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The Wreck at Taylor Bay


- by Nicolle Pratt (last date dove: October 2002)

"Where are we going?"

"The Wreck at Taylor Bay," Randy replied as he closed Dave Bliss' Northwest Boat Dives book.  It was Bryan's dive site suggestion and even the book indicated this site was perfect after a previous dive at Steamboat Island Wall.  So Bryan punched the coordinates into the GPS, grabbed the wheel and we were off to our next adventure.  Interesting...Bryan didn't ask me to take the helm.  Ah wait, he must be worried I'd outshine him with my "superior captain skills."  *ahem*  That must be it...

Upon arriving at the site, we lined the boat up facing the bluff about mid way in-between the end of the bluff and a v-cut into the bluff.  To the right of the v is an inlet to a small bay area (Taylor Bay).  Then, following both the directions in the book and from Bryan's memory we positioned the boat in about 45'of water and dropped anchor.  Still nose toward the bluff, we figured the wreck to be off the right side of the boat.  The wreck is noted to lay in-between 40-60' of water (great for open water divers), so we planned to do general wide sweeps at that depth parallel to shore until we located the wreck.

When diving from an anchored boat where all divers will be in the water at the same time, you should display appropriate dive flags to notify boat traffic that divers are down, plan your dive navigation by taking directional headings on the surface (shore is just about due North at this site), and plan on returning to the anchor line at the end of the dive for safety stops and to surface as near to the boat as possible.  Since I had been leading all day, I hollered to Lance to check his his compass because he was leading this time and I back rolled into the water before any protest could be made.  neener neener!

So you'll never guess what happened as we were descending!  I was about 10' further down the line than Lance when I first saw white masses of Giant Plumose Anemones materialize.  I couldn't believe it.  We had anchored right on the wreck.  In fact we had anchored perfectly at the tip of the stern.  Blast!  Lance got out of navigating!  What were the odds without a single marker buoy!?

The Dive Site: Where do I begin?  To start, this wreck is not at all what I was expecting.  I had never heard any divers mention this site (but then again, I have dove sites with these guys that I am not even sure had previously been known as dive sites), and for the record, the next day I did a search for this site on the Web and found a limited amount of information.  Whatever the case may be, this is a dive site other divers should definitely discover.

As mentioned above the wreck sits in 40-60' of water.  It has nestled upright on a sandy bottom and lies North to South, perpendicular to shore.  The wreck is almost 100' long, over 20' wide, and approximately 10' tall.  Dropping to the base of the wreck, you'll be able to shine your light deep under the hull.  When diving this wreck, be sure to periodically look away from the wreck, as pieces of the wreckage are sparsely scattered and now act as convenient homes to varying sea life.  After circling the base of the wreck, I moved to the top and dove inside the hull.  I did not see any openings allowing wreck divers penetration.

Sea Life (invertebrates): This wreck was absolutely covered in sea life and was probably one of the healthiest concentrated areas on a dive site I have dove in the lower Puget Sound.  There was an abundant number of white Giant Plumose Anemones, which divers who aren't so lucky to have Bryan around to drop anchor will be happy to use as wreck locators.  Away from the wreck by the scattered pieces there were quite a few Orange Sea Pens.  I did not spot any striped nudibranchs on this dive, but I sure they were somewhere around.  I also looked very closely in every nook I could tuck into and shine my light into for octopus.  The deep recesses of the hull seemed perfect for octopus dens, but I did not see any on this dive although there were a few signs of possible octopus activity.  There were numerous different species of crabs, but I have to admit, invertebrates were not the highlight of this dive site.  Give way to the vertebrates, because they hardly gave way or notice to this diver.

Sea Life (vertebrates): Gobs!  Ok, is that really a word?  Unlikely, but hey this is my dive review.  After dropping down the anchor, I found myself surrounded by larger schools of fish than I have seen in cold water.  I would have thought I was back on a reef in the tropical waters of Bimini had my face not reminded me that the water temperature was 55.   Being the third dive of the day  and spending surface intervals as a wetsuit diver on an uncovered boat, it felt colder than it was and I was suspect that there just might be the possibility of polar bears in them there waters...  

The schooling fish at this site are beautiful smaller Shiner Surfperch and larger Pile Perch.  My light lit them up and the water seemed full of glitter.  The top of the wreck was the obvious hangout for most of the fish.  I also spotted a few good sized (12'+) Copper Rockfish and Quillback Rockfish moving in and out of the ribs of the hull.  Hanging out on the top of the hull as well as deep under the hull, we all spotted a some decent sized, but shy ling cod.   

Again, the highlight of this dive was the massive schools of perch.  They were justeverywhere on the top side of the hull.  I did many pass-thrus turning and rolling amongst them just losing myself in the dive.  How many people get to do what we divers do?  This kind of dive makes you pause for a moment, smile, and be happy you are one of them.

Important Dive Site Notes: This is a boat dive only with no readily available shore access.  Also, if you enjoy underwater photography or are looking to improve your photography skills, this site is for you.  There is just about no way that when your shutter closes you won't have captured something more than your thumb.

Current: Because this wreck is semi-protected by Taylor Bay and not sitting out in the channel, it tends to not be considered current intensive.  This placement makes the site a good candidate for all diver levels and a good site to visit after diving some of the other sites in the area  However, current charts should always be checked in advance because a site like this in current would not provide for much diver protection.  With current, this site could easily become an advanced level dive.

Caution/hazards: Whenever diving a wreck, you should always watch out for sharp protruding objects that may lie above or below your field of vision, yet be directly in the path of a piece of your gear or the top of your head!  Good buoyancy is also a factor when diving into smaller areas like in or under the hull of this wreck so as to avoid knocking into fragile sea life.  Wherever there are a great number of fish, there is bound to also be fishing line, so look for it and be sure to carry snips or a knife.  Also unless properly trained, experienced, and carrying proper equipment, please do not poke your body into areas you may not be able to get back out of.  I'd like to avoid adding an involuntary YOU to my list of vertebrates seen on my last dive! 
Directions: This site is Northwest of the Tolmie State Barges dive site on the Southwest end of Key Peninsula (just inside Taylor Bay). Take I-5 North to the Yelm / Marvin Road exit and put in at your preferred marina. Latitude: 47 11.13 N Longitude: 122 48.90 W.
Nicolle's personal note: I really enjoyed this dive site spending about 45 minutes on the dive, averaging 44' with my maximum depth of 63'.  I would also easily go back to this site for two reasons: 1) to play around with my own photography skills, and 2) survey says...FISH ID!  Going back with an ID slate and diving in full identifying mode, I'd be curious how many different species I'd be able to catalog.  I need to be more like Janna in that respect.  Have you seen how many surveys she's submitted to REEF
(scroll to the bottom of the page)!!??  So the challenge begins...

Nicolle Pratt
(503) 287-5328
Portland, Oregon