|Date Reviewed:||September 2001, 2003|
|Location:||SE Bainbridge Island|
|Site Description:||Rock fingers and other rock structure|
|Main Attraction:||Very little current, ample marine life, interesting structure|
Blakely Harbor is a well-protected bay on the southeast side of Bainbridge Island, just northwest of Restoration Point. There are many dives in this area, including at least three at Blakely Rock, and a 70' wreck known as "The Boss". However, this review focuses on two natural rock reef dives located in the entrance of the Blakely Harbor. Both of these sites are boat dives, as the surrounding shoreline is all private property.
The two dives site at the north entrance of Blakely Harbor are named Devil's Boulder (which is a series of rock formations in about 70 fsw) and Blakely Harbor Point (which is a series of rugged, rocky fingers that run from the surface down to about 80 fsw). These dive sites are less than 100 yards apart. Over the years, I have grown to appreciate these sites for four reasons:
First, both of these sites are usually not subjected to heavy currents, even off-slack. Therefore, they are a good second dive alternative after diving Waterman's Wall or Blakely Rock. I have dove on these two locations over 20 times, and there current is usually very mellow. On one occasion, there was a strong current "waterfalling" down the rock fingers at Blakely Harbor Point. The current was substantial, but manageable. On another occasion, we had a very strong north wind blowing (we had 2-3 foot wind waves a the dive site), and we could not swim upwind against the wind invoked surface current. We had to descend and resurface upwind of the boat to get back to it. During all my other dives here, the mild currents have been a non-issue.
Second, the Blakely Harbor Point dive offers some interesting rock structure, and you do not have to go or stay deep to enjoy it. If the vis is good, there is plenty to see in the 30 to 50 foot range. After doing a deep dive at Blakely Rock or Waterman's Wall, the moderated depths of Blakely Harbor Point allow us to do a full hour dive without deco violations.
Third, this site is fairly well protected from south or southwestern winds (which dominate our area in Winter). Therefore, if I can make it across the Sound with the south wind blowing, I am confident that I can get a couple of good dives in somewhere in the Blakely Harbor area.
And finally, the fourth reason is that each of these dive sites is clearly marked with a buoy, making it easy to find and eliminating the need to anchor. Thanks to Alan Gill of the "Spirit Diver" dive charter for installing and maintaining these buoys. I like knowing my boat is not gong to go anywhere while I am diving! Here is a little more detail about each site:
The first site (the southern most buoy), is commonly referred to as Devil's Boulder. This site consists of several large mounds of rock located close together on the silty bottom. The "boulders" are located in about 70 fsw, and are fun to explore. I believe they run east/west. They serve as good structure to the usual assortment of Puget Sound marine life, including Copper, Brown, and Quillback Rockfish, Pile and Striped Sea Perch, large orange and white Plumose Anemones, Ratfish, Kelp and Painted Greenling, assorted sole and flounder, and Lingcod. Closer inspection will reveal Buffalo Scuplins, gunnels, Red Irish Lords, Alabaster Nudibranchs, and a wide variety of smaller sculpins. Red Rock Crabs are also common here, as are Sunflower Stars and other sea stars. If you search the area around the rocks on the muddy bottom, you might be lucky enough to spy a Big Skate. The largest Big Skate I have seen in Puget Sound has been at this site (about 3 feet long, which really is not very big for a Big Skate).
The gotcha with this site (other than the vis) is that you step off the boat and you follow the buoy line straight down to 70 fsw. If you do not find the buoy line again, you need to be prepared to do an open water ascent from 70 fsw, possibly in bad vis. Another potential issue with this site is that boat traffic can occasionally be heavy. The second site (the northern most red buoy, and the dive that I prefer) I refer to as Blakely Harbor Point, but also is called "Metridium Wall" by one of the local dive operators. I guess that is as good a name as any, as there are several walls at this site that are typically covered in beautiful white metridium.
There are actually three rocky fingers that make up this site, all running east-west, and parallel to one another. If you want to get an idea of what to expect down below, look at the rock formations on shore at low tide - the southern-most finger actually starts above the water.
When we dive this site, we descend the anchor line on the marker buoy, which is connected to the southern side of the southern most finger in about 45 fsw. We then follow the southern side of the finger to the east where it dribbles out at about 80 feet, and work our way up the other side. As we round the end of this finger, we always look for a series of abandoned Giant Barnacle shells attached to the rock. These calcified fortresses currently serve as a condo complex for some Grunt Scuplins and warbonnets.
After we work our way back up the north side of this finger to about 30 fsw, we check our air situation. If we have plenty of air, we head north across the sandy bottom for the second finger. It is not too far away - I would guess 30 yards. We run the same down-and-back drill on this finger. Ample air time remaining, we head north again to the third finger, which is a bit further, maybe 75 yards away from the second finger. Again, we do the down-and-back routine. I have not found much of any structure on any of these fingers below 80 fsw.
Is there a fourth finger further north? I don't know as I haven't checked. Let me know if you have! :)
All three of these fingers offer some very rugged, interesting topology, and are fun to explore. They are pocked with rugged ledges, small caves, holes, cracks, fissures, small walls (some 20 feet high), boulder piles, etc. There are just all sorts of places to explore with a good light!
Visibility tends to deteriorate the closer to the surface you get. Like many sites in Puget Sound, The vis at 60 fsw is often double that of what we find at 25 fsw. Also, there is usually quite a bit of red broad-leaf kelp growth on the rock formations in the top 30 fsw. If you loose a knife here, finding it can be a chore (trust me!).
The variety and quantity of marine life here can vary greatly. If you do not take your time and cruise the reef, you can expect to some or all of the following: small Copper, Quillback, and Brown Rockfish, Lingcod, Painted Greenling, Kelp Greenling, Ratfish, Sunflower Stars, Pile and Striped Sea Perch, several species of sole and flounder, and maybe a giant school of herring (which I often see hanging out here). If you take your time, pay close attention, and explore the cracks, you may see Grunt Sculpins, countless Longfin Sculpins, Irish Lords, Scalyhead Scuplins, large Rockweed Gunnels (both bright green and red), scallops, small Decorated Warbonnets, Red Rock Crabs, Dungeness Crabs, Sharp nosed Crabs, more crabs, even more crabs, numerous sea stars, and shrimp that outnumber all those crabs at least 1000:1 (including a cool purple variety with white spots).
I have only seen one octopus here, but there must be dozens of them as indicated by the large number of mauled Red Rock Crabs and shell middens. On several dives here, we have had a Spiny Dogfish come in and buzz us light a jet fighter. If every salmon fisherman could see and enjoy the grace, beauty, and power of a Spiny Dogfish uninhibited in it's element, I think fisherman would stop needlessly killing these magnificent fish when they are incidentally caught.
Two decent dives with plenty to offer, especially if you appreciate the little things in life.
If you are interested in doing either of these dives with a charter, you might want to give Alan Gill at Exotic Aquatics a call (located on Bainbridge Island). He runs a dive charter aboard his well-equipped Chris-Craft, the Spirit Diver.
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