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Diving in Howe Sound, BC – The Nakaya November 18, 2008

Posted by Chris Sullivan in Dive Log.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

In February 2006 I had a speaking engagement in Prince George, BC, and I decided to visit some clients in Vancouver on the same trip. As I managed to schedule a weekend in-between, the opportunity to ski or dive presented itself. This time, I chose diving, even though it was the middle of winter.

After some searching on the web, I found a shop called IDC that ran free fun dives at regular intervals, even in the winter, and they were hosting a shore dive to a wreck called the Nakaya, located at Porteau Cove Provincial Park in Howe Sound, right beside the road that takes you from Vancouver to Whistler, a ski resort and one of the main sites of the 2010 Winter Olympics.

On the Saturday afternoon, I visited the shop and rented my wet suit, tanks, and weights. The next morning, on Sunday, February 12th 2006,  was a pretty nice day, only 8 degrees Celsius but sunny. The drive  was about an hour, and when I arrived there were perhaps 20 or 30 divers scattered around, none of whom identified themselves as being from the shop. After waiting half an hour or so, a divemaster Daniel and one  other diver (Chuck) finally arrived, so just the 3 of us made the dive.

Divemaster Daniel and the Nakaya Buoy

Divemaster Daniel and the Nakaya Buoy

It is a beautiful part of Canada – on the water, with snow-capped mountains all around. Consequently, the water isn’t exactly warm, but at 8 degrees it was exactly the same as the air. To get to the wreck, we swam about 200 metres, then descended down a line attached to a large buoy that clearly marked the wreck. The line with two routes to the wreck, and one nearby. The visibility was about 20 feet so there was no problem navigating around.

The Nakaya is an old WWII yard minesweeper, built  at the Grebe shipyard near Chicago, Illinois (I subsequently did a lot of research on the ship and  used it for my divemaster mapping project). It was a standard design, this one designated YMS-420, built at many shipyards across the US. Jacque-Yves Cousteau‘s Calypso is of the same design. The Nakaya saw service in the Canadian Navy as HMCS Cordova after the war, and then was  sold to Harbour Ferries in 1970, serving as the “Harbour Queen #1” and then renamed Nakaya in 1980 . BC Ferries still operates a ferry of the same design and vintage into  Clayquot Sound, BC.


Quillback Rockfish

The  wreck has deteriorated considerably since it’s sinking as a dive site in 1992, and I’ve heard that it  may now be  closed  to diving. At the time, though, it was full of life, include a large Ling Cod that didn’t like me very much. Around that time of year the males guard the egg masses, and this one must have decided I was too close and tried to bite me. I ended up turning around and paddling my fins in its general direction to scare it off. There was also a Quillback Rockfish, an Orange Plumose Anemone (at 102 feet, the maximum depth of  this dive), and Calcareous  Tube Worms which covered the  ship.

Penetration is not recommended, and we satisfied ourselves with shining our lights into the wreck, which let us see everything inside. Unfortunately Chuck was a heavy breather and 15 minutes into the dive Daniel signalled me that we were done and we headed up to our safety stop. I had 1300 PSI by the time we were back at the surface.

Due to my hard disk crash I think I have lost my pictures. They weren’t all that good but they were something to remember the dive by. I have some prints on my office wall and maybe I’ll scan them back into my computer.

The Ling Cod - Out to get me

The Ling Cod - Out to get me

I found copies of a lot of my digital pictures on an old hard drive. Hooray!



1. Glenn Kukkee - June 18, 2012

Great write-up, Daniel – Thanks for doing it!
I’m working a freedive together for Porteau Cove, with a snorkel raft hopefully allowing us a glimpse or two at the deeper life here. Looking forward to it!
Great pics!


Chris Sullivan - June 19, 2012

Thanks Glenn (although Daniel was the shop’s DM and my name is Chris 🙂

If you get a chance, I’d be happy if you commented here about what you see on your free dive. Good luck. If you make it down to the Nakaya, I’ll be really impressed! (but, don’t of course, go beyond your limits just to impress me).



Glenn Kukkee - June 30, 2012

Will Do, Chris!

See you down below,


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