Larry’s been having a tough time on Serengeti
lately. It’s nothing really serious, unless you’re a guy, and you love to fish.
No matter how hard he tries these days as we sail along, Larry just can’t seem to catch a fish. Now, Larry has fished all his life and has always been pretty good at it. But week after week has gone by and even after utilizing his entire array of baits and lures, tricks and skills—no luck. He’s tried grinding chum into the water, spitting on his lure, and as a last resort even the long-standing, luck-altering superstition of holding his mouth differently. But the end result is still the same—zilch! This by itself is devastating enough, but to make things worse, he’s being out-fished by others around him.
We thought the other day that his luck had changed. We were offshore on a day-hop down the coast and Larry, as usual, had a couple of fishing lines deployed for trolling. Another cruising boat about half a mile behind us called on the VHF and asked if we were fishing. Larry and his new-found fishing buddy on the other boat immediately bonded, discussed the best rigs to be using, and then signed off promising to keep each other updated on strikes, fish landed, etc.
Just 30 minutes later we had a strike and the whole crew sprang into action. I jumped to the wheel to slow the boat down, while Larry scrambled aft to start reeling in the fish that would finally break the string of bad luck. Our two cats, Endicott and Hinckley did their part by frantically pacing the side deck, eyes bulging and paws occasionally reaching out, as if they could help pull the fish on board.
Reluctantly, the fish was reeled closer and closer to the boat, only to take off again and strip out more drag from the reel. After 10 minutes of fighting, Larry finally cried out, "The net’s not going to be big enough, Sue. Grab the gaff!" We’d hooked a 20-pound king mackerel.
I had just reached the aft rail, with the gaff in hand, when the shimmering fish leapt into the air, so close that I could have almost grabbed him. In one forceful shake of its head and tail, the king mackerel freed himself from the hook and quickly disappeared in our wake. I looked around to see Larry’s face transform into the perfect portrait of disappointment, while the two cats were left hanging over the toerail, looking completely bewildered and wondering what went wrong.
Well, if you can’t catch a fish, the next best thing is to talk about it. So Larry called his new fishing buddy just a mile astern of us to tell him about "the big one that got away." While only halfway into his story, he was stopped by his new buddy’s wife, who excitedly relayed, "Stand by. Don just had a strike; he’ll call you back."
About 15 minutes later, Don hails on the radio to proudly declare that he’s just landed a 20-pound king mackerel. Larry and I looked at each other in disbelief while simultaneously thinking, "Hey, I bet that’s our fish." Larry jokingly asked Don to check the fish’s mouth and see if there was more than one hook hole in it. Although Larry didn’t get to land the fish and officially break the dry spell he was in, we did at least get to enjoy eating some lovely king mackerel that evening, as we were invited over to Adriatica for dinner once we anchored.
The cats have not taken Larry’s dry spell well at all. They love fish more than anything else in the world and over the years on board have come to learn the sounds and smells of fishing, and never fail to get worked up each time a fishing rod comes out of storage. With the continuous disappointments of watching their "Dad" reel in nothing, I don’t know for whom I’ve felt sorrier, Larry or the cats.
Hinckley was the first to take matters into his own hands, or is it paws? During the middle of the night on a screaming downwind passage to Bermuda, Hinckley who never leaves the cockpit when under sail, was tugging incessantly at the end of his tether, trying to go out on deck. I kept pulling him back in, but defiantly he continued to try and escape the confines of the cockpit, and the annoying limitations of his harness and tether.
|"I reached out and grabbed the flying fish by its slimy tail and was about to toss it back when I turned to look at Hinckley."|
Finally, I got up to see what was causing such uncharacteristic behavior from our usually subdued, little kitty. Lo and behold, a flying fish was flopping about on the lee deck. Clipping onto the jack line, I left the safety of the cockpit and inched my way forward. I reached out and grabbed the flying fish by its slimy tail and was about to toss it back into the sea when by chance I turned to look at Hinckley. He had the most horrified look on his face as he strained to reach me, literally at the end of his rope.
"OK, little buddy," I said, carrying his winged snack back to the cockpit. "You’re right. This one’s yours." I dropped the fish on the floor, and within seconds it was devoured—fins, scales, bones, and all.
Not to be outdone by Hinckley, Endicott decided to get into the act a few weeks later. One beautiful morning the waters were alive with small Bluefish jumping all around us. Larry grabbed his rod and tried his best to land a few for the cats. Frustrated after 20 minutes of no action, he gave up and returned to his boat chores. Forlornly, Endicott continued to watch the fish break the surface.
A short while later, Endicott, still on the aft deck, began meowing loudly and looked as if he wanted to jump into our dinghy that was trailing behind Serengeti. Larry pulled the dinghy forward and curiously waited to see what this crazy cat was trying to do. We were both very surprised when Endicott jumped right into the dinghy at the first possible moment. He dashed to the middle of the dinghy, crawled under the wooden seat, and emerged with a small Bluefish stuffed in his mouth. Proudly, Endicott jumped back aboard Serengeti, never letting go of his catch, then scampered to the bow out of Hinckley’s way while he enjoyed his prize.
Larry’s luck has been so poor that the other day when he asked me to hold onto his fishing rod while he went to get more bait, I caught a funny bloated puff fish while he was gone. I don’t even like fishing.
These days as we cruise along, Larry has been unwavering in his desire to break this too-long-running streak of bad luck. He doggedly continues to troll each time we’re offshore and is quick to grab a casting rod each time we see fish breaking close by. Until the fishing dry spell finally breaks, Hinckley has taken to walking the side decks a lot more than he used to, and Endicott has an unusually high interest in the dinghy, checking its contents several times a day.
Fishing for Sailors by Lyle Chong
Dangerous Seafood by Ralph Doolin
Fishing while You Cruise by Sue & Larry
Buying Guide: Saltwater Deck Washdown Pumps