Port Hardy - A Slice of BC`s Grandeur

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Port Hardy - A Slice of BC`s Grandeur
Story& Photo.s
B1t:Barb Roy
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W D N s l o r i e s "I m e n t i o n e d
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I h o w m a n y d i r e r s a r e o p t i n gt o e x p l o r e
local sites with family and friends to deal
with currenteconomictimes.Port Hardy,in
BritishColumbia.is onesuchdestination.
Not
only is PortHardythe gatewayto the Queen
CharlotteStraitit providesaccessto areason
thenorlheastem
sideofVancouverIslandfor
excellent.prime diving. As a photographeq
this hasalwaysbeena favoriteareaof mine
becausethe activitiesare so bountiful and
wildlile-viewingopportunities
areendless.
Within these nutrient rich waters an
array of vibrant colored invertebrates
reside,includingnudibranchs,basketstars,
anemonesand soft corals.Lush kelp forests
provide shelterfor giant Pacific octopus,
lingcod, wolf eels,rockfish and numerous
othermarinecritters.
For wreck enthusiasts,
the SS lftenls is
a naturalwreck,sinkingin 1906afterhitting
Crocker Rock. After e.nduringnumerous
storms,the wreckageranges in depth from
60 to 90 feet. Photographers
are sureto find
pink and white soft corals,pastelcolored
spongeandhugeleth'argic
PugetSoundking
crabs.Watchfor octopusandwolf eelsunder
decking and hull pieces.Mottled yellow
and black China rockfishand strippedtiger
rockfishare also herewith a beautifulthick
forestofkelp surroundingthe site.
photographers
Naturalistandunderwater
will alwaysenjoySevenTreeIsland.On one
sideis a deepwall coveredin whiteanemones
with pink and red soft coral clustersevery
12 inchesor so. Betweenflexible finger
spongeshide shy decoratedwarbonnetsand
red Irish lordstrying to becomeinvisible.
fryffi
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infir:ft
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YOUR
tOCAt
SPORTS
APPARET
TEADEB!
;,ii,{$*iii i$tiL{-,iffiifiI{iil*:* t
#ffi,
Let us,arrangethe wildernessexperienceof a
lifetime,
grizzlybeartours,
fromwhalewatching,
salmon{ishing,
ecotours,diving,
or hikingto
beaches.
oristine
Callus!
i:i ii-tlfi ii*r''i:,ti fxiiZ#,kl
6555HardyBayRd.Port HardyBCVON2P0
www. nwd ivenews.com
N o r t h w e s t D i v e N e w s J U L Y2 0 0 9
1
NoRIHWF-Sr
DlvENEWS
Lacy-lookingbasketstarsextendbranch_like
rayswhile gatheringfood.The island'sother
sideis shalloweqwith orangeseapensin the
sand.Multi-coloredbroodinganernones
are
comrnonlyfound at the baseof kelp stalks
i n t h es h a l l o w s .
If weatherand currentspermit. dive
operators
mighttraver.se
theStraltto Se),rnour
Inlet and SlingsbyChannelto dive iurret
Rock. This currentswept site lies in the
middleof NakwaktoRapidsandis hometo
coloniesof subtidalred-lippedgooseneck
barnacles.
Also seenherearewhitesix_rayed
seasrars.hugepurpleplumedlearher_duiter
w o r m s , g r e e n l i n g s .s p o n g e sa n d m o r e
anemones.
(This site is recommended
for
advanceddiversonlv).
BetweenMarch-andNovembergroups
d e p a r t P o r t H a r d y f o r m u l t i _ d a vO i u .
excursionw
s i t h s e v e r ad
l ive operators
p r o v i d i n gp l . o f e s s i o nbaol a t c h a r t e r st o
BrowningPass,the DeserterIslands,God,s
PockelProvincialMarine park and manv
others.
T h e M u m n t i s a l i v e - a _ b o a rd i v e
v e s s e l o f f - e r i n gm u l t i _ d a y a d v e n t u r e s .
accomrnodating
groupsof six.
"When referringto my port Hardytrips
. ...
I like to sayPort Hardy and Beyond,';states
DanFerris,ownerandCaptainofthe Mamro.
"Because
we arefreeto go anylvhere
andstay
wttefe\,er
we choose_"
Dan was certilied in 1993and started
diving in Port Hardy in 1994.He and his
wife Debboughtthe54-footwoodedmother
ship Mamro in 2000. They use a 30_foot
aluminumskiff to takediversout and serve
a plentifulsupplyof wholesome
food.
"Wj
,
_r. starling to stay in Hardy partly
throughNovembernow,',continuis^Oan.
''l lovc
springin porr Hardy.Everythingis
new and alive. Betweentrips, Deb and igo
for drivesjust to namethe bears.I think oirr
r e c o r di s e i g h rb l a c kb e a r si n o n en i g h t W
. e
had over fifty eaglesat the dock th-eother
nightand I saw sevenelk down by Wossa
Inonth
ago."
AlthoughMamr.ooifers individualspots.
thcytry^1(r
l'ocuson groupslrom diveshops.
clubs,fih.ncrewsor fbmiliesand friendsto
t
I
r
I
Eachday we scrueup
lnsrcdiblc photo Ops!
@ up to 4 greatdivesper day
fromour comfyWilderness
Resort!
Vancouver's
lsland
diveresort
intheheartoftheBarklev
Sound
OPENALLYEAR!
Greatreefs,walls& wrecks,
sixgillsharks
giantoctopus,
nuotDranches
& muchmore.
Packaqes
for
individuals,
groups,
andstores
Non-divers
andchildren
arewelcome
Calltoll frcc
cno rf,ww.Ua
1 250753-375'i
nGouuerl
slandDivc.com
N o r t h w e s tD i v e N e w s J U L y 2 0 0 9
www. nwd ivetnews.cont
TorlFree:1 -877-777-9994
www.rendezvousdivin
g.com
i n f [email protected] e n d e z v o u s d i v r n o . c o m
I
i
!
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createcustomitineraries.Dive rangefor the
Mamro is Victoria to PrinceRupertand all
stopsin between.Land excursionscan also
be arranged.
" M y b i g g e s tt h r i l l i s s h o w i n g m y
customerswhat they want to see.There's
n o t h i n g b e t t e rt h a n h a v i n g a n e w d i v e r
coming up with saucereyestelling me that
they saw their first wolf eel or octopus,or
26
the veteranphotographersaying I got the
shot! It's pretty exciting to have the skiff
anchored,watchingbubblesandhavewhales,
dolphinsor sealionscomeby.You're sitting
on pinsandneedleshopingyour diverslooked
over their shouldersin time to seethem."
Dan Ferris
Another li-vea board servicingthis area
is the 116-footcustom-builtocean-going
www. nwd ivenews.com
Nautilus Explorer, operated by Captain
M ike Lever.
"We ran our first Port Hardy dive charter
in 1993on the old NautilusZ//," comments
Mike. "I usedto dive the Gulf Islandson othel
I
dive charterboats like the Clavella'be,f.ore
setup the Naztilus VII in 1992.Cunently we
offer late May and JuneVancouverlsland
circumnavigationtrips that stopat Porttlar{y
Dive NewsIULY2009
Northwest
N9RJIJWF-SIPIY-F}I-E"YVS.
for a
.coupleof days of diving as well as wonderfulit is to jump in the waterand how stay
until mid to late October.After that.
oropprnglntoBrowningpassandDillon Rock pnvlteged
we are to be ableto visit another they.break
on all of our tripsto andfrom Alaskain June,
up into smallergroups(probably
w^orldand forget about our topsidelives for
families) and move farthir into inl"ts-ii
July.andAugust.Wearealwaysinterestedin
60minutes.Maybetheintertidaizone(surface
spendthe winter. Most head out to sea bv
puttingtogetheranyothercustomchanersthat
to 30 feet) may well be the very besipart
of
March
or April following the herrine afte,
drversmightbe interested
in."
Brow.ningWall. poking througirkelp'is sort
theyspawn."
T h e N a u t i l u s E x p l o r e r c a n e a s i l v ol ttklng
walkingthrougha coastalrainforest:
Browning pass Hide Away is a quaint
accommodateup to 20 divers.At 27_feet
nndtngone gardenafteranotherofbrilliant _
floating platform in the tranquii Clam bove,
w i d e , t h e s t e e lh u l l p r o v i d e sa s m o o t h
a l : T o l 9 r r e f l e c r i n gt h e s u n s h i n em i x e d
with three cabinsto houseup ro ten guests.
s t a b l er i d e . N i t r o x i s a v a i l a b l ea n d t h e
wtrn bnghtorangeburrowingseacucumbers,
This is an ideal situation fbr diveri on a
Iood rsgourrnetcuisine.
greensurf dwelling anemones,
red soft corals.
mainly focusedon diving. The food is
Mike remarks on his recent dive: .,It
grange cup corals and so on. I could easily 9r.lg:r,
deliciousand the place is warm and drv.
was my turn yesterdayto divemasterthe
havespenta longtime relaxinganAwarchine
"I like to refer to this area as ThL Best
next_splashat the world famous Browning
trtttecrabs,gobiesand sculpinin my gardei
Diving in the Known (Jniverse!,'continues
Wall. World famous???yup, this dir, ;iE
but regrettably,my hour wai up. I lovJ cold_
John."l cameup with that descriptionfor a
was voted #l in North America 3 yearsin a
water scubadivingl', Captain Mike
orvemagazlne
row in Rodale'sScubaDiving. I wisn't sure
articleon Browningpassabout
watchingand paddlingaroundin a 20 years
ago. I'd beenrunning lhe Ctor"tio
wfat t9 expectand was pleasantlysurprised , fird
Kayakare also popularsideactivitiesin and
for 8 yearsandtherewas reallyno otherwav
when I jumped in and looked around.'Wha-t
around the Port Hardy area.John deBoeck.
to describethe qualityof diving, underwater
a beEutiful site! I had forgottenjust how
o_wnerand operator of the Browning pass pnotography,
marine biology and marine
qagical Browning Wall was. We cruised H i d e A w a y
o n N i g e i I s l a n d ,t , u , , i u . r u l mammalviewing
potentialin the area.,'
70 feet past towering walls of giant kayaks
llgp "J
availableto his customers
and knows
explains
b i l l o w i n g w h i t e p l u m o s ea n e m o n e sa n d
what the first part.of one
^. {ohn
most o^fthe bird species.Early morningsare
of his_tripsmight be like; ..We .".t you in
sodnfound ourselveson thered wall, named,
for the huge sheetsofred soft coral 40 feei gold .for.vie,wingAmericanwigeoni and Port Hardy, load up and run out to th; Hide
oumeheads
alongtheshoreor puffinsaround Away, taking
high.coveringeveryinchofavailablerock.
about an hour unlesswe come
the outer islands. Birds are not the only
across_whalesor dolphins. Oops, there,s
Couplethis with schoolsof hoveringjuvenile
thingsto seethough...
some.Dall's,Porpoise,over by that eagle
roclcfioh.al{_9olor
thepalatewith huge-basker
yellow
"At onepoint we hadovera hundredsea
catchingthe fish...
sponge.brilliantly coloredanemone-s,
otters in our bay,,, John proudly exclaims.
"Once you've settledinto your comfi,
stArs,tunicatesand hydroidscreatingquitea "One
month they were everywhereand the cottage,
we get gearedup and boardthe dive
sight! Therewere also loadsof nudibranchs
next they had moved on. In August, the
tenderfor a late afternoondive. Back for a
and crabs,This was a clear reminderof how
dolphins usually arrive in tu.g. g.iup. unJ
hearty home-style supper,then perhapsan
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eveningor night-dive.Later,with a wood-fire
burning,you cankick back,reador download
your images.Rechargebatteriesand sweet
dreamsin the cozy double beds, fireplace
cracklingandpeacefulsilence.
"The Next morning we have toast and
coffeeand a dive beforea mid-morningfulI
eggs'muffins'
breakfast,includingsausages,
cereals,juice, fruit and coffee,then back to
the passfor anothergreatslack dive. Lunch
is hot homemadesoup or chowder with
sandwichesand enoughtime for a paddle
aroundthe cove or a bit of beachcombing
beforethe next boat dive."
My husbandWaYneand I have enjoYed
severalvisits with John,a long time veteran
diver and charteroperatorof this area,and
have yet to be disappointedwith his timing
for currents!
God's Pocket is a land-basedresort
ownedandoperatedby Bill WeeksandAnnie
C e s c h iw
, h o h a v et a k e nd i v e r so u t s i n c e
Augustof 1998.Their dive seasonis April I
throughOctober31, but will accommodate
requestsfor customschedules.
"We havebuilttwo new cabins,designed
with winter diving in mind' They are also
availableto rent out weekly for diversor non
divers in ovr off season."
Bill startbddiving in 1987 and Annie
was certified in 2000. Bill explainswhat
diversmight see;"spring is a greattime to
seeall kinds of babies.It's alsothe time we
see Puget Sound King Crabs in shallower
water.Octopusesare in our bay more often
and it's not uncommonto see them in the
shallows from our sundeck.We dive with
sealions and seeporpoisesall year as well
as Orcas (mainly August and September).
Humpbackwhalesliterally begin"sleeping"
SERVING THE NORTH\.I|EST
DIVER FOR OVER 40 YEARS.
r (800)222-rJrYE
10803SW BarburBlvd'
Portland,OR q7219
www.aquaticsports.com
lvI-F10to 7 Sat9 to 5
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Dive NewsJULY2009
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just outsideof our bay aroundthe middle of
May. They sometimesstick aroundas late as
the endof October.
"If people are interestedin really big
kelp forests,August and Septemberare
best. During this time, our bay is teaming
with hoodednudibranchs.Giant swimming
nudibranchsmake their appearancein June
and staythroughthe fa11."
AlthoughGod'sPocketwill accommodate
12 divers on their boat, they have enough
roomfor l6 people(two perroom).The extra
room makesit possiblefor private rooms or
to bring kids or dogs.
Their aluminum42-footboathasa service
speedof 20 knots, making Browning Pass
l0 minutesaway,Barry Islet 35 minutesand
NakwaktoRapids50 minutesaway!
Bill continues,"She has an air filling
stationon board,a head,two boardingladders
and a platform. We have tank racks for 15
SCUBA systems.We typicallydo at least12
diveson a full 4-daycharter,which include;
SevenTree
Island,BrowningIslets,Browning
Wall,Hunt Rock,BarryIslet,HussarPointand
a sealion dive. There are three sitesfor the
NakwaktoRapidsarea;OuterNarrows,Turret
Rock,JohnsopPoint.We also try to include
a fast current snorkel! There are many other
sitesto do aswell. Oneday is left forthe group
to decidewhat.they-would
like to do."
Bill and Annie regularly offer nature
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Dive NewsIULY2009
hikes and walks, and kayakingis fun to do in
their bay. Bill explainswhat a typical fourday charter might be like; "Arrive God's
Pocketat 6pm from Port Hardy.Have dinner,
orientation and settle in. Day one through
four: Breakfast,lunch,dinnerand diving. On
day four you can rinse your gear,dry it out
in a designateddrying room. The next day,
breakfastand the 35-minute boat ride back
to port Hardy, arriving by 9am."
Whenaskedaboutan excitingexperience,
Bill recalls; "We once had a group where
two really wantedto dive in a bait ball to
film birds feeding from below. Every time
we saw potential, the ball would break up
beforewe were ableto get closeenough.On
oneoccasion,the closerwe.got,the biggerit
became!It was enormous,not only that, we
hadeverybird imaginableon theball; eagles,
seagulls,rhinocerosauklets,pigeongillimonts
aridWilson'sphalaropeson the sidelines.It
was crazy!
Wealsohad l0 peopleon thebow of the
boat looking down on this, while the two
diverswere readyto jump in. In the next
moment,all of the people on the bow fell
backwardsbecausea humpbackwhale came
from underneaththe ball and devouredthe
entirething.includinga SeagulllThe whale
lunged so far out of the wateq that I could
see him from r4y helm chair through the
pile of peoplewho had fallen back onto the
www. nwdivenews.com
windshield.The two diversgot in but all they
saw were fish, scalesand feathers."
Talk about an unforgettablejourney!
Theseare just a few of the encountersone
might experiencein the PortHardyarea.Most
ofthe operationssupplytanksandweightsand
offer (or can arrange)rentalsandNitrox fills.
Check out detailedtrip descriptionson their
websites.
Aboveall, hive fun!Port Hardy is located at the end of
Highway 19, approximately235 miles (391
km) from Nanaimo where visitors arrive by
ferry from the Mainland at the Tsawwassen
andHorseshoe
Bay terminals.r
Travel Information:
DiveIndustryAssociation
ofBritishColumbia
www.diveindustry bc.com
BC Ferrieswww.bcferries.com
Browning PassHide Away
vryvw.
VancouverI sIandD ive.com,
l-877 7252835or 2507533751
God'sPocket
www.godspocket.com
t-250:949-1755
Mamro Adventuies
www.mamro,com
1-250-756-8812
Nautilus Explorer
www.naut i lusexpIorer.com
-7614
I -888-434-8322
or 604-657