A buddy rocks up on Friday night and I ask him how his last dive trip went. He replies, “We learned a lot”. This, we all recognise as meaning: “It was a royal bugger up and that we hope the next one will be better. I am also trying to convince ourselves that we didn’t waste our time and money”.
Well… this weekend I learned a lot, a hellava lot!!! Saturday morning, first dive of Galjoen season and the conditions were perfect. I kitted up in a hurry for the 15 minute walk to my favourite spot, shoved my gloves under my belt, slung my gun over my shoulder and marched off down the beach. When I arrived and went to put on my last remaining items, it dawned on me… one glove missing…
Lesson Number 1:
Don’t store things under your weight belt or anywhere you can’t actually see them! After retracing my steps I found my glove (almost at the car park… obviously) and 25 minutes later, peeved and out of breath, slid into the water. I loaded up and started crawling through the kelp. In 1.5 metres of water, I saw a catshark swim underneath me and dived to prod it (I don’t hurt them – just give ’em a fright). As I prodded it, he miraculously turned into the biggest Galjoen I’ve ever seen! So wide that I thought he was a catshark…
Lesson Number 2:
Leave the damn sharks alone and hunt if you’re going to hunt, stop playing silly buggers! He spooked EVERYTHING so that was the end of that dive. I went home and started to get my dingy ready. It had a flat wheel (my dingy has little wheels permanently attached) so I tried every shop in a 30km radius and couldn’t find a tube to fix it.
And so we have Lesson Number 3:
Check your equipment on Thursday so you have at least one working day to get spares for the weekend! I arrived home feeling miffed, but loaded up anyway and steamed down to the slip. 10 minutes down the road I realised that the bung for the boat was lying on my lounge table…
Hmmm… that’s Lesson Number 4:
Don’t pack your kit when irritated and in a hurry!I got down to the slip and launched (after fetching the bung). We headed through the bay and I ran into a kelp paddy. The kelp wrapped around the little 5 horse prop and killed it. I untangled it and started up, only to get tangled up again. This continued for 20 minutes (excluding the 5 minute tantrum that would have made an entire dorm of premenstrual teenage girls look like a choir of angels in comparison).
This would be Lesson Number 5: If possible don’t ride through the kelp, however if it’s inevitable or accidental, put on your fins, get out and push through the area, then get back in and continue.
Eventually I found my way to my spot, put my fins on and clambered around the 3m row boat (Myrtle the Turtle) to find a place to flop off without tipping her over and sending the pregnant wife into the drink. I hopped off, only to get a cleat through the ass of my brand new suit and find myself hanging over the side (while the overly unimpressed pregnant wife hung out the other side in order to avoid tipping).
Lessons number 6 AND 7:
Get out the damn little boat without your fins on and put them on in the water! And If your wife sees the funny side of a situation that has you having a sense of humor failure, stay in the water long enough to let her laugh until she’s finished before you get back on, no matter how bad the viz is.
So we went home, planning to try again on Sunday. Sunday morning, I walked down to my favourite spot again (wearing my gloves this time) and climbed out onto the rocks where I slipped on my ass and sent everything flying. No lesson learned, that just happens sometimes. Deal with it. I swam out looking for my catshark Galjeon but he was nowhere to be seen. Suddenly, a huge Blacktail swams up wanting to commit suicide. I agreed to help him and pulled the trigger. Nothing happened. Mr Blacktail reconsidered his decision for a moment… I fiddled a bit (with the gun…) and Mr Blacktail reappeared, evidently deciding he was still depressed and wanted to end it after all. Again, I squeezed the trigger and… nothing.
And so we have Lesson Number 8:
If you fall on your ass and throw your gear all over the place, in fact even if you don’t, dry test the gear, i.e. pull the trigger before you load it and before you get into the water to make sure it’s going to work!
I swam to the shore and proceeded to take the thing apart. Here’s a tip I learned during a similar “day’s learning” a while back. Pull your gear apart at home to learn how it works. Seriously, spear guns are simple simple simple and unless you’ve had a component failure you can fix them on the rocks.
So, I pulled out the cartage (unscrewed it with my dive knife) and pressed out the stud holding the seer mechanism half way. To get it out fully I gripped it with my teeth and pulled, chipping my tooth!
Lesson Number 9:
Don’t! If you do, then “as jy dom is moet jy blooi”. Get a small cheap multi tool i.e. pliers and screwdriver. Attach it to your dive buoy, permanently!
So I fixed my gun and got back in, loaded up and POP! There goes one of my 2 rubbers. It snapped off at the wishbone from old age. Continuing regardless I dived down and in front of me swam a prize Mussel Cracker. I aimed, fired and with one old band powering a 1 metre long, 7 mm thick spear (sloooow) I watched as the fish ducked and weaved, then sped off without a scratch on him.
And so… Enter Lesson Number 10: Don’t be cheap! Check your rubbers and replace them when you know you should.
I was furious, so I pulled some dynema out of my belt reel, cut it off and proceeded to reinsert the wishbone, forcing it into the rubber with my spear. I tied a constrictor knot with the dynema and I was ready to go. Shorter rubber is great for power anyway, so I was stoked with myself. I dived a bit more and found a nice big John Brown, which I followed until he ducked into a cave. Not to worry – I had a torch and couldn’t wait to use it. I dived into the cave, torch blazing, breath running out and found him 2m back in a tiny hole. Bombs away! The spear got properly embedded into the back of the cave.
Lessons 11 and 12:
if a fish ducks into a cave… HE WINS! Leave him alone! If he dives into a cave he thinks he’s safe so, surface and think. If it’s worth chancing it, then ensure you remove one rubber or plan to choke the rubber when firing. Dive and check the back of the cave – don’t just let rip! If your spear does get stuck, CUT IT OFF! Nuf said.
I managed to get my spear out after an hour of near death line tangles and sambas, and at the end of the day landed up with a really nice haul of fish – but damn was it hard work.
If it is that I was being tested, I reckon I failed miserably. On the flip side however, I certainly “learned a lot”.