Revisiting the Park: Diving in local waters

Revisiting the Park: Diving in local waters

Revisiting the Park: Diving in local waters

There were many good times spent on our 12-foot yacht, but we were now in our teens. As the neighborhood was changing, so were we. We continued to enjoy the lakes around us with waterskiing, parties at friends’ homes on the lake and even sailing. Both the Red Onion and the Attic sponsored baseball games at remote lakes like Angle Lake, Pine Lake, Lake Sammamish and others.

All of these activities necessitated refreshments, but we never thought of how good we had it back then, cost-wise. Beer was a dime, schooners a mere 35 cents, hot dogs and chili around 45 cents each. There was no lack for companionship either since various flight crew and college kids found Madison Park to be a haven.

It was time to put our minds to a physical feat. I had read a SCUBA diving magazine and mentioned it to my friends. Everyone was all in to pursue this new endeavor.

Two dive stores had just opened: one on Lake Union owned by Sheila St. Clair and her husband, Dave, who had previously built 40-foot+ fishing boats, and Frank Wolfe and his wife, Marlene, who owned West Seattle Dive Shop. A club was started at the Lake Union shop called “Mud Sharks.” Frank Wolfe’s club was called “Marker Buoys.”

Our years of diving for coins from the Kirkland ferry served us well. We even attempted a couple of dives using an old paint compressor and hot water tanks cut in half with a window (dive hood). It was a short-lived attempt due to the thermal layer at 12 feet, and due to increased pressure, the compressor shut down. Air was an important part of a dive.

Consequently, it was decided we would become certified, which meant taking classes involving written and pool tests.

Miraculously, we all passed and took our first dive in Lake Washington in Madison Park in the dead of winter. A few gathered to watch us in our rented gear as we sunk in the water, leaving a trail of bubbles. We headed east past the dock, but what we saw was uneventful. There was a small coal car (not railroad size) and logs, bottles and a very sandy bottom.

Off to join the big guys, we drove to the Edmonds Dry Dock, a popular dive spot. We dove in 30 feet deep, just north of the ferry dock from a boat and sank into a world of color, sea life and clarity never imagined. Lake Washington was and still is dark. We were stoked and proceeded to dive under all the structures. Our enthusiasm spread, and some new friends joined us.

A few members of our dive group were Dick Turner, Michael Thim, Kim Matson, Gary Kidder, Bill Porter, Tom Askey, Dennis Boyle and John Welsh. SCUBA club members received benefits like dive trips. One was from Sheila’s husband, Dave, (Lake Union shop) who offered an overnight trip on one of the fishing boats he built including two tank dives in the San Juans.

Frank from West Seattle Dive Club called the harbor patrol requesting that an old 40-foot boat be sunk at Alki Beach. The answer was “NO!” as it was a navigational hazard. Oddly, on that clear, moon-lit night, a large boat loaded with rocks, concrete and anything sinkable was towed by a small cruiser to a home for aging craft. Divers removed the plugs, chopped holes and sunk with the boat down to just beyond the kelp line at 40 feet to its final resting place. That boat is still there and also remains a popular dive spot.

Frank would often call us saying, “Clear day, wanna poke your head under the water?” Without fail, it was a resounding “Yes!” One such day, we drove south about 30 miles to dive Three Tree Point,

After parking the car, the three of us walked down a winding trail to the beach. No one was there but a three-masted schooner off in the distance. Slowly, we entered the water and followed the slope downward through kelp, seaweed and various sea anemone.

Near the schooner, there was a clanking sound around 50 feet, and we saw the ship’s anchor buried in sand amongst a huge tree stump and branches. We surfaced and yelled, “Captain! Is your anchor, OK?” to which he replied, “No, I’ve got to cut it loose, and it’s too expensive!” Luckily, we divers were all super gung-ho, so were able to unwind the anchor and give it scope in sand nearby. After surfacing, we said, “You’re good to go, Captain!”

He summoned us aboard, and we noticed it was a first-class ship and that the crew was mostly bikini-clad young women.

They served us champagne and lunch, but we kept wondering where did they get all that champagne? We spent the rest of the afternoon in the sun since we wore bathing suits underneath our wetsuits. Great food, music and company … and really, where the hell did all that champagne come from? Feeling fine and having had much laughter, we exchanged phone numbers.

We carefully grabbed our masks and dove into the water, careful not to drown for all we consumed. When we got to shore, we sat on the beach and watched the schooner sail into the distance into the setting sun. It was a better-than-average dive trip.

There are more dive tales to tell, stay tuned.