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Old 15 November 2006, 03:16   #1
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Went up last Friday to theoretically do 3 days of scuba and abalone diving. Unfortunately, the weather gods had other ideas.

Friday evening, upon arrival at Albion River, the seas appeared ideal: very light swell, not much wind; perfect conditions for abalone diving. Launched the boats (they were moored alongside a dock in the river), set up camp, greeted the later arrivals, drank a bunch of beer and waited for Saturday morning. A spate of rain and a 35mph wind storm capped off the night.

Saturday morning, we geared up and headed out, despite reports of bigger seas. Upon leaving the river, we were greeted by seas that I don't think any of us were expecting: swell was coming from about 3 directions making for a really sloppy pattern, largest waves were in the 10 to 12 foot range, and the period was very short. The strong onshore wind had waves cresting a little (read: a lot) earlier than they should have. My buddy had one other diver in his Zodiac Pro 16; the first wave they hit relocated his passenger from the anchor locker right into the seat next to the driver (which was lucky; next stop would have been the radar arch.)

I spent most of the time watching for breaking waves and basically trying not to get killed. I also made the executive decision that we were being pretty damn stupid, and turned the three boats around.

The one thing we were smart about that weekend was not counting on catching dinner, so there was no pressure to produce anything.

So, net for the weekend was an aborted trip out to sea, and a nice three mile idle speed run up the river to look at harbor seals, herons, and whatever other wildlife we could find.

Maybe next time.

jky
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Old 15 November 2006, 09:22   #2
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Glad to hear that good sense ultimately prevailed.

There's always another day, if you make the right decision early enough.
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Old 15 November 2006, 14:34   #3
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Ain't the weather something....how do it know. Me and a friend went East to the top of Lange Bank about six miles East of the Island to hunt Wahoo a few weeks ago. The weather was flat at dawn when we left.

At about the time we got where we were going and started trolling the first squall blew through and it seemed like we got a repeat every fifteen minutes until it was time to give up and go home!

There's a window here in October/November when the Wahoo fishing is very good, before what they call Christmas Winds arrive. The trades strengthen to 25 knots with gusts and make it near impossible to deal with the seas for anything other than acrobatic stunts.

Are there a lot of Abalone to be harvested still? Do you need permits and are there limits. I guess I always heard they were in short supply and the Sea Otters took at least their share.

Tomas
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Old 15 November 2006, 15:42   #4
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I love these stories. I recently posted a tale on a diving forum which I will copy and paste here:

"My “personal best”, was a trip to Whitefish a few years ago. This is a long story, so you should grab a cocktail and get comfy!


My better half (“Boat Tender”) and I headed off from Hamilton towing our 6m boat. We anticipated about a 10+ hour drive. Our journey started out early in the afternoon and all was fine… until US Customs seized our bananas. We assumed there was a risk that we were transporting a dangerous parasite that could wipe out the Michigan banana crop. But I digress…


Several hours later, we were making decent progress, although the weather was sounding a little sketchy. As we passed Flint, MI, I was reminded of a recent story on CNN where Flint was honoured as the “Murder Capital” of the US of A. Along I-75, we noticed a large orange sign warning motorists not to stop or pick up hitch-hikers due to the proximity of a maximum security prison. Then I felt "The Thump”…


At first, I thought "The Thump” was just a wee depression in the highway. Then I looked into my rear-view mirror and was surprised to see the vehicle behind me. (What I should be seeing is a big rubber boat blocking my view…) The boat was there, it was just much lower than it should have been!


We pulled over onto the shoulder (just past the big orange sign…) and I hopped out to see what had happened. What I discovered, is that boat trailers come in two sections. And those two sections are held together with ONE bolt. And my bolt had busted. And the only thing that kept my boat from doing “endos” down the highway was the little nylon cranky strap.

Anyway, 25 minutes later, I had “MacGivor-ed” a fix using a fender bolt, my anchor chain, a cooler, a “come-along”, a few zip-ties and some rope. We were mobile again… and it was just about 9:00 PM.


Fortunately, we were quite close to an on-ramp, so with 4-ways blazing, and the aforementioned Boat Tender fending off oncoming traffic and guiding the way, I backed our 25’ trailer up this curved on-ramp. We were relieved to see a muffler shop (with a welder, we presumed…) across the intersection. Unfortunately, they were just closing and the sole employee had to leave since it was his wife’s birthday. As we resigned ourselves to a night in scenic downtown Flint, the owner’s son arrived and 90 minutes later we were better than new and on our way again… for free no less!


Several hours later, as we crossed the Mackinaw Straits Bridge, we were knocked around by a huge blast of wind, and a spectacular lightening show! Terrific…


None the less we soldiered on and finally arrived at the “Freighter View Motel” at 3:00 AM. It was hot and humid as we collapsed on the bed. An hour later, I was freezing cold and getting wet. A front was passing through and the waves outside were so big that the spume from them was blowing through our cabin window, hosing down my naked arse! Even more terrific…


We got up at 7 to a howling storm. None the less, after a Michigan breakfast of meat with a side of meat, we headed up to the Point. As we arrived, we were surprised to see a group of diving friends from Toronto who had just learned that their charter operator wasn’t leaving the dock. Something about gales apparently….


Still undeterred, we launched our boat (a Zodiac Hurricane, so gales are uncomfortable, but manageable…) and headed out around the point. That’s when we discovered that Lake Superior gales are in a class all their own. I estimated the waves were 8 –12 feet… not especially suitable to do 180’ solo dives. We headed back towards the dock but on the way back we did manage to squeeze in one dive close to shore… it reminded me of the Sweepstakes in Tobermory, only a little deeper.


By now, you are probably beginning to see that I am not easily deterred when it comes to diving. So we packed up, and after another night at the FVM, we headed back around to the Canadian side, hoping that that side would be somewhat sheltered. I had plans to dive the Samuel Mather (170’) and the Sagamore (80’). As we set off from the ramp, the waves were not too bad…. perhaps 3-4 feet… and we made our way out to the Mather, about five miles out. As we approached, I couldn’t help but notice the darkening sky. It was raining heavily and the MAFOR called for thunder squalls, small-craft warnings and other fun stuff. Now rubber boat or not, I was having difficulty convincing Boat Tender that she will be safe from the lightening. As I sat on the bow locker in my drysuit, Boat Tender suggested I turn around to check out the black weather front approaching. I had some difficulty focussing at first with the rain… but I quickly realized it wasn’t a front… but a side… of a laker, passing about 30 feet from us. (The large “Canada Steamship Lines” was the give-away…) Well, that was that. Boat Tender announced that she was going back, and if I wanted to dive, that was fine with her and that she would wait in the truck while I swam back…


So we tucked in behind the ship that almost converted us into a new dive site, pulled out the boat, and headed back towards Tobermory via the northern route. Twenty-four hours of driving, $1000.00 and a spiffy welding job later, we made it home. With one new dive in my log book…"
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Old 16 November 2006, 04:51   #5
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Boat Tender

Best laid plans of mice and rib operators!

At times listening to boat tenders is the way to go. Somewhere on this forum I posted a little story of driving in the fog off Picteau Island in the Gulf of St. Lawrence in thick fog and having what looked like a 20 foot sea lion roll out of the water right next to my 10 foot Zodiac! I was ordered ashore.

You can be in clear weather and not have anything brush you by but let fog or rain obscure visibility and you've got a target on your back!

The story of having a car dolly come off the hitch ball at 70mph on the interstate and start doing zig zags on the safety chains doesn't belong on this forum but trailers are just full of surprises! (Thankfully there was no car on the dolly by the way)

Do you use nitrox on those 170 footers? I pretty much limit myself to sport dive depths but a lot of folks around here go deep.
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Old 16 November 2006, 11:35   #6
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LOL... About the second week I had this boat, and a new Yukon to pull it, I almost lost the entire rig when I hit some black ice on a secondary highway. I had just changed insurance companies, and had perhaps paid them a months premium. I can imagine the reaction from them had I totalled the truck and the boat... !

As for the diving, generally I breath air to 180, with a 50% nitrox and 100% O2 for deco. Anything deeper (which is rare these days), I would use trimix.) A number of friends who are younger and don't have kids are routinely doing dives well in excess of 250', using rebreathers in some cases. Personally, I don't care about the mud at the bottom that much!
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Old 16 November 2006, 12:26   #7
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Yikes

That's deep! I'm a 100 foot wuss. I didn't bother to consult the table but your bottom time at 180 couldn't be much although I guess if you're going to do a compression dive that could be extended now that I get my brain in gear. ####Half hour at depth.....half day at decompression depth####

We have a chamber working down here about half the time...not a good situation in such a popular dive area. I think I recall an upgrade recently.

The wall that runs the entire N shore of STX is anywhere form 20 yards to 100 yards off the beach and drops off pretty suddenly to about 5000 ft. The canyon bottoms out about ten miles N at 19,280. Mountain top to Mountain top, Stx to St. Thomas is 32 miles the net altitude diff between the two is bumping 21,000 ft.
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Old 16 November 2006, 12:35   #8
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Originally Posted by Tomas View Post
Are there a lot of Abalone to be harvested still? Do you need permits and are there limits. I guess I always heard they were in short supply and the Sea Otters took at least their share.
On the North Coast, abs are still pretty plentiful. Away from the more popular spots, you can get a limit in 5 feet of water in just a couple of breath hold dives (last year, we were standing on the bottom choosing which ab to take...)

In SoCal, forget it, though they are making somewhat of a comeback.

Here's the story as I see it (though some would dispute some of the conclusions - this is my post, and I get to conclude whatever I want...):

Back in the 50's and 60's, abalone were pretty much plentiful all over the California coast. There wasn't much of a commercial market back then, just a few (primarily Japanese) commercial harvesters who shipped abs to Asia.

In the late 60's or so, the public found out that abalone was actually good to eat. A new commercial fishery developed in the southern part of the state, and recreational harvest started ramping up. F&G limited commercial operations to southern California, along with the Farallon Islands. Recreational take using scuba gear was allowed in SoCal, as well. On the North Coast, it was recreational only, with no scuba take allowed (all breath hold diving, assuming you needed to dive at all.)

Come the mid-1990's, the SoCal stocks had been depleted to about the point of extinction. Whether it was due to the commercial ops or the use of scuba is a matter of conjecture, but I think was primarily the comm's.

On the North Coast, stocks were still pretty healthy, as there was no commercial take, and no scuba, which in essence meant there was a de facto reserve system in place (deep water: most divers work the top 20 or 30 feet, so anything deeper is safe, for the most part.) Sea otters are bigtime ab predators, but their recovery has (so far) been limited to Central California (Monterey/Carmel/Big Sur, with a small population around Santa Barbara.)

So, due to the crash, F&G shut down all commercial abalone take, and shut down the SoCal recreational fishery. Current regs allow recreational take only north of the mid-point of the Golden Gate Bridge. Limit is 3 per day, 3 in posession, 24 per year. Red abalone only, minimum size is 7". You need a fishing license ($38, I think), plus an abalone punch card ($16?) Each abalone you collect is marked as to where and when it was taken, and a number punched out of the card. Failure to do so in a timely manner (as soon as you get out of the water, in most cases) is a ticketable offense.

There is talk that the SoCal commercial guys want to open up again somewhere in the Channel Islands, since the abs have been making a slight comeback there. They have also lobbied to open up the North Coast to commercial take.

So, bottom line is, where the commercial guys haven't been, the stocks are pretty good. F&G is pretty serious about enforcing the regs which is a good thing, for the most part (just ask the poachers who have had dive gear, trucks, and boats confiscated.) The courts have finally started punishing poachers in a more reasonable manner as well (poaching is actually a misdemeanor offense, but they've been pursuing racketeering charges for organized groups of poachers, which is a felony.)

jky
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Old 16 November 2006, 12:51   #9
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Here’s my story:

Back when I was young and foolish, my brother and I took my 14ft Zodiac Grand Raid
offshore at Pacifica (beach launch, northern California) one summer day to go salmon fishing. At the time I had a very old, previously owned 12hp motor. As a precaution, I took along a 3hp for emergencies.

Well we were 100yds offshore and my prop hit a reef, disabling the old clunker. I then took the 12hp off and replaced it with my 3hp. There we were, trolling offshore with only a 3hp motor!

When it was time to come in it was in the afternoon and there large breakers slamming the beach. While coming in, a large wave lifted the boat and we must have been at the crest because I heard a high pitch whine as the prop spun in air. The next thing I knew, my brother and I were in the water, the boat was upside down and what could float was scattered in the general vicinity. We were both wearing wet suits and the water was shallow enough to stand. When we realized we were both ok, we both let out a laugh.

I later talked to others that were successfully bringing in their inflatables and asked how they did it. They said you need a motor large enough to keep up with a wave as its coming in then sit out a few and come in behind a large one. Now I know for next time.
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Old 16 November 2006, 12:59   #10
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Abs Etc.

Yes thanks that's all interesting and good info. The commercial harvesters make a large dent wherever and whatever they go after.

Around here its Sea Turtles that get all the enforcement action. We have green, loggerhead and hawksbill and leatherback. They nest here in pretty good numbers after almost being eaten off the planet. Poachers here are also after the eggs....the idiots think they make the wood hard. There is no harvest of either turtle or egg allowed and the federal fish and wildlife take this all very seriously. There is a season on Conch which is violated with impunity and as far as I know the spiney lobster are open season and remain in great quantity. They've fished out the Nassau Grouper due to the fact that the fish always go back to the same spot to mate and lay eggs so the fishermen would just fish the spot where they caught a fish and pretty soon there was nothing left to spawn. They have seasons on several of the snapper varieties here but quantities of fish are way down and one has to fish very deep to catch them.

I troll bait and lures off my Avon...primarily Wahoo but other pelagics as well. They are just passing through and not for sure in the numbers they did in the past. The feeling is that factory boats East of here and down to the coast of Venezuela/Columbia are netting many of the juvenile mahi, tuna, wahoo and others. You need a permit from the federales to take tuna, including yellowfin.

There are millions of flying fish which are small but edible and make good trolling baits. Down island they'll take two skiffs out at night, erect a bedsheet and light in one and sit in the other and drink beer all night. Both Flyers and squid come out of the water attracted to the light, hit the sheet and fall into the boat. You won't see that one on ESPN!
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