I've never thought much about diving off the stretch of coastline between Ladysmith and Nanaimo (Cedar area). From my brief glances at charts I assumed that the area would be flat, shallow and sandy. I was looking more closely at a marine chart of the area recently. It looked like there were some areas where you could get below 60 feet deep with a reasonable swim and the slope was steep enough to make me hope for a rocky bottom. The area I was most interested in was a 500-meter stretch of coast paralleling Pylades Drive. The chart showed a steep slope to a bit over 100 feet deep and then another steep area popping up only a couple of hundred meters from shore. The top of this shallow reef was about 10 feet deep at low tide. At the narrowest part of the gap between this reef and the shore I was imagining a rocky canyon full of feather stars, rockfish and maybe a few cloud/boot sponges. I didn't get my hopes up though, since slopes are usually not as steep and distances are not as close as they seem on marine charts. I drove up to this area for some diving on Jan. 12, 2014. This area is part of the Regional District of Nanaimo so I checked the RDN zoning maps to look for public rights-of-way to the water from Pylades Drive. There were a few between some of the houses. The one closest to the narrow canyon (between houses 2550 and 2560) was too overgrown to be easily passable so I went to the next one to the North. The zoning map showed that it was between houses 2486 and 2504. When I found it, it was nice to see that it was actually an actual road you could drive down. It isn't shown on road maps, bit it's called "Slocum Road". I parked at the end of it and walked down a very short path and a few rocky steps to the sandstone shoreline. This public access was only about 200 meters north of the narrowest part of the "canyon". It was high tide and when I descended the rocky area ended about 20 feet deep and then there was a slope of sand. The rocks were pretty bare except for a few seastars, nudibranchs and occasional plumose anemones. Visibility was about 40 feet. I descended down the sandy slope until I was about 50 feet deep and then swam South. There were lots of tube-dwelling anemones and giant nudibranchs on the sand. Many of the nudibranchs were that rare wine-red colour. There were a few boulders and tiny rock reefs on the slope, but it was mostly sand. I eventually reached a larger sandstone reef stretching parallel to the shoreline (about 50 feet deep). It was pretty long and it formed a small wall about 8 feet high. It was also almost completely bare. A school of perch swam around next to this wall. I figured I must be near the area where the chart showed the narrowest gap between the shore and that steep area farther out. I swam down the sandy slope until I reached 110 feet deep. The slope was still going deeper, but it didn't seem as steep. It was pretty dark down here and my dive computer was malfunctioning and only displaying depth. I didn't want to continue swimming deeper and farther out to find the promised rocky area without a reliable computer or even a timer so I swam back up the sand slope to about 80 feet deep and continued to swim South. There was an area with some rocky rubble and small boulders. Like most of the rocks I'd seen so far, these ones had almost no life around them. It made me feel better about not finding the deeper rock area since I told myself that it would probably be bare as well. I didn't want to absorb too much nitrogen so I swam back up the slope to about 60 feet deep, where there was another long, narrow sandstone reef running parallel to the shore. I saw a few small copper rockfish here, but except for a few cup corals, it was just bare rock. I followed it South until it flattened out . I estimated that I had swam along most of the coast along Pylades Drive and I had definitely passed the narrow "canyon" area. I went back up to where the shallow rocky slope met the sand (20 feet deep) for the long swim back.
My topographical summary of this section of coastline is a steep sandstone/rubble slope to 20 feet deep. Then there's a sand/silt slope with very-occasional small rocky areas going down to over 100 feet deep. Along this sand slope between 40 and 60 feet deep there is a series of narrow, sandstone reefs stretching parallel to the shore. The steep rocky area that the chart shows popping up from the depths has eluded me this time. Overall, I was surprised by the lack of marine life in the rocky areas. I don't know if I'll bother coming back, but eventually I might try for the deeper reef with a working dive computer.