Tuesday, December 13, 2005
I wrote a story a while back for Offshore magazine about my experiences taking people out to swim with sharks. Well, not actually swimming with them. These were all cage dives, as you can see in the photo, with a cage that had no door -- instead, it had a hatch in the top -- to keep the braver individuals from being tempted to go nose to nose with the toothy critters.
(You non-marine oriented people take note: On a boat or ship, a door is a means of egress through a bulkhead. A hatch is a means of egress through a deck. Bulkhead = wall. Deck = floor. A boat can be carried on a ship. A ship cannot be carried on a boat. Unless it's a submarine. All subs are called boats.)
I got into this shark cage thing when renowned wildlife photographer, Bill Curtsinger, contracted me to take him around the Gulf for three weeks. Among our other explorations were three days filming sharks 30 to 50 miles off the coast. Back then there were a lot more blue sharks. If you go to Bill's site you'll see some of the blue shark photos he took while chartering my boat.
Having taken wreck and wall divers in years previous, the idea of cage diving had its appeal. Any captain will tell you there's always a bit of anxiety when divers are in the water. They kind of get spread out.
Divers not only get separated from one another, they don't always follow the anchor line back to the boat. If it's a drift dive, and there is no anchor line, the situation can be even more exasperating.
See the movie, Open Water. I'm not trying to scare anyone, just illustrate what can happen if you get overly adventurous. There are a multitude of stupid ways to die. Being left behind on a wreck dive because you wanted to swim to the edge of a perceived debris field is chief among them.
This is why cage diving has such an appeal to the captain who for years has taken divers to wrecks and walls. Divers in cage. Cage tethered to boat. In many ways, this type of trip, the shark trip with a cage, is the safest type of dive trip.
A little note about watching out for the competition: Ten or more years ago, after I got out of the business, I put my cage up for a sale, A local captain who wanted to get into the biz called me up about it. I gave him a price and we made arrangements for him to come and look at the cage.
He came. He looked. He took measurements. Then he went home and built his own cage from my design. He stole my design and started his own business. The honorable thing to do would have been to call me up and hire me to do one hour's worth of consulting. For $50 to $75 he could have bought a lot of good will and more. Instead, he gets failing grades from me, and not one referral, ever. The guy is a retired cop, too.
I ended up selling the cage on eBay to a captain from Nantucket. The transaction could not have been more enjoyable. The buyer came up in a 3/4 ton Ford with his son and a friend. They made a day of it, cut the cage in half, and went home with the pieces tied into the bed of the truck. My cage was one solid piece, but they left it in panels so it could be transported easily and assembled on site.
Goes to show you the difference in people.