Friday, April 30, 2010

10 Mile Point and Willis Point – 25/04/2010

I was very excited about this dive. Teri Norfolk and David Ryan asked me to come along to do some diving in the Victoria area. I borrowed my friend's Pathfinder and we loaded everything up and got over on the 7am ferry. It was a very early morning! But worth it, because the day was amazing; clear and sunny.

We needed to get to 10 Mile Point quickly, as it could have some very strong current and we wanted to be there as close to slack tide as possible. Here is a Google Map link:,+Victoria,+BC&sll=48.454716,-123.265985&sspn=0.001715,0.005284&ie=UTF8&hq=&hnear=Whiterock+St,+Saanich,+Capital+Regional+District,+British+Columbia,+Canada&ll=48.455428,-123.265545&

We met Scott there, whom we had dove Tyee Beach with not long ago. He gave us a good run down of 10 Mile Point. The small bay would get current flow from the north along the shore and would result in eddies. Staying in the area just below the parking lot at a depth of 70-90 feet had a wall that had a lot to see. Getting down to the water was rough. There was no path, and you had to walk down a large expanse of rough rock. Following the rock down to the left of the parking lot to where there was a kelp bed was not a bad area to enter. If you felt brave, you could follow the wall out to the end of the point and do a drift dive along the shore to the south. Scott's tip if doing this was to make sure that when the white plumose anemones ran out, to make sure and head up and over the rock wall. Otherwise, you would end up far out in the channel away from shore. One exit point was to look for a huge mound of white shells as there had been a shellfish processing plant on the point a number of years ago.

We got into the water pretty quickly as we had most of our gear set up already. We knew we wouldn't have much time before slack tide was over. David had forgotten his undergarment at home which was not good. He layered up with some spare clothing, but expected to be very cold. And was!

Our dive plan was to stay at 70 feet for 20 minutes, then do 50 feet for 20 minutes. After that, we'd see how much gas I had left as I was diving a single steel 100 and Teri and David were on doubles. 10 Mile Point lived up to its reputation as a great dive. The water was clear and blue, with visibility of about 30 feet or so. The wall was spectacular, covered in high-flow life and punctuated by many crevices. Teri found a huge hairy-spined crab in a crevice, much like the ones I saw in Port Hardy. There were some really great opalescent nudibranchs too. The wall below the parking area certainly had enough to see keep your occupied for a long dive!

David got too cold and decided to end the dive. Teri and I stayed, and decided to do the drift part of the dive. When we got out to the end of the point, the current picked up and off we went! It was a bit scary at first because it was pretty fast, but it didn't take long to get the feel for it. We cruised along over a bed of kelp bent over 90 degrees at about 60 feet for quite a few minutes. It felt a lot like flying, and indeed we looked at each other a few times and put our arms out like birds. Lots of fun! We ran out of anemones and headed up and over the rock wall as Scott had said. At that point we were very shallow and the current would disappear periodically due to sheltered areas. In one of these breaks, we came across a massive cloud of tiny shrimp. It was like a cloud of dust, so thick that you couldn't see the rock behind them. I'd never seen something like that before. We followed the shore up through the kelp beds and looked for the exit. We finally came across the pile of white shells, and came up. Getting out of the water was a bit tricky with all the rocks and wave action. Once on the rocks, we had to figure out how to get back to the road. Scott had said that there was access to the road from any point, but all we could see were people's houses and back yards. In the end, we cut through a back yard feeling kind of bad, but there didn't look to be any alternative. We were as quiet and polite as possible! Apparently the people living in the area were used to this.

We decided to go to another dive site because the current at 10 Mile was pretty strong. After a coffee and some lunch and a bit of driving, we arrived at Willis Point. That should be a Google Map link. It's hard to see where the dive site is, but it's there. There is a dirt parking area, and a long dirt path down through the woods to the water.

Willis Point turned out to be awesome, even better than 10 Mile because the visibility was better. The entry into the water was a bit hard over some jagged rocks, but it wasn't as bad as 10 Mile. There was a marker buoy not far off shore, and that's what we headed to. Not far past that was a really great wall. On the descent down there were quite a few moon jellyfish floating in the water. With the sun brightening the water, they looked great. It was fairly clear and blue, with visibility around 35 feet. There were a lot of big chunks of organic matter in the water, so it wasn't completely clear, but it was very nice. We came across a bathtub on the way down, which was pretty funny. Teri found an underwater compass which was a great bit of treasure. The wall was hard to describe. Suffice to say it was very interesting and I'd certainly go back. On the way up and in, it was the best part of the dive. The sun was streaming down, the kelp was waving in the water and it just felt generally tropical. Several spots had evidence of octopus, but we didn't find one.

There is some video footage of Willis Point here:

All in all, diving in the Victoria area was great. I couldn't wait to go back!

Porteau Cove – 24/04/2010

Not the nicest day for a dive due to rain and wind, but I was itching to try out my new 400 weight thinsulate undergarment. It had been quite a saga to get the thing. I ordered the original back in October. However due to slow shipping, size problems and finally having it lost in the mail I gave up on that one after over 5 months of waiting and bought a DUI XM450. They just came out with tall sizing, and I fit it quite well.

Mihai and I decided on Porteau for the ease of the dive. The plan was also to do some skills, and I wanted to check my weighting with the new undergarment. We swam out to the yellow marker buoy on the right, which would put us near the artificial reef. We then planned to swim west to the Grant Hall wreck, then circle around the sailboat. We'd be not even getting to 60 feet for the duration of the dive, so we had plenty of no decompression time. We figured it would be a 45-50 minute dive. At the end, we'd swim in to shore and do skills at about 25 feet.

Visibility wasn't great but it wasn't horrible either; maybe 20 feet. We poked around on the artificial reef first, and I'm glad we did for we found an octopus in one of the crevices at 36 feet. One of its arms was waving out of the hole in the water which was pretty neat. It wasn't doing much, so we watched it for a few minutes then continued on. There were two huge ling cod, too. One was on the deck of the Grant Hall and it swam off leisurely into the darkness of one of the deck hatches.

While following the Grant Hall's hull down the starboard side, something weird happened near the stern at 45 feet. The was a distinct layer of very brown water from that point on down where the visibility was only a few feet. Above it, it was better. So we stayed out of that and went up to deck level and around that way. The remainder of the dive had nothing much of note other than a few decorator crabs. We headed along the bottom back towards shore, and stopped at 25 feet to do an S-drill then an SMB deployment and ascent drill. All of that went alright. There were rough edges that needed polishing but we did keep our position. The ascent drill was a bit slow too, but overall I was pleased.

The second dive was shorter, since I wanted to get back to the Shop to pick up cylinders for the next day. We entered at the boat ramp and explored around under the dock pilings. Again, not a tremendous amount of things that jumped out at me. There was a school of shiner perch that was neat. Also an old crab trap surrounded by hundreds of brittle stars. There were a bunch of dungeness crabs running around, too. The bottom under the dock was pretty sand and mostly featureless apart from the life that congregated around the pilings. We ended the dive after about 40 minutes, and an average depth of about 30 feet. We followed the rocks along shore back around to the boat ramp and that was interesting. When we got close to the exit, a distinct halocline happened. A layer of fresh water over top of the salt. Putting your head up through it resulted in a wavy surreal view.

The next time I go out to Porteau, I have to remember to find the firehose. If you swim to the first white marker buoy and descend there, not far to the west is a firehose that marks a path all the way to the sailboat. Apparently it's a very nice way to avoid a long surface swim!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Kelvin Grove and Copper Cove – 17-18/04/2010

I ended up diving two sites this weekend. Originally I had thought to do a crab dive on Saturday, but decided to put that off for another day.

Saturday found me teamed up with David Ryan, whom had invited me out that day. We planned to dive the Cut at Whytecliff Park, but Allan Wong texted us and advised that the visibility at Whytecliff was very poor. So we decided to dive Kelvin Grove instead.

It was quite a rainy Saturday which was unfortunate. We got to Kelvin Grove about noon, and there was another group of divers there packing up. We asked them how things were and they said it was not good. They didn't look happy! Still, they may have been too shallow, and we banked on the visibility being better deeper. I had my double cylinders set up and ready, but couldn't use them yet. I was waiting to schedule a check-out dive with Alan Johnson, but his drysuit was out for repair. That left me diving my single steel 100s. Not ideal from a gas-matching point of view, since David was on double 130s. My air consumption was a lot better now, so we planned the dive accordingly. I'd be the limiting factor, and I estimated that I could get a 40 minute dive averaging around 60 or 70 feet. Our plan was to do 20 minutes at 80 feet, then 20 minutes at 60 or so, turning at half my gas.

Hitting the water, things didn't look good. It was very very murky, with a lot of particulate matter in the water. We descended following the sandy bottom and could hardly see each other two feet away. I was leading, and we headed out to the right-hand rock wall. It took a bit of time to find it, or it could have just been an illusion since you couldn't seen anything. Once we descended past 50 feet, things cleared up thankfully.

I forgot how nice the wall at Kelvin was. There were a huge number of boot/chimney sponges, and most of them were very big. At least the size of a big dog. Many had something living inside, usually a fish or a crab. We came across a pretty big puget sound king crab, too. We checked all the cracks and crevices we could, but nothing of note was home. There was a particularly large ling cod that swam off into the gloom beneath us. It was 4 or 5 feet long.

Both dives were very dark due to the cloudy skies and layers of soupy water. Really they were much like night dives. There was little to no current which was pretty nice. We didn't have to expend much effort at all. I worked on my frog and back kicks, and felt good about them.

The next day Mihai and I dove Copper Cove. I had been meaning to explore it a bit, since the other two times I'd been there, I had just been helping Jason do his underwater map.

The day was a big change from Saturday: clear, sunny and warm. Too bad the visibility ended up being even worse! The tidal exchange that day was very large, and we were diving on the low tide side. Our first plan was to find the rocky reefs in the middle of the bay. We descended on the left hand point, and went north to 70 feet. Then we turned east and followed that depth to hopefully find the reefs. The problem was that the water was so murky. It took a long time to swim out down to 70 feet, as the sandy bottom was very shallow for a long ways. We spent a lot of time in soup, which wasn't so fun. After getting deeper, it did clear up, but the trip along the 70 foot contour was very dull. More sand and nothing to see. We did spot a big tanner crab on the way, but that was it. Finally we ran into the reef. It was kind of worrying, since it was so dark you could not see very far ahead. I was about to turn us around when we finally came across some rocks. The reef we found was fairly interesting, as well as big. There were a number of ledges and big boulders and crevices. We spent the rest of the dive exploring all that we could, since I figured we'd not find anything else interesting if we left. Mihai found a decorated warbonnet under a large boulder which was a cool find. There was also a boulder fully covered with zoanthids. It was like something out of Doctor Seuss. Large plumose anemones decorated everything. No octopus for us, though. There had been several folks who had told me that this reef could have lots of them. We swam back to shore following the bottom south. Again, it was a huge long stretch of sandy nothing. We did come across a prawn trap, which was the most exciting thing on the way, really. There were also a surprising amount of bottles everywhere. If you liked bottle collecting, you'd find a lot.

The saving grace to the sub-optimal dives was the nice day. It was like summer!

On the second dive, we had planned to check out the rocks to the east side of the bay. This fell through, though. We swam out a ways, then descended and were supposed to follow the bottom east until we hit the rocks. That didn't happen and we ended up on the same rock reef that we were on before. In hind-sight, we should have went out to the point on the left, descended and followed those rocks down to the wall that was supposed to be there. Too bad! I would have to remember that wall, since it would have been a lot more interesting than doing the same rock reef. Again, we had a long swim back to shore over sandy nothing. During the dive, the current made it like a little drift dive over the reef. That was kind of nice.

In the end, Copper Cove just wasn't that interesting!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Dodd Narrows, Gabriola Bluffs, Tyee Beach - Nanaimo – 10-11/04/2010

After a great weekend diving out of Port Hardy, it was another packed weekend of diving again. Terri Norfolk invited me along on this trip back around March, and I had heard a lot about Diver's Choice and Dodd Narrows. I couldn't wait to experience it first hand.

I've got a few above-water pictures of the trip here:

There were a lot of travel logistics involved. We had 5 divers coming across from Vancouver, and the plan was to stay over night in Nanimo to do some shore diving on Sunday. Terri Norfolk, David Ryan, Allan Wong, Cedric Galere and me rounded out that crew. Allan was doing a tech dive with his buddies Greg and Richard, along with recreational dives after. On Saturday, we would be out with Ken from Diver's Choice, and Sunday would be just from shore. We had toyed with the idea of doing the wrecks near Nanaimo with Ken, but ultimately the poor visibility killed that idea.

Most of the logistics involved vehicles and splitting people and equipment up most logically. We ended up taking two cars, with Allan picking me and Cedric up, and Terri and Dave taking their own car. It was an early start on Saturday! The weather was awesome though, clear and sunny. We made the 8 o'clock ferry fine, and got over to Nanaimo in good order.

We basically hopped right onto the Diver's Choice boat when we got there. Ken met us with his newly built skiff which made getting gear from the parking lot to the boat easier. The skiff was a bit light and moved a lot, so you had to watch yourself especially when carrying heavy gear. Aaron was the fellow helping out Ken on the boat, and he was a good resource to help with stuff.

We met Richard and Greg, the two tech divers who would dive with Allan. Richard had participated in the recent SREU project in Indian Arm. We did a group picture, but Greg wasn't in it because he was changing at the time.

The first dive site was Gabriola Bluffs. Allan, Richard and Greg splashed first as they were on a longer tech dive with a decompression obligation planned. The bluff was a long, shear rock wall stretching up a good 200 feet or so. We did a live boat entry and descended. Cedric and I were diving together, and Terri and David made up the other team. Our original plan was to stay together, but that soon fell apart as we found out just how poor the visibility was that day. I'm sure it was no more than 10 or 15 feet at best, and it was very dark. Too bad! The dive plan was to spend 20 minutes at 90 feet, 20 at 70 feet, and 20 at 50 feet then do our controlled ascent to the surface. That all worked out pretty well, but the two dive teams got separated fairly quickly.

It's too bad the visibility was so bad on this dive, as I could really see the potential for this wall dive. There was a particularly huge rock overhang that would have been awesome to see in its entirety. I remember swimming along and noticed how dark it got all of a sudden. Looking up with my light illuminated the huge overhang in the gloom. The topography of the wall would have been great to see in larger detail, but oh well. In terms of life, it was pretty standard. A lot of giant white plumose anemones. There was one section of overhang that had a lot of them growing straight downward, and they had elongated to ridiculous lengths.

At the end of the dive, Cedric and I were quite far from the boat so I inflated my giant surface marker buoy for fun. David's mask broke on him after this dive which was a bad problem. It was a prescription mask, so any backup masks would mean fuzzy dives for him for the rest of the trip. He fixed it temporarily, but then it broke again on Sunday! We relaxed in the sun on the boat deck, had a nice lunch and then prepared for Dodd Narrows.

The Narrows could only be done safely on a slack tide, and even then there could be problems with boat traffic, especially log booms. Fortunately none of that happened today. The current in Dodd Narrows was what made it so special. It meant that it could be a very fast drift dive, and the amount of life in the channel was incredible. It was only about 200 feet wide, and 100 feet deep. There were several stories about people getting caught in upwellings and downwellings, in eddies on the surface and things like that. The general rule was to keep your regulator in your mouth until you got back on the boat. Cedric and I missed the Narrows unfortunately as we went the opposite direction. We missed part of the dive briefing and just assumed the current direction would be easily noticeable. We still had a nice dive, but ended up on the opposite side of the Narrows. Good thing I had my giant 6 foot surface marker buoy. You could see that big thing from miles away. I also found a working UK100 underwater light. Quite the treasure find. There were a lot of rock formations to swim around, and also a lot to look at. There were a few interesting nudibranchs and green anemones, but nothing big that jumps out in my mind. The other groups had a good dive too. The visibility was quite a bit better, but not stellar.

We got back into the harbour and unloaded everything. The plan was to stay at Ken's place, as he was set up to allow a lot of divers to stay. His house was big and comfy. There was room to sleep at least 10 or more. We met his little dog Niko, and his two goats. The goats were a bit of a surprise! That evening we unwound at the Longwood Pub. A good place with good beer and reasonable prices. We discussed the next day's plan, too.

We got up and left Ken's place at 8am and went for breakfast at the Granary. A pretty good home-style breakfast place. Our plan was to dive Tyee Beach at about 10, and we were meeting some other divers there, too. We found the place fairly easily and met Scott. He was a professional underwater photographer, and gave a pretty detailed description of Tyee Beach as a dive site. His website was

The best place to dive on Tyee was to the right after you entered the water. Going to the left was shallow, full of eel grass and relatively dull according to Scott. To the right was a lot of rocks and a pretty long wall around 70 feet deep. There did seem to be sections deeper, too. The rock formations were like a layer cake, but with layers missing. This left hard rock plates separated by nothing, which made lots of crevices. The visibility wasn't the best, but it was better than at Gabriola Bluffs. We had maybe 20 feet of visibility I'd say.

On the first dive, Cedric and I teamed up again. We saw a few interesting nudibranchs and a lot of baby copper rockfish. Even though we looked in every crack we could, we didn't find much other than gobbies staring back with their black eyes. There was one neat hairy crab, though. We found you didn't want to keep going past where the wall ran out, as it turned into an uninteresting sandy slope.

There was another dive site very close by at Porpoise Beach, but we decided to stay where we were. The second dive was much like the first, but we spent more time on the wall itself, and shallower. There was a huge boot sponge all alone on one part of the wall. Coming up in the shallows there was a lot of waving kelp and algae. The light was pretty good, so it gave it a very bright and tropical look. Not tropical temperature-wise though. Terri sat this dive out due to being chilly. Cedric mentioned the same quite often too. I didn't feel too bad myself, but my hands were cold at the end of each dive I must admit.

Allan and David shot a bit of video on the dives, but with the visibility not great, most of it didn't turn out. I wasn't sure how many good pictures Scott got, I'd have to ask him later. He seemed pretty enthusiastic about getting out diving all over the place, trying to make a living taking pictures. I would think it was pretty tough to do that! He had a lot of good stories about some of his picture escapades. He'd even got pictures of the rare six-gill sharks in the BC waters.

If you have facebook access, Allan had two videos here:!/video/video.php?v=381272143045!/video/video.php?v=381188593045

Depending on his security settings, I'm not sure if you'll be able to view them or not. Don't bother trying to find me in the videos. Even though I'm tagged as being in them, I'm not!

We got back for the ferry, and had a few drinks out in the sun at the pub near the ferry terminal to kill some time. Out of the wind, it was an awesome warm day.

I have to get back diving around Nanaimo and try out Madrona Point, and do Dodd Narrows for real, too. Scott talked a lot about the dive sites around Victoria, which were supposed to be even better. Another place to check out soon!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Port Hardy – Browning Pass Hideaway, Easter 2010

I had been looking forward to this trip for quite some time. A combination birthday present and reward for finishing the GUE Fundamentals course, along with some decompression time in the wilderness away from technology. I had been to the Hideaway in November, and seriously couldn't wait to go back. John deBoeck was an amazing guide to the dives of the area that Jaques Coustea said were his second favorite in the world.

Originally I had planned to dive double cylinders but that fell through with my injured fingers. Instead, I split my cylinders in half and was able to dive a single steel 130. The other I lent to my dive buddy Jason so that we'd have identical amounts of gas. 130's also allowed us to have some pretty long dives, and not be limited by our air consumption which was a real issue for me and such nice dives. I wanted to be limited by my no decompression limits or how cold I was, not by my gas!

The trip started on Friday very very early. I got up at 3:30am in order to make the meeting time of 5am at the shop. The night before I had brought over my gear and cylinders so that was taken care of. I got a bit nervous when I found out that 9 people were going in the van. I was very concerned that we'd not all fit! It turned out to be a non-issue, but it did lead to some stress that morning.

The van was cramped but it wasn't too bad. On board were Kyle, Genessa, Erika, Scott, Joe, Jason, Vince, Greg and me. It was a rainy and miserable morning when we made it to the ferry terminal. It was a good thing we took the early ferry as the winds were gusting a great deal and the waves were very high. The crossing to Nanaimo was rougher than I'd even seen it with the ferry rocking to and fro alarmingly. It was difficult to walk and to stand, and at one point a big wave caused a large amount of dishes to crash in the kitchen. The seas were so bad that the other ferries for that day were cancelled. That's why we were lucky to get on this one!

In Nanaimo there were numerous power lines down as well as trees. It was quite the storm, but we were very glad to have made it when we did.

The rest of the drive was relatively uneventful. Just a lot of rain and wind and difficult winding road driving. Kyle drove the van but wasn't able to change drivers because it was the Shop van. We did our best to keep him awake even though many of the folks slept on the trip. There was one close call while passing a slow vehicle. There turned out to be an oncoming car a lot closer than Kyle realized. We made it, but it was a bit scary! We did grill him for quite a while after that. Erika nearly had a heart attack.

We made it in to Port Hardy on time around 1pm, but John and his boat were not there. It turned out that he was stuck weathering out the high seas that were going on at that time. So, we had some lunch at the Quarterdeck Inn and just tried to unwind after the long drive. We had a good time getting to know each other, too. Allison and her son Nigel met us there, so our full complement was ready to go.

John made it through a break in the weather, and his previous guests unloaded and got underway. Then it was our turn. We got things loaded pretty quickly, but ended up waiting again since he had to go grocery shopping. I didn't complain because I wanted to eat while I was out there!

Around 5 or so we were on the boat, got fuel, picked up the skiff and the handy man Paul, and were finally on our way. Poor Allison was prone to seasickness, so she had to sit outside the whole trip in the rain. It was a rough ride. Not as rough as it was, but still bumpy and windy. John seemed kind of subdued, but I suspected it was due to the stress of the previous trip and probably lack of sleep.

We made it in to the Hideaway around 7 and the plan was to get in a dive then have dinner. We geared up quickly and headed out to Hideaway Island. However, there were gear issues that would plague us for the rest of the trip. Not me, but Kyle's neck seal was too small, Joe's glove leaked, Jason's gloves leaked, Kyle's computer crapped out, Erika had to replace an O-ring, Scott's drysuit dump valve stuck open amongst other things.

The dive site was not far away, and I hadn't dove the site before. Well, it turned out that I had after I went back and looked at my logs (so many dives close together really blur in my memory)! It was a fairly challenging due to the surging seas. Even at 15 to 20m depth, the water would push you forward then suck you back. In between surges, you could propel yourself where you needed to go, but you had to be pretty careful with your buoyancy otherwise you'd crash into the bottom or other things. I don't recall too much about this dive other than the surge, but it certainly was interesting. I'd never been in conditions like it before.

We had a hearty dinner made by the cook Debbie, and turned in for the evening. The plan was to get up very early and try to make up some dive time. Unfortunately, due to compressor problems and the gear issues, we'd only get four dives done that day. We started out in the Nursery where we had more fun with surge. It wasn't too far from the entrance to Clam Cove and the Hideaway. There were a lot of interesting rock formations here, covered with kelp fronds. There was something of a wall when we first descended, but we had to stay on the inside of the island due to current so we didn't have a chance to explore that on the outside. The white sand was piled up very steeply next to this wall so we didn't spend much time deep. The rest of the dive was spent around 10m puttering around the rocks and kelp. The sun was streaming down from above so that made it very bright and pretty.

The Rock of Life was next and Jason was particularly awed by it. There was just so much life to see. We saw two opalescent nudibranchs on that dive, along with a lot of basket stars and a huge puget sound king crab who had two big brown box crabs as neighbours. After lunch, Eagle Rock was next. Vince ended up somehow going so far that he ended up at the Snowfall dive site. He also appeared to get stuck in the thick kelp, and Kyle went in to rescue him. In reality, he was ok, but better safe than sorry. Rounding off the day was the famous Browning Wall dive. It was awesome, but very challenging with all the surge and current. I found you'd get pushed into the wall very easily and it was difficult to push away without harming any of the life encrusting it. A good back kick was very useful. Unfortunately I didn't have a good one yet! But the practice was nice. When I did need to push off, I'd use one finger and carefully pick a small exposed bit of rock.

With the issues and weather during the day, we decided to call it a day, get some sleep and get up early again. I took the opportunity to have a nice hot shower and a shave. Erika logged all the species she saw every dive for the Reef project. She was up late every night doing that because there was just so much to see. Paul the handy man battled with toilets and plumbing all day. He also did a great roast on the barbecue. The Easter Bunny came that evening, with chocolate eggs waiting inside for people, and eggs hidden outside as well. With the blowing wind that night, I was afraid he'd have some problems, but the eggs stayed in place.

The next morning found us on Browning Wall again, and it was equally as challenging as the previous day. There was what looked to be a puget sound king crab in a crack, but it turned out to be a hairy-spined crab. Its claws looked very similar, but the crack was too flat for the big tank-like puget sound king crab. We also saw a cool grunt sculpin. Three of us squeezed in a short dive after that before lunch inside Hideaway Island. It was a very nice sheltered bay, with a flat sandy bottom and a small rock wall. We saw a huge red irish lord, a big orange-peel nudibranch, and a smoothhead sculpin. The sculpin was lying on top of a pile of black muscle shells, and it was so well camouflaged that at first I could only see a disembodied fish head. Upon surfacing, Scott spotted an otter/mink looking thing scampering on the rocks above us, and looking curious. John figured it was a mink when we asked about it.

After that, we did Seven Tree Island. As we left, Vince forgot his hood so we had a delay while we went back. A good reminder to always keep one's gear on the boat! On that dive, everyone but Erika and Joe missed the giant pacific octopus hiding under the kelp at the beginning of the dive. I lost a double-ended bolt snap, but Genessa found it shining on the sand. The end of that dive was like being in the tropics with a vast stretch of white sand.

We got in another fast dive inside Hideaway Island after that. John got his anchor snagged, so Vince went down to free it. When he started to take too long, I went in to assist too. We got the anchor back up and it was pretty fun. Later I'd count this as a dive, because according to Paul, in the WRSTC (World Recreational Scuba Training Council) a dive with a purpose doesn't have to have any set length. We did the Rock of Life again to round out the, which made Jason happy. We skipped the night dive because it was just a bit too late and not a lot of folks were interested. It didn't seem worth it to bust our backs getting fills done and popping out for such a short time. Showering and sleeping turned out to be a better choice.

On the final day, we got up early yet again to do Browning Wall one last time before packing up. This time my back kick was a lot better and I never pushed off the wall once. However, there were some problems on the dive. Scott lost his mask, and Nigel went down too quickly to get it. This resulted in a mask squeeze and him getting a pretty bad bloody nose. Scott also lost his camera and went down with Erika to find it. Unfortunately they got separated and Scott went a lot deeper than he should have. Erika had found the camera almost immediately. A good lesson in keeping close to your buddy. There was also an issue in that he came close to exceeding the maximum operating depth of the nitrox he was breathing. However, everything ended alright thankfully and some lessons were learned.

It was a fabulous sunny day and we got packed up and underway without much incident. On many of the dives, the bull kelp provided convenient ascent and descent reference points. Also, old growth kelp with its short strong stalk helped us keep position on shallow safety stops in strong wave action near rocks. It was funny that there were no jelly fish at all, though. I think John said that they were between seasons. I also remember seeing a smooth velvet snail just after seeing it in the marine life book. It was pretty lucky, otherwise I would have had no idea what it was.

Once back on the road, there were no other problems. The drive back was a bit better than the drive up, but there were still some bad rainy spots and wind. We made the 6 o'clock ferry, and everyone was back in Vancouver by 8pm! I couldn't wait to go back...

Here is a list of the species I remember seeing:

old growth kelp

bull kelp

blue branching seaweed

cloud sponge

glove sponge

giant plumose anemone

white-spotted rose anemone

green surf anemone

strawberry anemone

orange zoanthid

tan cup coral

red soft coral

orange sea pen

pink gorgonian

whie hydroid

giant pacific chiton

smooth pink scallop

giant rock scallop

leafy hornmouth

smooth velvet snail

noble sea lemon

monterey sea lemon

white nudibranch

heath's dorid

yellow-rimmed nudibranch

white-rimmed nudibranch

Hudson's dorid

Cooper's dorid

diamondback nudibranch

orange-peel nudibranch

frosted nudibranch

opalescent nudibranch

opalescent squid

graceful kelp crab

helmet crab

graceful decorator crab

longhorn decorator crab

hairy-spined crab

rhinoceros crab

heart crab

puget sound king crab

brown box crab

giant acorn barnacle

basket star

red sea cucumber

giant sea cucumber

broadbase tunicate

pacific sea peach

blackeye goby

mosshead warbonnet

decorated warbonnet

china rockfish

blue rockfish

black rockfish

kelp greenling

painted greenling

smoothhead sculpin

red irish lord

grunt sculpin

Next weekend would be Dodd Narrows, a very fast and extreme drift dive! I should have some photos and video from the folks who had underwater cameras soon too. You can check here as I continue to upload that. Right now, it's just a few pictures from my own camera.