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Smooth currents, wildlife draw scuba divers to Langley Harbor

Gareth Snow helps his father Mike Snow suit up in scuba diving gear before entering Langley Harbor recently.  - Stephen Mercer
Gareth Snow helps his father Mike Snow suit up in scuba diving gear before entering Langley Harbor recently.
— image credit: Stephen Mercer

Submerged just beneath the water surface at the Langley Small Boat Harbor lies a vibrant world teeming with octopus, crab, fish and other life.

For the underwater animals, it is a life built around the sunken tires sitting at the bottom of Puget Sound. Since dropping below the water’s surface years ago, the old Firestones speared with steel rods have formed both a natural habitat and a protection area for giant red octopus, rock fish and all types of wildlife.

The reefs around the tires create a breeding area for rock fish and the tires provide a place for the octopus to live, he said.

“If there were no tire reef, there would be no underwater life to speak of,” said Brian Hobbs, an Anacortes-based diving instructor.

Because of its location on Whidbey Island, Langley’s harbor is also protected from the strong currents that make diving at Keystone difficult.

Diving provides an escape for Hobbs, who spends his weekdays dealing with plugged toilets and clogged sinks as the owner of a plumbing company.

The variety of life drawn by the rock reef at Keystone has also made the central Whidbey spot near the Keystone ferry terminal a popular diving spot among divers, Hobbs said.

“It’s like visiting another world,” Stan Kurowski said of the appeal of diving. “You can see outer space, only here on Earth.”

Both Hobbs and Kurowski work as diving instructors for Anacortes Diving and Supply. They were at the harbor Sunday to provide a final skills lesson for eight students who were taking a two-week course to earn their open water diver certification. Several other divers associated with the Anacortes store also came with the group to dive for fun.

In total, at least a dozen people suited up on the partly cloudy and cool late spring day to spend an average of 45 minutes underwater.

Although the students were from Bellingham, the San Juan Islands and elsewhere in western Washington, Hobbs said divers from Canada and all over the state - including Yakima and Walla Walla - scuba dive in the Langley harbor.

But becoming a scuba diver does not come cheap. Costs vary from $3,500 for training and used equipment to $5,000 for new equipment and training.

Scuba divers outfit themselves in either a wetsuit or drysuit. A buoyancy compensator vest along with a weighted belt raises the diver up or down. The diver holds a regulator in their mouth which runs to an air tank. The tank, which is attached to the buoyancy vest, provides air through the regulator during the dive.

Rubber boots inside fins are used by the divers to propel through the water. One common accessories is a wristwatch which provides a dive computer, depth and ascent rate information and other data for the diver to use to keep track of his or her surroundings. Other essentials, include a snorkel and flashlight.

It is not uncommon to see a local diver outfitting themselves in scuba diving gear at the marina.

Mike Snow of Langley said he dives there with his son Gareth for a variety of reasons.

It is so close to home, the predictable weather and the underwater surroundings make the harbor itself makes it a well-used spot by the Snows and other divers.

Warm showers and heated floors inside the bathrooms at Phil Simon Park provide another draw among scuba divers during the colder months of the year, Mike Snow said.

“If you look in our log books, this is by far our favorite spot,” Snow said.

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