Tuesday, June 7, 2011

A Truthful Adventure

A Truthful Adventure

June 6, 2011

Sorry about the drought of writing there. It's been quite a while since I've done anything nautical. But I've finally got an addition for you all. Let me lay the back story down a little.

The Hawaiian arrival happened, Jeffry, the owner of Leeway, helped me out as my stopgap residency and I was soon on a plane home to California. A couple of months were spent at my mother's house helping to renovate the old family home, but I soon got an offer I couldn't refuse. At a social gathering of sorts, I was reunited with my age-old buddies Brett, Mike, and Jessica (along with many others), who proposed that I scoot myself down to Santa Barbara, a place of expansive beaches, fair winds, copious employment, and fine education. How could I resist?

I made the move, roomed with Brett on the living room floor for a while, but am now finally starting to settle in. We've got ourselves a nice little 2.5 bedroom apartment right next to the City College (seriously, you can't get any closer than this), in which Brett and I happily share a closet for dirt cheap rent. I've reputably got a fair job at Peet's Coffee as a budding barista and my education plan is laid out before me. Things look to be very much in order except for the lack of one item: the ocean. That's what led me to the Truth.

From A Truthful Adventure

I figured the best way to get into the nautical world of Santa Barbara was to walk the docks. After hopping a bus into town, I cruised down the main drag, State Street, towards the harbor. The first dock I stumbled upon was open to all visitors and had 5 commercial boats of various shapes and sizes moored to it. One of them had a captain-esque looking man aboard so I made conversation with him. This was Cap'n Davey of the Truth, a commercial dive boat / excursion vessel that makes its way to the Channel islands and back. Captain Davey with passenger Isabelle:

From A Truthful Adventure

He told me his boat was steaming out at 4AM sharp the next morning and I was welcome to come aboard for no pay other than food in my stomach. I graciously accepted his offer and became the boat's “deadhead” for the next 3 days. Since the buses don't run at 04:00, I had to make my way back that same day and spend the night aboard the vessel.

I returned around 22:00 with a bulging backpack eager for the weekend ahead. The boat was bustling with people loading their SCUBA equipment aboard, drinking beers, and having a grand time. Yet there wasn't a familiar face to be seen, Captain Davey nor the deckhand I had met earlier seemed to be aboard. I introduced myself around anyways with my official title of “deadhead” and quickly came to meet the passengers we would have aboard for the next three days. Being the highest ranking worker aboard invited many a question towards me: “How many PSI do your compressors do?”, “How many people are coming aboard this cruise?”, none of which I could answer. They soon understood that I was useless in that sense and I was left to flit about the boat checking out her floor plan.

The Truth was the first of the 3 dive boats owned and built by Truth Aquatics. If I recall correctly, she was built in the late 70's out of thick plywood encased with fiberglass. She's been serving ever since. On the bow she has two 30kg Bruce anchors, one of which is used as a stern anchor. Moving back, on the top level, she's got a pilot house with sleeping quarters for the crew along with a sundeck. Below lies the galley, the spacious dining area, and two heads. Below the waterline are the passenger quarters, enough berths to hold about 30 souls. Moving aft still, the dive deck is lined with tank holders and below it are the guts of the whole operation.

After moving down a staircase and donning a pair of hearing protection you find the twin diesel motors. They're massive things, the specs of which I'm unsure. In the same compartment are the dive compressors, the holding tanks, the battery banks, the genset, and many more goodies that keep her running smoothly. Farther aft, in the lazarette are two showers and hanging space for suits. She's a strong vessel that measures out to about 75' on deck.

After mingling for a bit, I went below decks to catch some shuteye knowing that my abilities would be requested bright and early the next morning.

I woke up to the rumble of the genset (a diesel-powered electric generator) cranking on at about 03:30; the motors soon followed. I climbed the stairs and found the familiar face of Captain Davey and the boat's deckhands: Brandon and KG. The Cap'n congratulated me on being able to make it and we were quickly on to the task of casting off. Brandon and KG had the operation on lock, so I was left to gather up and shank the lines. We glided out of the marina just behind another dive boat owned by Truth Aquatics, the Vision, and were soon cutting through the still, pre-dawn air. Once again, dawn at sea:

From A Truthful Adventure

The sun began to tickle the sky with its first tinges of gray as we steamed towards Isla Santa Cruz. Once we got a few miles offshore, the forecast started to show. Whitecaps popped up all around us and a steep, little swell was turning our glide into a hobble. Davey said all was well told us to go get some shuteye. And that we did. I went below and was quickly lulled to sleep by the rushing sound of water against the hull.

Next thing I woke up to was the hustle and bustle of rousing passengers and the aroma of pancakes. Back up the stairs I went to meet Katie, the voyage's chef, and what a chef she was. Throughout the trip, she spent practically all her time in the galley preparing lunch, breakfast, and dinner for the 20 people aboard. Not just “boat food” either, she prepared tri-tip, hamburgers, beer-boiled bratwursts, and many other delicious treats in bulk portions for all. She was easily the hardest worker on the Truth that trip. Katie with lunch:

From A Truthful Adventure

I requested from her a plate of blueberry pancakes and some eggs and then the day began. After we rounded the East Cape of Santa Cruz and turned up into the wind, it really started to honk. The gale warnings were justified, but we just kept motoring forwards toward the lee of the island. We soon found ourselves a quiet little anchorage to drop in and we put out a bow and a stern anchor. I really enjoyed the method used to anchor the Truth. Wind on the other side of Santa Cruz:

From A Truthful Adventure
From A Truthful Adventure

Both anchors hung off the bow and the stern anchor had a float at the end of its rode. Captain Davey would edge up to the shore, using the bow's protrusion to get a little extra length, and we'd drop the anchor in very shallow water. After letting out some rode, he'd set it and the deckhand would throw the float over to be retrieved at a later time. We'd then motor offshore to throw out the bow anchor and set it. Then Davey would slowly back up to the stern anchor buoy and a deckhand would pluck it with a boat hook and cleat it off. This final maneuver would always show how well the Captain knew his boat. He'd maneuver it right up to the rocks, stern side in, without qualm. It amazed me every time. Dropping the stern anchor:

From A Truthful Adventure

Once anchored, the fun began. Everyone began to suit up in their formidable cold-water diving suits and strapped on their SCUBA equipment. They stepped in one after the other, usually paired up as dive buddies. There were divers of all ages and types. The youngest was an 11-year-old Iz (pictured above) and the oldest had to be near 70 years of age. Some were getting their first open-water certification while others were chalking off triple-digit dives. Our job was to keep them happy and keep them diving. After the lot of them were in, a safety diver would be posted to make sure nobody ran into trouble and we would spend some time enjoying the sunshine (and freezing winds). Brandon supervising the dive deck and an instructor taking the plunge:

From A Truthful Adventure
From A Truthful Adventure

We did this across multiple anchorages usually hiding just outside the reaches of the gale-force northwester blowing through the channel. It was relatively easy-going and few problems arose. On the final day, Captain Davey decided to take a request from one of the instructors and drop the divers near Gull Island off the south coast of Santa Cruz. Just after sunrise we pulled anchor and dropped it on the, presently calm, windward side of Gull Island. The sunrise over Isle Anacapa and the anchorage at Gull Island:

From A Truthful Adventure
From A Truthful Adventure

The divers got a couple of dives in before the afternoon winds started to rise. We pulled up the anchors after a bit of finagling (the stern anchor rode had gotten wrapped around a rock) and moved to the lee side for the diver's final dives. All went in and all came up very pleased at the abundant sea life and the crystal clear visibility that site allotted them. While they were under, Katie cooked up a massive Memorial Day lunch that was soon engulfed by hungry divers. After all were aboard (and checked and double checked), we upped anchor and steamed back towards Santa Barbara.

The going was a bit rough at first as we had to go directly into the wind, but as soon as we made the turn towards the harbor, the swells began to roll smoothly under our hull. We made port around 17:30 and the passengers all went their own ways. Beers and cleaning was to be had by all left aboard. After these tasks were done, I took a bus back home and took a long, hot shower.

I made a great many a friend on this three day voyage. I was welcomed to come back anytime for future deadhead opportunities. They even suggested I get on their list of people to call in case of deckhand shortage. I really enjoyed everyone involved and would love to join as a crew full time. Sadly, my summer education cuts into many possible deckhand opportunities. Perhaps the next summer.

A couple more exposures. A shot from the helm as we approach Santa Barbara Harbor and one of the anchorages we managed to set up in during the 30+ knot winds:

From A Truthful Adventure
From A Truthful Adventure

1 comment:

  1. I don't know if you'll get this, but are you the Dan who went to French Polynesia with Daniel Wentworth? I lost touch with him and was wondering how he's doing. If you get this would you email me at johnmichaelchristian@gmail.com and let me know? Thanks so much,
    John

    ReplyDelete