By Ed Cook
The other day my father went on a dive which turned out to be
more of a learning experience than we had anticipated. It started out
great. When we arrived at the dive site the weather couldn't have been
better. The temperature was around 75 degrees, and the sun was shining
strongly. Pulling on our Farmer Johns we threw the rest of our gear
in a little cart we have and hiked the quarter mile down to the water.
We were doing a Jetty Dive at one of our favorite spots. There were always "Bugs" here. Looking out at the jetty I was amazed by how low the water was. My father explained this was called an extreme low tide. ( No kidding ) I was going to be walking by rocks I had only seen underwater. After looking at the currents and checking for rips we decided this was going to be great. Suiting up we walked the additional hundred yards or so to the water. Stumbling and bumbling through the water until it was waist deep we stopped and pulled on our fins. Walking out a little further we inflated our B.C.s' and settled down to paddle out to the end of the jetty. Hey this is nice. I don't even have to drag the blasted dive flag with me this time. ( We had decided not to bring the flag with us. We knew the area we were going to dive was filled with rocks, which we would be diving around and under. We decided the slight risk of a boat being there was less than the risk of becoming entangled in our floats line.)
At the end of the jetty we stopped so my father could pull on his gloves. While I was waiting on him I stuck my snorkel in my mouth and ducked my head underwater to take a look. Wow. The water was maybe twenty feet deep here, and I could clearly see the bottom. On Cape Cod you can't ask for better vis. I was glad I brought my camera with me.
As soon as my father was ready we did one last check. Everything was good to go. We both had around 2100 pounds of air in our tanks. ( Old 72 cf. jobs.) The air was turned on all the way, everything was working, great. I glanced at my watch. 9:15 A.M. lets go. Dropping down I watched the bottom coming up at me. I popped a little more air in my B.C. and stopped at five feet above the bottom. Fantastic. This was the first time I had been able to stop my descent dead in the water without at least touching the bottom. This promised to be a dive to remember. Working our way down the rocks we came across a couple of Lobster traps. Looking in on our way by we saw they all had at least one bug inside. This looked good. Finally we reached a clay bank that lies down off the end of the jetty. ( You have to know where to find it though.) Working our way along it I glanced at my depth gauge. Thirty feet? Man the last time I was here it was forty feet down and the current was brutal. Today there was no current to speak of, and I could see the end of the bank about twenty feet ahead of us. Ducking down along its side we started looking in its holes. Every one held a bug. I watched as my father went to work. Quickly he had caught three of them. By this time we had reached the end of the clay bank. Turning around we headed back to the jetty. As soon as we reached the rocks at the end my father signaled we were going up. After swimming up we sat on some rocks just in the water at the end of the jetty. "I just wanted to rest for a bit" my father told me. After about five minutes we headed back down.
Reaching the bottom we started poking around the rocks themselves. Getting my attention, ( by pulling me backward by the fin. If you don't think that's different have your buddy do it to you when you're not expecting it. I almost lost my regulator.) My father pointed out a starfish he had spotted. Man this sucker was at least eight inches across. The biggest one I had seen on Cape. Pulling my camera out of my B.C. pocket, ( now there's a trick worthy of a contortionist,) I got a picture of it. Off we went again. Man what a great feeling. Here we were, ghosting along underwater. Breathing easy, zooming around and under rocks. ( I try to describe this to my non diving friends and they just shake their heads.) As we were moving along I passed a rock formation in the shape of a circle. I recognized that. We were about three quarters of the way back along the jetty. Wow, where had it all gone. I looked at my camera and saw I had taken another ten shots along the way. Thinking about it I could remember all of the shots, I just had to think about it. Moving up over a rock I saw a strange rock, it was almost perfectly rectangular. Going closer I saw that it was actually an old Lobster trap wedged in the rocks. Now I could see where the rope had broken. It was completely covered with weeds. This sucker had been here for a while. Scraping the weeds away I saw there was a lobster inside it. The poor thing was still a baby. It couldn't have been longer than six inches. Still, it was too large to get out of the mesh of the trap. Quickly I took a picture of it. Seeing me stop my father came over to look. Looking at the trap he shook his head. Together we pulled the trap out of the rocks and set it on the bottom. Looking it over we finally found the hatch on it. Opening this we reached inside and set the baby lobster free. ( If bugs can smile this one was.) Reaching back in we pulled the cover out so nothing would get trapped in there again. Time to head back in. We were in about fifteen feet of water, right next to the jetty. As we were moving along we saw rocks falling through the water ahead of us. Looking at me my father motioned for us to head up the rocks and surface. Along the way I stopped for a second to snap a picture of a bright red starfish. Coming up alongside my father I stood up. When I did this I saw he was talking to someone behind me. Turning around I saw a Coast Guard twenty five footer about thirty feet away. Pulling my hood down so I could hear, I listened in.
They asked my father where our dive flag was, and if we had been bothering any of the traps. After expelling about the dive flag, and telling them the only trap we had bothered was an old abandoned one he asked what was up. The Coasties explained that a LobsterMan had complained about a couple of divers out bothering his traps. (while saying this they pointed at a boat, obviously too large to come in where we were, about a mile away on the other side of the inlet.) They went on to explain that it was regulation that divers must show a diver down flag. ( While I was standing there I thought about taking a picture of their boat from a fishes viewpoint but decided that they probably would have thought I was being a wise ass.) They then told us to surface swim back to the beach, and wait for the Environmental Police. Oh well, this had been a great dive, but it was slowly turning out not to be. Paddling back in, we stopped in the shallows and removed our fins. While I was doing this I watched as an Environmental Police Officer, ( I always called them clam guards,) walked down the beach towards us. As soon as he reached the shore where we were he demanded we come out of the water. Sure why not? Getting out we walked up to him. Demanding my father hand over his catch bag, he dumped it out on the sand, and started checking for shorts. ( There weren't any.) While he was doing this he looked at three crabs my father had caught without my seeing them. These had to be the largest Blue Crabs I had ever seen. Telling my father they were all legal, he let my father put them back in the catch bag. As we were doing this he asked where our flags were. ( Flags?) Explaining he told us it was a Massachusetts law that divers must have a diver down flag in the water with them at all times regardless of conditions, and it was also Mass. law that you must also have a white flag flying with the Lobster Permit numbers showing. ( For every permit there has to be a separate flag.) He then asked us where our vehicle was parked. My father told him, and explained that we had a small cart on the bluff we used to ferry our gear down. Hearing this he led us to his truck, (which was parked next to our cart,) and asked us if this was our cart. When we replied that it was, he grabbed it and threw it in the back of his truck. "I'll meet you back at your car", and off he went. Well, this wasn't going to be fun. After the walk back to the car we were roasting. ( Did I mention it was about a quarter mile, and the sun was shining, and the air temp, was around 75? If not it was.) Skinning out of our gear as fast as we could we gave him our IDs. After looking at them for a while he finally decided to write out some citations. I got one for diving without a dive flag, ( $50.00) and a warning for lobstering without a permit. ( Huh? I was taking pictures, I didn't even have a length gauge on me.) My father got one for diving without a flag ( $50.00) and one for lobstering without showing the numbers on the surface. ( $100.00) Those had to be the most expensive lobster in the world.
Later on my friends took my citation, copied it, laminated it, and framed it for me. They told me it was the first time they had ever heard of someone getting a ticket for diving.
Two good things came out of that dive though. ( Other than the lobster. They were good, but not worth &200.00) The first was we decided how to rig the flag so it wouldn't be dangerous to us when diving around rocks. The second was that my air consumption is getting better. I had 400 PSI left in my tank after a total of an hour ten minutes bottom time while my father had 300 PSI. ( I took a picture of the gauges to rub it in.)