Okay, for the first time ever, I’m hoping that none of you read this latest heaping helping of the steaming turd that is my quarterly embarrassment to Spearing Magazine. I’d like to believe that it’s an amazing masterpiece worthy of Men’s Journal, Outside, and, of course, Playboy (we all just read the last one for the articles, right?) Just in case you’re not understanding, yes, I am insecure and lay awake at night hoping at least one of the people staring open-mouthed at the photos took the time to actually read what I have to say. I’d like to believe that I have a loyal following but remember the age old saying from Willie T. Stokes, “Wish in one hand an’ s**t in another. See which one fills up first”. In reality, I’ve had no more than three people tell me they like it and then proceed to say, “that’s the one about how to hold your breath longer, right?” Yeah. That’s the one.
But this one is different. And if you have decided to read on (99% of California already out due to ADD and self-absorption), you’ll find that the reason for the sudden need for further obscurity is due to personal vanity and ego. You’ll find (yes, 99% of the Hawaiians have been holding their breath too long to concentrate on my, much less any other, article) that for the first time, I’m ripping on myself. I’ll make no excuses. Not a single one. I’ll own up to my stupidity, and for the most part, kind of tell the truth. So read on (100% of Florida, due to illiteracy, are goners from the get-go) and enjoy!
There truly is no need for what I’m about to tell to actually have happened. At this point in my diving life I had plenty of experience, savvy, and confidence. But what goes up must come down and this story is no exception. And so it goes…On this particular day I had a big cabrilla, two or three yellowtail to 35 pounds, and a fat pargo in the ice hold that, like all Baja pangas, had no ice. No need to gild the lily.
It starts like any of my other tales with any of my companions (Doug Jones and the late, great Daniel VanHuyssteen are the innocent victims this time) out of their wetsuits and completely comfortable in the boat. AND, of course, my self-centered, selfish need to be the last one out of the water ass out. One last dive. One last dive, one last fish. Okay, one last dive, one last monster AMAZING “how did he do that” fish.
As I took a breath and piked over the boat I heard some sort of grumbling about “why in the F@#* would he not want to go grab a cold beer” and “stupid idiot”, “hasn’t he had enough”. As I dropped down through the five-foot visibility (excuse #1) to my eighty-foot destination, I thought ‘man, I’m gonna shut these f#@*ers up now!’. I hit the bottom of the rock sand interface and tried to focus through the Hefeweizen urine sample and began to relax in the slight surge (excuse #2). As I started to settle in a big shape slowly materialized and my hopes to shut some mouths were about to be fulfilled.
Suddenly, the large shape became huge. Unbelievably huge. I pushed my gun forward and in a single motion pulled the trigger on the truly gigantic majestic beast. All hell broke loose. I tried helplessly to keep it from going into the reef as it hopelessly tangled itself around the worst possible rocks and ledges before driving itself deep into a cave. With nothing more to possibly do in this dire situation, I broke for the surface and, ultimately, to the help and mercy of my beloved brethren.
From that extreme depth, and considering the Herculean effort I had just exerted, notwithstanding the pure excitement, I must have come completely out of the water. Forgetting the possibility of blackout, I skipped an inhale or two and immediately yelled to my pals, “I’M GONNA NEED YOU GUYS TO PUT YOUR WETSUITS BACK ON!”
“Is it a good one?” “YES! IT’S THE SIZE OF A MACK TRUCK!” “What is it?” “A MERO GROUPER!” The quick conversation was barely audible above the din of s**t getting thrown around the boat as clammy dive suits were being franticly pulled back on.
Maybe it should have been the first sign of a series of tremendous miscalculations in what I thought just happened and what actually did occur and, in retrospect, it definitely was but as I stuck my head back in the water and checked my watch I noticed something strange. Last dive: thirty-three feet. Hmm…man, that felt really deep. Thirty-three feet? Oh well. That thing is the size of a large school bus and now there’s a WAY better chance of recovering it!
As I breathed up and waited for my faithful (for the newly revived time being) bros to get into the green sixty-six-degree March Baja water I could hear the excitement growing as the panga captain did an unnecessary and way faster than needed loop to get the guys as close as they already were. But, as they jumped over the side through the white water wake to eagerly aid their desperate compadre, I could wait no longer. I once again turned and descended into the briny deep.
Wow. In that murk, the bottom certainly comes quick (giggety). I travelled down my buoy stretched float line arm-over-arm even quicker. Just like the pros. That’s as close to the pros as I would become that fateful day. For, as I reached my destination, the terrible truth of the story unfolded. In what was the second sign that something wasn’t as it should be, and that I failed to notice as I traveled down it, was the thirty plus feet of cable shooting line that was perfectly vertical. To my horror the shaft lay on the top in the middle of a semi-round twenty-foot diameter rock. It was only slightly tangled in the ONLY twelve-inch ball of coral and at the end of it lay a pinned-by-the-weight-of-the-shaft cabrilla.
Ever have an ascent where you prayed you would make it? I mean the kind where you’re scratching to get to all that beautiful wonderful air? Yup. We all have. Ever have one where you prayed you wouldn’t? Probably not. But I have. And that day I did. As I looked at that four-pound fish, I prayed that Poseidon would take me. Ultimately, it mattered not. Croak before I hit the surface and they still find a fish you could weigh in grams on the end of a sixty-seven inch 11/32” shaft with a slip-tip. I leave the legacy either way. In the slightly less age old words of Al Columbato, “Plucked and f#@*ed”.
I knew there was no ‘take-backs’. Come to the surface with it and say, “Just kidding!” Ever hear the one about the boy who cried wolf? Pull that thing off and let it sink away only to tell a lie about how it must have torn itself off (or worse, float to the surface and be a double liar)? Nope. I knew I was going to have to eat it. Literally (actually not complaining about that) and figuratively.
Well, that’s where the story ends. I had dragged them back into the ocean (only a terrible thing when you’ve been in it all day already and there are cold cervezas waiting on shore) for a fish that could be easily swallowed by any of the others already on the boat. Out and in, and out again, of cold urine lubricated skin in neoprene. Imagine all the horrid things your buddies would say, had you committed the same deed, and that’s what I got. And then some. Did I deserve it? Hell yes. Did I learn a lesson from it? Hell no. Pretty sure I’ve toned down my cockiness more than just a little but I’m still the last one out of the water. Just leaves more time to make a fool out of myself. Again.
In Your Dreams