Yesterday morning, I embarked upon the mother of all Pacific Northwest dives, Deception Pass. Located in the narrow passage between Fidalgo and Whidbey Islands, this site features some exceptionally strong currents and can only be visited safely at certain times of the year during low tidal exchanges. Our plan was to enter the water at the end of the flood and drift east, enjoy the middle 30 minutes of our dive in relatively little current during slack, and then drift back on the ebb. Below is a chart showing the yesterdays current situation, courtesy of Pacific Northwest tides and currents.
We met with the other members of our group in the north parking lot at Deception Pass State Park, which is a short, relatively easy walk to the entry point. We entered the water at about 9:15 AM and swam toward a sheltered cove next to the bridge, where we waited for the current to diminish. After waiting there for an additional five minutes, we were able to safely make our descent.
This dive site is truly one of the most breathtaking locations in the Pacific Northwest. Terrain varied from piles of large granite boulders to sheer walls carved out by the extreme currents that regularly rip through the passage. Much of the hard substrate was covered by a carpet of large barnacles, dark purple tubeworms, orange sea cucumbers, and glove sponges. With the exception of a few large lingcods, kelp greenlings, and an assortment of small sculpins darting about, fish were few and far between – this was definitely a dive for invertebrate enthusiasts. We found several different species of nudibranchs here, including the lovely leopard dorid featured in the video below.
Visibility was not as spectacular as I would have hoped for during this dive, although it did clear up once we descended to 20 feet. We had very little trouble with current due to our nearly perfect timing, although we did encounter a back eddy on the surface during our swim back to shore. Overall, it was a fantastic dive, and definitely one any experienced current diver should try at least once. If you pay close attention to what the currents are doing and plan your excursion carefully, you will have a blast.