Bob with a Broomtail Grouper at Tortuga Island

Original Photo by Dan Tompkins

Seven months after the events of A Fish Story...

This picture of me was taken by diving buddy Dan Tompkins on May 26, 1989 during my second visit to Tortuga Island. We went aboard the El Condor Pasa, which was a trimaran sailing craft. This trip was supposed to have taken place aboard the Santa Barbara, the vessel upon which I was introduced to live aboard diving and Tortuga Island. Not enough divers had signed on this trip to fill her, and at the last minute she developed engine problems and the Pasa was substituted by Silent Experience. Although this sailboat theoretically had ocean going capabilities, we soon found ourselves stranded on the lee side of Tortuga for 3 days, waiting out a windy storm.

The picture was taken not long after our second dive of the trip and just before the weather went south. We only changed anchorage once the entire time we were there. We ran out of gas for the air compressor and we also ran out of ice. While they may have other attractions, sailboats make crappy live aboard diving platforms. They're just too small volumetrically. Nobody encountered any sharks this trip, but as you can see, it was a memorable one for me anyway.

I was new to spearfishing and learned a few lessons on this trip. Prior to nailing this broomtail, I developed a classic case of buck fever as I glided in for the kill on this one's big brother (I kid you not). Taking deadly aim, I brought the butt of my new 3 sling, 5 foot Ridel up to my face and sighted right down the shaft. When I released it, the substantial recoil drove the butt straight into my nose, which began spurting blood immediately and profusely. You know you're having fun now when you have to repeatedly clear your low profile mask because it's become too full of blood to see. Had the butt of the Ridel struck my mask in the lens instead of the soft silicone over my nose, I'm not sure what would have happened.

The impact of the gun butt in my face caused me to jerk before the shaft was clear and I completely missed the big one. And nailed my nose but good. Ever heard a dive buddy laughing at you underwater? After recovering from this little reality check I managed to get everything back together and bring back this fish. My second shot was much better and I caught this one right on the lateral line behind its gill covers, severing its spinal cord instantly. It was a textbook shot.

Unfortunately, my nose didn't stop bleeding for nearly an hour after we had returned to the Pasa, and I was subjected to a fair amount of ridicule by some of the other divers. This was one sweet eating fish and the ridicule turned to appreciation at dinner that night. Except for some very tasty Pinto lobsters I had grabbed during some night dives on my first visit to Tortuga, this was my first ocean kill. My conversion was complete. I had never really cared for the taste of most ocean fish prior to diving in the Sea of Cortez. I think it was because I hadn't ever tasted really fresh ones before. I had become an enthusiastic if still inexperienced underwater hunter.

There's another reason this trip was memorable for me and my buddies. It was our first time out using decompression capable diving computers, and we were free at last. Although most of our dives during this trip were relatively shallow, on my 41st dive we ventured down below the 200 foot level for the first time on a no-decompression bounce dive. We got pretty cold and properly narced. Tortuga doesn't offer nearly as attractive topography for this type of diving as the steep, deep walls at Isla San Pedro Martir, which lies about 60 nautical miles north northwest of Tortuga. Another excellent diving adventure aboard the Santa Barbara took me to Martir in August of 1989. But that's another story completely. I may tell it some day.

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All original images, graphics and A Fish Story manuscripts are © Bob Keller 1995. They may be freely reproduced and used for educational or personal recreational purposes only. They may not be reproduced or used for any commercial or other purposes without my written permission.