Saturday, December 22, 2012

A cruiser's story

Janice Moyer aboard Dances with Dolphins

Lost Spear

It started innocently. When we bought our boat many years ago, part of the inventory included a Hawaiian Sling. A Hawaiian Sling is used for hunting fish and lobster underwater. It consists of two parts, a "shooter" and spear. The spear is a stainless steel rod about 6 foot long and one quarter inch diameter, with a barb on the end that opens to hold the fish. The shooter propels the spear with rubber band over fairly short distances. Typically one has to be within 2 feet of the target to be effective at all, but more realistically, 6-12 inch launch distances are used to ensure a catch.

Years ago, when Wes was first asked to hunt with others, he showed up with his sling and spear. One spear. The others, sporting 3-5 spears each, and backup slings, asked about his "spares". Apparently it was like golf, you brought more than one ball. Of course, Wes was considering the 6'' shooting distance and wondering just how you could lose a spear. He had practised to be accurate, shooting rocks, and some small fish and was quite confident that one spear would do fine.

The first time Wes shot and hit a larger fish, about 12 lbs, he was surprised to see his spear disappear as the grouper made a wild dash into the holes and tunnels under the coral. The sound is unmistakable, "Ding, Ding, Ding, ding, ding, done." as the spear, pulled by the desperate fish, bent and slowed down as it crashed against the coral tunnels.

Now, Wes isn't cheap, but he sure as heck wasn't about to lose his spear and a tasty meal at the same time. Every tiny hole into the coral was examined to discover where the pair ended up. Twenty or thirty snorkel dives later, up comes the spear and fish. The spear, now with a broad curve in it, was bent "straight" several times before accuracy was regained.

Over the years, Wes has found several spears of various diameters and lengths and now has :"more than one ball in his golf bag". He still hasn't bought one. Let's just call him frugal.

Our latest episode changed everything. His spear, now resting in a large fish comfortably in a deep hole under the coral, is the target of many dives to recover both. As the fish bled, and grunted, and bled, Wes continued to try to find a way to retrieve his prize.

As the time lengthened more and more inhabitants of the coral became interested. Other groupers showed up, teasing Wes with their daring approaches as his spear was otherwise occupied.

We have seen sharks become interested in our catches before, but typically nurse sharks or reef sharks less than 5 foot long, circle around the area at a respectful distance to a larger competitor. Wes has been able to retrieve the fish and spear prior to serious interest from them.

This time was different, a 6 foot bull shark appeared, and made tight circles directly around the catch and Wes. Wes swam quickly back to the small rubber boat that was our fishing vessel and boarded with a spryness that was impressive.

Sharks will often circle a few times, and then move off to again track the scent in order to find a meal. After waiting a short while, watching the shark circle, Wes lost sight of it. I suggested that perhaps we should just leave the spear and fish, Wes indicated that he could just jump int and grab the spear since it was so close.

Donning his mask, he leaned far over the edges of the boat to look again at where his catch was, and see if the shark had made it's retreat.
Wes was lying with his stomach on the edge of the boat, his head well underwater when he turned and yelled "down, down". Seeing his legs rise up as if he was trying to dive in, and knowing how much he hated to lose a spear and catch, I helped raise his legs to launch him off the boat.

Apparently the shark had not vacated, and was making a turn back towards the boat. Wes, understandably, did not want to get in, but rather to get out of the water. His "down, down" shout was meant to hold down his legs so he could raise his head out of the water.

As he twisted himself back into the boat, he sputtered, "NO, NO, Out, Out", Well, at least the objective was clear. We're leaving the spear!

We found the spear two days later some distance from where it was lost.

Yup, I checked, his insurance is still in force!
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