Ellison Dive Park

DSCN5592Seasonal diving takes on new connotations when you’re in the interior of British Columbia. As with the rest of the province, our best diving conditions for visibility come during the winter months, while our best access to diving sites and site safety come in the late spring to early fall season, when visibility is at its worst. In the interior though, we have the added issue of site access. Several of the more interesting shore dives in the Okanagan are only really accessible during the Parks season, when all the parks are fully open. Some, like Bertram Park, can be accessed (with some difficulty) in all seasons, but others would require more logistical support to get to and from the site than can be mustered easily. Recently, we hit Ellison Park, a first time for me, where I did three great dives.

Ellison Provincial Park is located 16km southwest of Vernon, on the eastern shore of Okanagan Lake, and consists of 200 hectares of forested area, and an impressive if not always easily accessed shoreline. Like all parks, it’s seasonally open, and access to the lower area where the diving is is only possible if you have key access. Fortunately, the good people at Innerspace Water Sports have that key. The event was another great effort by Kelowna Divers and the Okanagan Dive Club, and consisted of two to three dives per person, and a BBQ lunch. On a personal note, after my last dives, I’d rinsed my drysuit and hung it in such a way that water remained unnoticed in both boots, resulting in an emergency drying attempt and me bringing my wetsuit, just in case. Fortunately, I managed to dry it enough to make the dives dry(ish)!

The conditions were a mixed bag, which isn’t unusual given the time of year. The water was cold, there was a lot of particulate, but not enough to ruin vis, and of course, no current! My maximum depth was 21.3m , and the sights worth seeing are all max out around 23m to 24m, so the dives are well within the capabilities of all levels of divers. Vis ran from three to about eight metres, and it was a touch on the dark side for the deeper areas. Dive lights were a good piece of kit to have for these dives. It was good to see that the diving culture being fostered by Kelowna Divers is along the lines of BSAC, as all the divers present had all the gear they’d need for the dive, and that the level of safe diving oriented thought was high.

Photos above by Franki Beaney

The dives themselves follow a pretty straight forward pattern. Surface swim out along the lefthand shoreline, and descend after the rubble field. Pushing out from there, there are what look like scaffolding rods sticking out of the bottom. Just past them is a sunken speedboat with a sunglasses wearing plastic skeleton inside! Macabre humour I know, but still fun. Also, I can’t give better direction that these vague ones, since we only find this boat on my last dive, by fluke! Truth be told, my buddy and I had very different dives compared to everyone else for the first dives that day, we somehow missed the wrecks until the way back on the first dive!

Pushing back towards the shore, there’s a gently sloping wall, and two more wrecks. It takes about five to ten minutes of finning to reach them, depending on your speed. The first wreck is a Boston Whaler Barge, with a slide trail and minor debris trail leading to it. It’s not much to see, but it beats looking at rocks! The next wreck is a short distance from that, and is the wreck of the Bobby MacKenzie, a small tug. This wreck is fairly open, with some areas that could be entered with proper gear. I definitely want to go back and do a better check out of this wreck.

Now, there is a fourth attraction at Ellison Provincial Park for those looking for something a bit more exotic. A short distance from, and a bit deeper than the Boston Whaler Barge, is a metal and glass gazebo looking structure. One of the other dive teams took a spare bottle down with them, and filled the roof with air, creating a bit of an old school diving bell effect. While not for all divers, I was up for the challenge, and entered the bubble, and had a quick chat with my fellow brave soul in the sulphur smelling air before popping my regulator back in. This is not an activity for all, and we had other divers around to be sure nothing went awry. Remember, dive safely.

So, overall, the Ellison Provincial Park’s dive park is pretty fun! I recommend it strongly if you have the chance to dive it, and remember that the keys are essential if you don’t want to lug your gear down a long, steep road or the longer, but less steep trail from the parking area. If you do dive it, the morning will will give the best results, and you’ll also have to deal with fewer campers.

Diving the Algae Bloom

photo by Franki Beaney
photo by Franki Beaney

Comfortably uncomfortable was the phrase coined by Jess in her post on the importance of diving training, and it came up for me during a recent diving experience. During the dives in Howe Sound, we were diving through an algae bloom, and as a result, conditions were less than ideal. Diving under these conditions in the emerald green waters of BC can be harrowing for new divers, and difficult for experienced divers. So what is an algae bloom, and how does it affect a dive?
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Not Quite As Planned: Diving Howe Sound

DSCN5480Kelowna Divers and the Okanagan Dive Club organized a dive trip to Vancouver, and the goal was awesome, to be some of the first divers to see the HMCS Annapolis in her new watery home. Unfortunately, the sinking was postponed, and our dive plans changed rather rapidly! Instead of a wreck, we hit several popular dive sites with the good people at Sea Dragon Charters. Things were to go sideways again as the conditions at the sites made for a day of challenging diving!

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HMCS Annapolis Reef

Annapolis 19840925On 4 Apr 2015, the HMCS Annapolis officially ended its life on the surface and became BC’s latest planned artificial reef! The process wasn’t without difficulty though. In addition to the regular process of cleaning the wreck and locating a site to sink it, there was a last minute attempt by residents near where the ship was to go down to stop the operation. Although done on “environmental” grounds, it was a shallowly concealed NIMBY situation.[1] The judge ultimately sided with the ARSBC and Squamish First Nation, and the ship was sunk shortly thereafter. the sinking went according to plan, with the ship coming to rest upright and correct.

video by Patrick Grundle, taken with Ocean Pro Divers
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Drysuit Valves and Seals

image from O'Three Drysuits
image from O’Three Drysuits
The last post on the topic of drysuits was on the material they were made from, and its relative pros and cons within my experience and observations. This post is on the often overlooked areas of valves and seals. For new divers, valves and seals can be an afterthought, particularly if they’ve been diving wet and are just looking forward to being warm for once while stationary during a dive. Valve placement and valve type are important though, since they affect equipment and reactions. Seals are equally important, since not all seals are made equally, and there are serious differences between neoprene and latex that might escape newer divers.
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Dive In! The Water's Chilly!

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