Emerald Sea Photography
It’s a spooky feeling when the marina disappears into the fog behind you, and you head off into the dimensionless mists, trusting that your GPS will find the way there. We only had two miles of foggy water to cross, but without any visual reference, it’s hard to tell if you’re going straight or not ( I know this from pre-GPS days when I wound up in the wrong basin).
As the depth sounder indicated that we were approaching Taylor Bay, I eased the throttle back to an idle, and adjusted my course slightly. The cliffs appeared out of the mists, and as we crossed the 30’ depth, I cut the throttle completely. Hmmm. My GPS coordinates (from Puget Sound Boat Dives) indicated the wreck was another 400’ West, which would put it about 300’ inland. Oh well, time to find the wreck the old-fashioned way. A few short passes on a search grid off the very prominent cliff, and we easily found the wreck using our depth sounder in about 50 – 60’ of water. We dropped the anchor right in the middle, and geared up.
We descended down the anchor line, finding visibility to be marginal, but with no real current, and the anchor was fouled in its own chain. I set the camera down about 10’ from the anchor, and then straightened out the chain and moved the anchor to an area where there was no possibility of fouling the anchor on wreckage during recovery. Then I went back to retrieve the camera. Note to self, be sure to turn ON the modeling light and strobes before setting down the camera. It took me a few very anxious minutes to find the beast, as it blended into the murk rather well. A little voice in my head was saying, “Someone is going to find a very nice underwater camera down here.”
We swam slowly along the starboard side, exploring the hundreds of nooks and holes amongst the ribs of the old hull. Hundreds of rockfish and perch swam with us, seeming as interested in us as we were in them. We reached the bow of the wreck, which still stands a good 30’ proud of the bottom, with metridium anemones covering almost every square inch. I dropped down near the bottom (~60’) and opened the aperture of the camera and dialed the strobes way back to get that lovely emerald green color in the background as I snapped a few shots of the bow silhouetted against the filtered sunlight.
We then swam along the Port side of the hull, all the way to the stern, stopping to admire the many invertebrates, and the comical rockfish peeking out at us from holes throughout the hull plating. The stern post is still in tact, and easy to identify even though it is completely covered with healthy marine growth. The tail shaft, propeller and rudder were removed for salvage decades ago before the hull was burned to the waterline.
Coming back along and below the Starboard Hull, we found the Sea Strainer (Sea Chest) where the engines once pulled in sea water to cool the engines, and large clusters of squid eggs along the bottom.
Too soon, the cold began to finally penetrate the many layers of exposure protection and it was time to call the dive. Thumbs up were flashed and acknowledged and we slowly made our way up the Anchor line and back to the boat. Upon surfacing, we discovered the fog was lifting, and the Sun was shinning in a clear, beautiful blue sky. It’s really hard to beat Winter diving on a cold, clear day in Puget Sound.
My GPS unit shows the Taylor Bay Wreck at 47° 11.055' N and 122° 47.073' W (see the side scan image to the left). It is sitting on a sandy bottom in about 60' of water at high tide. This site can have a bit of current, so at least try to time your dive with a high tide at slack current. Roland Anderson writes that this is a 180' surplus Minesweeper that was salvaged and then burned to the waterline in 1964 and sunk in place in Taylor Bay. "The crew in charge of the project then got discouraged, pulled the hull off the beach, and sank it nearby in hopes of creating a fishing reef." Another report I read claimed this to be an old sub-chaser that was sunk in 1957, but with only the hull and ribbing left, it's impossible to tell.
This site is suitable for all levels of cold water divers that are comfortable diving in lower visibility water. Do watch out for fishing line and protruding parts of the wreckage. For more information on this site, there is an excellent review by Nicolle Prat at the Pacific Northwest Scuba site. Nicolle writes so much better than I do! I was going to vainly claim that my pictures were better, but after looking at these, I can't even claim that!