Pitch Black

13 Jun

from november 2007 log, this was on the old c-level, my previous 16.5′ boston whaler montauk…

Pitch Black

It’s been a really weird past few weeks. One week I was on a high were I made a funny hat that had live seastars and jellyfish in it and won gag gifts for hat week at my aquarium (first place two days in a row, bitches!), another carving up a pumpkin (first place in that too, bitches) and another slaying fish at catalina island.

Last night I experienced one of those rare moments that I will never forget.

Just having dropped five bills on annual boat maintainance (flipping OUCH) I’ve been anxious to get out in the water to test out my new anchor roller I made. It’s hard finding good divers to join me but one of my friends husbands was able to make it so we launched after work on friday. The swell was small but the wind chop made for a miserable bumpy, wet ride. The results of which put us way behind time and into the darkness of night.If you’ve ever been on a boat in complete darkness its scary. On a small boat like c-level it’s downright terrifying. There was no moon last night. Compound this with light fog and you have a really sketchy situation. Without any radar and only a handheld gps and compass readings it’s hard to navigate on bumpy seas. You have to feel each wave and try to work the throttle accordingly. I knew we were close to the island because of the readings on the gps, but I also knew we were behind a point of land I couldn’t see. And when I suddenly saw smelt jumping out of the water I knew I was really close, the spotlight lit up the rocks on the island and I backed off the throttle in the nick of time from grounding us on the island permantly.

It was eerie. With no moon and no lights around you couldn’t even see your hand in front of you without your dive light on. We were the only boat in this particular spot so I set the anchor and pulled on the rest of my dive gear, I would be freediving to collect some “bugs” (the nickname we give lobster). Water clarity was just okay, with vis from ten to fifteen or so feet. Smelt dart thru the beam of my light and I tracked a harbor seal swimming on the bottom looking for food. The first spot was so thick in kelp I scored one legal lobster and then headed back to the boat cuz I could see my dive buddy was having problems. Diving in the thick kelp during the day is much easier than at night, in the pitch black darkness it seems like every strand holds onto your body trying to keep you down. The kelp winds its way onto your snorkel, game bag, weight belt, flippers, anything and everything it can hold onto. We moved the boat to another spot that I knew of and on the first drop I saw lobsters everywhere. Most of them were undersized, but when I dropped into the twenty foot depth I saw some bigger ones. Sticking my head under caves I saw beady eyes and nervous antennae pointing themselves at me, a quick grab and the lobster is kicking all over the place trying to escape. These are pacific spiny lobsters so they don’t have claws like their maine counterparts, instead they have a mass of pointy sharp spines that will tear up your best dive gloves. Most of them are so big I don’t even have to measure, they are well over the legal size. I forgot about the darkness around me, I forget about my problems, and I stop worrying about the boat drifting away and leaving me stranded in the middle of the night. It’s still hard work, twice I almost get stuck in caves where I’m cramming my body into to try to grab at big lobster. My snorkel catches on the roof of one and holds me down until I quickly kick backwards and shoot upwards for a gulp of air. One deep reef covered with red algae comes alive as I shine the light on it and I count no less than six lobster in one spot, all about a quarter of an inch short of the legal size. Dammit! After an hours work, I score five legal ones and then head back to the boat where my buddy has already pulled himself out because of ear clearing problems. New to freediving he hasnt gotten any lobster at all so I gave him two. I can tell he’s cold and he says he’s done for the night so I pull myself out and take compass bearings to get us back home.

The ride home was almost like a dream, it was completely flat. One look behind c-level and it looked like we were on some jet rocketship, you could see a bright glow from the spray of the engine. The glow is caused by tiny plankton giving off light, its absolutely incredible to watch. I turn of all the lights on the boat and hit it almost full throttle, it’s pitch black, im in the middle of the ocean and cant see anything. Suddenly I see a bright glow shoot forward next to the boat and in front, I back down the engine and yell out a surprise. I totally did not know what was happening and then I figured it out, DOLPHINS AT NIGHT! They would make this crazy glow in the dark water, like a torpedo and shooting right for the boat, then in front of it and then behind it. I never got tired of watching them as they escorted us home. Finally we saw the faint glow of the city lights and knew we were close, time to fire up the lights and head in. I got home really late, I still had to wash down the boat, gas it up, and back it down the driveway to my house. I stumbled into the house and into the shower and into bed by two am. I slept till six am and then took the dogs out and slept again till eleven thirty. As I drift off to sleep I count lobsters hiding under ledges.

And the result? I cooked up some lobster tonight and made a thai beef salad from scratch, my own recipe! It’s going to be a better week.

Right now I’m getting ready for bed and everytime I close my eyes I still see those glowing images of dolphins crossing the bow of my boat…

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