Thursday, December 31, 2009

Whytecliff Park 30/12/2009

Even though I missed diving last weekend, I made up for it this week with Lighthouse Park on Monday, and a night dive at Whyteliff last night. It was a pretty good evening, cloudy but not raining and fairly warm. Vince had gotten a new truck (and an equally new license) and he asked if I'd go along. I jumped at that chance immediately. I was sitting in the lobby of my apartment building with my gear waiting, and I got a few odd looks. My friends from upstairs came through too, and asked what I was doing. I said going diving, and they looked pretty incredulous. I thought it was pretty funny, but then, I'm a bit more hard-core than most divers.

Vince was understandably nervous driving out to the park. I had totally forgotten what it was like to be a new driver, and it was doubly bad for him because he had just learned to drive standard! We made it fine, though.

The plan was to dive the Cut and head south curving around the day marker and then north west back up into Whytecliff bay. I figured that would be the easiest, nicest dive since you just have to follow the rock walls. Going to the right at the Cut was nice, but finding the exit again had always been a problem for me. Since Vince was going to take some photos, and I'd be navigating, I wanted to do the most comfortable route for me. It was night too, and I didn't fancy winding up in Howe Sound in the dark trying to find our way out if we missed it!

When we got down to the water, the tide was lower than I'd ever seen. The base of the day marker was exposed at least as much as it was tall, and the water started at the point where we normally swim out to descend at. It was very strange. Visibility was not bad, but not great. There turned out to be a fairly significant current during the middle part of the dive too.

When we dropped down, the visibility got a bit better, but not by much. There was surprisingly not a lot to see on this dive. Well, maybe I should say not a lot new to see. Good thing it was all about being underwater for me, and not new marine life! There were certainly loads of coonstripe shrimp. They were always cool, because of how they gathered in big groups and their eyes glowed eerily in your light. There were some really big ones tonight. I also saw a really big yellow margin dorid, as well as a tiny white dendronotid (both nudibranchs). The highlight of the marine life was a baby giant pacific octopus. That was a contradiction, for sure! It was tiny. There was also one of the biggest copper rockfish I've ever seen hiding in a rocky crevice. On the way around the day marker, the plumose anemone gardens looked a lot different than usual. This was I think because we were actually at a deeper level than I'm normally used to, since the water was actually shallower due to the tide. It was pretty cool. The drop offs from the wall we were following were also spectacular, descending down into murky darkness. Very cool. I'm sure there was a new blue fish that I didn't recognize, but I have yet to identify. It may be that it was just a variation on a kelp greenling. Finally, on the way up to the beach we came across a fat dungeness crab that showed no fear of the two black monsters hovering over it. There were of course, the usual huge amounts of sea stars and sea cucumbers covering many of the rocks. I also retrieved a beer bottle off of the bottom as my contribution to cleaning up the environment.

The last portion of the ascent was very shallow, and was a good test of buoyancy control. Once we hit the surface, we surprised a great blue heron who was taking advantage of the exposed rocks to get some late night snacks. It flew off unimpressed. We also both ended up running into the remnants of the dock pilings that were normally underwater. Swimming backwards usually was no problem in that area, but at such a low tide it was disconcerting to bump into something you didn't expect. I'd need to remember for next time!

We both agreed that it was a pretty good dive. Vince took a few pictures, but very soon into the dive his batteries gave out which was too bad. I felt a lot more comfortable with my buoyancy on this dive. All the diving was paying off!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Lighthouse Park 21/12/2009

I had been planning this dive for some time. Lighthouse Park was listed in my dive book, and seemed like a good spot to check out. The problem was the hike. Whenever I'd mention Lighthouse Point, people seemed less than enthusiastic! There was no road access, so all your stuff had to be lugged down from the parking lot about a kilometre away. The tides and currents were a concern too, so planning was done to find a day with a very small tidal exchange. That turned out to be December 28 between 10 and noon. It also was a holiday for most people, so even better! I ended up having to take the day off anyway though, since for some reason our office was open that day. Oh well.

Here is a Google Map link to the dive site, remember to click on Satellite view if it's not on already.,-97.15369&sspn=25.027097,64.423828&ie=UTF8&hq=lighthouse+park&hnear=Vancouver,+BC&ll=49.330789,-123.261985&spn=0.000771,0.001966&t=h&z=19

We planned to arrive at the Park for 10:30, and brought two wheeled trollies to carry gear with. Ideally, each person should have had one trolly each, but we originally had only two people planned, so Evan and Alan had to share.

While waiting, I met one of the people involved with the park who was out for a walk. She asked if I was going diving, and where. I said yes, and where should I go! She was quite helpful. There were three places to dive, the West Beach, East Beach and Starboat Cove. She said that beach access to West Beach was tricky and the dive wasn't that great. East Beach was easy to get into and a good dive, and Starboat Cove was also a bit tricky to get down into. It was good information that we put to use, picking East Beach as the place we would explore.

Alan and Evan showed up on time, and we assembled all our gear in the parking lot, strapped it to the trollies, and putting on our drysuits too. This was all done to make sure that any obvious failures or missing gear would be spotted immediately. It worked out ok, but the hike was a bit warm with a drysuit on. I think I would still prefer to cart the bags down and assemble gear closer.

The main trail down from the parking lot was quite wide and free of bumps. But, it was a steady and steep downhill hike making the return journey difficult. Be prepared for a work out coming back up! Taking it slow was the way to go. For any reasonably fit person, you'd be ok going down, but probably get pretty tired on the way back. However, after diving you'd need to watch yourself since you'd be more loaded with inert gas.

We stayed on the main trail and followed it down until we came across the park buildings near the Lighthouse driveway. There was a good map in the parking lot, and the trails are well marked. We left our trollies and hiked down to the beach to check out the water and the entry terrain and to take some photos. You couldn't take the trolly much farther than the buildings because the path down to the beach was just a walking trail. It was much like the path down to the Cut entry at Whytecliff, but probably a bit rougher and longer. Down at the water, there was a large granite rock that had three channels branching off of it (you can see it in the Google map above). We decided to enter in the middle channel, follow the bottom south to 21 meters or so, then curve to the north east. We'd aim to end up back near the granite rock at the end. The visibility looked pretty good, and the water didn't look like it was moving much at all either. We seemed to have hit the site at the right time. The area was pretty exposed, so large tidal flows could make the currents very scary.

After a few pictures of which we were sternly told by Alan to not ham it up in, we hiked back up to our gear and decided to wait a bit longer. Partly this was to rest after the hike down, and partly it was to hopefully hit the tidal exchange at the optimal time. There was a nice picnic table near the buildings that made a great place to gear up on. There were bathrooms in the area too, which was a nice convenience. Not that we really needed them with p-valves and Evan and his iron bladder!

The hike down to the water in full gear wasn't too bad. We went slow, and there were no problems. The beach entry was nice and smooth too. We started our descent pretty quickly, and headed south. There were a lot of rock outcroppings along the bottom creating natural channels. It also made straight navigating hard. Going south didn't put us down very deep either, so our plan of hitting 21 meters quickly didn't work out so well. There was also a steady current flowing to the west, which made us turn east sooner to swim into it lest we be pulled too far away from our exit point. We discovered a steep drop off about 15 minutes into the dive on our curve to the east. It started around 21 meters, and probably went down to at least 30 or so. It was a pretty interesting find, but we couldn't stay since I had reached our agreed on turn pressure, and we started to head back up the bottom contour. I did a pretty good job navigating I think, as we ended up not too far off. Our exit ended up being the eastern rock channel that you can see on the Google map link. In the end, we agreed that this channel would be the best to enter from instead of the middle channel. Heading south from this channel should put you right near the interesting drop off, and we planned to do that soon.

Evan was designated as “crab master” as he had brought along his crabbing bag. Unfortunately, there were no suitable crabs to be found. Alan had his camera, and was “photo master” and I was “nav master”. Alan got some pretty good pictures I think. There was a fair amount of interesting life, too. We saw golf-ball crabs, hermit crabs, giant barnacles, rock scallops, brittle stars, purple sea stars, purple sea urchins, pacific sea peaches, great sculpins, grunt sculpins, and a squid. Well, I didn't see the squid, but Evan and Alan did. I also found a very interesting old square bottle which I hope to clean up as a souvenir.

We agreed that two dives would be good to plan, because of the effort to get down there. One dive seemed a bit of a waste!

We made a plan to get out to Lighthouse Park again, and explore the drop off we discovered soon!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Porteau Cove 13/12/2009

Back to Porteau Cove! It had been a long time since I dove here, so I figured it was high time to go back. Also, my dive buddy Mihai wanted a place with a bathroom that was still open, hah. Porteau Cove had one bathroom open during the winter, being a scenic stop on the highway and all. But, it was farther than the normal one. We ended up driving up to it because it was cold! Speaking of cold, it was snowing on this day. Not a lot of snow, just flakes in the air. I wanted to have a dive on a day with lots and lots of snow on the ground, but I'd have to wait. The air temperature was around 4 degrees. Thankfully it wasn't too windy. I also wished that I had my thicker undergarment, but it had still not arrived, even though I ordered it back in September.

Before leaving IDC, Genessa mentioned about another dive site beside Furry Creek. I was kind of surprised, since I'd not seen it mentioned in my 151 Dives book. We decided to pass on it today, though. I planned on checking into it later. Apparently it was a fairly easy shore entry, with a wall to explore. She did say something about crossing someone's garden! Maybe that was why it wasn't in the Dive book.

We got going pretty late, so it wasn't until about 12:30 that we got into the water. It was high tide, and there was quite a surface current so the swim out to the buoy was long. We stopped for a rest halfway there. Once we got to it, there were two free divers there in wetsuits. I'd never seen anyone free diving in the area yet, let alone in wetsuits on such a cold day! I thought they were pretty crazy, but I guess we were equally as crazy. They were taking photos of each other diving down.

After resting up some more, we dropped down. Our plan was to follow the artificial reef around to the wreck of the Grant Hall, then come back around, look for an octopus, and then follow the bottom back to shore. The plan went a bit awry when Mihai tried to turn his light on near the bottom and found that it was broken. After fiddling with it for a while, he gave up. It was fairly bright, so a light wasn't necessary and it wasn't worth calling the dive on account of that. I lost our orientation when he was fiddling with the light, so we ended up loosing the reef. Whoops. Still, I trusted my compass and struck out where the Grant Hall should be, and it loomed out of the gloom fairly quickly. Visibility was not good, so it was hard to see much detail. Funny because in the winter the visibility is supposed to be a lot better. Ah well. We circled around the stern of the ship and came across a large school of shiner perch. Their small silvery bodies gleamed very nicely in my light beam. There was a concrete slab on the bottom that used to have a marker buoy attached to it. It was packed with longhorn decorator crabs in the cracks around it. It also seemed that a lot of the marker buoys had been moved, and attached to newer, larger concrete road barriers. The work looked quite recent. Someone had been busy!

Resting under the port side of the wreck was a pretty large ling cod. He looked pretty happy sitting on the bottom watching us swim by. There was also one of the biggest kelp greenlings that I'd seen swimming around near there. We puttered around the artificial reefs looking for octopus next. We didn't find any, though. A bunch of divers must have come through, because we also came across a huge silt trail. They really kicked up the bottom. I don't recall anything else of unique interest until we were almost back to shore. Travelling along the bottom, the water got noticeably colder very quickly the shallower we got. It ended up around 5 or 6 degrees. I thought the sandy bottom would be pretty uninteresting, but was wrong. Mihai noticed a hairy crab which I'd not seen before. We also came across a huge gathering of dungeness crabs. They were kind of small, but there were over 30 of them all packed into a small area. There was a bigger red rock crab mixed in with them, too. I'd never seen so many crabs in one spot. There didn't look to be anything keeping them there (like food) but who knows. I wanted to investigate them more, but the dive was already going on long, and I was feeling the chill. Getting out into the cold air was a bit of a shock. I think the air temperature was around 4 degrees at that point.

We almost called it a day because of that. There weren't that many divers out, and by the time we were eating lunch, all of them had left already. We ended up sitting in the car for a while warming up, which helped, so the second dive was a go. However, we'd make it shorter, and planned to just explore the dock pilings that were very near rather than doing a long surface swim again.

The dock pilings turned out to be pretty interesting. The bottom was sandy, but had interesting lines carved in it by the wave action, and the pilings had a lot of life encrusting them. There were some rocks and such sunk there too which also provided a good home for life. I found an old baseball! I saw my first mossy chiton on one of the rocks, too. There were actually about 5 of them. Near one of the pilings, we practised some skills for the upcoming GUE Fundamentals course. The mask removal and clearing was a bit chilly on the face, but everything went well. I was happy that I wasn't floating up as much as I had in the past. Buoyancy was getting better! Mihai did well, but ended up dipping his fins too close to the bottom and stirred up a tonne of silt, and floating up a lot. We also later agreed that backfinning was something we really needed to learn. There's really no easy way to stay stationary in the water without being able to go forward and backwards. I also got a bit turned around under the dock, and ended up swimming too far south. But we fixed that and continued to explore, and called the dive after about half an hour. There was one of the biggest purple stars we'd ever seen. Coming back up to the surface was pretty cool. We came up the boat ramp, and it was neat to see the interface of the water and air getting closer and closer, with your bubbles disturbing it. It reminded me of the GUE training videos I'd seen, where they were practising in 5 feet of water.

We packed up as quickly as possible, and hopped in the car. By this time, I certainly was feeling the cold! It was a good set of dives. Today marked my 60th dive, which was great. More to come!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Tuwanek 06/12/2009

After the Rescue Diver course, I thought it would be a good idea to go for a fun dive without having to work so hard. That and my dive buddy Mihai was up in Tuwanek for two days, so I thought to join up with him there on Sunday.

I planned to take the 7:20am ferry, believing that people would want to get going early. I was wrong! I got up at 5am, and was in Sechelt by about 8:30am. No one was awake! So I spent an hour having a coffee and exploring Sechelt a bit. The ferry ride over had been very rough. Strong winds and cold air made for a rough passage. I went up on deck briefly to check things out, and got a bit worried! Thankfully it calmed down, and the sun was out all day. It was still pretty cold. Sechelt is a nice little town on the water. I spent some time walking on the beach with the surf, and watching the sun on the water. I didn't spend too much time out though, since the wind was still very brisk.

I met up with Mihai and Christina at the UpperDeck guesthouse in Sechelt, along with their other dive buddies. There were originally 5 or 6, but by the time Sunday rolled around, only 3 remained. Of those 3, only one would dive with us on Sunday. They had some poor dives the day before, and did not sleep the greatest. I was rested and raring to go, though! Poor Mihai had vehicle problems, and didn't sleep well either, so was in rough shape. He still stuck with it and did the two dives though, so good for him.

After some more coffee and breakfast for the late-risers, we made it out to the dive site. It really was a very nice day. The water wasn't moving too much, and the visibility looked great. We geared up and decided to dive the north island first, and try and find the wolf eels that I had seen the last trip.

It was a nice relaxing dive, this one. A lot more relaxing than the trip with IDC, but I'm sure that had a lot to do without being in a group of 8! I really wanted to get to where the wolf eels were, so was moving quickly. But the other two were going pretty slow, so I decided to just relax and do that too. There were big schools of shiner perch, and a lot of boot/chimney sponges. Lots of blackeyed gobies too, and tonnes of painted greenlings (convict fish). There was also a really awesome longhorn decorator crab that I came across on the way back. Beside this north island there was also quite a bit of bull kelp. It was smaller than the stuff I saw near Port Hardy, but I still found it cool. I can't believe how strong it is. There was no sign of the wolf eels, but that's mostly because I couldn't find their den. I found several vertical cracks at the right depth, but none of them were big enough to hold them. I don't think we went far enough, but that's ok. There were a couple of really neat chitons on the way, as well as a pretty big ling cod hiding in some kelp. He got scared and swam away very quickly. Once we surfaced, using a strand of bull kelp for a reference line, we were treated to a seal swimming on the surface. He was pretty far away, and even though we tried to call to him, he wasn't interested. He did look our way, but must have had better things to do. Mihai had some problems with his dive computer, so for the next dive we planned it using tables. The swim back to shore was pretty long and cold! But we made it.

The other group of divers decided to pack it in. So Mihai and I were left on our own for the second dive, with Christina trying to keep warm in the sun. She had forgotten her warm ski pants, so was also chilled. There was a lot of that going on today!

For our second dive, we wanted to be conservative, so we decided to stay shallow and go to the southern island along the bottom. The surface water was surprisingly cold, something like 5-6 degrees. There was also a lot of fresh water mixing near the surface making for a pretty interesting halocline. This dive turned out to be very good. Once we descended and made it to the side of the island, it was like a big aquarium. The light was streaming in from above, the visibility was great, and there were tonnes of fish swimming about the rocks and along the wall. It was really cool. There were a lot of striped seaperch. I also recovered some treasure: a CD by Zamfir and a boat light. There was a star fish re-growing from one arm, or a star fish who lost all but one arm, take your pick. Again, tonnes of painted greenlings. We continued along the island wall and ended up swimming along barren rock. We should have hung out in the previous part, since it was pretty uninteresting farther on. We turned back, and spent the rest of the dive coming up the bottom contour to the beach. There was a lot of sea grass there, but the bottom was pretty sandy and muddy. Not uninteresting though. The sun coming in from above made everything bright and different.

So, we ended there packing up quickly and meeting the others in a small bakery called Wheatberries back in Sechelt. I showed off my treasure finds, had another coffee (lots of coffee today, that was an early morning!) and made it onto the four thirty ferry. I'm sure I'll be back!

Rescue Diver Course 05/12/2009

I had planned to take the Rescue Diver course sometime in the spring since I had heard a lot about it and people had spoken highly of it. I decided to take it earlier for a few reasons. One was that I was doing so much diving. The chances of coming across a rescue situation were a lot higher. Two, Kyle convinced me to join in. There were not that many who had signed up. Three, the next rescue course might have conflicted with the GUE Fundamentals class that I want to take in February. Four, I wasn't doing anything else that week!

In the end, taking this combined with the prerequisite Emergency First Response course, as well as finishing the Nitrox course meant that I had a lot of studying going on for several weeks. I'm glad it was finally over! Now I could get back to reading some of the GUE material that I had on the go. The class work for the Rescue Diver wasn't too bad. Every session we'd head to the pool for some confined-water practice of the skills we learned about after reviewing some material in class. I think I spent a week going through the book and answering questions in preparation for the written exam. I'm sure that was over-kill, but I figured you weren't just there to pass, but to learn about how to save someone. The more you know, the better I figured.

There were two pool sessions for us. They kind of ran together in terms of what I can remember. Fun things I remember were doing the different diver carries, bringing an unconscious diver up from the bottom, dealing with a panicked diver and practicing out of air situations. We had quite a few laughs in the pool, really.

Saturday was what I really looked forward to, since we'd be out in the ocean practicing the same things. The day was very sunny, but windy and cold! There was also a huge tidal exchange (16 feet or so), and the current out past the bay was just ripping along. Even in the bay at Whytecliff things looked a bit rough. I'd never seen the tide up so high, either. An open water class was going out that day too, I felt sorry for them!

I also felt sorry for myself, since I had spent a lot of the evening agonizing over gear choices. From all I'd heard, with the dragging and carrying and lifting, your gear took a lot of abuse during the course. So, I had rented a drysuit to use instead of my regular TLS350. The boots on my regular suit were designed for range of motion and not durability, so I didn't fancy putting a hole in them. Especially since I planned to go to Tuwanek diving the next day! However, that meant that the rental suit didn't have drygloves, and I'd need to use wetsuit gloves. I also didn't put on my regular thinsulate undergarment because I wanted it to be dry and in good shape for the dive the next day. I wasn't quite sure if the layers I had on, or the wetsuit gloves would keep me warm enough. In the end, it wasn't too bad, though. Also, I probably should have just worn my regular suit. There wasn't nearly as much equipment abuse as I thought there'd be.

Kyle was being assisted by Vince, and there was myself, Jason, and two others named Neal and Dan. Kyle was looking pretty tired and not overly happy about being out in such cold temperatures. He also ended up forgetting to put on his thinsulate booties, so his feet slowly froze throughout the day making him more cranky. Too bad for him! He and Vince spent more time in the water than the rest of us though, so it wasn't surprising that he got cold.

Dan was in wetsuit gloves too, and Neal's drysuit gloves failed so he was basically in wetsuit gloves too. Not a good start for being warm! I was happy to find that I wasn't as cold as I thought I might be. My wetsuit gloves weren't too bad. I also had some hot water on hand to pour into them periodically which made a big different. My feet were pretty comfortable, as well as the rest of me. So the layering worked out ok. I was still cold near the end of the day, but not as bad as it ended up for Dan. But that's for later.

The first set of skills was helping a tired diver out by towing them around. Then we got to act like panicked divers and do the same thing. This was all pretty fun, because everyone was still pretty warm and happy. Kyle was complaining that his head felt like being squeezed in an ice vice when he went under water, but I didn't think it was that bad. The surface water was pretty chill though. Deeper the water was the constant 8-9 degrees it had been for most of the fall.

We did some out of air practice after that, which all went well. Dan and Neal had a problem when Dan was using Neal's alternate air source. I watched as it happened. The hose was tucked up through his D ring, and when he gave the regulator to Dan, the hose got pinched and Dan really didn't get any air at all. Good thing they didn't have far to the surface. Yet another validation of the DIR gear configuration I was using. We don't mess with giving alternate regulators, we donate the regulator we are breathing, and switch to a backup that hangs around our neck. There's no chance someone will not get air in that case. Vince also pointed out later that when Neal was donating air to Dan, that the regulator was upside down. That meant Dan got a big mouthful of water, since regulator mouthpieces don't work well unless orientated properly. Again, a big validation to the DIR system since you know the orientation of your regulator since you are breathing off of it!

Next was bringing an unconscious diver up from the bottom. Here is where we got to act some more, but it was pretty easy just hanging there limp. No Oscars awarded here! We all had a problem bringing up the person slowly, and went a bit too fast. It was difficult keeping your diver from rolling over along with keeping both your buoyancy's under control. But, the goal was to bring them up in a controlled way, and we did that. Knowing that you had to pay attention so much to your buoyancy was a good lesson. I was surprised that your diver would roll over so much. It wasn't like that in the pool.

Next was dealing with unresponsive divers at the surface. Again, more acting! Basically all we had to do was flip them over, see if they were breathing, and start rescue breaths if not while towing them. The big challenge here was to get their airway open, and not get water in their face. Kind of hard to do when you had to pinch their nose after your hand came out of the water! Shaking your hand helped, but it was still a bit uncomfortable for the “victim”. Also, kicking up high enough to get your mouth into the right spot to give the breaths was very hard. Much harder than I thought it would be. Add in towing them, and it was very very tiring. You had to do all this while doing 2 breaths every 5 seconds. There's not much time to do anything else!

Here Jason and I got a break after I towed him in to shore. Neal and Dan had to finish off their rescue of the unresponsive diver at depth, as well as their tows and gear removals. Since it was sunny, it was not hard to get warmer sitting still, but I used some of my hot water to help my hands. A big wave came in and soaked my food bag which was unexpected. At least things inside were well sealed.

We had to do our gear removals next, and that took a long time since you were doing rescue breaths in between. Again, there was hardly any time to do anything with just 5 seconds. We also did some carries, and everyone got to drag someone out of the water. Finally we got all this done, and everyone took a break for lunch.

At this point, Dan was shivering almost uncontrollably. He was in pretty bad shape, and instead of having a real rescue situation on our hands, it was decided that he needed to sit out. Kyle also wanted to cut short some of the scenarios, since he was in pretty bad shape too. We agreed to do the missing diver search, and the underwater bleeding scenario and call it a day. The other scenarios were towing, rescue breaths and gear removal which we'd already done. Granted, it would have been more practice, but at that point the cold was becoming a real factor, so it made sense. I'd just make sure to practice some of those later, and probably sit in on a few of the upcoming rescue classes. Landon said anyone was welcome to come along.

After eating and warming up as much as we could, we started the missing diver scenario. Kyle and Vince hid a Mountain Dew bottle out on the bottom of the bay, and we'd need to work as a group of three to set up a search pattern and find it. We tried our best to keep track of where their bubbles went, so we had a pretty good idea of where it might be. They also told us approximately the location and depth, so it wasn't totally cheating! We went out and did a three abreast line search, and Jason found the bottle pretty quickly. On the way back, he lost one of the weights on it though. Whoops!

The last scenario was dealing with a bleeding diver under water. Vince was going to be the victim, and Kyle whispered to me to stage an out of air situation as well. Vince did the acting thing, and Neal attended to him first, and got pressure on it. Then I signalled out of air to Jason. It took him a bit of time to figure out what was going on! Whoops again. But he got it, and then we all ascended as a group. Not too bad!

In the end, I realized just how much there is to know, and to practice with this stuff. Getting more familiar with everything looks to be very important. I learned a lot in the course, and I'll need to keep learning and practicing. Hopefully I'll never need it, but I'm glad I'm better prepared just in case.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Whytecliff Park – The Cut 29/11/2009

After the boat dive just the day before, I didn't think I'd be diving again on Sunday, but it worked out. Mihai and I decided to go do the Cut at Whytecliff park, and finish off the day with a skills-dive in preparation for some time in the water with Alan to work on more stuff. The skills-dive was to go over the basic 5 GUE scuba skills, which really is just air-sharing and mask-removal stuff. It's good stuff to practice though, since the more comfortable you are with it, the better you'll be when you need to do it for real. Alan offered to do a skills-dive with us, and wanted to make sure that everyone involved would be at a similar level before doing it.

Sunday turned out to be a pretty nice day. Overcast, but not rainy. It was kind of cold though, and a bit windy. We got to the park later than usual since we had to go by the shop to get some cylinder fills. All my cylinders were empty!

Mihai had brought his wife Christina along, and we walked down to the Cut entry point to check things out. The tide was supposed to be coming in at that time, and things looked not too bad. However, we'd soon see that there was some pretty wicked current happening!

Mihai hadn't done the Cut before, so I was going to lead. We geared up, did our checks, and started down. We were going to go to the right along the wall, and return at our agreed turn air-pressure. Pretty straightforward. Once we started along, I noticed that we were being pushed along quite well by a current. It was a fairly nice relaxing drift dive with it. At the back of my mind, though, I was thinking about the return swim against it, and how hard it might be. We continued along the wall for quite a while at about 20 metres, until we got to our agreed return air-pressure. I turned the dive at that point, and we started back. That's when the current really started to become a problem. With the extra effort, I went through my air a lot faster. I realized then that I should have turned the dive earlier, but everything was still good. I also should have come up to a shallower depth which would have helped air consumption, but I forgot. Anyway, I reached what I thought was the exit point, and signalled our ascent. We started to go up, and Mihai had a problem on the safety stop and continued up to the surface without being able to stop. I stayed down and waited out the safety stop, but didn't realize that while I was down that the current was pulling me north away from the exit point. When I did surface, I was a surprising distance away from Mihai. I also realized that I mistook the exit point, and it was actually a lot farther on, so that we had an even farther distance to go. I gave an ok signal to Mihai, and I saw him make one back, so I thought everything was good. I didn't realize that he didn't see my ok and started to swim back to me in case there was a problem. When Mihai and I met back up, we were quite far from the exit point. We started the long swim back along the surface next to the rocks, because we'd have to pull ourselves along from time to time because the current was so strong. I had enough air to do some of the trip under water, but that didn't really help in terms of effort. Eventually, we made it back just via brute force, which was the only option. We were pretty tired.

In the end, it was a lot of little things that combined into a bigger situation. There was no real problem, but it was a good learning experience. I'll certainly not forget the lessons learned. Every dive I go on I learn something new. This was a good one in terms of learning!

Needless to say, I was game for dive two, but we decided to pack it in for that day. No skills dive today. But, something was learned anyway.

Howe Sound Boat Dive 28/11/2009

A lot of diving happened this week. I barely had time to service and dry my gear between trips!

This was another boat dive with the IDC and the Sea Dragon. I had had to re-schedule since it conflicted with my Port Hardy trip. Port Hardy was certainly more important than a boat dive in Howe Sound! I was looking forward to some nice diving this day, but the weather wasn't co-operating. I woke up early that morning to a miserable rainy sky. It was going to be wet!

Jason Kolba was on the boat too, so he picked me up that morning. We made it out to Horseshoe Bay in plenty of time. The Sea Dragon crew, Kevin and Jan were not there yet, but we were able to get our gear down to the dock past the gate as someone opened it for us. I think they knew we were divers, with all of our stuff.

We spent a good amount of time chatting with Kyle about the Tuwanek trip the last week, and just diving in general. It made hanging out in the rain not so bad. Kyle did end up leaving his lunch on the dock, and the seagulls ate it. We found the remnants when we got back later that day.

We got underway a bit later than we wanted, but it wasn't too bad. The first dive site we went to was a standard one: the Pinnacle off of the North end of Bowyer Island. We had several new open water divers, and Kevin wanted to have an easy first dive for them. That was fine by me, I just wanted to get down there!

Jason and I geared up and were in the water pretty quickly after our checks. Our plan was to follow the south-western wall, and then come back. The water wasn't very clear because of all the rain, so visibility was pretty bad. I don't recall seeing too many things that were exciting, but Jason did come across a tiny 5 inch baby octopus in a small crevice. I was concentrating on my propulsion, so I was more active than normal, meaning that my air went faster than usual. It was all fine, but we had to stop the dive sooner than I had hoped. My navigation was good, so I got us back to the ascent line with no difficulty. On the way up, we ran into the other group just on its way down. That was quite strange, since it meant that they took half an hour at least to get into the water. We soon found out that there were some problems with weighting and regulators that delayed the dive. One fellow, Ivan, couldn't dive at all due to a malfunctioning regulator. Pretty bad to be out on the boat and not be able to dive. Sometimes there is not much you can do though.

It was still raining quite a bit, so we spent most of the time in the cabin. When the other group got back, we chatted a bit, and answered questions from the newer divers. It was nice. Soon though, we were on the move and going to the next dive site. Again, nothing new for me, but still a nice dive coming up. We went to the south end of Bowyer Island to the Canyons. That's where there were supposed to be wolf-eels, and this time I was determined to find them.

After going over directions to where the eels should be, Jason and I went down and started looking. I had tried to find them once before, and made a wrong turn. This time I was sure I knew where to go. In the end, I went too far, and missed them on the way out. They are actually quite close to where you descend. Jason and I ended up curving far out past them, and only on the way back did we happen across Kyle and his group who had found them. Jason and I checked out the eels for a bit, but I was near our agreed pressure on which to surface, so had to cut things short. We didn't quite make it back to the line, so did a mid-water no-reference ascent. That's always good practice. When we surfaced after our safety stop, we weren't far off from the boat. So all in all, not a bad bit of navigation. It could have been worse!

Pretty soon we were all packed up, docked, and saying our goodbyes to the Sea Dragon and everyone. The rain had let up a bit, so that made walking back to the car a bit nicer. I didn't have another boat dive planned with the Sea Dragon anytime soon. I think my plan is to stick with shore diving for the remainder of the winter. The weather is just too chancy sometimes. I don't like the idea of having a boat dive cancelled!