Thursday, July 26, 2012

DISASTER VACATION - Scalloping portion

by Robin

I've known I needed to write this out but it has taken me days to get past my own nightmares before I could face reliving it through the penned word.  I do not know how many posts it will take to get through my story but I will keep it all linked together for your sake.  We will get through this together, only your heart rate will probably minimally increase and mine will need medication.  LOL. 

Attending a friend's funeral this morning has put things in perspective.  We did survive.  It was an amazing story that can only be credited to God.  I cannot begin to understand why God chose to let us live and yet hours before, took my friend home to be with the Him in heaven.  I don't believe it was because we were more deserving.  I can only think that God has given me another opportunity to share our testimony to His goodness to us through the storm.

Many people face storms in life, literal ly& figuratively.  We have all watched tragedies in our lives or the lives of others around us.  Some people stay stuck in storms.  Some receiving victory on the other side of the storm.  And some folks even end up on tv shows called, "When Vacations Go Wrong" or "Amazing Disaster Videos" when they are caught on video. We had a little bit of all those elements.

Like every other fishing trip, I document our adventures with photos & video.  It's fun.  And sometimes, it tells a very good moral story. 

Here is our story.

We had been planning our trip to Crystal River for a week.  We were taking our boat with us and the plan was to scallop, fish and eventually snorkel the springs.  We booked a room for Sunday night, but Saturday night, we opted to fish under the stars & crescent moon at some reef; and the dream was to come home with all the wonderful bottom-feeding species we could stuff in the cooler. 

We set out at 8 am from our hometown, an hour late, as usual, and had a  pleasant drive across the peninsula of Florida.  It was fairly uneventful except for being the 2nd people to arrive upon a vehicular accident.  Jack swung the entire rig around and stopped to give help.  By then, a couple had pulled him out of his smoking truck and another retired fire fighter was holding his head steady.  Jack is a trained ex-EMT.  There wasn't much to do but offer comfort & a voice of calmness.  The boys and I stared from our windows until the other lady came over to speak with us.  She had seen the truck drift left, over-correct right, then do a 180 degree turn & roll before landing on some cow pasture wires.  It was sad, for sure, but I suppose it could have been worse.  When she left, we prayed for the young man.  Our prayers were interrupted by the sounds of sirens and State Troopers pulling up.  We continued on our way in no time. 

We were at Pete's Pier by 11.  It was completely packed, including the overflow lot.  We put the boat into the water and I did my best to find ANYWHERE to park our rig. I kid you not when I say it was probably close to .5 mile from the dock.  As I am walking back to the marina, two cop cars fly past me.  Then, a fire truck.  What in the world?  Please Lord, don't let anything  happene to my family while I was gone away for a few minutes!!  A shooting was the only thing that kept coming to my mind, since it was the day after the Colorado shootings.  I could only imagine that somebody's temper flared and something happened. My imagination ran wild.

When I arrived, I could see all smiles from my family and my fears were relieved.  Sadly, there was news that a man was having a heart attack while boating and was being rushed in.  Again, I prayed as we idled into the deeper channel.  I closely examined boat after boat, assessing which one it may be with the victim inside.  Jack went quite a distance before we saw a FWC boat drawing everyone's attention with sirens and speeding towards Pete's.  I never did see the man, but hopefully, he was resting on the side walkways until he could get the medical attention he needed.

Being new to scalloping, we took our time motoring through the shallow water and picking our little place to lay claim for scallops galore!  It was time to set anchor and break out the dive bag.  I am most proud that our youngest couldn't wait to put on his flippers and mask, jumping feet first into the bay.  Second in the water was my eldest and he found 'gold' first.   It was a beautiful thing.


I couldn't wait to put on my mask & fins either!  But first, I had some very hot dogs that needed cooling down.  One-by-one, I dunked them in and put them back on deck.  They seemed to enjoy that.  While they are not water dogs, they are family dogs and seem to enjoy doing whatever we are doing at the time.  I cannot skip over their part in the story because they suffered along with us and yet, were a big comfort to me through the night. 


At our first location, our eldest found 2 scallops and I found one.  Disappointed but not discouraged.  We were told they were out deep, but maybe that was wrong.  Afterall, it was hard to spot them from the surface of the water and then dive down to pick them up. 


It seems easy until you try to factor in the current and losing eye-contact with your prize.  Many times, we dove down only to realize we had found some undesireable piece of coral or half a scallop that somebody has left behind.  Swimming upcurrent seemed impossible after the first 5 minutes of kicking. 


I'm not saying you couldn't get up-current at all, but even with me walking all week in preparation of this vacation, I could barely make it past the bow of the boat.  Jack was so smart to throw out about 30 ft of rope attached to the buoy ball.  If we could swim over to it, we were good.  Then, it was a matter of pulling ourselves up to the boat and taking the fins off, handing them up to Daddy. 

Speaking of Jack, he tried diving down but his joy was stopped in its tracks thanks to a sinus infection.  The pressure at 6 ft of water was too much for him to enjoy scalloping, but we were still blessed to have his help through all this topside. We kept him busy with fins coming on & off.  It was also important that somebody kept constant watch with counting heads & bubbles. While we considered visibility to be good, it was still hard to see much more than 10-15 feet around you.  I may have missed it if a child drifted too far from safety.  Many boats were coming and going to the grounds.  Yep, Daddy was watching for our safety.


It wasn't long after I took this picture and Jack called us back to the boat to look for new, shallower waters.  I had to agree.  Three scallops was not what I had envisioned for our 'bounty' from the sea.

Here is the video we took of us moving from one spot to another. Don't worry about not being able to understand all the words.  It's not important. I can't remember what we were talking about anyhow.  The cool thing is to see the change of bottom as we motored along.  The dark colors are the grassy patches and the light parts are sandy bottom.  The goal is to find good grassy bottom since that is where scallops like to hide.

From here, we hopped back in the water again only shaving a foot off from our first dive depths.  I was looking at him.


And he was looking at me.


We were both wondering where all the scallops were.  I found only one more scallop at this location bringing our total to four. So, we picked up and headed to a third location.  Again, I set anchor (or so I thought) and everyone went overboard.  By then, my youngest was a pro.  He decided to drop down back first into the water.  That was a decision that he soon regretted because he got a little scrape down his hind-quarters from it.  It's not the same from an offshore boat with tall sides as it is with those little rubber boats you see on tv. 

I only searched for a little while.  I was certain that we were not holding position so I swam hard up to the anchor.  Sure enough, we were all moving with the current, including the anchor.  I popped up to notify Jack.  He said to flip it over.  Easier said than done.  My first grab, I cut my finger on a tiny sharp projectile on the edge of the anchor.  The 2nd try, I was able to turn it over and get it hooked into the sand.

Inspite of almost nothing to show for our vigorous efforts, it still felt like a victory when little man came up with his first (and only) scallop for the day.  There was no joy in my two scallops until both my kids felt the same victory.  Afterall, this was suppose to a family event and the kids were suppose to bring home wonderful memories that would follow them way into adulthood.  We were going to make this better than our trip in 2009 where we hit rocks with our propeller and the seas were too rough to gather scallops. 


Determination could not change fate, though.  Five. Five was all we were blessed with.  And because we know the disciple Paul told us to be content with little or much, we would be happy regardless of the number.  Nobody complained about the lack of scallops.

We entertained ourselves with bi-valve humor.  Here is our 30 sec video of them snapping shut.

The dogs found the smell fascinating.  Tiki isn't sure if he should kill it or eat it.

I'm certain that Captain thought he should kill it. He is very protective of his family. He may be small like a chihuahua but he has the heart of a German Shepherd.


I do not know if any of you have had the priviledge of seeing a bay scallop upclose & personal.  I often jokingly claim that my eldest is a wonderful hand model.  He's modeled vegetables, bugs, turtles and now scallops for me.  The black part is considered the organs of the scallop.  That all gets cleaned out.  Then, you are left with the white muscle.  When cleaning scallops, separate the muscle from the white side of the scallop first.  Then, clean the black guts.  Finally, spoon or knife out the scallop from the black side of the shell.  For whatever reason, the muscle is attached better to the black (or red) side.  I guess that would also mean that every scallop has a top & bottom only I'm too ignorant to know which side is which.


After our third place of searching for scallops, we decided to head back in to Twin Rivers Marina to get some fresh ice for the night.  As we pulled up to their docks, we saw a storm developing off to the NE of us.  A single little dark cloud with rain.  It soon picked up intensity and became a single cloud with lightening.  It stayed distant to us, but we opted to check radar at the Marina.  It was clearly going north to south.  Yeah.  NOTHING else was on screen.  While we were not threatened in the least bit, we decided to eat dinner while tied up.  Our tummy tanks were full.  We were rehydrated.  Garbage was eliminated and the dogs were peed & pooped.  The little nuisance cloud was far away and we were off to find the Crystal River Reef for a night of awesome fishing.  How I wish I knew what I know now in hindsight.  I would have paid any amount of money for a hotel room instead of being at sea that night.

To be continued.... (Part 2, The Storm.)


KaraJones said...

I'm coming for a visit tomorrow to get the whole story!

Michelle Recicar said...

I wish we could have visited today and I could've heard the WHOLE story firsthand. :)