Pelican Water Adventure Diving runs in the family for Pelican Scuba Charters’ Cory Coates, owner and avid scuba diver. The entire Coates crew earned their open water certification at the same time: Cory, brother Danny, and parents Bill and Verleen.
The family passion for scuba diving adventure drew the Coates to the west coast from Alberta. After an initial career in the Alberta oil patch, Bill and Verleen Coates launched their dream lifestyle aboard the Lady Goodiver, rebuilding and refurbishing the 110 foot liveaboard to serve the developing market for dive vacations off Vancouver Island.
In the early 1990s, the reputation of the west coast for diving was beginning to build and there were very few dive charters available.
By 1992, when the Lady Goodiver was launched, Cory was at university. Over the summer, he returned home to enjoy diving while working on the Lady Goodiver crew.
Even when he finished school and began working in Alberta, he’d try to return to the west coast for summer diving and to help with the family charter dive business.
A Tight Ship – A Safe Dive
As a team, the Coates introduced thousands of divers to west coast diving (a ‘Pelican Water Adventure‘). As captain, Bill ran a tight ship. To ensure the best dive for everyone, he’d insist divers be on time, so they could take advantage of the tides.
He also stressed safety above every other consideration. Diving puts a lot of stress on the body, due to heat loss and the dry, cold air from the tanks. Divers can gradually become exhausted and dehydrated without realizing it. “Most accidents happen at the end of a dive, when divers are tired,” Bill said.
He kept a close watch on all divers and proudly notes that there were no injuries among the estimated 10,000 dives which originated from the Lady Goodiver over seven years’ of operation.
“I never had anyone even bent,” Bill said, referring to the “bends” caused by the build-up of nitrogen bubbles in the blood when divers surface too quickly.
Verleen was in charge of the bookkeeping, the baking, and the galley. She kept hungry divers fuelled with food and also did her part to ensure everyone enjoyed their dive vacation.
“I’d watch them come back from a dive and I’d get out the cookies very fast if they weren’t smiling,” she said.
By 1999, Bill and Verleen were ready to retire from their second career. They sold the Lady Goodiver, although they kept the herring skiff that had been custom-fitted for diving.
Even without the Lady Goodiver, Cory retained his interest in diving. In the winters he’d work in Alberta but in the summers he’d head for his favourite west coast dive spots.
Launching the Pelican
In 2008, Cory Coates decided he was ready to launch his own addition to the family dive tradition. He acquired the family’s converted herring skiff and also purchased and converted the 34-foot Rusty Pelican into a dive boat.
He has drafted his father, Bill, as crew and mentor, and plans to offer the same outstanding ‘Pelican Water Adventure‘ dive experiences, drawing on the family knowledge of tides and west coast dive locations.
He also has the same committment to safety, ensuring divers have fun but don’t stray into danger.
Although the Rusty Pelican is smaller than the Lady Goodiver, it is a more practical option, given high fuel costs and current moorage fees. The diving is equally good and the smaller boat makes dive charters more affordable.
Bill Coates noted that even when the Lady Goodiver was fully booked, the cost of maintaining and operating the boat made the business “a labour of love.
“You’ve got to love what you’re doing,” he said. “It was a dream we had and it is great to see Cory continue it for a new generation of divers.”