Tuesday, April 11, 2006 

Racing the Tide

Last weekend, April 7-9th, I ran a drive trip up to Victoria, BC Canada to dive with Ogden Point Dive Centre at the famous Race Rocks in the Straits of Juan de Fuca.

There were 8 divers, plus one non-diving shopper, along. Four of us drove up early enough on Friday to get in a shore dive at the Ogden Point breakwater, right out the back door of the shop. You just walked out on the cement seawall and went in at the marked site of your choosing. It was a pretty good dive and we saw lots of huge ling cod. Nice setup with rinse tanks, showers and lockers afterwards at the shop.

We stayed the weekend at Hotel Douglas, an older hotel downtown that was centrally located a couple of blocks up from Swan's Pub and brewery, our home away from home.

Normally groups do one day at Race Rocks and one day diving the wrecks on the other side of the Saanich Peninsula. But as we had great tides most of the weekend, the group had opted to stay on the straits side. Personally I'm not all that enamored with a lot of the artificial reefs up there. They're too clean, no bones to pick over.

The weather was ok, although we had rain Saturday night, both days it was fairly calm and dry, which was great, as a couple of folks on board suffer from mal de mer easily and it can get very rough.

Saturday's dive at West Race wall was very memorable. We had about a .43 max current that day, and we were diving at slack! We had just a little surface current that let up about 20' down, other than that it was completely still. This is a site where currents top 11 knots at times! I went down and came back up at the same spot.

Incredible color and invertebrates everywhere. Walls covered in large, pink Snakelock Anemones, sponge, tunicates, barnacles and more. Saw a huge Puget Sound King Crab, as well as a small one just after it had molted, and an unusually colored Cabazon that was mostly white on it's back. Basket Starfish and large formations of purple coral were another favorite of mine. After a pleasant break in nearby Pedder Bay, we did a second dive at Main Race. it was a nice boulder field, not as good as West Race, but I did get some great shots of a totally tame, female Kelp Greenling that posed for my camera, then turned around to give me her better profile.

Sunday we dove West Race again, getting in a little early, as the tide was about 15 mins late. That had us clinging to the rocks, and huddling under some outcroppings, until it turned and we could enjoy a gentle ride. I was on a mission to photograph some Crackback Shrimp, which only live under Snakelock Anemones. The one time previously I had photographed them they were tiny about 1/2" long. I poked amongst the anemones for most of the dive, shot some small Fabellina verrucosa nudibranchs. Paul found a large Mossyhead Warbonnet and Ed found a small Wolf Eel, just having turned into it's intermediate size. Finally at the end of the dive, I found a giant Crackback, about 2", which is huge for them! Got so excited I almost ran out of air shooting it. It was very satisfying to find a fairly obscure animal by knowing it's habitat.

The last dive we did was at Pt Albert on the way back, but other than shooting one Hudson's yellow Margin nudibranch, I had a bad dive in the silty area. With my mask leaking buckets, I aborted early. But that's diving and the dives at Race Rocks left me with great memories of unbelievable color and life.

Photos at: Ogden Point Breakwater, West Race Wall, Main Race.

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About Jack

  • Adventurer, diver, sailor, photographer, writer and sometimes graphic designer. Proprietor of Optical Ocean Sales, LLC. Enjoy the blog, check back and please leave comments!
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