Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Egmont GUE-BC 31/05/2014

I arranged for a GUE-BC trip to Egmont to dive Agamemnon Channel, also known as the Power Lines. Kal from Porpoise Bay Charters was our Captain and boat of choice. I had been on a few trips with them, and each one was memorable. This time, we were not able to take advantage of their full hospitality, since the plan was for a day trip only. It was certainly going to be a long, but excellent day!

Here is a link to the photo album for the trip:

The overall goal was to get a few technical teams in to check out the Gorgonian corals. This spot was one of a few places where you could see coral similar to what you might see in the tropics. The wonders of cold-water diving never seemed to cease. This coral was also one of the reasons I got into technical diving in the first place. I really wanted to see them first hand!

We met at the Church on Taylor way at a very early hour (most of us had to wake up at 4 am) in order to car pool for the ferry. The vehicles were packed with gear. This picture was only some of it.

I took a quick pre-trip picture. Everyone seemed to be awake! From left to right: Heather, Vlad, Daniel, Josh, Dave, Dennis, and Jim.

We made very good time to Egmont. There was an amusing moment when Dave asked me "how do you get to Egmont?". So much for my extensive planning! I had forgotten to include directions to where we were going. That was easily sorted out, and soon we were at the dock loading the boat with Kal.

And paperwork!

On the way out, Kal gave a quick boat and dive briefing. We had one recreational dive team, and two technical dive teams. Jim and I were using 18/45 to explore a bit deeper. Our dive plan was for a 30 minute dive at an average depth of 150 feet / 45 meters, and a max depth of 180 feet / 54 meters. We had talked to a lot of people, but still hadn't gotten a clear idea where the best coral was, so we were going to find out ourselves.

The coral was more beautiful than I could have imagined. Vlad got some great photos.

I got some video, but it was quite dark. You can view it here. It includes video from the second dive as well. The beginning of the video is the dive on the corals, and you can see some of the coral fans illuminated in our lights. Jim videoed me doing my happy dance underwater during our deco stop.

In the end, coral could be found easily around 130 feet / 39 meters, but it was definitely smaller. The bigger fans were between 140 feet / 42 meters and 150 feet / 45 meters, and the biggest were around 170 feet / 51 meters. The actual area where the coral fans were was not that large. Jim and I didn't spend too much time at 180 feet / 54 meters, but I didn't remember there being a lot of coral there either. This dive would be a solid 21/35 trimix dive, where you'd want to maximize your dive time between 130 and 150 feet. That seemed the most bang for your buck. There was a lot of gas and cylinder logistics, so I could see a rebreather being a good tool here. A lot of planning went into the tides and currents as well. You were quite exposed on this dive site, so dive time was a limiting factor. Anything over an hour total could be an issue, since currents were notoriously unpredictable. Having a long decompression obligation and a strong current could be a recipe for getting separated from the boat. Not a good plan! Kal was very good about helping with this planning, and we made sure he knew what our expected dive times would be up front.

Jim and I had a funny story from our dive. It turned out that both of us had forgotten to set our depth gauges back to metric, and spent the whole dive converting because we thought the other was in metric. Half way through our deco, we had a good laugh when we compared gauges and realized that.

Surfacing brought us back to the beautiful scenery around the Power Lines.

Here was a great reason why Egmont was always so awesome. The visibility was so good, you could see the dive teams on their decompression stops from the boat.

We had a long surface interval due to the tech dives, so we motored slowly to Captain's Corners, another dive site nearer to the Government dock where we started. Captain's Corners was known for its beautiful cloud sponges (much like the power lines was). Along the way, Ann had prepared a nice lunch for us with cold cuts and all the fixings to make sandwiches. Even vegetarian Jim got some Tofurky! They thought of everything.

On Captain's Corners, I did a recreational dive with Heather, and we got some pretty nice pictures. In the video I mentioned above, there was a really great sequence of a lion's mane jelly fish, and a cloud of microscopic shrimp creatures trying to escape in front of us. The dive was nice and relaxing, with very little current.

There were some very beautiful giant dendronotid nudibranchs.

And this was a nudibranch I had not seen before. The first photo captured the light of another dive team off to the left.

The cloud sponges at Captain's Corners did not disappoint.

With the second dive done, we made a quick dash back to the dock, packed up and were on the road to catch the 6:50 PM ferry. While not too rushed, we certainly didn't have time to dawdle. But we made the ferry in good time. With the amount of cylinders we had, we declared our dangerous goods for BC Ferries. Dave had a small problem on the trip back. The Supervisor cited regulations that all dangerous goods had to be covered. I'd never encountered this before, because almost always cylinders were in a covered vehicle. Covering them with a tarp solved the problem, go figure. It never ceased to amaze me the difficulties that could be had when declaring dangerous goods. If only it was easier, a lot more people would actually do it!

And finally, one last group picture.

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