The last morning before leaving northern California, and our vacation home, and returning back to school in southern California, my brother Justin invited me along for a dive. Our friends Greg and Vanessa had their boat ready and space for one more freediver if I was interested…which of course I was! By the time we met up with our friends they’d already dropped a few crab pots and as we suited up and stepped out onto the dock, which was covered with frost, I realized this was going to be a cold one.
The first stop was a series of off-shore pinnacles known for sizable scallops. The seas looked calm enough when we arrived, but every one of us was dreading jumping in. After all the sun was barely on the rise and by now my feet were numb on the deck of the boat. In usual character Justin was the first in the water. “Wow!” he said aloud with a surprised smile, “the water is really warm!” We all hung over the pontoon of the inflatable with wide eyes and grinning. “Really?” I said excitedly. “NO!” Justin replied with a chuckle. We were all laughing pretty hard by now. Of course it wasn’t going to be warm; it was January on the north coast! It turned out to be 48° F.
A huge wall of white water lifted Greg and me high above the exposed pinnacles and dropping us back down only minutes after leaving the boat. There was a moment on the rapid decent that I accessed my memory, wondering if I had seen any indication of rock below us. My mind drew a blank, and luckily there was nothing but 60ft deep water below…because as fast as we were falling, that would have hurt! Greg and I looked at each other and then back at the frothing swirls of whitewater currents writhing and enveloping all of the wash rocks that lay before us. My brother was already diving on one, disappearing into the turbulent and heavily aerated waters below. Another 12 ft swell of white water came rushing through lifting us high, this time all Greg and I could do was burst into laughter…it was good to be home! Justin pulled two nice scallops at this spot, many good fish were taken at the next spot, and as we pulled the crab pots we were rewarded with 24 legal crabs. A truly great day on the water!
Back in southern California, I, like most college students, was having issues with the disbursement of my federal financial aid. It had been raining hard which was not so good for finding archaeological fieldwork, and all the firms I had contacted gave me the same reply, things were very slow. Checking the $30.26 in my account I realized that now was exactly the type of situation that made me proud to be a forager. I just hope the money comes in by the time rent is due! Though rent was dependent on college disbursement, I knew that I could be proactive in provide meals fit for royalty…and on a budget. The first night was freshly speared lingcod fish tacos (thanks to my brother’s generous fillet). For lunch the following day I made a batch of ramen from scratch using freshly made sheephead fish stock (on recommendation from my buddy Kirby) and a handful of black trumpet and yellowfoot mushrooms we had gathered and dried recently. Finally last night it was herb and garlic broiled Dungeness crab (thank you Greg and Vanessa) with a side of mashed potatoes and a total cost of $0.78 per plate. I even foraged the lemon and the rosemary; it’s nice to have supportive neighbors!
Keep your fingers crossed that my financial aid comes soon…but in the meantime the last abalone of last season is beckoning to be transformed into spring rolls! Remember to always enjoy the act of harvesting, harvest ethically and sustainably, and always strive to keep the old ways alive!- By Kevin Smith