Thursday, February 28, 2013

Maple Bay Skills 24/02/2013

Greg Shawn and I met at Maple Bay to practice more skills. The day was rainy and windy, so not the best.

When I arrived I found that the UASBC was there heading out with Ogden Point dive charter. I chatted with.Jacques Mark and Keith Bossons briefly since I hadn't talked to them in some time. They died have a lot of time because they were trying to catch slack tide. There was a wreck around the corner of Maple Bay that they were going to. We reminisced a bit about how good the dive we went on at Tofino and Uculet.

Greg Shawn and I geared up and did our dive plan. At the start of the dive I saw yet another Lewis Moon snail, along with a patch of stubby squid eggs. I tied off my reel to the dock piling, and ran line out to some bricks. Shawn shot his SMB and tied it off to the brick. Then we ascended to 5 meters and did a valve drill mid water. Then we went back down and did S drills on the line. All this went well. Greg and Shawn practiced bottle rotation for the rest of the dive and I took video. I had a stage with me so I practiced some gas switches too. Visitor was not the best, maybe 10 feet.

On the second dive we did more of the same. All in all a very good day of practice.

The UASBC crew was back when we we done, and they had partial success. The first wreck was found, and visibility was about 40 feet. However weather forced them off and the next dive was in a sheltered area. Visibility there was the same that we had. Still, it looked like they had a good time.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Tuwanek 17/02/2013

I had a pretty bad cold the previous week, so I wasn't able to dive. I focused on getting better, because there was a big trip planned for Tuwanek.

Jim Dixon talked to IDC and helped kick off the trip. He and Allison were diving together, and Heather and I came along as well. The last time we had seen Allison was at Egmont about 2 years prior. It would be good to see her again. Kevin from IDC took the van with about 8 other certified divers. John, Randy, Dennis and Dave Williams came along too.

The day started pretty early, with everyone catching the 7:20 ferry to Langdale. The day itself was partly cloudy, but not rainy. We had a fun time chatting on the ferry coming over.

Once we all met at Tuwanek, I did a short site briefing for those who hadn't been before. It was funny, I had forgotten that with all the diving Jim did, he had yet to be out at Tuwanek yet. I was pretty excited, because I had wanted to show Heather one of my most favorite dive sites.

Ken from Oceanquest had a few divers out too, so Tuwanek was packed to the gills. There were at least 9 vehicles there, stretching parking to the limit. I'm sure the residents weren't too happy!

One of the high-lights were the two friendly dogs that visited us the whole time we were there. One was a labradoodle named Murphy, and one was a Sheppard named Hawkeye. Murphy was funny because he had a collar tag that had a picture of him and the following "Hi, My name is Murphy, please do not feed me!". Poor Murphy, Allison commented that if he knew what his tag said, he'd try to get it off as soon as he could. Needless to say, Murphy begged for food the whole time. Hawkeye was more concerned with getting anyone possible to throw a stick for him.

On the first dive, we swam out to the North Island and dropped down onto the rock pile. Jim, Allison, Dennis and his partner went off in the direction of the wolf eels, while Heather and I explored the rock pile. There were translucent tunicates covering evererything. I had never seen so many. They looked a bit like large egg cases, but weren't. They kind of were like transparent elongated grapes. The sheer number of them was staggering. I had never seen that before. There were several nice nudibranchs, and a ling cod guarding a large egg mass. The ling cod egg masses always reminded me of white styrofoam. There were several schools of shiner perch, some nice kelp greenlings, a cool decorator crab, as well as colorful chitons. No octopus unfortunately, but later we would hear that one IDC group saw a very nice one out in the open. Lucky them! Visibility wasn't the best, maybe 20 feet, but it was still pretty good.

Jim missed checking his neck seal at the start of the dive, and had a pretty bad suit leak. His undergarment was completely soaked. Allison also had a strange leak, which seemed to be her drysuit inflator valve. She would sit out for the next dive, but Jim was a trooper and put on a dry under layer and would go again. Dave Williams had a camp stove, and there were sausages and hot drinks all around. Very nice! I kept an eye on Murphy who was never far from the food, poor guy.

On the second dive, Heather and I decided to check out the rock reef just off the entry point. I had never explored it much, and was glad we did. It was quite interesting. Again, the tunicates covered everything. Surprisingly, we found 3 Lewis Moonsnails, one of them at least a foot long. Up to that point I had never seen one, and in the last few weeks, we had found 6! The rock reef was easy to get to, and around 50 feet deep. It was great fun exploring the crevices. There was also a small skiff that looked like it was sunk on purpose nearby. It had a huge concrete block sitting in the middle of it.

All in all, a very fun day of diving at Tuwanek! The second dive visibility was better, possibly due to the fresh water run-off from the creek.

I didn't get any video this go around, because the batteries in the GoPro gave out at the start of the first dive. I had charged it the weekend previous, but it doesn't seem that the batteries keep their charge. The camera may be "on" in some capacity even though it's off. The solution was simple, I will just make sure to charge it the day before!

I did manage to get a very short bit of footage of the tunicates:

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Madrona 03/02/2013

Jim, Chris Fenton and I dove Madrona as part of our regular Sunday dive series. Greg and Shawn could not make it this time around.

On my way out, I had to turn around and pick up the wing nuts for my back plate that I had forgotten at home. I figured someone would have spares, but on the off chance, I didn't want to be stuck not diving! My GPS crashed on my phone, and me being silly, did not rely on my brain instead. I got a bit turned around, but made it to Madrona not too late.

It was a cloudy, but not rainy, day. There were two other groups of divers at Madrona, and they reported pretty good visibility and at least one nice big octopus in a crack. I was looking forward to seeing what we might find!

On both dives we did the same plan, entering at the big V and swimming out to the long wall to the north. We weren't planning anything special, just go out and have some fun. Jim and I did bring stage bottles along just for practice, and did a gas switch drill and a valve drill, so it wasn't all just fun!

On the first dive, we did indeed find a nice big octopus in a crack. Why do they always have to be sleeping so much! Jim tried to get it to come out to play, but no luck. Chris found a baby puget sound king crab as well, orange and red in all its glory. I always liked them like that. We also found a giant nudibranch and got it swimming, as well as an orange sea lemon (another nudibranch) and a very strange deformed sea squirt. There was a nice sea pen, and a sea lion buzzed past us quickly. At the end of the dive, I spied a stark silvery shape on the bottom. It was a dead rat fish in the shallows. It wasn't dead very long, and there was no sign of why it died. It was very interesting to see up close, even though the poor thing had perished.

Chris didn't come along for the second dive, but Jim and I did the same thing again. We visited the same octopus, but didn't see much new. It was a very enjoyable dive, though with the visibility so good.

We talked later how there seemed to be a lack of wolf eels at Madrona. Chris said he hadn't seen them for a long time. The last time I saw them was at least a year and a half ago. The folks at Nanaimo Dive Outfitters said that the sea lions eat them, and might clear them out every so often. I hope they come back sometime!

Here is a bit of video:

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Neck Point 02/02/2013

Heather and I had talked about checking out Neck Point near Nanaimo for a long time. Now that Heather had some shiny new steel 100's it seemed like the perfect time to go try them out at a nice relaxing dive site.

The day was perfect, it was a bit cold, but not raining and sunny. We started the dive going to the right of the bay. We quickly discovered a ton of frosted nudibranchs everywhere. There was a cool old log riddled with teredo worms too. The visibility was awesome as well.

On the second dive, we went to the left. We cruised through an eel grass forest that were all covered with hooded nudibranchs. One came off and did a swimming show for us. There were also a lot of small hermit crabs encrusting the grass as well.

The high point was finding two Lewis Moonsnails. This time, I made sure my camera was on! It was a great bit of video. The boulder field to the left of the bay was very interesting, looking like it would hold a lot of octopi. However, we found none.

On the surface interval, a new Nanaimo resident from Seattle asked us about diving. He had moved recently just for that reason. We gave him some ideas (the Sea Dragon was obvious), and got his business card. Maybe we'd come across him again soon!

Here is a long video clip. I had a hard time editing it down.