Port Hardy/ Browning Pass Hideaway

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Joshua Smith
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Port Hardy/ Browning Pass Hideaway

Post by Joshua Smith » Thu Apr 17, 2008 7:42 pm

As most of you have gathered, John Rawlings, Maverick, Cuppie, Pez, and I just got back from Port Hardy last night. I have to say, this was an incredible trip, both in terms of the people involved, and the location, and, of course, the diving.

I hope some of my companions will post some of their pictures- I am a horrible photographer, both above and below the water, so my strategy involves diving with photographers, and then begging them for copies of their pictures. (works for me.......)


Anyway, after leaving Seattle at 4 in the $%&^*#@ morning on Friday, we arrived at Port Hardy around 4 PM. After hooking up with our Captain/ Divemaster/ Host, John deBoeck, he informed us that there were gale force winds out on the water, so we would need to get a Hotel room for the night, because the straights were "not navigable." So, we did.
The next morning, the wind had died down, and we headed out to "The Hideaway." The Hideaway is, uh, a bit rustic.....but very comfortable and functional- there are nice beds, electricity (when the generator is running),plentiful and tasty hot meals, heat, hot water, flush toilets, and everything I need to be right at home, all floating on wooden raft/ pontoon type structures. But, if your idea of "roughing it" is a Holiday Inn off of the interstate that doesn't have HBO, this place is not for you. (Personally, I loved it......I even asked John if I could come live there for a year or so, and work off my room and board.....he said that if I could chop wood, we might be able to come to an understanding....)

So, after settling in, we geared up, and headed out for the first dive.......John R splashed before me, and immediately lost a fin.......over a wall that was, I believe, around 200 feet deep. Mav, Pez, and I went into "search and recovery" mode, to no avail- I was in a brand new drysuit, and my weighting was severely off- I was so buoyant, I couldn't get more than a few feet under before corking! I watched Pez and Mav descend into killer visibility, 50 feet or more, and return a short while later with no XXL Jetfin. (we decided later that JR must have drug his heel over the edge of the skiff doing a backroll in, and popped the springstrap off) After trying to decide what to do, I finally got back in the boat, and handed John my Turtle fins- I hear that everyone had a nice dive without me. :crybaby:
After a surface interval back at the hideaway, we were back on the water with an old pair of snowshoes that deBoek had found for Rawlings to dive with......actually, I think they were meant to be fins, but they were, like, 4 feet long, almost like freediver's fins! After we dropped into 40 fsw or so, JR signalled me that he was calling the dive- we did a slow ascent together, and he told me that the fins were *not* working for him, but that I should drop back down and continue the dive with the rest of the group- (I could never have done this around here, but we were relatively shallow, and the vis was so good that finding 3 open circuit divers was a piece of cake- just follow the bubbles!) But, before I got near the group, in 25 fsw, a quick check of my dive computer showed an error message I had never seen before- following my training, I did a dil flush, and surfaced in a controlled manner. Back on the skiff, I figured out that the "error message" was no big deal, and that it just wanted me to confirm a momentary low P02 reading from a dil flush on the surface.....anyway, I could have fixed it underwater with the push of a button, but I could hear all these voices in my head: "Why did he sit there screwing around with his computer? He would have lived if he had just bailed out! etc, etc..." Anyway, I was 0 for 2 at this point, on the diving, and trying hard not to get "emotional." After discussing JR's fin problem with deBoek, we decided that some modifications couldn't hurt- out came the trusty razor knife, and JD had amputated quite a bit of excess length, and JR jumped in to give them a surface test.....then JD really went to town on the new fins, and carved sort of a "Bat Signal" shape in the ends- the modified show shoe fins served JR well for the rest of the trip! (but I did notice that he grabbed my turtles when I sat one dive out because I had been up too late drinking rum with deBoek.)

The next day, determined to get a good dive in, We hit Browning Wall- Spectacular site! It's a wall that disappears into the depths, so covered with life that you can't see rocks anywhere......I had some mask- flooding issues, but overall, it was a great dive- JR tried to get me to pose next to a shelf that had 3 full grown Puget Sound King Crabs on it, but I didn't see the crabs, and thought he meant to pose next to a lump of anemone.....anyway, it didn't work out, but I felt pretty dumb when I finally saw the crabs.

Another standout dive, perhaps my favorite on the trip, was a nearby site called "The Rock of Life." The vis was easily 70-80 feet here, and the sun was at a nice overhead angle, lighting up the water to a deep, satisfying, turquoise color. Life on the wall was thick with every color imaginable, and for once, all my gear seemed to be working at the same time! JR and I dropped down to 130 fsw, and very slowly drifted with the current, enjoying the large "no decompression" limits provided by our Rebreathers, ascending quite slowly....it was a perfect dive for me, and worth the whole trip all by itself, in my opinion!

The other dive site I have to mention is Tremble Rock, aka Nakwakto Rapids. This dive is in a class all by itself, and also worth the entire trip. One of the most current-swept stretches of channel in the world, with a small island in the middle, close to nothing, in the middle of nowhere. We dove it on the largest exchange that John D will take divers there on- I forget the numbers, but currents around it can break 20 knots on a regular basis.....large logs have been seen floating past the rock, and be sucked under by the currents, only to surface hundreds of yards down stream.....

When John D told us to get in the water on the lee side of the rock, he told us to be back up in 30 minutes, no fooling around......we splashed, and dropped into what I can only describe as a psychedelic wonderland of color- gooseneck barnacles flourish here, and very few other places on earth- these things, if you've never seen one, I won't waste your time trying to describe them, except to say that they seriously look like something out of Alice in Wonderland......after just 15 minutes swimming through fairly calm water, at around 70 feet of depth, I looked up and saw Cuppie go shooting past John R, in what looked like an uncontrolled ascent.....John seemed to be reaching out to her for a second, before he was also picked up and thrown up through the water column like a rag doll in a hurricane! I was only a few feet away from them, in perfectly calm water, and couldn't quite believe what I was seeing. I started to swim up after them, when, suddenly, my feet and head exchanged positions.....several times! It was all I could do to hammer oxygen into my loop to stave off hypoxia from the ascent. I managed to grab onto a rock outcropping at around 40 fsw, and check my controls- amazingly, my loop p02 was right at 1.2- I had compensated for the ascent perfectly, and just had to adjust my buoyancy. I looked up, and there was Rawlings, clinging to a similar rock about 3 feet away from me, grinning like a maniac. We sat there laughing like idiots for a minute or so, and continued our dive- the others had apparently survived the upwelling as well, but moment by moment, we could feel the current increasing. Knowing it was time to head up, we all seemed to invent our own method of "underwater rock climbing." We all hit the surface right around 30 minutes, and saw that we had somehow come up in the middle of a class IV whitewater rapid, that was on its way to becoming class V! John D brought the boat in close to the rock, and we all pushed off and grabbed the "granny line" strung down the side of the boat- it took a while to get everyone back in, but we managed somehow......the grins, "high fives", whoops, and shouts continued for a long time afterwards- THAT was the dive of a lifetime, to be sure.

I'm still processing memories from our week up there, and I hope the others will post their own impressions, along with some pics.
If you're like me, a cold water diver who loves new sites.......you really, really, have to see this place. I would rather return here than go see the Caribbean, frankly. John deBoek discovered many of these sites himself, in his 25 years of running around the area on boats, and as has been stated in other threads on this site, he knows the currents there like I know the lines in the palm of my hand- actually, he probably knows them better. Browning Pass is really, truly, a "Must See Before You Die" place, and I don't think you could possibly do better than Browning Pass Hideaway with John deBoek. I will be back there as soon as I can.
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Re: Port Hardy/ Browning Pass Hideaway

Post by Tom Nic » Thu Apr 17, 2008 7:47 pm

Nice job Josh, especially from someone who hates reports! :notworthy: Looking forward to pics and comments from your buds....

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Re: Port Hardy/ Browning Pass Hideaway

Post by BDub » Thu Apr 17, 2008 7:52 pm

Awesome report, Josh.

I've been wanting to head up there for a long time, Now I really want to start planning a trip up there.

Thanks for the report.
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Re: Port Hardy/ Browning Pass Hideaway

Post by John Rawlings » Thu Apr 17, 2008 9:02 pm

Well, Nailer hit the nail on the head with his report....it was a really, really great trip! The ONLY thing that I would change about it is his GLOSSING OVER of the incident with the Puget Sound King Crabs. I saw three of them huddled on a ledge, as big as life, and pointed to them. He couldn't see them. I pointed again and again....and he still couldn't see them. I finally figured that if I motioned for him to get closer for a photo he might see them, and when I did so he slowly moved toward the ledge until his face was, literally, INCHES from the claws of the biggest crab. He STILL didn't see them until he got SO close that the large one moved! It was liking watching a guy jump after a cattle prod was touched to his butt! :bootyshake:

I would estimate that the North wall, 7 Tree island and Rock of Life had 70 feet+ vis, while Browning wall had vis at or near 100 feet at the time we dived it....absolutely phenomenal!

Anyway....here are some pics from the trip:

Nailer rounding a corner at Browning Wall:

Image

Pez examining Browning Wall, (yes, that IS our boat at upper left as seen from 70+ feet down!):

Image

Maverick next to a formation of bright red Gooseneck Barnacles at the Nakwakto Rapids:

Image

Nailer again, swimming alongside one of the walls....I'm kinda fuzzy on which one it was!

Image

Pez on the North Wall:

Image

Cuppie and Maverick ascending a portion of the wall:

Image

I'm sure that there will be more in future issues of ADM!

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Re: Port Hardy/ Browning Pass Hideaway

Post by Tom Nic » Thu Apr 17, 2008 9:08 pm

AMAZING PICTURES John! :prayer:

Wow... stunning viz... awesome colors... sweet!
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Re: Port Hardy/ Browning Pass Hideaway

Post by Maverick » Thu Apr 17, 2008 9:21 pm

this was a special trip, and the Hideaway is amazing, but not at all luxurious, in any way, except the food, is so fresh and home made it is comforting, and it was so much fun to eat good food and talk about the dive we just completed.
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Re: Port Hardy/ Browning Pass Hideaway

Post by Jan K » Thu Apr 17, 2008 9:25 pm

Awesome ! Superb photography. As usual :supz:

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Re: Port Hardy/ Browning Pass Hideaway

Post by Cuppie » Thu Apr 17, 2008 9:37 pm

such an awesome adventure!! I want to go back next week!!! i am still waiting for Mav to dl his pics, all mine are dry pics!! I don't think words can really expain the experience.
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Re: Port Hardy/ Browning Pass Hideaway

Post by Joshua Smith » Thu Apr 17, 2008 9:50 pm

John Rawlings wrote:Well, Nailer hit the nail on the head with his report....it was a really, really great trip! The ONLY thing that I would change about it is his GLOSSING OVER of the incident with the Puget Sound King Crabs. I saw three of them huddled on a ledge, as big as life, and pointed to them. He couldn't see them. I pointed again and again....and he still couldn't see them. I finally figured that if I motioned for him to get closer for a photo he might see them, and when I did so he slowly moved toward the ledge until his face was, literally, INCHES from the claws of the biggest crab. He STILL didn't see them until he got SO close that the large one moved! It was liking watching a guy jump adter a cattle prod was touched to his butt! :bootyshake:


Cool it, Rawlings. We have some really great pictures of you in the Batfins. :hello2:
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Re: Port Hardy/ Browning Pass Hideaway

Post by John Rawlings » Thu Apr 17, 2008 9:55 pm

Nailer99 wrote: Cool it, Rawlings. We have some really great pictures of you in the Batfins. :hello2:


It's better to wear Bat Fins than to be blind as a bat and miss three PSKCs 2 inches from your frickin' NOSE! \:D/

Hey! Maybe THAT'S why you can't take photos! :smt064
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Re: Port Hardy/ Browning Pass Hideaway

Post by Joshua Smith » Thu Apr 17, 2008 9:57 pm

Just pointing out that the rest of the crew didn't lose any fins, boyo! :violent3:
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Re: Port Hardy/ Browning Pass Hideaway

Post by mattwave » Fri Apr 18, 2008 6:24 am

nice trip report!
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Re: Port Hardy/ Browning Pass Hideaway

Post by LCF » Fri Apr 18, 2008 6:57 am

If you're like me, a cold water diver who loves new sites.......you really, really, have to see this place. I would rather return here than go see the Caribbean, frankly.


This is the same thing I said when I came home from our five day trip to LA last year. When you have good viz in cold water, the abundance of life is just amazing!
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Re: Port Hardy/ Browning Pass Hideaway

Post by Tom Nic » Fri Apr 18, 2008 7:02 am

LCF wrote:
If you're like me, a cold water diver who loves new sites.......you really, really, have to see this place. I would rather return here than go see the Caribbean, frankly.


When you have good viz in cold water, the abundance of life is just amazing!


Ah yes... if only that happened more... :-({|=

But hey, we aren't warm water wussie divers! We are PNW cold water divers! :naka:
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Re: Port Hardy/ Browning Pass Hideaway

Post by Sounder » Fri Apr 18, 2008 9:15 am

Wow. Those are SOME PICTURES!!

Tell us about the tank arrangements. I noticed Mav is wearing doubles - could you bring your own tanks and have them filled there or did John have doubles and singles available? What sizes of tanks does he have? What nitrox mixes does he fill? Was he pumping O2 for you CCR divers and could he fill OC deco gases?

Very very cool trip report and fantastic pictures... absolutely intoxicating. =D>
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Re: Port Hardy/ Browning Pass Hideaway

Post by Pez7378 » Fri Apr 18, 2008 10:01 am

Sounder wrote:Wow. Those are SOME PICTURES!!

Tell us about the tank arrangements. I noticed Mav is wearing doubles - could you bring your own tanks and have them filled there or did John have doubles and singles available? What sizes of tanks does he have? What nitrox mixes does he fill? Was he pumping O2 for you CCR divers and could he fill OC deco gases?

Very very cool trip report and fantastic pictures... absolutely intoxicating. =D>


Yes Yes and Yes. John has a very clean setup, It might look like Red Greens garage, but it's fully functional and clearly well thought out. Seriously, if all you brought was a single tank you could still do three dives a day, with the exception of the extended range dives like Dillon rock (Octopus Gardens or Wolfeel Condos) and Nakwakto Rapids. John has some AL 80's, and I think I saw some HP steel 100's. He can handle DIN and Yoke. I used the HP 119's and had consistent fills to 3300 psi (no booster if I remember right) of 30-32 %. He's banking 32 and 34 I think? I never came back with less than 1000 psi on any one dive averaging 60 min TDT (total dive time). All of the great dives are just 5-10 min. skiff ride out and then you return to the Hideaway for a refill, lunch and some off gassing. Bring your favorite setup, and an analyzer and go diving.

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Re: Port Hardy/ Browning Pass Hideaway

Post by Sounder » Fri Apr 18, 2008 10:05 am

Pez7378 wrote:
Sounder wrote:Wow. Those are SOME PICTURES!!

Tell us about the tank arrangements. I noticed Mav is wearing doubles - could you bring your own tanks and have them filled there or did John have doubles and singles available? What sizes of tanks does he have? What nitrox mixes does he fill? Was he pumping O2 for you CCR divers and could he fill OC deco gases?

Very very cool trip report and fantastic pictures... absolutely intoxicating. =D>


Yes Yes and Yes. John has a very clean setup, It might look like Red Greens garage, but it's fully functional and clearly well thought out. Seriously, if all you brought was a single tank you could still do three dives a day, with the exception of the extended range dives like Dillon rock (Octopus Gardens or Wolfeel Condos) and Nakwakto Rapids. John has some AL 80's, and I think I saw some HP steel 100's. He can handle DIN and Yoke. I used the HP 119's and had consistent fills to 3300 psi (no booster if I remember right) of 30-32 %. He's banking 32 and 34 I think? I never came back with less than 1000 psi on any one dive averaging 60 min TDT (total dive time). All of the great dives are just 5-10 min. skiff ride out and then you return to the Hideaway for a refill, lunch and some off gassing. Bring your favorite setup, and an analyzer and go diving.


That's great information to have for future planning. Sounds like a single set of dubs would be just about perfect for a trip up there (assuming he's filling between dives).

What about deco gasses?
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Re: Port Hardy/ Browning Pass Hideaway

Post by r2t » Fri Apr 18, 2008 10:49 am

Nice report and perfect time....We are planning a trip up there at the end of Aug. \:D/

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Re: Port Hardy/ Browning Pass Hideaway

Post by Grateful Diver » Fri Apr 18, 2008 10:58 am

Great report and pictures ... I still haven't been there and it's high on my list of places to go. Maybe later this year ...

I had to laugh at the description of Nailer not seeing the PSKCs ... same thing happened to Cheng and I the first time we went to Barkley Sound. Everybody was raving about all the crabs, and we just kept saying we didn't see any. On a subsequent dive, one of the divers swam over to us, reached down and picked up this massive crab that was sitting so close we were almost touching it.

Oh ... THAT crab ... I thought that was a rock ... :dontknow:

Once we knew what to look for we saw dozens of 'em ...

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Re: Port Hardy/ Browning Pass Hideaway

Post by Joshua Smith » Fri Apr 18, 2008 12:22 pm

Man, I'm quite sure Rawlings will never let me forget that! I'll just have to keep pointing out the fact that I came home with the same fins I left with......

Bob, I'm really surprised to hear you, of all people, haven't been up to Port Hardy yet! It's a "See it Before you Die, OMG, I can't believe I waited this long!" kind of place. And talking with deBoek has caused me to add another site to my "must see" list: The Queen Charlotte Islands.
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Re: Port Hardy/ Browning Pass Hideaway

Post by dsteding » Fri Apr 18, 2008 1:32 pm

So, I gotta ask, how was it traveling with the 'breather? Was this your first real trip with it?
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Re: Port Hardy/ Browning Pass Hideaway

Post by mattwave » Fri Apr 18, 2008 1:54 pm

dsteding wrote:So, I gotta ask, how was it traveling with the 'breather? Was this your first real trip with it?


Well you have to stop at a rest stop occasionally let it go pee, then if you are driving by any malls you might have to take it shopping, and ofcourse if there is any DQ's on the road, a blizzard is a must. After that, they fall fast asleep until your arrival.
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Re: Port Hardy/ Browning Pass Hideaway

Post by Joshua Smith » Fri Apr 18, 2008 1:58 pm

dsteding wrote:So, I gotta ask, how was it traveling with the 'breather? Was this your first real trip with it?


Remarkably easy, actually. We weren't flying, of course, but it weighs less than doubles.....we had to bring sorb, the Hideaway could do 02 fills for us- transfills from a T bottle, but he was getting our 19 cf bottles up near 2000 psi, which is enough for 2-3 dives, of course. \:D/ . And I brought a really impressive save-a-dive kit along. The only thing I was worried about was an electronics failure, but since we were both on manual CCRs, there's minimal electronics to worry about, and the KISS and Meg both have "bomb-proof" reputations; and both have been used extensively on much rougher expeditions than this one, so we weren't overly concerned.
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Re: Port Hardy/ Browning Pass Hideaway

Post by dsteding » Fri Apr 18, 2008 2:07 pm

Nailer99 wrote:Remarkably easy, actually. We weren't flying, of course, but it weighs less than doubles.....we had to bring sorb, the Hideaway could do 02 fills for us- transfills from a T bottle, but he was getting our 19 cf bottles up near 2000 psi, which is enough for 2-3 dives, of course. \:D/ . And I brought a really impressive save-a-dive kit along. The only thing I was worried about was an electronics failure, but since we were both on manual CCRs, there's minimal electronics to worry about, and the KISS and Meg both have "bomb-proof" reputations; and both have been used extensively on much rougher expeditions than this one, so we weren't overly concerned.


Glad it went well-I must admit one of the serious draws to a RB would be these types of trips, which is why I asked.
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Re: Port Hardy/ Browning Pass Hideaway

Post by Pez7378 » Fri Apr 18, 2008 2:21 pm

Those things looked pretty darn tough to me. :naka: Although you can't throw them around like steel tanks, Josh kept his wrapped in a blanket, burping it from time to time while rocking from right to left singing lullubies. :hello2: Seriously, I dont even think he wanted to socialize with the rest of us! :evil4:

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