Wrecks of the SM1 & Gosford-Sept. 7, 2013
Trip review written by Ken Kollwitz
On Saturday the day after the West Santa Cruz trip we headed up the coast for a real treat to dive a couple of my favorite wrecks aboard the Peace. We had a bit of a bumpy ride there but excellent diving conditions (some of the best) and a beautiful ride back down along the coast. Using the Peace is a longer ride to and from but well worth it when you get the ability to also have Nitrox for the dives not to mention you can sit in your car in traffic or sit or sleep on the boat and let them do the driving for you so it really all is relative and depends on how you want to look at things.
If you like wrecks and have never been to the SM1 & the Gosford you are REALLY missing out on some of the best wreck dives SoCal has to offer. So what is so special about these wrecks you ask? These 2 wrecks are with about 15 minutes of each other, have LOTS of history and sunk naturally which means there are some hazards but they are true wrecks and not something like the artificial ones sunk for divers. The only problem is that they are up towards Gavoita and Pt. Conception which makes them harder to get to making them much less dived but then that is probably a good thing.
Our 1st and 2nd dives were on the SM1 and using 32% Nitrox is the way to go for this wreck. At only about 70′-75′ deep you can get a nice long dive with the 32% and not be rushed. The SM-1 was originally built as a U.S. Navy Medium Landing Ship (LSM-251) near the end of World War II. It was originally 204’ ft long and was driven by twin diesels. At the end of the war it was sold to Western Oil and Refining Co. It was renamed the Humble SM-1 in 1958 and made into an oil drilling barge with several modifications. The SM-1 worked offshore between Ventura and Point Conception. She now was a barge and towed to the drilling sites. In 1962 there was a big squall, creating large seas. The large seas caused the SM-1 to drag anchor (6 of them were used) and eventually she capsized, sinking in 75’ of water. She was then salvaged and is now a great dive site. The SM-1 now lies upside down about 2-3 miles offshore between Gavotia and Coho Anchorage. The SM-1 has kelp and schools of fish along with some great wreckage to look at. You MUST be careful diving the SM-1 as there is lots of jagged metal and other hazards such as current and the lure of seeing what is inside. There are plenty of holes to see inside and there is a large debris field on the starboard side. The SM-1 can be great for pictures or just plain sightseeing.
For our 3rd dive we made the short move to the Gosford. The Gosford was a four masted cargo sailing ship. She was well built in 1891 in Greenock, Scotland and was 281’ long and 42’ wide. In 1893, the Gosford was carrying a load of coal and while a long way offshore the coal had started to burn, not a good thing. The captain changed her course to the nearest land. The fire kept burning for 5 days as the crew kept trying to put it out, but with no luck. She was towed the last 35 miles to Coho, Anchorage where on November 24, 1893 she sank in 35’-40’ of water. She now sits in 35’-40’ of water on a sandy bottom with lots of fish and kelp growing all around her and is now an excellent artificial reef. There is still much to see of the Gosford after all the years that have gone by including lots of photo opportunities not only of the Gosford, but also all the marine life that calls her home, sometimes you can spot the wolf eels in a hole on the starboard bow. The Gosford makes for a perfect shallow dive after diving the SM-1 and she is only about a 10 minutes away from the SM-1.
The visibility was at least about 30′ on both of the wrecks and after many years of abuse from Mother Nature are both showing more and more of themselves to us divers. The dives we did were probably the best dives I have ever done on both wrecks.
The trip to the wrecks was only half filled (not good) but either way CIDA is still going to plan another for next year so tell your friends. Trips are never scheduled there by the Peace and the only way we are going to go is if someone like Channel Islands Dive Adventures takes the chance to plan one. CIDA hopes that if you “Really Like to do something different” that you will show your support and join in on the fun on trips like this or you could just keep going to the same old places!