My worst day at sea ever…I think
My worst day at sea ever…I think: I have been wracking my brain for more troublesome and exhausting days at sea, than this one I had recently during the spearfishing national event held here in SKZN recently. That superstorm off Inhaca. The Cape Canyons as a kid. Shipwrecked on Desert Point…I have a healthy list.
But I think this one takes the cake…
The rain hammering down and it’s cold. Not a good sign to wake up to, here in KZN. The night before we had just rolled in from deep Transkei and I had trouble recalling what I ate for supper even.
The Boland A Team were my focus on this trip. I was to be top man. They were staying in Number 5 at the Umzimkulu Marina. So I bounced down their chalet to see what the call was going to be. Hoping like hell that the first day of the 5-day event, would be called off.
They were both, Andre Botha, and Henco Nel, soaped up and in their two-piece wetsuits already!
Good to go! It’s on! They both exclaimed…
I hot-footed it back upstairs and grabbed three changes of clothing and the little hand towel that somehow ended up in my travel bag. I put each change in a different plastic bag and threw my wetsuit over my shoulder.
As I bounded down the stairs to catch the ride already leaving, I nicked the edge of the last stair of the upstairs house with the bridge of my foot. I never heard snap but man oh man it was sore. But in the same blink, I found myself in the cockpit of the Hilux. Heater on and cosy. I never really checked that foot.
Shelley Beach was the chosen patch of water for this first cold and rainy day. In the dark at the base, there were zombies in wetsuits everywhere. All with that steely look on their faces that they will be diving today no matter what.
I was astounded at the determination. Which put me into a more serious mode and I donned my own wetsuit in trepidation. Next thing we were reversing into the sea and a few minutes later, backline.
The competition boats gathered at the predetermined meeting point, and in the pouring rain, 7:20 am was go time. Add 6 hours of misery to that, and 13h20 was only gonna be home time. And then some since all the boats cannot return at once. It’s like one by one at best.
We tore off north…in our newly acquired but second-hand rubber duck boat with a 90hp four-stroke. We had had the boat here already for three weeks and had been ironing out all those intricacies and issues that arise when getting to know a boat.
The steering had failed twice. The battery terminals had been dodgy. And the pontoons were coming loose. The boat had been taking water. But the folks who sold it to us were cooperating and helping. And fixed most all of the above items. So that on Day One, we launched with full confidence.
By now we had been shooting fish and I was staying warm by being busy. These two guys are at the very top of their game and our practising the weeks before had us well-honed and operating. There are some cool reefs and caves and things off Shelley Beach but it’s not my favourite piece of water.
And although I never had any mileage to do with my foot, I started to realise that something was definitely wrong down there. I just stayed off it. But by now I thought I best remove my sodden wetsuit and move into a change of dry clothes. My good foot held just fine but when I got to the other foot, as soon as I put pressure, with searing pain, it collapsed. The pain shot through me like a spear. I lost my breath. I felt white with shock. Tingly all over, And on very high alert.
Somehow, in the pouring rain, whilst the divers were down, I got the wetsuit off and started with the first dry outfit. What a relief. The dryness inside spread to a warmth that I savoured and savoured. Until it stopped. And was replaced by drips of ice-cold rain as it permeated the first layer. Then the second. And finally to my skin.
At halfway, I was into my second change of dry clothing and barely hanging on. There was no chance of camera work in this sea or conditions. Fingers were grannied up. Even starting the outboard with the key was troublesome at times. The wind was gusting every now and then too. In all directions! Creating havoc with our drifts and lines.
The little hand towel that I had hustled somewhere was really helping by now. I was wringing it out, and then using it to remove the excess water all over my clothes and body. This was also warming me up and so I wrung and wrung and wrung that little hand towel. It was a great help and a distraction from my mortal reality.
The divers were also feeling it by now. Although underwater it was a completely different story, the cold was beginning to win.
Third change of clothing. Very sore foot. Hands also. Soaked through. The towel keeping me sane. And alive. We are pushing hard at this stage of the game. And on a run up a reef to do another drift, the pontoons ripped off the boat at the back. Sinking us completely if not for the pontoons still holding on in the front.
Fuel tanks were floating up out of the hatches and we could barely make 7 or 8 knots at full throttle. We had to call it a day and head the half hour or so home. All I could think of was beating the fleet in so I could get right out of the damn rain and cold.
My dream came true and we hit the beach first with a thud. After just beating a 2m wave in through the back. And sank right there in the shorebreak.
This is the ONLY photograph I took on this crazy day at sea with the Boland A Spearos. Sinking in the little shore break crowned it all off.
I went straight to the bar and ordered three beers, whilst the Boland A team expertly loaded their broken boat. Since you are not allowed to take beer out of the clubhouse, I was stuck with all three. So I drank them quick and headed over to the wash bay and the team. It was slow going limping that 200 metres or so. And when I got there, I had that warm and fuzzy feeling all over, and I just puked it all out. And more. And more…the pain in my foot had reached its pinnacle.
Although the crowd noticed the white foam hydrant-looking beer flying through the air, nobody paid an ounce of attention.
And that’s adrenalin for you!!
sprained foot that gave me hell for a week
both hands sprained too from wringing out that stupid little towel all day long
lower back spasm
We launched the next day…
The rest of this story will be run in The Sardine News. And the movie will appear on our YouTube Channel available for free right HERE. Here at Umzimkulu Adrenalin, we can get you out to sea, for your best day, not your worst!