I received a phone call from my friend and dive buddy Tony Wiley at Anthony Wiley?s SCUBA Locker in Riverside CA telling me a story about a friend?s son who found an ?Old Sunken Wreck? ?Just off Shore? and sent pictures of at least 8 good sized cannons and other debris. He told me that the finder thought that it maybe Spanish Cannon from the size. He had registered the wreck with the authorities and had written permission to dive and survey the site. Tony asked me if I would be interested in going with him to document what good be a historical find.
We decided to go as soon as we could make reasonable arrangements to get there. We counted on the finder of the wreck to make arrangements for a boat or boats and all the air we would need. We would bring our survey gear and camera equipment to do the survey. He would also have a buddy or two to help out. Once we were assured that everything was set we got our tickets on Delta to fly out on Monday July 6th 2009. We were standing at the curb at the air port and the Finder arrived to pick us up with our gear.
We loaded everything at which time he informed us that the boat had fallen through and the weather was turning bad for the area we had to dive. We looked at each other and Tony said ?One step at a time? and the Finder set out to find another boat. He did do a great job on the Tanks and weights. He took us around to all the dive shops and boat owners he could think of. The shops wanted us to rent the boats for anywhere from $500.00 to a $1000.00 per day! We found out about another problem as well. This one was so strange we both just laughed. It seems commercial boats can only go out of harbors that their license is assigned to. The wreck is only 150ft from shore two nautical miles from the dock, but ?You can?t get there from here?. Some operators would have to travel more than 20 miles to get to the sight from ?Their? harbor.
So Tony decided to see what was going on and went to the Harbor Master (Shawn) in NaWilliWilli where the wreck lies only 2 nautical miles away. Shawn was very enthusiastic about the project once he found out we had government sanctions to do the project. He even told us he would ?Look the other way for permits if we found a boat?. We spent the day in SCUBA shops and talking to the Dive Buddy who was diving with the Finder. Seems there was no repair facility where we could inquire about a boat. We were in the hands of friends of friends whose relatives might have a boat.
We stopped by the local Museum and talked to the curator to see what, if anything, she knew of the ship or the era that it might have come from. We learned of Gun Runners?, Kings?, and Great battles that happened about the time this ship went down. So we now had possibilities and the interest from the Museum and the Island Historical Society. We were collecting names and information as fast as we could. We were also relating our plight to whoever would listen in the hopes that word would get out and a boat would show up! The simplest thing was becoming a huge problem and putting a monkey wrench into our gears.
At one of the shops we were given the name of a boat captain who had a nice sports fishing boat that took private parties out for snorkeling as well as fishing. Captain Elis was our man and volunteered his boat, as long as we covered expenses, and we were all over it. We arranged to meet the next morning with all our gear at 7:00am to be on site early.
Well were where there on time and so was Capt. Elis as well. He told us that ?The weather would be rough and marginal at best? and ?With the water coming over the breakwater like it is, it could be dangerous? So he was suggesting we think hard. Tony said ?We were not there to get hurt? and erred on the side of safety. Another day shot to shit!
So there we were with all our gear and no place to go. We decided to head for the islands best dive site and at least get in the water. We headed for the North side of the island and a Dive site called Tunnels. Once there we surveyed the site from the beach and asked some divers coming out about condition. We got a disappointing report about ?15ft viz? and surge. The current was coming up and with those conditions and a 300 yard surface swim (No Snorkel), we decided it would be a better sightseeing day. Add that we didn't?t bring lights, as we were supposed to be surveying a wreck! There was another wreck close by and we decided to do that just as soon as we went to the end of the road to see some caves that might make some good diving in the future.
We were almost to the end of the road when the Finder?s Clutch went out in the middle of the road! Ouch! Tony and I had to get out and push the Ford Explorer to the side of the road. The Finder decided it could not be fixed and with no cell service, he would walk back down the road until he got service. We suggested hitch hiking, but he said ?He didn't?t want to draw attention to himself? and ?He had bad experiences hitching?. So Tony and I stayed with the car and all the gear while he hiked out to get cell service. He came back about an hour or so and told us his friend was on his way.
Well the guy showed up with his S-10 Chevy Island Beater and our guy whipped out his 10ft, yes 10ft, tow strap and towed us on a windy road to the ?Big town? where I arranged for a tow truck to take us the 40 miles back to his place of work.
So next stop, on the transportation list was his old beater CJ-5 that he had rolled a few months back, with no back seat and a rag top to fight off the constant rain. Tony and I took turns sitting in the back with no seat and getting soaked as we tried to find the ?Boat? or a road close to the point of the shore where we could possibly shore dive to survey the site. Bald tires and stiff suspension and a number of closed gates were about as bad as no boat, windy weather, and all the rain anyone can stand!
So here are a few pictures of the area and that follow the story. I will expand on the story as we go. The adventure is just starting as we were leaving boats were coming out of the wood work and the Harbor Master was on our plane and offered his boat for the next trip. So, more to come, and speculation on how the ship ended up on the bottom in 30ft of water just 150ft from shore.