Monday, January 24, 2011

Porteau Cove Scooter Dive 22/01/2011

Vince bought a scooter, so we decided to go out to Porteau Cove for some test runs. We met Alan Wong and Jim Sergent there. Jim had bought the same model scooter that Vince had. It took a bit of time for Vince to get weighting sorted out, so Jim and Alan started the dive before us. Our original plan had us all going as a group.

While I was waiting in the water, Vince left his scooter with me at one point. I couldn't resist the urge to do a short video with two scooters in hand!

I didn't try it though. Far too unwieldy. We did a bit of practice circling around on the surface.

The dive itself was good. We scootered all of Porteau, as well as out to the Nakaya and back. At the Nakaya, we stowed the scooters and swam for towing practice.

There was a very well camouflaged buffalo sculpin on the Grant Hall as well.

I guess this blog entry was all video! I am going to leave it at that for now.

Plowden Bay UASBC Trip 16/01/2011

On the morning of January 16, 2001, the UASBC undertook an expedition to get some more details on a “mystery” wreck in Plowden Bay near Port Mellon. The story went that it was probably an old YMS-class minesweeper that was being converted into a fishing barge. In the 80's (I think), it apparently sank due to neglect.

Mike Juren had this to say in one of the planning emails. I think he got a lot of details from Dave, who had dove it in 2005:

The wreck was 60% intact in 2005. The wreck was sitting upright on a slope, with the starboard side and the stern facing down slope. The slope was fairly steep, about 30 degrees. The wreck measured approximately 30' wide by 140' long. Most of the superstructure had been removed, but 3 hatches and compartments with bulkheads were still in place. The hull consisted of wooden planks and steel bulkheads. The engines had been removed. On the foredeck the windlass was still in place as were some of the stanchions. The anchor fairlead jutted over the bow. The wreck was orientated to about 60 degrees, or East-Northeast, with the stern to the south and the bow to the north.

We departed Horseshoe Bay aboard the Topline, from Seadragon Charters. Skipper Kevin and Jan were aboard, along with helper Shay. From the UASBC side there was Nicole and David, along with the 8 or so divers. We originally had 13, but there were several last minute cancellations. A not-complete list of divers was: Keith, Mike, Joel, Gary, Jason, Keith's son, and me.

We could not ask for a better day. It was overcast and raining in the morning, but it stopped pretty quickly. We got underway a bit later than planned. On the trip out, David gave a comprehensive briefing on the wreck and what we would be doing. It was very good. The wreck site was at Plowden Bay, near Port Mellon. Nicole did a pile of work putting together the diver slates and wreck diagrams, checking people in and out, and generally keeping the UASBC equipment side straight.

It had been quite some time since the last survey of this wreck, so everyone was curious to see what we'd find. The general plan was to have four teams of divers. One would lay a survey tape from bow to stern, one would measure the width of the hull, one would check the stern area and one would tour around the whole wreck. Individual teams got more detailed instructions, and I wasn't present for all those, so I don't have all the details! On the first dive, Jason and I were tasked with measuring the width of the hull, as well as identifying any hatches and holes in the deck.

No wreck penetration was allowed or planned. We also got several reminders to be mindful of sharp metal and line, to be careful with the surveying tapes (entanglement), and to not sacrifice safety for any reason. Keith's son actually did tear his drysuit on the second dive, unfortunately. There were the ever-present waivers and release forms to fill out, along with the standard dive check-out and check-in depth, time and pressure. With the experienced boat crew and UASBC folks, this all went smoothly and without complication.

Keith and his son descended first, and shot a line and a surface marker at the bow. They ran the first tape from bow to stern as well. When Jason and I descended, we got the first view of the wreck itself. Visibility was pretty good for Howe Sound, maybe 10 to 15'. The bow was recognizable, if somewhat worse for wear. The anchor chain was clearly visible going down to the rocks at the bottom. We followed the port side hull from the bow to the stern to get an overview of the wreck first. There was no sign of the deck and hatches that had been reported in 2005. All that had either fallen in, deteriorated or been swept away by water action. Maybe 30% of the hull remained sticking up from the bottom. The ribs were clearly visible in many places, as were the several bulkheads dividing up the hull. Not much remained of each bulkhead either. There was some kind of inner hull coating in sections which appeared white, but I couldn't tell what kind of material it was. There was quite a bit of debris scattered about the main hull too. Several tires, line and pieces of wood for example. I didn't spend a lot of time looking at anything other than the main wreck though.

I had a camera along, and took a short video of the swim down the length of the hull.

After that, we got to work measuring the width of the hull. I had not worked with a tape underwater before, and it was doubly challenging using a survey tape meant for land use. At least once the end of the tape got caught on a part of the ship. Also, the main tape line got in the way more often than not. All this hammered home the point that any kind of line underwater has a mind of its own, and should be respected.

We got a measurement of about 8 meters for the hull width. From there, we spent a good deal of time documenting where the bulkheads were, and looking for the “hatches” (which didn't exist anymore). I did a lot of sketching on my underwater wetnotes, and toke a bunch of reference measurements from the main line.

Once back on the surface, we compiled a pretty good sketch of what things looked like. The mandate was "get it documented now, or you will forget". From my experience writing up dive trip reports, I completely agreed. My memory would fade even a few hours after a dive.

Here is another short video of the mess of stuff that was near the bow. Note the toilet tank! There always seems to be a toilet somewhere...

There was a question about whether or not to do a second dive, since the wreck had deteriorated so much. After reviewing the video, David decided that there was enough to warrant a second dive. My one mistake on the trip was opening up the camera housing to check the video. Once I did that, the inside of the housing completely fogged up and was useless on the second dive. I didn't have any desiccant/silica with me either. Too bad!

The assignments for the second dive were to document more of the physical layout of the wreck and to confirm its compass orientation. Also, we were to try and get the width between the hull ribs, and the dimensions of the ribs themselves. Those measurements could be useful in identifying the ship's origin. We also had to go down to recover the main measurement line, and the marker buoy that had been deployed at the bow.

On this dive, Jason took the tape measure, and I had the slate. We had some difficulty communicating measurements with hand signals even though we had ran through them on the boat. It always amazed me how the best plans and discussion can go out the window when you get underwater. However, no planning is certainly worse, so I'm glad we did something! The rib measurements were a bit tricky but we got most of them. I used the slate itself as a measuring tool to back up the tape measurements. It worked pretty well. I drew a bit more of the debris and locations of certain items. There were quite a few tires that had been hung along the side of the hull and they were scattered about. There was also a set of metal posts for mooring line that I noted. We went up to the bow and tried to look for the anchor. The anchor chain hung straight down from the bow and ended at the rocks. I tried to move the chain and it wouldn't budge. Either it was still connected to the anchor somehow, or it was so rusted that the links were fused together. There was no sign of the anchor. It looked to me like the anchor might be under the wreck itself. It certainly didn't exist at the bow.

Since we had been focusing on survey and documentation tasks, we didn't see much life on the wreck. Still, there were some decorator crabs and a couple of nice nudibranchs. One team found a clown dorid, which was pretty nice.

Back on the boat, we finished transferring our drawings and measurements to paper. In the end, we got some pretty good results for a group of "regular divers". The wreck certainly had changed in 5 years!

I certainly look forward to the next UASBC dive...

Tuwanek 15/01/2011

Back to Tuwanek on the Sunshine Coast! Always good for a great dive.

Anita and I were out this time, and I was getting some practice in on her camera. I was going to borrow it for the next day of diving with the UASBC.

Unlike previous Tuwanek trips, we took the later ferry so didn't have to get up so early. It made a big difference not having to get up at 4:30am! The ferry ride was uneventful, and we spent most of it going over the camera functions.

When we arrived at Tuwanek, it wasn't raining. The weather was certainly threatening though. No one else was there diving, which was great so we had the place to ourselves.

We planned on one long dive around the north island, and it was. Our average depth worked out pretty much as we planned, 45 feet. The dive time also worked out to be in-plan, but just. It was an hour and 28 minutes. This was the longest dive I had ever done to date.

We saw the wolf eel, and carried on around the back side of the island. There was a large section of the back side that was pretty barren. Smooth granite rock mostly, but not a lot of life. When we turned into the channel between the two islands it got interesting again. On the north-east side of the island, there were several pipes coming down from the rock above. There was a cabin up there, so we figured they were for some kind of water system. We ended up not coming down south far enough, and surfaced near the house just north of the creek. All in all though, pretty good navigation.

Here is a video of the wolf eel I took. It's the same as all the other Tuwanek wolf eel videos!

And here is a video of some swimming striped sea perch.

And here are some moon jellies.

After all this, we had a nice lunch and then went to the Halfmoon Bay General Store and bought some of their special bacon!

Kelvin Grove 09/01/2011

The big plan was to dive Kelvin Grove with a bunch of people. Anita and Teri had two people driving up from Seattle, and it was going to be a picnic day, too. But, weather forced the Seattle pair to not come, so it was just four of us, not six. A good thing too, because parking was limited at Kelvin, and today there were two other groups of divers there already. We barely all fit!

We showed up later in the afternoon because the two folks from Seattle wanted to do a dive and then a dusk dive. With them unable to come, it was too short notice to schedule things earlier, but it worked out OK.

We arrived around 1pm and started the dive at 2. I don’t recall much from the dive unfortunately. I left it too long to do this write up. I seem to recall everyone saying similar things, that there really wasn’t much of note. We went to the right. Current wasn’t present and we did a pretty standard depth profile. Poor Teri had a hole in her glove so her hand was frozen. I had brought my stage bottle along for practice, and must remember to pay attention to my fins on descents along sloping bottoms. Teri let me know that I was stirring up a lot of sand on the way down. I was not far enough away from the slope.

After the first dive, we had our picnic. The day was fabulous. I do remember that much. The sun was on the beach and it was quite warm. Teri and Anita brought some great soup and cheese and other nice things. It was a great meal.

They didn’t stick around for a second dive, but Jason and I were still game to see how things would change at dusk. We did a similar dive, but stayed a bit shallower. We found a pretty big octopus under a rock which was the high-light of the dive. I used my stage on this dive, and at the end deployed my SMB and sent the empty stage to the surface as a bit of practice. Unlike the previous time when Alan Johnson and I had done this, the stage was empty enough to actually go to the surface!

Getting out of the water, it was still somewhat light out. It got dark pretty fast, so I was glad to have my headlamp. We got geared down and everything was wrapped up by about 6pm. A good day of diving.

Whytecliff 06/01/2011

I did a quick night dive with Vince on this evening.

Thank goodness it wasn't raining, as it was pretty cold. i also had a bunch of gear problems that normally I don't have. My backup regulator was bubbling, but a periodic purge or adjust would stop it. Later I would find that the high-pressure seat in the first stage was worn. That got replaced and it was fine. My suit zipper leaked quite a bit too. I think something must have gotten caught in it because it was closed. There was something else that happened too, but I can't recall. All were very minor issues, but a bunch of them together slowed things down a lot and were very annoying.

The dive itself was interesting. Originally we had thought to do Porteau Cove, but the tide was quite low so we decided to skip that and do the day marker at Whytecliff.

On the way out to the marker, we came across a huge congregation of coonstripe shrimp. And I mean a lot of them, all piled up in one spot. There were a few fish and crabs in the mix too. It was very odd until I realized that they were all crowded around a seal carcass. The carcass looked a lot like a grey rock, so I missed it at first. It also didn't have any flippers or head. Very weird. But the critters were certainly having quite a feast on it.

We also saw a very nice small octopus wandering on the rocks out in the open. It was maybe the size of your hand.

There was no current to speak of, so it was a nice pleasant dive.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Furry Creek 02/01/2011

The first dive of the New Year!

It was a perfect day for a dive, sunny albeit cold. There was ice on the logs of the beach!

I had wanted to do Furry Creek for some time. A link:

You could not park near the beach, so we had to unload our stuff at the cul-de-sac and then park the car at the parking lot further up. But it wasn't a big deal.

To get to the entry point, you had to walk down a small path past the houses. There was a wooden bench that we used to gear up on. It wouldn't be great for a lot of divers, but for 2 it was perfect.

Getting to the water was harder. The beach was covered with logs. If the logs hadn't been there, it would have been a snap! Still, it was doable. Once you got to the water, the sandy/gravel bottom was quite nice. It was shallow quite a ways out, so there is a bit of swimming to do.

We swam out not far to the north and then headed to the north east. There was supposed to be a wall, but we did not find it. Instead, we came across a boulder strewn slope that was pretty interesting. There was a mound of garbage, filled with old leather shoes and bottles at one point. The shoes looked about size 14, and only the leather soles were left. There were many hiding places for critters in the rocks.

Next time I think I shall swim out to the red marker buoy and go more north. That is where the wall should be, deeper than we were. Our dive was only about 40 feet max. The wall should have been around 80 feet.

Coming back in to shore, we came across the remains of an octopus. Or at least that's what I thought it must be. There were no tentacles, but it was a large mass of white and purple rubbery organic matter. It wasn't artificial that's for sure! Kind of an odd find. Also, right at shore, there was a big buffalo sculpin on the bottom.

The swim back in was magical. The water was shallow, but with the sun out, it created an awesome fish-bowl effect. Very nice!