SM1/Gosford Wrecks-Truth-Sept. 23, 2017
By Ken Kollwitz
I love to dive the wrecks of the SM1 & Gosford but a trip to them is one of those trips that once you leave the harbor you are committed and the reason for that is because if the conditions are not in your favor there isn’t anywhere else to go. Sure there are a few nice reefs up along the Santa Barbara/Goleta coastline and some old remnants of the old oil piers which can all be good dives but it isn’t like the islands where you can usually find someplace diveable. This is why CIDA only plans a couple trips a year up to the wrecks in the late summer/fall timeframe when the weather god’s can be more on our side.
For example, last year our trip in September only had if we were so lucky 3’-5’ visibility on the SM1 and maybe 8’ on the Gosford so needless to say we couldn’t do a dive on the SM1 and not much of a dive on the Gosford. We did move south to the old oil piers where we were able to do some exploring with about 20’ visibility and that saved the day. You just never know what you will end up with but when you end up with the conditions like we just had this past September 23rd you end up with a MOST AWESOME trip. We were treated to about 25’+ feet of visibility, no current, very little surge and some cold low 50 degree water. It was one of the best I have had on the wrecks in years!
We left at 3:00 am for our 4 hour ride out. You might not think going up the coast to the wrecks as all that far but it is about the same distance to San Miguel. The ride out was somewhat bumpy but as we got in the protection of Pt. Conception it smoothed out and we arrived around 7:00. The sun was out and it was the start of a beautiful day and after looking down the anchor line and seeing clean water the day was getting even better. Once we were anchored one of the crew jumped in to check things out and when we heard the good news about the great conditions everyone was excited to get DIVING.
The SM1 sunk in 1961, was then salvaged and is now a great dive site. The SM-1 lies upside down about 2-3 miles offshore between Gavotia and Coho Anchorage in about 75′ of water. The SM-1 has kelp and schools of fish along with some great wreckage to look at. You MUST be careful when you dive 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.
I love the SM1 because it is a natural wreck and now with every storm that she endures more and more area is opening up. It was only a few years back that I took a picture of the toilets on a wall hanging upside down and now on this last trip the wall had fallen apart and the toilets now lay on the bottom. Also, there are many more openings along the top of the wreck (bottom of SM1) that are being created and much more of the wreck is opening up. In fact you now can swim through most of the wreck but BEWARE at any time the wreck could COLLAPSE even more.
After 2 excellent dives on the SM1 and sad it was time to leave and the Truth moved the short distance over to the Coho Anchorage at Government Pt where the Gosford sunk in 1893 after being towed there while burning for 5 days. The Gosford is also another favorite wreck of mine. To be honest where else can you find a beautiful old four masted cargo sailing ship sitting upright in the sand in shallow water (30’-45’ deep) with kelp growing all over it and to top it off in SoCal. Now to have both the SM1 and Gosford so close together makes trips like this VERY SPECIAL. The Gosford is changing with time but nothing like the SM1 and that is probably due to many different factors. No matter what the reason is the only thing you need to know is to hop on one of CIDA’s trips to the wrecks and enjoy diving in some history with us.