed to launch and retrieve when they had a regatta cause I am such a polite person. Don't ever insist. Just ask very nicely.

I have not asked about leaving the boat anchored a bit off the dock area. That might be worth asking if there isn't room to tie up overnight and you will be diving over two days. You'd have to swim from the boat to the dock and back again, of course. That should not be a problem for a diver.

Most all club members are nice and are politely curious about divers - feel free to strike up a chat, never know who you may meet - the club mostly for the rich and famous. I have encountered a couple of club members that were very snotty - but those are the exception. Be nice and polite to all you encounter - regardless of their attitude (which one should always do anyway, anyplace). We want to be good guests of the facility. They are only required to allow beach access - they don't have to let anyone, other then members, use the hoist facility and related floating docks.

Authored by Glenn Davis