Sunday, November 24, 2013

Whytecliff 16/11/2013

Heather and I went for a fun dive at Whytecliff. There were some very interesting things to see!

First off, there were a few sea stars that were affected by the sea star wasting syndrome that had been happening. I saw two, and sent in the data of this sighting to the Vancouver Aquarium. We found a very nice opalescent nudibranch, and several frosted nudibranchs. We went out to the Day Marker, and then back. On the way back, we came across a huge giant pacific octopus in a crack. We also saw a kelp greenling eating a small flounder.

We got some video, and it turned out not bad. The nudibranchs are very hard to see unfortunately.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Wreck Fest 09-10/11/2013

Jim Dixon had been planning this for a while. The idea was to do some "cross-pollination" of GUE divers between BC and Seattle. For a long time, the GUE Seattle community was much stronger than that of BC. In the last year or so, this has started to change due to a lot of hard work by people like Jim, Guy Shockey, Alan Johnson, and Greg Nuttal to name a few. More GUE divers were getting trained, and the community was growing quite well. What was once a dream was becoming reality.

Wreck Fest was the inaugural kick off of GUE BC, and hopefully would become a yearly thing. Before I go much further, here are some pictures and video (so you can stop reading here, if that's all you want to see!).

First off, a group shot of (I think), everyone who was on the trip. There were two boats needed to take everyone, hosted by Sea Dragon Charters. There sure were a lot of us!!! I'm in the back right corner.

There was also a very good underwater picture taken by Vlad to commemorate the kick-off.

This is a link to some video of all of us hanging out during our decompression stops was take by Jay. It's pretty impressive the number of divers in the water, and an equally impressive amount of bubbles! You don't see that very often up here.

I got some of my ownv video, and it really high-lights how good the visibility was. This was all on the HMCS Saskatchewan.

Now, on to the rest of the story!

As I mentioned in my previous post, I had finished the class portion of Tech 1+ on the day prior to Wreck Fest. The rest of the experience dives would take place over the next two days of diving. Day one dawned brightly. The weather forecast had said it would be rainy, but the it turned out to be quite the opposite. I was lucky enough to stay at Jim's house, and I highly recommend Chez Jim if you get the chance! His and Tori's hospitality was great, as always. Alex and Will were staying at the Marinaside hotel (the hotel partner with Seadragon Charters). They were right beside the boat, which was very convenient. All the other GUE Seattle folks were staying there too. I had seen the units before, and they were very modern and quite nice. Being so close to the boat meant that you could leave gear in the shed, or on the boat adding to the convenience.

We all met up at the Marinaside, and began putting gear together and getting it down onto the boats. Both the Sea Dragon and the Topline were at the dock to accommodate all the divers. It was an impressive group, that's for sure. I had a lot of new names to remember! As a quick list there was myself, Jim, Greg, Shawn, Vlad, Guy, John, Drew, Liz and Ryan from BC, and Alex, Will, Bex, Jay, Greg, Keese, Koos, Mike, and Ryland from Seattle (if I missed anyone, apologies!).

I was on the Topline with Guy, Alex and Will, along with most of the Seattle folks. Kevin and Jan were our gracious hosts, and Christine and Glen were crewing the Sea Dragon. There was a lot of meeting and greeting going on, but we got the boats filled and loaded quickly and were all soon off to the wrecks. The amount of gear coming along was impressive. Everyone was diving doubles, and most had at least one stage as well. Kevin commented that he had never seen the Topline so low in the water before!

The Cape Breton was the first wreck of the trip, and both dives were fabulous. The visibility was excellent, and the current was low. It was very cool to see so many divers on the wreck at once. I remember laughing at the number of cameras being pointed around. It seemed like everywhere you looked, someone was snapping photos or shooting video. There were some very nice large cabezon on the decks, as well as the usual plethora of plumose anemones, copper rockfish and ling cod. It was also impressive on the decompression stops to see so many divers in one place, all in trim and holding perfectly level. The amount of bubbles was also staggering, and quite pretty. Here is where I was introduced (unwittingly) to the game that the Seattle folks played of clipping a toy to another diver without them knowing. There was a chicken, an octopus, and a princess doll, of which I seemed to end up with quite often! You really had to watch your back with those Seattle folks, haha.

That evening, Jim and Tori hosted everyone at their home in Ladysmith. It was a great evening, giving a chance for everyone to meet and talk more with each other. Liz provided beer courtesy of Lighthouse Brewing. Guy Shockey did a short talk on the GUE-BC Project Baseline and announced that next year there would be a large GUE get-together in Victoria. Similar events have happened before, and now that the GUE BC community was large enough, it would also form a nexus where these kind of events would periodically take place. It would be a fantastic opportunity to meet some of the folks we had only heard about. Keep an eye out for the official announcement of dates!

Koos also did a talk on the GUE Seattle Project Baseline. The amount of work that had been done there was very impressive. I highly recommend you read through that page, if you haven't. I hope that GUE-BC will get to that level soon. Guy also gave away some GUE swag, including some tank bands. Will was the big winner that evening, carrying away the tank bands. The icing on the cake was that he actually needed them! Speaking of cake, the cake came out after the draw complete with ship decoration in commemoration of Wreck Fest. Like all good things though, the evening wound down and people started to head home. There was still a big day of diving yet to go.

We met earlier the next day because Kevin wanted to take the Topline back to Vancouver in the daylight. With winter here and daylight savings time on it was getting quite dark quite early. The early start worked out well, since that allowed many of us to catch earlier ferries. Once the boats were sorted out, off we went. The last day was two dives on the HMCS Saskatchewan. Like the dives on the previous day, these were just awesome. The visibility seemed to be even better I thought. I got nailed by the octopus again on a deco stop, and ended up taking it home with me with the promise of continuing the tradition in BC. I also awarded myself the swan dive award, as an errant wave turned my giant stride into a face-plant. All was good though, and I don't think many people saw, haha.

Unfortunately, all the great diving soon came to an end and it was time to say good-byes. Based on all the smiles, I would say the event was a huge success. Several new certifications were finished as well, with Jay Olsen, Mike Bearda and Rebekah Marshall finishing Rec 3 and Alex Adolfi, Will Baxter and myself completing Tech 1+. Not to mention the many new friends that were made. I'm sure that everyone was looking forward to the next event! A big thanks goes out to Jim Dixon who was the main  master-mind behind the event, as well as Guy Shockey for helping with fill logistics, and finally Tori for making such great food and providing the cake!

Finally, I think these crazy pictures sum up the spirit of fun and camaraderie that this trip had.


Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Tech 1+ Upgrade 08/11/2013

I had been looking forward to this course for some time. Jim Dixon had turned me on to it originally, as well as had Guy Shockey. The Tech 1+ Upgrade was one of the best bangs for your buck in terms of immediate value. Tech 1 limited you to only a bottom stage or a decompression bottle. That meant you had to often bring two sets of doubles with you if you wanted to do two dives. Two dives could easily be done, but they were often shorter, and the second dive could often be shortened so significantly as to not really be worth doing. With Tech 1+, you could supplement your gas with a bottom stage, as well as carrying a deco gas as well. Suddenly you could get onto a boat with a set of doubles and two aluminum 80s and get a good solid two dives in. Guy mentioned that you would quickly recover the cost of the course in helium savings, because the potential to dump residual gas was almost non-existent.

Over the few months leading up to the course I had tried to get in as much review and practice as I could. I decided not to dive with additional cylinders, and left that skill to be addressed in the course. I remember Dan MacKay saying that for one thing, you didn't want to dive outside of your certification, and also you shouldn't be expected to know everything before taking a GUE course. I was feeling pretty good when course day arrived.

I got up very early to catch the first ferry over to Nanaimo. I could have slept in a little bit, but I had missed getting a ferry reservation for the 8 o'clock one. Rather than tempt fate, I went for the early one, and slept on the ferry. It also meant that once I arrived in Nanaimo, I had a lot of time to relax and get down to Maple Bay to meet Guy.

Prior to the course start, I had met my fellow class-mates in email discussions started by Guy. Alex and Will were from Seattle, and were coming up to participate in the Wreck Fest that Jim Dixon had organized for the remainder of the weekend. We met in person finally at Guy's house, and we started the lecture portion of the class, after getting a tour of the impressive fill station that Guy had assembled at his house.

The class portion was quick, but very interesting. Guy went over the benefits of Tech 1+, and we reviewed the new procedures, as well as reviewing valve failures and some real-world examples of where you could apply Tech 1+. We found a mistake in the student notes, as compared to the latest Standard Operating Procedures, which did spark some searching to make sure which was correct.

Once all that was done, it was down to Maple Bay to do the critical skills! Jim Dixon joined us for this portion. All of these skills were done at about 30 feet, using 32%. For the first set of skills, we clipped on our two stage bottles, dropped down and shot a surface marker buoy, then ascended to 20 feet and did valve and s-drills. On that first descent, I miscalculated the extra negative weight of those stage bottles, and almost crashed into the bottom! Those extra pounds make a difference.

We had a brief discussion on the surface, and then went back down and ran a line from our SMB. During that, various failures happened. In all honesty, the failures went pretty good. guy commented later that my trim needed some work. I wasn't quite sure what happened, normally it is very good. I think it came down to laziness. Something to work on!

At the end, we dropped back down and went for a little fun dive, retrieved the SMB, and headed for the surface. Guy did another debrief, and then it was off for dinner! Will had gotten pretty cold during the dives, and we were all quite hungry. We met at the "Bad Habit" just in Maple Bay for some pretty amazing food.

All that was left was the experience dives, which we would cover during the Wreck Fest weekend that had already been planned. Quite a few GUE Seattle folks were coming up, as well as a bunch of GUE BC people, all of which had been organized by Jim. I couldn't wait!

Porteau Cove 27/10/2013

Vlad and I had been talking about doing a scooter dive at Porteau for some time, and it was finally time. We couldn't have asked for a better day. It was sunny, fairly warm, and the tide was good. Visibility had been reported to be pretty good as well. Unfortunately, I had scooter problems for the first time in two years. No matter what I did, I couldn't get any response. Time to bring my T-16 in for fixing!

We modified our dive plan, and Vlad towed me out to the Nakaya buoy and we descended there. Unlike the last time I was out at the Nakaya, this time we found it :-) I was scratching my head on how we didn't find it the last time...

The dive itself was good, as always. The visibility wasn't extreme, but it was pretty good. we spent about 20 minutes poking around the Nakaya. We saw some nice big ling cod and some nice nudibranchs, but nothing much else of note. Vlad towed me to the Grant Hall, and we continued from there. We went to check the concrete blocks for octopus, but had no luck. After poking around at the tug and the sailboat, we headed back in.

All in all, a fun little dive! Now, to get my scooter fixed!