Posted by Jusfer on October 02, 1999 at 16:16:23:
It was supposed to be my first lobster dive in history. And my first kayak night dive in history. It turned out to be quite a historical day, but for other reasons, unfortunately.
Destination: Ventura Channel Islands Harbor breakwater.
We were four: Sean, Paul, me (three regulars) and Bryan. We wanted to be in the water by 12:01AM. Paul was slow but Bryan helped him patiently. Sean and I were getting nervous that other divers would catch our lobster. We got into the kayaks by 11:50PM and out to the breakwater in 20 minutes or so. Since the forecast said there wouldn't be much wave action, we decided to go around the breakwater and dive it from outside. There were about six other kayaks anchored there already, their cyalume lights jumping with the yaks on the 3 to 4 feet swell! We decided to follow their example and Paul and I threw the hook nearby. Paul's hook didn't hold, so he and Sean hooked up to Bryan who was tied off to me.
OK. The waves were giving us all quite a bumpy platform, and when I tried to pull the tank/BC out of its well, I lost balance and fell out of the kayak, with the weight belt already on. I am close to neutral in this combination, but had no fins on yet, so it was kind of hard to manage getting the tank secured and get back into the kayak without risking of turning it upside down. Bryan came to my help and I got back in OK. Next I wanted to do was put the fins on so I'd be self sufficient. I had the fins, the mask and my dive lamp tied off to a tether, and as I pull the tether out of the water to get to my fins, the end opens up and all on it comes loose. The fins float, so I can grab them, before the slight current takes them away, but the lamp (2 pounds negative) must have dropped right below me. The mask probably followed the current for a bit before it hit the bottom. Well. Murphy I. Bryan didn't want to dive down alone to look for the lamp that I didn't want to give up, so we had to wait for Paul and Sean to show up. They did and Sean helped me out with a spare mask that he had brought. Atta boy! We all went down, looking for my lamp. I used my backup. The bottom was at 40 ft, flat sand. Perfect to find something in good visibility, but also the worst bottom for surgy water. I looked hard and systematically, went back up once to verify my position, went back down.
A short digression to get to Murhpy II: Sitting on a kayak at night with no visual reference to the ocean, but with 3 to 4 foot swells, makes even a good sailor seasick. I am a good sailor (and so was Paul). During my second ascend, being at the bottom, I felt it coming slowly. I quickly decided what would be better--vomiting into the reg (which I had never done before) or ascending fairly quickly. Since I was solo and didn't want to risk any complications, I decided for an ascend. I managed to keep it slow enough to feel safe and fed the fish from topside. It really makes you feel better once it is out. So I descended again, to continue my search. After all, it was a $550 lamp. At the bottom, I saw lights in the murkyness (about 6 to 10 ft visibility)--my buddies were still down there looking. I got close to one of them with an exceptionally bright light and as I get even closer, I see it is mine. I didn't recognise who it was but indicated to him that he had my light. Murphy III: that was exactly the moment when my backup light went yellow and dim. I should find out later that it had gotten flooded slightly but enough to mess up the batteries. I would have still had a second backup to read the gauges for a safe ascent, but getting back my primary dive light was just in time.
Next: lobsters! I didn't have my game bag on me yet but decided I'd give it a shot without and headed toward the breakwater to get to some rocks where I'd hope to find them. Coming closer to the actual breakwater, I saw some stray rocks, covered with beautiful gorgonia in white, brown and orange colors. But no lobsters yet. Visibility not increasing 10 ft but surge increasing significantly. I didn't check depth but figured it would get even more vigorous if I got closer to the rock wall. So I decided, after all my luck so far, I'd better call it a dive and swim back which I did. I found back to the kayak and saw this short end of a blue line floating in the water. That looked strange to me, because it was my paddle leash and was supposed to hold my paddle. Murphy IV! The turbulent sea must have twisted the paddle leash around some protruding parts on the kayak, gaining too much leverage on the loose end, forcing the double secured knot to open and wave my paddle goodbye. Now, that one was not funny anymore, but I had nobody to scream my anger (or worries?) to--the other three were still in the water. Not long after my discovery, I heard them behind me but I heard something that I didn't like: Bryan, using a long row of F-words, describing that his kayak was sinking. Murphy V.
The kayak was sinking! I couldn't help him, I was happy to have saved myself into the kayak, still feeling sick, having thrown up again, feeling a handicapping back pain--I just couldn't help. Paul was very quiet too, being seasick. Sean, the savior, came to Bryans assistance, only to help Bryan retrieve his BC to don it and get some buoyancy. The bow of the yak was merely 6 inches out of water, the rest pointing down like the Titanic. His yak was tied off between mine and Paul's, so it couldn't really get lost, but we couldn't get it up and dry either. Sean, after giving me his spare paddle (did I say Sean was a savior?), agreed to paddle back and get help. Lot's of loud F*** behind me still, but I couldn't care less, preparing for a third vomit attempt with nothing left inside. Gets painful. Then, maybe 30 minutes later, out of nowhere comes a boat to help Bryan. Phew! Pulling up my anchor from sandy bottom was a cinch (was Murphy getting seasick too? He missed his # VI), and once back behind the breakwater, we could relax a little and enjoy calmer seas again for a change. My stomach settled immediately, once in flat water, only the spare paddle was too short and not cupped which made it quite difficult to use. But better than cupped hands for sure. Anyway, Paul and I made it back without further problems. The green and red lanterns to the harbor entry were still on, so we found our way back in this very dark night (less than 1/4 moon out).
Back at the beach, we slowly start carrying gear back to the cars, when (drumroll...) my remote car lock won't work to open my car. Nada. So I had to use the key and set off the alarm at about 2 or 3 AM. The neighbors must have loved it, and so did Murphy. Sean, the savior, unplugged the horn, so we only had to listen to three cycles of 30 seconds of it. Further attempts to overcome the disabled starter didn't work, the car would not start. AAA promised to come within 45 minutes (called with Sean's cell phone), and they even made it in 20. It was a tow truck, with the driver motivated to rather tow me and cash in after the first seven free miles than to get my car going again. But my re-awakended senses were working well enough to motivate him to try some more of his tricks, and he finally succeeded. Hallelujah! I gave him a ten and finally left the place of Murphy's triumph at 5AM. Had to stop for a nap in between home to not give him another one and fall asleep behind the wheel. Got home at 7.
Now I have to call off the lobster dinner. Won't be too hard, after all, I have a story to tell. I wish it was the other way round.
Pertinent question: which lessons to be learned?
For me, it is
1. don't do a night dive on a kayak in more that 1 foot waves or take dramamine well before.
2. Don't believe the sea weather report.
3. Bring spares.
4. Make better tethers that won't undo by themselves.
5. Don't invite to a lobster dinner before the fact.
I'm sure you will have more. Go ahead.
I'm just happy to be back. It is now Saturday 1PM. I've slept through all morning and am now strong enough to take your advice ;-)
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