Diving the Destroyer HMCS Annapolis

Doxa Sub 300t Cussler in front of the name of the HMCS Annapolis underwater

A Canadian Naval Destroyer, still serving her country’s waters, but now serving in a different command capacity.

[Be sure to check out the voiceover for this article on Substack, it more like a mini-podcast – hope you enjoy 🎙️]

This has been the dive I’ve been looking forward to all month. A diver’s road trip that goes to a boat that will take us to explore a (purposely) sunken destroyer. What more could you ask for on any given Sunday?

Early in the morning, passport in hand and Doxa on wrist I meet up with my dive buddy, Andy, at a meeting point we established just north of Bellingham. Sipping on coffee and sharing our excitement about the day, three of our fellow Bellingham diver compatriots started to roll in. We all piled ourselves, and more importantly our gear (more about that at the end), into his truck to head due-north to cross the Canadian border into British Columbia. Our destination; North Vancouver. Where a dive boat would be waiting to take us out into the waters of Howe Sound, north of Vancouver.

Aboard the TopLine

Tip: Bring a gold “loonie” $1 CAD coin. This will allow you to unlock the carts at the docks to help schlep your gear to the boat.

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After figuring out the trick to getting a cart, we loaded all our gear aboard the dive boat the TopLine, and we met our captain and divemaster for the day. As we set off from the dock out of Horseshoe Bay, the captain went through all the mandatory marine vessel disclosures and procedures, then the divemaster followed up with a diver roll-call. Nearly everyone was pumped to get to our first dive, the HMCS Annapolis (DDH 265), a purposely sunken Canadian destroyer made out as both an artificial reef as well as a destination and training ground for us divers.

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As we were underway, “An interesting fact about the vessel you’ll be diving today, the former medical officer of the Annapolis, today also serves as the provincial health officer at the British Columbia Ministry of Health …” the divemaster announced before the dive briefing.

The Dive and Dive Site

The Annapolis is located in Halkett Bay Marine Provincial Park. It is home to just one of the five artificial reefs created by the non-profit society Artificial Reef Society of BC​ (ARSBC). The ARSBC, driven by volunteers and based in Vancouver BC, strategically establishes artificial reefs to help strengthen the natural habitat within the waters of British Columbia and supports divers in making it a destination dive site:

“[ARSBC’s] aim is to create environmentally and economically sustainable ‘artificial reefs’ in British Columbia and around the world for the protection and enhancement of sensitive marine habitats, while also providing interesting destinations for the enjoyment of scuba divers. Since 1991, the Artificial Reef Society has sunk eight ships and one Boeing 737 in the waters off BC’s west coast!”

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The ship rests pretty much level at the sea bottom, providing each elevation of the former destroyer as a platform to explore based on your depth rating. The society made cut-aways along the ship’s hull to make the inside viewable and accessible to divers of varying skill levels. In the case of my dive partner and I, being deep-certified and not wreck-certified, we would not be penetrating the ship. Instead, our dive plan, like others, was to stay to the ship’s outside and explore her outer hull except for the helicopter hanger the society made safe to venture through if a diver felt comfortable to do so. It is a massive hanger, dark at depth, but it was stripped of anything that could ensnare a diver, making it an awesome swim-though dive experience.changed in just 8 years underwater.

For the #WatchFam

As anyone who knows me could have guessed, the only watch that was going to go down on this dive was always going to be the Doxa Sub 300T Clive Cussler.

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