DIVING THE BIG GREEN (2002)
ã Walter Marti
walter @ diver . net
On July 21, I departed for Victoria, British Colombia to embark on a five day live-aboard on the Clavella. After being ‘underway’ for over 13 hours (I could almost have driven there), I arrived in Victoria. Without luggage! It arrived four hours later. Thanks for the adventure, Alaska Airlines! I finally met up with Linda B. We spent the night in Victoria, and took a leisurely and incredible scenic, six hour drive to Port Hardy. At Port Hardy we were unable to immediately locate the Clavella. After four hours, I started making frantic phone calls. I was told where the boat was docked and waited another two hours until someone showed up. The deck hand Peter had been waiting for us at a local pub. That sounded a lot nicer than waiting in a car, to bad no one told us about that. In all fairness, Linda did get an email to this meeting spot. The problem was, we were half way into our scenic drive when it was sent to her. Ahhh, more adventure!
The boat was built in the 30's by Boeing Aircraft, and I don’t think it has ever been updated. But, it was charming. This being only the second ‘liveaboard’ I’ve been on. I’d equate it as the ‘Westerly’ of liveaboards. (Captain Jim, I mean that in a good way). The Westerly at least updated from the hand pump marine head, to an electric head. As for the captain of the Clavella, John deBoeck, I have no ill words, a very knowledgeable, capable and amusing character. To introduce the remainder of the people aboard, Amos Nachoum, a professional underwater photographer (www.biganimals.com), and that was the entire roster. On our trip to the first dive site, we were treated to a breaching humpback whale. Why wasn’t he in Hawaii? Why wasn’t I in Hawaii??
Diving is slack tide dependant. They have about eighteen foot tidal changes up here. This causes some ripping currents. Our motis operandi was wake up at 6 am, grab a cup of coffee, gear up, board the skiff and off we went on our first dive of the day. Come back, take off all gear, warm up, have breakfast, nap, wake up at noon, and do it all again. Every six hours. Water temperatures was 48 to 52 degrees. With all the down time, I never got cold. Visibility was a green 30 to 50 feet. It was a very relaxing trip.
The captain tried to impress us with one of the top dives of the area. Browning Wall, it goes down hundreds of feet from the surface. Covered in white metridiums, soft corals, metridiums, lots of diverse invertebrates, metridiums, a macro heaven, and more metridiums. When a metridium is spotted off an oil rig in Southern California, or in Monterey, everyone just ohh’s and ahh’s. It is true, what a friend told me after his trip to Vancouver Island, ‘they make a pretty good hand hold in a current’. After the dive the three of us were unimpressed. It’s hard for me to take macro video shots on a sheer vertical wall, I can’t anchor my camera. Linda loved it, but been there done that. Amos, thought it was nice, what was the name of his website again?? John suggested we try a spot for wolf eels, not very picturesque, but surrounded by wreckage of a sunken ship. Great dive. Lots of stuffs. And, I could anchor my video camera. Linda and I didn’t have to find the wolf eels, they found us. At least one did. He came out and was all over Linda. She had to push him away to get a picture. I got some great video of the two interacting. Amos, went the wrong way and didn’t see them. After seeing my video, he was impressed. “No one has shots like these!” He inquired if we could go again. Fine by us. He asked Linda what it would take for her to leave her camera behind and haul a second camera for him, and be his model. She told him that a great shot of her and the eel, that she could put on the wall would be payment. Deal!!
My duty was to find the same spot. Which I did, and the eel found us again. He unloaded 72 shots on the two of them, I got more video. We all came back elated. And six hours later, we did it again. Linda, the model and Amos shooting 72 more.
After the eels we tried a change of pace. More beautiful metridium clad walls. I spied a fish I wanted to video. It dashed into a small cave, I looked inside and didn’t see anything. Outside I found a pretty little nudibranch and set up a macro shot. Suddenly my camera was being grabbed from me. I look up and see a six foot octopus with four arms on my camera and four still in that small cave. After a quick tug of war, he realized it wasn’t as tasty as he had thought.
There were high wind warning for the first few day we were there. The Clavella hid out in a quiet cove on Nigei Island, at The Hideaway, a floating house, lodge, boat slips, and miscellaneous out buildings (all needing work). This was our base of operation. After the fourth day, the winds subsided and we finally moved on to a new locale, Shushartie Bay on Vancouver Island. There we made three more dives for wolf eels, as well as octopus.
When returned back to Port Hardy, Linda and I went south to Port McNeil to do some whale watching. We went out on a boat, and whales we did see. Lots of Orcas, Killer Whales and a sole humpback.
It was a really enjoyable and kind of different trip. My idea of vacation always included, palm trees, rum drinks with little umbrellas and bikinis. Not conifers, rum toddies and drysuits. Would I do it again? I could be talked into it. I experienced many things I hadn’t before, and enjoyed them all.
UPDATE: The Clavella is no more. John is still showing the underwater beauty of the area. His business is now a ‘landbased’ operation from The Hideaway.