Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Nanaimo Wrecks 16/04/2011

Jason Kolba and I signed up to go on the new/old SeaDragon that was now running out of Nanaimo. Dan from the Mamro was captaining it, along with Christine who helped do some of their accounting, and was also a dive master. Christine said that she already felt she knew Jason and I since we had been out on the Topline and Seadragon more times than anyone in the last year. We both thought that was pretty funny.

The Seadragon was much as we had remembered it. Nothing had changed. There was still the upper sundeck that was great in the sun but crap in the wind/rain. The back swim grid was roomy and Jason and I were put there with our doubles. These two benches were the only real area for doubles anyway as there were cylinder circles welded onto the benches. The midship deck was still covered but a bit cramped. 8 divers could get in there in a pinch but it wouldn't be fun. Jason and I were lucky to have the swim grid to ourselves. The reward for diving doubles I guess! I had my stage along too just for fun.

We had a pretty full boat. An instructor was doing the final dives for a class, and some others from out of town were fun-diving for the whole weekend.

Christine and Dan made the trip very pleasant. Coffee, soup, nanaimo bars and lots of friendly chat and help. Dan had a few stories about Steve Redding who from IDC who used to help on the Mamro dive charter for him.

The day started off cold but sunny. It turned miserable for a time during our surface interval but then turned sunny again for the trip home.

We did the Cape Breton first. Our dive plan was for 50 minutes and an average depth of 80 feet. We were going to circumnavigate the wreck, but current stopped us from getting as far as we wanted. Visibility was not that great either, maybe 15 feet. Too bad since it was Jason's first time on them. It was still a good dive though. We went through some of the swim-throughs and saw some big cabezon along with rainbow shrimps. On the ascent I did a mask removal for practice and froze my forehead. The water was cold!

On the surface the weather had turned. It was choppy, rainy and windy. Not nice! We had some lunch and relaxed a bit. My new Xen dive computer's battery failed, which wasn't good. However several other people had reported the same problem. Guess mine had it too. Good thing I had my backup bottom timer.

We moved the boat to the Saskatchewan and geared up for the next dive. The chop made it difficult to tie up the boat. Christine and Dan tried 4 or 5 times before success. We went down amidships, and followed a similar 50 minute dive profile, but with a shallower average depth. We checked out the deck guns first, and I took out the new dive buddy, JD (Just Duck) for a photo shoot. I had to stick him inside the gun barrel because he floated so much. It was also pretty impressive how crushed he was at 90 feet! Poor guy.

Stuff we saw were large cabezons, a brown box crab, a huge yellow eye rockfish, and tonnes of anemones. Everything seemed covered in them. There we're no nudibranchs that I saw, except for a shag mouse nudibranch on the ascent/descent line.

A good set of two dives, and it was good to see a good charter operation move into Nanaimo now that Diver's Choice had met such hard times and closed.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Tuwanek 26/03/2011

Jason Kolba and I wanted to circumnavigate the North Island of Tuwanek now that he had gotten his double cylinder setup. One long carefully planned dive was very appealing, rather than doing two separate ones with a surface interval. Our planned dive time would be 90 minutes, with an average depth of 40 feet using 32%. We hit that exactly.

The dive was good, but the visibility wasn't as great as Tuwanek usually is. That was one of the big reasons to go! It was too bad, but it wasn't a show stopper.

At the beginning of the dive, we got a bit turned around moving around the East side of the North island, but got that sorted out. We found the wolf eel, but he looked to be alone. Jason commented later that he looked sad. Maybe because his mate died? Not sure. I got some obligatory video of the wolf eel. I swear that it is one of the most videoed and photographed critters around. How he puts up with all the divers poking their nose into his lair with their lights and cameras I don't know.

At the end of the dive, we did some valve drills and S-drills. They went pretty well. We videoed each other so that we could see how we did.

A fun trip!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Northerner of Clyde UASBC 19/03/2011

Jason and I went out with the UASBC to help survey a wreck near Egmont called the Northerner of Clyde. The UASBC had dove it before in April 2010, and we were lucky to have one of those people along; Tim Novak.

We had to catch the early ferry to the Sunshine Coast, so it was a very early start. Everyone met up in good order and we made the ferry in plenty of time. Time enough to get a coffee in Horsehoe Bay fortunately, since I needed it!

On the trip over we prepped dive slates with Mylar and the dive instructions. Keith did a great job breaking out each team's responsibilities. We had three teams: one doing the deck, one doing the port and one doing the starboard. Main team activities were to get more accurate measurements of the wreck, get a compass bearing and document the overall layout.

When we arrived in Egmont, we met Bryce of B Line Charters. He had a water taxi / dive boat that would take us out. I learned later that Bryce had also sold the Topline boat to Kevin and Jan of Sea Dragon Charters. The dive community certainly was small!

The B Line boat was not badly set up, and fit us comfortably. There were no real benches, but there was a step down area where you could put on doubles. The main stumbling block was no ladder! Bryce said it was in Vancouver. Later I'd actually meet the guy making Bryces's ladder, on a trip over to Tuwanek.

It didn't take long to get to the dive site. We didn't know precisely where the wreck was, so Jason and I volunteered to find it. We also decided to do the port side survey.

I brought my new birthday present along on this dive, the GoPro Hero video camera that Heather got me. I left it on for the entire dive, and got some pretty interesting video. Hopefully I can post some soon.

Descending to the bottom at about 60 feet we started looking. Visibility was very good, and we quickly located the wreck. Although as I recall, I was looking in the opposite direction, and it was Jason who found it. I shot a surface marker, and we took a tour of things before getting into the tasks.

The first thing I noticed was the prop. It was still attached and in good shape. It looked great. The wreck itself was a lot smaller than either of us had figured at about 21 meters or about 70 feet. A lot of it had collapsed in, but the wheel house was still intact. The port side was pretty deteriorated, with a lot of holes. The vessel listed to port as well, to about 30 degrees, but overall upright.

We found a lot of debris and artifacts scattered on the bottom by the port side. Some things of note were coffee cups, plates, pulleys, tires, deck hatches and a metal box.

We completed our tasks pretty well but could not identify any engines or other machinery. It was too difficult to see inside the hull.

While surfacing I got some interesting video of of everyone on the way up. The bubble show was very cool.

Getting back on the boat in doubles with no ladder was tricky. We took our rigs off and climbed aboard, but hoisting the cylinders back on. Yuck. Ladders were good!

After some lunch we had to decide what to do next. In the end the Power Lines won out. They were not far from the wreck, so we headed back that way.

I had done the power lines before, and I was looking forward to it. It was an awesome dive. Tonnes of cloud sponges, as well as chimney sponges. We found one very interesting fish that was some sort of sculpin. There were some really nice frosted nudibranchs too. I will let the video that I should have together soon speak for me. The sun started to come out too which really helped brighten things up.

All in all, a very successful and enjoyable trip.

There are some pictures here:

Whytecliff Scooter Dive 06/03/2011

Scooter dive at Whytecliff with Vince Janelle and John Campbell. Vince had his X-scooter out, and John had his short body Gavin. I brought out my stage bottle as well for practice.

At the beginning of the dive, John had a small leak in his dry-suit, but we fixed that. He just needed to adjust his neck-seal.

We went up the Cut, but cut the dive a bit short. Vince was having trouble equalizing. After we got back in, John and I went back out quickly and tried a few barrel rolls. He did a lot better than I did. I ended up on the bottom upside down a few times, hah.

I also took out my birthday present, and here are some pictures and video here:

St. George's Pool 24/02/2011

Jason Kolba got his double 130's, and he asked if I'd go do some pool-practice with him. It was always good to work on skills, so I was pretty happy to go.

Everything went pretty well. IDC was there with a dry-suit class, so we did have to avoid some students. Jason rocketed to the bottom on the first descent because he wasn't used to the buoyancy change of the doubles. But he did well. We ran through valve drills, S-drills and some helicopter turns and other propulsion. I tried my best to demonstrate things as well as possible, but messed up on one valve drill. But that's when you want to mess up, in a controlled situation. It was a good learning experience, that's for sure!

UASBC NAS Intro Course 19/02/2011

On Saturday February 19th, Jacques Marc and John Middleton put on a Nautical Archaeology Society Intro course for the UASBC.

The NAS site, and the course write-ups are here:

The UASBC site, and the course write-up is here:

There were some pictures taken by John that I put up here. The first two are of the land-work we did, then there is myself doing some tasks in the pool, then a group shot.

The full course participant list was myself, Jason Kolba, Keith Bossons, Greg Bossons, Greg Nuttall, John Campbell, Joe Smith, Rob, Randy Parke, and Jiri Kotler. We met at the Crystal Pool and Fitness Centre in Victoria, and it was a beautiful sunny day. Many of us came over the night before to have more of a civilized morning arrival, but a few like Keith and his son came over that morning. Jason and I crashed at Jaques' house, which was very nice of him. He even made us pancakes!

There was some organizing to be done in the morning, as the room was not quite ready for us. Fortunately everything went relatively smoothly, although Jacques had to drive to his office to get a projection screen.

We started with introductions all around, and explanations as to why each of us were there. It was quite a mixed group. Most of us were there to expand our diving in some way. Some mentioned wanting to dive more wrecks, some mentioned learning new skills. One mentioned how it may help directly with his occupation (RCMP police diver; very interesting!). For me, I was there have fun at a new aspect of diving and to learn new skills.

Jacques handed things over to John, who started everything off with an introduction to the NAS program and the types of archaeology. After that, Jacques ran us through underwater survey techniques and the skills we would be practising in the pool. We had some donuts and coffee and headed outside to do some dry-land survey practice in the playground. I found the trilateration exercise very interesting. Taking two measurements from different points really made sense in helping increase accuracy when measuring things. Jacques also went over some of the things we might forget in the pool session. Tips on how to get better measurements, checking the markings on your tape, going over how you will measure things before you get in the water, and things like that. He joked that he still fully expected everyone to make all the usual mistakes, but that was part of the learning process (and the fun!).

We got changed and set up our gear at the deep end of the pool. Jacques had help from Holger who set up the underwater portion of the course before hand.

Each of us were split off into buddy teams, and sent on the various objectives. The tasks included three exercises. One was doing a perpendicular measurement of several items to a baseline. There was a scuba cylinder, a mitre box and a tape measure. On the other baseline we had to do bilateration (the trilateration we learned, but a bit less accurate). On that one there was an elbow shaped PVC pipe and a home base plate. It was tricky to get enough measurements to reproduce the objects accurately later. We ended up going back to both of the exercises to re-do and make some new measurements before we got out of the pool.

The final exercise was to sketch several objects under a grid. I had to sketch a dive knife, a light, and a garden hand-rake. It was very hard. You had to keep the grid at the same distance or things would be off. Buoyancy and being able to keep your position was very handy. Part of the trick was to keep the grid-lines lined up with each other, since there were two sets, one under the other. So if the lines were one, you were in the right spot. Jason and I did an extra exercise by doing a side profile of the side of the pool.

After all that, we did one last lecture on maritime law and plotted our measurements. We did it on tracing paper to a 300 scale and used simple drafting tools. I figured I'd be buying grade-school math equipment again! Once it was plotted, everyone put their plots on the window. With the tracing paper, the light shinning through let you see how everyone's matched up. The tape measure moved all over the place. People kept picking it up and putting it down, because it didn't look like part of the exercise! Jaques had some good comments to help people do better measurements, and said that we all did a pretty good job.

It was a great course in the end. I learned a lot and it was very interesting! Jason and I would be putting the course material to work on the next dive, which was coming up fast.