Offshore Vagabonding in a Virus....the Summer Surge


Jul 27, 2009
los angeles
17 Boston Whaler
(Editor's note: Last summer's trip (and report),
was a real crowd favorite, a runaway bestseller, a hot topic on the web,
and soon to be a major motion picture.
I went back for the sequel...)

Friday August 6 2021

I'm up early,
and heading down to San Diego.
I'm supposed to be there by nine a.m. to get on board Vagabond,
for a weekend of fishing with the Watkins group.

I took this trip last year after the host's invite.
We were just coming out of the covid restrictions at the time.
All of us were masked up,
and maintaining social distancing,
but jonesing to go fishing,
no matter what the risk was.

What a difference a year makes,
I thought to myself as I drove down interstate five.
Or not.
Despite the recent surge,
the increasing numbers of positives,
and patients,
and deaths,
I think I was the only one wearing a mask when I arrived at the landing.

Nine a.m.
Tried to check in,
the office told me to go away.
Got in line to board the boat,
started the "meet & greet."
Jim Bob Marshall.
Sounds like a good old boy from down south,
but it's actually the first three guys I met at the end of the line.
Newcomers, I introduced them to our host, Terry, when he came down the line to say hello.
Pretty soon, everyone was meeting everyone,
and that's how the ball starts rolling.

Dave Bee, been in many stories, mentioned many times before.
Nigel the Limey, ditto.
Brett, the neighbor, came back for some more fun,.
Vegas Matt, with his entourage in tow...
Tobacco Bill,
Eric the Gentleman,
Goateed Scott,
Non Stop Rob,
& the new guy Vinny,
(filling in for the irreplaceable Mike Long).
Ian, the deaf,
Matt, the Taller.
Dan O. "I'm workin' boss",
Asian Dave,
with his new bud, Tom.
Sean, Dave's pal I think,
Chris, the Terry lookalike,
and his newcomer, Steve.
Ohh, don't forget Mattie the Rounder,
with two Tees, if you please.

Captain Mike is driving the boat.
Captains Adam and Andrew on stand-by.
Tommy and Jake on the deck.
Chefs Brandon and Chowder in the galley.
A nice assembly of parts,
well oiled,
operates like a machine.

That nine a.m. call time turns into more of a noonish thing.
It's a beautiful summer day, so nobody cares.
We get underway.
The Skipper comes on the PA to suggest we take a "power nap" after lunch.
It's going to be a long night, he says,
and you'll be happier later,
if you can get some sleep now.

We're headed to a spot about five or six hours away.
Four hours into the journey,
we make a stop to try for them,
without success.

Two hours later we tried again,
and we got some.
Nothing I can write home about,
but we got some!!
Always a good sign when you catch fish on the first day.

Seven p.m.
I took the first call for dinner.
The rest of the lads prepared their tackle for flat falling.
It's a style of metal lure,
used mostly at night.

Basically, drop it and retrieve it.

It's not my favorite thing to do,
so after dinner,
and a nightcap,
I went down to try and grab some sleep.

the motors starting, running,
changing of the revs,
as they hunted for schools of tuna,
the sudden shutdown when they found one,
the yelling and screaming,
when they finally drug one over the rail,
made deep sleep a difficult state to achieve.


7 a.m.
After breakfast,
over a cup of joe,
Tommy tells me they did pretty good last night.

Sixteen tuna for their night's work,
most in the 50 pound class,
a couple of larger,
a couple of smaller,
nothing over a hundred pounds.
Glad I didn't lose any sleep for that.

Bobby, from the Jim/Bob/Marshall trio,
was walking by,
and Tommy says he got three by himself.
Bobby says good morning,
and volunteers to help me reel in my kite fish,
which he is sure will be happening later this morning.
What a guy!

8:00 a.m.
Second cup of coffee,
and still waiting for a first bite,
but we're on a school of tuna right now.

8:20 a.m.
Moving again.

9:30 a.m.
We stopped a while ago.
We found some,
and they're on us!

10:30 a.m.
We're still here.
Sun's out, it's a beautiful day,
I can see the San Onofre domes off in the distance.

11:00 a.m.
Beautiful day just got better.
Crewman Jake,
working the top of the tank,
gave me a red hot bait,
that I took up to the bow.

I tossed out my offering,
and it took off like a rocket ship.

Took a while,
it's called a "long soak",
but I got one!
Tommy on the gaff.

12:30 a.m.
Still on us!
Not wide open, but they're around the boat.
I go in for some lunch.

1:30 p.m.
Still on us!
I'm tired from lack of sleep the last two nights,
and take a cocktail break.

2:00 p.m.
They left us,
and we go back on the move.
What a morning!
The best fishing I've seen in I can't remember when.

2:20 p.m.
We stop on another spot.
It boils up,
mostly for Nigel,
who gets two fish,
while the rest of us got none.

3:15 p.m.
On the move.

3:45 p.m.
We stop on a big breezer of bluefin.

4:00 p.m.
I'm re-rigging after a tangle with Nigel.
We were on that spot of breezers.
Nigel and I on the port side,
about a third of the way down from the bow.
He reeled in to change baits,
and caught my line in his hook knot.
He's trying to extract his line from mine,
some slack flying in the breeze downrail.
I take a peek over Nigel's shoulder,
and I see Dave Bee,
and Terry,
both on fish,
and both heading our way.
Thankfully, Terry's does a U turn,
but Dave is still coming on.
I don't want to pressure Nigel,
but we're going to be in a bit of a sticky wicket,
when the chili meets the cheese here in a second.

Tommy sees what's up,
and runs to our rescue.
He extracts Nigel from the mess,
gets Dave Bee pointed in the right direction,
and then finds himself entangled with me and my line.
A little closer than either of us wants to be,
we get ourselves unwrapped,
laugh, and get back to working the rail.

5:00 p.m.
I got myself together,
and took another hot bait to the bow.
This time,
when I dropped in,
a big tuna came out from under the boat,
and inhaled my offering,
almost immediately.
Tuna number two for me,
Tommy on the gaff,
The bow was very good to me this trip.

6:00 p.m.
The sky is grey, the sea is grey,
but the mood on board is sunny.
The celebration commences.

8:30 p.m.
Brandon served a delicious piece of yellowtail for dinner.
I dined with Brett, Chris & Steve.
Good food, good company.
Good day.

8:45 p.m.
The Skipper comes on the PA.
Says we are going for yellowtail tomorrow.
No flat falling tonight.
Get some sleep instead.
Just when I had convinced myself to give it a go again.
Or not.


5:00 a.m.
Slept reasonably well,
working on a first cup of joe.

6:00 a.m.
After that cup of coffee,
I asked Jake what he'd be doing,
if he was fishing right now.
"Flyline", he says.
"Right up my alley", I says.
I pinned on a bait.
Might have been one or two other anglers at the rail,
a big crowd in the galley.
Working my bait across the stern,
and up the port side,
I got picked up.
Something small, but I made it look like a monster as I went by the galley windows.
That lit the crowd in the galley on fire,
created a stampede out the door.
The Skipper met me in the bow,
where we unhooked a baby bluefin from my line.
What a way to start the day!!

6:00 a.m.
Re-rigging for yellowtail.

8:45 a.m.
Good yellowtail fishing going on behind the boat right now,
as we sit on the anchor at the Tanner Bank.

10:15 a.m.
It took a while,
but I got lucky!
Too many anglers in the stern,
fishing on the anchor,
swinging from side to side,
not much current to move things along,
tends to tangle lines,
especially with newcomers.
I waited until somebody wiped out a bunch of guys in the stern,
went to the tank,
and pinned on a bait.
I made a soft under handed toss behind the boat,
and with little competition around me,
for the moment,
I was able to sneak my bait back behind the boat,
into the hundred yard zone,
where the yellowtail were swimming back and forth.

Captain Adam on the gaff, and the high five.

11:15 a.m.
I tried again,
just to prove the first one wasn't a fluke.
I was standing next to Marshall,
after tossing in,
and got bit almost immediately.
"How long was that Joe? Thirty seconds?" Marshall yelled at me, as I moved across the stern, a grin wrapped around my entire head.

The walk across the stern picked up a lot of loose lines,
and when I raised my rod to begin the battle,
a loose macrame came out of the water with it.

I asked everyone to stay calm,
as Adam rushed the corner.
With his back to us,
he put my rod tip on his right shoulder,
and proceeded to gather up all of the loose lines in his fingers.
Spreading his hands,
he created an opening,
that I was able to pass my rod & reel through,
and be clear of the whole mess.
A beautiful extraction meant yellowtail number two for me.

11:30 a.m.
Having a beer,
This has been two trips in one.
A day of tuna fishing,
and now a day of this.
Tommy walks by and asks,
"Isn't this what we did last year?"
Besides skills, he's got a good memory.

I have a trip to Cedros Island coming up in a couple of weeks,
and I can't imagine it being any better than what's going on right here, right now.

And on Cedros Island, they don't serve Boat Burgers for lunch.

2:30 p.m.
The bite finally died,
and The Skipper moves the boat for the first time today.

6:30 p.m.
Make that three trips in one.
Tuna fishing yesterday,
yellowtail fishing this morning,
and a wasteland of nothing this afternoon.
We called it a trip and started breaking down our gear.

7:30 p.m.
First call for dinner.
Having taken the first call the previous two nights,
I decide to give someone else a chance,
and retreat to the upper deck,
a cocktail in hand,
and find myself surrounded by the Vegas Matt Entourage.
An hour or more of good fun ensued,
until the second call for dinner at least.

Adam was our server this evening.
Brandon did a prime rib thing that was off the hook good.
Chowder made a strawberry angel food thing for dessert,
that Adam insisted I try.
I was glad he did.

Trip Of The Year,
so far, for me.
Been some good eating at home the last two nights,
with more to come.
Thanks for the invite Tee!!

El Fin