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2004-03-18 1:23 PM
Swimmin' Part II
I awoke behind the wheel of the Gentle Wilderness the next morning covered with morning dew. It was early and the others had yet to rouse themselves.
I looked around at the hills of Anacapa Island, purple in the early morning light and laughed. Somehow I had managed to drop the front anchor, let the Wilderness slide around until it faced the wind and dropped the rear anchor without waking up a soul onboard. In spite of the chaos of the preceeding day, the trip was starting off on the right foot.
It could only get better from here, right?
Well, it started off nice anyway.
I went below to the galley and started breakfast. We had a serious day of snorkelling ahead of us and I wanted to get busy. We all sat around and ate while everyone got pissy with me for not waking them when the wind picked up last night.
(I just smiled knowingly).
About an hour later we had our wetsuits on and weight belts adjusted and were ready to go.
Now, for those of you who have never been diving, a few important facts: One, wetsuits float. They add buoyancy and without weightbelts to counteract the effects of both the suit and your body fat, it gets increasingly difficult to dive below the surface. It's like trying to push a balloon further and further underwater until you can't get it any deeper. So the weightbelts help you achieve the perfect state of, "zero-buoyancy," where you can stop at any depth and just stay there, neither floating to the surface nor sinking to the depths without swimming. I can't help but pretend that I'm some great, flying superhero when I'm diving, hovering in the air while I study the bad-guys actions down below . . .
Also, we were going spear fishing. Now, we weren't exactly flush with cash, so we used the old fashioned Hawaiian-slung spears. They're about six foot long and multi-pronged at the tip. The end has a piece of surgical tubing on the back which you slip into the space between your thumb and index finger, then you stretch the tubing out and grasp the spear near its tip. It's like stretching a rubber band to shoot at Mary Jane across Ms. Double-butts third grade classroom. In other words, it's a natural skill for men of all ages.
So, I'm about ready to back over the side of the boat when my brother's friend says, "Wait! I forgot something important!"
Well, at least I wasn't in the water yet.
"Don't shoot the big bright orange fish. They're California Girabaldi and they're protected. Shoot one and it's about a fifteen hundred dollar fine. Oh, and the little plastic packs on your harness with the little plastic pull-ring? That's shark repellent."
"Um . . .did you say, 'shark repellent?' What kind of sharks are out here anyway?"
He just smiled like it was nothing. "Blues, mostly. They're not aggressive if you don't piss them off."
Okay, now I don't know about you, but I don't know too much about shark psychology and what does and doesn't piss them off. I mean, what if they're just having a pissy day?
Well, true to the wisdom shown this far on the trip, I figured what were the odds, anyway, and hopped into the water.
I swam away from the boat and submerge into a world colored by Monet. Bright oranges and blues and flashes of silver dart by the cool, autumn browns of the algae covered rocks. The current of the tide rocks me back and forth even while submerged and it takes a moment to adjust to the sensation.
I surfaced, blew my snorkel clear, stretched the sling on my spear and started the hunt.
It didn't take more than three minutes before I spotted what must have been the biggest friggin' sea-bass I'd ever seen. It was two foot if it was an inch. The best part was, he didn't see me. I caught a glimpse of him as he rounded the far side of a boulder. I took the high road over the boulder hoping to sneak up on him.
The boulder passed beneath me, my spear ready . . .and there he was, sitting almost perfectly still.
I aimed the spear and started to release and
A California Girabaldi crossed between us.
I managed to stop myself from releasing the spear and so didn't kill a protected animal. The sea-bass, however, noticed my sudden movements, looked up and I could have sworn he looked straight at the Girabaldi and said, "Whew, that was close. Thanks, Fred."
I looked at the Girabaldi.
I swear he was grinning at me. The sea-bass was long gone.
Not only are California Girabaldi protected by law, but they know it, too.
At which point the three foot blue shark made his first appearance.
(To be continued)
Joseph Haines, signing off from The Edge of the Abyss.
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