Sunday, May 27, 2007

Shell Beach Kayak- Dive

The Trruck!

After a few years of letting the abalone alone, the intrepid deep sea hunters searched their garages for abalone irons, depth gauges, lost wet suit gloves and net bags. The sacred kayak anchor was unearthed in the garden (sans sacred anchor rope). Goggles with rotted silicone and moldy weight belts were found exactly where they were left after the last trip.

We set out Saturday morning early, in M's humongous new F-350 heading north of Bodega Bay, exact put-in destination uncertain. We'd know it when
we saw it. Some say free diving the north coast is dangerous. Actually, driving a loaded new Ford diesel is the extreme sport --for adrenaline junkies only.
Try to watch & listen to the GPS nav screen, cruise all 186,000 Sirius radio channels, compute miles to refueling, adjust climate control and media choices for each of the four bucket seats all while hurtling up Highway 1 at 80 mph and checking out ocean conditions. And of course there are sudden swerving detours to test the nav system's reaction to deviations from route instructions. Will the calming female computer voice turn vicious? Will the engine shut down as alarms blare? Disappointingly, no. Turns out the computer merely recalculates the route from your new location. And at 8,500 lbs empty, nothing is getting into your way whatever route you choose.
Parking is a breeze too - once you find a three-car space to back into. There is no need to look behind or in the mirrors. Just line it up, shift into reverse, watch the GPS, and listen until the back up collision warning system goes from beeps to rapid beeps to hysterical beeps that merge into the same unbroken tone emitted in 'Fail Safe' on the hot line as the phone in Moscow is vaporized in a atomic fireball. ( You may stop truck now.)
In case you are wondering, this baby is an eco warrior, factory set to take bio-diesel and covered by an IRS tax credit for small business owners buying SUVs or trucks. Those darn Republicans really did do some good after all, using tax dollars to make these trucks affordable! But being a good Dem, M is christening it "The Al Gore" to remind us all of our reponsibility to think globally and has the family saving left over Italian salad dressing to lessen oil dependence on terrorist states.

Somehow we made it to Bodega bay alive, minus my ipod nano. I'll leave it to others to narrate the drama of that particular accomplishment, I'll only say that the truck did not need to stop in order to git 'er done.

So what about the diving? Experimental put in at Shell Beach,just north of Bodega Bay and about 2 mi south of Goat's Rock Beach. Experimental because it wasn't known ab. habitat. (Still isn't) The coast there is populated by gnarly sea stacks -some are huge cubic blocks of greywacke, like Goat Rock and Arched Rock, others ahaped like giant s drooping soft ice cream cones or jagged dragons teeth. They give the waters of the area a lonely magical feel. If the diving didn't work out, at least we would have a cool place to paddle. And that is what happened. Although the sea was relatively calm, visibility was nil. We dove around a number of the rocks, following the the underwater cliff down deep, but everywhere we tried, it was way too surgey and or impossible to see. What we did see were a few anemones, lots and lots of starfish,but zero abs. So we paddled and explored a tried to re learn how to get into a cold-water free dive mind set. After awhile breath-hold-zen-mind began to kick in and down time improved with each dive.


This picture of Arched Rock -in the approximate middle of the Kayak-Dive route depicted above is an impressive feature. Here M. paddled against breaking swell through the arch while S. threaded the rock garden on the left to meet on the other side. Fun stuff. All these Sea Stacks were whitewashed by the birds and encrusted around the tide line with arrays of starfish, barnacles, and all varieties of mollusk colonies; complex worlds submerged and revealed with each swell.
There were a few other offerings to the sea gods besides my nano, including the sacred anchor and my abalone iron which once dropped were impossible to locate and recover in the murk. They will rest forever in the deep, sacrifices offered freely, against rewards to be reaped another day . So we were skunked. M bought whole crabs off of the back of the boat at a Bodega Bay fishmarket to make up for the lack of abalone. Who needs abalone? All in all what a great day!