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Old October 12th 05, 06:42 PM
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Default A Recreational Boating Message

Trip Report From The Sea of Cortez

Several years ago a friend sent me an interesting email trip report
about his recent adventure in the Cortez which I shared with the NG at
that time. I reposted this report about a five ago. Since then, many new
subscribers have joined the group. For the new subscribers...

Well, this report is going to be tough to write. It would be hard to
capture the flavor of the crazy trip I just went on. I guess I'll just
start from the beginning and ramble.

I went down to the Gulf with my dad, who lives in Monterey and flew down
to Tucson, for a spear fishing trip to some islands. My dad arrived in
Tucson and we drove down to San Carlos [mainland side] to meet up with
the dive boat. I've been on this boat many times in the past. It's 56
feet long and named the El Duque, 'The Duke', after John Wayne but from
now on it will be referred to as the El Doomsday.

Right before we left town [Tucson] I was talked into bringing down the
food for the boat trip. I was to meet the owner, Mike and pick up the
"food". When Mike arrived at my house, he started unloading food into my
truck and then asked if I wouldn't mind taking down some parts for the
boat captain, Ramone. Instant Red Flag.

I asked, "what parts", and he said, "just a starter and a servo
mechanism for the transmission". I really didn't think at this point
that there would be any problems with the boat. I've seen Ramone working
on the boat right up until the time we leave many times in the past.
Besides, if the boat was OOC, Mike would say so, right?? He knew where
we were taking the boat. We were talking it clear across the gulf. In
fact we were taking it to the same island where the Santa Barbara
capsized and drowned 12 people just a few years ago. Everyone knows that
the Gulf can be deadly and can become a violent hell in a matter of
minutes. Mike would say something............yes?????

So we drive down to San Carlos and arrive at 12 midnight. I go down to
the boat and it's a wreck. Aren't we taking this boat out tomorrow? In
less than 12 hours? It looks as through no one has been on it in weeks.
Hmmmmm, Red Flag. We spend the night in a rented house in San Carlos.

The next morning my dad and I are awakened by Don. I've been out with
Don many times and he's the one who booked the boat. Don said that
Ramone needed the parts in my truck to fix the boat. Fix the boat? I
said. What's wrong with it? Don said he didn't know and Mike hadn't told
him a thing other than, "every things fine." So we go down to the boat
docks and Ramone says the boat transmission is broken, that it has been
for at least 10 days, and that the servo mechanism I brought down was
needed in order to have reverse. The boat has a Caterpillar transmission
and the servo I brought was for a GM. Mike gave us the wrong part. It
wasn't even the same manufacturer! In fact the boat had been OOC for 2
weeks and Mike said nothing about it as he took our money back in
Tucson. I also learned that in order to bring the boat into the harbor
the last time they were out, they had to use the anchor to pull the boat
along side the pier because they had no reverse.

After the all the guys were awake, we gathered around Ramone. The guys
on this trip were all Gulf veterans and they were pretty ****ed off
about not being told that the boat was broken. Ramone said we couldn't
go any further than Isla San Pedro Nolasco which is 17 miles outside the
harbor. This island is not near as good for spear fishing as the islands
on the Baja side. Those were the islands we paid to dive and damn it
that was where we were going. After much heated debate, we left the
harbor bound for Nolasco.

As soon as we left the harbor [without REVERSE of course] the wind
picked up to a small gale. The lunar cycle was smack dead on a new moon
and the tide was ripping. As we set course the bow began burying itself
in the swells which we were forced to take head on in order to make the
island. The seas were high but not too high and I was only a little
apprehensive about the situation. No problem, as long as we continued to
take the sea head on. That's when the motor stopped. 10 miles offshore.
It just died. Don't know why. Ramone threw open the engine room hatch
and dove down into the greasy belly of the boat [I said he was going to
give the hamsters on the treadmill another steroid shot].

Meanwhile the El Doomsday pivoted, as all boats do, to take the seas on
the beam. I didn't want to make my dad feel any more panicky than he
already was so I pretended that this happened all the time. The boat was
rolling like an unloaded shrimper and we were taking water over the side
gunwales. At this point we had to hang on to the pipes in the overhead
and pull our legs up in order for them to not be crushed by the 200 LB
ice chests that were slamming out of control back and forth across the
deck. Heavy gear and machinery joined in the mess and within seconds it
was too dangerous to stand on the deck so we hung on to the pipes like a
bunch of crazed monkeys.

Then the motor started again and we resumed our correct position. After
about 4 hours we reached Isla San Pedro Nolasco on Friday afternoon. The
water there was filthy and green and cold. We sure couldn't see very far
down the anchor line.

Everyone suited up and went in anyway. It was almost dark when we got in
the water and no one saw any game except me. I saw one distant 20 pound
Yellowtail out in the gloom which I speared [Hail Mary!] and
subsequently lost. ****!

Don was really fired up about doing a night scuba dive for bugs and we
all told him to have a great time and that we would be in the salon
drinking hot cocoa and thinking about him. Well, that decision turned
out to be a mistake. Don said he knew a crack with giant bugs in 10 feet
of water right long the wall where we were anchored. Sure Don, everyone
said. Knock yourself out buddy.

Well when Don came back about 15 minutes later he had 5 big bugs in his
goody bag. He came back because the bag was full! He said that there
were big bugs in less than 10 feet of water just crawling all over the
place. I Then made the second mistake. I didn't get in the water when
Don went back.

This guy on the boat named Jeff went with him and when they came back
they had 15 more lobsters! The next morning we all had lobster and eggs
until we couldn't eat anymore. I felt like Daddy War Bucks.

After a long sleepless night of howling wind we had a conference about
making the crossing to the Baja side. There were about 5 really hardcore
dudes on board who wanted to leave Nolasco and spearfish the islands on
the other side. Ramone reluctantly said he would go on a "go" vote. My
dad was REALLY nervous at this point and voted to stay at Nolasco. Don
voted to stay also, and after expressing his feelings that he thought it
was a bad idea, he said that he would not hold the trip if the majority
wanted to go. The five guys were very very persuasive and expressed an
intense desire to go. So basically I voted to go on their account. It
was hard for me to vote against people who paid a lot of money for a
spear fishing trip to the Baja. Especially since we all knew that
staying at Nolasco meant no fish.

The "HardCore 5" were all very well traveled in the Gulf and had already
been shipwrecked on a life raft when the boat they were on burned to the
water off of Isla Cedros. Hindsight is always 20/20 but in retrospect I
should have voted it down. My vote probably would have turned us back to
port. So we left, early in the morning on Saturday.

What any of us failed to comprehend was the tidal situation. The winds
were out of the Northwest and the tide was going out of the Gulf in the
morning. This meant that the wind and the tide were going in the same
direction. This causes unusually high rolling "Hawaii 5 - O" type waves
that are almost never seen in the Sea of Cortez. After about an hour,
the wind started to build and I had a bad feeling about the crossing.
Kind of like one of those feelings of impending doom heart attack
victims get. My dad wouldn't take off his wetsuit and if he wasn't on
board, I would have put mine back on. I didn't because I didn't want to
scare him any more. He really was not taking it too well.

The seas continued to build until they coalesced into long roaming
mountains of water that we attempted to take on the starboard rear
quarter. The El Doomsday was rolling so hard that the water was coming
over the gunwales and we spent many long seconds looking into each
others eyes as if to say, "is it going to roll back?" and then it would.

During this period I stayed on the fantail and I wouldn't go into the
boat for more than a few moments at a time. I figured that if we flipped
over, the fantail wouldn't trap me under water because the El Doomsday
would only last a few seconds up side down.

Oh by the way, I forgot to mention the interesting fact that the El
Duque was a boat whose hull was constructed entirely out of solid
concrete. Yes, you heard me correct. Concrete! Apparently it was very
popular in the late 60's and early 70's. That is until people got the
strange idea that boats with concrete hulls boats tend to sink. Hmmm,
imagine that.

It was at this point that my dad, myself, and Don came to the conclusion
that if we lost the motor again like we did the day before, it would be
all over. We would loose the whole boat. The reason we were hanging from
the railing on the fantail and nervously discussing the motor quitting
again was the fact that it had begun to make strange surging noises.

The first point I want to make is regarding the Santa Barbara, a long
range dive boat out of San Carlos Mexico. When I mentioned it in my last
e-mail, I just assumed you knew about it. Here is the scoop.

The Santa Barbara was a converted shrimp boat. It was 60 to 70 feet long
and used for long range dive expeditions to the far reaches of the Gulf
and beyond. It sunk a couple of years ago in the middle of the night on
a crossing from Baja back to San Carlos [off Tortuga Island]. The
amazing thing was that this loss didn't surprise anyone at all. Everyone
knew that the Santa Barbara was a death ship. Everyone just accepted it.

Her problem was the fact that she was designed to have 20,000 pounds of
shrimp in her hold. Of course now the holds were empty and even in a
relatively calm sea the ship would rock and roll like a ............well
like an unloaded shrimper. Everyone who went on that boat came away with
the feeling that sooner or later she would capsize.

When the boat left Isla Tortuga in the middle of the night it was windy,
but not too windy. Then while everyone was asleep it happened. A rogue
wave sent the ship heeling to the starboard side where it stayed for an
unusually long time. When the Santa Barbara rolled back to port, it was
just in time to catch another wave on the opposite beam. Water poured
over the gunwales and flooded the port side of the ship delaying once
again the ship's return to an upright position. When she rolled back to
starboard, many tons of water crashed to the other side and she went
over. The reason we know of these details was due to the sole American
survivor who was lucky enough to be on deck when it happened. The Santa
Barbara went to the bottom like a rock with all hands save this one
American and a Mexican deck hand.

By a freak stroke of luck, this guy's dive bag popped up right next to
him in the black cold sea. He managed to don his wetsuit and was rescued
days later by a passing boat. I believe there were a dozen divers on the
Santa Barbara that trip and every one except the guy who went topside
drowned.

What really amazes me is that the Santa Barbara was going out regularly
to the Revillagigedos!!

All of the grisly details were told over and over again as we crossed
the Gulf, adding to the general mood of anxiety about the crossing which
was slowly getting more dangerous. The day was bright and clear. The sun
was shinning brilliantly on the water as the wind continued to increase.
It was really a nice day except for the fact that our boat had no
business being out there. This is especially true since the El Duque
only has one screw and one engine. [and one transmission minus reverse].

The wave action was really quite fascinating in retrospect. Due to the
wind and tide running together, the waves more closely resembled the
large swells of the Pacific Ocean. I can't judge how large they were but
one thing was for certain, if the motor quit for just 5 minutes we would
loose the boat. That's just a cold fact.

When we left the Island called Nolasco, the weather was not too bad.
However after only a few miles the motor stopped. Once again Ramone
dashed down into the engine room and in a few minutes we were off again.
(new steroid shot for the hamsters, Ramone?) Who knows what he was
doing down there. To this day, I don't know what was wrong with the
engine or why it kept stopping.

Well, the boat made it across and the engine never died after the seas
got really hairy.

We pulled the boat into the lee of an island and dropped anchor. All the
divers were fired up and we hit the water in record time. I would say
that it was about 4:00 on Saturday afternoon at this point. I didn't
dive with my dad this day, instead choosing to go our separate ways in
order to cover more area. To say that the atmosphere was intense was an
understatement. The 'HardCore 5' had bragged all the way over about
their spearing prowess and I heard all the stories about monster fish,
blah, blah, blah. I joined in none of this as this kind of talk doesn't
fit my personality. They insisted that we form a pot of $20 each to go
to the diver who landed the biggest fish and they informed my dad and
myself that they always make the trip a contest. We just shrugged our
shoulders and said "no thanks, we are on vacation".

Well I'm in the water and it's warm, about 72 to 74 degrees, and
exceptionally clear. I would say that the visibility was at least 30
feet. Pretty good for the Gulf in the winter. I swim up current from
the boat and start hunting along a cascade of boulders dropping from the
water line down to the sand bottom.

As I come around a big rock I see a monster Cabrilla just looking at me.
He is as fat as a baby pig! I swallow my heart and sink deeper behind
the rock so he doesn't bolt for deep water. Too late, he sees me and he
turns away. I watch him as I choose my strategy.

I swim in between two large rocks and creep towards where I think he
will be. He is caught off guard as I emerge from around the rock and for
an instant he doesn't know what to do. I'm way too close! I didn't plan
for the fish to have just sunk behind the rock and go no further. The
fish is only 4 feet from the end of my gun and extremely nervous. I know
that a wrong move on my part will cause him to explode away like an
arrow. Instead I relax, don't move, and line up the shot. It is perfect.

When the end of my shaft passes the point on the fish that guarantees an
instant kill, I pull the trigger. My heavily ballasted Gulf Grouper gun
convulses in a dull backwards pump. All the energy is transferred into
the shaft which plows into the fish's skull right behind the eye and
straight through the brain.

Then all hell breaks loose! The shot is perfect but the fish is
completely unfazed. He explodes away. Unfortunately the shaft had not
even cleared the end of my gun when it hit the fish. The shaft was
partially still in the muzzle. The fish is so powerful that in his
frantic get away he manages to bind the shaft in the muzzle and tear the
entire end off my gun. Where my muzzle and bands were is now nothing
but a broken stump! The fish swims about 20 feet away and tries to crash
dive into a cave.

I swim like a madman to follow him. He doesn't go far and I manage to
get a hold on him and get my fingers in his eye sockets. Then I string
him and swim back to the boat. This is amazing. I say to myself while
shaking my head. The arrow is going straight through his head like a
Steve Martin stand up comedy act! How could he be alive??? He is still
thrashing violently on the stringer. What is this? The Terminator? This
fish was the largest Cabrilla I've ever seen. Along with the other fish
I already had on the stringer, I hand them up to Ramone.

When my dad and the others get back to the boat, we admire the monster
Cabrilla. It is said all around that this fish is the largest anyone has
ever seen. It weighs 33 pounds and is 41 inches long. The official world
record is 26 pounds.

My dad and I look at each other and privately remark [with raised
eyebrows] that not only are we the only ones returning with nice sized
fish, we are the only ones with fish period. I landed two nice Cabrilla
and a world record sized fish and my dad came back with a couple of
Cabrilla weighing up to 24.5 pounds! The 'HardCore 5' return with a lot
of stories and broken gear. It's amazing what a fish can do to a spear
shaft when he decides it's time to dive for the caves. You really have
to see it to understand.

Don wanted to go out for another hunt while it was still light. I was
happy to just relax on the boat and enjoy the evening. We all thought
the chances of getting fish in the rapidly fading light were pretty
slim. About 45 minutes later someone pointed and said, "is that Don way
out there?" We all looked in the same direction and sure enough, there
was Don way off on the horizon waving his arm. We waved back and decided
to move the boat since the dingy wasn't in the water. He had to have a
big fish or something. There was no way he would wimp out on a swim.

When the boat approached him we could see his gun had been fired, and he
was holding the tuna line in one hand. He said, "I've got a monster
grouper down there in a cave and I can't get him out. It must weigh over
100 pounds." I looked at Ramone and he said to get a scuba tank on and
go get the fish. By this time it was nearly dark. I suited up as the
others threw Don a float to tie off the tuna cord. I took my dad's dive
light in one hand and Ramone shoved a large stainless steel Marlin gaff
in my other hand. Once in the water, I swam up to Don and looked down
the tuna line which was disappearing into the depths of the dark ocean.

My heart pounded out of control as I descended down the line with the
gaff. I hit the bottom and found I was on a very large rock. The tuna
cord was wrapped over the top of the rock and down underneath it. I
followed it into the mouth of the dark cave and switched on my dive
light to illuminate the creepy dark hole. I was clutching the gaff with
a death grip and rehearsing all of my previous experiences battling big
Gulf Grouper in caves. They can really mess you up and beat you
senseless.

The tuna cord gave way to the shooting cable and I knew from experience
that something wasn't right. I should be seeing billowing debris kicked
up by the fish and the fish itself [or at least part of him]. Then I saw
the spear shaft jammed into a crevice and bent around a rock like a
bobby pin. I'll tell you right now, 3/8 inch stainless steel don't mean
jack **** to a 100 pound Gulf Grouper. The end of the shaft was
completely sheared off and the fish was gone. I looked all over for that
fish. I looked in the back of every cave within 50 feet of that rock. He
had swam down into the watery depths. Lost forever.

What I did find in that cave will probably amaze you but I've seen it
before. I found the spear point! It had toggled on the other side of the
fish and when he sheared the shaft it just dropped off into the sand. I
swam the point and what was left of Don's shaft back to the surface
where I informed him the fish was gone and couldn't be found anywhere.
He just about cried. I really felt bad for him.

Well that pretty much wraps up Saturday. My dad and I hit the bunk with
smiles on our faces while the rest of the boat talked about "the one
that got away", and anxiously planned tomorrow. Every time a dad or I
pulled the trigger, a fish hit the deck. It was almost embarrassing.
Well, almost.

I was not in the money pool for the spear fishing contest but I had
boated the biggest fish so far. If we didn't see any Gulf Grouper, I had
a lock on the "biggest fish" of the trip.

It is now Saturday night and everyone is about to turn into bed. We are
all well fed on garlic bread, fresh fish [provided by me and my dad],
lobster [provided by Don], and salad. After the meal we stay up awhile
and trade stories and complements while drinking fresh hot coffee. The
trip has settled into a comfortable routine and the anxiety level has
markedly decreased. Still the wind is blowing a good deal, but we are in
the lee of an island and the boat gently rocks back and forth. It is
peaceful, and the night is temperate and clear. Silence slowly over
shadows the conversation as people one by one bed down and dream about
tomorrow's possible adventures. By 10:30 the boat is dark, and still. We
are all exhausted. Mostly due to the constant anxiety concerning the
ship's integrity which is certainly in question. I fall into a deep coma
that seems to last a thousand years.

Suddenly I'm jolted awake as if someone slapped me across the face. I
sit bolt upright in my bunk. The silence is shattered aboard the El
Duque by Don's voice screaming "We've got a problem!!!!".

Instantly I'm up and running. My dad glances nervously at me and he gets
out of bed. I run out of the forward compartment and dash up the stairs
to the galley. I keep thinking "the boat must be sinking, the boat must
be sinking, where's my wetsuit?". I run out onto the moon lit main deck
and ask "what's the problem?"

"Oh, it's just Don having another one of his nightmares" someone says.
"We're going to kill him if he does it again." "****! ****! ****!" I
say out loud as I return back to the forward compartment. I tell my dad
what's up and he says, "Oh that's great. What a thing to scream in the
middle of the night."

I forgot that Don does this all the time and everyone has heard him do
it before. Still, the knowledge of Don's psychotic REM sleep outbursts
never dampen the initial shock. I go back to bed and curse him. Don
never hears the end of it the rest of the trip.

When the morning sky turns orange, I wake up due to my dad messing
around with his video camera. He's been up for an hour. I put in my
contacts and walk to the back of the boat. At the fantail I suggest to
my dad that we get suited up and in the water before breakfast. "Let's
nail a fish before anyone else is even done with their orange juice." I
say. He nods in sneaky approval then tells me to go ahead since I get
dressed faster. I slip off the fantail into the dark blue water of early
morning as one of the guys gets up. He says over the side, "are you
going to get breakfast?" Early bird catches the worm!

I swim up current and dive for about an hour, all the time swimming hard
for the point of rock jutting into the water in front of the boat. It is
a long way off and I see nothing of interest the whole time out and
back. Then, with my curiosity satisfied that no big monsters were to be
landed in this stretch of water and my belly growling for some pancakes,
I swim back towards the boat. I meet my dad about half way back and tell
him that I didn't see a thing. At this point I felt kind of bummed out
that he wouldn't get anything in the water I just covered. I really
wanted him to get a nice fish on this trip.

I go back and get some breakfast. Everyone else had already gone out and
back as well. Nobody saw anything and I add my own report to the growing
consensus that the boat should be moved out from the lee and up to some
of our as of yet inaccessible hot spots. Then I see that my dad is near
the back of the boat.

I walk to the fantail while smacking on a breakfast burrito and look
down into the water. He hands me up his discharged gun while saying
"look at this." It takes a second for me to see what is going on because
the shaft is wrapped up along the barrel of the gun with the shooting
line. The shaft was obviously bent to hell and ruined. I ask "what
happened to your shaft ?" and he said "I shot a big red snapper and he
dove down into a cave." I figured he lost the fish because I couldn't
see it, but then he handed me his rope stringer. I pulled the bright
red fish out of the water and hefted it's weight. It was a big one
Somewhere around 4 feet long. Boy did it have big teeth. They don't call
them Dog Snapper for nothing. My dad was obviously very happy and so was
I. The fish weighed in at 36 pounds. The heaviest fish of the trip so
far.

We motored the boat to a new spot just around the point in order to
access a new area. None of us had dove this section of coast line
before. It wasn't where we would like to be, the wind and waves
prevented access to the juicy spots, but it was new and that was good
enough. One of the novices named Jeff asked Don if he could use one of
his spear guns. Don said, "sure", and gave the big gun to him. Jeff had
never speared a fish before, grabbed the gun and jumped in. Everyone
jumped in.

On this dive, I swam up current again and so did everyone else except
Don. Don went behind the boat and down current. My dad and I had all the
fish we wanted so we decided only to shoot at truly exceptional fish. I
dove down and boy what a sight! It was a virtual shooting gallery.
There were 20 to 30 pound cabrilla and dog snapper everywhere! It was
obscene.

As I laid on top of a rock I watched a nice snapper cruise right in
front of my gun, turn away, turn back and challenge me. Every pass he
got closer and closer. I knew that Dog Snapper are the king daddies of
gear destruction. You had better decide if the fish is worth your shaft
before you even pull the trigger. Try for a kill shot? Hell, I don't
think they hardly have one. As Mark Steele says, "Dog Snapper make Gulf
Grouper look like sissies". Finally I couldn't stand it any more and I
shoot him in the neck. He explodes away and dashes down a crevice trying
to shake the spear. I swim upwards and attempt to keep the shaft and
cable out of the rocks. The shot is very good and the fish is severely
disabled. I pull him up to me after a good fight and string him, while
thinking to myself "That was stupid. I won't do that again. I'm lucky
to have a straight shaft."

Later in the dive I spot a HUGE Cabrilla much larger than the one I
landed the day before. He must approach 40 pounds and he didn't get that
way by being stupid. Immediately he sees me and dives for deep water
well out of my reach. He's got a 30 foot lead, but I follow him anyway.
Just as I'm about to give up three 20 pound yellow tail cruise in front
of me to take a look. When I'm identified they veer away. I start my
under water croaking and one of them turns on a dime and swims back. I
line up a fair shot and pull the trigger. It's a solid hit that I know
won't be shook. Excellent! After a typical berserk yellow tail battle
that never seems to end, I get a hand hold on his eye sockets and swim
him back to the boat. It is the first yellow tail landed on our trip.

When I return Jeff is also getting back. After climbing aboard I help
him with his fish. He needs help. They are big! This guy had never
speared a fish before and he had 3 nice cabrilla. Then I noticed he
still had one on the spear. It was a Monster!

After hauling his load aboard. I ran to get the scale. Would you believe
that the Cabrilla weighed 32 pounds? One pound short of my record sized
fish. I'm glad his world record sized fish was smaller than mine!

Once again the 'HardCore 5' returned without a fish. I started to feel
bad for them. Even Jeff was landing big fish and the place was silly
with them. I'll have to say this in their defense. They were returning
with a lot of smashed gear and big stories. I had not seen a single Gulf
Grouper on the trip, but they seemed to be running into them.

Don got back and reported he had speared a big fish. It broke the
threads off his shaft and escaped. I asked him where he went, and he
said, "right there", pointing to an area right behind the boat. "There
are big fish everywhere", he said. "Big grouper?", I asked, and he
answered, "yes". Don was the only diver going behind the boat and down
current. I blew it off as a fluke. Big mistake. Don was to repeat this
same scenario 3 time that day. Each time he returned with the same
story. A big grouper he speared which sheared off the end of his shaft.

It was getting late in the afternoon and I was just about done spear
fishing. I had all the fish I could eat for the next month so I kicked
back. I was relaxing on the fantail as 3 divers came in from a dive
behind the boat. They went to investigate what was tearing up Don's gear
back there.

Well, we are now late in the day on Sunday afternoon. The last day of
the trip on the Baja coast. The three guys who swam out behind the boat
were just coming back and I walked to the dive platform to see what the
report was. They were talking hysterically and incoherently. I couldn't
even understand what they were saying. Slowly the story unfolded in
disjointed pieces. They were babbling like idiots. [perfect choice of
words]

My God did you see it!" "That was the biggest fish I've ever seen!" "It
was the size of a bus!" I asked my buddy Shawn what happened and he told
me this:

Sorry, let me interrupt here and describe Shawn first before I tell his
version of the story. Shawn is a very serious diver and has landed
grouper up to 126 pounds. He has landed a half dozen over 100 pounds and
really knows what he is doing. The other two guys were idiots.

Shawn says, "I was diving down right behind the boat in the sand spits
between huge boulders when I saw this monster seabass. It was easily
twice as big as the biggest fish I've ever seen underwater. The fish saw
me and I started to stalk it carefully, trying to avoid startling it. As
it slowly turned away, it swam toward where Jeff and Paul were. Before I
could get close enough, Jeff put a spear into it's side with a
half-assed shot and it exploded away."

The big fish was more than likely a jewfish but could have been a black
seabass. Jeff's spear point was torn off the spear when the cable
separated.

Boy was Shawn ****ed! His fish of a lifetime, blown by an idiot.

When I heard this I decided to see the area for myself. Why were these
guys getting their gear smashed and I had not even seen a Gulf Grouper
the whole trip? I got back into my wetsuit and jumped into the darkening
water. I swam about 25 yards behind the boat and dove for the bottom.

I couldn't believe the difference in the terrain as compared to that in
front of the boat. Was I dreaming? It looked like something Walt Disney
had made. Huge boulders the size of houses interconnecting to form deep
canyons with sand spits at the bottom. These canyons continued down into
the deep water. I was amazed that such a difference existed between
where I had been diving and this area. It was the ultimate fish hole.

I dove down into a deep canyon and laid on the sandy bottom. Instantly a
60 pound Dog Snapper swam out of a nearby cave and in front of my gun to
investigate the intruder in 'his' sand spit. He was the largest Dog
Snapper I've ever seen. My trigger finger tightened on my gun in
response. "No!", I said. It's getting dark and I've only got time for
one fish. I want a trophy or nothing. I have enough to eat. The snapper
then cruised into a cave on the other side of the canyon and
disappeared.

As I canvassed the area I saw several Gulf Grouper up to 50 pounds, but
none larger. Even these were spooky and wouldn't allow me to get close
enough for a shot. Why should they? They had been blasted at all day.
Ahhhhhhhhhhh! Why hadn't I discovered this honey hole in the morning!

I swim back to the boat empty handed and climb aboard. Well, I say to
myself ,"that's the end of that trip". We eat dinner and plan our
crossing to Bahia San Carlos on the mainland. Ramone, after consulting
my tide tables, decides we should leave at 9:00 p.m. That way the tide
and wind will be apposing each other and not be able to build to the sea
to the monstrous height they had during our crossing over.

Everyone was a little nervous about the crossing. Especially because it
was pitch black. At about 10:00 we pulled up the anchor and started the
engines. My dad and I were in our bunks, but we couldn't sleep. Gee, I
wonder why?? Was it too cold to put my wet suit back on?

After about an hour into the crossing my dad and I leave our bunks and
go to the galley. Ramone is driving the boat and talking to his helper.
We can see him in the dim glow of the instruments smoking a cigarette.
Everyone else on the boat is asleep. We all start chatting together
about the trip and especially the weather. Boy, was it nice! The wind
had completely gone and the boat was gently rocking on the waves. It was
going to be a calm and peaceful crossing after all. Thank God! Our
nerves were fried. Especially my dad's. I don't know if I'll ever be
able to get him on another long range Mexican boat.

About midnight the motor starts to make a strange noise. My dad looks
at me quizzically. After a few moments Ramone's ears perk up and he
gets off his captain's chair. Then he mutters something in Spanish to
his helper who opens up the engine room hatch in the floor of the
galley. I am standing right next to the hatch as Ramone climbs down the
ladder. Now that the door is open, the surging sound is obvious. It
sounds like the motor is starving out. My dad is right next to me and we
peer into the engine room. Oh boy, bad move. It looks horrible down
there.

Hello, operator? I'd like to make an emergency phone call to O.S.H.A.

Ramone is down in the engine room and his helper is on the ladder half
way down. I am standing next to the hole in the floor looking into the
engine room and holding the hatch half way open. My dad is standing
right behind me and he comments on the condition of what he sees below.
I agree, it isn't pretty. Ramone then grabs a 6 gallon can of what I
assume to be diesel and begins to pour it into a open hole in the top of
the engine. Why is there an open hole in our engine? My mind asks.

Suddenly the boat lunges to one side as a rogue wave rolls us over.
Ramone is thrown and looses control of the fuel can. He drops it and
fuel spills all over the engine. It immediately bursts into a fireball
that consumes the whole engine room. I stare in complete disbelief. I'm
stunned. This can't be happening.

Ramone starts screaming in Spanish and his helper explodes out of the
hatch tearing the door out of my hand and ripping it completely off it's
hinges. I just stare at the roaring flames like a deer staring into the
headlights of an on coming car. Many long seconds pass and Ramone is
still screaming in Spanish. His helper runs to the forward living
compartment and disappears out of sight into the forward head. What the
hell is he doing?

Finally he comes running back with a fire extinguisher in his hands. Oh,
now I get it. The fire extinguisher storage is in the bathroom. O.K.
That makes sense. Like maybe in case someone is smoking and catches the
shower curtain on fire.

THEY DON'T HAVE A FIRE EXTINGUISHER IN THE ENGINE ROOM !!!!!!!!!!
Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!

The kid throws the cylinder down to Ramone. Ramone activates the thing
and starts spraying down the flames with dry chemical. Within 30 seconds
the flames are extinguished and Ramone climbs out of the engine room. He
replaces the hatch [minus hinges] on the floor.

Hey Ramone, what about a re-flash watch?

Then he sits back down on the captain's chair and continues his story
with the kid like nothing even happened. I don't speak much Spanish, but
I swear he started up again in mid-sentence like he went to the toilet
or something.

I was speechless and my dad was mortified. Needless to say my poor dad
stayed up the whole night.

In the morning we told the rest of the divers about the fire and how
they almost died in their sleep. They were not very amused.

We tried to dive Nolasco in the morning but the water was filthy and
green. When we left Nolasco for San Carlos the ocean had gone completely
still and the water looked like stretched Saran Wrap. The 17 miles back
to San Carlos were the best of the trip.

After 4 nearly sleepless nights I was beat. I think I'm still recovering
from that trip.

--
Skipper

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