|I told Dad not to put his in the dryer....|
We have to keep dive logs now.
We are getting close to number thirty or so. By the time I post this, Kai or Jon will probably pass that number.
I still occasionally pass up a dive to stay aboard with Hunter-who is beginning to groan about being too small to go to 80 feet.
I try to assure her.
"Mommy, didn't even get to TRY this until now and I'm 45, you're just soooo lucky to be doing what you are, it's amazing!" .
I tell her this and she rolls her eyes.
'Yeah " she says, unimpressed.
"But I"VE been free-diving, forever, sooo, I'm more ready than you!"
Hard to argue with that.
As soon as we get back to Loreto, I have promised Hunter we will get her a junior Padi liscence- and we all will get certified.
It's going to be really weird to wear our gear in a POOL after all this.
I think we could actually have more "specialty" dives under our belt than our instructors...if we keep following Manta around.
And following Manta around is just about our favorite thing ever, these days...
We completed a circumnavigation of Isla Carmen-a 20 mile long, privately owned island, with all sorts of exciting things to see.
We dove reefs and drop offs, we played dingy chase with several hundred Bottles Nose Dolphins, we motored around at sunrise following a pod of pilot whales that decided to visit the anchorage.
I dove with Terry and Dawn ( on a heavy current day) off the Northern most point of the island.
"When you hit the water...kick as hard as you can for the anchor line..." Terry told me.
He and Dawn had been sharing horror stories of strong current experiences and teaching me how not to get myself swept away from the boat as I jumped in.
I nodded and spat in my mask. I wasn't too worried.
I'm a pretty confident swimmer. I've spent my whole life around the ocean and as a kid, I spent a zillion hours training and swimming competitively.
"When you reach the anchor line, grab onto to it, have a rest, then work your way down to the anchor."
Totally. I got this.
I jumped in and swam for the anchor line.
I was kicking but nothing was happening.
I noticed the boat going past me.
I was going backwards...fast.
I reached up and grabbed the dingy at the last second and stuck my head out of the water.
"Oh, you mean, like, REALLY KICK!"
Dawn looked down at me and nodded, she was still in the dingy putting on her gear.
She usually hangs back, waiting to make sure one of us, newbie boneheads, does't need her to rescue us.
"You going to be okay? " she asked.
"I got this!" I said and stuck my regulator back in.
This time I kicked like Michael Phelps going for gold.
I grabbed the anchor line and fought my way down the line, against the current.
Terry was patiently waiting by the anchor at the bottom, once you hit the sand the current is usually way less. Today it was less but not so much that I wasn't still getting blown around if I didn't hang onto a rock.
Dawn came down the line like it was a swimming pool- these two are so impressive underwater it makes you feel extra goofy as you bobble around behind them but like anything, if you have a good mentor, you learn faster-eventually, I got the hang of swimming in the strong current and started looking around.
The first thing I saw was a mass of long, thick green grass, swaying in the cold currents at the bottom.
I looked again and gurgled happily in my mask.
"EEEEEEEELLLLSSS..... bubble, bubble, bubble... EEEEEEELLLLLSSSS..."
I signalled to Terry and Dawn. They nodded and smiled.
I was looking at a field of swaying Garden Eels.
They're about two feet long, and they live in their same little hole in the sand for their whole entire lives.
They feed by sticking their bodies up out of their little homes and catching organisms that float past them in the currents.
I noticed shadows in the dimness. BIG shadows.
The visibility wasn't great- I could only see about fifteen feet away from me but those shadows came a little closer on the next pass.
I pointed and mumbled in my mask again.
There were four of them and each one had to be at least twenty pounds.
Too bad Jon wasn't here with his spear gun!
We found some lobster and then I realized I had already blown through half my air.
I signaled to Terry and we started to head back.
A little while later, as we hung onto the anchor line and decompressed, Dawn and Terry motioned to me that I was using too much air, breathing too fast.
I sometimes forget to be calm and breath slowly-but this happens to me when I'm not on scuba too!
I nodded that I understood and that I would work on that the next dive.
There's a lot to learn and it comes, "poco poquito"..."llittle by little," as we gain experience with each dive.
I kicked to the surface, and the water was black and silky looking.
Terry popped the anchor float and the dingy was sweeping out to deeper water quickly.
Dawn was already in the boat ,helping me with my tank and Terry surfaced, right next to me, looking down at something.
He was talking into his snorkel and I couldn't understand him.
" Terry!" yelled Dawn, loud enough for Terry to hear. "Whatcha looking' at?"
Terry popped his head out of the water.
"There's a hammerhead right under us."
" Us" meaning him...and me.
I was still in the water, only I didn't have my mask on, I had thrown it into the dingy already.
"Oh, yeah."I said trying to sound casual.
Terry seemed relaxed ...I thought that seemed like a good way to act.
(You know, being a professional actor does not really prepare one for much out here- but it does have it's moments of coming in handy).
"Yup, he just rolled over and looked up at you as he went past."
I levitated into the dingy.
As Terry climbed in I noticed a cacophony of sound, that I hadn't heard before.
We had been swept around the point by the currents and now we could see a HUGE colony of sea lions sunning themselves on the point not 200 yards form us.
"That's a lot of sea lions" said Terry.
"I love seeing them. " I said. "there so cute" .
Terry shook his head.
"I don't like seeing that many so close...If they're here, the "Man in the Grey Suit" might be around, too.
Okay. Let's go back to the big boat now.
...And they wonder why I use up my air so fast down there. Geez.
The next morning Hunter and I were up before sunrise baking muffins...
Yeah, that's how we roll out here.
Us, shark swimming , types...
Terry called us on the VHF.
"anybody up over there? " he asked.
"I AM!" yelled Hunter across the water to his boat.
"There's whales in the anchorage...wanna go have a look?"
Hunter and I turned off the oven and Terry and Dawn picked us up in their dingy and as the sun rose over the bay we frolicked around with a pod of slow moving pilot whales who were having a loll around in the calm shallow waters.
The water was so clear we could see the big 25 foot males hovering quietly under the dingy looking up at Hunter as she leaned over the bow.
There were a few days of Northers but we found something to dive everyday.
We did a wreck dive together- Hunter and I snorkeled it and then Dawn lent me her tanks and I joined Kai and Jon on it afterward.
On the way back to the boat Kai spotted a HUGE Halibut disguised, but not well enough for Kai ("the Eye" )who sees EVERYTHING down there.
I swam over to tell Terry about it, while Kai lined up to shoot it with his tiny pole-spear ( Haiwaiin sling).
Terry swam over, took one look at it and wagged a finger at Kai.
Kai reached for Terry's much larger pole spear but Terry shook his finger again and then lined up for the shot.
Kai glanced at me like..."Awwww...shucks...that was my fish...."
But we both knew Terry must have a reason.
A second later we knew why Terry didn't let Kai take the shot.
Those suckers are mean.
Terry, who is one serious dude and Captain Aqua-Man had to tussle with that fish and pin it on the sand, using all his weight to keep it from ripping off the spear.
I watched in awe, as the nasty fish snapped it's nasty, toothy jaws at Terry while he stabbed it in the head about twelve times and it still didn't die.
I made the "phew" sign, wiping my hand across my brow, looking over at Kai.
But Kai was busy, he had his own halibut squirming around in the end of his little pole.
It was much smaller but still a gutsy little monster and Kai leaned into it and tackled it on the sand but he wasnt wearing a knife so he motioned for his dad to swim over and finish it off for him.
As Terry had lunged for the big one, the smaller one had darted out from under the behemoth.
I guess he wasn't as much protection as he seemed like.
Kai and Terry climbed aboard Manta with their prizes.
"That thing was MEAN" I said, watching Terry hand the fish to Dawn up on deck.
"Oh, Terry..." she groaned. 'I hate cleaning these guys..."
Dawn has seen A LOT of fish in her days. She's hard to impress :)_
'I totally could have gotten him" said Kai hoisting the huge fish. and proudly carrying it around.
It was almost as big as him.
"Not with that little sling of yours. I didn't want him getting away from you...
I had a buddy, who once got sixty stitches from one of these guys. He hit it and it got off his pole and it came back an attacked him-bit off a chunk of his arm. And trust me, he was a little bigger than you"
Terry smiled at Kai, who was clearly imagining himself attacking the much bigger fish with perfect success.
Kai filleted his own little guy while Tigger cat watched and ogled it's slimy big brother lying on the deck at Kai's feet.
Another smile-filled day with Manta.
The next day, Manta offered to babysit and the kids made Terry suffer through watching "Elf" while Jon and I had our first "date dive" together.
We did a really shallow little reef but it was loads of fun and we scored some lobster so it was great.
Later, that same night, Manta took Jon and Kai out for their first night dive.
Okay. Let me just apologize in advance for the anxiety this next section will cause the Grandparents...
And let me say this, I was not without my own case of jitters as my little boy suited up and readied to dive.
Kai had been talking about going on a night dive for weeks and I know how much amazing stuff happens down there at night that you never see otherwise.
They were going to go shallow and Manta would be guiding them and caring for them and I trust those guys and I trust Jon and Kai.
Kai has shown a stunning maturity and natural ability every time we dive, If he is told not to do something or to do something differently, you only have to tell him once.
Somehow this miraculous event does not translate to land based activities.
But underwater, I have confidence in him.
Still though, it was currenty- and it would be PITCH, pitch dark out there in the windy darkness and the swell.
They only have tiny little flashlights and a small glowstick-one that would go on Kai;s snorkel so everyone would know where he was on the surface or underwater and the other would go on the dingy in case someone got lost and had to surface-that part I did not let myself think about at all.
Jon was serious and quiet as he double checked all their tanks and gear. Kai was unusually focused.
"Are you nervous, buddy? " I asked him.
"I'm excited." he said. "and a little fluttery inside".
"I'm nervous" i said.
"I'm going to be fine mom. I promise. I'll stay with everyone. You don't have to worry."
Dawn called over the VHF.
"How's everyone doing over there?" she asked.
"Okay. their heading to you now." I watched the last of the sun sink over the horizon and the dark was closing in fast. It's winter and the full moon was a few days ago so I knew it would stay blacker than pitch for another few hours until the waning moon made her entrance over the horizon.
"take care of my boys, out there" I said.
"It;s going to be fine." Dawn said in that way she has that instantly makes you feel okay and that you can trust her with your most precious children.
"this is no big deal. I know it's scary for you now but as soon as you do one... you'll see.".
The boys dinged away-and Hunter and I burst into tears.
I knew it would be an hour for the dive and if we focused really hard we could see the two little dingy lights as they made their way out to the reef.
I checked the clock and vowed not to check it again for at least an hour and ten minutes.
I started dinner and let Hunter play a game on the iPad to distract us.
I remembered all the times Terry and Dawn had cautioned us, all the times they had stepped in or called a dive or rechecked something to make sure it was okay. I thought about all the times I turned to see them watching us or checking on us as we swam around gurgling at things. I thought about Terry not letting Kai shoot that fish, when I knew for a fact if it had been safe Terry would have wanted Kai to have that shot more than anybody.
I trusted them. Completely.
And I did not look at the clock for the full hour.
When the hour was up though, Hunter and I popped back on that deck to have a look out to the reef.
If they had been under water for fifty minutes- they would probably be making their way back to the dingy now.
Sure enough, 3/4 of a mile away in the pitch black ,I could see an occasional flash of green light under water.
They were fine.
The dive was over.
They would be heading back soon.
I put dinner on the table.
Ten minutes late,r Kai and Jon were standing in the cockpit, freezing cold and yammering like maniacs.
"It was so COOL!"
"Mom! I totally snuggled a SEA TURTLE!"
"The phosphorescence were amazing!"
"the PURLLE HAZE!"
-There's something called "Purple Haze", a trippy, purple, goo that squirts out of a sea cucumber found only at night...
I poured a tequila for Jon and Hunter made Kai a cup of tea and we sat down to eat freshly made fish tacos, made form the Halibut ,Kai had shot the day before.
I listened to the boys tell Hunter and I, all about the amazing things they had seen in the night sea.
I looked at my ten year old child, his eyes shining, like huge round stones in the candlelight...
He was grinning and chatting away and he looked as polished and as smooth and clean and pure and happy and filled with wonder as a human could possibly look.
I glanced over at Jon, who was also watching Kai.
He took my hand in his and looked into my eyes.
"You have to go on the next one...." he said.
A day later we were diving again.
This time, I was with Terry and Dawn and we were hunting for Yellowtail.
Terry had his big gun.
"if we see one," said Dawn.
"You get DOWN or hide behind a rock..."
"They get really pissed when you shoot them and they look for something to tangle the line on."
Terry got me wrapped up in one once" said Dawn, glancing at Terry.
"Oh, boy she was so MAD at me!" Terry chuckled.
I thought they were joking. I mean, it's only FISH, right? I can get out of the way. I figured they just didn't want me swimming up and getting tangled in the line. LIke an idiot.
Yeah. Okay. So they weren't kidding.
We dropped down to about fifty feet and right away there was a huge green turtle laying on the bottom and I swam after him all slow and mellow and he let me trail him by a few feet and we banked in a turn together and while he kept a leary eye on big old Terry with his huge gun, he didn;t seem to mind me too much.
Terry swam down and picked up a rock off the bottom and banged it on a cliff.
This is how you call in the bigger pelagic fish.
Fish are curious and if you make noise, they will come in to check it out.
Then you have to be smooth and quick and you have a short chance to see them and get a shot off before they figure out that you are not interesting - you are dangerous.
I was swimming above Terry, about ten feet, and I saw the Yellowtail come over the ridge. I only saw one but Terry said there were two. Before I could turn my head and point, I saw Terry lined up in the shot. It was so cool. I have to say. LIke watching Barishnikov leap through the air, witnessing Terry hunt underwater has a sort of balletic quality to it. It is a deadly ballet but it's not without grace and complete physical and mental control. So many things were happening at once and because of the nature of the terrain on this dive and the timing of this fish showing up, Dawn and I had front row seats to the battle.
And battle it was. This fish was big and Terry hit it perfectly behind the gills but it was not going down without a fight.
And do you know the first thing it did was look STRAIGHT at Dawn and I and make a run for us.
Terry yarded on the end of the spear line but that fish had a look of PAYBACKin it's eye and it had every intent if tangling DAWN or I or both of us in that line and chocking us and knocking off our masks and our regulators .
We pressed ourselves up against the rock wall ( we were in a sort of grotto with a sand bottom and a ring of rocky cliffs-imagine an underwater gladiator ring and you will get a very good idea of the theatrics of this event) but the thing kept coming.
Terry fought it away from us but it circled back and I pretty much jumped in Dawn's arms and we sank to the bottom and crouched on the sand to watch the rest of the thing play out.
There was a LONG wrestling match and the fish was eventually tired out and Terry wrapped him up in a bear hug at the end and drove his knife quickly into it;s brain and ended it without another twitch.
I had to put the lobsters (caught the night before) back in the fridge so I could make sashimi for dinner.
Dawn made sushi rolls- hundreds i think, to satisfy our hungry children- and we had a feast on Manta and celebrated a glorious animal that made a glorious meal for six-with plenty left over.
The next day it was Jon's turn.
He had quizzed Terry over dinner, in that -hyper focused Jon way- about the fight and how to play the fish and when we went to bed I knew without doubt that Jon was lying awake thinking about getting a yellowtail.
We were up at dawn and motored back to the special reef and Hunter and I dropped off the gang and snorkeled some caves and an hour later we returned to pick them up...
Kai was the only one in the dingy when we got there.
"How was the dive?" I asked, worried.
"It sucked" said Kai with a sad look.
"there wasn't anything".
"I'm so sorry," I said, looking around for Jon.
"He's lying" sniffed Hunter. "I can tell".
"Where's daddy? " I asked, scanning the bubbles welling up under the dingy.
"Getting my broken flipper strap" said Kai.
Then, Jon surfaced, grinning and holding a beautiful fish.
Kai burst out laughing.
'It was so awesome! I spotted the fish and then Dad got a perfect shot and fought it and then a giant Moray tried to steal it from him and then he had to jump out of the way and then I scared it off....It was amazing. Ha. ha.....I fooled you!" Kai pointed a finger at Hunter and I.
"You got MOMMY, not ME !" yelled Hunter, very smug.
I had to smile at our situation;
How did this happen?
Who is behind all this wonderfulness?
Who lifted up the curtain and said...
"Look, there is Freedom, there is Love, there is the Open World waiting for YOU"...
and now, Sashimi, at your spear-tip.
I don't know how this all came to be.
All I know is what's in front of me and...
that the Lobster dinner will have to wait another night.
|Who's ready for a night dive?|
|The Guys hamming on Manta|
|Hunter and the pilot whales|
|Jon stops Hunter from joining her Dolphin brethren.|
|Barbies and Bones|
|Mom in DOUBLE heavy wet suits- Suki's don't like cold!|
|Hunter finds a suspected Meteor|
|Hunter and a pilot whale|
|Manta readies her Potato gun-at us!|
|Some of the many Man chores-fillets and wet suit repair|
|Dog Tooth snapper|
|Hunter in one of her many incarnations- this is Big Bozo.|
|Cracking Terry up|
|Hunter trying to steal the thunder-her favorite trick|
|spotting for the wreck|