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February 2014    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Vol. 29, No. 2   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Cabo Pulmo, Baja California, Mexico

a fish-filled marine preserve for divers who like “rustic”

from the February, 2014 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

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Dear Fellow Diver:

A southern wind was blowing steadily through Cabo Pulmo in late October, wreaking havoc on my dives. Of course, the wind, according to many locals, was "stronger than I've seen in a long time," and "it's not usually like this." On my first dive day, it was merely "breezy" when I backrolled over the side at El Bajo, a small reef north of Cabo Pulmo. I went down to 60 feet and had 80-foot visibility, so I forgot about the wind above. There were healthy hard and soft corals standing tall, and some of the usual Baja suspects -- Panamic porkfish, graybar grunts, Cortez rainbow wrasse, guineafowl puffers -- eyed me casually as they made their rounds. The highlight was at the end of the dive, one Cabo Pulmo is famous for. Big-eye jacks, thousands of them, whirled around in a massive school, with a steady line of more jacks moving in and out. Their silvery scales shimmered as they clustered together, 15 feet across and six feet high, hovering just above the sea floor.

A Deluxe Bungalow at Cabo Pulmo Beach ResortBut the awe wore off when I ascended into choppy waves. I had to wriggle onto the simple fisherman's panga, which had no ladder. It had three wooden platform seats across, with tanks, weights and fins placed randomly at the bottom. Divers were moved around the gear when Don Roberto, the captain, and Leonardo, the divemaster, needed to get to it. Leonardo always wanted my group of six to surface together. When we did, he pulled himself into the boat first, then took our weights and BCDs one at a time. Then each of us had to haul ourselves in, scissor-kicking our way over the side and making such an ungraceful landing that Don Roberto sometimes couldn't help but chuckle. But no one else was chuckling on that first dive. Vickie, a friendly retiree from Vancouver, was upset there was no ladder, because her husband, Laurie, had a fused ankle, which made it hard for him to climb in. "Believe me, you don't want a ladder in these waves," Leonardo said. Even though waves were only a relatively mellow three- to four-foot height, Leonardo, a thirtysomething Venezuelan who had come to Cabo Pulmo to perfect his underwater photography, was also their victim. The waves changed his angle of entry so that he smashed his mask on the seat when he came into the boat; safety-glass shards went everywhere. As for me, I looked down to see steady bleeding from just below my kneecap. Seems I had caught the edge of a tank during my jump into the boat. David, a government worker from the San Francisco Bay Area who was my dive buddy for the day, handed me a rag to clean up the blood. "Some pretty rustic diving," he said....


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