Monday, November 18, 2013

Cats, and the cracks of doom

The fruits of diving

Yesterday I was diving off Babel Island in a place of deep caves and cracks. Imagine: you are 30 feet down under the sea, with a hookah (which means you’re trailing a pipe to a compressor on the surface, and have a second stage regulator and mouthpiece in your mouth) and you part the kelp to reveal cracks and funnels below that. It is a cracked underwater boulder field, with rocks the size a 40 foot container to a suburban house, sometimes hollow underneath, and sometimes leading into the next crack. Not much current or wave action gets down here so there is a lot of fine silt. Sometimes a fish will dart past, sometimes you'll see the spiky outlines of why you came here... always deeper.

It’s where the really big spiny lobster live, and it is for a mildly claustrophobic person like myself terrifying, as there is no room, and no light (the silt, stirred up makes it gloomy and confusing) I’ve had the reg-pipe connecter fail on me twice (that hopefully cannot happen again, there is now a locking device) and the mouthpiece come off twice. That will happen again. Now, if you know why you are suddenly breathing water, and you have space and, vision and the presence of mind, you can find your regulator, pull the (failed) retaining band off – easy, and shove the regulator back on the mouth-piece, and hold it there with your hand and breathe. You could even just shove the mouthpiece-less reg in your face, purse your lips and just suck.

Assuming… you know what is wrong, and can see and move freely enough to do this. These conditions are not typically met when you are down a narrow crack – which if you are going get out of – backwards is the only way. There is no room to bring your arms ‘down’ (which may be along or up) from above your head. Just bumping the regulator out of your mouth can be a deadly experience. My jaws always ache from holding onto it, after.

I call these cracks and caves forever holes – because they go on forever, and you could possibly be down there forever.

It’s what I do. One day I may push too hard and too far, and not come out. It will be terrifying, I will probably panic at the end, and I will die. But until then mostly it comes down to keeping your cool and an element of luck. It helps if you are fairly tough, phlegmatic and have been lucky enough not to die in a few incidents. But I always make sure I kiss my wife very thoroughly before I leave home.

Still I do come home with some rewards. And there is a deep satisfaction in knowing I have dealt with the fear, did not let it master me, and succeeded in bringing home food for my family.

I'd tell you the cats were pleased to see me home, but actually I think they were just sunbathing. That's cats for you.

At home, after, we had a glass of sherry, and some spare cray legs and some blanched samphire I picked at the beach.. Then an artichoke, fresh flathead fillets, baby new potatoes in a creamy leek and bacon sauce, and coleslaw made with cabbage and raw fennel, and then strawberries and cream. We bought the cream, sherry, and the butter we had with the artichoke and the fish. And the olive oil for the mayo. The rest came off the land or out of the sea.


  1. I had baby potatoes (from the farmer's market) and smoked salmon for dinner, myself. The sauce was just milk, pepper, and (despite the smoked salmon) a little salt. Yum.

    Lisa S. in Seattle

    1. It does seem odd having baby potatoes in the teeth of winter, but you probably get 2 (or 3?) crops off the land there?

  2. Seattle's climate is (as northern North America goes) fairly mild. I'm not surprised there'd be small new potatoes in early November. However, they may very well have come from a hot-house (well, not hot, but I don't know what you call them when they're just protective against frost).

    Lisa S. in Seattle