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.