March 21, 2012.
The brunt of the weather that we chose to hide from has finally reached us. We've got 20 to 28 knots with rain squalls to 35. This morning we actually had over an hour of uninterrupted rain. The wind is always on us but the rain just marches through in solid walls. One minute it's so gray that you can't see more than a couple of hundred feet and the next moment the solar panels are putting out 30 amps. I can't begin to tell you how many times we've opened and closed ports and hatches today.
Since our hunting season is winding down I thought that I'd post some equipment hints that might help somebody else. But be forewarned. I'm not diver trained, I'm just a guy getting old with his spear. The reasoning I provide may be right, it may be wrong, but it's mine. Your mileage may vary. Anything I say here is up for discussion so if your opinion varies share it......
I believe a wetsuit of some type is a must. I wear a “shorty” that covers everything but my forearms and shins. The thermal protection the shorty affords me allows me to stay in the water for hours at a time. A lot of my friends wear a shorty with a body skin under it or a full wetsuit. The added protection on your forearms and shins would be a blessing when it comes to avoiding fire coral stings. Christy is the only person that I know who can stay in the water for extended periods of time without getting cold. Of course, she does have the benefit (the only benefit) of her peri-menopausal self produced heat shield. I notice tropical fish like to congregate in her wake.
It's surprising how badly burned the top of your head can get when you spend a few hours face down in the water. I cut the bill off a ball cap and wear the cap part to keep the sun off my dome. I'm not sure how, but the thing pretty much stays there while I swim. A bathing cap or a hood would do, but I have neither so I was forced to improvise. Christy calls it my Yarmelke of Doom.
I wear a dive knife on my right thigh. A lot of guys wear them there or on the outside of their lower leg. I've never had to use it but I own it so I wear it and besides it looks cool. It's nice to have but I think it can be done without.
I carry a flashlight. It can make the difference between taking a bug or not even having the opportunity. Sometimes you just know there’s a bug back in the deep tunnel and the flashlight removes all doubt. I've even used the flashlight to scare a bug out of his excellent hiding spot to a position where I have a shot at him. My flashlight is small enough that I can stuff it in the bottom of my shorty against my left thigh. I don't even remember that its there until someone asks me “ Is that a flashlight in your wetsuit or are you just happy to see me?”.
The wetsuit makes you extremely buoyant so a weight belt is important. How much weight you wear is different from person to person. I wear 13 pounds of lead. It leaves me slightly buoyant. It's so close that if I expel my breath I sink and if I continue to breathe I float. So swimming long distances on the surface is easy but when I decide to submerge the weight make a huge difference. I find that as I drive my body down I become increasingly heavier and I can stay on the bottom without expending any energy. Getting down and staying down easily allows you more bottom time so some weight is necessary, just how much is up to the individual. A belt with several small weights would allow you to figure out what's best for you. I've been warned by an “expert” that if I ever black out I would die because my body wouldn't float up. He did concede that if I were to wear no weight at all and blacked out I would probably drown before I reached the surface anyway. Dead at the bottom or dead at the top = still dead.
Booties inside your fins will save the skin on your toe knuckles from being chaffed away. I constantly had to wrap rigging tape around my toes before I got my booties. While the taped toes was pretty fashionable the booties are easier.
The skin between my thumb and forefinger on my shooting hand is a mass of scar tissue from the shooting band stretching across my skin. After two years I got my first pair of gloves. Life is much better. Wearing a glove on your off hand also allows you to confidently grab ledges to steady yourself as you reach under to take a shot.
As far as the mask goes I chose a basic mask in a fluorescent color. I figured that the bright color would add a little safety factor when people are trying to spot you out on the water. They also offer masks with mirrored finishes. I skipped it because I wondered if fish or lobster would see themselves and freak. Not to mention that if your dive buddy wore one you wouldn't see his eyes you'd never know if he was seeing what you're trying to communicate to him or is he looking at that flashlight stuffed up your leg and wondering if you're really hung like a Wildebeast.
I'm on my second snorkel and I hate the new one. The old one was a simple rubber U with a cheap piece of straight plastic attached. It was simple, it was streamlined and I never knew that it was there. On my new one instead of a rubber U there’s rubber flexihose connected to a plastic upright. When I drive myself through the water the flexi part wobbles. It drives me a bit insane not to mention that since it's attached to the strap for my mask the wobbling causes my mask to leak. I'm definitely losing this high tech POS shit before next season.
I have 2 pair of fins. One pair is an extremely long pair of free diver fins. I'm much faster and cruising on the surface seems to take less effort. After a few challenging days in a row my kneecaps ache a bit. I switch to the standard fins the next time out and while I'm noticeably slower the pain in my knees goes away. So its like they're medicinal or perhaps magical.
My mentor was a master of the Hawaiian sling. It's a fun weapon but it's awkward. It requires 2 hands to shoot and once it has been fired the spear has to be retrieved. If it was the only thing available I'd make do. But thankfully there’s the pole spear. Its tough, simple, it never leaves your hand and its deadly. Mine are fiberglass, 6 feet long with a 6 inch stainless steel threaded rod protruding from the end. Onto this threaded rod tips of various designs can be mounted. There are simple single barbed tips, fully articulated chisel points with 2 barbs and there are even barbs that come apart on penetration and leave the victim attached to the spear via a small stainless wire tether.
Of the two tips pictured, the one on the left looks cool but I find its performance a bit disappointing. It does the job but when compared side by side to the tip on the right, it falls short. The one on the left is so broad that it impacts with a lot of energy transferred to the target. While it gives the target a really good jolt, penetration is only mediocre. The tip on the right has all of my favorite attributes. Chisel point, long and slender, 2 barbs and fully articulated. None of the energy of the shot seems to be transferred to the target. The spear just blows right through, the barbs open and you and your quarry are now joined.
Whatever equipment you decide on the most important part is getting in the water. Its great exercise, its interesting and if successful, you'll eat healthier and the time spent in the water will keep you from sitting around drinking all day. We closed out our lobster season with one final bug today. That brought us up to 180 for the year. 15 dozen has a nice ring to it. There are officially 10 days left to the end of the season. Double century rings nice too.