of the rock with no name
the near side of Santa Cruz Island, across the channel from Santa Barbara,
is a monumental arch called "Arch Rock". If this arch grew on the
would be a tourist attraction, because the opening is high enough to clear
mast, about 30 feet above the sea. On Santa Cruz Island, such
yards offshore, there is another rock, big as a barn, un-named, and crowned
whitewash. Its' sides drop vertically into the water for 40 feet
lee-side is large enough to shelter my sailboat, "FANTA SEA" from the winds
waves of the prevailing Westerlies. On its' weather side are huge
barnacles, a favorite food of the Sheephead fish. In the picture,
you can see the big hunkin' teeth the Sheephead has for crushing barnacles
and other shellfish.
for those of you with young ones, I hope they are all put to bed when you
it is difficult to relate in polite company. I didn't believe this
the first time I heard
-- I thought the person telling it was just engaging in a bit of sensationalism.
But I have
it, and now believe it may be true. All Sheephead fish are born female.
some point in their lives they take it upon themselves to become male.
Horrible, isn't it?
always thought just people did that. Makes you lose all respect for
them, doesn't it?
there it is: The Peyton Place of the Deep.
my first several trips to this rock, I speared the smaller female Sheephead.
They are bluish
small, turning pinkish as they grow older, and larger. When they
turn male, they have
pink cumberbund and black head and tail that you can see in the photo.
were always a thrilling sight, but........just beyond range. Then,
one time as I was
down, I surprised one.....I was almost close enough. I started down
he was still just beyond range. "A little more," I thought, "And
I'll have him," and still
little more........and a little more!" Together we descended the
sides of the un-named
"A little more"......and we were at the bottom! Too late, I realized
I had been lured
my safe snorkelling depths!
started up. In the shifting blue and green of the sea that pale circle
marking the sky.....
air......looked so far away! Stroking hard I swam for the pale circle,
still so far away!
lungs ached. My pulse pounded in my ears. "Now maybe this rock
will have my name!"
thought as I swam hard. I broke the surface and lay there panting,
knowing that if fish
laugh, that one was. That trip, I settled for less glorious fish.
As "FANTA SEA" heeled,
and sang in the wind and sea on my way home, I sat at the tiller, thinking
about that fish. It was a huge fish. I had never speared one
that big. Maybe it I did spear it, it could
me! And I knew I'd be too cheap to turn loose the spear.
could be the end of Ol' Bucko!
few weeks later I again dropped anchor in the lee of that still un-named
rock. Again I went snorkeling for my trophy Sheephead, with the same
dismal result. Lured beyond my limits twice by the same fish!
But this time I had a scuba tank of air on board. I put it on, and
went after my fish! Aha! A secret weapon! Look out, fish!
a vengeance, I started back down, knowing exactly how Ahab had felt.Around
the weather side, past the white patches of barnacles. Again, we
descended the rock together,
little more........a little more.......at sixty feet, we bottomed out.
He headed for Santa Barbara. I still had another secret weapon.
my Dolphin kick. This is a kick a diver can use underwater in which
his whole body undulates, like a dolphins'. It gives at least twice
the speed of the flutter kick. When I thought he wasn't noticing,
I kicked in my after-burner--
dolphin kick, with my speargun zeroed in. But he had a dolphin kick
too! Across the ocean floor I pursued him, kicking hard, breathing
hard -- I must have looked like a steam engine chasing that fish!
Then I looked at my pressure gauge. My air pressure was zero!
had done it to me again! Again I headed for the surface.
a living thing "FANTA SEA" danced and sang in the wind and sea on the way
a mood I sat at the tiller, wondering why I had let myself in for
all of this. Why
I gone for something noble? Like a swordfish? Or Orca or Moby
Dick? Or even Jaws. Nope. Not me. I had to get
hung up on some stupid fish. With a questionable personal life.
to generations run aground, why did this sea have to call to me?
was a year before I made it back. This time with more scuba air,
a new strategy, and even a diving buddy! The strategy sounded good.
Always before, I had come around the shoreward side of the rock, and dove
downward. This time, we would come around the seaward side of the
rock, and be ascending when we met the fish. Three knobby heads of
Harbor Seals watched as we dropped anchor and suited up. On previous
trips, I had played silly little games with these friendly seals.
They seemed hurt that I didn't have time for them this day. They
followed us around the rock, sometimes as close as ten feet, staring at
our every move.
bucked currents as we swam around the weather side of the rock and started
sudden flash of color.....startled eyes.......a snap shot......and my trophy
was on my spear.
kibbitzing Harbor Seal ten feet away stared in open-mouthed, wide-eyed
wonder as he watched me stuff the fish in my game bag. Wow!!
And it couldn't tow me! I headed for the surface and let out a whoop.
The crew of seagulls detailed to white-washing the rock with no name flew
off in squawking surprise. I had my fish! Triumph!!
truly enjoyed eating that fish. 'Cause if the story had turned out
the other way around,
big hunkin' teeth would be chewing on 'Ol Bucko!
"FANTA SEA" danced and sang in the wind and sea on the way home that time,
heard the music all sailors hear when their ship is under sail.