View Full Version : Diving alone at Cape Mendocino...Bad idea

03-20-2007, 09:51 AM
The rule of "Dont ever dive alone" is there for a reason, a darned good reason.


March 19, 2007 4:48 pm US/Pacific

Coast Guard Searches For Missing Bay Area Diver
(BCN) The U.S. Coast Guard Monday expanded its search for a Bay Area diver and underwater photographer who has been missing for two days.

Kawika Chetron, 35, set out alone on his 17-foot Boston Whaler at 11 a.m. Saturday from Eureka on a planned round-trip to Cape Mendocino, Coast Guard Lt. Stephen Baxter said.

Chetron was expected to return Saturday night but never arrived.

"He told a Good Samaritan where he was going and when he was coming back. A lot of people don't have the smarts to let people know," Baxter said.

The acquaintance notified Coast Guard personnel, who located Chetron's vessel just west of Cape Mendocino with no sign of Chetron either on board or nearby.

The Coast Guard has been searching by air and plane since Saturday night. Today, search and rescue units scoured the coastline from Cape Mendocino to Fort Bragg, Baxter said.

The search includes a fixed wing aircraft from Air Station Sacramento, HH-65 Dolphin helicopters from air stations San Francisco and Humboldt Bay; a 378-foot High Endurance Cutter from San Diego, as well as a patrol boat and life boats.

Rescue crews are hopeful that Chetron's preparation and experience are helping him survive the 55-degree water, Baxter said.

Chetron was wearing a dry suit with a double liner to protect him from the elements.

"It's not like water temperature and air temperature are going to hinder him. He's a super experienced diver and all of his gear is up to speed," Baxter said.

Chetron runs the San Francisco-based Coldwaterimages.com, an underwater photography Web site. The site includes images from his dives along the California Coast, British Columbia, Papua New Guinea and Hawaii.

According to the Web site, Chetron was born in San Anselmo and has spent much of his life there. He attended engineering school at Harvard and Stanford and began photographing his dives in 2004.

The search was called off late Monday

This is a bad story with a bad ending. Went out solo diving to the Cape-

nuff said.

03-20-2007, 11:57 AM
Always sorry to hear about this type of news. The Buddy System works. The closest I ever came to drowning was up at Sea Ranch-Ocean Cove. We were diving in a real surgy and turbulent area which we called "The Washing Machine" because it's a horrid place almost 99% of the time. I was at a place we called the Cave because it consisted of 3 large boulders stacked to form a narrow and deep cave where then 9-10" abs hole up. I was the first to located the cave and kicked down and my arm was fully imbedded, attempting to pry a nice 9"er. The surge shifted and my arm was wedged into the hole. I was trying to get free, but the current kept me tight against the rocks. I'm saying, just remain calm and the surge will reverse and I'll be free. I kept waiting but the wave must have a big one, so I'm starting to exhale and thinking "This better switch or I'm a goner" Just as I'm thinking " This is it", the surge reverses, so I release my weight belt and kick hard for the surface. I started to inhale a mouthful of water just as I reached the surface. My buddy is watching me choking and puking as I am trying to clear my airways out for a good breath of air. After I recovered, my friend went down to the Cave to get my weightbelt and also brought up my ab and iron. My iron was still stuck in place, just as I left it. It was the 9 3/4" er that almost killed me. I keep it as a constant reminder on how fast you can lose it when things go wrong.

03-20-2007, 04:32 PM
Being a very experenced diver and spear fisherman, the way people get hurt and die is diving in dangerous seas or dangerous areas.
I almost always dive alone, as ther are very few people that i trust to dive with when hunting with a speargun. And very few people who are in the physical condition to freedive and hunt for 3 hours.
This guy that is missing off of Cape Mendocino saounds like a warm water diver without much if any experence in the cold N. California waters. A drysuit will keep you way to warm in 55% water. Its for very cold water in the 30% range. He probally overheated and passed out while diving.
Dive smart and live long!

03-20-2007, 07:22 PM
Maybe a Great White got him. That was my first thought.

03-21-2007, 08:32 AM
Ocean- Look at his website:


I think he is an exclusive cold water diver. We may all think that we are invincible and that "it is never going to happen to me". I hate to sound like a weenie, but safety always trumps experience in my book. You may dive alone 100,000 times but it only takes one time for something to go wrong. Ocean I do not want you to think that I doubt your skills or your physical prowess I just don't think solo diving is a great idea. In the big blue s--t happens and it is better to have a trusted friend there for you.

Please dive with a buddy, preventable tragedy is just that... preventable!

Jan any updates?

03-21-2007, 09:40 AM
I agree with Ocean 314, only on rare occasions have I dove with a partner. And the times I was with a partner we were in the same area but didnít have visual on one another at all times. I could have easily drowned with my buddy looking for abs only 25 feet away. The only way the buddy system will work when free diving is if your buddy waits right above you and you take turns watching each other. I think adding that kind of structure to the sport would take a lot of the fun out of it, for me anyway. I do know the dangers of the ocean because several years back I found a dead rock picker at Reef with buddy who was going ab diving for the first time.

03-21-2007, 11:40 AM
Agree with red dog , unless your dive partner is holding your hand , not much he will see or do . Might be a security blanket for an unexperienced diver . About the only thing a buddy can do in the case of a dissapearance is show the authorities where you were last seen .

I like diving with someone for the company on the drive and the typical fisherman / diver BS factor ! Quite often when camping on the coast with the family I dive by myself and feel quite safe . I don't dive into tight spots where the surge could push you into a real tight spot plus I will drop my belt in a second if the need be , so far I have not had to .

03-21-2007, 12:36 PM
Sad to hear about this guy, I checked out his website and he took soem great pictures.

03-21-2007, 03:51 PM
We usually dive with 2 or 3 divers, and try to keep pretty close to each other. We will use 1 -2 inner tube nets which are tied to a kelp string. Most of the time a diver is either bringing stuff to the net or resting as the others are down exploring. We are constantly looking for each other but there are times where you go out and explore around the other side of the rock. In that case we try to let another know that we'll be on the other side or somewhere else.

I cut my teeth as a North Coast Diver and really haven't been anywhere else other than on the Pacific Ocean from Jenner to the Oregon border. My friends, on other side have been diving since they were 8-10 years old. Its a cold, dark and rather unforgiving place with limited visability due to the kelp, surge and turbidity. Just the thought of jumping into the frigid waters makes me shrudder. We always liked the idea of dry suit but however most of us were using the Nylon II, Farmer John - type wetsuit. Long visabilities are a luxury, mostly 5-15 ft. Sometimes there's so much kelp, so that all you do is grab onto a string and let it swing you around and when you see a hole - you kick down and go for it. There were times where the visibility is 2 ft or less. Pretty scary because you are kicking down into the unknown and have to find the place. Knowing the area is a real plus.

The cold water really drains your energy. Between the surge and temperature we were only able to go in for 2-3 hours. After that you start to get tired and when you start getting the chills or your exposed areas get numb, it's time to get out or you are liable to cramp up or get careless and that's when things can go wrong.

03-21-2007, 08:04 PM
Fish R Us you dive in a area that i would never dive in. The danger and risk that you take is something that few diver are willing to do. Hence the big abs. I dive in a couple of spots only when the waves are under 5'ft. I get great vis and find plenty of fish. Abs i take on my way in as long as they are close to 8" i dont care aobut finding that big ab. but then i am spearfishing as my main reason for being in the ocean.
I also have a weight belt that is made up of pockets with velcro. I fill these pockets with old tire weights so as i get tired or if i get to tired i just empty some of the pockets and float. Oh and i dont use a tube. I hate chasing those things around i just strap my iron catch bag and a stringer onto another empty weight belt.

03-22-2007, 05:38 PM
I'm not convinced yet, that he drowned. Where's the boat? Maybe they'll find him off the side of the road in the bushes.

03-22-2007, 10:01 PM
This is it...

Search ends for missing S.F. sailor
Chronicle Staff Report

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Officials have called off the search for a San Francisco man who disappeared at sea while sailing on Saturday.

Underwater photographer and experienced diver Kawika Chetron, 35, never returned from a solo day trip from Eureka to Cape Mendocino, according to the U.S. Coast Guard, which began searching for him Saturday.

Searchers found Chetron's boat, a 17-foot Boston Whaler, just west of Cape Mendocino. Chetron was not on board and could not be found in the area, Lt. Stephen Baxter said.

The Coast Guard used an airplane, several helicopters and numerous boats during the search operation, but suspended the search at sunset Monday.


It's not unusual that bodies don't get recovered up here given the conditions and curents and the sea life (Crabs) THe ocean conditions since Last Saturday off the cape were less than ideal for a rescue or recovery.

May he rest in peace.

And a prayer for him.


Crossing the Bar

Sunset And Evening Star

And One Clear Call for Me!

And may there be no moaning of the bar,

when I put out to sea.

But such a tide as moving seems asleep

too full for sound and foam.

When that which drew from out the

boundless deep turns again home.

Twilight and evening bell, and after that the dark!

And may there be no sadness of farewell,

when I embark;

For though from out our bourne of time

and place the flood may bear me far

I hope to see my pilot face to face

when I have crossed the bar.

Alfred Tennyson

03-23-2007, 06:31 AM
A lot of things could have happened to the guy. diving from a boat adds another element of risk. I bet that he slipped and hit his head on the side of the boat as he was entering the water. i would bet a bigger wave then what was normal hit the boat just as he was getting ready to enter the water.
That is something i dont do alone, dive from a boat way to many things can go wrong without someone in the boat.

03-23-2007, 10:18 AM

I agree with you in that the place is not a cakewalk. The only exception is the 1% of the time when the ocean opens up flat and the place is divable. This is usually the infamous last 2 weeks of August when ocean is usually settles way down. This 2 week window can shift a couple weeks, depending on current weather conditions. The rest of the time, you can look down at the place and "NO WAY".

03-23-2007, 04:51 PM
I've been out there lots and lots of times over the past ten years. I can count on one hand the number of days it's been calm. Funny thing is, fishing always seemed to suck on those days.

03-23-2007, 10:38 PM
This story reminds me alot of my buddy William Krupski who drowned at Van Damme while diving with his wife about 2 years back. *They didn't recover his body until about a month later and it was only identifiable from the wetsuit. *He was very experienced too and had about 20 years under his belt. *I agree with the posters who say that the buddy system doesn't work with ab diving. *If you're in 30-40 feet with thick kelp, you'll have drowned before your buddy can do anything, even if he's right above you. *And almost every ab diver goes searching for at least 10-15 feet before surfacing. *Bottom line: *your buddy will not save you from drowning in a breath hold dive while he's treading water at the surface. *If you want to stay safe, I'd recommend memorizing this sentence that an old fisherman told me once and that I've found from hard experience to be very true:

"No fish, abalone, or piece of equipment is ever worth risking your life for."

People often drown because they're unwilling to let go of their weight belt or lose that speargun or leave that 10 inch ab behind or not meet their limit of 3 that day (Krupski's case). *Greed will only get you killed and its certainly been the case during the few times I've come close to drowning. *Pushing my lungs past their limit at 40 feet just to pull a 9-3/4 ab that refused to budge was DUMB and I'll never take that risk again.

Rest in peace Mr. Chetron:

Do not stand at my grave and weep
I am not there; I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow,
I am the diamond glints on snow,
I am the sun on ripened grain,
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning's hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there; I did not die.


03-24-2007, 08:11 AM
I grew up in Mendo. (No mention of gale warning.) He was known for his diving abilities. Great guy. No one should brave diving alone. Anything can happen. Faulty gauge. Ruptured reg or hose. Thats just gear. Fishing wire is cruel too. I've bashed my head a couple of times. Passing out isn't good....
Without a buddy few accidents are recoverable. (Yet I admit to years of crazy free diving.) I just don't condone...

The World has lost a real "artist". One few will replace.

03-27-2007, 09:47 AM
Here's an in depth article on the Diver