Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Whytecliff 13/11/2010

Saturday found me out at Whytecliff with Jason and the last few dives of an advanced open water course. I was out providing moral support to Heather, along with being a dive buddy. It was early, cold, and cloudy, but at least it wasn't raining!

The highlight of the day was a young seal that came around. I noticed it beneath me while on the surface. He kept staring up at me as if he wanted to come closer but just couldn't bring himself to do it. He also played with the float line, wrapping himself up in it. On one of the surface swims, two more seals popped up behind us to check things out.

There was an incredible wake that pounded the shore at one point. Our gear was on some of the logs at what I thought was a safe distance. But the waves came right up and almost washed one of our fins away! Luckily a diver coming out of the water rescued it. A good note to myself to make sure to get things well away from the water!

A great blue heron perched in one of the trees over us too. Rounding out the wildlife was the usual bottom creatures like flatfish and seastars. Nothing incredible, but we were in the middle of the sandy bay so no surprise there.

At the end of the dives, Jason and I cleaned up the line and float. He tried to throw me the weight that was holding the line down and it went about 2 inches. I laughed.

All in all the dives were successful. The deep dive was completed and the navigation dive went great. Liam was pretty excited, since it was the first time I think he had experienced what real teamwork could be like.

Porteau Cove Scooter Dive 11/11/2010

It was high time for a scooter dive, and Alan Johnson and I decided to scooter Porteau Cove on Remembrance Day.

Heading out was pretty miserable. It was only 5pm, but the time change made it very dark. Plus it was pouring rain. We had to gear up in the change room at Porteau it was so bad. Doing that made it almost pleasant so it was a good call! The rain wasn't so bad once we were in our suits. It was surprisingly warm too. I was sweating after putting everything together.

I was running the dive, which would be good practice. Our bottom time would be 1 hour, based on an average depth of 70 feet. The plan was to scooter around the dock pilings, then follow the firehose north east, scooter around the jungle gym and the Grant Hall for 20 minutes, then head north east at the 70 foot contour to the Nakaya, spend 20 minutes there, then scooter back and in to shore.

All in all I hit all the points, and ran the dive right on time. I got turned around at the Grant Hall going to the Nakaya and did a big circle running back into the Grant Hall again. That was embarrassing. But I got back on track and hit the Nakaya almost right on.

There was a huge shining school of pipefish on the bow of the Grant Hall. Alan sucked a perch through his prop and had some fish chunks resulting. Poor fish! Lots of decorator crabs and perch. No octopus that we saw, but scootering fast make a hard time to stop and look in cracks.

We went through and around the jungle gym a few times which was fun. No crashes! The Nakaya was the best. Very spooky at night. A real ghostly looking ship. We stowed the scooters and swam the wreck. There were columns of air bubbles coming out of the deck planks which was odd. Not quit sure what was causing that.

Coming back in to shore was uneventful. I intended to scooter through the sites on the way back but went too far to the east and missed everything except for a lot of sand.

Still it was a very fun scooter dive! Clear skies and a crescent moon greeted us on the surface. The rain had stopped and it was a nice night.

Whytecliff 10/11/2010

I went out with Heather's Advanced Open Water class for their night dive. Alan Johnson and Emily were there instructing and it was fun. It was still cold, though!

Alan ran folks through light deployment and signal drills on land first.

Out in the water, I was supposed to try and get video of the individual people doing their drills, but that didn't work out too well. The visibility was poor, and I ran out of space on the memory stick very quickly as I left the clips running quite long. I tried to erase some of them underwater, but I wasn't familiar enough with the camera.

In the end all the skills were accomplished, and things went well. It also wasn't that late when we left thankfully so that was nice.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Whytecliff Stage Bottle Checkout Dive 02/11/2010

Part two of my stage bottle checkout dive. And this time it was more successful.

Finally after many delays and reschedules, we made it out to finish this off. I almost had to cancel again as the alarm at work went off, and I was called to go investigate. There were no problems, and everything was fine, but it made me late. Thankfully Alan agreed to still do the dive. He joked that I owed him 15 minutes of his life. I figured some beer would be adequate.

It was dark now by the time we got geared up and into the water. No more "night" dives like the ones in summer! This would make it a bit more challenging, but not bad since Whytecliff was well known to us, and night dives were fairly routine now.

Our dive plan was to deploy our stages, then run out the gas to about half at 30 feet while looking around, then shoot a surface marker and send the positive bottles to the surface.

I was leading the dive and took us down to 30 feet. I went down to 40 feet without noticing quick enough, but got us back on track. I followed the bottom contour from there, just practicing propulsion and navigation. Near the start of the dive, Alan unclipped the tail of my stage bottle and my SPG. I didn't notice for 20 minutes! That reinforced the good practice of a complete flow check and pat down. I was doing the flow checks, but didn't also check the rest of my gear. When I finally noticed, I was able to clip everything back off alright. However, I stopped the dive to do that, and Alan later said that you should not need to stop the dive to clean up gear like that. Only if there was a big problem.

We came across three stubby squid on the dive, along with a seal that kept buzzing us several times. The squid were small, maybe 3 inches, but very cool. I'd not seen squid before. One of them inked Alan when he was looking at it. They were fast, too! The seal never really came very close, but zipped around in the edges of our light beams using it to help him catch stuff.

Alan pulled an out of gas situation after the squid and it went ok. I got him my stage regulator and switched to my secondary. But I didn't go onto my primary, so he simulated out of gas again. The idea being that the stages would be usually quite low, and it may have been used up. I learned a valuable lesson in that once you got your buddy onto a known gas source, get off your secondary and onto your primary just in case you need to donate that. I was able to stow the stage and clean up my gear alright after this drill. So my practice had paid off.

After that situation, I shot the surface marker and we went to send the bottles up. Alan clipped his to the line and pushed it up. A few seconds later it rocketed back down. I laughed pretty hard, the stages were not positive enough, as we'd not used enough gas. Oh well! We weren't able to do that particular skill to completion. I'd have to practice it later.

Finally we did the normal staged ascent following the line up. However, Alan did yet another out of gas situation, this time I had my spool in one hand and my light. I hadn't clipped the line off to the spool properly and Alan wanted to see if I'd drop it. I was able to get things handled ok, but did touch off the bottom one time. Then we shared air up to the surface.

At the end of the dive, he had a lot of valuable feedback. I did ok, but still there were fundamental problems, even after 200 dives. My frog kick was still not very good at all, and my trim was off by about 30 degrees. At the end of the dive Alan said trim got much better, with it being 0 degrees at the end. But again it's something I had to keep working on.

He gave a valuable tip about inward / outward awareness and skill. During the dive, the idea was to do a thorough check every 5 minutes. I had been focusing on equipment, but even then I still wasn't checking everything. Case in point doing a dive for 20 minutes with an unclipped stage bottle and SPG! The best way to do it was to do an internal check first covering yourself, how you were feeling, etc. Then move to a full check of your gear, valves, depth, time, gas supply, a full pat down to identify anything lose. Then to check your buddy; were they showing any stress, strange motions, bubbles etc. Building situational awareness was hard, but this would help a lot. Once the inward and equipment was second nature, the external stuff would come too. So in the end the goal is to have a complete mental picture of the dive at any time, and be able to anticipate problems before they occur. So something to work on for sure!

As a big, and pleasant surprise, Heather had come out to see how we were doing. I saw a glow stick on the rocks by the bay after we surfaced and wondered who it was. Then when we were going down to the beach to get our stages in the dark, that same glow stick went by. It was two people, but I had no idea that it was her. Then in the parking lot, her friend Karen came up behind me and asked if I was Anton. I had no idea how this person knew I was there! So it was a pretty funny situation after I figured out she was behind it.

Porteau Cove 30/10/2010

I went out to Porteau Cove with an Advanced open water class. Heather from the Egmont trip was there, and I had promised to come along in case she needed a dive buddy or for moral support, if needed. However, the dives we would do were much less challenging than those in Egmont, especially the wreck of the Chaudiere. So I was pretty sure that things would go well.

It was an early morning, as I got a lift out with Jason. We went by the dive shop and helped pack the van with Steve Redding. We also all drove out together. It was always fun to chat in the van with Steve. I'd also not get many more opportunities to do that since he was returning to Australia around November 7.

Out at Porteau, I met John, another up and coming diver doing the dry suit course. He talked about the other dive near the Porteau Cove campground. I had heard about it, but never had done it. So we made plans to get that happening in the weeks ahead.

The first dive we did was just sorting out buoyancy and trim, doing some propulsion practice and generally staring at sand. We had a very small group. It was just Jason and Heather and a french girl Magalain, and me. I wasn't participating in any of the skills, just observing and trying to set a good example of proper trim and buoyancy. We didn't see much in terms of life, but the visibility was quite good so that was nice. You could see the surface of the water from 30 feet down, which was excellent.

Porteau had the tide coming in, so the surface swim was longer. There was a bit of current, too. Jason and I ended up having to take turns towing the french girl. She was in a wetsuit and was completely frozen on both dives. I can't understand how people dive in wetsuits in BC waters!

The second dive was a bit more fun. We toured around the Grant Hall. There were some nice big ling cod, some good decorator crabs, and a few nice nudibranchs. The jungle gym also had a great school of small pipe fish, which I always like seeing. I poked my nose into one of the octopus dens, but no one was home.

The day was awesome for a dive. The sun was out, the visibility was good, and it wasn't that cold. Can't complain about that!