LA Wrecks-January 20, 2013
This was the first CIDA trip of 2013 and an excellent way to start off the new year. The week before the trip the SoCal temperatures plunged to the low 30’s (and lower in some areas) and within the week it jumped up 20°-30° making it much more desirable when jumping into the 54° water. To top it off the ocean was flat calm making it more like Lake Pacifica as some called it. The only problem with such high temperature changes is that it can cause havoc on people’s health as was the case on this trip with 5 people that couldn’t make it because they were sick, but then it sure was nice diving from the Pacific Star with only 12 divers and 1 non-diver.
The night before the trip aboard the Pacific Star was spent visiting and making new friends and also making sure the dive gear was ready to go the next day. The morning was beautiful along with the sunrise especially as it came up over the harbor shining down upon us. Our 1st dive was planned for the USS Palawan, about a 90 minute ride from the LA Harbor and with the calm seas we had it turned out to be a very nice trip.
The USS Palawan was launched in August 1944 and right away was converted from a cargo carrying liberty ship to an Internal Combustion Engine Repair Ship arriving in the Philippines in August 1945. She was decommissioned in June 1947 spending many years up in San Diego, Ca. at the Pacific Reserve Fleet. She was struck out of service until 1976 when the Ca. Dept of Fish & Game acquired her for an artificial reef project. In September 1977 she was sunk a short distance off of King Harbor, Redonda Beach. The Palawan now sits on a sandy bottom lying between approx. 100′-125′ ft. deep where she has become an excellent artificial reef and advanced dive site. There is still much to see with her huge cargo holds, mast, bow section and other debris.
After the dive on the Palawan, the Pacific Star moved a short distance to the site of the SS Avalon off the Palos Verdes coastline. The Avalon was built as a very luxurious passenger steamer and launched as the SS Virginia. William Wrigley bought her in 1919 and moved her to Los Angeles where she would continue to transport passengers to Avalon, Catalina Island until she was sold in 1951. Her life changed quite a bit over the next 13 years or so when she sunk in a storm while on salvage duty in 1964. The Avalon now sits on top of a rocky reef about 75′ ft. deep making for an excellent dive when conditions permit. For our dive the Pacific Star dropped the anchor very close to the bow section and from here it was easy to follow the main decking while exploring above and below the decking and rails. Occasionally we would see a big Ling Cod under the deck and rock fish hanging out above and along Garibaldi and other schooling fish. We had about 15′-20′ ft. of visibility and what really surprised me was the amount of surge we had even though the seas were very calm.
After our dive on the SS Avalon we moved to a new site (to me) called the Arch. The Arch is a good sized underwater arch that you can swim through located on a very nice reef that had some dramatic and large rock structure. The reef lies a short distance from shore and is about 30′-50′ ft. deep. With all the dramatic structure was also lots of cool things to see like lobsters, dorids, nudibranches, schooling fish, kelp and much more. This site was a must see again dive site.
After the dive the crew had put out 2 large rinse tubs for our gear-one with simple green and 1 with fresh water. Our ride back was about 60 minutes and just before getting into the harbor we had a birthday to celebrate along with cake for a friend (Cris) filling our stomachs even more after a very good lunch of meatloaf, mashed potatoes and broccoli. After 3 excellent dives we where back into the harbor and ready to leave by about 3:30 making it home in time to still clean everything for the next CIDA trip. If you missed out, CIDA will be doing just about the same trip on September 14, 2013 for the SoCal Shootout.
Thank you to Patrick Smith for the information on the Palawan & Avalon