This is the terminal for the Washington State Ferry that runs between Sidney and Anacortes. The terminal is just South of downtown Sidney near the Tulista park/boat ramp. A ferry has been running on this route for about 100 years, but it was shut down due to traveling restrictions during COVID. Washington State is not restarting the ferry until at least 2030 due to a lack of vessels and staff. Since the ferry dock has basically been abandoned for the last few years, I figured no one would have a problem with me diving under it.
I parked and entered the water just North of the ferry terminal (April 22, 2023). It would have been easier to get in the water at the boat ramp, but the parking would have been farther away. There was a tricky climb down a slope of riprap boulders to the beach. I got in the water near some exposed (it was a very low tide) cut-off old pilings that were part of a rail dock that used to run out over where the ferry dock is now.
I swam out on the surface, following the cut-off pilings towards the dock. The water was only a few feet deep here. There were patches of eelgrass and lots of piddock clams buried in the clay that was just under the sand.
I reached the first pilings and just beyond them the bottom dropped down in a dredged clay wall. There were lots more of the clams embedded in the wall. Visibility was less than 10', with lots of suspended particles.
I had a look at the pilings. They had more invertebrate life on them than I expected. They were covered with all kinds of tunicate colonies, nudibranchs, plumose and painted anemones and swarms of shrimp.
In the area under the loading ramp (about 20-25' deep), the bottom was covered with a jumble of metal debris, like fallen steel pilings, beams, rods, cable, etc. There were also some wire mesh bags filled with rocks. The area was mostly covered with various kinds of seaweed so it was difficult to really see what it was all about.
I followed my compass out farther towards some large floats at the end of the ferry terminal. I saw a large chain and followed it up to one of the floats. The underside of these floats were covered with everything I saw on the pilings plus lots of feather duster worms.
On the bottom under the floats there were lots of tube worm tubes that had fallen down from above. There were even some clumps of them that were being eaten by red rock crabs.
I swam out a bit farther along the bottom, hoping to find a long object shown on the sidescan image that runs across the bottom in front of the dock area. I reached a depth of 35' deep. I'm not sure if this area was dredged out or if it was "blown away" by the ferry prop wash. I found some large concrete blocks and chains for mooring the floats, but I didn't see anything like the long object shown on the sidescan image. It could have possibly been the chains since there were a few of them suspended above the bottom in about the same orientation. Maybe I just didn't swim out far enough to find it in the bad visibility.
I followed my compass back towards the ferry dock. I reached a group of wooden, cut-off pilings that I assume were from the same old rail dock that I followed out from shore at the beginning of my dive.
Eventually I was back under the dock at the small, dredged-out clay wall and I swam up past it back to shore.
I don't think this was an amazing dive site or anything, but I was semi-impressed by the amount of life on the pilings. I'll probably come back when all the seaweed has died off and hopefully the visibility is better (although from what I've seen, the visibility off the Sidney waterfront is usually pretty bad). I wonder if many of the tunicates are seasonal and the pilings would look more bare in the winter. I also wonder if the marine life has changed much since the ferry stopped running. The daily blast of current (and sediment) from the ferry docking must have had an effect on the invertebrate life (positive and negative). I'd also like to have a clearer look at all the debris under the dock. I don't know if it's the remains of a previous dock or scrap from upgrades over the years, but it seems strange that it would be left piled-up in an area that they went to the trouble of dredging. Another thing I might want to have a look for is the wreck of a sailing ship that was used as a breakwater about 100 years ago in front of a swimming beach in the area around the Tulista boat ramp. Since this area is so shallow I assume the ship was resting on the bottom and not moored and floating, so I think there might be a chance that some remains might still be there (unless it's covered by the existing stone breakwater in front of the boat ramp).