Russian Gulch to Caspar Beach, September 13th 2008.

Another BASKer, Mark, was interested in going abalone diving. I originally wasn’t going to go again but since the raccoons stole my first one I decided to go again. We worked out a plan for the day to keep our dive gear with us and go diving on the way back to camp in the afternoon. This meant that we had to keep our heavy dive belts in the bottom of our kayaks all day long.

First we paddled out Russian Gulch and bypassed all the caves and arches that some of us had seen the day before. Then we paddled close to shore through more beautiful caves and arches on another great day with calm swell. Mary Ann Furda found a large float on a beach and had us tie it to her kayak to take back with her. Between a late party the night before and a late start in the morning we didn’t make it to Caspar until an hour and a half after the predicted high tide.

Despite arriving late for the high tide there were still some waves worth a few rides at this beach famous for good surfing. We call it “Caspar the Friendly Beach”. Mary Ann was still working on her program to get more comfortable with waves and spent a lot of time in them. She even got dumped over by one wave but went back out for more.

Kate DesLauriers, who had to work Friday and arrived late in the morning, showed up at the beach to meet us for lunch. She carried a few things for us back to camp. Mary Ann’s float and Jonathan Purcell’s weight belt. He decided not to dive with us and went back with Mary Ann after she surfed a little longer in the lowering tide. Just Mark and I went back hugging the shore looking for a good place to dive.

I lead Mark through the calm channel inside Point Cabrillo, a place the other three had gone around on the way north. Next we had to get past the Cabrillo Marine Reserve where collecting abalone is forbidden. I could not see the sign I remembered that marked the border of this area. But I was pretty sure it ended where the houses along the shore started. We went a few coves past this to be sure and stopped in a cove I had noted on the way north.

I hauled my kayak up onto a rock and dressed for diving again to replace the abalone eaten by the raccoons. Mark is an excellent diver and quickly got his limit of three! Working hard I tried to find large abalone but eventually gave up and plucked two “clinkers”. (Barely legal abalone that the calibers just “clink” on). We paddled back to Russian Gulch and arrived just after Mary Ann and Jonathan had landed.

That evening Dennis Holton and Mark spent hours in their campgrounds gutting, cleaning, pounding, slicing and preparing their abalone. I took my two to the group campground for a more social experience. I cooked mine using the technique I learned from my brother Ralph: Abalone in the Half Shell. (That’s a joke, abalone only have one shell). You put the cleaned abalone back in the shell with some sauce and place the shell directly onto the coals of the campfire. Not nearly as much pounding, no slicing and time to socialize and eat with everyone else while the smashed marine invertebrate cooks. Because I had gone back out and caught two today, I had enough to cook one the traditional way with garlic butter and white wine. The second one I cooked a way that some people think is a travesty: The shell is lined with bacon and the abalone is smothered in BBQ sauce before placing in the shell in the coals. This recipe acquired more and more adjectives as it cooked and became “Southwestern Style Texas Bacon Bar-B-Que” by the time it was ready to eat.

All text and images Copyright © 2008 by Mike Higgins / contact