In September I went on a dive trip to the Channel Islands off the coast of California. The same people were organizing a trip in November, and at first I declined to sign up. At the last minute I got a few calls about it and heard that my brother Paul was going. I had recently bought a waterproof camera-box for my camcorder so I could take it kayaking. I bought one that was rated for depth so I could take it with me SCUBA diving as well. I figured I could try it out on this trip, so I signed up at the last moment. I talked to Jon Valez who organized the trip about bringing a kayak. I suggested that having a kayak along would be an addition to the safety of the trip. If a diver got pulled out of view by a current, a kayaker could go looking around the rocks out of sight. A kayaker could tow a tired diver back from places the boat could never go. And in case the boat sank, I would be able to paddle home under my own power. Jon spent all week trying to get in touch with the ship captain and failed to contact him about permission to bring a kayak. Finally we just decided to bring my little 3 meter long Frenzy kayak along and leave it padlocked on the car if we were forbidden to put it on the boat. When we arrived late Saturday night, we were allowed to bring the kayak along and tie it up near the prow of the 70 foot dive boat.
The first day, the boat spent all day moving from place to place and there was never any opportunity to go kayaking. This trip was billed as a lobster hunt, and that changed the character of the dives from the last boat trip I went on. Apparently, lobsters go into hiding after a bunch of divers take a grab at them. So after a short dive the boat moves to a new location to give the hunters a chance to sneak up on some non-spooked "bugs". On the September trip Paul and I had seen lots of lobsters, especially while diving at night. We thought that catching them looked pretty easy. But apparently the lobsters knew that it wasn't open season back then and didn't mind showing themselves to us. In three days of diving during the season, Paul and I didn't even see one lobster. Unless you count the ones that a few of the other divers caught. But even with 25 divers on one boat, going to the bottom six times a day, only a half a dozen lobsters were caught in three days. Not to say some of the lobsters that were caught were not impressive.
On two of the dives Paul and I videotaped each other with my new camera case. This worked reasonably well, and I got hours of pictures of the camera pointing at odd angles while we descended and ascended, waited at our rest stops, adjusted our buoyancy or fiddled with all the rest of the equipment we needed to survive under water. In between all of THAT footage are some pretty scenes of a sea lion zooming past Paul, kelp forests, fields of sea anenomes, lots of other life, and us catching scallops. Scallops are the consolation prize you get while not catching (or even seeing) any lobsters. We had scallop sashimi with soy sauce and wasabe. I went on early morning dives and had the cook make scallop omelets for breakfast. Sometimes with scallops that I had pried off a rock myself only minutes ago. Now that's fresh food! We caught enough of them to take several pounds home on ice. Even chilled, they did not travel well and were not as good a few days later.
On the second day I skipped one dive to paddle around "Castle Rock" off of San Miguel Island. I told the captain I was going to paddle around in the kayak. He said "Stay in sight between here and the rocks". I replied "But I was going to go AROUND Castle Rock". "Well, OK, but there are some caves in the other side of that rock." "COOL!" "Stay out of them". Fortunately, I was not a member of the crew and didn't have to obey. I went into the caves anyway. They were fun, but not really very challenging or very deep. The deepest cave had a baby seal hauled out at the back of it, bawling like a lamb. I wondered if it was having trouble swimming and was stuck in there. I just avoided going into that cave for fear I would only make things worse. Even at the breakneck speed of all these lobster dives, I made it back to the boat in plenty of time to be taken to the next dive. Paul went on this dive and had a great time. A large group of seals from the rock joined them in the water and swam around them. I was sorry I missed this, but glad that I had at least this one opportunity to try my kayak out around San Miguel Island. I think if I had the kayak on the last trip, I would have gotten a lot more use out of it. Next year I will try again, and I will not bother going on the hunting dives.