Thursday, November 23, 2006 

Truk Trek - Truk Lagoon Dive Trip - Part 1

This was my second trip in four years on the Truk Odyssey. Over the course of the week we would do 20 dives. For a very detailed look at the history and diving there look at my first Truk Trip Report

Travel days Fri-Sunday morning.
Uneventful, but long. We flew down to LA and stayed at my cousins, then out again the next morning early. On to Honolulu, lunch on a 3 hr layover and on to Guam, another 5.5 hrs. Walked quickly to the next flight and arrived in Chuuk around 9:30 pm. Got through customs and had to wait until the last bag (mine) got taken from the plane. We were on board by 10:30.

Truk Odyssey Boat
There have been some fairly major changes in personnel on the Odyssey. Besides the crew Captains Lenny and Cara weren't on board. They are off building a new house in Colorado. Lenny will be back in March, but Cara has moved on to dry land it seems. The boat felt a little strange without their strong presence, but they had left it in the capable hands of young Capt Nick and crew. Overall, there was no difference in the diving or overall experience on board. The boat is aging and needs some new furnishings, I think the same bedspreads (and it felt that the same mattresses) were there four years ago. Still it's a huge, comfortable boat and one of the few liveaboards that you can dive from directly, without having to load into a dive skiff or inflatable. Great food and knowledgeable, good natured guides complete the picture.

The island state remains very poor and run down. Probably worse than a few years ago. The airport is still being worked on four years later. At least the waiting room has a/c and they have a back-up generator now. The people just don't seem to have much initiative and are upset that the western powers aren't giving them much of a handout now that they are independent. We learn that incest is fairly common-place. On the whole it has never recovered from the loss of pre-war prosperity they enjoyed while a large Japanese military base.

Nov 13 - Day 1
Dive 1 & 2. After a fitful 4-5 hrs sleep we were up, had breakfast, a dive brief and dove the Heian Maru. It's a very large cruise ship turned sub tender. I dove with guide Andy and we made it down to the huge screws, took a couple of shots and the camera battery died. Toured the periscopes and made the best out of a frustrating situation. Similar problems on the second dive this time with the strobes. It seems that all the batteries I charged in Seattle had gone flat. The Heian is large and has some interesting torpedoes to see, etc. but not much growth. Viz is poor, maybe 40' at most

Dive 3. We move onto the Yamaguri Maru and I finally get all the devices working and take some nice w/a with the dome lens, even in bad viz. The viz is worse so far this week than the last time, 30-50 feet at best. Paul and I ditch the guide and do a 70 min dive with brief deco. Some very nice soft coral and growth.

Nov 14 - Day 2
Dive 4. We move to the Fumitzuki, a destroyer and the only real warship to dive here that's in recreational depths. Paul and I split forward as the group goes aft, which works well and we avoid the herd. Coming back a giant stingray flaps past and I blow off some bottom time waiting for him to settle in and take a couple of shots. Having a hard time figuring out lighting with the dome lens, either too tight or not enough on the subject. By in large the photos go ok, conditions aren't best for the dome though.

We tour aft passing the group and take some interesting angles amid the wreckage. I turn and go up with 5 mins of deco, Paul stays a bit longer and amasses 20 mins. Killeen runs almost out of air and the guide shares air with her as he brings her back to the extra tank on the hang bar. I stop her buddy from going up too fast. These divers don't dive that often and the depths are stressing their experience. Everyone is ok, and a lesson is learned.

Dive 5
Shinkoko Maru. Paul and I wait and let the group go ahead of us, then drop down and tour the shallower bow area and main cabin areas a bit. Very nice growth on this wreck and interesting angles. Lots of beautiful soft coral and large gorgonians. I mostly continue to shoot w/a with the dome lens. Again the viz is quite disappointing, as it was very nice here the last trip. I experience a weird problem with the left 240z strobe either not firing, or not firing at full power. I finally recycle the power and it seems to work ok. Later I find that the full power setting is only giving out a very weak flash. A very large school of batfish entertains us eating jellyfish to our delight.

Dive 6
Decide to go smaller with the normal lens and we make it to the stern area. I shoot some great lionfish shots, maybe the best of the trip so far. They are around here, but not as prevalent as the Red Sea or Sulawesi where they are considered pests. Found the stern telegraph and take some shots of it, see a large puffer but couldn't get it to stand still. Checked out the king posts covered in beautiful corals. Many more soft coral colors here than Indonesia.

Dive 7
Night dive at 6 pm. Paul and I avoid the group again and drop on the wreck. I had remembered the night dives as the best thing here, and am not disappointed with all the coral open and covered in bright hues. I lose track of Paul and get turned around and never quite make it to the king posts. I found out later he had his lights fail. I putz around mostly just looking at all the colors and after thinking I'd shoot macro, and wishing I'd brought the w/a dome for the colors. Got attacked by a school of friendly batfish on the way up in the dark.

Continued to: Part 2

Photos: Truk Trek, part 1

Tuesday, November 07, 2006 

Seacrest Park – What’s the Bigger Picture?

Originally uploaded by Pixel Letch.
The installation of the rope barrier and cove buoys have finally been completed in Seacrest Park in West Seattle after years of delays due to the permitting process. While that long process was frustrating, it does have a bigger meaning in my opinion.

In year’s past when the city brought in the Water Taxi or made policy decisions regarding park use they didn’t consult the dive community. That changed when they were going to make a 300’ no-diving area around the pier and effectively block access to Cove 2. The dive community, usually polarized came together and made themselves heard, due to the efforts of JD Roe and others. We formed some groups and began talking with the city about how we could continue to use the park. From that came the idea of the rope barrier and buoy system.

Without divers respecting these boundaries, we would not have the access to the park that we continue to enjoy today. We also asked for a rinse shower and installation of benches in the restroom while the iron was hot and they were put in.

The white dive buoys are about the closest thing we could legally install as a “permanent dive flag” as divers use the coves nearly 360/24/7. BUT they should not be confused with proper dive flag usage – dive flags are still required. Use the white buoys to tie your flags to and use as down lines; they are in about 40-60’ of water.

Getting back to the bigger picture I alluded to? By going through the formal permit process we have made all the applicable bodies; State DNR, Army Corp of Engineers, US Coast Guard, and the City of Seattle formally recognize the park and coves as official dive areas. That is a sea change in policy and an important “moral” victory for the dive community that may weigh heavily in our favor in years to come.

Others and myself are continuing efforts in behalf of divers to ask the city for additional site improvements, access and facilities. I feel that we have done our share of “Quid pro” and now it’s our turn for some “Quo”! Some will cost something, some are policy and access issues that won’t. Dollars are very tight, but we have been offered some donations and will try to push some ideas forward. It’s a slow process, but one I take a good deal of satisfaction from.

What can you do? We will continue to have work parties to maintain the buoys and rope barrier system. Most importantly, we need divers, and particularly classes, to please be good neighbors; it greatly affects our relationship with the city and makes negotiations much easier for future improvements.


Dive Area Buoy Project at Seacrest Park Completed

Originally uploaded by Pixel Letch.
From the City of Seattle: To help increase diver safety at the popular Seacrest Boathouse and Pier in West Seattle, the City of Seattle has installed a series of new marine navigation buoys. The purposes are to help increase safety awareness by boaters and to further separate divers from nearby activities, including the Elliott Bay Water Taxi.

This effort began in 2004, when Seattle Parks and Recreation first applied for a permit from the US Coast Guard. That permit application also required endorsements from Army Corps of Engineers, the Washington Department of Natural Resources, and others. Review and discussions continued and finally resulted in a permit to install three navigation buoys, white with orange markings and clearly labeled “WARNING – Watch for Divers.”

Seattle Police Harbor Patrol took the lead on installation of the buoys. Sgt Kevin Haistings partnered with the US Coast Guard to put the anchors in place. Harbor Patrol attached the chains and completed the installation. To protect natural plants or animals along the bottom surface by keeping the chain off the bottom even at the lowest tide, secondary “cantenary” buoys were installed. Parks provided all of the materials for the project.

The City has also installed a series of smaller yellow buoys as a reference point for divers, fishermen, and boaters. These are set along the line that defines the area around the Seacrest pier that is closed to divers. This line and buoys are being maintained by the dive community through an on-going work dives as needed.

Behind the scenes, a small core group of volunteers provided ongoing assistance with these projects. Their expertise, information, and advice helped guide the projects and keep them on track.

“Thanks are due to all of the volunteers who have helped with litter control and used their creativity to find a way to clean the underwater line,” said Parks Aquatics Manager Kathy Whitman. “Their outstanding work has improved safety for all divers. Special recognition is due to Jack Connick of Marker Buoy Dive Club and JD Rowe of the Boeing Seahorses, who have been solid contributors to numerous efforts at Seacrest.”

Seacrest is a heavily used park that offers a combination of active and passive recreation activities. Seattle Parks strives constantly for a balance that ensures that other activities are not affected by changes as they take place at the park. Please be aware of the need to focus on the issues of overuse and increased popularity. Ms. Whitman indicates “We are grateful for the efforts of many recreational divers to educate other divers; these positive contributions help to reduce problems at this popular park.”

About Jack

  • Adventurer, diver, sailor, photographer, writer and sometimes graphic designer. Proprietor of Optical Ocean Sales, LLC. Enjoy the blog, check back and please leave comments!
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