Sunday, June 29, 2008

The Old Man and the Sea

Today, I went deep sea fishing for the first time. I received the invite over the weekend and thought this a great opportunity to gain an experience that I have never had before.

But, just like Hemingway's novella, written not far from here, the experience was a little more than I was hoping for.

This weekend was the Grand Turk Fishing Tournament. On Thursday there was a boat auction, where people bid on the fishing boats that they thought would win either the most fish caught or the the most pounds caught. I bid on the Bohio boat thinking that I would be overbid, but I bought the boat for $150.00. Other boats went for two and three thousand dollars.

Yesterday, the Bohio boat was in second place. They had caught a 70 pound tuna the first day, and two other large tunas the next day. Though the largest fish brought in yesterday was a 257 pound Marlin.

Today, I joined the boat. But, boat is somewhat of a misnomer. They are fishing from a small flat bottom Carolina Skiff. These are generally used as a Dive Boats here.

So today, I spent 10 hours deep sea fishing on a small dive boat. We left the Bohio at around 5:00am. We were trolling for tuna on the north west side of the island in an area known as the "cut," a deep sea shelf to the north. I have never been out this far before, especially not on a small boat. The winds come from the east, so the west side of the island is generally fairly calm. But when you get into the open ocean, the swells become unfriendly.

I was hoping that I could hold it together and not get seasick. Now, before I get a head of myself, I did fine and held everything down. But it was only through continuous focus on something other than vomiting.

Fishing has got to be one of the most boring activities in the world. The best thing about fishing was laying down and trying to sleep while my body was being racked by the constant slamming of the boat against every wave. We sat in that boat, trolling up and down Grand Turk, for six hours. Then, wonders of wonders, we caught two small tunas in fairly quick succession, which the guys in the boat benevolently let me reel in.

At noon, the captain thought we needed to do something different. He decided that we should go around to the east side of the island and come around to the south end to change things up.

The east side of the island is windward. And today it was windy. I have never been there on a boat before. I hope this was a first and last. In a matter of a few minutes we went from boring to terrifying. The bank is very long on the east side. Longer than I realized. We had to take the boat over the bank and out into deep water. Do do this we had to climb 15 foot swells. The boat captain powered up the swell and cut the engine on the backside. The boat climbed up the wave, hung for seconds, and then slammed back down into the water. When we got out past the bank we turned and boated along the swells, up one side, down the other, with the side of the boat rolling and rolling. I would have been freaking out, except the other three guys were totally fine with this. The captain said we would be fine as long as a wave did not crash over the boat. I thought this was a pretty long "as long as."

I spent the next hour praying we could be done fishing. Finally, as we neared Gibbs Cay and still had not landed a fish big enough to way, the captain said, "enough is enough." Thank you Jesus, we turned into surf and made for shore.

The crew graciously gave me the two small tuna. Tonight, I cleaned fish for the first time. I know to some people this may seem strange. But they did not offer a fish cleaning class at The Ohio State University, where I have been spending all my fishing time for the last 16 years.

We had the best fresh tuna steaks tonight. I marinated the tuna in a lime, garlic, and Worcestershire sauce and quick grilled it. We had a house full for fish. Mel, our visiting curator, came over and ate with a table of teenage boys, Martin, Lucas, Denzel, and Luke (who is here for the fishing tournament).

The fish was excellent. My head is still spinning. I need to take some aspirin and go to sleep so I can dream about turtles.


bryanhitch said...

Thoroughly enjoyed that read. Especially that part where you were crying like a pu--- baby. Reminded me of the time we ate frog legs while at sea. "These are great wings". Thanks old man.

Salt Cay Cindi said...

Neal...I have so enjoyed your blog! And then I look ...'THERE'S MY LUCAS" at you dinner table!! He had the best time with your family...the Fishing Tournement was so great...I will send you my 15-30 swell photo of Val and I ...yep alittle scary...we were 40 miles out...thank goodness I had no clue of that...At least Kell was the Captain...I felt much better with that. Anyway..ya'll are a great adventurous family like us...and I hope to see more of ya'll in my trips to to all...