This is probably one of the 2 most popular dive sites in the Vancouver area (the other is Whytecliff Park). It's where I did my open water certification in 1997. I used to dive here fairly regularly before I moved to Victoria. Since then, I haven't been back for a dive in around 16 years. I tried a few times when I was visiting the mainland, but whenever I showed up, the winds were tearing down Howe Sound filling the bay at Porteau with breakers and surf and destroying the visibility. Finally I showed up when the waves weren't too bad (Jan. 3, 2016) and I had my chance for a nostalgic dive. Porteau Cove is a Provincial Park and they've been sinking artificial reefs here in a diving area since the '70's (I think). Most of those old wrecks were wood and have since rotted away. Most of the current wrecks were sunk about 25 years ago.
I parked in a large parking lot near an emergency ferry dock (for use as an alternate transportation route if the nearby highway is buried by a landslide). A set of concrete steps led down into the water at high tide. I showed up around 9:00 AM and I had the place to myself.
The diving area is marked off-limits to boats by several buoys. More buoys are anchored over certain features of the artificial reef. There used to be a couple of wooden floating platforms over the reef to allow divers to rest, but they're long gone. I remember loitering under one of these floats having problems clearing my ears during my open water course. The impatient dive master grabbed me by the ankle and pulled me down to the bottom. That technique seemed to work and my ears were fine for the rest of the dive. Back in the present, I swam out on the surface and descended at the closest buoy. Visibility was about 30' and I could see the bottom here (25' deep) from the surface. This area is marked on the dive map as the "pile reef". It's a pile of concrete pipe-type things. There were a few plumose anemones and perch here. I don't remember ever visiting this area years ago.
There were some big steel things nearby that looked like floats of some kind:
A "tire reef" leads farther out towards the other artificial reef features:
The tires lead to a "concrete structure reef" made up of large concrete slabs and blocks covered with plumose anemones. There were also several lingcod here. I think this area was around 35-40' deep. I remember swimming around this area almost 19 years ago during my open water dives and thinking that the plumose anemones and schools of small perch were the most amazing things. It was the first time I had seen plumose anemones and I had no idea such marine life existed locally.
Looming up next to the concrete blocks was the wreck of the Granthall (or Grant Hall), a 100-foot-or-so steel tug. The superstructure was removed long before sinking and all that's left is the hull. There are some pictures of the original tug in the B.C. archives. When I dove here in the '90's, the hull was pretty bare. Today, I see more plumose anemones on it. Under the stern, the bottom is about 55' deep, which is pretty much the deepest part of this site.
Next to the Granthall, there's the "Jungle Gym", a structure made of steel I-beams. I must have seen it when I dove here years ago, but I don't remember much about it. I've heard that it has partially collapsed within the last year due to storms. It has plumose anemones and lingcod on it.
Right next to the Jungle Gym, there's the Centennial III, a steel dredge tender (basically a small tug). When I dove here years ago, the wheelhouse was covered with plumose anemones. Today it seems more bare.
According to the dive site map, there's supposed to be a cement sailboat hull sitting right next to the Centennial III. Years ago, my buddy and I could never find it. We ended up being pretty confused since we didn't think we could be that bad at reading a map. Now, years later, I assumed that this was due to us being new divers (when I was a new diver, everything was so new and overwhelming that I wouldn't notice half of what I saw) and I was sure I'd find it this time. With the decent visibility today I was expecting to be able to see the mythical sailboat hull from the Centennial, but I actually didn't. I swam out farther towards where the map showed it to be, but there was nothing there. So the sailboat has still eluded me. Maybe it's been moved and is no longer where the original map shows it to be.
Farther out from this main area of artificial reef features, there's the wreck of the Nakaya, an old wooden minesweeper. It's about 70-80' deep. There used to be a wooden float anchored over it. In the '90's my buddy (yes, I used to dive with a buddy sometimes) and I braved the long surface-swim once or twice to visit it. I remember it being dark and gloomy. There wasn't much marine life on it. I do remember the sides of the hull being covered with the white tubes of tube worms. I didn't notice any plumose anemones on it. Anyway, it was a dark, deep and intimidating wreck for a new diver. Back then the superstructure was still mostly intact. Much of the wreck has since rotted away. I think even the hull is disintegrating. The float above the wreck is also gone, so for a visiting diver there's no easy way of finding it. Local divers still visit it occasionally using a compass. I didn't visit it this time since I probably wouldn't be able to find it and it's really a second dive in itself. I only wanted to use one tank here so I used it on the main area of shallower wrecks.
I swam back to shore underwater. On the way, between the tire reef and the shore, I came across a concrete monolith sitting vertically on the bottom. I think this is the feature called the "Leaning Tower of Porteau". I never saw it years ago since I always swam back on the surface and never dove this shallower part of the dive park. There was a lingcod sitting on it.