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!

So, we met up with Sea Dragon Charters at Sewell’s Marina in Horseshoe Bay, a short drive up from Vancouver. After scarfing down the breakfast of champions (a roast chicken panini and orange juice) and finding out I was in the wrong parking lot, I got my gear loaded onto the Topline, Sea Dragon Charter’s mainland based dive boat. The boat was old, but more than serviceable, and had a great refill system built in. If desired, everyone could bring a single tank onboard and simply refill between dives for a very reasonable cost (not to mention savings for your back and knees carrying multiple tanks!). The crew was great, with Kevin and Jan Breckman assisted by Christina McKee; all experienced divers who clearly knew how to run a good, safe, dive boat.

Setting out, our plan was simple. We were going to hit three sites and enjoy some of the beauty that Howe Sound has to offer. The new plan was two wall dives and a pinnacle dive, all in the beautiful environs of Howe Sound. The first dive was at Anvil Island, where we discovered the cost of a week of sunshine in the Lower Mainland. Algae bloom was in full effect, and the descent took on aspects of a night dive, and had me flashing back to the blackout dives I’d done on my commercial diving courses. The next dive was at Dragons Den, on the Hutt Island Wall. This was an equally rough dive, with conditions nearly as severe as the previous one. The final dive, to Collingwood Channel Marker (a pinnacle), was much better! The vis kicked out significantly, and there was more to see.

photos above by Franki Beaney

Overall, the conditions were tough. The two wall dives had maximum depths around 30 metres, and the pinnacle was 22 metres. Vis was harsh, with the wall dives at less than 6 metres, and the pinnacle kicking out to maybe 9 metres at best. All the dives were dark, and required dive lights. Current was only significant at the pinnacle, but even then it wasn’t overly challenging to work with. The temperature was a cool 6˚C at depth. It’s important here to note that we were diving with and algae bloom that made conditions more difficult. I’m fairly certain that under better circumstances, the dives would have been fantastic.

So, my big take way from this was that adaptability at all levels is key to a good dive trip. Even though the conditions were bad, the staff and crew from Sea Dragons were on the case, looking for better sites and putting in that extra effort. Sometimes, things happen. We had one dive light lost and recovered, and a GoPro lost and waiting to be recovered, but no one got bent out of shape. You never take anything into the water that you’re not prepared to lose right? Another adaptability point was recognizing personal limits. Some people weren’t comfortable with the conditions, so they sat out the dives. That’s fine. I encourage that. Why? Because diving when stressed is a bad idea. We may not have had the best dive weekend, but we all had a great weekend because we refused to let the situation dictate how we felt.

One the plus side, Kelowna Divers is already organizing several trips to hit up the new artificial reef that was the HMCS Annapolis, and I should be able to make at least one! If not, I might have to head down myself and make it happen this summer!

About the author

Graeme is a professional diver, qualified as a PADI and SDI Divemaster, DCBC 40m Unrestricted Commercial Scuba Diver, 30m Restricted Surface Supply diver, and CAUS Scientific Diver Lv.2. Graeme has an Associate Degree of Arts in Environmental Studies, where he focused on archaeology and physical geography, and an Advanced GIS certificate.