Saturday, August 14, 2010

Solo Dive

I've never been diving alone. The thought of it scares the crap out of me. There are way too many things that can go wrong. What if I get stuck in some abandoned fishing line and can't untangle myself? This is a common concern among New England divers. It's for this reason I impersonate a Bond girl and keep a knife strapped to my leg. (I also use the knife as a way to get Todd's attention. No, not that way. I unsheathe it and clang it against my tank until he gets the message. He loves that I do that, by the way. (not))

Laat Sunday morning we took the Under Achiever to the northern side of Prudence Island. Our friends Sean and Heidi were with us, and the mission was to collect as many quahogs as possible for the party with the Ya Yas that night. We armed ourselves with catch bags, Sean and Heidi rolled off the boat first. I rolled off next and waited for Todd to gear up.

"Beej, just go down. It's not like we'll stay together anyway. When we're digging for clams we'll kick up too much silt anyway. Just go down."

After asking him "Are you sure?" about 15 times he said "Yes. We're only in 10 feet of water anyway. It's not that big of a deal."

And it wasn't. But it was at first. I descended alone, and the viz sucked. I couldn't see a damn thing and smacked into the ocean floor.  You know, that big thing on the bottom of the ocean?  I didn't see it until I was in it. I swam into the current, so that on my way back to the boat I could ride the current and not be too tired to get back, with a catch bag full of clams.

I plunged my fingers into the mud in search of clams, then looked over my shoulder. Todd wasn't at arm's length away, and the butterflies awoke in my stomach. I sucked on my regulator a bit harder and tried to calm myself down. The depth gauge read 11 feet. I took a fix on my compass, and told myself "Just get some clams and get it over with."

I reached down and felt my first clam.  I pulled on it, and it wouldn't come free.  Then I pulled on it again.  I swam closer to it to get better leverage on it.  I yanked and it still wouldn't budge.  Then I noticed a dark blotch in front of me.  Holding the clam, I swam toward the blotch.  The blotch actually was Heidi.  The clam was in her catch bag.  I dropped the clam, hoping she wouldn't notice that I tried to steal it, and waved. 

After about 10 minutes I thought to myself, "Now where the hell am I?"  I'd been following a compass bearing to the southeast, but I couldn't tell where I was.  I popped up from 9 feet to see.  I saw the boat anchored not too far away, but didn't see Todd anymore.  I scanned the surface for bubbles, but couldn't see any through the waves.  I shrugged and descended again.  Hadn't found any clams yet that weren't already spoken for.  I plunged my hands into the mud again and felt something hard.

The clam was so big that I could barely Fit my hand around it.  It was firmly wedged into the mud, I pulled harder.  My legs flew up behind me, too buoyant.  I had set up my tank too high, so my head kept bonking on the tank valve and my legs flew up behind me.  This would prove to be a nuisance every time I tried to pull a clam out of the mud.  With every clam I found I would hold onto it with my fingertips as my legs flung themselves upward until I was completely inverted with every clam I caught.

I also learned on this solo dive that when you're digging around in the mud you can't see a damn thing.  I had to hold every hard object found in the mud up to my face to inspect it.  At one point I even learned that crabs don't like it when you yank them off the ground to look at them.  I felt the claw pinch my thumb.  I frantically shook my right hand to free it and watched it fly off ass over teakettle back into the cloud of silt around me.

I looked down at my air gauge and saw I was down to 800.  Time to surface.  I popped up, took a compass bearing and went back down, figuring I could catch more clams on the swim back.  A few minutes later I popped up again and heard Todd say "There she is!"  He jumped in a nd swam back to the boat with me.

He pulled my catch bag onto the boat and inspected it, "This is only half full.  You were down there for an hour and this is all you got?"

Sean looked in as well, "But they're fricken huge!"  Then I looked down and saw the mountains of clams that everyone else caught.  We robbed the ocean of 400 some-odd clams.



Blogger Unknown said...

LMAO! I didn't realize that dive was so funny until I read your blog. You're a true fisherman, exaggerating the number of clams we got. I think it was actually 4,000 clams and they had migrated all the way from the Hudson near the Bronx area!

August 15, 2010 at 12:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow. I chuckled when you smacked the bottom, because, well, that's funny. But that right there is a dive that I'll never experience. Glad nothing bad happened.

We had one dive in cola-colored, silty water and I hated it. I'm used to not having great viz, but that was absolutely horrendous and I have no desire ever to dive in such conditions again.

August 16, 2010 at 7:43 PM  
Blogger BJ Knapp said...

Yeah, Zion, totally smacked the bottom. Kerplonk. It was totally graceful too, as I often am when bumping into things.

Yeah, Sean, I was cracking myself up the whole time. Because, ya gotta crack yourself up when you smash into the bottom, then try to steal someone else's clam, and nearly float away anytime trying to catch my own clams. Good times.

August 18, 2010 at 7:19 PM  

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