Gear in bags, motivation pumping and the cold November morning air in the face as I exit my building. It couldn’t be better. I’m heading out spearfishing with a new crew to a new spot this morning. We meet up in Pollença town before the sun is up, hook up the boat trailer to the car and hit the road.
After some time we reach the destination, a small bay with a loading ramp for the boat. What we don’t know is that the access to the boat ramp is closed off for road works. Duh! First mishap. After some negotiations with the foreman at the site we are allowed to bring down the trailer by hand, on a different ramp leading not to the water, but to the beach. Luckily it’s a small and light boat and we are four pair of hands to do it, even pulling the trailer over the soft sand is manageable.
The dive spot is beautiful! Big rocks scattering the bottom of the cove at around 15m depth and quick drop offs from the walls on the outer edges to 20m and beyond. I start with some 10 – 15m dives among the rocks trying to get the attention of some decent sized Sargos and Variadas without success. On the 4th dive I spot I nice Sargo Picudo over at another rock at around 16m depth. I make a slow approach and take hiding behind an arch.
While I am laying there, calling the fish in and waiting for it to come closer, I spot in the distance two amberjacks that I estimate to about 50cm. This is when I make a wrong decision. Instead of leaving for the surface, recover and return for another dive at the amberjacks I stay put and wait for the Sargo Picudo to line up for the shot. I start to challenge my breathhold at this point and have some strong contractions, but I wait. I finally take the shot. It’s good and hits right behind the head. I let the reel line go and head for the surface for some much needed air.
Face back in the water and on my snorkel again I start pulling up the fish and spear. Suddenly in the corner of my eye I see what looks like a plastic center piece from my speargun reel slowly falling to the bottom. I dip down and grab it realising that the centre screw must have come undone and got lost. Without spare parts on the boat I will have to make a makeshift solution for the shooting line, bypassing the reel. Not a good start… I get my hand on the spear, kill off the fish, blead and gut it on the spot.
At this point I start to feel the familiar symptoms that something is wrong, an irritation in the chest accompanied by the urge to cough. I suppress the feeling to cough and start to pay attention to my breathing. It’s heavier than it should be this long after surfacing, a couple of minutes have passed already and I’m not yet recovered, another symptom. This dive was a mistake.
I curse myself for being careless, collect my gear and fish and head back to the boat. Sitting on the fender of the little RIB that serves as the dive boat for the day I cough gently and spit in my glove – mucus and traces of blood. The final confirmation that I didn’t really need. I have squeezed my lungs again.
I have a history of lung squeezes, even though I’ve managed to stay clear of them for over a year now. Facing the fact that I have done it again rips all the joy of the catch and the beautiful dive spot away from under my feet. Every time it happens I question what I’m doing. At the same time I know, it is an injury that I should be able to avoid. Thoracic flexibility and relaxation is the key. Now, after some time to analyze I know it happened because I did a dive that I wasn’t prepared for. I haven’t done much training or diving with contractions lately. At the same time I’m caring for my little daughter, carrying her around leaving tension and tightness in my upper body, I sleep poorly and haven’t prioritized time for stretching in a very long time. This means that both my diaphragm and the muscles surrounding my thoracic cavity are tighter than they should be. This inflexibility in combination with a lack of relaxation at the end of the hunt caused the contractions to create too big of a pressure on my lungs as the diaphragm and intercoastal muscles did their best to suck down the air that wasn’t there into my chest. The fact that I wasn’t properly didn’t help either. Some membranes in my lungs collapsed and allowed liquid to enter the air pockets in my lungs, hence the urge to cough and traces of blood.
As the wind on the boat is cooling me down I decide to slip back into the water, but to stay on the surface, careful not to make the injury any worse. As I snorkel swim over to the group one of the guys surfaces with a big Morey eel. It’s about a meter long and fat. A nice catch. Personally I am not a big fan of Morey meat so I don’t catch them. If I stumble upon a nice recipe though I might. Anyway, Morey eels are difficult to kill. Their skulls are hard and they move around like crazy so to finish them off is a challenge. As the struggle goes on on the surface the eel gets hold of my dive buoy and bites into it, with it’s sharp teeth the inflatable buoy stands no chance. It quickly goes flat.
The shit just keeps happening. A lung injury, a broken reel and a punctured buoy. This is it. I’m done. I swim back to the boat and promise myself, cold or not, not to get out until we’re back on land.