Sunday morning my buddy Neil and I drove up to Ventura for a two tank trip off Anacapa aboard the Raptor dive boat. The morning was chilly and grey with the sky spitting a few rain drops as we drove up the PCH. Luckily though, the seas were calm, and it was a smooth and quick ride over to the island. The Raptor is a great boat if you’re looking for a quick and easy Channel Islands trip. Its a smaller open boat, so everything’s going to get wet, but its fast and the service is fantastic. Between dives they offer a spread of sandwiches and fruit as well as always a hot dish, Sunday it was chili and it was delicious, especially while hanging out in the cold air after a cold dive.
The site we pulled up to was called Winfield Scott, named so because of the sidewheel steamer, SS Winfield Scott which crashed in that spot on December 1, 1853 after trying to navigate a heavy fog. It was headed from San Francisco to Panama on its usual route carrying passengers and a large cargo of approximately $2 million in gold when it ran aground on Middle Anacapa.
Capt. Joe mentioned that this site held several interesting features, one being the remains of the wreck of the Winfield Scott, mostly the paddle wheel. Other features were a few swim throughs close to the islands and large thick kelp beds. The whole site was really shallow with anything worth seeing being no deeper than 40 feet. Neil and I joined up with Betsy, another diver in need of a buddy and we decided to head towards the island through the kelp and to the swim throughs. This was easier said than done. The kelp was thick and as we wove our way through it we quickly got off course. Finally finding a small opening in the kelp, and being at about all of 15 feet down I popped up top, signaled the boat I was okay and quickly looked around for my bearings. I noted that we were probably only 10 feet from the main swim through, but it meant navigating more kelp and we were sick of it. I realigned myself with the boat, dropped back down and we high tailed it out of there. Once back at the boat we ran into a group of students finning along mucking up the sand as they learned to control their buoyancy, so we headed in the opposite direction. I found a nudibranch I hadn’t seen yet, Hermissenda, which was exciting and we happened upon a large Sheep Crab. Other than that there was not much in that direction so we turned around and went back towards the direction of the wreck.
Nearing the end of the dive we saw a long pipe nestled on the bottom and searched around hoping to be near the wreck. I started thinking, maybe its more degraded that the captain let on until suddenly we went through a bit of kelp and Neil turned around and signaled me. Turning back he spread his arms wide as if to say, Ta Da! and there in front of us was the large side wheel structure. Around it were more bits and pieces of the remains, all fully covered with growth. Our time was short as we were nearing the end of our air, so we headed back to the boat. Luckily the captain said that the decision had been made to stay at that site for dive #2, so after a surface interval full of chili and cornbread and we were back in the water. Our plan was to keep the dive shorter, we were still chilly after our first dive of about 54 minutes, and fully explore the wreck area again. We gained a diver, Brian, after his buddy decided not to do the second dive, so the four of us headed towards the wreck. I ended up as navigator again, and I kept an eye out for the pipe that signaled us that we were in the area. Finding that we started into the kelp to find the large wheel structure. I came across a few more nudibranchs, several Spanish Shawl and another new one, Triopha maculata! Our dive ended up being a little over 40 minutes as I was engrossed in exploring the wreckage and the surround rocks hoping for more new Nudi sightings! We made it back to the boat easily, and quickly enough that I didn’t think we were there until Neil abruptly grabbed my fin and poined out that we had just swam past the anchor line!
Below is my little video around the wreck, enjoy!