Neah bay

This story has been published already. Well, a version of the story anyway. In a podcast or a magazine I think. This version is from my point of view…

My brother in law is a free diver. That means he has trained his body to submerge under water for long periods of time. No tanks of air to breathe, just hold your breath and go. He also stalks fish and spears them while diving. Spear fishing they call it. 
A few years ago Chad invited me to go with him. A couple other guys that dive were heading out to Neah Bay for a few days of fishing and fun. “Hell yeah” I said, “let’s go.”

Three o’clock in the morning I’m at Chad’s loading the last supplies into his boat. We have to drive almost completely around the Puget Sound and then across the Olympic Penninsula to get to the destination. It’ll take a few hours, so I have a coffee. 

I know one of the dudes in the truck,  but getting to know the other at this hour ain’t going to happen. I’m sitting in the back seat of a pickup, trying to road nap, but there seems to be a chain bouncing on a steel drum somewhere between me and Stranger Steve. Every time I’m almost dozing off, a bump stirs a rattle-ch-ch-boom sound. I should have brought a beer. 

About a hundred miles in listening to a chain bounce I finally nod off. When I woke up, the chain was still bouncing and we were about 3 miles further down the trail. I think either I farted or stranger Steve did. I’m not comfortable with these guys to address the obvious yet, so I fake it till I fall asleep again. 

Once we start emerging back into towns that have storefronts with lights on, the yarns of diver trips and the shenanigans within start coming out. “Remember that motel, the Starfish? Isn’t that the one where we sang karaoke until last call and then I hugged the shitter while you slept in the bathtub?”

“Sure is, Did you ever find your pants?”

What the hell am I doing here? I’ve never even tried to snorkel, but my Bon Jovi stories usually don’t surface until well after daylight. 

I kind of have to pee, not an emergency, but the need is there. I’m not ready to call a “pullover ” yet. 

The chain is still rattling. 

To suppress the urine problem, I finish my lukewarm coffee. It makes sense to me. Laughing at the appropriate story breaks while thinking about where this chain is and how can I silence it. 

We pull into a gas station/bait shop/deli/liquor store/bingo hall. I couldn’t jump out to pee fast enough. With all the place had going on inside, it took me a minute to figure out where the toilets were. Ahhh sweet relief. On my way back out to the truck I bought a large coffee. 

“The road gets fun from here!” Chad announces. 

Leaving the highway, we get onto the switchback filled bass ackwards backroad that leads onto the absolute northern and western point of the continental United States.  And I mean switchback after switchback that will cause a guy who doesn’t get carsick on the edge of losing it. Glad I never had that beer! 

We get to the boat launch, absolutely beautiful weather! Sun is out, couple of the really fluffy clouds far in the distance and all is looking well. I didn’t pitch in for gas yet so I run up to pay the weekends launch fees. I first walked to the wrong building, but find the convenience store boat launch harbor master on my second attempted door. “I’ll take a 3 day launch pass and a half case of beer.” 

“What do you mean dry?”

“So where can I get a half case of beer?”


All the way back up the switchback highway to the multipurpose fuel stop… looks like I’m drying out this weekend. Grab the launch pass and head to the boat. 

I probably heard an I told you so or two from the guys, but they were in full on fish mode now. Gearing up to dive in Washington is involved. Chad has a spare wetsuit that I am fighting to get into. This is pre yoga and pre TRX era, I’m chasing the zipper like one of the forty or so abandoned, close to feral dogs, chasing it’s tail all around the parking lot. I’m last in suit, let’s launch. 

I have to admit, this inlet and the waters just outside the rock barrier are the smoothest and serene I’ve ever seen. My brother in law turns up the Reggae music, we cruise on out and around, this is what life is all about! It doesn’t take long to find our first dive location. We anchor up and fly the diagonal flag. Chad and Steve go in first, I’m still fighting my flippers. I know they have a better name but I call them flippers. 

I’m on the boat with Sean and it appears he’s waiting for me to go in first. He gives me a few last minute pointers and ensures that no ropes or other supplies are obstructing my backwards fall into the Pacific Ocean. I hold my goggles and throw my head back, here goes nothing. 


You know the gasp you take when the shower is cold? Multiply that by infinity + 1. The salt in the ocean changes the freezing point of water to nuts touching your liver degrees. I gasp while the snorkel is still under the surface, my lungs fill with the briny salt concoction that was just ran through a slurpee machine. My instinct was to curl up into the fetal position and hope for the Coast Guard to find me before any more brain damage occurs. Instead I got my head out of the water and coughed up my shock and maybe a little bit of my scrotum. 

Sean was still looking out for me, “Are you okay? What was that squealing sound? Sounded like you landed on an adolescent mermaid or something.” Not an exact quote, but something close was said I’m sure of it. 

“I’m good ” I lied. 

I cleared the snorkel and washed the water out of my mask, most of it got in thru my nostrils during the hyperventilating fit. Got myself together and eventually put my face back into the water to see what I could see. 

I made it about 15 seconds before hyperventilating again, jeez this is cold! I try as hard as I can but there is nowhere close to enough urine in my body to warm up this suit. I force my face under water again, my breathing resembles the fast part of a didgeridoo song. 

After the longest 5 minutes of human history I have managed to calm my breathing down just enough to actually see the bottom. I’m holding a spear that is effective for about 5 feet or so and I know for a fact I can’t submerge. I still hold on to the hope of filling my limit, so I paddle my frozen ass to the shallows. 

After 2 or 3 more panic attacks I realized this is not my sport. I found the anchor line and followed it back to the boat. I had no problem playing boat captain and listening to audio books the rest of the weekend.  Chad nailed his limit each day, and rockfish tacos became a new favorite!

Oh, we found the toolbox full of chains and put it in the bed of the truck. 

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