Monday, December 13, 2010

Cottam Point and Wall Beach, Nanaimo 04/12/2010

After diving at Tuwanek, Anita had invited me to dive the wrecks at Nanaimo with her friend Bill. I found later that I had met Bill on the Diver's Choice boat. Bill had a pretty nice dive boat too. However we weren't able to use it in the end, and I didn't get to see it.

Getting anywhere early with a ferry involved meant getting up even earlier. I had to get up at 4:30. With an office Christmas party the night before, it was extremely difficult.

We made the 6 am ferry with no problems. But soon found out from Bill that his boat had a problem, and he needed to fix it. Some folks were counting on using it for some dive training the next day, so he had to get it done and couldn't do any diving.

We went for coffee and had a good time discussing rebreathers. Bill had gotten on to them because of a bad back (they were lighter) and had spent a good deal of time learning their pros and cons. I had never really talked in depth with a rebreather diver, so it was interesting to get one take on them.

We also talked about possible dive sites. We decided on Cottam Point and Wall Beach. Both sites can be seen on this map.

Cottam Point is at the top of the map, and Wall Beach is near the bottom.

We went to Cottam Point first. We had done a lot of reading on the highlights of the site based off of a photographer/blogger. It was also listed in the 151 Dives book. Based on the bottom contours we thought we'd find some kind of wall.

The entry to the site was down a fairly steep set of very rough “stairs”. They were basically rocks, not stairs. Getting doubles down to the rock beach was a bit tricky but doable. There were quite a few rocks to put them on and gear up. You could also drive your car down the lane and gear up there, but parking wasn't allowed there. We opted to bring everything down to the beach.

The entry into the water was on a wide expanse of fairly flat rock. At low tide, it would be very slippery due to the abundance of seaweed. It was also hard to see where to step with all the seaweed and there were a lot of sharp rocks. I put a hole in my drysuit boot. Not a big one, but it certainly started to leak. I needed to send in my suit to get a new neck seal, so it could be fixed at the same time.

Our dive plan was to swim north west towards Mystery Island, then curve out and head south east. The depth contours seemed like there should be a wall there. In the end this was a very shallow dive, about 30 feet max. We hit some current, and could not do the dive as planned. Also the bottom was quite flat and fairly featureless heading to the north west. I think the problem was that the depth contours and map in the 151 dive book was just a larger area than what can be conceivably done on a dive without a scooter. We noticed some sea lions in the water, but none came to visit. There was one nice octopus in a crack, and a huge number of nice nudibranchs. The opalescent, feathered and leopard to name some. There were no large bull kelp forests, but some. The smaller bottom kelp and algae were quite nice to see waving in the water. The visibility was awesome, and with it being so shallow, it seemed almost tropical. There was a lot of light streaming down too.

Recommendations for Cottham point would be to enter farther to the west shore, and south, then come around the point to the east. Or vice versa depending on the current. It was a very shallow dive.

We left Cottham to go try Wall Beach. We had a small map from Bill, and he recommended it because there were a lot of wolf eels. Unfortunately we misread the map and dove the wrong spot. You had to keep going along Seahaven Road to the end. We entered at the end of Wall Beach road. There is a beach there, and it took 25 minutes of surface swimming to get out to a depth beyond 20 feet. It's too bad we missed the dive site! Still, it was interesting. There were a tonne of oysters on the bottom of the bay. I'd never seen so many. Also, a flock of about 20 diving birds (I think they were a kind of murre) dove down from the surface to the bottom right in front of us. It was like a scene from the Planet Earth series. Once the main flock swam back to the surface trailing a stream of bubbles from their feathers, a straggler zoomed up after them as if to say “wait for me!”.

So, we would have to go back and check out the right dive site next time! Here is the map that we had:

Howe Sound Boat Dive 28/11/2010

Jason and I decided to go on a boat dive with the Topline. Mike Jurren was on board helping out Kevin. On the trip I asked Kevin about diving in the Florida keys, around Marathon since he has a house down there, and had a lot of dive contacts.

The two dives we did were off of Hutt Wall, and then down at Wolcomb Island. Hutt wall was nice, and we saw the two big cloud sponges. I brought my scooter along for this dive just for fun. I wanted to see how it performed using a single cylinder versus doubles. It really didn't have any change in it's performance. Just before we hit the sponges, I was going to bring us up shallower because I had forgotten about seeing them. Good thing Jason remembered, as just over the next rock outcropping there they were. We would have missed them. Again, the sponges were noticeably dying, with lots of brown sections.

The Wolcombe Island dive was also good. We found a nice octopus on this dive. However, it was 2 degrees colder here, at 7 degrees. We were both frozen at the end of the dive. I left the scooter behind this time. We changed our dive plan a bit, and headed along the rock wall out until it started to peter out, then we turned around and came up shallower and explored the south section of the island near the cove there. It turned out to be a good way to do it. The other times we'd spend all the time on the rock wall. The shallower section in the bay had a lot of nice boulders and rocks, with lots of places for things to hide. I remember seeing a very large and interesting rock chunk, much like the prow of a ship.

Visibility was good on both dives as well. All in all a nice set of two dives.

Tuwanek 21/11/2010

Teri, Anita and I took a quick trip out to Tuwanek, since I hadn't been there for a while and the diving there has always been nice. It was snowy and cold, with the mountains all around covered in white. There was some snow in the air too, and the dive site area was blanketed in white.

Gearing up wasn't too bad though. There was no wind, so that was good.

The water temperature was pretty good too, around 9 degrees. I was expecting to be a lot colder. We headed out to the north island, around the back to the north west. The plan was to see the wolf eels and return. We spent most of the dive around 70 to 80 feet.

Along for the trip was Tom, a drysuit only diver (no bcd), an avid photographer. He was supposed to be very good at finding marine life, and we did find a big octopus and the wolf eels.

The big octopus was about half way to the wolf eels, and was hiding under a set of boulders. It stuck a tentacle straight up out of the den. But after that, it retreated very far back in. The wolf eels were home, but again quite far back in.

On the way back to the entry point, we crossed from the boulder field near the east side of the island over the sandy bottom, and ran into another rock reef which I'd never found before. The rock reef was just off from the entry point, very near where the gravel bottom drops off down to the sand bottom. In this area, we found one more small octopus underneath a small set of rocks.

We only did one dive, not because we were cold (everyone reported being quite comfortable) but because we wanted to get the earlier ferry back to Vancouver. On the way home, we took a detour north of Sechelt to a small general store at Halfmoon Bay for some really great bacon!