Had a blast with you! Wow! You’re great at writing!!VAGABONDING IN A VIRUS
That Siren of the Sea,
She’s still callin’ to me,
She’s still movin’ to me,
That Siren of the Sea.
After spending months, and months,
doing the "right" thing,
observing the quarantine,
I was jonesing bad.
Deep sea sport fishing is my mistress,
and I was missing everything about her something awful.
With the U.S./Mexico border closed,
we were being kept apart from each other,
thru no fault of our own.
Our springtime rendezvous?
Our lost weekend in June?
Our 4th of July picnic?
That was it for me.
I couldn't take being away from her any longer.
I rolled down to San Diego Friday morning.
I crossed the county line and wondered where the rush hour traffic was.
It looked like a Sunday morning.
That's NOT a good sign for the local economy, I thought.
I pulled into the parking lot.
The sign said FULL,
and it looked it.
Figured I'd take a chance.
Just as I turned the corner,
the fish gods smiled on me,
I see a truck with some anglers backing out of a spot.
The spot is less than 100 feet from the front door of Pt. Loma Sport Fishing.
I felt like I won the jackpot,
and I'm not even on the boat yet!
I've got time to relax for a moment.
As usual, I hadn't slept so good last night.
The anticipation, even in "normal" times,
keeps me up.
Now, the "anticipation meter" is pegged,
for obvious reasons.
I can't wait to see my girl.
The combination of advancing age,
and declining physical condition,
has heightened my desire to savor each and every moment of this adventure.
I want to have "fun" again.
Recently, I’ve wondered if I ever would.
I'm riding the Vagabond this time.
It's the Watkins Charter group.
I met Terry a few years ago on another San Diego boat,
and we bonded.
He's a fine gentleman from the Old School.
Powerful, but humble.
I felt fortunate to receive an invitation,
and a chance to hang out with his associates.
The group was already lined up on the dock.
Thru a mask, dark glasses, and a hat,
I said hello to Terry.
Took him a moment to recognize me.
He sent me to the office to finish some paperwork,
where I ran into Captain Dave.
I could tell right away he's a funny guy,
and I knew we were in for some laughs together over the next couple of days.
I went back to my truck and gathered up my gear.
I head to the back of the line, but somebody calls my name.
It's Dave Bee.
He's on this trip too,
and tells me to throw my gear in his cart.
I met Dave on the same trip I met Terry.
Since then, we've fished together a few times,
We shared a boat down in Puerto Vallarta last season.
Dave & I spend some time catching up on all things Corona virused,
and I start meeting some of guys waiting on line.
First up was Chris, who bore an eerie resemblance to Terry.
Next, Team Vegas, led by Tall Matt.
He had Brent, a Michael, and a Robert in tow with him.
Then there was Matt #2.
He was older and taller than Tall Matt.
There was Brent #2.
He's Terry's neighbor.
There was another Brent.
Impossible to remember,
but another one of the rituals we perform,
that you never thought you would miss,
but I did.
Captain Happy, aka Dave, magically appeared,
and said, "Let's go Fishing!"
We proceeded down to the boat,
where the crew was waiting to embrace us with open arms,
and warm smiles.
We got stowed away,
and took off for the bait dock to get loaded.
We'll be heading west, towards San Clemente Island.
We are hoping to fish today, but we'll have to find them first.
I was on the deck,
and I spy a guy,
with a hat, glassed and bandana covering every inch of his face,
but something seems familiar.
Maybe it was the white boots.
"Nigel, is that you?"
Behind the mask I hear, "Hi Joe!"
Another friend of Terry's I've had the good fortune to share company with.
We chat, and I discover, he, like me,
is on his first trip of the year,
to rekindle the romance with his sweetheart.
We're testing the waters together,
with equal trepidation.
It was good to "see" him again.
Regarding Social Distancing,
I wish I could tell you that six foot spacing was observed at all times,
and masks were worn when that wasn't possible.
I wish I could tell you that, but I can't.
I can tell you there was an awkwardness among strangers I'd never seen before.
While the crew mastered the bait,
Captain Adam asked us to grab our masks,
and head to the bow for a "safety seminar".
We've all heard it a million times,
but standing under the warm sun,
beneath a clear, blue sky,
the salt air in my lungs,
it felt like the "first time".
Captain Dave, the funny one,
took over for the "tackle talk" portion of the program.
He told us fishing had NOT been fun the last trip.
The tuna had taken a holiday.
But, if we can find them,
he told us what he wanted us to use,
to try and catch them.
Dave Bee leans over and whispers in my ear,
"Man, how many different ways are there to say 'thirty pound string & a #2 hook'?"
I nodded, but thought to myself,
"I know Dave,
but in the middle of the quarantine,
I was missing this shit."
The Tackle Talk continued.
Dave Bee started feeding "straight" lines to Captain Dave, the comedian, and he started hitting them out of the park.
Pretty soon, we were busting up on the Dave & Dave Show.
The ice was officially broken.
We got underway,
the Skipper got on the PA,
and told us to relax.
We had forty or fifty miles to go,
before we'd reach the hunting grounds.
I went into the galley and introduced myself to Chefs Brandon and Kit.
They did a great job keeping us well fed during the voyage.
Equally important, they were both willing to work with me to accommodate my desire for social distancing during the meal periods.
"Anything you want Joe, just ask."
Around six p.m. the Skipper throttled back the engines.
He's found a school of tuna playing with birds and bait on the surface.
He stealthily makes his approach,
but they sink out before we get close.
The Skipper comes on the PA to tell us he's heading for San Clemente Island.
We're going to have dinner in the lee,
grab some sleep,
and leave for the Cortez Bank around midnight.
One of the Vegas boys, Mad Mike,
has been trolling a cedar plug,
He's a ball of energy that can't be contained.
Scott, the cigar guy, and I trade puffs while we watch the Madman,
get to know each other,
and wait for second call to dinner.
By chance, or by accident, Kit steers me to an unoccupied table.
"Cool", I thought.
Couple of minutes later,
I'm joined by Captain Adam,
and Captain Andrew, aka "Fluffy".
Well, that's even cooler than winning a jackpot.
If I have to share air,
those are the guys I'd want to share it with.
We got to know each other a little bit over a plate of ribs.
After dinner, I stopped by the bar for a night cap.
They went back to work.
After my drink, and before I headed downstairs to my stateroom,
I took a peek at the sky,
and said "thank you",
to all my lucky stars.
A wake up call at midnight,
and a bumpy crossing,
made for little sleep.
That's two nights in succession I haven't slept well.
I got up at five,
pounded some coffee and pancakes into me before hitting the rail.
The rail hit me back hard with no love.
Worse, over the next couple of hours,
I watched three different guys step into the slot on my left and get bit as quick as they got there.
I was hoping this wasn't going to be the pattern for the day when my sardine finally got picked up.
We did a little dance,
and then Crew member Tommy came over to check me out.
"Can I check your drag Joe?"
"Sure Tommy. You know more than I do."
He tightened up my star,
pulled line by hand,
made another small adjustment,
and pulled line again,
and handed it back to me.
"I'd fish that", he says.
Seconds later, the hook pulled free of the fish.
The two actions were totally unrelated.
I felt bad for Tommy just cuz of the timing.
A newbie might have thought he cost me a fish.
He didn't, and I didn't care anyway.
I had got bit, and that's the thing I had come for.
My girl still loved me.
I had to laugh.
This IS fun, and I'm having it.
Like the very first time.
I had a big smile on my face,
when I turned around and bumped into Kit.
He said, "Joe, if you're this happy when you lose one,
how happy are you when you land one?"
I looked at that Big Man,
and I said,
"Let's try to find out, shall we?"
The Skipper says "wind 'em in."
Instead of sitting on the anchor all day,
he'd prefer to make a long drift.
About tenish or so,
the guys working the yo yo irons started putting a score on the board.
For the bait guys, not much was happening 'till about noon.
That's when my lover picked me up again.
There was nothing special about it.
There was nothing to write home about.
But for me, in that moment,
it was all diamonds and gold dust.
When they stapled my number 17 tag onto it's cheek,
I got choked up for a second,
and Kit got to see how happy I get when I land one.
Tears of joy, Big Man.
Tears of joy.
I know you'll find this hard to believe,
but I hooked another one before lunch.
It drug me into a tangle on the starboard side,
and I was slow to react.
In my younger days,
I'd have zipped that guy off,
before he zapped me,
and not given it a second thought.
Oh well, better old than dead, right?
Did someone say "lunch"?
What's on the menu today?
Baby, you don't know how much I missed you!
You're still just as pretty and delicious as I remember.
When they call my number,
You will be my last request.
I was in Heaven.
About one thirty,
the Skipper says, "wind 'em in."
He tells us the reports from the boats hunting tuna are "no bueno".
Around three p.m.
the waitress came by,
and I ordered a cocktail.
I had a fish on the boat today.
It was gorgeous weather, a rarity on the Cortez.
Time to celebrate a little bit.
We had put a good score of fish,
at least fifty, on the boat today,
but it's slowed way down now.
The Skipper decides it's a good time to do a drive by the Tanner Bank.
Let's hope Tanner is not carrying the same political baggage as Cortez,
or we'll be erasing his name from history too.
The Bar was wide open now as we motored north.
We arrived around five.
It was green and void of life.
Skipper decides we'll head back and get on a good spot to start the morning.
We'll have dinner on the anchor,
and get a good night's sleep on the hook.
All right, another round for everybody.
Terry held a raffle and gave away some really cool stuff.
Somehow, I don’t want to say the fix was in,
but I won a bottle of Tito's Vodka.
Did I tell you I really miss this shit?
I slept good.
Aside from the sleep deprivation factor of the last two nights,
I told Dave Bee later I was tired.
A good tired.
A tired that wore me out.
A tired I hadn't been since the before the quarantine.
Dave Bee looked at me and nodded.
Outside, we were on a spot with eight other boats in close proximity,
and each other.
Good to see the fleet observing the one fathom social distancing rule.
and saying hi to John and Mike again.
The Vegas boys.
Tommy the crewman says good morning and asks how I'm doing.
"Another beautiful day, bro."
Seven thirty a.m.
I'm upstairs on the Lido deck.
Watching the show down below.
Twenty one guys fishing in the stern with no current and no breeze is no fun.
Watching the new guys learn the ropes is painful.
I finally got to meet the Skipper, when he steps out of the wheelhouse.
His name is Cameron.
He's a new daddy.
I congratulate him,
and I thank him for the nice day he gave me yesterday.
The water is flat,
the sky is gray.
Even if we hook a fish,
I doubt we can get it past the gauntlet of seals swimming thru the fleet.
Skipper says, "let's move."
We didn't move far.
The Skipper said, "throw chum."
The fish boiled on it, we got the party started.
Fishing on the edge of the activity,
we were in the Alpha position.
I watch the Skipper run down,
grab a rod,
cast a jig into the melee,
hook a fish,
and hand it off to one of the passengers who struggled yesterday.
My pal, Tee Dubs, is one of the strugglers, and takes a hand off from the crew.
Couple of months back, Tee was battling back to back Super cows.
Now, he's just another guy looking for a change of luck.
Powerful, but humble.
I got one.
I waited until someone wiped out half the stern with a tangle,
pinned on a bait,
and got it away from the boat clean.
Dave Bee was on my left when we saw fish boiling back behind the boat.
“You’re on Joe!”
And I was.
Captain Dave, the funny one, joined me in the corner.
“What’s that reel? A Penn Four Hundred?”
I smiled at his first shot across my bow.
He knew what it was.
A Four Oh.
Plastic knob looks like a wooden handle.
The reel that’s probably caught more Salt water fish than any other.
In choosing my tackle for this trip,
I purposely took this relic off the shelf,
and decided to take it with me for one more ride.
The two of us together,
have killed a lot of fish over the years.
A fresh topshot of forty pound line,
and we were ready to hit the rail,
for "old times" sake.
When I threw this bait out from the stern,
I turned the reel on it’s side.
The spool’s axle shaft,
polished over the years of use,
sits snug in it’s ball bearing,
spinning like a top.
That sardine pulling line,
the bearing going whirr,
they was playing some sweet music to my ears.
They were playing Our Song.
Captain Dave, the funny one, kept the shots coming at me as we slowly worked this fish to the boat.
It was a nice fish, almost thirty pounds,
and it put up a good fight.
After it was over,
someone suggested it’s the archer,
not the arrow,
Speaking of archers,
we had a real one on board.
His name was Luke the Mac,
and the force was strong with this young Jedi knight.
A master with the long rod already,
he put on an impressive display of angling skill.
And still humble.
I had to shake my head.
If I had half of his talent,
you wouldn’t be able to get my head thru the galley doors.
His teachers and parents did an excellent job raising him.
The future is in good hands.
Didn’t move far.
Skipper sees school swim under boat.
Skipper runs down, grabs rod, throws jig, hooks fish, and hands it to struggling angler.
Did someone say lunch?
Tacos a la Kit on the menu.
My other favorite lunch.
Moving to the south end of the bank to take a look.
Half of the fleet here this morning has left for San Diego.
Reports from the tuna hunters are all negative.
Dave Bee hooks a large bonito on his new rod he won in the raffle. Sweet.
Skipper is still hooking & handing.
Upstairs in the bar, having a cocktail,
Chatting with Eric from Fresno.
Like many, he’s wishing we were on bluefin tuna.
The Skipper takes a break from hooking & handing,
so I chat him up.
Tells me a cool story.
During the winter, he is a commercial lobster fisherman.
Been making good coin selling to the Chinese the past few years.
Our government put some tariffs on that shit,
which was gonna hurt his bottom line a little bit.
The worst was yet to come,
in a way no one could imagine.
He called his Buyer in January to tell him he had a load ready.
The Buyer said, “No Sale!”
The Buyer said there was a disease in China where the lobster processing plant is located.
The Buyer asked the Skipper,
“You ever heard of a place called Wuhan?”
Pretty much, anybody who wanted some, had some.
The Skipper said he was gonna give it about ten more minutes before we called it “a trip”.
Right at that moment,
Mad Mike, one of the Vegas boys,
The Mad Troller from day one,
The “who-hoo” whiskey guy from yesterday,
drops a fresh bait in the stern and gets picked up immediately.
Took off like a rocket,
we thought it was a seal.
Ten Minute Mike, asked for more time,
and then went to work.
He fought that fish like the Madman he is.
Other folks kept fishing.
I saw Fluffy hook & hand a couple.
The “10 minutes” turned into an hour.
The Madman got the job done with an impressive display of power.
He got a trophy fish for his efforts,
he’d go on to win the jackpot,
and we voted him winner of the Spirit Award.
Waiting outside the harbor,
in the dark.
Senorita San Diego is waking up slowly this morning,
rubbing the sleep from her eyes,
before taking a big, long stretch.
Coffee, and start saying goodbye to the lads.
They’re all fresh & clean this a.m.,
and without their hats, masks, and glasses on,
I barely recognize some of them.
Cameron, the Skipper, held a pow wow in the bow,
to thank us for coming,
and give us the rundown for disembarking.
I tell him he's done a great job makin' lemonade out of the lemons we were dealt.
I gave respect to the crew as I encountered them.
Unfortunately, we didn’t really test them this time out.
I thanked them for tolerating me.
That counts a lot.
Waiting with some of the fellas in the stern,
I mention I didn’t see That Guy on the trip.
They all nodded their heads.
“I guess that means I am him again.”
Took em a second, but they got my drift.
The unloading was the usual routine.
I went back down to the boat,
and helped push a cart of fish to the top of the landing,
just for “old times” sake.
Cameron, the Skipper, held a weigh in for the jackpot, while I took my fish over to the processor’s table.
I already told you who the winner was.
I was in no hurry to leave.
I had to wait around for my fish to be processed.
I watched as everyone slowly disappeared from the dock.
Fading away into their real lives.
When they were almost all gone,
I took a long walk around the landing.
Every shop and every sign,
was a reminder of some previous voyage.
I popped into the tackle shop at Fisherman’s Landing for a souvenir.
I ran into the boss, Doug Kern.
Hearing his voice again was more music to my ears.
It had been a great weekend.
A Classic California weekend.
In California waters.
Catching California Yellow Tail Jacks.
In California weather.
If they make us change our name,
because California came from Spanish imperialists,
who exterminated Native Americans,
I’m going to be a little bit sad.
Sorry all you Indigenous, but I will be.
Finally, it was time to say goodbye to my girl.
Our time together had come to an end.
She was everything I remembered, and more.
This weekend had been a reminder of something that was almost lost forever.
Her golden earrings peeking out from beneath her dark brown hair.
Her dark red lips just waiting to be tasted.
Her brown eyes looking at me like I’m the only one.
A reaffirmation of our love affair.
Have been on 2 Vag trips this summer (7 & 6 Day trip). Just tell Brandon, the chef, ahead of time and he will set you up will food to take outside. They also were extending the eating times so they had fewer eating at the tables at the same time. 10 day trip = wahoo country. have funWow, what a great read! Thank you. And this line makes me happy:
"Equally important, they were both willing to work with me to accommodate my desire for social distancing during the meal periods.
"Anything you want Joe, just ask.""
I'm on the Vagabond next month for a 4-day, and later this year for a 10-day. Planning to bring a folding chair and had wondered about requesting to take my meals outside. Sounds like that would not be a problem.
Might have to rename this forum "Southern California Offshore Fishing Reports and Tomes."
Thanks John! Good to know. And, yeah, wahoo! was the inspiration to up the stakes from 7 to 10 days. Chomping at the bit....Have been on 2 Vag trips this summer (7 & 6 Day trip). Just tell Brandon, the chef, ahead of time and he will set you up will food to take outside. They also were extending the eating times so they had fewer eating at the tables at the same time. 10 day trip = wahoo country. have fun
Your biased too.As always a wonderful read from you my friend and sharing the rail with you on this trip was icing on cake! Can't wait for Nov. so we can do it again!