Vamos A Los San Bernardos

Finally off shift...

Finally off shift…

Puffer Dan in the captain's chair

Puffer Dan in the captain’s chair

I napped.  When I woke up the sails were slack again, and we were only two miles out.  I grabbed the wheel from Puffer Dan, and within an hour we had dropped the anchor in a sandy patch over a reef in crystal clear water.  That’s not a bad way to start one’s day. 

I jumped in to check the anchor. Or really to check the reef, but I used the correct excuse.  The reef right underneath the boat was vibrant.  No 50 pound Black Grouper came up to greet me, but there were fish and there was life and the coral wasn’t dead.  The anchor was fine, but I knew that before I got in.

I kicked around a bit, exploring our new parking spot – then Dan jumped in and I went below to grab a few hours of shut-eye.  Beautiful place or not, nobody likes a grumpy captain.  As an aside – Dan took alot of selfies on this trip.  I think that’s funny, so I’m going to use his selfies to illustrate.  I hope you enjoy Dan’s obsession with selfies as much as I do. 

Puffer Dan relaxing after his brief stint as captain

Puffer Dan relaxing after his brief stint as captain

By that evening, I was rested again and Dan and I decided to do some exploring while Lauren started cooking.  We found some interesting things, and went tried to find the end of a couple of underwater ledges – looking for places fish might be hanging. We explored some mangrove swamps, and found a hostel. 

Exploring San Bernardos, Colombia

Exploring San Bernardos, Colombia

Eventually we headed back, ate dinner, drank some rum, and went to bed. 

Puffer Dan and I were interested in spearfishing.  The catch, here, is that it’s the Caribe.  The Caribe just isn’t a spot for huge fish, though sometimes you bump into them by chance.  There’s another catch at places like this – the locals really hammer the fish population.  They eat anything that moves underwater.  But we were willing to work for it, and we hoped that would make up for any inherent lacking of fish. 

We went out that morning.  By 11AM we were done.  Very few fish, lots of work.  Plenty to see – just nothing worth shooting.  Certainly nothing worth writing about.  A quick nap and then we headed to find a local that a buddy told us about.  We needed a guide – local knowledge is always the key to good fishing, but it’s not something people share openly. 

We found our guide, he wanted to go out the next morning.  We agreed, 8AM was kickoff.  Then we went over to the hostel.  The hostel is in the middle of the water, and is run by three cool guys – who all enjoy their party.  One is Colombian, one is from Kentucky, the final is from Sweden (I think?).   Anyways, we were warmly welcomed. 

The second story of said hostel...

The second story of said hostel…

Puffer Dan and Captain Ron at the hostel

Puffer Dan and Captain Ron at the hostel

The good life

The good life

We drank there and I started a conversation with a guy working on his outboard motor.  We hit it off, he told me there was good fishing in the area – and suggested we go into the mangroves at night looking for pargo (snapper). I thought that sounded interesting, so we planned on it.  I felt alright about night diving in a mangrove swamp with spearguns mostly because our guide’s name was Jesus. 

Dan, Lauren and I went back to the boat and had a snack, then we returned for our night dive.  Naturally our guide, Jesus, was a little late.  We got out there eventually, jumped in, and started kicking around looking for edible fish.  I ran into a couple of small barracuda, then a couple of small snapper.  Then a couple of large pufferfish.  Then I heard Dan shoot. 

My involuntary reaction was to begin shaking my head, underwater – though nobody was there to see it.  I had a feeling Dan got excited and pulled the trigger on that puffer.  I wasn’t wrong.  When I got over there I shined the light on Dan’s quarry – said a few choice words to Dan and then left him to figure out his mess. 

I can see where some people might think I should have helped Dan get his shit together.  After all it was very dark, it was unfamiliar territory, I have a lot more experience in the water, etc. But I’ve been sailing/diving/spearfishing with Dan in more than one country – and in those countries he fails in fish ID.  So much so that his nickname when we were in the Bahamas was Puffer Dan.  It seems that the oversize heads of pufferfish are a very attractive target to Dan.  Whatever country or ocean he might be in. His nickname became official on this trip. 

So I left Dan and kept diving.  I scoured the rest of the mangroves, then came back.  Naturally Dan was still struggling with his pufferfish.  Eventually he got his shit together, and we moved to a different spot.  There I jumped in again and got to kicking around.  I watched a Tilefish move through my light beam, saw a couple juvenile snapper, and then heard Dan shoot again.

Again, involuntarily, I shook my head and started toward Dan.  With very little to show for my diving thus far – I jumped back in the dinghy to find Puffer Dan and see what foolish fish let him close enough.  He came up and told me he had no idea what it was, but that it was probably a Mangrove Snapper.  Mangrove Snapper is a tasty fish, so I was happy and hopeful.  It took Dan 10 minutes to get the fish out of the mangrove roots – and when he did I began yelling at him again.   It wasn’t a Mangrove Snapper.  It wasn’t any kind of snapper.  He’d just put two words together “Mangrove” and “Snapper” because we were in a mangrove swamp and he knew we were looking for snapper.  This f*cking guy. 

I called our mangrove-night-diving-spearfishing-fail and explained to Dan that he wasn’t allowed to pull the trigger anymore, fairly harshly.  What a dummy.  To be fair – spearfishing at night in murky water in a mangrove swamp doesn’t make fish-ID easy.  And to be fair – I actually enjoyed the dive, it was cool and slightly creepy.  Nothing I’d done before, but something I’d do again. 

So we dropped off Jesus and headed back to the mothership. We all felt like having Jesus with us on a spearfishing expedition should be better luck.

Before leaving for the mangrove-night-diving-spearfishing-fail, I’d dropped my green LED fish light in the water – as a homing beacon.  When we arrived at NOMAD there was a veritable underwater zoo around the light.  Several schools of baitfish were visible on the surface, and it got cooler when we got in.  I turned on the lights on my arch, and with those lights and the underwater LED green light (and our dive lights) – we were able to see quite a bit under the boat.  There were schools of baitfish and squid, and if you were sneaky – you could find the predator fish on the edge of the light.  Nothing huge though.

I crept around the edge of the light for a half hour, where I found a medium-sized Barracuda patrolling.  We had exactly zero fish onboard, so he was fair game.  I dropped to the bottom, turned off my light, and waited a bit – then turned the dive light back on and sure enough, he’d come back toward me to investigate.  For his curiosity I gave him a piece of steel, and then the game was on.  He went apeshit. 

Barracuda aren’t really “dangerous.”  It’s just that they have lots of teeth and get very agitated when you shoot them.  I learned that night how tough it can be to keep a light on an agitated Barracuda while pulling it in and not getting tangled in your line and not getting bitten.  I did, though, eventually get him in and put him away.  I dove a bit more – looking for lobster and crab and octopus.  I found none, so I cleaned our fish and cooked our first fish dinner of the trip – at 11PM. 

Then we crashed. We had another spearfishing trip, starting at 8AM the next day.

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