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Tour de Foul Whidbey: A Dock Fouling Adventure

My regular dock fouling locations, Eddie Vine and Edmonds Marina, had become a bit predictable. I hadn't seen anything new for a while. I was intrigued to see if locations further in to the sound would yield any new discoveries. Deception Pass is always a great spot to visit and has a nearby marina and boat launch. Checking for marinas on the map, I found ones at Oak Harbor and Coupeville that looked promising. On November 11th I set forth to see what, if anything, interesting I could find at these locations.

The first stop was Deception Pass Marina, in Coronet Bay. It was still early in the morning so the marina was slick and icy. I soon forgot about the cold when I quickly spotted a white lined dirona on the side of the dock. It was exciting to see such a majestic sea slug right away! As I kept looking I found a small sea slug that I assumed was a thick-horned nudibranch. There were several similar looking creatures all throughout the docks, all fairy small and slow moving. They seemed to be a bit too slow moving for thick-horns, but I simply attributed that to the chilly temperature. Later, upon looking through the photos, I noticed that they were quite a different species- Coryphella pseudoverrucosa.

I was about to leave the marina when a bright patch of orange caught my eye. I assumed it was a sea anemone, but decided to take a closer look. Much to my delight it was another sea slug, a golden dirona- a species I had never seen before. It did not move much so I was not able to capture any action shots. It was one of the larger sea slugs I have ever seen, a good 4-5 inches long.

When I was finally able to stop staring at the golden dirona, I drove a short distance along the bay to Coronet Bay Boat Ramp, which had an adjacent floating dock. I check out the floating dock but not the boat ramp as there was significant boat traffic. The floating dock had numerous thick-horned nudibranchs (that were actually thick-horns). Most were too small or far away to photograph. There were likely many other fascinating organisms, but I ignored them all in awe of the sea slugs.

Next stop was Oak Harbor Marina. Despite being a spacious marina with clear water, there were few to none organisms beyond mussels that I could see. Perhaps the density of mussels prevented anything else from growing here. The best feature of this marina was an oddly luxurious heated toilet at the very end of the dock. After that I headed to Coupeville Marina. The floating dock at this location was much smaller- just one short section off the tourist pier. It was the same again- dense mussels and little else. I remember being at this pier during a low tide and there were thick mussel beds covering everything. Feeling disappointed I decided to have another try at a public boat ramp nearby, Captain's Coupe Boat Launch. It was as I expected, just thick mussels throughout! I expect that the inland nature of these locations contributed to their organism diversity, though I don't know the exact relationship.

I decided to check the map one last time before heading to the ferry at Clinton. Langley looked as though it had a public marina and it wasn't in a cove like the previous two spots. I headed over there and found a charming little marina.

Although I didn't see any sea slugs this marina had a great diversity of interesting creatures! There were many tunicates, sea anemones and a hell of a lot of ochre stars. Some of the ochre stars were the biggest I have ever seen before! Despite the Tour de Foul peaking early I was happy to finish it on a high note. I suspect that Oak Harbor and Coupeville remain the same year round, but Deception Pass would be a great spot to check at different seasons.

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