Nanaimo!

Tell us your tale of coming nose-to-nose with a 6 gill [--this big--], or about your vacation to turquoise warm waters. Share your adventures here!
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Joshua Smith
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Nanaimo!

Post by Joshua Smith » Sat Jun 29, 2013 6:53 pm

A small group of us MDS divers drove up to Nanaimo this past Thursday after work to dive the wrecks (OK, "artificial reefs", whatever). The divers were myself, Rob Wilson, Chris Newley, and his wife Jess. We stayed at a hotel that I will not name here, but I will say that it was NOT the Buccaneer. If you ARE going to Nanaimo- by all means, stay at the Buccaneer. I wish we had. Very reasonable rates, and very diver friendly. Anyway, we were up early on Friday, so that we could drive aimlessly around town in ever widening circles looking for a breakfast joint. After wolfing down some hockey-puck shaped egg sandwiches in the parking lot of a Tim Horton's, we sped over to the marina to meet up with the captain and crew of Sea Dragon Charters.

Sea Dragon was absolutely top notch. There was only supposed to be one other diver joining us, but the Dive Master, Christine, was unable to wake him up out of his motel room. He had apparently either had a very good, or a very bad, Thursday evening.
But the SD crew had no problem firing up the boat and taking the four of us out for the day. Christine cheerfully agreed to dive w Jess, since Rob, Chris, and myself were diving CCRs. Chris almost had to abort the dive because he forgot to buy a Megalodon when he bought a CCR, but was able to borrow enough spare parts from Rob and me, along with some duct tape, bottle caps, paper clips, and a pigeon feather, to correct whatever problem he was having.

Since it was our boat for the day, Rob and I requested 2 dives on the Cape Breton, which we both prefer to the Sasketchewan, for some reason. A quick bit of background- Rob has been diving since before the Nixon administration, I think. And he has extensive experience on these wrecks. (reefs. whatever. shut up.) I have dived them 4 or 5 times previously, but Rob walked through them before they were sunk, and knows them very well. He LOVES to do deep penetration dives on them. I have been inside them a bit, but hadn't ever *really* gone for it. Chris had never dived them, but despite his inexplicable choice of CCRs, he's a very solid, experienced diver, and he has full cave training. We both told Rob to lead the way, and we would follow.

After a thorough dive briefing, Christine declared the pool to be open, and Rob and I kitted up, while Chris rubbed a chicken bone slowly over his rebreather, shuffling his feet back and forth while he chanted something in Sanskrit with his eyes closed.

So, we splashed into the lovely green water, and dropped down the buoy line at the stern into 40-50' viz. As soon as we landed on the aft deck, we saw a huge wolf eel just lying there inside a deck hatch 8' below us. After saying hello to him, Rob led us over to the skylights above the engine room, and we maneuvered over them, lining up with the framework. We exchanged quick "OK" signs, dropped some gas out of our suits, and sunk into the perfectly creepy blackness of the engine room some 40-50' below us. I've done this part a few times, and it's always a thrill! We hit our max depth for the dive, 133', right here, and spent the next 5-10 minutes working our way slowly back up.....after popping back out the same way we came in, Rob led us over to a favorite entry point, and we started our real penetration. It was SO MUCH FUN! We were crawling up and down different stairwells, passages, hallways and compartments for the next 45 minutes or so. I was completely lost, but felt pretty confident, due to the fact that the wreck has been sterilized and made very diver-friendly, along with the fact that CCRs absolutely SHINE at these depths, in terms on NDLs. In other words, you really can't get too far from daylight on these wrecks, they are clear of most entanglement hazards, viz was great, and ccrs give you a LOT of time to solve problems.

Speaking of problems: I was diving some new gear this day. I had a brand new dry suit (DUI CF 200. I'm in LOVE. Never gonna dive anything else, ever.) as well as a new computer (Shearwater Petrel. Again, LOVE) and a new mask - Hollis M-1, which I also love.....BUT. Apparently, I didn't scrub it w toothpaste enough, even though, I swear I spent over an hour doing that after I bought it. Anyway, my mask was fogging over every 2 minutes at the start of the dive, and about every 3 seconds at the end. I took to just keeping a cup or so of water in the mask at all times, and closing my eyes and shaking my head around between every breath. Highly irritating, but not enough to spoil an amazingly fun dive. We popped out near the bow, swam back to the stern and began our ascent. All that time between 100-133, and we only had 15-18 minutes of deco. At around 15', I saw Rob trying to warn Chris about a Lion's mane jelly headed for him, but as I watched, a second, even bigger one was approaching the back of Rob's head! I managed to warn him, but the silly thing got wrapped around the buoy line. We managed to shake it loose, but it left a bunch of tentacles on the line.

After surfacing and reboarding, we enjoyed soup, sandwiches, and coffee, while the crew moved the boat to the bow buoy at the request of the OC team.

After a very pleasant 90 minute SI during which I put a thick coat of defog on my mask and rinsed it clean, we geared up and splashed again. It was a mirror image of the first dive, with a few exceptions: My mas wasn't fogging, and Rob had decided to challenge us a bit more by squeezing into tighter and tighter passages. Which was fine, until we got near the bottom of the boat, and I tried to squeeze behind a stairwell I should have gone around. It took me 5 tries, but I made it....whick left me in a partial silt out, over the hatch that Rob had juuuust managed to fit through. As I tried to follow Rob, I encountered some invisible-to-me obstruction that would not let my legs go through the hatch. After backing up and trying to get around it 3 times, I had pretty well completed the job of silting the area out completely and decided that I really didn't CARE what was down there any more! The hatch we were trying to follow Rob down was directly under a shaft that had been cleared by the people that reefed the ship- sort of a diver-sized pipe leading to the deck- looking up, I could see green water above me, and thought "fuggitimouttahere" and began my ascent right as my mask started fogging over again. My head popped out of the shaft right as Jess and Christine were swimming by, and I posed for a pic, feeling like "Silty Clause" emerging from a chimney. Chris was right behind me, and Rob right behind him. After we all reunited, I told Rob that my mask was bugging me again, and I was done for the day. I intended to ascend solo, and was fine, if they wanted to continue the dive. It got a little confusing, and I cleared my mask,swam to the stern, cleared my mask, realized that I had gone the wrong direction, cleared my mask, cleared it again, and thought, for the second time in a few minutes, "fuggitimouttahere", cleared my mask, and began ascending the stern buoy. Clearing my mask repeatedly, Watching my computer for deco info, and monitoring my rebreather, I was pleasantly distracted until I hit =/- 15 few, Pulled my mask away from my face to clear it, and mashed the lions mane tentacles from dive 1 right into my face. That was pretty cool. I did my last 8 minutes of deco with no mask because the cold water felt pretty good on the stings. I surfaced without incident, and the boat came and got me right away.

It was a fantastic day out on the water with friends old and new. I can't say enough good stuff about the sea dragon crew- they were very professional, and completely charming and pleasant. We booked them through Shirley at Nanaimo Dive Outfitters. Although I never set foot in there on this trip, Shirley was also great to work with, and I'm sure she has a top notch shop.

So, get up there and go diving! It's really fun and affordable! It's like going to another country! Where everyone except the border agents is really friendly! Like wrecks? They got 'em! Like fish? The wrecks are covered in fish! Like Caves? Chris says that these were good practice for cave diving! Like great viz? They usually have that, too!
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spatman
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Re: Nanaimo!

Post by spatman » Sat Jun 29, 2013 7:01 pm

Awesome report, Josh!
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Jeremy
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Re: Nanaimo!

Post by Jeremy » Sat Jun 29, 2013 7:16 pm

Applause!

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Jan K
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Re: Nanaimo!

Post by Jan K » Sat Jun 29, 2013 8:21 pm

Great reading :supz:

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Penopolypants
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Re: Nanaimo!

Post by Penopolypants » Sat Jun 29, 2013 9:35 pm

People often underestimate the power of chicken bones and chants. A few mis-mutttered syllables have been known to call the Kraken, but it sounds like he just sent a few lions manes instead. Probably had more important people to bother.

Great writeup! And glad to hear that Sea Dragon is a good op to dive with!
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Joshua Smith
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Re: Nanaimo!

Post by Joshua Smith » Sat Jun 29, 2013 9:46 pm

Penopolypants wrote:People often underestimate the power of chicken bones and chants. A few mis-mutttered syllables have been known to call the Kraken, but it sounds like he just sent a few lions manes instead. Probably had more important people to bother.

Great writeup! And glad to hear that Sea Dragon is a good op to dive with!


I've been a chicken bone advocate for many years. What I keep telling the new kids is this: you have to understand. ....and I mean, REALLY understand, the limits of your own invisibility. No one can dial that in for you, but you. Respect it.
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Re: Nanaimo!

Post by rjw » Sun Jun 30, 2013 7:45 am

Nice report Josh. Was a fun little trip. Couldn't have asked for better conditions above & below the water.
You should have tried the chicken bone & maybe a chant on your mask. :smt064
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oldsalt
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Re: Nanaimo!

Post by oldsalt » Mon Jul 01, 2013 1:17 pm

Joshua Smith wrote: Rob has been diving since before the Nixon administration,


A newbie huh? I go back to when Nixon was vice-president (You can look it up.) I have been loading the boat and will be heading north tomorrow. Nanaimo is a must stop for us, with many "favorite" restaurants and other topside attractions. With all of the wrecks, Dodd Narrows, walls, Clark Rock, and reefs, the diving is spectacular. Thanks for the write-up.
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spatman
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Re: Nanaimo!

Post by spatman » Mon Jul 01, 2013 3:08 pm

oldsalt wrote:
Joshua Smith wrote: Rob has been diving since before the Nixon administration,


A newbie huh? I go back to when Nixon was vice-president


Haha, if that's your metric, I'm barely a scuba :sign10:
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kdupreez
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Re: Nanaimo!

Post by kdupreez » Mon Jul 01, 2013 3:44 pm

Very cool write up, Josh!! Nicely done. :notworthy:

This wanted me to get in the car and ditch work for some "artificial reef" diving RIGHT NOW !!

We are planning a trip in november, so i may ping you for some details!
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Re: Nanaimo!

Post by Mortuus » Mon Jul 01, 2013 8:31 pm

That was an awesome trip report! I loved all the little comedic (non-meg) rebreather jabs. Those were hilarious. I can't wait to get up and dive those wrecks

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Tom Nic
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Re: Nanaimo!

Post by Tom Nic » Tue Jul 02, 2013 4:39 am

Fabulous report, entertaining as always...
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LCF
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Re: Nanaimo!

Post by LCF » Tue Jul 02, 2013 8:51 am

I have only one thing to say about that whole writeup: DO MORE TRIP REPORTS!

A couple of comments from my own experience on the Sea Dragon last November: 1. Christine rocks. Anything you need she will see to it that you get. 2. The benches on the boat are awfully high for the challenged in stature. 3. There is no truly dry area on the boat, so anything you take on it will get damp.
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Joshua Smith
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Re: Nanaimo!

Post by Joshua Smith » Tue Jul 02, 2013 9:24 pm

LCF wrote:I have only one thing to say about that whole writeup: DO MORE TRIP REPORTS!

A couple of comments from my own experience on the Sea Dragon last November: 1. Christine rocks. Anything you need she will see to it that you get. 2. The benches on the boat are awfully high for the challenged in stature. 3. There is no truly dry area on the boat, so anything you take on it will get damp.


Thanks for the kind words, all of you. Lynne- I'm 100% with you, except for #3- I didn't have that experience, and neither did anyone else- they did welcome us into the cabin with our drysuits on, though....since there we're only 4 of us, and we were all pretty experienced and polite, nobody went forward dripping seawater. And I recall that they had just torn the carpets out, and painted the deck w some marine coating, so maybe that was the difference?
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LCF
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Re: Nanaimo!

Post by LCF » Wed Jul 03, 2013 8:32 am

We had a full boat, and since all the dry bags were in the main cabin, by the time people got through going in and out and sitting down, everything was damp. I just wish they'd put all the dry stuff up with the captain or something.
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Re: Nanaimo!

Post by Matt S. » Wed Jul 03, 2013 10:18 am

Great report Josh!

...tried to squeeze behind a stairwell I should have gone around. It took me 5 tries, but I made it...

... and one man's vacation is another man's nightmare!

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Joshua Smith
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Re: Nanaimo!

Post by Joshua Smith » Thu Jul 04, 2013 2:41 pm

LCF wrote:We had a full boat, and since all the dry bags were in the main cabin, by the time people got through going in and out and sitting down, everything was damp. I just wish they'd put all the dry stuff up with the captain or something.


Ah. I get it. Actually, that sounds a lot like most dive boats I've been on! Well, most of them have designated wet/dry areas. But our group kept the lower area relatively dry, on this trip, at any rate. A lot of our trips seem to turn in to "8-12 hours on the boat, endurance marathon" type of deals......and nothing is really, truly dry when we get back to the dock. I need to invest in a decent dry bag one of these days.
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Joshua Smith
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Re: Nanaimo!

Post by Joshua Smith » Thu Jul 04, 2013 2:44 pm

Matt S. wrote:Great report Josh!

...tried to squeeze behind a stairwell I should have gone around. It took me 5 tries, but I made it...

... and one man's vacation is another man's nightmare!


I wouldn't describe myself as a masochist, normally. But when I look hard at what I do for "fun," I have to wonder a little bit....
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"To venture into the terrible loneliness, one must have something greater than greed. Love. One needs love for life, for intrigue, for mystery."

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