GUE Tech 2-Chapter 3: Vancouver Island

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It was the morning of October 24th 2021, the day before Tech 2 was scheduled to begin. I slept great and I was well rested. It was really nice that I had a free day to relax with no real agenda but I did want to dive. During dinner the previous day, a few people had talked about going for a dive in the morning. I was keen on joining, so I could get a little bit more acclimated to the cold, especially if I could do a little deco if possible. I also wanted to get groceries for the week, before class stated. Since GUE class schedules can be pretty busy; it’s best to get prepped for the long days ahead with snacks and anything else you might need. It’s unlikely you will have time or the energy to do it after a hard day in class.

Once I was up, I texted Liz to see where to meet. She told me that the original site they had planned was blown out due to weather and wind but we could go to Blueback Community Park (Tyee), in Nannoose Bay for a shallow tech dive. This sounded great. I check the weather for the day and it was basically the same as the day before. Periods of heavy rain and drizzle, chilly 40’s and 50’s. Apparently that’s the norm that time of year. By this time the MWUE (Chris Hart, John Knoepfle, and Ricki orford) boys were up, moving about. Someone made coffee and we chatted a bit about dinner plans. it was their last night and they wanted to cook a team dinner. It was nice that we had some overlap in our days so I could meet these guys that I had interacted with on Facebook for the past few years. MWEU (Midwest Underwater Explorers) is sort of a sister group to SEUE (Southeast Underwater Explorers).

While we all chatted, as I periodically glanced out the window across the small driveway to see when the garage door at Guys house was open. Waiting for the garage door to open became a ritual indicating that he up and in the garage filling gas, prepping for our class. This was my sign to head over and grab the tanks I’d need for the day’s dive. I collected the gear that was hanging up, drying from the day before. Guy had my O2 and backgas filled and waiting, so I promptly analyzed the gas, assembled my doubles, packed my drysuit and undergarments, and the heater pack. I was charging my heater pack in my bedroom and purposely left the keys clipped to the heater pack so I wouldn’t forget it.

Duncan to Blueback Community Park

I punched in the address for Blueback Community Park in google maps and headed north. The drive time was about an hour. It was still drizzling but the drive was easy and I really enjoyed the scenery of the entire island. The island had been experiencing some flooding and there were signs of rock/landslides with the occasional small boulder in the road, which cars just drove around. I arrived at at Tivee with little issue, though I did second guess myself at first because I was the only one there. I waited in the Rav for a short while wondering if I was in the right spot, but then triple checked the directions and decided I was just early. I got out of the car and walked around the site while I waited. The park was this little picnic area that gently slopes down hill to large rocky beach. Like China Creek, this beach also had many sawn logs crowding the entrance which created a fun obstacle course to navigate with heavy doubles and gear.

The site is basically in a neighborhood and there were people out for morning walks despite the drizzly rain and wind that was starting to pick up. There was a small picnic table and even a little changing area for divers, and I guess brave swimmers. Apparently this is a very popular place to dive and even more surprising was how popular diving was on the island, even recreationally. Those Canadians are a hearty bunch and the entire island exudes an air of warmth and a passion for the outdoors.

Liz arrived shortly after I did, with the Mighty Zeus (the insta-famous @westiezeus) and told me that the other person that was supposed to join us had to bail. But the good news is she had his scooter and I had permission to use it on this dive. This was an unexpected treat and I happily agreed to take good care of it. I was not only thrilled to have an impromptu scooter dive but also this gave me a chance to have a bit more gear and task loading before T2 began. Liz did a site briefing and we talked a dive plan. We would scooter down the slope out of the inlet to a fairly distinct rock formation, then scooter north along a wall at an average depth of about 80ft until we reached turn pressure. From there we would scooter back past the entrance check out some of the sites south. at an average depth of about 60ft. Then come back north to deco out. The dive would be about 1hour with about 15min of deco at 20 ft. This sounded great to me.

We carried our oxygen bottles and scooters to the water and propped them up on some logs so they wouldn’t be bothered by the small lapping waves and logs bumping together along the beach. We got geared up and did our GUE EDGE while sitting in the parking lot. This is important because you want to spend as little time as possible in the water. I checked my heat was working by flicking it on for a few mins while we did the GUE EDGE. The last thing I wanted was to hop in the water and realized I forgot to connect the heat. I assumed it would be kind of like that feeling when you first start to pee in the water in your drysuit and wonder if you remembered to “plumb up”. I had to be ritualistic about things and this was one of them.

We clambered over the log obstacle course and got in the water. The beach while it looked like gravel was likely naturally worn pebbles from years and years of wave action. The pebbles small and smooth and a little bit slippery with drysuit boots so one had to be careful. Once we were and about chest deep water we, got our fins on, clipped scooters and deco gas on, and I did my superman drysuit stretching ritual to get all nice and comfy. This normally entails me putting my primary reg in my mouth and laying face down in the water, stretching out my suit while adding gas and until I can easily reach my valves. The water was 50 degrees and the small inlet was a hive of activity. Small fish, kelp, otherworldly crustaceans, star fish, and many many other creatures were going about their business.

Soon we were underway. I was nice and relaxed as we scootered north, the water was turquoise blue, with the wall on my left. There was a sealion way off in the distance hunting fish. Liz stopped frequently to point out different unique wildlife that she spotted. One such creature was a wolf-eel. These guys are really cool and they live in dens with their mate (they mate for life). I kept an eye out for the illusive GPO (Giant Pacific Octopus) but none were to be found. Either they were just extremely well camouflaged or this site just didn’t have many or maybe more likely; they are just kind a rare. None the less I was having a great time.


Soon we reached turn pressure and headed back south. I was doing my best to conserve my 9ah heater pack by flicking it on and off to decrease the power to low and bump it to high only when I started to feel chilled. The cold didn’t really bother me but I was never really cozy. I was thinking I wish I brought my 400 though. The scooter south was more wildlife and unique rock formations. I did a few barrel rolls on the scooter through a school of fish which was really fun. After an hour or so we made our way back to the inlet and began our deco. We had 10 mins at 20ft. I was feeling the cold a bit more then the previous day, especially in my hands and feet. Scootering is great for conserving energy and to have a super low SAC rate but also you do get colder because you aren’t moving much.

We did our gas switch to oxygen and began deco, without issue. My fingers, feet, and lips were cold and I wasn’t as dexterous and nimble with all the gear like I hoped to be. While on deco, I tried to move around a bit to generate some body heat which I guess may have helped a little, “I guess you just get used to this” I thought. But it had me worried since this was just a 10 min deco after an hour dive and by the end of class I’d be doing dives twice as long. I was thinking that I wished I had more insulation on the dive, and planned to see what layers I could scrounge up at Wal-Mart. It was wintertime-ish in Vancouver after all, so I figured they’d have a selection of synthetic long underwear I could use.

We ended the dive and exited the water, avoiding the logs that were now even more treacherous with the incoming tide. I profusely thanked Liz for her generous tour guiding and use of the scooter. I got out of my gear and back into warm clothes, loaded all the gear back into the rav. The wind had picked up and it was still drizzling. We said our goodbyes, I gave The Mighty Zeus a pat and Liz wished me good luck in the class.

It was rainy, windy, and getting fairly late in the day. I still wanted to stop at Wal-Mart but realized I wouldn’t have time to do grocery shopping without being late for the MWEU team dinner. I did still want to stop to quickly run in and see about some base layers. I wasn’t sure if I’d dive on the first day of class but I wanted to be ready for a long day in the water. So I punched “Duncan, BC, walmart” in google maps and headed south. Once I arrived; I made a beeline to the winter clothes section and found something that might work. I also needed a notebook to take notes for class so I got one of those too.

I arrived back at Guy’s place around 5:30 or 6 in the evening. I unloaded my gear, hung up my drysuit and undergarment in the garage, and made my way into the BnB. I threw my wet base layers into the dryer and put my batteries on charge. Then I made my way into the kitchen to find Ricki and Chris well underway cooking some Indian inspired meal. It smell delicious. Dinner was served around 7:30 and the entire group of us (Guy, Jon & SJ, Kelvin, John, Chris, Ricki and I) stuffed ourselves. We chatted and shared stories for a few hours, until slowly everyone retired to bed. It was a good day.