Hey Kevin

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Posted by seahunt on November 21, 2003 at 16:55:03:

In Reply to: Cortes Banks, Santa Barbara, & Santa Cruz - on the PEACE posted by Jeff in landlocked %$#@^* Arizona on November 18, 2003 at 13:22:44:

Hey Kevin,
You mentioned Chris. Here's a story about diving with Chris a few years back.
Enjoy the diving, seahunt
There I was. Had to dive.
Aloha Dive Shop had chartered the Golden Dabloon for a trip to
San Nicholas Island. It's the place to look for big bugs. This was a
longer trip than was usual, in November of 1974. Very few dive boats
went the 60 mile trip to this 8 mile long, hilly island. Often, the
Navy landlords of the island closed big areas to civilian use. It is a
chill windswept place of rolling hills, with none of the mountains and
cliffs that are common to the other islands. It has a much bigger reef
area than any of the other islands. The rocky reefs run in geologic
bands around the island such that the divable area commonly extends
off shore from 1/2 to as much as 3 miles. Call that anything under 100
feet, though there is lots of fascinating diving deeper, if you want.
It was about a 9 hour trip in the slow Golden Dabloon. Engines
throttled back about 6:30 after the all night ride, but most of the
perhaps 30 divers had already had breakfast and were suited. This was
Nic. This was exotic. Nobody dove here. Plus, the only reason that the
Golden Dabloon could even make it here was that the ocean was glassy
calm with the kelp showing a lack of current. There was a heavy mid
level fog, but things looked real good.
Roddy and Anita were doing the divemaster thing. I was known as a
successful hunter, so two divers had asked to go with me. Larry was
older and had some experience. Chris was about 14, with fire in his
veins, but not many dives behind him. I will never guess why someone
would want to do that. I don't leave much behind if I can help it.
Anyway, we jumped off in 85 feet off of the west end of the island.
Remember, no BC's, no pressure gauges, just steel 72's with pull
handles to reserve valves.
The visibility was tremendous. Shortly after descending, we saw
the bottom. That said that it was an easy 50 or 60 feet of vis. There
were flat rock areas, boulder areas and house sized boulders. we were
immediately moving fast. I went over a beautiful field of golden
laminareas growing about 2 feet high on areas of flat rock. Even with
the fog and early dive time, there was plenty of light in the clear
water. When I got to the rocks, the first crack I looked in had a
small lobster, but it looked like the hole behind it extended to the
center of the island. It moved back some and I ignored it. Hey, but
when opportunity knocks... there was a large Red Abalone in the
entrance of the crack. It was over 9 inches and soon was in my bag.
I did not know at the time that abalone are very uncommon on that side
of the island and this was the only one taken all day. I continued
swimming low and fast along a rock face, with Chris and Larry looking
where ever they could. There were plenty of ledges and cracks to
provide cover for anything. There were lots of fish, but we wanted bug
and we had little time to gawk. Then I looked in the bottom of a
vertical crack where there was a big bug. It wasn't particularly wary
and I was moving fast enough to swat it and get both hands on it. Wow!
Never saw a bug so big.
I was floating above the bottom, just finishing closing my goody
bag on the bug, when I saw Chris and Larry about 25 feet away near a
large rock pile. Chris obviously was going for something. It was another
big bug in a shallow hole. When grabbed at, a lobster in a shallow
hole is very likely to flap its tail to rocket into the hole and then
bounce out flying. Sure enough, Chris missed his grab and out came the
bug right into his chest. He actually did a back flip under water. The
bug bounced off and headed the opposite way with Larry and I in
pursuit. Bugs on the run, tend to go about 60 to 80 feet. Big ones
tend to go a shorter distance than small ones. They are going at the
speed of a fast fish. A diver cannot even stay close, but if you have
really good vis, like this, sometimes you can see about where they are
going. Larry was swimming fast, but I had gone the low road and was
swimming and pulling my way along through the Laminareas. I got to the
bug a bit ahead of him and it was in the bag.
This uses air. We had been the first off the boat and we were the
first back, me in the lead. Roddy was at the swim step and asked how
we did. I said 'ok' and handed up the bag. The bugs were 10 and 11 1/2
pounds. It was the bag of the day. These things are much bigger than
their weight makes them sound. Even on me, they hung from my mid chest
to my knees.
I talked to Larry years later. He was actually not wearing gloves
at the time. I had not noticed. If he had grabbed that bug, he would
have gotten ripped up on the spines. He said that he thought that I
had waved him off. I laughed at him.

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