Archive | November, 2011

Carnival Cruises: Excursions on the Mexican Riviera and Cabo San Lucus

27 Nov

The Excursions

Because I’m a lazy drifter, I’m going to lump all of our excursions in one Blog. Our cruise was a 9 day mexican riviera, it consisted of going to Manzanillo, Puerto Vallarta (where Lea and I had been married less than six months ago!), two days in Cabo (I loved it there), and one day in Ensenada.

Manzanillo

Manzanillo looks a lot like Puerto Rico in this picture

Giant Sailfish Statue, Manzanillo is said to be the sailfish capital of the world!

I’ll save you some time, if you can afford it you want to do a excursion in Manzanillo because the shopping there kind of sucks and there isn’t a whole lot to do there, you’ll be done shopping in a few hours and then will have to return to the ship otherwise.  If I go there again and it’s sailfish season I’ll probably rent a panga and try to get one.

Some famous arches

This was the coolest thing ever, this guy burns in artwork into coconut wood, he’s putting our name on it right now.  The other reason I bought this is because I thought it would make a bitchin tatoo

If you can arrange it, you want to do your excursions outside of the trip to save a lot of cash but you have to use common sense. If you go outside the ship excursions then you chance not making it back to the ship on time (they will leave your ass at the dock) or possibly you can be put in danger. The cruise ship makes it convenient, they arrange all the travel to and from your excursion and make it as safe as possible, but on the downside they charge you about 20-80% more, you’ll see what I’m talking about in a bit. Try to read up and do your research or at least follow some general guidelines.

When you get off the boat and go through the port there is a good chance there will be a bunch of guys offering excursions. Start your bargaining and work your way down the line to try to get the best price, what you want to do is figure out the lowest price you can get your stuff for and how long the excursion is because you don’t want the cruise ship to leave without you!

Puerto Vallarta

This is the place where Lea and I got married less than six months ago.  Unfortunately we didn’t have time to go to the all inclusive resort “Dreams” where we got married but we did get a chance to take a taxi into town.  We walked around looking for these beaded animals, PV is known for a certain indian tribe that makes these by hand, each is made of thousands of beads which are glued onto a block of wood resembling an animal.

Greedy fools getting free opal fragments in one of the stores

There was one part of town that had these neat metal statues of aliens that you could sit on or pose by.  Since the weather was so hot we found out rather quickly if you sat on them you’d burn your ass.

Metal statues of Aliens

Some octopus kind of thingy

Lea trying to climb up with the other aliens

This statue reminds me of Aquaman.  Aquaman is cool because he can talk to the fishes, although he gets no respect from me because he uses the fishes to fight for him and all he can do is throw water balls.

We walked around the shops and old churches and ended up at a familiar spot that we knew we wouldn’t get sick at, BUBBA GUMPS!  We especially chose this location because it was so freaking hot and they had air conditioning.

Having lunch and drinks at Bubba Gumps, Puerto Vallarta

Cabo San Lucas

Los Arcos “the arches” at Cabo

Cabo was probably my favorite destination, if you like water activities then Cabo is your place. There is also a ton of shopping that you can do, desert excursions, etc. When you get off the boat, if you are looking for a fishing trip go to the right of the dock and start walking down and chatting with the vendors. Right before you get to the end of where the guys are standing around with signs you’ll see some sportfishing booths and a bunch of pangas lined up on the docks. By then you should have bargained your way to figure out what you are going to spend. For snorkeling in Cabo the ship was charging 70$ per person. I got the guys at the dock down to 20$ per person for the exact same tour! We used a boat called “La Peque” but all of the pangas are pretty much the same.

Snorkeling in Cabo San Lucas

A nice mix of reef fish coming up to eat the bread the captain threw out

I really wanted to go on a snorkel trip in Cabo, when our cruise ship pulled up the water was a deep blue and calm. We didn’t book it on the ship and ended up booking it ourselves on the docks. In short time we followed the booking guy down the ramp and jumped onto the panga (panga’s are smaller 17-30′ fiberglass boats that are used for fishing and water taxi’s in baja). They are all booked as “glass bottom boats” but basically there are just large cut out windows on the bottom of the panga and on rare occasions can you actually see fish underneath, you are going to see more fish outside the panga as they swim by in the clear water. The captain we had gave us a tour of Los Arcos which had fantastic rock formations and shallow reefs. He showed us rocks shaped like scooby doo, skeleton heads, dinosaurs drinking water, one shaped like the baja penninsula, and caves. There were also two beaches, lovers beach and divorce beach. Lovers beach had a beautiful calm cove with blue water, divorce beach had a beautiful beach but was surrounded by signs cautioning against swimming there due to the raging currents and rough waves. At the end of the tour we were dropped off near pelican rock where we could snorkel as long as we liked. Before we started the captain threw some bread in the water and the colorful reef fish boiled all around us.

Pelican rock was an incredibly busy spot. There were scuba tank divers mixed in with glass bottom boats, “submarine” boats and kayaks and snorkelers mixed in between. I had not brought my own snorkeling equipment and really wished I had, I like stiff fins for diving deep and the rental stuff was the same travel type that you get at costco, it’s decent and will do the job but without a weight belt and those soft short fins flailing about I could only hit about 40 feet down most of the time. I’d still drop down on the scuba guys because they were in pretty shallow water, there is plenty to see all around the reef. In the shallows I saw a ton of sardinas

A huge school of Sardinas

(bait that looked like threadfin shad to me) and there were small jacks, milkfish and roosterfish tearing through the bait along with pelicans divebombing all around. The deeper reefs held all kinds of angelfish, wrasses and in the deep areas I made drops and saw schools of snapper to about fifteen or twenty pounds. I spent a lot of time with these fish and just like the ones in the wild, they would drop deeper and deeper as you got close to them, luring you into deeper depths.

Baby Roosterfish

Snapper

Clown Hawkfish

This is disney’s boat, but I wanted to show you all the other boats running around by where the snorkelers are, watch out for them!!!

The scariest part was when I was breathing up on the surface and felt a sharp thud on my back, instantly I knew I was getting run over by a panga! I quickly ducked down and tried to figure out which direction the boat was moving, I knew I had to get deeper so I quickly flipped over and kicked the bottom of the boat to shoot deeper and sure as shit I saw the propeller spinning above me. Thank god I had moved quick enough and as I surfaced I saw the driver slow down to check if I was cut (I’ve been hit by a prop once before, it split my 1/4″ wetsuit and cut me almost to the bone), luckily I escaped injury this time but with the increasing boat traffic I decided to play it safe and head back to shore. Keep in mind, I am very conscious of where boats are when I’m diving. On this trip, every single drop I made I always looked up when I was coming back for air and many times I had to change my accent at an angle because I saw the boats coming underwater. This guy hit me when I was on the surface with my back to him, something I had not ever expected and I was only 6 feet from the edge of the rock, I was pretty pissed but again I’m just glad I was okay and that the boat was merely cruising through and not moving at full speed, if it were you might be reading about an accident in Cabo in the papers!

We spent some time in the sun and then took a short walk to lovers beach and then divorce beach.

Divorce Beach

I was amazed at the power of the waves at divorce beach, it would look calm for a second and then suddenly the swell would draw back and a huge wave would come crashing through, making a swirling pool around the reef. I would never even think of going in the water in those conditions. After we were tired of exploring we had the guy with the radio on the beach hail our panga from shore and in ten minutes he pulled up to the beach and we again headed back to the docks. There were lots of places to go shopping in cabo with two flea markets close by and lots of other shops mixed in. If you like to party and drink there were also a ton of bars in the area. There are also a bunch of places to eat and we rolled the dice and tried a fish taco truck behind the flea market, it was 6$ for 3 fat fish tacos and no one got sick :).

We spent the remainder of the day wandering around the town and shopping in the flea markets nearby as well as the small shops in town. I am definitely going to come back to Cabo, there is so much to do there and the front area has been developed very nicely.

Cabo: Mini Jeep Off-Road Desert Expedition

We booked this one on the boat and paid 110$/person, but if you go directly through Carisuva (it’s called the Rhino 4×4 tour on their brochure http://www.ranchocarisuva.com) it was 65$/person plus 15$ insurance, and that included transportation. Martin was our guide, he spoke excellent English and he used to be a panga fishing captain so I spent a lot of time chatting with him about fishing). It’s a 4 hour duration but you are only driving the minijeep for about 1.5 hours. We really had a great time on this one, the mini jeep is basically a ATV with a steering wheel and a cage and two seats side by side, it’s like driving one of the cars at disneyland except they haul ass and can go over bumps like they are nothing.

Lea wanted to drive but I started driving first and after she saw how it was she declined, you have to be able to drive down steep grades and vary your speed around turns. Don’t let that deter you if you are meek though because there were a lot of people who were older and just took their time driving, it was pretty safe and there are two guys taking care of you, one in the lead and one that follows to make sure no one gets left behind. Most of the time you will be half throttle but there were a few areas that you could floor it and rip through the trail at full speed.

We got to spend some time at a deserted beach, it was absolutely fantastic with a lot of blue water surrounding us, if I had one complaint it would only be that we could have searched out a few more beaches, but other than that I’d highly recommend it as a cruise ship expedition or just an expedition when you are traveling to cabo.

Ensenada: La Bufadora and the Flea Market

I’m making a mental note to find the guy who owns this and kick his ass

We had the greatest weather on the cruise, it was warm and sunny around baja while my friends in southern California were freezing their butts off :). But when we arrived in Ensenada I was disappointed to see that it was raining and COLD. The storm had come from up north and it rained pretty hard but we toughed it out and decided to go into town.

The bus from the cruise ship to downtown was about 3$ round trip and while we were on the way the guide on the bus suggested that we do the Blowhole and flea market tour. It was 15$ and they would take us to La Bufadora (it means “the snorter”) which has a natural blowhole that spouts when the waves hit the side of the rocks/cavern. Afterwards we would get an hour or two to shop at the flea market which is in walking distance from the blowhole.

The blowhole itself is pretty amazing, we were lucky because the bad weather had brought some swell. When the waves hit the rocky shore it is forced into a gully and out the blowhole, the seawater shoots up about 40 feet or more! It was raining pretty hard but we took a lot of pictures before running for shelter. When we began shopping there were eager vendors who wanted us to see their shops. Get used to hearing “come here, we have a special sale today!” as they sell their wares. There were a lot of counterfeit bags, leather goods, clothes, jewelry, and food everywhere. We found one really neat shop that had a lot of dried fish, shark jaws, prehistoric stuff etc. It was like a little museum almost, althought it was a tad bit sad seeing all those dried up animals.

House of 1000 corpses

We walked in and out of each shop and bargained for different wares, then we ran for the bus where we could warm up.

When we got back to town we were pretty beat from the cold but Tom mentioned that there was a place called “Mercado Negro” (black market) in Milton Love’s book “Certainly More Than You Want to Know About the Fishes of the Pacific Coast” which is an encyclopedia of pictures and stories about fish. The Mercado Negro was quoted as being a fish market with a lot of different fish for sale.

Since Tom and I are both Aquarists (marine biologists that take care of living collections of animals, read my “How to become a marine biologist” blog you dummy) we really wanted to check this place out. Our bus driver was nice enough to drop us off right down the street, we walked by a lot of fish taco shops and small restaurants into a small building with a familiar smell: dead fish!

Assorted reef fish and btw who the heck buys opaleye???

Squid and shortfin corbina

All kinds of clams were available

Black Sea Bass (it is legal to possess them there)

It wasn’t stinky at all, most of the fish and seafood was really fresh. There were Opah, pieces of tuna, marlin, shark, black sea bass, squid, clams, some of it fresh and some of it smoked. It was pretty much everything that you might come across in fine restaurants was present. The fishermen there were eager to show off their catches and asked us many times if we wanted such and such fish. We took some pictures and then found a bus to take us back to the ship where we could take long hot showers to bring up our core temperature.

All in all we had a great time in Baja and of course enjoyed the excursions. If I had one recommendation I’d say try to read up online about the different types, get a feel for the prices and then try to bargain your own. Once again keep in mind two things, 1. make sure the excursion gets back to the boat on time, 2. make sure whatever you do is safe!

And finally, here’s a video I shot while freediving with shitty rental gear in Cabo San Lucus

Destination Cabo: Tips for cruise ship passengers in the Mexican Riviera on Carnival Cruises

20 Nov

In reality I should really call this the cruise ship trip log, but since I’m no expert in cruising I don’t feel qualified for giving you any specifics.  I will however leave a few tips if it’s your first cruise.  I’m going to break this one up to two parts, the first one will just be a general summary of our cruise and the second on some of the expeditions, it will be titled something like “cruise expeditions” or something lame like that.  BTW If you are an expert at cruising then  post your own blog to help the rest of us out you asshole 😉

Carnival Spirit, this was our 9 day cruise to Baja

When you book your cruise, try to use a credit card that insures you the best price.  That is, if the cruise price falls lower than what you booked it you should receive a refund on the price.  Nothing is lamer than finding out your buddy booked later than you and saved a couple of hundred dollars, plus you might not be buddies again after you kick his/her ass for rubbing it in.  Carnival is supposed to guarantee their prices, but one time we had booked our cruise and the price fell and they didn’t want to refund the money, it was a PITA but they finally gave us cruise credit which worked out okay.  After you book your cruise try to check back often to see if the price has fallen, it’s a PITA but at least you won’t feel cheated later.

Decide on what kind of room you want, this was the second time I’ve gotten a balcony and I really liked it but if you don’t care then go ahead and book an interior room or a room with just the small window.  You will get the same food quality later and will save quite a bit.

The room looks big in this pix, but actually it’s pretty small. You’ll get used to it.

The view from our room.  This is why I loved our balcony.

The Packing List:

Some things you want to bring:  a surge protector/strip bar if you run a lot of electronics and need to charge batteries (ipods, phone, shaver, computer, ipad, camera etc).  There usually is only one 110 volt outlet in each room.  Cash in small bills: most likely you are going to visit exotic third world locations where having small bills is a must, mainly for tip, cabs, and when you are haggling prices.  Binoculars:  you are at sea, there is a lot of cool things to look at when you are bored out of your mind, you might get lucky and see large baleen whales (get a dictionary or read up on your biology books you dufus), sea birds, or other ships.  Extra socks and underwear:  trust me on this one, you want a lot of extra undergarments because no one wants to smell your rank ass later on because you didn’t plan on sweating profusely on the way to dinner. Shoes for the occasion: a pair of slippers to walk around the ship, a pair of dress shoes for the elegant night dinner, and a pair of shoes that you can hike in or do something semi athletic in.  A deck of cards to play with your friends will keep you entertained for hours.  And a refillable drinking bottle, I use a huge stainless one to fill with juices at the breakfast or lunch bars and then to fill up with water later on.  If you are a freediver then you want to bring a pair of semi stiff fins because the shitty rental fins at the excursions suck ass and make you feel like you are flailing around like a sick goldfish on the surface.  There’s more stuff course, but this is a quick list.  Ah I almost forgot.  Always bring a pen, not the shitty plastic bic ones but a nice one that has a metal covering, the twist pen type.  You will always need a pen to fill out things or write things down.  If you are in an area where you cannot carry a weapon, the pen is the best friend you will have.  I won’t go into any details, but if you are in dire straights/extreme danger you can do a lot of damage to someone with a ordinary pen if you use the element of surprise.  If you can’t figure it out for yourself read up on it, take a martial arts class or email me, if you don’t think I can hurt you with a pen bet me a dollar and sign a disclaimer.

This is way overkill on the pens, but it is a smith and wesson version

When it comes to bargaining you have to do a bit of research.  Research for me is going to a vendor and asking how much something is, this is for excursions or products.  Whatever price they give you then divide it by half and then for good measure reduce it by another ten percent or so.  When you get them to their lowest price, pretend you are interested and bite your lip and then walk away and see if they lower it a bit more.  If they don’t then you have found your bargaining price, you can go to other vendors and use that price and try to get it slightly lower, if they don’t go lower than you can always go back to that first place.  It works out almost every time and this way you won’t get screwed.

Food:

Our great dinner crew and the newlyweds Tom and Caroline

The cruise ship is a flotilla of fine dining.  If you have figured out a way to consume the ton of food that I like to put away without gaining weight then please let me know, I usually put ten pounds on each cruise and it takes me a two weeks to get rid of the weight!  You get three meals a day, plus sushi, ice cream sundaes, all you can eat all the time, 24 hour pizza bar etc. If you add the naps after the meals you’ll quickly see why we all gained weight.  However the food is amazing, you can order as much as you want and it’s included in your cruise price!  Here’s what I ate one day:  Breakfast:  egg and cheese omelet that I cut into half and put into a bagel to make a bagel sandwich, also ate two halves of a grapefruit and a croissant.  Lunch:  pastrami and corned beef and cheese panini, two pieces of pizza, Caesar salad.  Dinner:  Caesar salad, shrimp appetizer.  Two lobster dinners plus one prime rib dinner (each dinner has mashed potatoes and other sides).  Dessert:  chocolate melting cake and two scoops of ice cream, creme brulee.   Yes I ate every single bit of that food.  Yes I was pretty sorry afterwards.  The best part is the chocolate melting cake, its like a rich chocolate souffle that is steaming hot and liquid inside.

A sample of one nights main dish menu, there is also a dessert menu

Dinner tables

Lobster Dinner Night, I ate two of these plates

Prime rib, I also ate this on lobster dinner night. Yes I am ashamed…

Seafood Marinara

Sushi.  Yes this was also free.  Yes we also ate this all the time dammit

Gaaah, the daily ice cream sundae bar which we visited too often

mmm, chocolate melting cake with two scoops of ice cream

I forgot, one night they also gave us free drinks and since tom/caroline didn’t drink theirs I drank a screwdriver, long island iced tea, margarita, and some other drink I didn’t even know the name of in about 15 minutes.  I made two tragic mistakes that night, I knew better but the lure in the lust of free alcohol I forgot 1.  do not drink a shitload of alcohol on an empty stomach.  2.  do not mix a bunch of different alcohols.  About an hour later all that alcohol hit me and man was I sorry. I didn’t throw up but I somehow stumbled back to my room and layed on my bed in my underware and writhed in pain till I passed out. I woke up with a major hangover and swore off alcohol for the remainder of the trip.

Ship Entertainment:

You would figure that I might get bored on a 9 day cruise since I  have A.D.D and can’t focus on something longer than about an hour and fifteen minutes (I say that exact time because in college if a class was longer than that I’d start drawing pix of whales and fish, I’m totally serious).  In actuality between the meals and naps we were pretty busy all the time.  Carnival ships have several pools and Jacuzzis.  They have a decent sized gym with a lot of state of the art equipment.  It had a decent sized casino and even had a craps table, but we only played that stupid quarter push machine where it flings quarters on this push thing that makes other quarters fall.  It made me want to kill myself every single time and I wanted to jump kick that machine off the boat!

This machine is the devil, I might as well have thrown my money overboard

Look at these greedy fools throwing their money away 😉

There were so many fun activities on the boat.  There was a hairy man contest, singing contests, bingo, miniature golf, shuffleboard, and certain nights you dressed up for dinner.

Captain of the Carnival Spirit with the Captain of C-Level and his beautiful wife

Our favorite pastime though was watching the comedians at night. They usually would have two shows on certain nights, a family show and an adult comedy show.  The adult shows were hilarious.  The comedians vary, some were on the lame side and some were chris rock hilarious.  They also had a juggler that me and tom really liked and sometimes they have magicians too.  The worst was the legends night and the talent show night.  Nothing is worse than hearing your fellow passengers think they can sing and then sing a whole song off key, it was so bad we had to run out of the room.  I shit you not.

There’s a lot more that I can go into but I’ll save that for the excursion post, coming soon :)…

Life is Short

13 Nov

One of the things I believe is that life is short.  It’s not a statement, it’s not a theory, it’s a fact.  I figured this out when my aunt passed away about the same time as my dog, Midnight and both of them had passed way before their time.  A few weeks ago I’d have to face that fact again.

When I first met my buddy Mark’s parents I was pretty blown away.  They were some of the nicest most honest, down to earth people I’ve met in my life.  They raised three of the greatest kids to have walked this Earth, really just fantastic people.  Anyone who has met them will tell you that.  When I first met Mark it was probably around 22 years ago, now that I think about it, that pretty much makes it more than half my life ago.

I had walked up to the information booth at the Aquarium because I had a job interview there, Mark was in the info booth, if I remember right he was about 17 then.  He was so polite and courteous that at first I mistook it for sarcasm.  You have to remember that I grew up in Gardena with a lot of characters like myself, guys that would tie your shoelaces to chairs so you’d drag the desk when you got up or drag bottlecaps on the ground with your feet so they got red hot and then burned it into your skin :).  When I got to know Mark later on and met his parents I figured out where he got his polite demeanor.

The first time I met his parents, Mark, Chris B (who we always called “spooky”) and I were working on a computer project.  It would have been the first touch screen interactive computer program that any marine aquarium had on exhibit, way before even Monterey had one.  We had worked on that program for a long time and one night I was at Mark’s house and we were doing some programming.  His parents warmly welcomed me into their tiny house, and they sat in the living room while we worked late into the night.  I saw his sisters Lisa and Angie working in a small room doing homework and I wondered why they didn’t return to their rooms and go to sleep.  I actually didn’t realize it until many months later that they all were living together in a one bedroom house and we were in the only room.  Mark’s parents never said anything or tried to get me to leave, they were so supportive in our project.  They always have and always will support their family and friends.

It was only a short time later that they bought a huge wonderful brand new house not too far away.  I remember going to that house many many times for parties or just to visit.  Mr. and Mrs. T would always warmly welcome me and were always interested in what I was doing.  I’d run into them at schools I was teaching at when I was still doing outreach, and every time there would be a cheerful “Hi Chris!” and a warm handshake or hug to greet me.  It was always the same and it would remain that way for years, even though I hardly saw them, when I did bump into them it would be like I had seen them just yesterday.  I would talk to Mrs. T often about being single, because for years I was having the worst time dating.  She was always supportive and would tell me what a catch I was, I’d laugh and try to change the subject.  I knew that deep down she worried about me.

It would be many years later when Spooky gave me the worst news.  “Mark’s mom has cancer, she just got diagnosed, it’s untreatable and spreading and they think she only has a few months or maybe less.”  I was stunned, I was blown away, I don’t even think she had retired yet and she was way to young to leave this earth.  I talked to Mark and he told me, “man Oak I don’t know if she’s even going to make it a couple of weeks, she’s at home now but she’s unconscious”.   I didn’t know what to say, cancer claimed my grandmother the same way, you just don’t know what to say because you don’t want to admit to yourself that they aren’t coming back.

I knew I had to visit her before she left.  It was really hard to return to that big wonderful house and see her unconscious in that bed with all that equipment hooked up to her.  It was hard to miss that hug and that cheerful voice, always welcoming me.  I had so much that I wanted to tell her, but I was choked up and couldn’t say it.  The tears had already welled up in my eyes before I had even knocked on their door.
I talked with Lisa, Angie and Mr. T and they tried to take my mind off it and assured me she wasn’t in any pain.  I wanted to sit next to Mrs. T and tell her about my life.  I wanted to tell her how thankful I was to have met two great parents and tell her what a great job they did raising three of the greatest kids into great adults who are now raising families on their own.  I wanted to show her my wedding ring with all it’s carvings and pictures and let her know that I finally found a fantastic girl who put up with me enough to marry me and that everything in my life was okay and that hopefully someday I’d be even half as great a parent as they were.  But I just couldn’t do it.  I said my goodbyes and a few days later learned that she had passed away.

I was really glad that I had a chance to see her, the day the memorial came I was glad that I had a chance to see the family and chat a bit.  I watched her grandkids running around and hoped that she could see that the full circle had come complete, somewhere, inside those kids are her genes, in a way she’s immortal now and that gave me some comfort :).

Like I said, I always tell my friends that  life is short.  I always say, do what you want to do, when you want to do it, because you never know when you aren’t going to be able to do it anymore.  That’s my philosophy in life and I try to live it that way.  That’s why you’ll see me diving in the middle of the night by myself or taking a day off to go to Disneyland with friends instead of working on my house or taking time to chat with friends who are having a tough time.  My goal is to not be one of those guys who you hear saying, “ah I wish I had made more time to do…”.

After the service I loaded up my car with my dive gear.  As I drove along the coast I thought about all the things I wanted to say to Mrs. T and after I suited up I stood near the water’s edge and whispered a thank you, told her I grew up okay, and said a final goodbye.

That day would turn out to be one of the best spearfishing days of my life.  The seas were flat that day and although it wasn’t exceptionally clear the conditions held well and I saw a variety of reef fish.  I took a breath and held it, dipped my fins and dropped to the sandy bottom and saw the clear shape of a big halibut.  I backed off a bit, steadied my wong hybrid and clicked off the shot and stoned it, something that would be repeated several times over the hour or so I was hunting.  Before darkness fell, four fat halibut slung over my shoulder and I made my way out of the water.  I turned again and watched the sunset and whispered a “thank you Mrs. T” and then made my way back to my car.

Life is short, don’t forget that…

Solo

4 Nov

Solo

This was from an older story a few seasons ago…

One of the great things about my job is sometimes I can take time off to go spearing. One of the lame things about my job is I won’t know till last minute whether or not I can take the day off because it depends on what we have going on at work the next day. It’s all up to my boss whether or not I can have the day off, usually it’s not a big deal because I have about 240 hours saved up!

So it was the latter that sent me solo today. Most of my buddies were working or at school, and sometimes it’s nice to just be out alone.   The new areas I’m hunting can be really boring and COLD. It’s not like the reefs up shallow, these are kelp beds offshore, the water is deeper, colder and more murky than some of the other places I like to visit.  At any rate, I HAD to get out there again, tuesday I speared a 44 pounder and I knew that the fish were moving in the kelp beds offshore.I was keeping my fingers crossed, I had one person that gave me an iffy because he’s in the middle of moving his business. He told me if he was going to make it he’d be at the docks at six. That night I made my final preparations, I ate the last piece of white seabass that I had left over from tuesday to give me some indian power :). As usual when something is going to be sketchy, I left a copy of my will on my desk, don’t worry you ain’t getting the mighty skyline or c-level, those are going to my family!

In the morning I woke up early and my back was already sore from diving in san diego for work the day before on scuba. Crap it’s going to be a long day. I rub the sleep out of my eyes and got c-level ready. Checked the batteries and made sure all my equipment was on board. Six am came and my buddy didn’t show. Fag! I took a look out at the ocean and I decided to run anyways. Fired up c-level and then tied myself in and clipped on the engine kill in case I fell over.

The swell was small and the ride was bumpy but not nearly as bad as last time. I passed a big mola mola and had to stop to say hello. An hour later I roll into one of my very favorite spots on the island.

The water was fairly clear and there was a ton of kelp bass milling around, I saw schools of fifty or more. Two gigantic barracuda greeted me and drifted off, my parents love barracuda but I held off on the shot so as not to spook the white seabass. A few minutes and then I heard the croaking start. Baruump baruump. Ten minutes into the dive and I see two schoolies, about 15 pounds and pass on the shot because I heard there were big ones around here. I’m heating up in my 7mm wetsuit and the fucking 24 pound weightbelt is killing my back, partially from the scuba diving the day before. I keep diving and an hour later and I hear LOUD croaking and see five nice fish around thirty pounds milling around the kelp. Dammit I’m running out of air and have to make a quick decision, go under the kelp or around it. I decide to go under, I start to kick slowly towards the fish and as I raise my gun they BOOM out . Strike one. Shit those were twenty to thirty pounders too.

I figured I’d give the bed a rest and my back is killing me anyways, I jump on the boat and drop the weight belt in the bucket and take some advil. I lay out and stretch out my spine the best I can and start thinking. Time to make a move, I headed to my second spot, another one of my favorite kelp beds and set anchor. Unfortunately it was gorgeous in the beds, forty feet vis, too good but fun to watch. I didn’t hear or see any wsb at all so I tried to head back to the first spot but there were a couple of boats working it and I recognized one of the divers and said hello. Spearing is a funny thing, the community is somewhat small and the divers who score a lot of fish know of each other. I know most of the regulars and some of them know me from the big 60 lber that I shot last year :). It’s really nice, like friends you never met but click with immediately.

I make a long move to a spot far away, but its an empty desert, cold water and no bait or fish around. Dammit! I fired up my boat and I tried to hit a nearby point that had a really nice kelp bed. It looked fishy but after an hour all I saw were small kelp bass so I headed back to the boat. On the way there I saw a enormous kelp bass hanging on the outside so I decided to take a look. I’m kicking towards the outside of the kelp bed and the bass spooks. And then to my left I saw some movement and it looked like a school of yellowtail were hauling ass across the outside edge. I kicked towards them and when I got closer they were white seabass! It was a wall of gold, probably fifty or more fish in the school and the most amazing thing I’ve seen.  Holy shit, Big ones! I tried to close the gap, there were at least twenty in the school close to me and they were thirty pounds and up! Now I’m excited and I get ready to squeeze the trigger on my custom wood gun, the voodoo stick. I line up on a thirty plus pound class fish and then see a bigger one a little behind it. As I swing the gun towards the bigger one THEY BOOM OUT . I was cursing myself a fool and figured that was the best chance I would get. Serves myself right for being greedy. Strike two. In my mind I play that scene over and over, shit what a loser I am.

I started thinking, those fish weren’t kicking it in the bed, they were on the move somewhere. My second kelp bed that was clear in the morning was up about a mile to where they were headed. I take a gamble and jumped on my boat and hauled ass in that direction. Drop the anchor and silently drop into the water and began working up and down the bed. The water is murkier now, just right for white seabass with about 15 foot vis. About fifteen minutes to a half our pass and as I was on a ascent I saw a flash of gold and brown and as I looked it was a big school of wsb. I can’t say for certain they were the same fish that I saw before, but they were definitely the same size and hauling ass across the bed headed in the same direction. I line up on a decent fish but see a bigger one so I slowly swing the gun again and luckily they don’t see me and boom out. This time I’m going to try for a gill shot so I can put more pressure on that fish, the last one I shot on tuesday hit solid behind the gill but it tied me up deep and it was a bitch to get it back.

I raise the voodoo stick and squeezed the trigger and saw the shaft zip out, BANG, the line starts peeling off my reel and I let the fish run a but apply a little pressure because I knew the shot was good. I’ll tell you this though, shooting fish in the head makes them really pissed, it’s the second time I’ve done it and I won’t do it again. The fish tied up on the kelp and I could see the glimmer of silver down deep so I dropped the gun and went down to it. It was dragging the shaft all over and I could see the slip tip dangling and didn’t want to take a chance so I kicked down and chased after it. On the second try I grabbed it by the gills and started upwards, the line was pulling me back towards the kelp and I’m running out of air, so I put my entire arm thru the fishes gills and thru its mouth and kick like hell with my new fiberglass fins. I hit the surface and gasped for air. Holy shit it’s a monster! I disconnected the shooting line and hauled that fish towards the boat.

I knew it was a bit bigger than the last one, because it was a bitch to throw that thing over the side of my boat. But man was I happy and I was excited as I weighed it on the scale. It bounced past fifty a couple of times but settled in at 48lbs and a few ounces. Dammit, my buddy still holds this season’s high score with a 50lber he got earlier in the week. I gutted the fish and put it in the cooler with some ice and water, the tail stuck way out over the edge of my 94 quart cooler. One of the biologists told me that when fish die a lot of times the parasites burrow thru the stomach wall and get into the flesh and since I eat wsb sashimi the thought grossed me out.

I’d have to say that was one of the best days of my life, I was absolutely glowing. One of the spearos who I saw earlier in the other cove saw me weighing the fish and asked how big it was, 30-40? I shouted 48! and struggled to hold it up, he shouted congrats and I pointed out where I got the fish.

I got that fish by one pm and decided to check out one of my yellowtail spots. Weird, I was swimming amonst the baitfish and noticed the water was cold and murky. Then they all disappeared, bam. In my mind I remember this is white shark water so and maybe the fish spooked out because there was one around. Damn you never saw me haul ass so fast towards my boat or jump out of the water so fast, lol! No need to push my luck today!

I fired up c-level and headed home, when I got to the aquarium my buddy that spears came running up. “Well?” he asked. “Dude I need you to take a pix for me”. He pulled the cooler open and his eyes went wide “holy shit, MONSTER”. Then he ran into the office to see if he could get a day off next week to head back to the island.

When I checked my d3 freedive watch, it logged 209 dives today, whew no wonder I’m tired out.

I’m still tired today, but you know what? I’m heading back to my spots again next week. Umm two times probably. Do you think I’d go solo again if I have to?

Damn Straight.