Friday, July 30, 2010

Strathcona 28/07/2010

This night dive was originally supposed to be for crabbing. But, Alan couldn't go, so that was canceled. I decided to go to Strathcona anyway, since I'd been meaning to check it out further. I had been there one time on a previous crab dive with Alan.

Jason and Vince were along for this dive. Prior to getting out to the island, we helped retrieve some dropped car keys. There were some people on the dock and one guy in the water. When we asked them what they were doing, they said they were trying to get their keys. We said "oh, well we just happen to have some scuba gear, we'll get them". And we did!

We dove around the small island off the shore. It was a pretty long surface swim out to it. We went to the right around the south end, and came up the side facing the channel. That was the side with the most life apparently.

It was a long shallow dive around the south tip. We should have went around the north end first. The depth was maybe 10 feet most of the way. We didn't get onto the channel side of the island for at least half an hour. The bottom was a lot of big rocks and boulders, with some sand. The channel side of the island turned into some sloping rock walls that were a bit deeper, maybe 40 feet. I didn't want to get too far from the island in case we got out into the channel. There is a lot of boat traffic there.

We made it almost to the north tip of the island, and it was pretty interesting. Lots of nice solid sloping rock walls and cracks. But current hit us pretty bad and we had to turn back. If we had come the other way around, we could have drifted with it.

There were some new nocturnal fish that I'd not seen before. IT was a roughback sculpin. There were loads of them. There were also loads of sticklebacks/pricklebacks, which are long thing eel-like fish.

I don't think I'd dive here again without a scooter. The swim is far too long for what you get to see!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Porteau Cove 25/07/2010

A day of skills. Alan asked me to be the buddy for a very gifted starting diver named Jose. He already could backfin after 8 dives.

We did two dives, doing propulsion and buoyancy skills on both. Alan videoed it.
Jose learned a lot on these two dives, and showed marked improvement from one dive to the other. He had problems sculling with his hands, but that was because he had propulsion issues that were causing him to lose balance. Once those were fixed, his hand moving was not such a problem.

We basically did dive 2 from the GUE Fundamentals course. It gave me practice on my frog-kicks and backfinning so that was good. It also gave an opportunity for Alan to see how my propulsion was progressing. Since the Fundies he'd not seen my backkick. He said I'd come a long way from the non-existent backkick I had in the Fundies!
We saw a grunt sculpin on the end of the dive. The poor thing was scooting on the bottom, and a big ling cod swam along and sat on him. I really thought at first he was going to get eaten.

There was a pretty wicked current, and we had problems surface swimming with Jose. But it got sorted well enough. Alan set up a new course when we couldn't make it to the area with the first set-up. It worked well. Then he exhibited some pretty stellar underwater navigating to get us back to the old course to clean it up, then back to shore.

Tuwanek 24/07/2010

I had tried to plan a trip to Tuwanek all week, but couldn't get a dive buddy. In the end I decided to go on the Topline boat and pick up a buddy, but on Friday Ivan emailed me saying he'd go along.

After the poor visibility at Whytecliff on Thursday I cancelled the Topline in favour of the generally better visibility at Tuwanek.

The morning started off badly. I set my alarm for pm instead of am. We missed the ferry we wanted by minutes. Fortunately there was a 9:40 ferry so we weren't too far behind.

The plan was to do three dives. Ivan had double AL80s and a single AL80, and I'd divide my S130s into thirds. It worked pretty well. Each dive was shorter and shallower too.

I took my scooter along to cut the surface swim. It was slower than I expected towing two fully laden divers, especially on the surface. The prop kept breaking the surface and sucking air. But it still worked. It was at least as fast as swimming. I didn't use the scooter on the dives except for the last one. I got practice stowing it and towing it behind me.

Dive 1 was to the North/right island. We descended a bit too early, so wasted some time looking at sand before hitting the walls and boulders around the back side. We also didn't find the wolf eels. Oh well. Right at the start was a big orange tritonia nudibranch. There were tonnes of tunicates covering everything. Apparently they were seasonal. Moon jellies were everywhere. There were lots of tiny flabellina nudibranchs too. A big cloud sponge came out of nowhere too on the bottom all alone. I had not seen any at Tuwanek before. It was a small hotel for several small fish and crabs.

Dive 2 was to the South/left island. Divers had told us there were two octopii there. I parked the scooter on a marker buoy line this time. I was a bit nervous leaving it and made sure it was totally secure. We saw a big swimming nudibranch and a red buffalo sculpin. The highlight was a giant pacific octopus in his crack. We found the one people were talking about! It was south from the marker buoy at about 60 feet. The scooter was recovered without incident, but on the ascent we almost ran into a lions's mane jellyfish.

Dive 3 was back to the North island, but more right than left. There was another octopus reported there, but we didn't see it. Visibility was poor and we were shallow, around 20 feet. The other dives had better visibility, but below 50 at least. I did doughnuts around Ivan with my scooter on this dive. It was fun!

We had to rush, but made the planned ferry back. All in all a good set of dives!

Whytecliff Scooter Dive 22/07/2010

My second scooter dive, and some serious trigger-time. Things didn't start out great as some gear was left behind. We had to go downtown and back, otherwise Alan would have been freezing in a wetsuit. By the time we started the dive it was 9:30.

It was worth it in the end as we saw a dogfish twice (the closest thing to a shark in these waters besides a six gill). I'd never seen a dogfish before. It's a small mini-shark really. Maybe about 2 feet long.

We did all of Whytecliff on this dive. The cloud sponges up the Cut at 100 feet were another highlight along with a baby octopus at the day marker/ plumose gardens.

A very late night but totally worth it!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Whitecliff Scooter Dive - 18/07/2010

I was super excited when the latest addition to my diving equipment arsenal arrived: the HDV-T16!

An underwater scooter isn't an essential piece of gear by any means. However, my philosophy is to get gear that I'll be using later sooner, so as to get a lot of practice time on it before it becomes more of a necessity. With technical training sometime next year, having those scooter skills in place will make things a lot easier.

The T16 is a very very nice machine. I was surprised at how small it was compared to the old Gavins. In fact, it was standing next to a Gavin in the shop when I saw it for the first time. All I could think was "wow that's small!". The Gavin scooters are at least twice the weight and twice the size. I was very impressed with the quality of construction and features of the T16. It's 48 pounds and about waist high. I still need to test its run time, but it should be around 100 minutes.

I was lucky enough to get Alan Johnson to take me on a check-out dive on Sunday evening at Whitecliff. It was pretty crowded, and taking the scooter down to the beach was pretty cool. I know there were some jealous divers looking at it!

Once we got in the water, we ran through scooter skills. The T16 was supposed to be neutral, but it sank slowly. No big deal, there was a weight plate to take out that should fix that. It was surprising as the scooter was weighted for salt water. Taking the plate out would fix it for fresh water. Alan speculated that the salinity of the water was lower than where they tested it. Not a big deal, it certainly wasn't dragging me down in any way.

At first I just circled around under the surface. There was a surprising amount of force exerted on the right arm that you hold the trigger with, even with the tow cord attached to the crotch D ring. But, it's just because I'm not proficient at scootering yet. It's not as easy as just hanging on and pressing the trigger!

Underwater we ran through stowing the scooter behind you with a leash. It was and interesting exercise to attach the leash, clip it off to the crotch D ring and push the scooter down between your legs and behind you. It felt very awkward. But good practice managing big things underwater. I can only imagine what adding 1 or 2 stage bottles to the mix will be like! By that time though, the scooter will be second nature, which was the whole goal.

We covered a lot of ground on the dive, but no surprise there. We went from the bay all the way around the left island and back, and then messed around in the bay. It was about an hour long dive. Things happened a lot faster while scootering, since you were going faster. I had been used to keeping track of depth, time, compass heading and pressure at a certain rate. Now that all changed! I'll get used to it, but it was a challenge.

Maintaining a set depth level was a challenge too. You really had to keep the scooter pointed properly otherwise you were going up or down. I didn't have my legs out straight enough either. But that was contrary to the regular position of legs up. It makes sense though, as you need to be more streamlined. I also noticed how much a difference in your position behind the scooter made. If you are too low, you get in the prop wash and you go slower. That's easy to feel though, so that's good.

Alan bumped into me one time on purpose for fun. That was a surprise! I didn't crash into anything, which was good too. There was one time where I accidentally engaged the set-screw that locks the trigger on, so for a few seconds I thought I had a runaway scooter problem. I realized what happened quickly and fixed it though.

At the end, it was an awesome time. With a scooter, you can do all the various parts of Whitecliff park in one dive. But, you have to be spot on with your compass navigation or you won't get far!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

HMCS Annapolis - 11/07/2010

No diving this weekend, but a diving related activity. I volunteered to work on the HMCS Annapolis to prepare it for sinking sometime later this year. It will become the latest artificial reef in the Vancouver area, and has been in the works for some time.

It was an early day, but worth it. I arrived at Horseshoe Bay and for a while, thought that the day had been canceled since there was no sign of anyone else. But, things were just running late. I soon met Doug, who was in charge of the crew going out on the ship, and the rest of the people going out. We took a fast boat ride to the ship, which was quite a distance from the mainland. Here is a google map link; use Satellite view if it's not on already:,-123.36123&spn=0.003354,0.010568&t=h&z=17

It's a big ship! You can easily see it in the satellite photo.

I took some pictures throughout when I had a chance. They turned out pretty well, and are here:

The best pictures were of the nuclear-umbrella signs. They denoted shelters where the crew could go to be safe from fallout. Duck and cover!

The work we did on board was mostly dismantling electrical panels from the walls. Doug said that about 80 tonnes of stuff had already been removed, but there was still a lot to go. Many of the bolts were hard to get off being caked in layers of old paint. A lot of the panels were large and very heavy too. It was a bit dicey sometimes, you had to be pretty careful that nothing fell on you!

It wasn't that dirty work, but there was still oil and grease everywhere. All traces of hydrocarbons would eventually have to be removed. I was bewildered to see how that every could be accomplished! It really was everywhere.

It was a great day to be out on the water, and to work on a worthy cause. I plan to get back out again to give a hand, so that when it sinks I can say that I helped!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Howe Sound Boat Dive - 04/07/2010

A big weekend of diving, since I was just in Victoria on Saturday. Fine by me!

It was a pretty last minute decision to go out on a boat dive with the Topline on Sunday. But since I didn't dive much last weekend, and it was the long weekend, I figured sacrifices had to be made.

It was an early start again. The night before I didn't get as much sleep as I wished, since getting back from Victoria made it pretty late. The morning was cloudy and fairly cool so it was certainly not a "summer" day.

I was diving with Jason Kolba, and we had some time to get to know the other divers on the trip. There was one fellow from Oregon, one from next door Bowen Island, and two from Vancouver.

Our first dive site was the Collingwood Day marker, in the channel on the west side of Bowen Island. I had dove this once before, and really liked it, so it was a treat to go back. Our dive was 42 minutes, and we spent the first 15 around 24-25 meters or 70 feet. The wall that was there was covered in cloud sponges. There were not a lot of rockfish, but there were several big swimming nudibranchs. Collingwood Day Marker is interesting as you can follow the wall north, and then come back over sloping boulder fields which are shallower. The prospect of octopii hiding was great, but we didn't see one. There was a very nice warbonnet on a big chimney sponge, too.

We went south to Wolcombe island for dive two. Another site I had dove once before and found very very nice. There were basket stars there last time, but none to be seen this time. This was the only known location of basket stars in Howe Sound. Perhaps there are no locations now!

There had been gale warnings in the area, but the water had calmed a lot so we were able to do this site. Jumping in, we moved to the rocks and the marker pole on shore, and descended quickly to get out of the surf. The wall opened up withing a few feet of swimming away from the shore, and it was a great dive from there on. Current was minimal, and it was a sedate drift all the way.

The biggest find (literally) was a giant pacific octopus. It was at 27 meters (90 feet) about 7 minutes in to the dive. It was under an overhang of rock, quite exposed and snoozing. It was a great sight to see. A huge orange peel nudibranch about a foot long was also a highlight.

All in all, another great day of diving!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Victoria - 03/07/2010

For the Canada Day weekend I planned a dive trip to Victoria. The tides and currents looked good to do 10 Mile Point. I really liked this drift dive when I did it before and wanted to try it again.

It was an early start to get to the site to hit slack tide. I was diving with Ivan Delacruz. Despite the early morning, and some missed turns, we made it without incident.

At the site, we looked things over and finalized our dive plan. It looked like the current was stronger than what the tables indicated.

Once in the water below the parking lot, we descended and were immediately swept towards the point. We didn't get a chance to get onto the wall at all. For the rest of the dive we were pretty shallow,10 to 20 feet, and close to shore. We followed the shore with the current through a lot of kelp forests. The visibility was maybe 20 feet. The kelp was full of decorator crabs and schools of shiner perch. I didn't want to go out deeper for fear of going too far out into the channel and missing the exit.

As it stood, we exited pretty far down the shore at the bay near the first turn off to the dive site. Getting out onto the rocks was a bit tricky with doubles, and the walk back to the car was tiring.

The dive wasn't all I had hoped, but it came down to missing slack tide. Using the Race Rocks current table worked, but we had to add 15 minutes to half an hour I think. Still I enjoyed the shallow drift dive immensely because of the exploration of the kelp forests.

There was no point doing a second dive at 10 Mile, so I decided to take us to Willis Point, which had been a great dive for me previously.

Arriving showed that there was no one diving Willis that day. One diver was just leaving, giving us a good visibility report and that he had seen a wolf eel on the left side about 140 feet. We'd not be going that deep though.

Willis Point turned out to be the gem of the day. 50 foot visibility at least, a great wall, no current and lots to see. Murky down to 30 feet, but stellar under that. The sun was out so it was quite bright.

Of particular note were the hordes of moon jellies. There were also a few lions mane jellyfish mixed in. It was that time of season!

Large swimming nudibranchs abounded, along with a spectacular opalescent nudibranch. Black rockfish were to be seen too.

The highlight was a baby giant pacific octopus crawling around in the open. It was about the size of a cereal bowl.

Two awesome dives at Willis!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Porteau Cove – 26/06/2010

Vince and I tried first to go to Kelvin's Grove, but a sign warning about sewage problems turned us away. Not something you want to swim in!

We did Porteau Cove instead, since we were pretty close.

Visibility was not the greatest, but it could have been worse. We spent a good deal of time poking around for octopii, but found not a one.

The highlight of the dive was coming across a giant lingcod swallowing another fish whole. It was eating it like a snake, and the other fish was still alive in its mouth with half of its body down the lingcods throat. It was like a fish with two heads.

Vince and I ran through a few drills at the end of the dive, most notably modified S-drills. I also went through one set of valve drills since I was on my doubles. It went not too bad.

We decided to skip the second dive, since our first dive was actually 1 hour and 15 minutes. The longest dive I've ever had!

Egmont Dive Trip - 20/06/2010

This was a great dive trip. I had signed up with the IDC dive shop a long time ago for it.

Egmont is up the Sunshine Coast, and many of the pictures from my big marine life hardcover book came from this area.

Since it was an IDC trip, most of us got a lift in the IDC van. We had to leave very early! It was a quiet trip as most people were very tired. Erika and Joe whom I had been to Port Hardy with were along on the trip, so it was nice to see some familiar faces. Vince and I ended up forming a dive team on this trip.

We visited two dive sites: South Sutton, North Channel and Nemo's Leap with Kal from Porpoise Bay Charters.

South Sutton was a very fast drift dive which was great. I love not having to work while diving,and letting the water just carry you. There was one rock covered with baby nudibranchs, and the kelp forests were awesome.

Nemo's Leap was named after Kal's dog, who had lept off the boat there. It was more of a wall than South Sutton, and again it was a pretty fast drift dive. There was a lot of rubbish on the bottom from many years of human habitation nearby, and we found a pretty neat teapot.

There was an octopus that Erika and Joe found, but everyone else missed that.

On the way back, we missed our ferry, so we didn't get home until 10pm.

It was a long day!

Some photos from Vince are here:

Whytecliff – 19/06/2010

More Whytecliff!

Mihai came out on this dive, and we did the left islet like Jason and I had done the previous dive. It was again a nice dive. There are a lot of underwater cables stretching down from the island into the depths, and many of them are totally encrusted with life. Feathery tube worms were the coolest things, along with several painted greenlings.

Mihai had some problems with his sinuses, and couldn't do the second dive. I ended up tagging along with a beginning open water class and just hanging out watching them doing a few skills of my own. It wasn't a bad dive, and I think the students appreciated seeing a "real" diver!

Whytecliff – 13/06/2010

Jason wanted to practice rescue diver skills, and that was our goal today.

Our first dive we went and explored the left side of the bay along the island. I'd not been out that way before, and it turned out to be very pleasant. You can actually circle the island, but it takes quite a bit of time. Our dive was more conservative, and we just went out then turned back at our agreed-on turn pressure. We saw a really interesting fish, which turned out to be a longfin sculpin.

I thought for sure it was something strange, but they are very common.

For our rescue skills, we practiced surfacing an unresponsive diver. We took turns and surfaced the other 3 times total. I was in my doubles, so it was a challenge both for me and Jason. Me in that I had to deal with the extra bulk, and he to deal with the extra weight. We agreed that we did pretty well. Slow controlled ascents on almost all attempts.

At the end, we tried to see if we could swim up against the weight of our gear, to simulate a wing failure. Jason was just able to, but there was no way I could swim up against the weight of my doubles. It was a good thing to find out. But not a big concern, as with the setup I have, the chances of both the wing and your drysuit failing at the same time is virtually zero.

Howe Sound Boat Dive - 06/06/2010

This boat dive with the Topline was very good. I was out with Mihai and Vince, and we were all on single steel 100s.

The previous week, I had tried to get out on a boat dive and there was a problem with the Topline, and we had to turn back. So, I was raring to go for this one! Also, I had to remember to lash down my cylinders better during transport. I had my doubles slide in Vince's truck bed, and they got a nasty knock. Fortunately, everything checked out ok with them and there was no damage.

Anyway, we went on two new dives today.

First was the Colingwood Day Marker, on the east side of Bowen island. Normally there are too many fishing boats here as it's a popular place to fish. But there were none around today, and we got to check it out. There were indeed a tonne of rockfish, lingcod, and several swimming nudibranchs. A very nice dive.

Second was Hutch Reef, where there had been a study on the chimney sponges that lived in water much shallower than normal. The study was to find out why. There were indeed a lot of big chimney sponges at the site, as well as a huge log that was on the bottom. The log was shot through with white worms slowly chewing it all down. I popped my SMB at the end of the dive for practice, and a good thing too, since there were several boats in the area.

Whytecliff – 05/06/2010

This was a skills dive with David Ryan.

Our goal was to prepare for taking the Technical diving pass upgrade that is part of the GUE training. So, it was to be skills and drills for both dives, in doubles, and aiming for the stricter guidelines on trim, buoyancy and propulsion.

I learned that too many skills in one day doesn't help. Especially on valve drills. We did 3 sets of valve drills on both dives. On the second dive, my arms were so tired I couldn't complete the drills. The muscles you use to turn your valves aren't used very often. Two sets of valve drills maximum I think gives the most benefit.

Anyway, I was pretty disappointed in my performance. If I recall, we did a descent drill, valve drill, S-drill, propulsion drills, SMB deployment and an ascent drill.

After today, I did not feel confident in my skills with my doubles yet to go for the tech pass upgrade. I figure I'll have a lot more diving needed before I start into technical!

Porteau Cove – 24/05/2010

The doubles stayed home today, and I was out on my single cylinder setup.

Greg came out along with Jason, me, and David Ryan. I dove with Greg on our first dive, which was the Nakaya. It had been a while since I'd been out to the Nakaya, and it was a good dive. Greg and I practiced ascent and descent drills at the beginning and end of this dive.

The second dive was to explore using the firehose that was laid on the bottom to guide us out to the dive site. The trip out was ok at first. We found the firehose alright, but I ended up bringing us out into the middle of a sandy wasteland due to a compass mistake. We did get back on track, but it was frustrating for me. Visibility was pretty bad too.

On the whole, I didn't have the best dives this day!

Howe Sound Boat Dive - 23/05/2010

I went out with Teri Norfolk on the Topline and her friend John Melindez. We were both diving on doubles, and he was on a single steel 120 or 130. John was doing a lot of pictures on the dives, and they turned out not too bad.

We did two sites, Christie Islet which I'd done before, and Halkett Wall, which I had not.

Christie was a pretty nice dive, however visibility was pretty bad and I remember we almost got lost near the end of the dive. However, just when I was about to give up, there was the up-line.

Halkett Wall was a live boat dive, and it was quite a nice wall. It's not far from the bay where they will sink the Annapolis. At the end of this dive, visibility did get really bad, and since John was taking photos, he ended up getting separated from us. It was the end of the dive, and we all ended up regrouping on the surface, and all was well.

Whytecliff – 16/05/2010

I took my double set out on this dive, and helped Jason Kolba do his dive master thing with some students. We did the rock reef on the left hand side, and then the rock wall on the right. The dives were a bit short, and the second dive we kind of got lost and didn't see a lot of things. Still, the new divers did enjoy it.