Let me tell you the rest of the story I didn't tell before. This is the story of the Raider.
Since I'm a wordy kind of guy, this story starts a while ago for me. I lived in
a magical place in a magical time. As it is in that kind of place, it was a time
of youth, passion, inspiration, beauty and folly. This was Santa Cruz in the 70's.
A place of primieval forests decending to wild windswept shores of pristine beauty
near cities of commerce, science, art and light. There was some fun diving as well.
It's probably not the kind of diving you would like. It was cold, rough, nasty and
has typical visibility of 6 feet or less, but I really like diving there. There was
one place in particular that I went diving at a lot, Greyhound Rock. It is perhaps
the toughest place to dive in California with tall cliffs, great white sharks, huge
green waves, elephant seals and very very dangerous currents. So what could I do?
I invited my friend Mel to go diving there. We had fun.
I stayed in touch with Mel and occasionally got on a charter with him. It was fun
to get together for some good diving with an old friend. A couple of years later,
he went partners with his friend Alex to get a boat for diving. They started with
a strong 28 foot fiberglass hull, with a nice big Mercruiser outdrive. It's a good
size that will sleep 4 divers and carry all their gear. All boats take time. A
great deal of time, skill, money and love was put into this boat. It has a swim
step that is great for divers. They put a real strong engine in it so that it
will make Catalina in about an hour. They built a custom hard top on it to make
it roomy and put good canvas on it to make it stay comfortable in ocean conditions.
Its radar makes it safe to travel in fog and at night, but it is the differential
plotter that lets it put a diver exactly where they want to be on a reef, pinnacle
or cave. The digital depth recorder is exactly what is needed to explore to find
the dive spots that the plotter remembers. Add red lights to to the boat to make
it a creature of the night. Then for that touch of comfort, add a hot shower with
enough water for everyone. You then have the Raider. The finest private boat for
diving I have ever been on.
For me now, the time to dive the Raider is about the memories we can keep, which is only natural now that she is gone. I remember trying to anchor on nights so dark you couldn't see your hand and there was no luminescence to show the water. I remember seeing crystal clear nights when the stars look like jewels and the lights on the mainland shore look like you could reach out and touch them. There were still, foggy mornings when you think you might see a ghost go by in the mist and brilliant sunny spring days when the lush short lived grasses on the island made them the color of an emerald. I remember sitting off shore at night on wash rocks during dives just comtemplating the beauty that blessed me. I remember just sitting still in the cabin between dives on frigid winter nights, waiting until we could get back in the water to get warm. I remember that big night when crossing back to San Pedro with Alex driving the boat as Mel and Carlos slept below. The crossing was rough and then in the dark we both saw the huge swell that broke for a hundred feet next to the boat. We turned to each other with that silent look of 'did you see that'! I remember so many more moments from that time.
We did so many dives in so many places. I've already told the stories of diving
day and night. Diving blasted on antihistimines without realizing how they were
effecting me. Diving under thick elephant ear kelp with fishing lines everywhere.
Diving in the blackest places I have ever been. Diving in places of vital beauty.
Times bumping into Mel underwater and then seeing him just turn around and grab a
big lobster. This was not usually easy diving. It was diving for divers that have
to dive and part of diving is the challenge. I've told about that, but I've never
told the stories of what went on between dives.
Catalina is near LA, but it is a world away. I met some interesting people
there. Beautiful women, alcky derelicts, old sea salts, that harbor master
with the wild mustache that tells me about weather. One of the most
interesting was a guy I saw standing by the road in Avalon when I went food
shopping. He looked like he was waiting. He looked lonely. He looked like
a tough guy. I've met the kind before. Horsemen made of bone, muscle and
leather. A miner as hard as the rock he cut through, wrenchers as tough as
the metals they use for their creations, climbers with legs of granite, a
few cops and other men and women that are tough in a way that few athletes
ever achieve. It's about personality and how they approach life. It can be
understood why they are usually alone. There are few that can travel the
paths that they do or who travel for their reasons.
The Raider is gone now, but the time to dive the Raider is not past. The diving goes on and the divers are still diving. There will be other boats with different names, but the spirit will always be the same. The plans are already made. Maybe I'll tell those stories too. It is about people, diving and a state of mind. It is a story of people that are made complete by their time in the sea where the Raider took them. It is a time to dive.