St. Margaret's Bay/Hubbards
Certification Level: Open Water
In order to reach Birchy Head you'll have to take exit 6 on the 103 Hwy, next you'll take the 329 hwy. Birchy Head is just down the road from Fox Point beach. Its marked by a dive flag sign and marked on the guard rail. You'll have to hop a guard rail to go down the path. Park on the ditch side of the road. There is a steep slope down with a ledge to hand down equipment. Suiting up at the car is also an option, there is a small climb down required to get to the beach.
Birchy Head is a small, secluded dive area appropriate for open water to advanced level/technical diving. Divers can reach depths up to 230feet/70.1meters here, but the reef only extends to about 45/55 feet/13.72meters/16.76meters; after that it's just sand. For open water divers they are tires at 60ft/18.29meters there is plenty to see. For Advanced open water there are tires also at 100ft, this is great for figuring out SAC rates (air consumption) or fin cycles.
The entry/exit to Birchy can be challenging - there is a steep slope that leads down to the rocky beach. There are two ways you can get down to the water level, 1st is to stick to the right when facing the ocean this way there is a rope tied to a tree to help you down the slope, from there you'll have to navigate a very rocky path down to water (watch out for loose rocks). The 2nd way down is to stick the left and walk down the rock slope and you'll find a crack in the rocks where you can easily reach the water level.
The beach itself is made up of round stones that can be a tripping hazard, so be very careful. It's best to avoid Birchy Head when there are strong winds as the waves can be relatively large, there is no shelter to this site its fairly open. Best winds for the site are when wind is at your back as such northwest winds are ideal, Southwest are also doable depending on strength. Watch for waves, if there are waves time your entry/exit to waves and take a good stanch for crashing waves. There can sometimes be a current(s) at this site either surface or bottom and sometimes both going in opposite directions (when planning dive be aware of this).
Birchy Head boasts a variety of marine life and has an interesting rock bottom including boulders and ledges—there's always lots to see while diving there. Bottom Composition is rocky bottom to moderate drop off, variable plant life. This site has 3 different directions you can travel, straight out to depth, left to shallower dive or right which can easily get depths along a ledge of 90ft/27.43meters. Remember to take a compass barring and know the reciprocal barring. Remember to plan your dive with rule of 3rds in mind, meaning (1000psi/68.95bar out, 1000psi/68.95bar back and reserve of 1000psi/68.95bar with 700psi/48.26bar on the surface). Visibility can range depending on many factors typically can be between 20 - 25ft/6.1 - 7.62m.
There are no facilities close to Birchy Head, there is a Irving Gas station before turning onto Hwy 329. Please keep the dive site clean—take all your garbage home with you.
Before diving any site, make your own safety plan. Know your buddies important information. In case of emergency know what to do. Plan ahead. Moving on the shore with full gear can be challenging. There is cell phone coverage in the area. There a few houses nearby. A local fire department is at the beginning of the 329 hwy.
Divers should familiarize themselves with the following situations and course of actions.
Low -air / out of air situation - It can easily happen at this site if divers get distracted and forgot get to check air. In case this happens, ascend to the surface immediately in a safe manor using the standard surfacing techniques. Ascend slowly looking up to see any boats that might be in the area. Surface swim back to the entry / exit point at a slow but steady pace.
2. Buddy separation -If this happens stay down and look for 1 minute then proceed to the surface with a controlled ascent looking up and around for anything over head you might run into. Make yourself positively buoyant wait a short time, if your buddy doesn't return to the surface, proceed to the entry / exit point and contact emergency assistance.
3. Injured diver -If your buddy receives a marine life injury, return to the shore immediately then assess the situation and contact medical assistance. If injury is due to marine life make sure you take the steps to avoid being hurt yourself and ask your buddy questions about what happened.
4. Near -drowning situation, Lung injury, or decompression illness -Get the injured party to shore and have someone contact Emergency assistance immediately.
Hazards and Safety:
It is EASY TO GET LOST and miss the beach when coming back in. Use a buoy, shore maker flag or have a non-diver on shore.
The entry into the water is a bit hazardous as there are ROUND ROCKS that can present a tripping hazard.
There can be a relatively large SURGE when the wind is southwesterly, and also when the tide is coming in.
During lobster season watch out for lobster traps with lines. Watch for fishing buoys and always dive with a knife to cut yourself free.
Please note that either you or your buddy has a phone, cell reception is good in this particular area.
1) RECOMPRESSION CHAMBER: Dickson Building of The Victoria General
2) Police and Ambulance (911)
3)DIVERS ALERT NETWORK (DAN) 1-919-684-4DAN (4326)
4) QE II Hospital (473 -2220)
5) Marine Radio VHF Channel 16