Emerald Sea Photography
The Possession Point Ferry is one of the richest dive sites in Puget Sound. The wooden, diesel-electric ferry, originally 227’ long and 44’ wide was built in 1926 as the Golden State for use in San Francisco. In 1937, it was purchased by the Puget Sound Navigation Company and converted into the Washington State Ferry, Kehloken. Infamous for its sad role in 1942 of transporting the Japanese residents of Bainbridge Island to Seattle for placement into California relocation camps, the Kehloken provided nearly 50 years of faithful service. In 1975, she had outlived her useful life and was sold for $25,000. She was then towed to Lake Union to be converted into a club house and restaurant, but in 1979 was set on fire and burned to the waterline.
This turned out to be a blessing for Puget Sound divers, as what remained of the Kehloken’s wood hull was then towed out to Possession Point on the South end of Whidbey Island and intentionally sunk in 80 feet of water. The Kehloken is now an amazing and abundant artificial reef, and a popular spot for diving.
We recently paid a visit to the Possession Point Ferry Wreck and found every inch completely covered with huge anemones, beautiful sponges and tons of fishing gear. Huge Ling cod and pregnant rockfish were spied throughout the vessel along with dozens of mating painted greenlings (in their brown phase for mating). The old boiler and tail shaft are still easily recognizable in the wreckage of the old engine room. The majority of the wood ribs still stand upright, although the sheathing has long since fallen to the bottom. This makes navigating the wreck very easy.
When we arrived, there were several boats over the site, so we anchored near the stern and dropped down the anchor line to the wreck. Visibility was limited, and we could just make out the sides of the wreck from the anchor, so we ran a guideline from the anchor to the wreck (so we could find our way back to the anchor again). There was a bit of a current, and it took about 20 minutes to swim slowly to the bow along the starboard rail, then only about 5 minutes to drift back to the stern along the port side. This left a lot of time to drop down into the hull and explore all the ship’s machinery. Every square inch was covered with healthy marine life, which makes this a critter watcher’s delight.
When we eventually surfaced after a great dive, all the other boats were gone, and we soon found out why. It was blowing, and the waves were getting rather large. This made getting back into the boat very entertaining (for the onlookers anyway), but we all made it back in safely, and can’t wait to visit the site again!
The Kehloken can be found at 47° 53.82' N 122° 23.59'W (GPS coordinates), which is just West of the Green "1" bell buoy off of Possession Point, Whidbey Island. A convenient boat launch can be found at Mukilteo. Maximum depth is about 80' at high tide. This site is very current sensitive, so be sure to plan your dive at slack tide. We always run a guideline from the anchor over the top of the wreck, which makes returning to the anchor line much easier. More information about this and other local area wrecks can be found in Northwest Wreck Dives.