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Rob and I originally set this dive up months ago as it was a good current day. Our limiting factor would be the fact that Rob was on “dog time” and had to be home within 10 hours to tend to his children - or rather pack of canines. As we got closer to the date, Alan volunteered his boat for the trip (which is just as well as I sold my boat the week before) and Chris and Tom decided to join the party. With the 10 hour total trip time limitation, I figured we could target three dives in Rosario Strait and still make it home in time before Rob’s dogs wised-up and replaced him as the alpha of the Holman pack.
After a rainy and windy day Saturday, Sunday found the five of us headed north to Washington Park. We got out of the gate about an hour late due to "unforseen circumstance". Our intent was to hit Lawrence Point of Orcas Island on during the flood, then do two exploratory dives on the following mild ebb. We loaded down Alan’s 20’ Wooldridge with 11 tanks, four dive rigs, hot links, brats, and a portable BBQ and headed north. I was shocked the boat would plane with all the gear and people, but the 115 HP Yamaha efficiently propelled us to Lawrence Point on placid seas. We geared up and got in the water almost exactly one hour before slack tide. Lawrence Point is a great dive on a flooding tide. On an ebb, this large walls becomes a cauldron of current.
Unfortunately my camera didn’t work on his dive. I later found out that the camera powers up much more effectively when the battery is installed. Not having to fuss with a camera, I decided to explore and cover some ground. I spent the first part of my dive taking in the eastern reaches of the wall near the point. I then worked west along the wall before finally reversing course and ending my dive close to the entry point.
Lawrence Point is one of the best dives I know of for taking in nudibranchs. I am always amazed at the number and variety of nudibranch species I find at this site, including robust golden dironas, giant white nudibranch, Dall’s dentronotids, white lined dironas, and many others. Also notable were health populations of black rockfish. I really wish I had installed that camera battery.
Rosario Strait: October 5, 2008
Although basket stars are fairly common at more northern ports of call (like the Port Hardy area), they are always a treat to find when diving Washington waters. I found this specimen in 90 feet of water at Peapod Rocks.
Copper rockfish peering out from behind one of the wooden ribs of the F/V "Cleatless" near Guemes Island.
Colorful candy striped shrimp grace many of the crimson anemones at Peapod Rocks.
Painted brittle stars were readily found at Peapod Rocks hiding under small rocks with their arms filtering the mild current for nutrients.
Our second dive was about a mile to the south at Peapod Rocks. I have passed these rocks dozens of times and exclaimed “next trip, I gotta do a dive here”. Well, today was finally the “next trip”. We put in on the northeast corner of the northern-most rock which offered a relatively steep profile and was out of the current. I started the dive heading east towards Rosario Strait, but the terrain was featureless and flat. I reversed course and headed west, then followed the slope to the
south where I found some steeper terrain and walls. Marine life here was decent, but not as diverse or robust as Lawrence Point. I did manage to find plenty of candy stripe shrimp on crimson anemones and even a gorgeous basket star. I ended my dive on the south side of the rocks where I popped up not 40 feet away from four giant stellar sealions resting on a rock - all bulls. It’s one thing to see these giants in the water or from a boat. But when you are just a head in the water looking up at these 1500 pound animals, you
get a whole new perspective and appreciation for their size. The sealions looked as startled as I was. I immediately swam slowly away from the sealions, but they started squawking and
I find more longfin gunnels at dive sites in an around Rosario Strait than anyewhere else.
eventually jumped in the water. Although they kept their distance, I was more than a bit apprehensively and kept looking underwater to see if the giants were going to come over to check me out.
We prepared for the last dive of the day on an unnamed wreck southwest of Guemes Island after a BBQ of brats and hot links. This wreck is really in the middle of nowhere. We located the wreck on the sounder in about 70 feet of water and anchored the boat. The current was running about 0.5 knots, so we pulled ourselves down the anchor line to the wreck below.
This wreck is fairly unimpressive. She was a 110 foot wooden fishing vessel that has been down a while and in advanced stages of decomposition (only about 30% of her is still upright). The stern section is the most recognizable part of the wreck with her twin propellers and shafts sticking through the bottom of the hull. Sections of the wreck have rotted away to the ribs and stringers. Some lingcod and copper rockfish have established residence in the sanctuary of the wreck which lies on a flat and featureless cobblestone bottom. As Rob brought home a cleat as a souvenir from the wreck, we named this wreck the F/V Cleatless.
Thanks to Alan Buchan for providing us with another fun day of diving. And yes, Rob got home in time to preserve his alpha dog stature.
Stellar sealions doing what they do best: Lounging around.
Rob's find of the day: A cleat off the Guemes Island wreck. What a perfect replacement handle for his front door!