Thursday, November 26, 2015

GUE-BC Howe Sound Diving 2015 21-22/11/2015

Dave Williams organized two days of diving for GUE-BC with Sea Dragon Charters. Mostly it was to get people together for diving. But it was also to provide an opportunity for Vancouver Island divers to come over to "our side of the pond" to dive the relatively new artificial reef, HMCS Annapolis.

Lately it had been very cold, and the first morning began with a lot of scraping. It was a very nice weekend though despite the cold.

Horseshoe Bay was quiet and the visibility looked promising.

I started to unload my stuff as people showed up.

For the first day there was Jim Dixon, Evan Soukas, Dave Williams, Vlad Chernavsky, and Francois Keen. There were about six other divers on the boat as well, so we had a good compliment. I was pleased to see that our boat captain was Kevin. He and Jan had been in Florida for a while, and it was good to see him back. I'm sure he wasn't as glad to see the cold temperatures though! Kevin had two people helping him out on the boat as well since we had a large group. It turned out to be a good thing, because we realized that all of us were doing tech dives except for Francois! Thankfully, Bob was there to fill in as Francois' team mate.

Despite all the gear needed for our planned tech dives, we loaded quickly and then we were off! The first dive site we decided on was Ferndale, a newly discovered site. I had been on the Ferndale discovery dive not long ago. The boat ride out was fantastic.

Evan Soukas and I teamed up for diving today. It was also Evan's first tech dive in cold water after finishing his training in the Red Sea. It was going to be fun!

During the exploration dive Ferndale was great. I could see that it dropped off dramatically and we aimed to see if there was anything worth seeing deeper. Our dive plans were around 42 meters and one hour total run times. Evan and I came across a very cool brown box crab, a few small glass sponges, a huge giant nudibranch and large schools of perch. Unfortunately Ferndale didn't have anything unique to see other than good visibility and rock topography. We decided later that it was not really worth the expense of trimix. We had more fun and saw more on the deco portion of the dive! It was still good though. In the video below there is a section showing how dark it was. I also got some good video of the giant nudibranch swimming.

During our surface interval, Kevin motored us over to Worlcombe Island. It had been a very long time since I had been there. It looked very nice.

Years ago, there used to be basket stars here. I hoped that maybe they might still be here, only deeper (I had never seen them since). Our dive plans were for 39 meters, and one hour run times. It was a bit more challenging getting in the water here with more waves and boat movement. Dave asked for his camera rig to be passed to him, but the current swept us apart. Once in the water though, it was good. Evan and I headed to our planned depth but only came across sloping sand. Heading north, we did find the wall, but it started at 21 meters which was at the start of our deco. Once again, we saw more on our deco stops than we did on the dive. No basket stars, alas. But, we did find a very big octopus in a crack, many Nanaimo Dorids, and a few nice boot sponges.

I put together a video compilation of the whole weekend and you could see the first day here. The second day started when you come across the section where I do a walk through of the boat.

We packed it in for that day and headed back to the dock. It was a great boat ride back. We decided to meet for some food and beverages after, and we found a nice warm place with a fireplace.

Dave and Evan discovered the poutine appetizer and Dave liked it so much he had two. We had a good old time reminiscing and talking about diving.

The next day dawned, and it was back to Horseshoe Bay to dive the Annapolis! Evan had a suit problem and had to cancel, so I dove with Vlad. I brought my scooter, and myself, Vlad, John Campbell and Dennis Diamond formed "Team Scooter" for that day.

Here was a group shot heading out that morning. I missed a lot of people though! Liz Tribe, Marc, Gord and Dave were all missing here unfortunately.

We had a great set of two dives. I'd not scootered on the Annapolis before and it was a blast. The big cut outs made for excellent swim throughs. On the second dive, Vlad and I did a short penetration then spent the rest of the time scootering around the wreck. Vlad had us try some formation scootering and it turned out pretty good. The order from left to right: me, Vlad, John, and Dennis.

Dave put together an excellent video compilation of the inside of the wreck here. His video light set up worked very well.

The Annapolis didn't have a lot of life on it yet. But it had attracted large numbers of schooling perch.

Finally, this is a good picture of a very happy Dave, and summed up pretty much how we all felt all weekend. It was a great time!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

BARE Sports Dive 17/11/2015

Heather invited me along on a BARE sports dive that her coworker Wendy organized. I couldn't think of a better reason to take a day off work, than to go diving! We were going out with Sea Dragon Charters, whom we hadn't been out with for some time. Kevin and Jan were in Florida, so there was new boat crew with Captain Steve and Bob who was dive mastering.

It did not start out to be a promising day. In the morning it was rainy and windy and there were many gale warnings for Howe Sound. Looking out the window I was really thinking we'd have to cancel. But, as so often happens with the weather you have to go and see, so we did. It was a good thing, as we hit a perfect clear weather window. The rain lifted and the wind died down. It wasn't calm, but it was good.

We all met at the winter dock where the Topline was moored and loaded things up. 

On board were Wendy, Darrel, Max, Peter, Arin, Heather and myself. Darrel was finishing some training with Peter, and so Wendy, Max, myself and Heather made the other team.

We headed out.

It was a bit of a rough ride out, and Captain Steve was looking for the calmest places for us to dive. We found that the North Pinnacle at Bowyer Island was not bad. It let us tie up as well.

We were soon in the water and were greeted by pretty good visibility. I was happy that even with all the rain that there had been there was no cloudy surface layer. At the bottom of the line, we sorted ourselves out and began our dive. It was quite a lot of fun! Both Wendy and Max were newer divers and had not been boat diving before. We saw ling cod, plumose anemones, copper rockfish and a small Lion's mane jelly fish. I ended up surfacing a bit sooner with Wendy, and Heather finished the dive ascending up the pinnacle with Max. On the boat, we discovered we had inadvertently brought back many Alaskan Skeleton shrimp that were covering the line. They were quite tiny and stuck to you like glue.

During the dive briefing, Bob asked us to keep an eye out for a dive computer that had been lost. We didn't see it, but Bob actually was able to find it! It was an excellent example of recovery diving.

We warmed up some, and headed to the next dive site. The weather opened up more, and there was even some sunshine! We settled on the north side of Bowen island at a place called Stairway to Heaven. I had dove it before, and my friend Jason Kolba always commented it was one of his favorite spots. Wendy went with Darryl and Peter this time to work on some skills, and Max needed to warm up more, so Heather and I hit the water.

Stairway to Heaven was great. We saw schools of perch, copper rockfish, a painted greenling and a very cool anemone. Heather got a good picture.

We also found a very pretty rhinoceros crab.

And here was a short video clip Heather got of the same crab.

Normally we didn't take pictures of sea cucumbers, but this one was small and cute.

Finally, a good picture of a vermilion star and some green urchins.

We found a very large yellow nudibranch.

A cool spidery longhorn decorator crab.

A very pretty painted anemone.

Tons of (probably) snail eggs covered the rocks.

A yellow margin dorid.

A small cute sea lemon.

By the time we surfaced and got back on board, the light was fading fast. We headed back to Horseshoe Bay and it turned out to be just in time. Just as we had unloaded the boat, a huge wind storm came through. There was metal banging, trees swaying and things flying. We watched all this from the comfort of the Bay Moorings restaurant, since we all got together there for a drink and an appetizer and to swap stories.

On the way home the highway was jammed. We noticed that there were many traffic lights out, and many homes dark. Later, we found out what happened. One of the hydro substations in North Vancouver exploded in a very impressive flash.

Fortunately, our power was on, and we enjoyed the rest of the evening snug at home.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Whytecliff 04/11/2015

Jim posted on Facebook saying that he was in Vancouver for work, and that he and several others were planning to do a night dive at Whytecliff. It had been a while since I had seen Jim, so I was very happy that I could make it. The previous weekend I had tried to get out, but things fell through. I did get a good picture of the Cut entry though. It gave a good idea of how much of how hairy it can be. Needless to say, if the dive had gone ahead that day, we wouldn't have been entering here!

Whytecliff Wednesdays were still happening, however we planned to meet a bit earlier. Getting there early also meant that we could take advantage of the remaining daylight. It was getting dark very very early. When I arrived, Jim was there already. Vlad, Dennis and John all showed up as well, making it the biggest get-together of GUE-BC divers on the mainland for some time! It was also definitely winter diving season, as this picture showed. The SurfFur dive coat that Heather got me for Christmas last year was getting put to good use!

Our dive plan was to check out the octopus den just past the boxes, follow the rock wall down to the boulders and the second octopus den before the plumose garden, head towards the Cut for about 20 minutes, then turn around and come back and do some skills in the bay. Jim, John and myself formed one team, and Dennis and Vlad formed the other. We started the dive together, but I had an issue with my suit zipper and we had to pause the dive. Once we were ready to go again, Dennis and Vlad had decided to keep going. We found the boxes and headed past them to the rocky crack, but there was no octopus in today. Visibility was pretty good, but less than it had been not long ago. The second area down the contour also didn't have an octopus home. Strike two! We kept going through the plumose garden where we came across many large golden dironas. John got some good pictures.

We came across a pretty cool tanner crab. Jim picked him up briefly, but it wasn't too happy with that!

Passing through the plumose garden, we saw lights approaching. Since part of our dive plan was to return at 18 meters, I took us along at that depth and sure enough we ran into Dennis and Vlad. Dive planning showing its benefits!

With both teams re-united, we continued to explore. We saw many very nice rhinoceros crabs, along with very large white nudibranchs and more golden dironas. We came across the memorial plaque, and I checked under it for an octopus, but no luck. Strike three! Here was a picture of Jim's hand and a rhinoceros crab.

On the way back to the bay, a seal used our dive lights to help hunt for fish. A black torpedo flying out of the darkness was a bit disconcerting but very cool. Our two teams got separated again, and so John, Jim and I did our skills on our own. They went well. We did valve drills, s-drills, and gas switches. On my valve drill, John said that a stubby squid swam right over my head. This wasn't our picture, but it was a good one of what it would have looked like (Eli Wolpin of the folks from Whytecliff Wednesdays posted this picture, and said that they saw a bunch of stubby squid too).

Swimming back into the bay was a real treat. The schools of perch flashed silver all around us. A great dive! When we were packing up, the rain started, so it was a good time to head home.