Monday, August 24, 2009

Howe Sound Boat Dive 8.23.2009

My first boat dive! I knew it was going to be awesome, and wasn't disappointed...

I booked it through IDC, and the boat was the Sea Dragon that they usually use. It was an amazing day but started off chilly. I made the mistake of wearing too many layers, figuring air temperatures out on the water would be quite cool. I was wrong! Still, too many layers is better than too few, as you can always take some off. I brought my goretex rain gear too just in case, but it wasn't needed of course. I guess I was too prepared!

Kevin was our skipper on the boat, was very friendly and helpful and kept things moving like a well-oiled machine. There was a woman on board too, whose name escapes me who was equally great. Hot soup between dives, too if you needed it!

As for the divers, there were 10 of us. First here's the people I knew already: Patrick, Libby, and Kyle. There were a lot of divers that I hadn't met yet who rounded out the rest. They were all much more experienced than I was. Patrick brought his friend Leanne, a tropical water diver with her own underwater camera rig who was trying out temperate water diving. She was using a wetsuit, and I think that worked out ok for her (the water was 12-13 degrees Celsius). Gale was another tropical water diver who had just got certified on drysuits, and this was her first dive with one. Marty, Jason, Nigel and Ivan rounded out the bunch. Marty was one of Kyle's friends, Jason had just got a new drysuit and had some leaky wrist seals (argh!) and Nigel was about 15 or 16.

I was diving with Kyle and Gale. I'm not quite sure how the other groups were sorted out, though. Kyle was great to dive with...

We were suited up and starting the first descent at 10am to a site called the Canyons just south of Bowyer Island (directly north of Horseshoe bay). Boat diving is great to descend from, since most places have a mooring line that you can follow all the way down. It made things a snap. The location had a lot of big rocks with channels cut into them, hence the name "Canyons". The first thing I noticed was just how many anemones there were! It was seriously like a white forest, filled with the white Plumose Anemone (I know the name now!). There were the orange ones too, but the white ones were far more plentiful. Kyle was on the hunt for a wolf eel, but we never did find one which is too bad. When we hit the bottom though, there was a baby seal swimming around. Kyle pointed it out, but I must have thought he meant something else because I totally missed it. Gale saw it though, so even though I accused Kyle of lying, I begrudgingly had to accept that it was really there. I told him to point harder next time though!

Back on the boat, we had a very nice relaxing time in between dives. Most people were up on the upper deck soaking up the sun after the chill waters. It's a fairly roomy boat when the day is nice. If it's rainy, I think the interior cabin would be pretty cramped! There was a funny episode where Libby asked Kyle to scratch an itch inside her drysuit she couldn't reach. If only I had a video camera, because if you didn't know what was going on, it certainly didn't look like scratching an itch! Kyle knew what it looked like, and made it better with a few choice comments :-) Very funny! We all agreed though that divers really don't have any shame, and tend to talk about underwear a lot.

Kevin swung the boat around to the north side of Bowyer Island, and we dove the north Pinnacle. I'm not quite sure why it's called that though, I need to ask. This was a pretty special dive, because apart from tonnes more anemones, we happened across a medium sized octopus! It was hanging out outside a fairly shallow rock crevice, pretty much out in the open. Kyle and Libby said later that that was pretty rare, since mostly they are jammed in deep and all you can see is a bit of tentacle. This guy retreated fairly quickly, but we hovered for a while and it came out a bit. It was pretty cool watching it change colour and texture. Definitely the high-point of the dive. The ascent was a bit hairy, because we ran into three Lion's Mane jelly fish. They're red with very long trailing tendrils, and are quite painful. We had to play dodge the jellyfish for a while, but made it up fine. I remember turning around and seeing the third one just behind me. It was big!

The visibility on all the dives was truly awesome. When we got back to the dock, it seemed to just be getting better. Scuba Steve and his group were loading up to go out next, so I'm sure they had great dives too. Steve is leaving very shortly to head back to Australia for a while, but will be back soon I think. Last chance to dive with him is today (Aug 24th)!

Boat diving was awesome, but it hasn't spoiled me like some people said it would. For me, it doesn't matter where or when I'm diving, so long as I'm in the water "blowing bubbles" that makes my day :-)

Some tips I learned from the boat dive:
  1. You can't park near dock-side (next to the coffee shop). But, you can drop your gear off and then park in the lot across from the Ferry Terminal. It's $12 flat for the day.
  2. There are wheeled carts to help take your gear to the boat.
  3. Before getting on the boat, you need to assemble your tank, BCD and regulator.
  4. You also need to get out any gear that you will need to dive with (weight, fins, mask, snorkel, gloves, hood, lights, mask de-fog).
  5. You'll be assigned a spot in a rack to stow your assembled BCD. Underneath that, all the above mentioned gear goes in the mesh bag (weight goes on the deck, not in the bag). Make sure your BCD is secure! You don't want it tipping over, or worse, overboard! The crew will check this, but it's nice to make their job easier. There are bungee cords to secure your tank and BCD.
  6. Once the boat is underway, you'll get a call to put on your undergarments, drysuit, boots, and any wrist mounted equipment you might have. Most of the experienced divers were putting on their compasses and computers before getting into their BCD, since it's very easy to get into when it's on the rack, and they won't snag unlike if you were shore diving.
  7. Finally, make sure you don't have anything lying around that can blow overboard! The boat moves pretty fast, and it gets windy.
  8. Have $10 cash to have your tank refilled on the boat, it's worth it rather than lugging two tanks. However, it does take some time to fill all the tanks. For our dive, it took over an hour and a half.
  9. Finally, try to really pack efficiently. They mentioned that in the PADI book and course, but it really does help. The less bags you have, the less chance you'll leave something behind, or lose it. Having one or two bags makes things a lot easier.

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