As a teenager I had the opportunity to learn how to sail and loved it. There is a healthy respect for Murphy and the ocean that you quickly learn. You realize that your power is insignificant to the whims and brute force of Mother nature. Anyways, I remember we were getting ready for one of these trips out on the ocean. It was a night cruise to Catalina Island and we were leaving late in the afternoon. At the Gas Dock in the marina there was a man trying to give away a 12 foot hammer head. The shark was so long that even strung up by its tail you could not see past the dorsal fin as the rest of it was in the murky water. A 12 footer seemed big… big enough to eat me. I was a little nervous swimming that trip. Man is pretty helpless in the water. I swam in High School, but I know man is slow compared to the beasts that live in the water and I guess this was just one of the many lessons in humility I would receive.
On another trip we were at Hanging Garden on Santa Cruise Island (that’s what we called it). It was a secret spot (cove) with rock walls. The front side of the cliff had a small berm that hid that the rock face sloped back (under the cliff above). As the cliff sloped back and dropped back down 20 feet or so. This is where the moss and ferns grew in this cave like structure just above the surface of the water but totally hidden from the casual observer. The water in the cove was clear with about 60 ft visibility and about 20 ft deep. I could see the seals and the fish swimming. Seals are really cool to watch maneuver in the water. I swam 200 ft back to the boat when some friends motored into the cove in an inflatable and started yelling. They saw a 20 foot Great White a few hundred feet from where I was swimming at the entrance to the cove. I felt like I cheated death. I’m like a tooth pick to Mega shark. Luckily I taste bad.
Another occasion we were sailing to Santa Barbra Island on Beautiful sunny morning, about 10am and 3 feet from the boat we saw an 8 foot Maiko slowly glide by. I was tempted to grab a gaff and hook the creature but I thought a 300lb shark might pull off the boat.
Another time we were cruising back to Newport Harbor from Catalina Island. We were in the deep shipping lanes between the channel islands and the mainland. My brother and a few friends were taking turns being dragged or pulled through the water behind the boat. We joking called it, “The Yum Yum Yellow Line.” We had this theory (or sailor’s superstition) that sharks can see the color yellow and were attracted to it. After the fun/ machoism was over my brother was on the leeward side of the boat letting his feet drag in the water. Suddenly a shark came from underneath the boat. Somehow he was able to pull his feet out of the way just in time as the side of the sharks open mouth broke the surface of the water. Spooked he jumped up and was yelling “Shark! Shark!” No one believed him until he pointed behind the boat to the growing distance of a dorsal fin flapping back on the surface of the water, probably wonder where his meal had gone as we kept sailing along. That was a close call. There were many things we never told mom about the ocean for fear we might not be allowed to go sailing.
Part 3 is surfing with sharks.