Runnin’ Down a Dream : USS Vammen (340 fsw) & USS Burns (260 fsw)

Yeah, I’m runnin’ down a dream

That never would come to me

Workin’ on a mystery, goin’ wherever it leads

I’m runnin’ down a dream

Tom Petty

I’ve dreamed of diving the Vammen and the Burns for a very long time — just not both on the same day!

This is a story of what is probably the most epic day of diving in my life. I’ll create a detailed post for each of the wrecks, but for now, I thought I would give some insight into the story of diving both of these epic wrecks on the same day.


Diving the deep wrecks of San Clemente Island presents many challenges.

  • The Navy actively uses San Clemente Island for all kinds of armament and equipment testing. Therefore, you need to check the schedule to see which areas (if any) are open for diving, fishing, etc.
  • Then you need good conditions and those can be challenging, especially on the backside of the island where the wrecks are
  • Then you need a dive boat and crew capable of live-boating and dealing with the challenges of 300+ foot dives
  • Then you need a dive partner you trust that is capable of doing that type of dive.

Basically, the universe has to align.

We’ve had some really calm seas lately and we were pretty sure the island would be open around Thanksgiving and Kevin Bond was able to dive and Ray and Kyaa had the Sundiver Express available — all on Saturday, November 27th.

The real question was: what were we going to dive? We knew we were going to the island but diving 300+ foot wrecks in the Pacific Ocean requires a lot of things to be just right, including how you feel the morning of the dive.

Kevin and I had many texts and calls before Saturday and decided that we would bring gear that would allow us to dive most of the potential wrecks (all except the USS Hopewell which is very, very deep but has been dived) and then would make a game-day call.

Here is my load-out for the day:

Just another day of diving….
Loaded up the night before the dive

Kevin actually had more gear and one more tank…

Dive Day

Multiple alarms set for 4am. Check.

Gear loaded into the car, ready to go. Check.

I went to bed around 8:30pm knowing we would have a long day and that I would need to get up early. I was up at 4am and out the door by 4:20am. I arrived at the Sundiver right before 5am and had made three trips to ferry my gear from the car to the boat. We pushed off the dock in the dark around 5:30am.

6am – Sunrise

We had amazingly flat seas. It is so, so rare to have these conditions. I was feeling good and in the groove. I sat down with Kevin and we started finalizing plans. Kevin was also feeling good.

We decided to dive the USS Vammen and then, if we were feeling good and had time, we would dive the USS Burns.

7am – Closing in on the East End of Catalina. Almost a “lake” on the Pacific Ocean.

USS Vammen (DE-644)

We geared up and started our descent right around 9:20am. The Vammen is an amazing wreck. It is a Destroyer Escort which means it is “lean and mean” and it sits upright in 340 feet of water. It was sunk while testing the Condor missile. The water was crystal clear but very dark at 300+ feet deep. I did some extra deco and my runtime on the dive was 2 hours 25 minutes.

More photos in another post, but here is a teaser:

The view from 300 feet deep

USS Burns (DD-588)

Kyaa and Craig got a chance to jump in for a nice dive in Pyramid Cove while Kevin and I off-gassed. We had about 2.5 hours of surface interval. I would have preferred four hours but we knew we had limited daylight this time of year.

Kyaa & Craig dove in the crystal clear waters with kelp

We were both tired and agreed we would do a “shorter” dive on the Burns. It is still deep and after a relatively short surface interval after a 300+ foot dive, we knew we would rack up deco obligation pretty quickly at 260 feet deep.

The Burns is a Destroyer and has a much wider berth than the Vammen. Also, it sits on the starboard side instead of upright like the Vammen.

5″ gun on the USS Burns

I had a runtime of 1 hour 50 minutes and exited the water around 4pm as the sun was starting to set.

Heading Home

It was time to head home after a very long day. Luckily the surface conditions continued. We usually get a bigger swell and wind in the afternoons but we had an amazing trip back home.

Sun setting over the east end of San Clemente Island – Ocean looks like a lake

We got back to the dock around 8:00pm and I got home around 8:30pm.

Such an epic day….Once in a lifetime.


A huge thanks to Ray, Kyaa, and Craig at Sundiver International. Diving these wrecks requires experience and expertise and they have both in spades.

Thanks to Kevin Bond for being a great dive partner

Thanks to my wife Leslie for being supportive and understanding of my passion for deep wreck diving.

6 thoughts on “Runnin’ Down a Dream : USS Vammen (340 fsw) & USS Burns (260 fsw)

  1. Why not peoples full name — first and last ?
    As was once on MY PD Blue — “Be careful– Down there !

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