Jan 16

Diving from Mould’s bay

Vancouver Island is one of the best places in the world for cold water diving, so I was determined to dive as much as possible during my visit.  As it turned out, I was only able to dive on a single occasion.  I met some great scuba people though.

I don’t dive alone, specially in a strange place.  When diving, if I am by myself I always try to find someone on the internet and try to get a feel for what they’re like before diving with them.  So, before I left Maryland I hit the internet and searched for someone to dive with.  As luck would have it, scubaboard‘s buddy matrix turned up Mike Lee, an instructor with Beaver Aquatics in Campbell River.  Mike is the nicest guy – always has a good word and is very “with it.”  He leads shore dives every Sunday, usually on Quadra Island.  I learned a lot from diving with him.

Being only an occasional cold water diver, I don’t own a dry suit and had to rent one.  Beaver Aquatics doesn’t rent them – hardly any shops do – but fortunately for me, UB diving right in downtown Courtenay is one of the few that does.  The shop is owned and operated by Sean Smyrichinsky and his wife Shelley.  They have had a diving operation in the area for years, although this particular shop is new.  The dry suit, an Aqualung Blizzard, was almost brand new and in fantastic shape.  My previous experience (at another shop stateside) renting a dry suit wasn’t that great, but a good suit changed everything.  Sean and his wife are friendly, accessible, and full of good advice.  He was kind enough to accommodate my difficult schedule and let me look over his shoulder while he serviced my regulator (for a free-flow problem that I might have not noticed, without his experience).  Although I didn’t dive with UB this time, I wouldn’t hesitate to do so next time.  I also learned a lot from watching Sean work on my equipment.

The weather was not the best for diving when I was there – choppy seas and high winds, not to mention snow!  See this post for some images of the bad weather that canceled some of our earlier dives.  But finally, weather and work allowed a brief opportunity to get in the water.

Not that the weather was ideal.  Here are some (crappy) images of the beach at Mould’s bay. Water temperature: about 8C (46F).  Air temperature: don’t know, but it was alternately raining and snowing.

This is a great place for training because the easy beach entry leads to a gently sloping shallow bay with a well-defined mouth.  Divers have an opportunity to collect themselves after entering the water and hang out in the 5-10′ water, if need be, in order to practice skills.  At the bay’s mouth there are some rocks that mark a deflection point where the sea floor slopes away more rapidly.  The rocks form a cliff face that seems to get covered in sand at 80′ or so.  Max depth for me was 70′.  The cliff has lots of nooks and crannies for creatures to live in.  It wasn’t exactly covered with life, but there were the usual Pacific Northwest anemones, clams, sea cucumbers, sea stars, lingcod and sculpins.  But the real prize for me was seeing a wolf eel.  It didn’t want to come out and play.  This guy habitually hands out in a crevice about 40′ to the left of the bay’s mouth at a depth of 50′ or so.  There is a small piece of fishing pole stuck into the rocks to mark its lair.

The water was dim and full of particulates, with a green cast – although the viz was pretty good – maybe 80 feet.  Particles, surge and my inexperience with the dry suit and BC made for some poor photographic conditions.  It was my first dive with a Dive-Rite wing style BC; I had none of the problems staying upright at the surface that some people report.  This BC is so comfortable, I will never look back!  Humping my tank over the beach is no problem now.  But since I was unfamiliar with the equipment I didn’t take my camera on the first dive, and on the second dive the surge made it difficult to stay in position in order to take the picture.  Win some, lose some.

Sea cucumbers

This type of anemone is common throughout the Pacific Northwest.  When I see them in the wild they are usually red:

although this specimen in the Vancouver aquarium was bright green, perhaps from symbiotic algae, or maybe I’m mistaken and it’s not the same animal:

The water had been calm when we entered, but by the end of our second dive things were a little worse.  After we surfaced, a vicious riptide dragged us inexorably towards the teeth of surf crashing on rocks.  We had to drop to the shallow bottom (10′) and crawl all the way to shore.

As I stumbled to shore, the ocean had a final jab at me, catching me from behind with a wave that knocked me flat on my face.  I could hear a cold rain pelting down around me and the wind had picked up.  My camera got crushed between my (and all of my diving lead) and the rocks, cracking a trim piece.  Respect the sea!

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1 Comment so far

  1. Chelsea January 6th, 2011 9:27 PM

    I took my course with bever acuatics (mike lee was my instructor) .I took it in the summer so the vis wasn’t good so we did the course in the lake but I did my first ocean dive there the ocean has never been that rough when I was there up the tide was out to the rock u can just berly see on the picture. the eel wasn’t there but there was an octopus just before the wall in all the rocks I continue to dive there and around Vancouver island .

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