God’s Pocket, Hurst island-Vancouver Island, B.C.-August 6-12, 2017
By Ken Kollwitz
Diving the Pacific Northwest and specifically the far north end of Vancouver Islands, B.C. is an experience EVERY cold water diver should do but don’t wait too long (more on that later) or you will lose out on the chance.
Personally I think it is some of the best diving if not the BEST! I have done 3 dive trips to the Port Hardy area and one trip to Barkley Sound on the Pacific coast side of Vancouver Island off two different liveaboard dive boats and one trip from the mainland to the Sechelt Area staying at a land based dive resort and by far all those trips have probably been my favorites over any warm water destination I have been to but then I LOVE adventure. Now this type of adventure isn’t for everyone and it does take some logistics getting to these places but it is totally worth the effort.
Why is that? The way I like to explain it to people is to say-take Yosemite Valley, fill it with water and put TONS of life on the walls such as anemones, soft corals, finger sponges and the like and then add in some cool looking invertebrates. Next add some wolf eels with some octopus along with lots of fish (mostly colorful), some large sea pens growing up from the bottom, some basket stars on the rocks and now you start to get the idea. When your dive is done you come up with beauty everywhere, trees hanging over in the water, small rock islands and sometimes the sight of eagles soaring overhead. NOW that is something I can never get tired of and that is why I planned the trip to God’s Pocket.
I never had been to God’s Pocket but heard PLENTY of excellent things about it from others that I know so naturally I had to go. God’s Pocket is very busy and booked throughout their season which is from mid-March to the end of October so getting a week that worked for my schedule took some time even 18 months in advance and we settled on August 6-12, 2017. Before you knew it the trip was here and my wife and I were more than ready for a nice long vacation. Because of the logistics to get to God’s Pocket we always like to take 2 weeks or longer so we spent the week before in the Parkville, B.C. area. Parkville is about 30 minutes north of Nanaimo ?? and is a perfect stopping point for traveling to Port Hardy.
The traveling planning for a trip like this usually requires air travel to Vancouver Airport or another smaller town on Vancouver Island, rental cars, hotels, ferry rides, 3-4 hour ride from Nanaimo plus the rental car sits in Port Hardy the whole week while you are at God’s Pocket which is about a 45-60 minute boat ride from Port Hardy. I always figure if going to all the trouble to plan all this why not enjoy what Canada has to offer-unbound beauty!
Now that I have been-I like to think of God’s Pocket as a little slice in heaven but still on this earth. The first glimpse you get will probably be something like whimsical, quaint, peaceful and beautiful. You will not be disappointed and one thing is for sure Bill & Anne Weeks along with their staff and crew will do everything they can to make you feel like family. On our trip we had Oliver who used to work for the Nautilus Swell as our DM, elevator man and all around helper-what a great guy he was. Helping Anne with other chores around the resort were Mitch and Megan and our chef was Rafe.
Bill and Anne have been running the resort for 19 years and there has been changes but not many. Before Bill and Anne God’s Pocket was a fishing resort but once they took operation they stopped the fishing and added scuba diving and kayaking to the lineup.
God’s Pocket can accommodate 13 guests and this is because the dive boat which also doubles as the passenger ferry is only certified to hold 13 plus crew. The resort itself is practically entirely built over the water and out off the side of the rock island known as Hurst Island which is now a B.C. Provincial Park. There are 3 main buildings and several smaller ones including 2 cabins. The main building is the dining room where meals are all served family style at one big long table plus it also houses the chef’s quarters and kitchen. The other 2 main buildings each have 4 guest rooms set up for 2 people each and one has a common room with TV, books, games and more attached to it. Above the main area there are 2 very nice cabins with a little more space than the regular rooms plus several out buildings for maintenance stuff, the generators and a drying room for dive gear.
Being on an island everything and everyone has to be self-sufficient so that requires lots of supplies being brought to the island on a continuing basis. They have a 30kw and 60kw generator along with a wind turbine and plenty of batteries to bank power, two dive compressors and everything to make nitrox plus sometimes they have to make water with a desalination machine as in our case when there water saved in cisterns dries up and their stream runs less from the ever changing climate changes we all are experiencing. They did have a phone that you could use if needed for a cost but other than that internet was a bit spotty as well as a cell service and not something you could rely on. Also, leaving the resort at any time could be costly as transportation back to Port Hardy was not easy and had to be planned in advanced.
Every day we would have a 2 tank boat dive and a 1 tank dive. When and where these would happen no one knew till the day or meal before because the tidal currents, moon cycle and topside conditions all had to be figured into our dive day. Of course we did not have the normally August weather and the week before we arrived there was a heat wave along the west coast of Canada breaking records from as far back as 2005 so needless to say that didn’t help our visibility. Visibility on any of our dives was about 5’-30’ish feet and it all depended on depth, location and current. For water temperatures we had 45° to 50° but it seemed somewhere around 47° was average. I loved my new dry gloves and electrically heated vest. In all we did 15 dives and the sites we visited where Hoodie Nudie Bay, Husser West and East, Fantasy Island, 7 tree Island, Snowfall, Northwest Passage, Butter Tart, Landslide, Browning Wall, Lukenshoot, Ruth’s Rocks, Castle gap and Barry Island. We still had a great time but because of the conditions some people decided to opt out on some of the dives for some other onshore activities such as hiking, kayaking or lounging around enjoying the scenery.
One dive I stayed behind to hike with my wife. My wife is a trouper and usually the only non-diver on trips I do. Luckily she enjoys the outdoors as much as I do. Anyways there are 4 trails directly behind the resort. One trail from the end of the last large cabin building leading up a hill which branched off into about a dozen ways to go, one trail leading to Messer Bay behind the first large cabin building, another trail leading to Harlequin Bay which was right behind our cabin and lastly a trail starting from the kitchen building going to a nice little bay. My wife and I did the Messer Bay trail which took us about 2 hours round trip. No manicured trails here, just plenty of forest, vegetation and beautiful scenery. Along each trail you had to make sure you followed the correct colored ribbons tied to trees to make sure found your way because sometimes it wasn’t all that easy to know where you were going. Also, if you went on a hike or kayaking the staff always wanted us to take a radio in case something should happen. We weren’t worried about getting attacked by wildlife because they had no snakes, a few small animals and only some wolves that we were told only liked seafood.
After a good hike or dive we always looked forward to mealtime which stated off with the ringing of the bell. It was nice sitting down with everyone including the staff and discussing the fun times we were having or what cool thing we seen on our last dive. The meals were excellent with plenty of good eats and deserts to make us feel like we added some pounds. Of course we liked to think we needed to eat more because of the cold water but honestly I don’t think the cold water helped keep any extra weight off of me.
We had 13 in our group with several joining us only the week or two before due to some cancellations and I think it is safe to say everyone had a great time with some planning more trips back before leaving. God’s Pocket is very laid back, peaceful and FUN and one of those places that most will want to enjoy time and time again as I do. I planned a trip going back in June 2019 and a lot of that had to do with the current situation with the lease for God’s Pocket. From what I understand talking to Bill, the current lease is just about up and they are not sure what will be happening. They did talk to the BC government about a new 30 year lease that would have gone into effect on August 1, 2017 but when we left they still hadn’t heard anything back. If they get the lease they would like to sell God’s Pocket to some great new owners knowing they can continue for quite a long time. If the lease doesn’t go through then eventually the island will have to be returned to its original state with no resort on it which would be a terrible loss for everyone but more so for Bill and Anne.
The other problem is there used to be around 5 liveaboard dive boats that ran trips around the Port Hardy area and all are now gone including many dive shops in the area. This problem is not just happening in the Port Hardy area but other places along Vancouver Island as well so if you think you want to go back or try your first trip to the area GO NOW and don’t wait or it just may be too late!
CIDA has another trip planned for June 20-26, 2019. Check out our movie on You Tube from the trip and sign up for the one in 2019!