Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Nanaimo GUE-BC 30-31/05/2015

I heard from Jim Dixon and Liz Tribe about some diving on Vancouver Island. With the visibility in Vancouver being less than stellar, it seemed like a great idea. It actually worked out to be a GUE-BC trip, with Jim, Liz, John Campbell, Dave Williams, Kevin Swodoa and myself. It also turned out to be a purely technical diving trip, with a Tech 2 team and a two Tech 1 teams.

Dave and I went over on the Saturday. It was a nice change to not have to get up early and try and jam everything into one day. In the ferry lineup, I got into the wrong truck at one point. It wasn't even the right colour truck! I started to get in and the driver commented "Uh, I think you are in the wrong truck". Whoops! It was pretty funny and Dave and I had a good laugh over it. We had a huge load of gear going over (actually this was a picture coming back, but you get the idea).

We met Jim in Ladysmith and the plan was to do some practicing passing and rotating bottles under water. I had never done this before as it was a Tech 2 skill, but I was game to try. The GUE Standard Operating Procedures had the bottle rotation steps under Routine Diving Operations. I needed to remember to review the SOP more often. It was always a good idea to review the standards periodically. I would not recommend attempting any procedures outside one's training, unless under very benign conditions and only if one felt confident in one's abilities, and under appropriate supervision.

Elliot Beach offered benign and ideal conditions. Visibility was pretty good for Elliot Beach, maybe 20-30 feet. Much better anyway than Vancouver!

 Once we got geared up, we headed in and got all our bottles sorted. It was quite challenging entering the water with three bottles. At the start of the dive, Jim deployed an SMB to provide a visual reference. Amusingly, the tire he chose to tie off to would not budge when he tried to get the line around. It was quite a challenge to find a place to tie off at Elliot as the bottom was mostly sand. Finally we found a spur of rock and got the SMB secured. The drills went well, and we got lots of good footage. Jim is the one with the orange gloves, Dave has a camo pattern on his suit, and I have the black and red suit.

On the way back, we came across a very big Lewis moonsnail. I was quite excited as I think these creatures are very interesting. This is not my picture, but one from the Kelp Forest Ecology course, from the University of California. We had actually wondered if we'd see any moonsnails, and we did!

Unfortunately, at the end of the dive we realized that we'd lost a bottle. When you were out practicing, it was imperative to pay complete attention and constantly keep track of all resources. It was a hard lesson to learn, but from now on I will always do just that. Hopefully the bottle would show up some day. Greg Nuttal and Shawn Buttle lost a bottle in a similar way, and it showed up on a beach months later. I sent notices to Nanaimo Dive Outfitters and Sundown Diving, as well as posting a notice on the Buy and Sell board of Facebook.

That night, Jim and Tori treated us to delicious barbecued burgers and macaroni salad. We reviewed the footage from the day, and did a good debrief. Then it was off to bed after petting Jim's kitty cats. Jim and Tori's hospitality was amazing as always. Thank you Jim and Tori! In the morning, Jim made eggs and coffee for us. I recommend staying at Chez Jim!

Diving commenced the next day in Nanaimo. Dave and I picked up John and Kevin at the Ferry, and headed to the Sea Dragon. We got everything set up and on board. With only six divers, it was pretty roomy. But with all those six planning tech dives, we still pretty much filled up the boat.

The first dive was at Gabriola Bluffs. The black, clear water was amazing to see. The visibility would be great! If you looked closely at this picture, on the center ledge were several cormorants. It had been a long time since I had dove the Bluffs. There were some very prominent rock overhangs underwater, and it would be interesting to check out the deeper depths.

Here was a picture of the Tech 2 team (Jim and Liz) descending.

The dive itself was great. On our descent, I missed connecting my light battery (had not happened in a long time). With a team of three, we had two working primary lights, and so I deployed my backup and we carried on. Our dive was to 42 meters or 140 feet, and the huge rock blocks we discovered were very interesting. The bottom sloped out from there, so the wall itself was not as shear as it appeared to be at more recreational depths. We saw tiger rockfish, juvenile canary rockfish, and a huge number of plumose anemones. On our ascent, both our teams deployed an SMB. Dave realized that two SMBs from the Tech 2 team meant an emergency. So Dave pulled his SMB back down. We had actually not talked about this procedure all together during the dive briefing, so it was good Dave remembered. I made a note to myself to pay more attention to organizing better briefings in the future.

Once back on board, we waited for the Tech 2 team to finish their deco and remained on standby just in case they needed anything. Once everyone was on board, it was off to the Cape Breton. Here from left to right was Kevin, me, and Dave.

After a leisurely motor over, we tied up amidships and finished off or our surface interval. Jim and Liz were only doing one dive that day, as theirs was pretty aggressive.

Kevin and I made one team, and we decided to explore the outside of the wreck near the stern. John and Dave were wreck certified, and so they planned to run a line and do a wreck penetration. Kevin and I had a great dive, and got good video.

The beginning of the video is from Elliot Beach first, deploying an SMB, then a giant nudibranch, and finally the lewis moonsnail. After that is the Cape Breton. We came across a small octopus in an indentation of the ship. The next thing was a decorated warbonnet (it didn't turn out the best). It was probably one of the biggest decorated warbonnets that I'd ever seen, and it was at the stern in the hole where the prop used to be. On our ascent, we stopped at the funnel and noticed the bubbles from the penetration team streaming out of the ship. It was pretty cool! Kevin showed off at the top of the funnel. Actually what he was doing was signalling me "where was the line?". I had made a mistake and brought us up the funnel instead of the amid-ships area. Whoops. A quick swim over and we were on the line, and up we went to complete our deco. Visibility was excellent. In the video, you could see the bubbles streaming past. You could also see the other team coming up on their deco as well. On the line were a plethora of opalscent nudibranchs and eggs. Lots of things to do and look at on this deco. Vis was at least 50 feet.

Once back, we had a good end to the day as shown in this picture!

And to top it off, we just got on the ferry, too!

Thanks again to Sea Dragon Charters, Liz, Jim and Tori for a great weekend... I could not wait until next time!

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