Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Lobster Time (or not).

This Saturday, October 3rd, was the opening day of lobster season. Some friends and I decided we were going to do a beach dive just south of Newport Beach, at Crystal Cove State Park. I had been there before and knew it was an easy beach entry and there were reef formations 25 yards offshore that provided an ideal place to hunt for lobster.

After all the anticipation leading up to the dive (I hadn't done a beach dive in 2 years and a couple of friends had never done a beach dive before), we arrived on a beautiful California day, just right for diving. The water was warm for California, around 70 F (21 C) and the air temp was about the same. A hurricane near Baja California was to send 3-5 foot waves our way, but they weren't due until tomorrow, and the surf when we arrived was in the 2 foot range.

There were six of us diving that day. We had brought enough gear to supply a small dive shop and lugging all that equipment down to the beach and over the sand was a real workout. Twelve tanks (four boat anchor-Steel95's), 6 gear bags, weights and snacks. I was exhausted before I even started diving.

We dragged our gear down the beach and picked out a good entry point with a small rip current that would pull us out to sea. Time to hit the water.

After spending an hour chasing lobsters over the reefs, through kelp and sea grass, all of us came back empty handed. Score 6 for the lobster, Divers 0. But we weren't done. The vis was in the ten foot range but at times would be down to inches, depending on the swell. I just don't know how it worked out that every time I was reaching for a lobster, a swell would go by, and so did any chance of getting that lobster. There were LOTS of shorts, and they will be next years catch, but we had plenty of opportunities to snag a legal one. I'm just too slow and out of practice. But I'll get them on the next dive, for sure.

But between our first and second dives, the waves had increased in size and with the tide starting to recede, they were pounding the shoreline. Not too bad going out because you could see and time the sets before entering the water. But getting out is a whole other story, especially if you had never done a beach dive before. Going out, you wait for a lull in the waves, back into the water with your fins on, and as soon as it is deep enough to float your body (thigh deep), you lie flat in the water and kick your fins like there's no tomorrow. In no time you're beyond the surf line ready to go. Coming in is another story. You're tired after fighting the surge and currents for an hour. Your visiblity for incoming waves is greatly reduced, being in the water, and you need to get out of the pounding waves, while removing your fins so you can get up and walk out of the surf line. All that and you still have a 50lb tank on your back and 25 lbs of weights around your waistline.

With the gaining waves and the loss of visibility, the second dive was much more of a challenge. We decided to go to a reef a little further out that might have better vis. It did have better vis at times but there were other times you couldn't see your hand in front of your mask. You could see whole dens of lobsters but couldn't get to them due to the surge or vis. We had lots of chances to grab one, but they just slip right through your fingers. So, after another hour at sea, we came back battered and with nothing to show for our dive. So now the score reads, Lobster 11 (my friend Mike didn't make the second dive), Divers 0. Next Time I'll get you!!!

Afterwards, my friend Andy had his brother John, and his wife, Teri, join us down at the beach for what was to be a BIG lobster celebration, but you know how that turned out.

So it was off to the local Mexican restaurant to drown our sorrows in tequila and beer, with some food added in for good measure. It may not have been lobster, but it sure was good. All in all it was a great day. We all had lots of fun, got in a couple of dives and promised we would do it again soon. Maybe next time we'll include some lobsters in the celebration.

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