Sunday, March 29, 2015

Whytecliff 22/03/2015

I went out with Evan Soukas to do a full skills dive. It had been a long time since I had a dive focused solely on skills, and Evan was preparing for Tech 1 in the summer, so it seemed like a good idea!

We decided on Whytecliff because we wanted predictable conditions, and knew we wouldn't be looking for wildlife. That meant that we could go out at any time, and we picked a more sedate afternoon dive. It wasn't raining, and it wasn't too busy. There were about four or five other dive groups out that day. Ocean Quest for example was doing some open water work.

Evan and I geared up and went over our dive plan. We would find the best visibility we could around 30 or 40 feet, and deploy an SMB. Then we'd tie that off, and run a length of line to act as a reference point. Then we'd do the Basic 5 GUE skills, s-drills, valve drills, and gas switches, then recover the line and do a standard 3 meter per minute ascent to the surface. All this went very well.

There were a ton of dungeness crabs out, and the visibility was pretty good too. I was quite happy to be able to see Evan 20 feet away. On the way back in, I found a piece of camera gear in the shallows. Later, I posted it on Facebook. If someone could describe what they lost, and approximately where, I would be happy to reunite it with its rightful owner.

Here is a video sequence of me doing my part of the skills.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Kelvin Grove 18/03/2015

Evan Soukas and I decided to dive Kelvin Grove in the evening. Visibility had been pretty bad lately according to the Lower Mainland Divers Vis Report group on Facebook, so we were hoping that Kelvin would be ok. Often Kelvin was better when the visibility in other places was bad.

Tide conditions were good for that evening, and we planned to catch the falling tide. When we arrived, there were two divers coming out of the water. They said that it was pretty good. Encouraged, we put our gear together, took it down to the beach, parked the vehicles, put our drysuits on, and walked down. The locals had been cleaning up the trail and area even more this year. The creek which had been choked with brambles had been cleared out. Also, the bathrooms had motion sensing lights installed. The community garden was looking great too. Very nice work! It was a very nice evening, no rain, and warm. It was almost like summer diving was here.

Our dive plan was pretty simple. We planned to swim out for 25 minutes at 70 feet, then turn around and come back at 50 feet making an easy 60 foot average depth. At the end of the dive, we would do a few skills. The visibility wasn't that bad at all. We followed the bottom contour out, and the vis was about 10 feet. At 70, it got a bit better to maybe 20 feet. Not amazing, but not terrible either.

We found three ling cod egg masses on our way out. None of them had males guarding them, which was very strange. I reported what we found to the Vancouver Aquarium Ling Cod Egg Mass Survey. We found a lot of yellow margin dorids, along with regular white nudibranchs. In the boot sponges and cloud sponges, we found many nice red fur crabs and longhorn decorator crabs. We also found a very pretty looking worm. I looked it up later, and it was a white-ringed ribbon worm. This is what it looked like, using a photo that someone else took.

We also happened on a nudibranch egg mass, which looked like ribbons of white noodles. There was also a very interesting sculpin in the shallows when we were taking our fins off. It didn't look like a buffalo or great sculpin, and I was not able to figure out what it was.

We finished up a few skills, and took advantage of the cleared creek to do some rinsing on-site. Who needed a hose! A good little dive...

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Britannia Beach GUE Project Baseline 08/03/2015

Josh Gardner had been spearheading GUE Project Baseline work in Vancouver. A few months ago, I went along when the stations were installed at Britannia Beach. It was difficult to find the time and volunteers to visit the site regularly, and I was glad to help out. Josh had actually had divers discover the stations on their own, and submit visibility reports out of the blue which was great. The instructions posted on each station seemed to be paying off!

It was a very early morning start. High tide was at 7 am, and that coupled with the daylight savings time change meant that we were all getting up at about 4:30 am. It was a very pretty morning drive. The moon was out, and it was clear and cold. Josh, Dave Williams, Kevin Griffin, Dennis Diamond and myself all met at the Gallileo Coffee Company parking lot. We geared up and discussed our dive plan while enjoying the dawn.

I found a good overview map of all the wrecks at the site here:

One station was located at the north end (stern) of the CGS Ready. The other station was located near the north end of the Cape Swain. Josh and I formed one dive team, Dave, Kevin and Dennis formed the second team. Our plan was to descend on the CGS Ready and visit the Cape Swain station first, then lay a line from that station back to the Ready to help people find both. At the same time, we would get visibility, depth and temperature measurements from the stations.

The plan didn`t quite work out. The visibility was much worse than any of us had expected. The water was almost black, like tannic water in a river. Granted, part of the problem was the shallow depths of the stations, since the worst visibility seemed concentrated from 30 feet upward. Both teams got separated on the descent, despite our best efforts to remain close (guess they weren`t good enough!). On the plus side, having two teams defined allowed both groups to be autonomous and carry on with the dive. Josh and I completed all our goals, except we decided to leave off running any line. We were in touch contact for the majority of the dive. All our training certainly was paying off! We were able to accomplish a set of fairly complicated goals in very challenging conditions.

To give you an idea of the conditions, here was a picture of the station near the Ready, at about 40 feet.

Taking the visibility measurement was quite simple. You moved away from the chart until the outside white lines blended into the black bars. Then you noted the distance. You also noted the depth and the temperature.

This bit of video shows just how bad the visibility was.

After we finished the dive, we regrouped in the parking lot and decided to go for one more short dive to do some skills. Kevin was in a wetsuit, so he decided to forgo that dive. Dave and Josh did a few skills, and we finished up in about 20 minutes.

All in all a very successful day, and I couldn`t have asked for a better time on my birthday!

Topline 01/03/2015

Sea Dragon Charters invited me out to be a dive master on the Topline, and Heather came along too. It was a fun time! We had a small group of mostly new divers.

We had two dives, one at North Bowyer and one at Halkett Wall. In between, we went over to Halkett Bay to look over the proposed sinking site of the Annapolis (current note: the sinking will go ahead, with the last injunction lifted).

Heather got some interesting pictures. There was a large tanner crab on our descent.

The best encounter was a large decorated war bonnet in a crack.

A nice little cloud sponge.

rose sea star. The link is a pretty good online species list of sea stars.

Again, there were lots of Cockerell's Nudibranchs.

Finally, there was a very cool buffalo sculpin.

We also got some short video of the sculpin, and a large acorn barnacle.