text and photos
- by Nicolle Pratt (Dive date: January 2003)
Waterman's Wall carries quite the reputation, mostly due to heavy currents and particular current directions. Reading through many online dive reports, it almost made me not want to dive this wall. But on the other hand, this wall has been reported as one of the quintessential walls in the Sound, So I decided that with careful dive planning and proper current reports I would dive this site with my trusted dive buddies, Bryan, Randy and Lance. OK, and because they keep inviting me back....
With that said, I had an incredible dive at this site. We planned the dive perfectly at slack before flood. Additionally we chose to dive this traditionally current intensive site on a day where the maximum current speed during the exchange between slack was only 0.7 knots. We were also all carrying redundant air systems, lift bags or surface markers, and we ran a live boat scenario with Lance staying on the surface to handle the boat in case there was any issue with one of us surfacing in an odd spot.
The Dive Site: The site curves from the Northeast to the Southwest, lying off the West side of Point Glover at the West end of Rich Passage where in connects with the Port Orchard Passage. The site is called Waterman's Wall because it starts not far from the Waterman navigational marker. You'll want to anchor out in about 40' of water Northwest from that marker. How you navigate the site will vary depending on your dive plan. You can choose to go to a planned depth and dive along the wall into the current, returning at a shallower depth in the opposite heading. We chose to dive straight out from the marker directly to our deepest depth (note: this site can get deep quickly due to the ledges and sheer drop offs), then slowly ascending at an angle away from the boat (which although Lance was on board, the current was so minimal we had him anchor but watching our bubbles in case he needed to pull anchor to come pick us up). Upon reaching to top portion of the wall, we reversed heading and conducted a lengthy safety stop at a proper depth inshore from the boat. The water was so clear that Lance could see us as we conducted our safety stop.
Sea Life: Large Lingcods, occasional Quillback Rockfish, a variety of crabs and starfish, and most notably barnacles. Barnacles are odd little critters. Although I have come across barnacles at other dive sites and have experienced the ouchie effects of varieties such as Acorn Barnacles at Sund Rock South Wall (the free way) they made an impact on me at this site. Most of the rocky formation underwater had clusters of barnacles.
Barnacles are arthropods, which include crabs, shrimp, and lobsters forming the class Crustacea, the main marine class of arthropods. Interestingly, arthropods also include spiders, scorpions, and ticks among others. No wonder crabs spook Randy who can't stand spiders. Ever heard a grown man scream like a little girl underwater?
Of the barnacles at this site, Giant Barnacles covered the majority of the dive site, which I had never seen before. Giant Barnacles are one of the largest barnacles in the world growing up to 4 inches high and 5-6 inches wide at their base. Barnacles are unique among crustaceans in that they are not free moving. They attach themselves to hard objects. For example divers often see small barnacles attached to the backs of crabs. Some varieties have also been known to attach themselves to sea turtles and whales. Giant Barnacles, however, prefer attaching themselves to rocks or other hard surfaces in high current areas. The reason for this, and one of the most interesting characteristics of barnacles, is how they feed. When barnacles attach themselves, they do so by their heads. The fan-like appendages they extend out into the moving water to capture plankton, are actually their legs which they then pull into their mouths. Ok, close your eyes and picture that for a moment...somehow I don't think that feeding method would go over too well at the Thanksgiving dinner table.
Current: Current at this site is very tricky. I would not suggest diving this site when current is running even with a live boat because the current on this site is very unpredictable. Because this site sits at the intersection of two passages, odd current patterns can form, i.e. the current can be flowing in one direction on the surface and shift suddenly to the opposite direction underwater. Also, due to the sharp drops in ledges to the West and South, layers of current can be experienced where current may be manageable at one depth and impossible at another. The sharp drop off can also create an underwater waterfall pushing divers deep unexpectedly. Bryan experienced this phenomenon first hand at this site on a previous dive trip. He was instantly pushed deep and away from the wall. During his recovery ascent, he surfaced and found himself in the ferry lane. Fortunately Bryan had a surface marker/lift bag and they were diving with a live boat, so he was quickly located and picked up.
would definitely consider this a dive site for experienced divers only.
Experience in deep diving and heavy current situations are also recommended.
This dive site should only be attempted by boat (live boat preferred)
due to currents and the dive site's close proximity to the ferry lanes.