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.