I haven't been diving on Saturna Island in 12 years. I've wanted to try diving some more spots here, but having to take a ferry at 5:00 in the morning discouraged me from planning another trip. The ferry schedule must have changed over the years since I noticed recently that there is now a ferry to Saturna at a more convenient 8:00 am. There was also a day with decently-low current (Jan. 23, 2016) so I came over to dive some spots I've been wanting to try for awhile. Acorn Lane is a short gravel road leading to a public access right-of-way to the water in Tumbo Channel.
Across Tumbo Channel, there's a wall dropping to about 200 feet deep on Tumbo Island. Unfortunately it's too far to swim to from Saturna Island, but I was hoping there would be some rocky structure on the Saturna Island side of the channel as well. The marine chart shows a slope going down to around 100' deep within a reasonable distance from shore. There can be strong current in the channel (which apparently always runs towards the East) so I was hoping for some current-loving marine life despite being in the low-salinity Strait of Georgia. I parked at the end of Acorn Lane and walked down a very short trail to a steep set of rickety wooden stairs. The stairway creaked and swayed, but I survived the descent. It was high tide and the water came up to the base of the stairs.
I swam straight out over some mostly-flat sandstone. Below the intertidal zone, the bottom was flat sand/pebbles. I felt a pretty strong current so I turned left to swim against it. I also gradually tried to work my way deeper out into the channel. At about 25' deep I started to see some rocks with clusters of urchins (large red/purple and small green) and California cucumbers. A bit deeper at 30' deep, I saw a basket star on the pebbles. Visibility was 30-40'.
I continued to swim to the left (West) against the current. I started to see more solid sandstone reefs. They had lots of urchins and cup corals on them. I also saw several more basket stars. I hardly saw any fish. Apart from small sculpins, gobies, etc. I only saw a few perch and a kelp greenling. This rocky area went down to about 45-50' deep. Below the reefs, there was just more sand and pebbles. I was hoping to try and swim out deeper to look for more rocky areas, but the strong current made we want to stay as close to shore as possible.
I was using up my air faster than usual (from swimming against the current) so I swam up to the shallows and drifted back towards the Acorn Lane entry-point. I saw lots of purple seastars clustered on the rocks. It was nice to see that none of them had the seastar wasting disease that I've been seeing everywhere else over the last 2 years.
The marine life here wasn't very diverse, but any spot with basket stars is a good dive site to me. I'm still interested in seeing what it's like deeper in Tumbo Channel. There are a few more public access right-of-ways to the water nearby on Tumbo Channel Rd. If I come back, I'll have to try diving some of them and look for some deeper rocky structure. Probably the biggest obstacle to people diving on Saturna Island is the length of the ferry ride. It can be over 2 hours one-way from Swartz Bay.