05 September 2006

Vancouver Island Diving


Christine's sister, her husband and their daughter planned another visit here to Seattle and to Parksville on Vancouver Island. Eric (brother-in-law/dive buddy found this nice little resort there. Pacific Shores Resort and Spa. We had stagged our Nanaimo dives out of there 2 years ago. Eric and I had talked about taking a drysuit specialty course together and I had called a few dive shops here in Seattle, but with such short notice, and the short time that they were staying here we couldn't get anything booked. It looked like we weren't going diving after all. Christine and I were to take a ferry accross from Tsawassen to Sidney and they were meeting us there. Just so happens that there was a dive shop right in the area where they were waiting. Eric walked in and was talking to the owner, got the dive bug, and the next thing you know we were planning dives.

The dive shop, Liquid Heaven, I would go to again, and would recommend. The owners were friendly, organized, and had plenty of rental equipment. We, not planning to dive, had no equipment, and rented everything.

The Buoyancy Compensator was a Tusa. Tusa Liberator, I believe. I did not like the placement of the control buttons on this BC, although on the surface it held my face high out of the water, and my body in an upright, comfortable position. Whereas Seaquest BC's tend to put me face down in the water, on the surface. I think I might have been able to jam most, if not all of the weight into the BC insted of dragging around the 30 pound weight belt that the shop rented to me. I could have at least rented a lighter one and added weight on the boat. Come to think of it having the weight on the belt insted of the BC pockets maybe what gave me a more upright position on the surface. The mask was also a Tusa, of the Liberator line. This mask didn't liberate me from anything. You could say I needed to be liberated from it! It was my biggest complaint. The top of the mask pressed on my fore head like a steel bar throughout the dive, regardless of equalization. My own mask is an Aqua Lung Quartz 1 which has a bit more soft material between the hard plastic/glass portion and my head. Liquid Heaven did not rent dive computers. Which is a real bummer because I like to record everything.

The dive site, or rather the boat dock, is about a 2 and 1/2 hour drive from where we were staying. If we dive there again I would stay closer. Liquid heaven did not have their own dive boat so they chartered us through Rockfish Divers operating out of Brentwood Bay Lodge and Spa. (Brother-in-law, Eric is standing in their boat in the picture above.) So if I were to dive in the same locations I would cut out the middle man, Liquid Heaven (sorry guys), and just rent from Rockfish. It would save me from dragging equipment from one place to the other, time, and money. Also according to Rockfish divers website, they rent dive computers. Why didn't I think of that when I got on the boat? They even rent DPV's (Sea Doo Scooters). All of the people at Rockfish were friendly, helpful and knowledgeable.

The first dive site of the day is called "White Lady" because at a 100 feet or so there are these huge white sponges, although we didn't dive that deep, and they say they are dying and no one knows why. On the surface White Lady is marked by a small rocky island which, on this day, had about 8 seals/sea lions? on it. There were 8 of us on the first dive. We all decended at once causing a huge cloud of silt on the bottom. Vis was cut to about 5 feet. Stay off the bottom. Watch your fin kicks. Although I'm guilty of this myself. Eric was having trouble staying down. He was underweighted. I wasn't aware of this. Everyone took off. I followed and then spent about 5 minutes looking for Eric. No Eric so I surfaced. There he was, of course. He got his buoyancy problem sorted out and we went back down with another diver who also lost the group. Once at depth (we stayed around 40-60 feet), and away from everyone else the vis opened up to about 30 feet. We saw the typical cold water stuff. None of the elusive 'cool' creatures came out (octo, wolf eel, 6 gill), the seals didn't even join us. In fact, when we surfaced they were gone from the island altogther.

Back to the dock to drop 2 people off and then out to Willis point wall for dive 2. This would be a good site but again everyone was stiring up the soup. I was torn between looking at sea life, my buddy, and trying to keep up with the leader. I think Eric and I would have got more out of it traveling at a slow, leisurely, observant pace. Besides the typical fish, I saw a 3 foot "dogfish" shark.

At both sites I was only slightly cold. I wore a 7mm shorty over a 7mm farmer john, with bootes, gloves and a hood. The outside air was around 70F, surface temp around 65F and about 55F at depth. Once again we didn't have a cool computer to give us all the exact information. Both dives were in the Saanich Inlet which is very smooth most of the time. Almost like a lake. All together it was a good experience. View some photos here as well as my other scuba photos here- http://www.flickr.com/photos/neutralbuoyancy/sets/72157594446978102/.

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