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March 24th, 2008

Oops

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Man, I've been doing really bad with the whole "keeping up with my online dive log" thing! I've done 6 dives in the last 3 days, helping Liz finish an open water certification course, then taking 2 of the students out on the GB Church (an ore freighter sunk as an artifical reef in '91), and then 2 more today guiding a guy out on the breakwater. OH MY. I'm used to walking to work for 15 minutes, then more or less sitting at a desk or strolling around the office as I work. I'm soooo tired!

January 24th, 2008

I've never successfully dove Mackenzie Bight. The last time I tried my ears were doing something very odd, and when we hopped in (and admittedly dropped right down to 94ft, which does increase the chance of this happening), I just couldn't quite equalize right so I was SO dizzy and disoriented that I called it after only 12 min. Even ascending to 65 ft didn't' help anything, so I wasn't just narced! Anyway... enough about that! On to the really good dive!

Liz and Scott had invited me to join them and their two open water students, along with Ken, another person I've hit the water with a couple of times. Ken was my dive buddy. Neither of us had been in the water much in the last few months, but we both are competent divers and decided to just take it nice and easy on the first dive to reaquaint ourselves with everything. It was a really nice dive! We went out at #1, and headed to the right. It was daylight(!!!), and I'm certainly NOT used to seeing everything - the viz was great so I didn't even realize how deep we were. We hit 74ft when I finally remembered the feeling of the water meant I'd gone below 70, and I needed to pay a little more attention to my computer - see, I really shouldn't get this out of practice! It was just so nice to be out there, though.

We swam down the side of the wall, not all the way down (too bad, there are giant boot sponges bigger that me at about 105 ft) but just exploring our way around. There were perch and rockfish, the usual, and crabs and lots of starfish. I found one single moon jelly, and blew a few bubbles at it... it swirled away. I found a baby medusa jelly, maybe the size of my little fingernail, that I didn't blow any bubbles at, and even one lonely baby squid like I saw on this dive.

There was one crab about the size of a toonie that was white with a black diamond on its shell. I don't know what it was, but it might have been a strangely coloured umbrella crab. Cute little guy, anyway!

For a first dive in a while, it was amazing. Just relaxing, great viz, good dive buddy, and all around fun.


Stats:
Time down: 35 min
Max Depth: 76 ft.
Temperature: 46 ° F
Wearing: Bare crushed neoprene drysuit, 32 lbs weight plus 6 lb backplate, Force Fins
Dive: shore, salt

January 13th, 2008

I'm baaaaack!

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Or rather, I'll be back tomorrow!
Yeah, finally getting back in the water, after too many months of stress, sickness, horrible viz and bad weather, and heading to Manitoba to see my family and coming back with a nasty chest cold, I'm actually going diving!


Eeep. I better get some sleep, though.

October 9th, 2007

Do they do underwater IT?

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As many people know, I've had some health concerns lately. The most recent significant concern is that I've been getting really debilitating headaches, including an aura prior to them where I literally lose most of my sight. This is bad, as I use my eyes for things like seeing what I type when I write posts, navigating while driving, checking my computer and gauges, and looking at interesting fish and other life while diving. What fun is diving if you can't see?

Today I saw my doctor, and we talked. She agrees that they are textbook examples of classic migraine headaches. One very important thing to reduce frequency of migraines, and help with IBS symptoms - my other significant health concern - is to reduce stress as much as possible. This sadly doesn't give me the excuse to lounge about being fed grapes and fanned lightly. Instead, I have to be a little more practical and find things that I love to help my life feel better. My doctor came up with a plan that she thought might help me do what I love and solve the stress issue.

I should pursue a career in scuba diving.



That's hilarious. I'm STILL laughing as I type that. Don't get me wrong - I would love to dive more, and to make money at it. However, as the sort of main breadwinner of the family, I'm somewhat aware of exactly how much this new career would pay, and I have a few concerns as to other potential stresses it might cause. Stresses like hunger, homelessness, etc. Scott had the most hilarious expression of confusion and horror on his face when I told him, and he's the most successful diver I know. Sooo... yeah, I'm not running off to join the diver circus yet, but it's nice to be reminded that diving is something that's actively helping my life, and that I am lucky to be able to participate in something so amazing. I really don't mind that Bo gets to pursue diving, but for me, now, and in the near future? I really can't see it. I'll get back to you guys after I win that lottery I don't buy tickets for.

October 7th, 2007

Thanksgiving Octopus

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I dove with my new regulators today!

Liz and Gord (two divemaster candidates from the shop, Liz being someone I dive with fairly often) had a number of guided dives they each did today, so I showed up with all of my gear and joined them for the final dive of the day. What fun! I'm so used to using rental regs, as I've only borrowed Bo's 2 or 3 times ever, that this was quite a treat. The Scubapro X650 breathes very nicely, and is quite small compared to the rentals so it doesn't feel like it's getting drag when you're swimming in current. I need to play with it to tune it just right, but I really like it. I practised swapping to my backup, too, which is not a normal octopus, but a Scubapro Air2. This eliminated a dangling mouthpiece, plus it's much easier to find than a traditional octopus. I've liked the idea for a long time, and now I've got it! Woo! You definitely don't have the same ability to move your head around a lot with the Air2 in your mouth, because it's attached to the heavy hose that you use to inflate your BCD, so it's kind of stiff. Still, you have enough mobility, and it's still easy to clear, and to control your buoyancy in your BCD.

We had a short dive today, as most people needed to be out to catch ferries, but Liz did show us the location of the resident octopus, so I got to check him out. He's huge! I hope I can see him out and about someday. On the way back in I also found an umbrella crab! They're funny looking little guys. The one I found was sort of a light tan colour, and about the size of my palm.

Here is a picture that I did not take of another one. They are cute!


By the time we got out the weather was getting pretty nasty, so I didn't go back for another longer dive. Oh well... at least I got a little exercise after my Thanksgiving potluck feast with diving friends last night, and my family gathering dinner tonight!


Stats:
Time down: 31 min
Max Depth: 40 ft.
Average Depth: 24 ft.
Temperature: 48 ° F
Wearing: Bare crushed neoprene drysuit, 26 lbs weight plus 6 lb backplate, Force Fins
Dive: shore, salt

October 5th, 2007

grr.
So CSI:NY starts off with a race between New Jersey and New York, and in the middle of the race they run over this body in full scuba gear.

Dude was murdered, so no one needs to get upset about a dive accident, but holy MOLY are they getting everything wrong wrong wrong.

Firstly, Danny looks at his dive console and say "Oh, he's at 90%!" and Mac says "How can a diver with a tank nearly full of oxygen and a spare regulator run out of air??" Um. I always fill my tank to 'half' with O2. Yep.

Girl on the show says "When I first started diving I was TERRIFIED of water, but now I'm, like, certified!!".

All of the divers talk and dress and act like stereotypical SURFERS. Dude.

And then Danny and Sheldon(?) hop into the east river in drysuits, and SPLIT UP to search the artificial reef. No, there's no surface support team, just Mac with his laptop. Wreck penetration with no gear.

Wow. It's amazing how much they've gotten wrong or just not accurate.

Oh gah. Now the CSIs who don't know anything about diving are doing some wreck diving around 160ft. The viz sure is awesome, though. Not a teeeeeny bit of silt anywhere, even when they're disturbing the bottom.




I hate CSI when I know it's so wrong. Why do I watch this?

September 27th, 2007

Night scootering!

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The Ninja Pirates strike again!

This time, the scene of the battle was Henderson Point. Home to reefs, a canyon, sixgills and octopus, this is a really crazy dive site that's easily accessible from shore, if you can make it down a little rock cliff.

I borrowed Liz's scooter, and Bo took his, and we headed out to the first reef. Bo was leading, and I was worrying about buoyancy, etc more than direction, so I'm not sure if we hit the first or second reef when we stopped, but as we were at 59 feet I think we were just between them. We put the scooters down and swam around on the reef to see what we could find. Of course, other divers in our group found us and took a little joyride on the scooters while we were exploring, but besides that little bit of shenanigans, it was a good idea. ha.

This was my first real dive since the Port Hardy trip, and the difference in amount of life was striking, especially since I'd always considered Henderson Point to be very covered in, well, everything! Still, it had it's share of abundant life forms. The most noticeable at this dive location at night are the shrimp. You shine your light around, and all you see are little pink eyes shining back at you. It's actually kind of funny, as they don't seem to know that you can see them. There were skinny orange starfish and fat pale starfish, and lots of pink sunstars. At one point, it looked like a sunstar was reaching up a wall face, and then put it's arms back down on top of a rockfish, which it immedetly and violently launched itself off of. I just caught the sight of this foot and half wide sunstar flipping over backwards and an irritated tiger rockfish swimming away from it. Very amusing to me. There were the usual rockfish, some perch, a few sculpins, and some crab. There were also a bunch of the little sea gooseberries, which have cillia up their sides that shimmer like a rainbow when your light hits them.

On the first reef, we found this great big crack in the rock... and lo and behold, a tentacle! A VERY BIG tentacle, too! Suckers the size of loonies, I'd guess, which I think means it would be over 10 feet if it had decided to come out and say hello! Well, he was sleeping, and not in the mood to play, so we eventually swam off.

The point of the dive was to see if we could find any six gilled sharks, as they've been spotted a few times around there in recent months, but no one was lucky enough to spot any. We did bring a few fish pieces along in a bucket, and when Bo and I came across the bucket there were some crabs having a regular war over whose territory, and thus whose fish bits, it was. Pretty amusing.

When we stopped for our safety stop, I started noticing these little fish all over. They were only in the top 18ish feet of water, about 2-3 inches long, and kind of white/grey. They were shaped sort of like a ratfish, but may have been some kind of sculpin. I've looked in a couple of books, but I still don't know what they were. There were hundreds of them, though, hiding in kelp, floating in midwater (they'd just drop like a stone into the kelp when you shone a light on them!), just everywhere. Pretty cool!

This was also the very first dive with *MY* very awesome brand spanking new dive computer. I can actually press the buttons now and tell you exactly what I did on the dive. And clearly, I was having too much fun with the scooter, and wasn't all that great at riding it yet, because in some of my zooming around the reefs I clearly ascended far too fast as my computer has some blinking warnings. Oops.

I have more accurate stats, now, though!

Stats:
Time down: 52 min
Max Depth: 65 ft.
Average Depth: 44 ft.
Temperature: 51 ° F
Wearing: Bare crushed neoprene drysuit, 26 lbs weight plus 6 lb backplate, Force Fins
Dive: Salt, scooter, shore, night

September 19th, 2007

Scoooooootering!

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I got to try scootering UNDER the water instead of above like I usually do!

Bo, Chris V and Liz decided to buy these scooters from some place that... well, it's just a little cheaper than what seems right, so we like to joke that they "fell off" the back of a semi. Ha. Well, they arrived, and we took them out. Chris Clark, Liz and I decided to take them out for a test run off the breakwater. We only had 2 that were charged up, so we planned to trade off.

We hopped in the water just before the first dive flag with the plan that if the batteries were not fully charged, we wouldn't end up going too far out so it wouldn't be too tiring to swim back in. Also, we didn't want to keep Bo in the shop much longer than necessary.

What fun. OH MY. These scooters arn't overly powerful and are about as fast as if you got kicking at a good pace without overexerting yourself, but it's so fun to go that fast with no effort at all! We tried loop the loops (I kept tipping over and water would get in my ear), and Chris did some lovely ballet-inspired twirls. It was enough fun to just sit on the bottom and watch the other two go all crazy, even!

We did stop by the statue for a while and I watched one baby cabezon chase a slightly smaller baby cabezon around in the sand at the base of the statue. It was pretty funny, and the bigger one also got pretty aggressive towards my finger when i wiggled it at him. Ha!

In short, scooters are fun.



Stats:
Time down: 26 min
Depth: 25 ft.
Wearing: Bare crushed neoprene drysuit, 26 lbs weight plus 6 lb backplate, Force Fins
Dive: Salt, scooter

September 9th, 2007

Last Dive in Port Hardy

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The final dive of the day... we were all exhausted. We sure weren't going to cut it short just because of a little exhaustion, though! No way. We talked about potential sites with our boat captain, and decided to return to the site of our first dive. It was an easy location, beautiful, and we wouldn't be worrying about current and stuff so the fact we were so pooped would be ok.

Back to Hussar Point we went. As we were getting ready, a humpback whale came around a nearby island! Now, this is way more welcome than orcas, as humpbacks are beautiful, and instead of aggressive and mean they're just a little curious but quite shy. He didn't come too close to the boat, and alas, after we went in the water he moved farther off, so no one saw him underwater, either.

Hopping into the incredibly clear water, we descended to the bottom at 40 feet, and headed for the empty octopus den we'd found on the first dive. It was still empty, but there were a few more crab and things around. We just toured around, trying to stay out of the current that was coming up from the wall we'd explored the previous dive as much as possible. I was starting to have some problems with my gear, too. My regulator had been making some strange noises earlier that day when I enhalled, and now it was starting to let a little water in, just a teeny bit, in a sort of splashing way, and when I stopped inhaling a lot of air would then come out of the exhaust valve. Well, I was slightly worried that the splashing water would suddenly hit my throat and I'd cough, which REALLY sucks underwater, so I swapped to my backup regulator. Now, I don't own regulators, so these were rentals I was using from the shop, so I am not responsible for their maintence. Back at the shop after we returned we opened it to find a hole in the diaphragm that controls the air intake/keeping water out, which explains the malfunction! I wasn't in any sort of danger at that point, but since then I've seriously considered my options, and I now have a brand new regulator on order from Scubapro so I can take responsibility of its care and maintence, and avoid surprises like that. Of course, after that happened, my drysuit valves started going nuts. Ha. My exhaust valve on my arm started letting in water, and releasing air. I tried to close it, but I don't know what I did... regardless, I was getting wet and not holding air, so I just switched to my BCD (the inflatable vest that holds the tank) to regulate my boyancy. And THEN my chest valve started delivering water when I would press it, not air, so I was really getting wet. ARGH.

I was exhausted, cold, getting wet, and very unimpressed. I actually nearly started to cry because I was getting frustrated... but then I looked around again and said woah. Genifer, smarten up! You are having a very bad dive at HUSSAR POINT. This is better than some of your GOOD dives around Victoria!! Well. That sure cheered me up. As much as you can be cheered, anyway, when you're cold and wet... haah.

And right after that I went around a rock and saw the strangest looking great big sculpin (maybe a Buffalo sculpin, or maybe a brownish Irish Lord) I'd ever seen. He had the huuuuge round eyes that were watching me, and what almost looked like a beard. I swam closer, and the "beard" moved. And then I realized what it was.

The first rock crab I'd seen all trip was halfway in the mouth of the sculpin, looking like it had given a good fight, but was pretty much done at this point. Hilarious.

Well, I just got too tired before I was totally done with my air, but I still got in a good long dive. I got onto the boat for the last time, and we headed back to the marina. As we were driving along, a humpback breached not far in front of us. Just a random whale, breaching just once (which is a little unusual, as they usually breach a number of times, or not at all). So cool.

We got back to the trucks, loaded up, and drove the long and windy road back to Victoria. That was a very long day.

Stats:
Time down: 51 min
Depth: 54 ft.
Wearing: Bare crushed neoprene drysuit, 26 lbs weight plus 6 lb backplate, Force Fins
Breathing: Nitrox 32.4%
Dive: Salt, boat

Browning Rocks

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Just a little farther down and across from Browning Wall is an interesting section referred to as Browning Rocks. While I think that someone wasn't getting very creative with naming these particular locations, I do think they are still so beautiful it doesn't matter what they're called, as long as you get in the water.

We hoped this would be a drift dive, and guessed it might be as much as 5 or 6 knots. But, like all the rest of the dives we'd done, the current was very strange and didn't just go along in one direction but rather made each group take a very different and very interesting route all over the area. Chris and Ethan ended up going back and forth across the same section, in fact.

We hopped in the water and descended, going in the opposite direction we expected at first... and then suddenly back the way we meant to go. And once again... OH MY GOODNESS. Seriously, this was just getting ridiculous how much stuff was around. There was a little more plant/kelp life here for the first while, but like earlier in the day there was a lot of rockfish, sponges, plumose anemoes, etc etc etc. Just colour everywhere. We were going along a wall, when I found yet another octopus den with a MASSIVE puget sound king crab shell in it... minus the crab who used to call it home. And minus the octopus who ate him. Bo dropped down below me on the wall, and suddenly started flashing his light at me, and then making the octopus hand signal!!! Yes, indeed, we found an octopus. I quickly descended, and we sat there, about a foot away from this big octopus trying to take a nap in a crack in the wall. He ignored us pretty well, so after a while we kept going. Bo continued below me, and I was going along looking in all the rest of the cracks I could find, when I was suddenly face to face with an eye! A second octopus!!! Eventually I got Bo's attention, and we tried to tempt the second octo out of its little naptime hole too. Normally I'd try to bring it a crab or something, but there were seriously no crabs anywhere around. It did stick out one of it's smaller legs to test us out, and I can say from experience now that they really stick to the blue drysuit gloves! Alas, it didn't decide it wanted to play, so we eventually moved on.

Again, the amazing wall, the immense amount of life everywhere... just mindblowing. Really. I can't say much else.


Stats:
Time down: 57 min
Depth: 67 ft.
Wearing: Bare crushed neoprene drysuit, 26 lbs weight plus 6 lb backplate, Force Fins
Breathing: Nitrox 34%
Dive: Salt, boat
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