October’s second choice is a sometimes better.
The San Saba lies east of Barnegate Light in 75 feet of water. On October 4 of 1918, over ninety-three years ago she struck a mine, broke in half and sank. She was carrying a general cargo for the U.S. Railroad Administration bound south to Florida and then to Alabama.
After a nasty fall full of earthquakes, hurricanes, floods and general bad weather, Atlantic Divers finally got a nice day to venture offshore on the Dina Dee. A northwest wind slapped the flags producing little waves as we cruised past Old Barney. This inlet was once known as the worst inlet on coast and a film was made depicting fishing boats and Coast Guard cutters pitch-poling over the shallow sand bars that once barricaded the inlet. Today, a score of stripper fisherman meandered about the jetties with little worry. Our destination was changed due to the migrating visibility this fall. Pools of black water have plagued inshore sites and all onboard were interested in a site with good conditions, even though we detoured from our first choice the Vizcaya . The Vizcaya also sank in October in 1890. See Vicaya ... http://www.njwreckdivers.com/p/shipwrecks.html
The change in direction made for better conditions and the San Saba was an excellent replacement choice for all on board. Captain Roger, George and Dennis are very obliging when it come to good diving conditions. They are avid divers and understand that our group enjoys a nice day on the water and good wreck diving. They always take the next step to satisfy their customers.
At the San Saba, George drew the short straw, suited up and quickly descended to tie in. The rest of us slowly suited preparing for a return to the dock unless the visibility was good enough to safely navigate the wreck. George signaled good visibility by releasing a neon tennis ball to the surface.
Soon all dressed and plunged down to the bottom where a good but dark 15 foot of visibility allowed one to navigate along the propellor shaft. One could easily travel from the boilers to the disconnected break in the shaft and then all the way to the stern. This improved to a 20 foot plus with nice illumination from the sun on the second dive.
On the wreck, divers would find hardened barrels of pitch with some barrel rings still intact. Past the break in the shaft, divers in the late seventies and eighties cleared the stern section with scooters digging up assorted amounts of wreck bling. Here brass screws, hinges plus assorted bottles and jars of Three in One oil, perfume, olive, peanut butter, jelly, whistles, and assorted hardware were uncovered. Rows of crates formed a field just off the mid section. It is here that a box of brass letter openers were discovered. Each letter opener was made in the form of a nude female figure with her arms raised above her shoulder and her legs together formed the blade. These were highly sought after but only a few were discovered. Perhaps on this trip by digging we would unearth more of these rare treasures.
On the second dive I suggested a few scooter divers go to the once productive field. Steve Seeberger and Brian Randolph were there digging the area, when I arrived. Brian unearthed a bone toothbrush and Steve got screwed literally. I prodded John Copeland from their dig and showed him an area less likely to get us screwed too. Here we uncovered ingots, silver spoons, bundles of satin and a lid to a Maison Diron perfume bottle (rare). Much more needs to be uncovered here and the group was excited on the productive day of digging. I felt a sense of deja vu. Over thirty years before I was bringing groups here. Just as it was then, today was another nice day on the water with friends. The seas were flat on the way in as we enjoyed the warm rays of sun. Those happy divers included Tracey Rogers, Andrew Nagle, Steve Seeberger, John Copeland, Brian Randolph, Kevin McCourt, Jeff Heim, Geoff Graham, John Lavelle, Anne Hornung, Dan Burke and Guy Harrington. I still pledge to return in search of those letter openers.... Join us.
Good Wreck Diving!