Sunday, July 6, 2014

Madrona Point 06/07/2014

Francois and Bridget moved to Ladysmith recently and had not been to many of the local dive sites. I took advantage of being on the Island and being so close to Madrona to give them a tour of a great dive site. I guess I was practicing those Dive Master skills, guiding local divers!

When I arrived at Madrona, two divers were there already. I recognized the tanks and it turned out they had been staying at Riverbend Resort, the same as Heather and I. It was a great idea, because there were many local dives in the area. They had not been in the water yet, so there was no report on visibility or current to be had yet.

Soon after Francois and Bridget arrived. Bridget wasn't diving today, and planned to relax in the area. Unfortunately, the weather was overcast and threatening, with the odd shower here and there. We did a quick dive briefing on the beach, aiming to hit the main wall. I had found a map of the underwater portion of the dive site here, which seemed pretty good. I was a bit worried because I had not dove Madrona for a while, and was rusty on my directions. I knew you could miss the main wall pretty easily, and I wanted to give Francois the best dive I could. Tides worked out well for us, it was nearing high slack when we planned to get in the water.

I decided to put us in at the smaller V instead of the big V based on the dive map. I figured it seemed easier to find the wall that way, keeping the rocky maze on the right and heading out at 0 degrees. However, in practice this didn't work out as I planned. I didn't realize that the wall went kind of north-south, so when I was swimming us out underwater, I went off to the east too much. This put us in the middle of the sand that I wanted to avoid! Oops. Fortunately I turned us around and headed back, figuring to aim for the middle wall. About 40 minutes in to our dive, I spotted the old scuba cylinders mentioned in a few different directions I had read. We went over, and just past that there was the wall. Yay! Granted we were more than three quarters through our planned dive, but at least we found it. Our average depth was much shallower than we had planned because we had not found the wall, so we had quite a lot of no decompression time. I signaled to Francoise that we'd explore the wall for 10 minutes then head back.

The rock cracks yielded two large octopus, but they were very far in so there was no real way to get any good pictures. I didn't find any wolf eels either. During the whole dive, the stars were the nudibranchs. There were so many, especially the red flabellinas.

(Please note, these are not my images, they are just representative of what we saw)

I saw a new one, the striped nudibranch.

There were also some new ones in the shallows clinging to the kelp (but they might not have been nudibranchs, they could have been some kind of snail). There was a giant white dendronotid, a leopard dorid and an heath's dorid. The kelp and eel grass were festooned with kelp crabs.

There was also another huge bait ball of small silvery fish. I was able to get some video of it this time, and a picture.

I was very happy that I didn't miss the main wall, for Francois sake. I was going pretty fast during the dive trying to find the wall, so it wasn't the most relaxing one. But, after the dive, the weather cleared and Bridget had made some delicious lunch which we had on the beach. Much more relaxing, thanks!!! Francois had his camera along, but didn't think he got any pictures of note. Next time...

10 Mile Point 05/07/2014

Heather had  the Nanaimo Dragonboat festival this weekend, so I took the opportunity to come over and do some diving. I declared all my cylinders as a good citizen should, and got put right at the front of the ferry! Now, I realized though that meant that they would just push the truck off if there was an emergency, but at least I got off first!

We stayed in a yurt at the Riverbend Resort near Parksville, similar to the ones at Porpoise Bay Charters. It was great, there was a fire pit, a gas fireplace, and all the comforts of home, but it felt like you were in a tent! Listening to the rain on the canvas roof was very relaxing.

The first dive I did was with Greg. He had checked the tide charts, and 10 Mile Point was doable. 10 Mile was one of Greg's favorite dive sites, and for good reason. I had done it a few times in the past, and loved it. While often not possible due to the high current, that same current provided food for the explosion of life that lived there. Very very nice for a dive that is basically 10 minutes away from the city. I wished Vancouver had such a dive site. We had an additional advantage in that we planned to bring scooters. This made the dive even nicer, because we could enter the water at Spring Bay and scooter over to 10 Mile. The entry at Spring Bay was so much nicer than the steep rocks at 10 Mile. It also meant that we didn't have to worry so much about timing the tide just right. I got a very nice picture of all our scooters lined up, ready to go.

We were joined by Mark, whom I hadn't seen since the Hornby Island Sea Lion dive. We quickly geared up and were soon scootering over to 10 Mile. Greg ran the navigation, and did a good job as always. It was simple, we took a compass bearing to the point, dropped down and followed the bottom for about 5 minutes. This deposited us right on the wall. We came across another dive team there, but they didn't see us. I had met one of them in the parking lot, his name was Trevor. We stowed our scooters and proceeded to enjoy the fabulous dive: Cabezon, red Irish lords, buffalo sculpin, clown nudibranchs, gumboot chitons, baby Puget sound king crabs, huge schools of bait fish, leopard dorids, the list went on! I got a very small amount of green, grainy video.

These pictures are not mine, but they are representative of what we saw.

Red Irish lord

Clown nudibranch

Baby puget sound king crab

Leopard dorid

The visibility was good, maybe 20 feet. It wasn't the best, but since all the life was up close it didn't matter much. We didn't see any octopus, but Trevor reported during the surface interval that they saw seven! Why couldn't we see even one?

Greg and I did one more dive, and did the same thing again. There was a lot of fishing line and fishing lures littering the wall. You could tell it was a popular fishing spot. All the old line and cast off equipment marred such a nice dive site. That was the only down side. Maybe one day Victoria would make it a marine protected area.

Greg and I finished off a great day of diving with a snack and a hot drink at the Starbucks down the road. I couldn't wait for next time!

Friday, July 4, 2014

Topline Canada Day 01/07/2014

Happy Canada Day!

Jason Kolba messaged me asking if I could come out diving on Canada Day. It had been forever since we had got together for a dive. The day did not disappoint. It was sunny and clear. The picture above was taken by Jan at the end of the day, but I figured it would be great to put it first! Kevin and Jan of Sea Dragon Charters were their usual awesome hosts. They had a three dive day planned, two dives in the late morning, then a dusk dive and fireworks viewing. I only did the first two dives, as I had already had plans that evening with Heather.

On the boat I was not surprised to see Patricia and Andre.They were putting their new sidemount skills to use. Jason also had his wife Pia join us, but she relaxed in Horseshoe Bay while we were out diving.

On the boat ride, Sewell's Marina had their fast boat out, and were using the Topline's wake for some pretty impressive jumps! It was quite a spectacle.

Kevin joked that Sewell's shouldn't be so strict about the no-wake policy, since they were having so much fun using his.

Our first dive site was Halkett Wall, and it was a great dive. When we dropped down, we investigated the crack and rock ledge for octopus and wolf eels but saw none. However, there was a very nice tiger rockfish there. The giant plumose anemones covered much of the wall, and it was really neat to see the sheer rock covered by them. Steve from one of the other groups spotted and pointed out to us a whole mess of Cockerell's Nudibranchs. I had only seen these once before. Later, when we were talking about it, they apparently were seen up in Port Hardy, and it was interesting to see them this far south. Another interesting part of the dive was swimming through a bait-ball. I didn't know what kind of small silvery fish they were, but it was like the big schools of bait fish you'd see on nature shows. Not as thick, but still nothing like I'd ever seen before. It was good to see the little fish, since that meant more dolphins and other bigger things. We also spied a very large heart crab.

On the second dive, we went to Twin Peaks, a new dive site for me. There were two sea mounds close together, hence the name. Jason had dived it before, so he led the dive. It was a lovely little dive. We came across a swimming nudibranch, as well as a fried egg jelly fish caught and being devoured by anemone. I couldn't see how such a small anemone could eat the whole thing, but I guess a bit at a time works! Talk about being eaten alive. Jason also found an impressive decorated warbonnet in a cloud sponge. Very nice!

Here is some video from the dives.

All in all it was a fabulous way to spend Canada Day. When I was driving out, I was kind of sad that I had not worn red. But I realized my drysuit was red, and I even managed to get the Topline in frame for this picture! Jan made me wear the crazy hat in the second picture, and it also turned out great!