Ripple Rock

Seymour Narrows is a bit of water one approaches with caution. This narrow passage north of Campbell River provides the shortest route between Vancouver Island and the mainland for transiting vessels. This passage is also subject to dramatic tidal currents of up to fifteen knots.

The strong currents create large areas where the water seems to boil, dotted with whirlpools and debris swept along by the rushing water. The result is what explorer Captain George Vancouver described in his logs as “one of the vilest stretches of water in the world.”

The remains of Ripple Rock well beneath the surface in Seymour Narrows
The remains of Ripple Rock well beneath the surface in Seymour Narrows
As usual we had anchored and waited a couple hours for the tide to change, waiting for the worst of the currents to slack. While small, fast boats can pass by during high current, most vessels wait for the tide here. We were not alone, when we pulled anchor and nosed into the narrows we joined a parade of boats that had waited.

The passage was once much worse, a large rock named Ripple Rock lurked just under the surface at low tide. This mid channel rock created huge standing waves and vicious eddies as the current ran over it.

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Another Hawai’i Island Wreck

I have a growing collection of wreck photographs, to which I added another this week. What is it about the local roads that causes this?

Waikoloa Road Wreck
A overturned car resulting from a single vehicle accident on Waikoloa Road 12Feb2015
Many of the wreck photos in my collection came from the old saddle road. That road was truly dangerous, I did not even photograph every wreck I encountered. Not so much anymore, the rebuilt road is much safer. there are still wrecks, just not nearly as often. It is usually tired or drunk drivers running through the guardrail at the end of the road. That has happened four times now.

The latest wreck on Waikoloa Road seems to have been a single vehicle affair, encountered while returning from work. Best guess is that the driver put a couple wheels on the gravel shoulder for some reason, from there they lost control and flipped the vehicle. There was gravel all over the road just above the accident site.

Aside from the old Saddle Road, island roads are just not that bad. In comparison to the winding country roads I grew up on these should be much safer. Yet the accident count seems much higher in proportion to the cars on the road. It is also not that unusual to witness some really bad driving.

Checking the data shows Hawaiʻi is not the worst state. The traffic fatality rate is right in the middle for the states, about 1.01 deaths per 100 million miles driven for 2013. Data for Hawaiʻi County would be interesting to compare, a different situation than the other islands with our more rural nature. Hawaii is noted to have the largest proportion of single vehicle wrecks in the same set of data.

This morning there is news of three more fatalities, a fiery crash down in Kona that closed the Queen Kaʻahumanu Highway all morning. A reminder to be careful on the local roads.

Diving the Naked Lady

A different sort of dive. There are few wrecks to dive on the Big Island, the Naked Lady is one of the few. An Easter Sunday morning spent out on the water, enjoying a beautiful day. As we came back across Kailua Bay from diving at Casa Cave we decided to dive the wreck as our second dive of the day.

Diving the Naked Lady
Andrew Cooper diving on the wreck of the Naked Lady, photo by Pete Tucker
The Naked Lady is a sailboat that burned and sank in Kailua Bay. Apparently the Naked Lady is not the vessel’s real name, simply the name acquired as a result of how it arrived on the bottom of the bay. Hard details are difficult to come by, but the story goes something like this… The sailboat was moored in the bay when the lady aboard needed to eliminate the “little green men” infesting her boat. The result was a burning sailboat and the lady arriving on shore minus her clothing.

It is 110 feet to the sand where the Naked Lady lies on the bottom. This is a short dive, at this depth our bottom time is limited to less than 20 minutes due to nitrogen absorption. Even with the safety stops on ascent the entire dive was about half an hour, I surfaced with over 1200psi of air left in the tank. Considering I often last over an hour with a 80cft tank this was a short dive indeed.

Deb and I did not bother with the mooring line as we dropped to the bottom. The water was clear enough we could see the wreck on the sand 100ft below. With no current we simply dropped, in the clear water this was a surreal, slow motion free-fall. Seeing the sand approaching I did not bother to trim buoyancy, but allowed myself to hit the sand a few feet from the hull. The gauge read 109ft as I knelt on the bottom. I took a couple photos, trimmed for neutral buoyancy and started exploring.

Sky at the Naked Lady
Sky exploring the wreck of the Naked Lady
The hull is more or less intact, with the mast lying to the port side. The entire upperworks are gone, consumed in the fire one would assume. The bowsprit and stern railings lie in the sand in front and aft of the wreck. Inside a few pipes and other fitting are all that remain of the interior.

Aside from a few colonies of cauliflower coral on the wreck itself there is no coral visible, simply a flat plain of sand that stretches in all directions. A swarm of fish surround the wreck, snappers and dasyllus the most numerous. Oddly there are numerous rough spined urchins on and around the hull.

There is little sign of life away from the wreck, the sand seems sterile from a distance. Upon closer examination even this sand desert teems with life. Burrows and tracks betray numerous residents. I take a few photos of a colorful goby I have yet to identify, it does not appear in the usual guidebooks.

The Atlantis Submarine that gives tourists a ride in Kailua Bay often tour the Naked Lady. The submarine was present when we arrived at the mooring, but had moved off by the time we dropped to the wreck. It would have been fun to wave at the tourists.

Naked Lady
Deb on the wreck of the Naked Lady
A lot of photos got taken, mostly of each other as we orbited the wreck. The remains of the sailboat on the sand makes an interesting subject, particularly with the divers poking about. Pete was diving his new 5DMkII rig with a wide angle lens. The wreck was a perfect wide angle target, I found myself wishing I had brought something wide angle like the GoPro. At 110′ there is only blue and more blue, so that the photos turn out rather blue. It becomes interesting to convert the photos to black and white.

The location results in a different dive profile as well. On this island we usually dive deep and then spend the rest of the dive slowly working our way back up the reef, ending in shallow water. A slow ascent eliminates the required safety stops used in recreational diving. Here there is no sloping reef, simply a drop to the bottom. Time to remember those safety stops and monitor the dive computer closely. This ascent required two stops, one at 50′ and another at 15′ to allow the nitrogen to transpire out of our tissues.

With two dives done it had been a great day and we were ready for more. Alas we had a pile of empty tanks and a distinct lack of full. Nothing left but a return to harbor, clean up the boat and an early dinner at the fish market. A great Easter Sunday, far more fun than sitting in church.

Sailboat Update

When we saw the sailboat on the reef Sunday morning we wondered what the story was. Just how did the vessel end up in the surf in front of Kaloko?

Sailboat on the Reef
A large sailboat sitting on the reef in front of Kaloko-Honokōhau National Historical Park
You would think that the local paper would have some mention of the story, just a blurb about the wreck? It was not until Thursday that there was any mention of the story. In the meantime rumors reached me about the story, rumors that turned out to be true.

The boat was stolen, taken out of its slip by someone who did not know how to sail. They made it less than a mile from the harbor before foundering on the reef. The man was arrested by rescuers, they became suspicious when it became apparent that the man did not know anything about the boat or about sailing. The local newspaper writeup was fairly good, if a bit late. Will they tow the boat out and sink it? It would be a great dive.

Sailboat on the Reef

I first saw it from the highway as we approached Honokohau, the sailboat in a bad spot.

A very bad spot.

A large vessel is sitting on the reef just off of the Honokohau beach about half a mile north of the harbor entrance. The beach is closed as it is part of the Kaloko-Honokōhau National Historical Park, closed along with other effects of the federal shutdown. We took a few photos as we cruised past the beach on the way to a Sunday morning of diving.

I looked through the news Monday, looking for information on the incident. There is none, no explanations as to how the sailboat got onto the reef, or what is being done about it. Everyone in the harbor knew about the boat, not a whisper in the media. Tuesday’s news?

Update- The sailboat appears to be the Corsaire, a charter out of Honokohau. No word on how she ended up on the reef.

Sailboat on the Reef
A large sailboat sitting on the reef in front of Kaloko-Honokōhau National Historical Park