text and photos
Rock: South Wall
- by Nicolle Pratt (dive date: September 2002)
Washington. A state where Oregonians (such as myself) travel to dive. Washington. A state, unlike liberal Oregon where free beach access has been protected, that makes up for us Oregonians evading their sales tax by charging beach access fees. Oh wait, you Washington divers have to pay it too. My thoughts on paying the $15 per person Sund Rock beach access fee? Pay it. It's worth it.
Why pay you may wonder? Well, I dove this site about a year and a half ago and decided not to write a dive brief on it because, well honestly the story would have made for a comedy in diving rather than an informative dive brief. You see there are two ways to dive Sund Rock: the free way and the fee way. My first visit here was done via the FREE way. I am happy to report I made it back alive. My dive buddy had the idea that we didn't need to pay the fee and there was a way to access the site for free. Well in this case instead of "free rhyming with me" which is usually my motto, free rhymed with "likely injury." I believe there are two free ways. Both involve hiking through wooded areas. One involves entering the water as soon as possible and then a very long surface swim to the site to avoid walking on private property. The other involves scaling down the side of a cliff rivaling that of the Swiss Alps. Guess which one we unwittingly picked? Just call me Ni-co-laaaaaa and hope that Saint Bernard can swim to me with the alcohol strapped around its neck! I'll need it to clean out the barnacle gashes.
Beach Access Fee: So, how to pay the fee? Go to the Hoodsport n' Dive shop. The shop is located past the Sund Rock dive site on the right hand side of the road in an RV park. There is usually a wooden dive flag sign by the side of the road. They will collect the Sund Rock fee on behalf of the Sund Family who owns the site and quite a bit of land in that general area. They will give you a gate key, a map to the dive site, good info regarding the tides for the day, and whatever else you want to chat about.
When looking straight out at the canal from the dive entry point, the South Wall is just that, it's South. Turn to your right and look at the curve of the land. Where the land starts to curve out and into the canal is approximately where the South Wall starts. You can either swim to the wall under water or on the surface.
If you choose to surface swim, swim to the point where the rock begins to jut out toward the canal and drop down. You'll likely find a ridge that you can follow down at an Eastward heading until you reach your desired dive depth and then turn South to follow the wall. Note, octopus dens have been found along that Eastward ridge as well as in crevices along the wall itself.
If you chose to navigate to the site underwater guide yourself along using both your compass and natural navigation (where the oysters shells begin to taper off take a slight SE heading to hit the wall). Then you'll likely hit that same Eastward ridge as mentioned above.
The wall itself varies in depth at spots ranging anywhere between 60-80'. The top of the wall runs between 20-30' depending upon the tides. Sund Rock is a marine preserve, so the sea life here is healthy and abundant. There are lots and lots of aquatic plants, invertebrates, and vertebrates along the wall. Feel free to go slow knowing you can do more than one dive along this wall. On our various dives we saw octopus (some of our group saw a few swimming out in the open), wolf eel (including one being eaten by a sun star!!!), huge huge huge ling cod. Did I mention the ling cod are huge at Sund Rock? We swam for about 1-2 minutes with one ling that was about 5' in length, a reported resident estimated to be easily over 60lbs. There are so many more critters to this site that it also makes for an excellent fish surveying dive.
The North Wall is almost straight out (East) about 100' from the entry point and slightly to the North. The North Wall is deeper than the South Wall and sits completely under the water, unlike the South Wall which is easily identifiable by the protruding rock face mentioned above. I did not dive this wall, so I do not have any sea life reports, but will update this portion of my brief when I do dive it in the future.
Same goes for the wreck. I did not dive it as I happened to be diving with open water divers this day and the wreck sits a bit deeper than the open water diver 60' depth limit. The wreck is easily locatable as a surface buoy has been tied to its bow. The buoy sits to the North of the entry point and either involves the longest surface swim at the dive site or you can take a heading on it and navigate it under water. Since the wreck is so new, the divers in our group that dove it reported there wasn't much sea life as of yet, but they are excited to return in a few months.
Visibility: Although we all know visibility can vary depending on the color of shirt your uncle Bob is wearing, I have noticed that visibility in Hood Canal seems to differ at various depths. I have noticed a visibility decline at the 20-25' mark and the 30-40' mark. I suspect it is associated with the noticable thermoclines at those depths. Thermo clines are more likely in Hood Canal as the canal is not generally affected by current or massive tidal exchanges. The water appears brackish (like oil & water mixing), which is also an attribute of a thermocline. The water temperatures for our dives (9/02) were 57° at surface, 54° below 25' and 50° below 40'.
Important Dive Site Notes: Hoodsport n' Dive will give you specific access directions. Sund Rock is just North of the dive shop and can be seen from the dive shop back deck. There is limited parking at the site (10-15 spots), but the dive shop should be able to give you an idea of how many divers there are on the site when you arrive. Keys are assigned by group and we have found there is no cell phone service at the site. So if you have a group of divers going to this site, you'll need to meet at the dive shop and travel to the site together.
Site Facilities: There is a port-o-potty at the site, but no conventional bathrooms or picnic tables. However since you are parking right at the edge of the entry point, we found we didn't need tables as we used the backs of vehicles as gathering spots (diving tailgaters!!).
Suggestions: Pack a lunch & water since coming and going from the site isn't efficient and you'll lose whatever good spot you may have wrangled. Make your deepest and most tiring (long surface swims) dives first saving easier dives for last (i.e. the wreck or the North Wall first leaving the South Wall last).
Current: Hood Canal is generally unaffected by currents. In fact, it has been reported that it takes Hood Canal almost a year for all the water in the canal to completely cycle through. So as Janna puts it: "If you spit in Hood Canal, you'll be diving in that spit for a year!" Ewwwww!
Tides: Since current is generally not a factor when diving Hood Canal, tides become more important. At low tide, sea life such as oysters are exposed and bask in the sun and other sea life opens up and blooms. Thus, when high tide starts to roll in, it will move along all of that bloom and other particles in the water right into your dive site. How much moves in depends on what kind of tidal exchange is expected for that day. So optimal diving might be better planned at low tide. In addition, depending on how low the tide is for that day you may have the opportunity to dive farther down on various dive sites without having to dive as deep as you would at high tide. Remember, you can always email one of us at Pacific NW Scuba for assistance on tide charts!
Caution/hazards: Always use caution when diving along a wall. Please keep yourself streamlined so as not to damage sea life or your instruments. Be aware of the location of other divers in conjunction to yourself and watch your buoyancy along the top of the wall as many people experience difficulty maintaining buoyancy when diving at shallower depths and in reduced visibility.
On a side note: if buoyancy is an issue for you, please see our information regarding Peak Performance Buoyancy.
Directions: Take I-5 North to Exit 104 merging onto US-101 towards Aberdeen/Port Angeles. About 5-6 miles down the road, there is a split where US-101 veers to the right. Continue north on Hwy 101 for 28 miles to Hoodsport, then 2.0 miles north of the Finch Creek Bridge to a turnout on the right side of the roadway, 1/2 mile past Mile Marker 330.
Nicolle's personal note: There is so much sea life at this site, I can't wait to go back. Pay the site fee and save on having to restock your first aid kit. Fins do not make a good splint, but it's fun breathing the Oxygen...