Dive Report: Another Vancouver Island trip

Scuba Diving on the Great Escape Southern California Live-Aboard Dive Boat

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Posted by Jon on August 23, 2001 at 01:02:39:

In Reply to: Back on track - Dive Report: Diving the Big Green posted by c2cdiver on August 22, 2001 at 22:45:26:

Thanks for the great report. I can relate since I just got back from a family vacation up there August 8-16. The rest of my family are non divers so I could only spend a couple of days diving. Altogether, the trip was fantastic. The weather was perfect and we were lucky enough to see orcas in the Georgia Strait and about a dozen gray whales in Barkley Sound on the other side of the island.

The first couple of days of our trip were spent sightseeing in Victoria. On the third day, we drove half way up Vancouver Island to the town of Campbell River, where I had arranged dive with Abyssal Charters (www.abyssal.com). I loaded my gear aboard the boat, a 25-foot aluminum outboard with a harsh ride and an forehead-high canopy that I headbutted more than once. But the boat had one redeeming quality -- it was really fast.

I shook hands with the five other divers on the boat and we were off ? banging across the Discovery Passage at top speed. By the time we reached the dive site ? Steep Island ? we were suited up and ready to go. We were greeted by a bald eagle sitting in the pines overlooking the water.

The group on the boat, all from Vancouver, had dived there the day before, and enjoyed it so much they wanted to do it again. I was promised a sheer wall covered with purple tube worms and the strong likelihood of dogfish.

Just as the tide turned we hit the water. I had buddied up with two other divers and I followed their lead. We glided down the near-vertical wall, covered with worms, waving like purple feather dusters. Before I could really get my bearings, a three-foot dogfish darted out of the green and made a close pass. So cool! We dropped down to about 85 feet and we start drifting along in a mild current. The wall was stacked with life. Apart from the tubes, there were anemones ? corynactis, roses, greens, metriums and others types I?d never seen before ? interspersed with tunicates, sponges and scallops. Clambering on top of these were sea stars, sunflower stars, urchins, gumboot chitons, sea cucumbers and all kinds of crabs. Rockfish ? predominantly of the tiger, flag, copper and China varieties ? hung in crevices, while monster lings and cabezon rested on ledges, staring us down and charging off (or occasionally at us) if we got too close. Above us, I could see the thick stalks of bull kelp pulled taut by the current. All this was pretty typical for a Campbell River dive, I discovered.

As I was taking all this in, the current really started to pick up. We came to an area where the bottom flattened out at 50-60 feet and we skimmed along just a few feet off the bottom. Then to make things even better, the dogfish arrived in force, zooming toward us, veering away into the green gloom and darting back again.

After this first dive, my family and I checked into Abyssal?s lodge on Quadra Island. It turned out that the other divers are not staying at the lodge and so my wife, the kids and I had the huge place to ourselves. Our host, (also skipper, divemaster and former chef) Earl, cooked a great salmon dinner for us and then left to work at his other job. This left us to enjoy the hot tub, big screen TV etc. Not bad for $100 US a night for the whole family (including meals and diving).

Next morning, I got down to the dock early to meet Earl and the other divers for a trip to HMCS Columbia, sister ship to the Yukon.

We zip out to the dive site and hit the water. Dropping down, the wreck appears very quickly. Although it sits in 120 fsw, it?s almost upright and the top portions are probably less than 50 feet down. The wreck is a much more advanced state of colonization than the Yukon, although it is still nothing like the Ruby E. There was plenty to see, including swimming scallops, big lings and some beautiful translucent tunicates.

After that dive, we motored on to the next site: Row and Be Damned (great name). This was another drift dive along a wall, which included the same riot of marine life as well as a Puget Sound king crab.

The last dive was at April Point Wall. We waited for the slack tide and dropped down into the kelp. We descended the wall to about 80 feet, drifting along in the mild current and checking out the densely populated cliff face (see Steep Island, without tube worms). After a few hundred feet, the wall dissolved to a more gradual rocky slope and we ascended 20 feet or so and then backtracked along the wall again. We repeated this pattern several times. On one pass, we were lucky enough to be buzzed by a dogfish.

Altogether, four very memorable dives.

At the risk of being greedy, my only regret was not seeing an octopus or a wolf eel. However, one of the divers on the boat told me that there is a good chance of seeing eels and octopuses at the breakwater in Victoria.

We were staying in Victoria for the last two nights of our trip, so naturally I wanted to see if I could squeeze in a dive at the breakwater ? billed as the ?Best Beach Dive in Canada? ? their equivalent to Casino Point, I suppose. Ogden Point Dive Center, which is right on the breakwater, organizes a dive every night at 6 p.m., and I made it down there on the last night. There were two other guys going out and they let me tag along.

We geared up in the parking lot and then walked about half way along the breakwater. There, we entered the water in the most fun fashion ? a simultaneous jump/roll so that we landed on our backs in the water. We descended to about 50 feet and then started swimming parallel to the boulder wall, which reminded me of Casino Point. There wasn?t nearly as much life as in Campbell River, although there were some nice metridiums, rose and green anemones. The bottom was littered with dead kelp fronds and big lings blended in perfectly, making it easy to miss them until they bolted straight at you.

My two buddies had promised to see if they could find an octopus and/or wolf eel for me. We missed the former but found the latter in all its glory. It was huge (female, I think) and quite beautiful in her ugly way. One of the divers shucked scallops for her and she came half out of her hole. As we departed, I grabbed a piece of scallop and dropped it into to the eel?s waiting jaws.

A wonderful end to a wonderful trip. Not seeing an octopus just gives me a good excuse to go back soon!

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