Monday, August 20, 2012

Porteau Cove 11/08/2012

Heather and I went out to Porteau Cove to hopefully put in the last dive needed to get her new gear all sorted out. With the new p-weight sandwiched in to her back plate, it should have distributed the weight a lot better.

It was a great sunny day. Possibly too sunny, it was hot gearing up in the parking lot! When we arrived, we weren't quite sure if we'd stay at Porteau because it was incredibly busy. Also, the visibility didn't look the best, but when a parking space opened up in front of us, we decided to stay.

Once we got into the water, it was a lot cooler. We found that the visibility wasn't as bad as we thought, either. We puttered around in the shallows for a bit, and Heather felt that the new gear configuration was pretty good, so we started out to the firehose. There was enough of a current that we didn't make it to the firhose before being pushed into the pipe reef. Not a bad thing. We also came across the leaning tower of Porteau on the way. There was a nice school of perch surrounding it. The ambient light was quite nice, so it was quite nice.

We reached the concrete blocks, and I noticed Heather signalling me. I went over, and she had found a very large and nice giant pacific octopus out in the open! We spent a good amount of time watching and following it, and I got some great video. I was happy that he didn't have anywhere to hide, so we were able to observe it unobstructed for quite a while.

Here is the video:

Rendezvous Dive Adventures 03-06/08/2012

This trip was a long time in the works. International Diving Center arranged to go out with Rendezvous Dive Adventures in Barkley Sound. Their website:

A Google maps link, it was pretty remote!:,-125.023556&spn=0.067043,0.110378&z=13&iwloc=A

Peter and Kathy were amazing hosts for the trip, and it was a grand adventure. The other special thing was that the group of divers assembled by IDC were all GUE trained, from Fundamentals to Tech 2. It was a great group of divers. I knew many of them, and heard of the rest. The idea of diving with a group of divers who followed the same procedures, had similar gear configurations, and similar mindsets was very cool. The full list of attendees was Alan Johnson (who organized the trip), Johnathan Gormick, Jason Kolba, Jim Dixon, myself, Dave Ryan, Teri Norfolk, Daniel Wei, and Kesia and another Anton! I couldn't count the number of times I heard the name, and I thought someone was talking to me.

Getting to the Rendezvous was an adventure in itself. I picked up Dave and Jason on the way to the ferry, and discovered that Alan lived just around the corner from Jason. It was pretty funny. We rounded the corner, and I thought "hey I recognized that truck with all those cylinders prepped for loading!". We met Jim in Nanaimo to transfer Dave and some gear for the ride to Port Alberni. My Ford Ranger worked well to haul all the stuff, but it wasn't so comfortable for someone in the back seat. On the way to the ferry, we almost missed it because of a traffic pile up at the Richmond tunnel. But it cleared up with minutes to spare, so that we were able to make our ferry reservation. At the ferry terminal, I ran into Drew, a co-worker who was on his way to Pender Island. Pretty funny who you can run in to!

The trip to Port Alberni went quickly, and we stopped on the way in Coombs to see the Goats on the Roof restaurant. Quite the tourist attraction!

We met Peter and his boat, the Rendezvous 1 in Port Alberni. He was a bit surprised when set upon set of double 130s were hauled down. I guess he didn't know just how much gear was coming aboard! Jim and I were doing some tech dives, and Alan and Johnathan brought some stage bottles and sets of doubles as well. They didn't end up doing any tech dives, but got some great recreational dives in. Originally we had wanted do bring scooters as well, but there just wasn't room in the vehicles. I think the next time visiting Rendezvous, I would choose a scooter over technical diving though.

It was a 2 hour ride to the Rendezvous, and we spent the time getting to know the boat and Peter. Jim had been out with them before. It was a pretty relaxing trip. Once we arrived, the Rendezvous was fascinating with the tour we received. Kathy showed us the in's and out's and all the pets. Riley the black dog, and Bug the tabby cat. Both were quite friendly and they obviously knew how to take advantage of diver's affections! The Rendezvous was perched on a cliff, and quite the interesting bit of building. Fresh water was at a premium, as the spring that fed the resort was limited. Three minute showers were the mandate! There were five rooms, and each of us doubled up. I stayed with Daniel, with a great view of the water. Jason and Jim opted for 'the cave' which had no windows at all. Waking up to the sounds of nature and the view of the water was much more appealing to me.

Jim and I did one dive on the evening we arrived. The diving off Peter's dock was supposed to be pretty good, and it didn't disappoint. We saw a few ratfish off the bat, and the visibility was crystal clear. I was stoked for the diving the next day!

Arising early, we had another long boat ride ahead. The plan was to do 2 dives, then return. The first dive was at a site called Christie Reef. It was pretty good, and we found more ratfish, octopus, and wolf eels. The visibility was not as good as the dive the previous night, but it was quite enjoyable.

The next dive was the Vanlene, a real wreck that when down in the 70's. Here is a description:

The draw for the Vanlene were the Dodge Colts that could still be seen, and the immense size of the wreck. Jim and I did a technical dive, and investigated the deep portion of the stern. The wreck was at about a 45 degree angle, with the stern at the deepest location. On the way to the stern, I looked to my right and saw a gleam of green. I thought that it was a Liquivision Xen dive computer, but it turned out to be the reflection of a ratfish eye! I laughed. We spent about 10 minutes checking out the stern at 40 meters. There was no prop, but it was interesting seeing how intact that portion of the wreck was. We also saw some of the tires and rusting transmissions from the cargo of Dodge Colts. We moved from there to one of the deck cranes that lay across the bottom, then started to follow the depth contour up to our decompression profile. On the way, we came across Alan and Johnathan who had found a large giant pacific octopus out in the open. The visibility was great, but it was super dark. Pretty much a night dive! I wished that visibility had been what Peter had reported the week before, unlimited and you were able to see the dive boat. Still, it was a reason to come back. Also, the wreck was so large, that there was plenty left to explore.

On the boat ride back, we were lucky enough to see hump back whales. I don't have any good pictures, unfortunately.One of the whales breached very close to the boat and surprised everyone. So surprised that no one had a camera ready to capture it! Just before it happened, Peter was joking about how it would be really funny if one did that, and it did.

Once back at the Rendevous, we had dinner and turned in pretty early. It was a fabulous sunset.

The next morning found us motoring nearer to two sites called Renata's Reef and Tyler Rock. At Renata's Reef, Jim and I saw two wolf eels and two octopus. One of the octopus was very curious, and I had a great encounter with it. There is a section of video below. I'd never had an octopus crawl up my arm before! I was a small bit apprehensive at first, but knew they were just curious creatures and could do nothing really to harm me. Jim was also standing by just in case. Still it was a wild animal, so you never knew. I was ready to drop the camera and hang on to my regulator in case it started to get too curious. Later I asked Jim why he didn't have a turn, and he flat out said no way! At Tyler Rock, Jim and I did our second technical dive to 140 feet for 15 minutes. Not a lengthy dive by any means, but it was gas-dependent. It was worth it, because the visibility was just stunning. I wished it was like that for the Vanlene! These two dives were pretty much the best ones of the trip.

Once back at the Rendevous, Jim and I turned the rest of our deco gas into recreational nitrox by having Peter top it with air. Then we did long dive off his dock. With our back gas as reserve, we could breath our aluminum 80s to nothing, and our depth was quite shallow. We saw a one or two ratfish, and quite a few nice nudibranchs. One was a giant swimming one. The visibility wasn't as good as the night before, but it was still quite nice. We would have stayed longer, but Jim had to go to the bathroom! Once we surfaced, it was very dark. Everyone had gone to bed, so it was extremely quiet. Peter came down to hang a light for us, and Jim and I hung out in the dim light chatting for a bit. Then it was bed time.

The last day found us having a fabulous breakfast, then it was out hunting for six gill sharks. Peter took us to Pill Point Wall, an area that was known for them. Jim and I went the opposite direction to the rest of the divers, and were treated to a sandy slope that ended in a bottomless wall and very good visibility. I counted 23 rat fish on the dive. If six gills ate rat fish, it would have been a prime spot. Alas, no six gills. We found a nice puget sound king crab clinging to an interesting rock formation, but that's about it. He was imitating Spider Man, clinging vertically. Since we went the opposite direction, we covered a great deal of distance so were the last group to be picked up. We  deployed my giant surface marker buoy and just relaxed and joked around.

The last dive was Chup Point Wall, not far from the Rendevous. On this dive, we all ended up on the wall at the same time, and I got a great bit of video with everyone just hanging there. I always loved shots like that, it reminded me of astronauts. There was a great deal of life, and it was a very nice dive. We saw a few lion's mane jelly fish as well, and made sure to admire them from afar.

Far too soon we were back in Port Alberni, unpacking the boat and saying goodbye. It was a wonderful trip, and I would certainly do it again!

Here is the compilation of video I took. The first creature in the dark is a ratfish, the blue-ish looking eels were the wolf eels, the octopus encounter is in the middle, there is a short clip of Jim at Tyler Rock, and the last creature was a big puget sound king crab that we found on the last dive.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Willis Point 18/07/2012

Jason and I decided to do some diving on the island, and it worked out that Jim Dixon and the Vancouver Island Underwater Explorers group was planning on diving Willis Point. I fell in love with Willis because of its great vis. Alas, not the best vis on this trip, but more on that later.

Jason and I took the 8am ferry out of Tswassen and made it to Willis Point for the agreed on 10am start. We were first to arrive, and were very surprised to see zero parking spots. There were three divers there already, Richard Parker was the one I recognized, but I only knew him in passing. They said that the local residents had taken to parking their spare vehicles there to try and drive out the divers. Seems pretty silly to me! I suppose it could get annoying with it being such a popular site, but still.

Jim showed up shortly, along with Greg Nuttal and Peter. I had not met Peter before, but knew Greg from the Nautical Archaeology Society 1 class that I took with the UASBC. Richard and his crew were heading down for their dive, and graciously said that we could use their truck gates to gear up on. So we all parked where we could up the road after unloading our gear and started getting ready.

We did two dives, and both were pretty good but similar. There was not a lot of unusual things to see, but one thing were the clouds of larvae in the water. I had seen clouds of them before, but usually they were quite small. These clouds were enormous, and didn't seem to end. It made the visibility even less. The great Willis Point vis wasn't so great on these dives. Jim said that the previous week it had been near unlimited. Go figure! On both dives we went to the left, and just saw what we could see.

There were huge numbers of moon jellies, and a lion's mane mixed in. We steered clear of the lion's mane, but one of the moon jellies crashed into my face, and I did feel a bit of a sting. Not much, though. Moon jellies are not stingers, but apparently if you got one right in the face you can feel it!

The shallows were fun to muck around in. The kelp fronds were festooned with kelp crabs. There was also a great ascent to the surface with small bubbles covering all the vegetation, and the sun making them shine like tiny pearls. It's hard to see on this bit of video, but it's near the end.

Porteau Cove 18/07/2012

Heather and I went out to Porteau Cove to do some more work adjusting her new gear. Unfortunately, I had never seen worse visibility. The water was milky white with some kind of suspended particles. When we descended in 5 feet of water, Heather disappeared immediately, and I could not see my hand in front of my face. It was that bad!

We braved the conditions, and things did improve under 30 feet. However, the adjustments weren't quite right yet, and we turned the dive.

Very interesting to be in such low visibility conditions though! Also, I was sure that the next time we went out that everything with Heather's new setup would be sorted out.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Side mount demo night 13/07/2012

An interesting opportunity came up from Oceanquest. Trying out side mount diving. Greg McCracken organized a talk by Jeff Lofflin, and arranged to have equipment from Hollis to try out.

One night was a lecture from Jeff. It turned out to be pretty interesting. He went over the ideas behind side mount diving and why it could be a useful tool. What I didn't realize was the fact that since it could use regular Aluminum 80 cylinders, it could be a very versatile travel setup. It could also be safer, because you could take 2 times the life support equipment with you, rather than taking just one cylinder. He also described some of the more advanced scenarios if you did the training, to actually swap regulators between cylinders if you had a failure and needed access to the other gas supply. It was a bit of a sales-pitch too, but not too bad. The travel aspect did appeal to me. The setup seemed to really lend itself to that. Along with cave diving, where side mount diving got it's origin.

The next night, we got a chance to try out side mount in the pool at Simon Fraser University. I had never been to SFU pool before, and it was pretty nice. Their deep pool was nice to do dive training in. Other pools with a deep and shallow end were kind of hard to maneuver in. Even though this pool was a bit smaller, the constant deep depth made it quite nice to putter around in.

Jeff got everyone into the gear, and we got some time in the pool to try it out. I found it not too bad. I wasn't completely sold on it being way better than regular back mounted diving, but it did seem fun. I couldn't resist un-clipping both cylinders and pulling them forward like Jeff was describing in his lecture. This maneuver could make it easier to get into smaller restrictions.

Heather and I had a fun time! Here is a bit of video that Heather took of me in the pool. I  didn't get very good video of her, unfortunately.

Topline 08/07/2012

Heather got some new gear, and we decided to take it out on the Topline for an easy check-out. Funny enough, a person was on the boat that Heather knew from dragon boating. Scott and Ocean Pro divers were the other divers on the boat.

The day was pretty nice, but the visibility was pretty bad. We did South Bowyer Island first, and found the wolf eel. After that, we just poked around a bit. Once back on the boat, we realized that Heather's new gear needed some adjustment.

On the second dive I went with Mike Juren, and Heather decided to stay on the boat because it was going to take a bit of time to adjust the gear. We went to North Bowyer island, and our plan was to follow the pinnacle back up to the surface after poking around a bit. We saw a very nice puget sound king crab, with an interesting white shell. It might have been molting. The visibility was not the greatest again, and we actually got a bit "lost". We missed the pinnacle, and ended up back at the upline. Not a bad thing!

A fun day of diving!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Topline - Dragon's Den 03/06/2012

I had not been out diving with Mihai in a long long time, so took the opportunity to accompany him on the Topline.

The boat was not very full at all, so it was very comfortable. Mihai had a friend of his along, Scott I think. We ended up diving as a foursome with one other diver.

It took a bit of discussion, but we finally settled on Dragon's Den for the first dive. The visibility wasn't as good as it was on my previous dive here, but it was still good. We didn't discover any impressive critters, but it was still a great dive. The small caverns in the rock were again very interesting.

The second dive took us to find a wolf eel, at Mihai's request. We visited South Bowyer Island for that. This time, I was determined not to miss it! And we didn't. I found the eel pretty easily this time with updated instructions. The rock he was under was not very big at all. It was definitely not boulder sized. He was a pretty big specimen, but it was hard to tell since he was hidden pretty well. I led our dive around the back side of the canyon, and we came across two very nice puget sound king crabs. Then we came across a barbecue that must have fallen off someone's boat, and finished up at the small power-boat wreck.

All in all, it was again a fun day of diving! Here is some video:

Sponge Bioherm in Howe Sound aka Sponge Bob 27/05/2012

Jim Dixon and I had a chance to re-visit the sponge bioherm that we were supposed to do as our first tech dive after finishing GUE Tech 1. We were pretty exited to see what we missed the first time around! I found a link to some material on the sponge bioherm here. Looks like it is the only sponge reef in Howe Sound. Pretty interesting!

I had seen glass sponges a lot, but did not realize that they could form reef structures like that. There is some video on that site as well. The Vancouver Aquarium is monitoring this bioherm too.

For the Topline, it had become a very popular dive site. They had nick-named it "Sponge Bob". It was a tricky site to dive, since it was in the middle of Howe Sound a bit south east of Halket bay. There was no mooring line, and you had to find it with GPS and depth soundings. Currents were a problem, and the tides had to be right for it to be dive-able. The reef started at about 70 feet, and went well below 150 feet. The usual plan for the Topline was to drop a shot-line to give some visual reference on the way down. If you didn't, it would be very likely that the current would blow you off of the reef and you'd totally miss it.With the deep waters in the area, it would make for a disorientating blue-water dive. You couldn't hang on to the line either, as it was not anchored like regular descent lines. Also, due to the fragile nature of the reef, everyone had to be very careful not to disturb anything. Buoyancy and propulsion control were key. This was not a dive for novices.

I was talking to Ken and on the last trip, someone grabbed the shot line and pulled it loose. That meant that the first group found the reef, but everyone else was blown off of it before they even saw it and totally missed it. It was very important not to touch the line!

Jim and I had a tech dive planned with an average depth of 45 meters for 30 minutes, and using 18/45 Trimix. 18/45 was just the tool to do such a long deep dive. That obligated us to 30 minutes of decompression, with an additional 5 minutes added in from 6 meters to the surface for added conservatism.

With the dive plan set, the Topline dropped the shot line and Mike Juren went in first to make sure it was relatively secure and to attach a strobe to the line. He sent up a marker buoy when all was well. That signaled the start of diving!

The first team of Alan and John went in, and then Jim and I. There was also Jason Kolba and Dave doing a recreational dive (and one other fellow whose name I keep forgetting!), along with another group of divers up from the US I think.

Jim and I followed the line down, and the reef quickly loomed to meet us. The visibility was pretty good, and there was indeed some current but it wasn't too bad. I was leading the dive, and once we reset our timers and average depths at 70 feet, we continued on down. I took us north west-ish down to our planned depth and we followed that out to our turn time. The reef was not what you'd expect. It was like a big pile of mud or ooze pock-marked with large sponges. The really impressive sponges were around 40 meters. The bigger ones were at least the size of an easy chair. Some of the more impressive ones appeared to be "melting" like candle wax. I had never seen glass sponges like this before. I would say the glass sponges in Agamemnon Channel up by Egmont were a bit more prolific, but these made up for that in their Doctor-Seuss like shapes. We passed Alan and John during our dive as well. The visibility was good, and I always liked how it seemed like you were meeting astronauts in space when you came across another dive team. I got some video of the dive, and I hope it will give some sense of what we saw:

We found the up-line with no difficulty and our deco to the surface passed uneventfully. It was a pretty dull 30 minutes though! There was nothing but murky water to stare at, and the small up-line. Still, what we saw on the dive made up for that.

The next dive we did after a nice long surface interval was at a site called Stairway to Heaven. It was a wall on the back side of Bowen Island, and I had not dove there before. Jim and I took our remaining gas and planned a 20 minute dive to an average depth of 38 meters. We were putting what we learned in our GUE Tech 1 class to good use, planning the dive on the fly. The dive itself was nice, but nothing too memorable.

Back on the surface we headed home. The sponge dive was a success!

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Topline 26/05/2012

After Heather's Rescue Course, Ken at Ocean Quest had a special deal for the people who completed it: a boat dive with the Topline at a reduced rate. Too good to pass up!
We met at Horseshoe Bay as normal at 8am. It was a pretty good looking day, calm and not too warm. The sun was out periodically, but it was mostly cloudy all day.
Ken had method in his madness: some of the divers on the boat were Dive Master candidates, working on their program. Heather and I were paired with a fellow named Dale. He had won the coin toss to accompany the experienced divers instead of the new open water students who were along. We both thought it was very amusing that people were fighting over us.
Kevin and Jan were their usual awesome hosts. There were 18 divers on the boat, and even with all those people it ran extremely smoothly thanks to their organizing and Ken's. The first site we went to was South Bowyer. The idea was to look for the wolf eel that had taken up residence under a rock about 5 minutes north of the tie-up line. Ken told Heather and I to spring some tasks on Dale during the dive, but we didn't have the heart. I made a mistake looking for the wolf eel. What you were supposed to do was descend the line, then head north up the canyon, sticking to the right hand wall. When the canyon ran out, you had to follow it on to the right almost to a saddle of rock that was covered in plumose anemones. There was a metal grate on the bottom, and not far from that was a small rock. Under that rock was the wolf eel. If you went over the saddle of rock and hit a drop-off, you had gone too far. We ended up going too far, oops. Even though we missed the wolf eel, we still had a very nice dive. We went around the back side of the canyon and saw lots of plumose anemone beds. Then, coming back around to the up-line, we came across a small power boat sitting on the bottom. Not much of a wreck, but still a wreck! Even though we looked under it, there was nothing interesting there to be found.
After a nice long surface interval and lunch, we dove the North Bowyer site. On that dive, Ken came along too. Once again, it was a very nice relaxing dive with a lot more plumose anemones and some pretty decorator crabs. The highlight was two lion's mane jelly fish. One small one that had some of its tentacles trapped by a plumose anemoe that Dale cut free, and one really big one with tentacles stretching maybe 10 feet. We kept our distance, but it was awesome to see.
Dale was more worried about someone doing something, and nothing happened at all. I think Ken did a good job of psyching him out!
An awesome trip with the Topline! Here is a bit of video:

Porteau Cove 21/05/2012

Heather and I went out with one of her old friends from Dragon Boating on a night dive. Jason was looking to up his dive count before heading to Michigan to teach scuba diving at a boy's camp. We decided on Porteau as one of the most relaxing places we could think of. As was sometimes the case, the current at Porteau didn't make it that relaxing in the end! Genessa was just coming out with a student when we got there. She didn't have a lot of good things to say about the vis, but such was diving around Vancouver in the summer. Our dive plan was pretty simple: head to the firehose and follow that out to the wrecks. The current had other plans, sweeping us to the north east. By the time I thought we were supposed to see the firehose, we actually bumped into the Grant Hall wreck. Visibility wasn't that bad, and the current did let up a bit on the way back in. We saw some nice decorator crabs, and the obligatory giant ling cods. The Ford Ranger worked out great with 3 people. It was the first time we had it out with a third diver along. A bit cramped, but very doable.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Tuwanek 20/05/2012

Jason Kolba and I headed out to Tuwanek because we had not been out that way in a long long time. Also, BC ferries had their cheap ferry deal going on, so it was good to take advantage of that too. I always forgot how much those ferry rides could add up!

The day wasn't the best, a bit cloudy and drizzly. When we arrived, I was quite surprised to see about 4 cars already there. It was a full house, and we had to park further away. I didn't quite catch where the divers were from, but I think it was a club or shop trip.

We geared up and decided to try the North island first. Our original plan was to circumnavigate the island if the visibility was good. When we descended and started out, we quickly realized that we wouldn't be doing that. The visibility was really not that great at all, certainly not what was expected at Tuwanek. It was maybe 30' or so, which was better than back in Vancouver at least. The dive was pretty good apart from that small disappointment. We found the wolf eels at the back of the island, and then turned around and came back. The shallows were quite nice, with a lot of aquatic plants waving in the current.

After some lunch, and a bit of rain, we decided to do the south island and see if we could find the octopus that could be over there. On the swim out, I had a small problem with the o-ring in my low pressure inflator. I ended up having to get out of the water and do a quick repair at the truck. The experience and equipment courses I had were paying off! With that fixed, Jason and I swam out to the white marker buoy and descended. Again, the visibility was pretty bad, but at about 60 feet it cleared up immensely. The vis actually was better than on the first dive. We didn't find the octopus that was sometimes near the marker buoy chain, but we did come across a skate! I had never seen this relative of the ray before, and neither had Jason. It was a really great find. We also came across some large clouds of baby shrimp larvae that were quite impressive.

All in all, the wolf eels and the skate made the trip one to remember! Here is a bit of video:

Rescue Course 13/05/2012

I went out with Heather to finish off her rescue course at Whytecliff. We couldn't have asked for a better day, sunny and dry.

All she had to finish was the scenarios, and the group that we had was great. I got to play the victim again, and it was a lot of fun as usual. Not only did Heather finish off the course and do great, but I also got a chance to practice some search and recovery skills. The previous day, one person had lost a fin, and lost another one again. I was able to find the missing fin on one search. Then, my mask was accidentally dropped on the last scenario, and I managed to find that, along with the fin that was lost the previous day, and a 2 pound bullet weight! Not bad!

I do remember when I was running the search that I thought I'd look pretty silly if I couldn't find all this stuff. So I worried for nothing. Guess all the practice and training had paid off!

Kelvin Grove 09/05/2012

Jim Dixon and I decided to see what kind of tech diving opportunities that Kelvin Grove had to offer. I was a bit worried about the weather as there was a lot of wind that day, and the ocean was very rough. Still it wasn't raining, and it was a nice enough evening.

When we arrived, we scoped out the site, and deemed it dive-able even with the rough sea. Kelvin Grove is quite sheltered.

After gearing up and hitting the water, we followed our dive plan. After talking to a few people, and drawing on what we already knew of the site, we decided to swim out to the right hand side and follow the rock wall down to a max depth of 45 meters, and just see what it was like.

It turned out to be quite a nice tech dive. The bottom kept sloping down past our planned depth, so you could definitely keep going. The one problem was that it did take quite a few minutes to get to depth, because the bottom sloped quite gradually. Not too much of a problem though, and certainly a nice easy tech dive.

In terms of what we saw, there was nothing beyond the usual. There were nice large boot sponges, and the nice rock wall topography. I liked Kelvin Grove quite and bit, and it still didn't disappoint. In the end, it was probably not worth a second tech dive. You can see all that Kelvin has to offer in recreational depths.

We had a great time though, as always. There was a lot to see in the coming up on our deco stops. Always a bonus to be able to look at something instead of just blue water or a line!

Porteau Cove 06/05/2012

Heather and I went and did a nice dive at Porteau Cove to make sure that the wrist seals on her suit were better now that they were trimmed. I don't recall too much from the dive, but we followed the firehose and checked out the sailboat and the jungle gym. It wasn't raining and it was a good day of diving!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Whytecliff - The Cut 02/05/2012

Jim Dixon and I went out to do a tech dive at the Cut. It was the very first tech dive I had done since completing my GUE Tech 1 course, and I was pretty excited! We met there after work. We didn't plan a very complicated dive, and just wanted to see if we could find the fabled wolf eel that apparently lived near the Cut. Visibility was pretty good, and the dive was quite nice. It was great to be able to see while we geared down since the days had gotten so much longer. Alas, no wolf eel was found. However, we did see the nice big cloud sponges. Maybe we'd find it next time!

Howe Sound Boat Dive - Topline 29/04/2012

Jason Kolba and I decided to go out on the Topline for some fun relaxing single-tank diving. The day was perfect, calm and sunny. Kevin and Jan were their usual great hosts on the boat. It was always a pleasure to dive with them! The first site we visited was Halket Wall, and you can see it on a Google map here:,-123.318658&spn=0.012709,0.019033&hnear=Vancouver,+Greater+Vancouver+Regional+District,+British+Columbia&t=h&z=16

 It was a very pleasant drift dive. In the dive briefing, Jan explained there was a wolf eel to see but Jason and I completely missed it. Too bad! It was very close the start of the dive, and we were just a little too far over. Still, the dive on the wall was great. Not a lot of life to see, but the visibility was about 60' so that in itself was worth it. The next dive site we visited was the Dragon's Den off Anvil Island. A Google map reference is here:,-123.315461&spn=0.003173,0.004758&hnear=Vancouver,+Greater+Vancouver+Regional+District,+British+Columbia&t=h&z=18

I'd heard a lot about the Dragon's Den before. It was a rock wall with several large indentations and overhangs. You couldn't really call them caves, because they only went in about 5 or 10 feet, but they were still pretty cool. Again, the great visibility really made it a spectacular dive. Jason and I came across a really nice octopus in one of the dens. It was sitting right on the back wall, and was so camouflaged we almost missed it! It was also out in the open which always seemed pretty rare. Those octopus really like to stay in the cracks and crevices during the day. All in all, it was a perfect day of diving. On the way back, we were treated to a whole group of seals sunbathing on Pam Rocks as well. They were very cute! Here is a short bunch of video clips put together of the diving that day.

Porteau Cove 15/04/2012

Heather and I decided to go out to Porteau Cove to get a few more dives in before her rescheduled rescue course date. The day was again fantastic, sunny and relatively warm. The water temperature was still not that warm though! We had a great dive checking out the wrecks and the artificial reefs. We didn't see anything too spectacular, but there were a lot of little things to see.

Woodlands 08/04/2012

We got Heather's wrist seals trimmed and fixed up, so we decided to do a practice dive at Woodlands. It was a perfect day to be out for a dive, sunny and warm. I always like Woodlands because it feels like you are in the wilderness. An easy entry and some nice topography made it even better. It was pretty crowded though, as there was already a group of divers there! There was not a lot of room at Woodlands to park, and they took the closer parking spot, so it was a long walk. We had a short dive, due to the poor visibility that Indian Arm was susceptible to. Still, it was a lot of fun. And the wrist seals seemed to be a lot better. I had my video camera along, but didn't get any good footage. The vis was just too bad.

Whytecliff 24/03/2012

Heather was finishing her rescue course with OceanQuest and I came along to be a rescue dummy, something I figured I could do pretty well! This was the first open water day for the course, and it was a very nice day: cold but sunny. Ryan was the instructor, and we started to run though the various scenarios. We yelled "pizza" a lot when we needed to simulate a panicked or stressed diver. Most people know that training goes on at Whytecliff, but it was better safe than sorry to yell this instead of "help!". You never know who might mis-interpret what was going on. The rescue courses were always a s drain on the participants, and this one was no exception. By the end of the day, everyone was tired having towed people to shore, hauled people up the beach, performed practice rescue breathing etc. Unfortunately, Heather's dry suit wrist seals were too tight and really did a number on her by the end of the day, so she had to reschedule the rest of the rescue course til a later date.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Whytecliff The Cut 03/03/2012

Jim Dixon and I decided to go out to Whytecliff Park for our first tech dive after the Tech 1 course. We had heard about the huge cloud sponges at 140 feet, and wanted to see them for ourselves.

I went by IDC to pick up my doubles and deco bottle that morning, and we met at 11:30. It was a very relaxing morning start! Our dive plan was quite simple. 140 feet for half an hour, and a corresponding 25 minutes of decompression on 50% oxygen. The day was a bit cloudy, and the IDC van was out at the park. Genessa was teaching a course that day. Jim had talked them them before I got there, and got a bit of a visibility report. Apparently it was very good! Dave Williams was out in the bay practicing for his upcoming Fundamentals class too.

Jim and I geared up and headed down to the water. We had planned it so that we'd be in the water for high tide. The dive went very well. It took us longer to get to depth than it should have, so that was something we still had to work on. It was quite hard to get down deep quickly after being so used to just taking our time. But when you are paying for helium, you don't want to be wasting it at anything below 100 feet!

The dive was good. We didn't see any cloud sponges as big as cars, but we joked that probably people would say that they were just deeper, and to take Tech 2. We did see a really big tanner crab though. One had a dead red rock crab in its clutches. Jim wanted to try and rescue it, but didn't after we realized that it was just its lunch. Didn't want to steal anyone's lunch!

On our decompression stop at 20 feet, we had a pretty good time since we had a lot of stuff to look at. We were in the shallows out front of the Cut and had starfish and little critters to look at during our time there. It was a bit better than staring at each other in open water for 20 minutes! We started to appreciate how dull deco could be.

Here is a short video clip.

Til next time!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Mill Bay Tech 1 Finish 11-12/02/2012

Finally the day arrived. The weekend where Jim and I would finish our Tech 1 course!

It got off to a somewhat rocky start because I wasn't quite sure where the dock was to meet the boat. But we all hooked up ok. Guy Shockey was finishing our course with us. We were taking a boat from Rockfish Divers out. Guy had done a lot of diving with them lately, and Elly was our boat captain. She went out of her way to help us with equipment and everything.

To finish the course, we did 2 dives over 2 days. A checkout dive, then a practice tech 1 dive, then 2 experience dives the next day. Jim and I learned a lot over those two days, and did pretty well.

In the end, we passed! Finally! It was interesting to get perspective from two different GUE instructors. What I really wanted to do now was to do some relaxing dives with no skills involved :-)

Nanaimo 21-22/01/2012

Jim and I scheduled the last part of our Tech 1 course for the second week in February. In order to get in enough practice, we decided to take one weekend and dive around the Nanaimo area and focus on skills.

We met at Tyee Beach on the Saturday. There was quite a group of open-water divers there doing training. Parking on the road was a bit of a problem, but we managed.

The dives at Tyee were quite fun. We went to the right on the first dive, then left on the second. During both dives there were some sea lions swimming about. One came in and checked out Jim on the second dive, which was very cool. We had planned to do 3 dives, but ended up doing 2, and then practicing one ascent to take the place of the third. We wanted to practice our ascents the most, as that was what we had problems with during the course. Our ascents went very well we thought. Tyee Beach was a nice dive site as always. There was one bit where I came across a rock covered with hermit crabs. When the saw me, they all began to scurry off the edge like lemmings. It was kind of funny.

After spending the night at Jim's place, and reviewing the video from the day, we went out to Madronna. However, a wind warning in the area was going on, and Madronna was just too rough.

We went to the Jibb instead, which I had never dove before. It was a great sheltered area, and we got three dives in that we wanted to. The day was raining constantly and windy. It was not fun out of the water. There was even wet snow! The best was the sea lions that came to check us out on every dive. I got a bit of video, too.

Jim and I thought we got enough practice, and hoped that we would be able to complete the Tech 1 course on the second weekend of February.

Howe Sound Sponge Reef 08/01/2012

Prior to starting Tech 1, the plan had been to dive a new glass sponge reef in Howe Sound. This had been found recently and had gotten some publicity because a new species of sponge had been found.

Because these sponges were quite deep, the idea was they'd be ideal for a technical dive. However, since Jim and I hadn't finished yet, we went along, but did a regular recreational dive.

We went out with the Topline. It was a rainy, miserable day. But as always, what mattered was under water. The sponge reef was quite nice, but we didn't see anything too different than we'd normally see.

The second dive of the day was on Halkett Wall, and it was a very nice relaxing drift dive.

On the trip, I talked to a fellow who had been lucky enough to see a six-gill shark at Ansel Place. Lucky! You never knew what you might see.

Jim and I agreed we'd be back to do this dive properly once we were done with Tech 1.

GUE Tech 1 04-08/12/2011

I had wanted to do Tech 1 for a long time. I had put it off several times, and finally lined it up with Jim Dixon to complete it. We had Dan Mackay come out from Ontario, and Alan Johnson did video and assisted.

At the start of the course, it seemed pretty straightforward. The swim test (400 yards in under 14 minutes) and the breath hold (20 yards) worried me most. I had spent a day every week for 2 months practicing, and it was a good thing. Otherwise I don't think I would have passed! We did the swim test at the Burrard pool. This was done on the first day. We also did a lot of preliminary paper work and lecturing on the first day too.

Diving started the next day, and continued every day until the end. A lot of our time was spent on failure scenarios, and ascents from 70 feet. Jim and I had problems on the ascents. We chalked it up to performance anxiety because we had nailed the ascents on practice. Also, Jim had his gauge in feet, and had only just switched over to meters. Anyway, it was pretty much just an excuse. The ascents would be our problem until the end of the course, because we just ran out of time.

Fortunately, Dan set us up to finish off the course after some additional practice. The plan was to get together with Guy Shockey on the Island, in February. It was disappointing that we didn't finish when we wanted to, but heartening that we'd finish!

The best bit was a small young seal who came to play with me at the end of one of the dives:

Porteau Cove 27/11/2011

With the Tech 1 course date set (finally!), Jim and I needed to get out practicing as much as possible. We headed out to Porteau Cove with Dave Williams and Alber (I think!) for some skills.

There was a bit of current so we tried to hang out in the lee of the tug boat. It didn't work the greatest, and we had to reset back several times. We ran through air-sharing drills, valve drills, and also ran through the basic 5 set of skills.

After this we went looking for octopus, and found one hiding under the cement blocks.

On the whole, it was a successful day. Jim and I practiced our ascents and stops to the surface, too. Funnily, this would be the sticking point in the upcoming tech 1 class. We thought we had it down pretty well. We had a rude awakening coming!

Whytecliff 06/11/2011

It had been a long time in planning, but Jason and myself finally got out with Alan Johnson to do a line workshop. After being involved with the UASBC, we were doing more and more with line under water, and it was important to get some good instruction on how to handle it. Line under water has a mind of its own!

Some of the things we went over were, holding a reel, or spool, primary, and secondary tie offs, laying line, placements and stations, and retrieving line. We also did some navigation in zero visibility training, and ran a dive with no masks and just following the line.

It was a great day of learning. The masks-off dive was quite interesting. It wasn't as hard as I would have thought. Finding things to tie off to at Whytecliff was more of a challenge. There was also a ton of information. I think I retained maybe 25%. It was going to take a lot of work and practice to become good at that's for sure.

A lot of time was spent running line in the nearby park. It was a good thing too, as underwater it was quite a challenge. I remember the reel getting jammed on one dive. You wouldn't think that it was that hard to just spool out some line, but when gravity isn't helping any more, line floats and can get everywhere.

On the whole a very good day, but it just showed me how much more there was to learn and practice.

Porteau Cove 23/10/2011

Heather and I went back to Porteau Cove for some more gear checkout. This time Mihai came along too, and we checked out the wrecks.

On the first dive we followed the firehose out. There was a big open water class there that day, and the visibility suffered for it. We spent a good deal of time on the deck of the Grant Hall as there were some very nice schools of fish and other critters hanging out there. There was also a little seal who zoomed through past us when we were around the tug boat. I was the only one who saw it unfortunately.

We spent the second dive under the dock again because it was so cool down there the other week. It didn't disappoint, the huge schools of shiner perch were there again, and the visibility was great.

Here is a little bit of video.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Porteau Cove 16/10/2011

Heather and I went out to Porteau Cove to do a relaxing fun dive. She wanted to try out her new dry suit and equipment.

We spent most of our time under the dock, and saw a spectacular school of shiner perch. There were more than I'd ever seen before. It was magical. A great dive!

Here is a bit of video of the experience! Heather did a great job with the camera...

Untitled from Anton North on Vimeo.

Egmont 07-10/10/2011

I had planned to go to Egmont with Mihai, but he and Christina had to cancel because Christina had very bad stomach pains. I drove up with them, but they had to go back home after we arrived at the dock in Egmont. It was too bad. I stayed on, arranging to get a ride back with some of the other folks who were there.

We were with Porpoise Bay Charters, Kal and Anne again. They were fabulous hosts as always.

On arrival, we did one dive in the evening at South Sutton Island. I had brought my scooter and so did Alan Johnson, so we had fun scootering the island. Funny enough, he hurt his foot, so he had asked me to bring my scooter so he wouldn't have to fin so much.

I stayed in one of Kal's yurts again. They were as comfortable as always. Dave Williams was my yurt-mate, and also dive buddy when I wasn't scootering.

On the next day, we started out with Agamemnon Power Lines. Alan did a tech dive, so I teamed up with Dave. The cloud sponges were awesome as always. For the rest of the day, Alan and I scootered about.

The next day, we started out with the wreck of the Chaudiere. Alan and I scootered it, and it made it a lot more interesting. The last time I had dove the Chaudiere, I thought it was a bit dull. Being able to circle the wreck 3 or 4 times made it a lot more interesting. It was big!

Here is a bit of video of us scootering the Chaudiere.

After the Chaudiere, we were able to dive the famous Skookumchuck Narrows. It was a lot more sedate than I imagined. We ended up seeing a lot of urchins, and surfaced in a beautiful kelp bed. Awesome! We finished off the day with Swede's Reef (scootering) and then Dave and I explored under Kal's dock. We found the box cutter that Kal asked us to find. But I also broke the spring-strap on my fin. I was very surprised that it broke, I thought they were indestructible. The pin was not however. Some stainless steel wire did the trick to fix it though.

The final day we went back to Agamemnon. An awesome dive again. The last and most spectacular dive was a scooter dive of Craggy Crack with Alan. We came across a great octopus out in the open, and the visibility and underwater topography was just stunning. An awesome end to an awesome weekend!

Whytecliff Park 25/09/2011

Jason, Alan Johnson and myself went out to Whytecliff to do our tech pass upgrade.

Everything went pretty well. It was a lot of fun!

Whytecliff 22/09/2011

Jason and I got together for some skill practice, because we had our tech pass planned for the next weekend.

I had planned to take the GUE Technical Diver 1 course for a long time, and the tech pass upgrade to the Fundamentals was a requirement.

We did valve drills and gas sharing exercises. It went well!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Kelvin Grove 17/09/2011

Jason and I decided to go diving at Kelvin Grove as we'd not been out there for a long time. The day started out extremely rainy and crappy. However, when we got out to Kelvin, the sun came out and it was a different day.

We dove the right side of Kelvin, and for the second dive, stayed in the center and did some skills.

After the dive, we met one of Jason's co-workers, and he invited us up to his house, which was just up the road. We took him up on his offer, but when we got there, we found that he was taking a nap with his grandson. His wife invited us in anyway, and gave us some tea and cookies. We had a good chat on the political situation of the residents of Lion's Bay and divers. We had never heard the side of the story from a Lion's Bay resident. She described buses coming up loaded with divers, and taking over the entire area. I found it very interesting hearing that side of the story. I knew all my dive friends would not be in the problem category, but had no idea that larger groups had caused such problems for good divers. It looked like those days were over, and that things had calmed down. Which was very good, because it was a very nice dive site.

I had some video from our practice here.

Whytecliff Park 09/09/2011

Jim and I went out again for another skill dive at Whytecliff.

It was the first time I got to try out my new dive vehicle, a Ford Ranger. It worked out great!

We practiced our ascent, and we surfaced a bit farther down the Cut near the day marker. It took a bit of time to swim back in, but it wasn't bad. I always had problems picking the Cut exit point!

Again, doing skills at night added extra challenge.

Whytecliff Park 26/08/2011

Jim and I went out to Whytecliff for a quick night dive and to get some practice for our planned upcoming Tech 1 class.

It was a beautiful evening. It was the first time me and Jim were out for practice. Silly me, I didn't exchange all contact details with Jim, and there was a mixup in the location he would meet me. I didn't give him quite the correct address. Whoops!

We got going quite a bit later, but decided to go ahead anyway. It was a bit hot, but the tide was good and we had a nice dive at the Cut.

It was very very dark in the water. We did some skill practice, and it was much more challenging in the dark with less visual references.

All in all, it was a great deal of fun.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Nanaimo Wrecks and Tyee Beach 23/07/2011

Jason Kolba, Jim Dixon and I decided to meet up to do the Nanaimo wrecks. If I recall properly, Dan McKay my Fundamentals instructor was also along, with a bunch of other GUE divers. It was a nice surprise! Guy Shockey was along too. A few of them had scooters along, and during the dives it was pretty neat to see them flying about.

The day was very nice, sunny but a bit rough. We did the Saskatchewan first, then the Cape Breton. Both dives were great, as always.

After going out on the Sea Dragon for those dives, we decided to do one more dive that day from shore. Jim had to back out on the dive, but Jason and I decided to try Tyee Beach. I had done Tyee before, and it had quite a few interesting rocks.

This time around, we went to the left instead of to the right of the entry. Visibility wasn't the greatest, but we followed some pretty interesting walls and rock formations out then back. On the way back, we did a valve drill. My valve drill didn't go the greatest!

Overall, a great day of diving...

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Vancouver Island 25-26/06/2011

I had such a great time in Comox that I jumped at the chance to get out to the Island with Todd and crew again. We brought the scooters along too. I rented a Fiat 500 that got lovingly nick-named the "Firt" because Kat read the label wrong. I was afraid I'd not fit everything into the car when I picked it up. But it worked very well. I could have probably fit one more into the car too!

We met at Willis Point for our first dive. I teamed up with Laudhi, who was having his last cold-water dive before moving to warm-water. He also had the reputation as a person who did not seem to breath. They were right. I was on double 130's and he was on a single steel 100. At the end of 50 minutes, and an average depth of 60 feet, he had not even used up half his cylinder. Willis was always a good dive, and this time didn't disappoint.

After Willis, we went to McKenzie Bite. I'd never dove this before, and we took out the scooters. One funny thing was the small sunken boat. Someone had tied a fake skeleton to the mast. When we went past the boat, I didn't even see the skeleton at all!

We stayed at the Robin Hood Inn in Victoria for the night. The next day, we got as many scooters as we could to do a dive at the Ogden Point Break Water. I dove with Alan Wong and Vince janelle. Visibiity wasn't good, maybe 10 feet. The breakwater must have been a great dive if the vis was better. All in all it was still pretty neat. It was a very hot day, and hauling scooters and doubles down to the beach almost caused me to overheat.

A lot of fun!

Comox and Nanaimo 04/06/2011

Vince Janelle told me about a trip to Comox with Todd Powell and a bunch more of the UTD dive crowd. Eric, Gary, Kat, and Arlene were good to meet finally. We stayed overnight in Comox, and went on the Ata-tude dive boat with Captain Bill.

It was a perfect day, and the first dive was on Vivian Island. I remember Vince and I covered a great deal of distance during the dive.

After lunch on the mainland at Lund at an amazing sandwich joint, we did the SS Capilano. It was an amazing dive. The descent down to the wreck was magical. The white plumose anemones ringed the wreck like a ghostly white halo.

Here is a compilation video clip. Todd and crew were doing a tech dive on the Vivian Island wall. It was neat to look down and see them below!

On the next day, we did Madrona Point on the way home. We found quite a nice octopus and set of wolf eels in the rocks. I tried to see if the wolf eels were interested in boiled eggs. They were not!

Topline 29/05/2011

After getting back from Florida, I wanted to make sure that I wasn't completely spoiled by the warm water, and went out on the Topline with Mihai.

We did the Collingwood Day Marker, and Wolcombe Island. The day was sunny and awesome. I had some good time talking to Kevin and Jan about the Florida trip, since they spent a lot of time in that area themselves.

Here is a short clip of Mihai. The lighting made it look quite other-worldly.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Marathon Florida 13/05/2011

I'd been looking forward to this for a long time. Heather and I had planned a trip to Florida for a dragon boat festival and some diving. We ran into some weather on the trip down, so we ended up being late and very tired, so we put off diving until the next day. Serendipitously, on exploring around the hotel, we saw a dive boat moored off the back dock. We ended up diving with Captain Hook's dive charter the next day, and just had to walk out the back door!

We did two dives on one of the Florida reefs. Helping out on the boat was Denise, a great lady. Also on the boat were some recruits from the local coast guard doing some dive training. On the boat ride out, we came across a rickety water-filled boat made of all manner of flotsam and jetsam. Apparently there were attempts by Cubans to come across to Florida on boats like this. I forget the name the Coast Guard people called it. They ended up calling in the boat to the Coast Guard, but we didn't see any people fortunately.

The two reef dives were awesome. I got to try out my warm-water gear, and we saw some great fish. We saw parrot fish, some tube fish, a small shark, and lots and lots of coral. The water was so clear and warm, it was grand. Without all my cold-water gear it seemed very liberating. I still didn't get converted to solely warm-water diving like some people said might happen. Both have their charms to me.

I had my GoPro video camera along, and made a short video of some of the things we saw. There is also a small portion of the snorkeling we did too!