Sunday, July 15, 2018

Tyee and Madrona 07/08/2018

Jim Dixon had me over for some diving in the Nanaimo area, and it did not disappoint!

We hit up Tyee Beach first. It had been some time since I had been, and there were major improvements. Gone was the brambly path, to be replaced by a park, a bathroom and change area. Quite the upgrade!

Jim and I planned to scooter out to Dolphin Beach along the wall that ran to the left of the Tyee entrance, then come back. It was a great looking day.

On the wall, we came across four nice Puget Sound king crabs. Here was one of them.

We also saw three tiger rockfish, which I was quite excited about. I don't get to see these that often. Jim laughed later that he couldn't figure out why I kept pointing them out, because he saw them all the time. A highlight was the large yellow-eye rockfish. That was one thing that Jim didn't see shallow that often.

The best part for me though, was the lewis moonsnail at the end of the dive. These ugly things were always awesome to me!

I made a funny video out of our moonsnail encounter here:

For our dive at Madrona, it was even better. I joked with Jim that we would see 8 octopus and 6 wolf eels. He was definitely skeptical.

We scootered out to the big wall, and right at the start, came across a juvenile wolf eel in a crack. I was super excited! Jim signaled me if I would take some video, and I signaled back yes. When I reached into my pocket, no camera. With a sinking feeling, I pulled everything out to double check. Nothing. I got Jim's attention and signaled that I lost my camera, and to go back and search. I hoped I had just not clipped it off properly and that it had slipped out onto the sand. While looking, I replayed gearing down at Tyee. I then remembered that for some reason I had put my camera back into its case and put it into my dive bag. Certain that I knew it was not lost, I called off the search. Good that I didn't lose it, bad that we kept seeing so many great things!

In the end, we saw 6 octopus, 3 wolf eels (a juvenile and a new mated pair). Scores of opalescent nudibranchs, 1 big sunflower star and 5 smaller sunflower stars, a bright red gunnel, and a juvenile yellow-eye rockfish. There were a few pretty lion's mane jellyfish to round things out.

It was a truly epic dive. Madrona never seemed to disappoint!

Alert Bay 06/07-10/2018

Heather and I planned some diving in Alert Bay, and it turned out excellent as always. I took a side trip to visit Sointula as well. It was a Finnish community on the nearby Malcolm Island. It really was pretty!

An eagle greeted us on the way over.

The beaches of Sointula...

Our diving adventures were under the old breakwater as usual. Our first critter was a large helmet crab trying to remain inconspicuous.

The giant plumose anemones were spectacular as always.

I found a skateboard of all things!

The large painted anemones on the dock pilings always made good photo subjects.

The Red Irish Lords near Alert Bay were not as colorful as some, but they were still amazing.

A saddleback gunnel tried not to be seen in the shallows.

The visibility was excellent as always. Here is a shot looking up towards the surface between the dock pilings.

Another photogenic Red Irish Lord.

A moon jelly. We saw a few small lion's mane jellies as well.

I got a good picture of Heather waving to the camera.

Diving under the old breakwater always reminded me of being inside a Cathedral.

There was a very cool green kelp isopod. The picture came out blurry, but the video of it swimming turned out better. I had only seen this in the Aquarium before.

What was very encouraging were all the giant sunflower stars. Every time we have been back now, we have seen more. The sea star wasting disease seemed to be abating. We made a point of submitting all the sightings we made (I think there were 6 total, compared to last year when we saw 2).

I wasn't sure if this was another Red Irish Lord, or a buffalo sculpin. It sure was cool!

I put together a video compilation as well. I hope you enjoy!

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Porteau Cove 05/27/2018

Vlad and I went out for a very fun scooter dive at Porteau Cove. The tide was way out, so that introduced some challenges, but it certainly was a great day for a dive.

Our plan was to take a compass bearing to the Nakaya, spend some time there,then scooter back into the main areas of the marine park.

Scootering out went well, although the visibility in the first 6 meters was pretty bad. We almost ran into the cement blocks of one of the artificial reefs. But the bearing we took was true and we hit the concrete block buoy for the Nakaya as planned. But, the extreme low tide played a trick on us and we missed the Nakaya itself. It took a bit of searching back and forth a bit, but we found it.

The visibility past 6 meters was pretty good. We stowed our scooters and did a leisurely kick around the whole wreck. It was still doing pretty well, and was surprisingly intact. Some of the wood was very spongy. There was a set of floating cables and line off to the port side which I didn't remember. There were several Northern Feather Duster worms growing on the cables, along with quite a few plumose anemones. There wasn't a lot of line tangled there, but it could get cleaned up at some point.

I noticed a tiger rockfish living on the starboard side. It retreated too quickly when I called Vlad over to see. There were hundreds of juvenile yellowtail rockfish all over.

After finishing up with the Nakaya, we headed back. Again the extreme low tide hindered us, because we scootered back too "deep" and missed everything. Basically we needed to be at least 30 feet shallower. The poor visibility didn't help ether.

But the run back was fun anyway. We came across a stubby squid egg mass sitting out in the open on the sand, several juvenile lion's mane jellyfish, and a bunch of golf balls!

When we surfaced, we were treated to the Coast Guard hovercraft doing drills on the nearby beach.

A lot of fun!

Neck Point 03/24/2018

Heather and I took a break from the Big City and took a relaxing mini-vacation to Vancouver Island. We stayed at the Englishman River Resort in a log cabin, had camp fires, and just generally had a good time. We did get out for one dive at Neck Point, and it was a lot of fun.

We found the "Tower of Neck Point Bay" (a log that was somehow upright on the bottom)

A whole mess of tube snouts.

Underwater gardens everywhere.

And generally good visibility.

We topped it all off with a campfire and marshmallows later that evening!

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Whyttecliff 03/15/2018

Vlad, Nick and I got together for a night dive at Whyttecliff Park. It was steadily getting brighter, and the daylight savings change made it even more so. Summer was on the way!

It was a perfect evening, sunny and dry. Our plan was to go in at the Cut since the tide was high.

When we arrived, we checked out the entrance at the Cut. Everything was clear of logs and debris. What was not so clear were the hundreds of plastic flower petals that had been spread around for some photo shoot. John Nunes reported this a few days ago. It was really unfortunate. With all the marine debris, why are people throwing more in? Spend the extra money and buy real flower petals...

The plan was to have a fun dive, then do some bottle work and skills in the bay. It was a good thing we didn't plan for much more. The visibility was quite a challenge. It seemed like the fish spawning activity lately was having an impact. It was especially bad when we deployed an SMB and started our skills. We started to ascend to 6 meters, but it was just too hard to see each other. It would be no fun if we lost a bottle due to poor vis. Instead we did our skills at 12 meters and it was better.

During the fun part of the dive I saw more yellow tail rockfish than I had ever seen before. There were hundreds and hundreds. We saw the usual interesting hairy lithoid crabs, cloud sponges and plumose anemones. Unfortunately there were no octopus that we saw. I did spy a grunt sculpin hiding.

When we got out of the water, poor Nick said his beard smelled strongly of fish. I was glad I didn't have to drive home like that!

Monday, March 19, 2018

GUE-BC Quadra Island 9-11/03/2018

Jim Dixon helped organize a GUE-BC trip to Quadra Island with Pacific Pro Dive. It was finally time to go! Here was the video compilation I put together, right off the bat.

It would be a two day weekend. Most of the group arrived Friday afternoon, but Vlad and myself arrived that evening. Two ferry rides certainly made for a longer day. But I knew it would be worth it.

Bridget found an Air BnB on Quadra which we all shared. We got to see it first hand on Friday evening. It was set up very well for a big group. The ocean view, deck and Patio were amazing. There was a wood stove and a hot tub too. Unfortunately the hot tub was on the fritz, so that was a bit disappointing. But the dining area overlooked the water and that made up for it a bit. I'd definitely stay again. 

On Saturday we were treated to eggs and sausages by Jim. Then it was off to the boat. There was no dock at the place so we couldn't get picked up at our door. We agreed next time to try and find a place with a private dock.

Here was a good picture of Ian getting on board.

Captain Chris was manning our boat that day. He joked that he'd try and get us back in on piece. I'd been out with Chris before so I knew we were good. There were four other divers on board, two re-breathers and two recreational.

The visibility was amazing. We had already been marvelling at it from the deck. We dove Row and Be Damned first. It was a huge area of strawberry anemone fields and boulders with kelp. Vlad got many great pictures.

Chris said that it would turn into a good drift dive, but that only happened about 15 minutes in. It worked well as it gave Ian and Vlad time to take more pictures. The drift portion was very fun. I couldn't believe the number of strawberry anemones. We came across an electrical box that I pretended to lift.

Ian and Vlad found a few Puget Sound King crabs.

There was also a strange worm, which was crawling across a rock. It was black with white bands. I had to email the Aquarium to see if they had any clue (we didn't get a picture). Another very unique find was a northern abalone (you didn't see those often). The boulders with remnants of kelp on them were very pretty.

There was also some kind of algae or sea-weed growing in fan-like formations.

We also started seeing many softball sized grey jelly balls, which turned out to be Grey Puffball Sponges. They were everywhere! Vlad got this picture of Ian taking a picture of one.

It was a fun and relaxing dive. A great start! We got some good pictures of the group on the boat in the sun.

The next dive was Copper Cliffs. You could really see the copper in the rock. It was blue green all over. Chris said they tried to mine it, but all the rock just fell in so they gave up.

Copper cliffs was a real drift dive from the start. Orange cup coral was everywhere, and there were more strawberry anemones. We saw more Puget sound King crabs, along with two very pretty red Irish Lord's. The visibility was just magic, and the feeling of flying was amazing.

You also never knew when you would be photo-bombed (by Vlad in this case).

Once back at the house we relaxed and helped Bridget and Tori prepare dinner. I remember sitting in the sun overlooking the bay and just being mesmerised by the sun on the water. It was very much like a fire at night. I made a hyper-lapse video of the sunset.

Francoise jumped off the deck as it was so nice out. He did it so quickly that no one had time to take a picture. So we made him jump again! Vlad got a great slow motion sequence.

It was a feast that evening. Spaghetti and moose meat balls (Ian had brought the moose), fruit salad, quinoa salad (Tori), garlic bread that Sylvain made, and Bridget's chocolate cake. It was truly as delicious as it sounded. Stuffed, we talked late into the night.

The clocks went back that evening so we had to get up earlier. The mist in the morning was awesome.

Jim made pancakes for us and we finished off the fruit salad. Francoise tried to get us to eat the rest of the cake but I think we were all too full still.

We also took a great group picture that final morning.

Bill was our Captain on Sunday and I was happy to see him again. It had been quite a few months. We went to Diane's Delight first which I had never dove before. We hunted for the reported wolf eels and octopus, but came up empty. We did find a very pretty clown nudibranch, along with the usual amazing visibility and life everywhere. It was a very pretty dive.

Vlad also noted some interesting rockfish behavior. This tiger rockfish and quillback seemed to have a very social relationship.

We also went past the other dive team. Here was a good shot of Francois followed by Jim in the background.

The highlight of the trip had to be the last dive at April Point. This was right outside where we stayed. Bill said he had only found the site 3 years ago, when the current turned and they decided to just go with it. The wall they found turned out to be amazing. A pinnacle beside the small island sloped off towards town, and you hit a wall at about 70 feet. Bills briefing was funny: "go that way and see nothing, go that way and also see nothing".  It was like the Goldilocks site. You'd only have fun if you got it just right!

Fortunately Bill got us in the water spot on. Even though Ian had a neck-seal failure and had to abort, Vlad and I were still able to get onto the wall. It helped that the current wasn't ripping either. I had done Browning wall before, and this was very similar. I was totally impressed! We came across more Puget sound King crab as well as two ling cod egg masses. We even passed the other dive team during the dive. Lots of fun drifting and lots of life.

Unfortunately, it came to an end too soon! Until next time!