Abalone Diving, Secret Cove – Gualala, California – Mike B., Ian B, and Martin – 10-12 June, 2016

It is never an easy thing coordinating three separate lives to come together for a weekend adventure but Mike, Ian and myself, made that happen June 10, 11 & 12.  Our motivation?  The passing of our long time and dear friend Dana Durgin.  Dana lost has battle with cancer on May 22nd at 4:20am.  He was always on these types of adventures with us and in a Tribute to him, where ever he may be, we came together and on 10 June at 5:30pm, we headed for the Pacific to gather a few of the illusive NorCal Red Abalone.  

It was a marathon weekend.  Departing at 5:30pm our first stop was in the Auburn area along I-80 in California to Ikedas for burgers, fries and a beverage.  Satisfactorily full, we headed for Casa de Pavelka in Cloverdale; our 5 Star, and I mean 5 Star, accommodations for the night.  I digress briefly to introduce two other wonderful friends of Dana and ours.  Ron and Jane have been in my life since the mid 80’s and I introduced them to Mike and Dana many years ago.  They developed a “hunting” adventure relationship over the years hunting lobster, pigs, deer, elk and other species of big game on the west coast.  Ron and Jane, being in Mexico for a family vacation, generously opened up their home for us to rest.  

Arriving in Cloverdale at 11pm, we bunked down for the night and rose early Saturday morning.  Looking for a breakfast, we found Zinis Diner and enjoyed a great meal. Fueled up the Dodge and headed for Gualala via Stuarts Point/Skaggs Spring road; about the twistiest, up and down, narrow road we have ever been on but by 10:45am, we were parked at the gate to our Secret Cove.  

The lock to the gate is always precarious but Ian got it open and we walked out to the water to assess the conditions. Below is what we saw…! 

A water state calmer than I have personally seen in the past 6 years of visiting this location and skys as you can see…clear to the horizon.  We wasted no time; Dana was overseeing and we knew that Dana would not let this last long if we procrastinated; so we did not.  We organized our equipment, had a conversation with the local Abalone Legend, Abalone Jones, got his graces and hit the water. 

The abalone were plentiful.  We could have limited (3) in about 10 minutes.  In fact, my first dive I saw three keepers within 3 inches of each other.  I could have pluck, pluck, plucked and brought them all up and been done but they were 8’s (7 inches is legal) and I was hoping for more of a challenge in search of larger Abs; after all we had 20 mouths to feed the next day.  

El Nino has been kind and the water?  Warm!  No thermometer but I would estimate the high 50’s. Beautiful conditions.  We did dive after dive looking for the perfect specimens.  After about 2 hours of absolute perfect conditions and bliss, we exited the water with our respective catches and prepared them for transport to Reno.

Mike to my right and Ian to my left; Father and Son

Once back to the truck, we reminisced about our times with Dana, the past 2 hours in the ocean and how we could have gotten a bigger ab, the beautiful day, the friendship we have all had for over 30 years! A realization of the blessed friendship, adventures and importance in each others lives we have had for over 3 decades! All the while, Dana sitting on the cliff and watching three of his most valued friends, flounder in the waters of the Pacific Ocean.  

Not much more to the story save, we arrived back in Reno on 11 June at 10:30pm, 29 hours following our departure; 13 hours of driving, 8 hours of relaxation and sleep at Casa de Pavelka, 5 hours at and in the ocean and 3 hours of stops because the “brawn” of the group had overactive bladder and needed Ice Cream!  

12 June, 8pm, our adventure would be complete as we had all our families, Dana’s sister and her family and a few other friends of Dana over at 3 pm where we prepared over 20 pounds of California’s finest Red Abalone and by the graces of our loved one, recently departed, consumed it all in his Honor.  Dana C Durgin 1948 – 2016, we will endeavor to do this annually but know…we miss you my friend!