16 October 2005

The old men and the sea

“Behold the fisherman:
He riseth up early, and disturbeth the entire household.
Mighty are his preparations.
He goes forth full of hope.
When the day is far spent, he returneth smelling of strong drink,
and the truth is not in him.”

(Gluteus Maximus, “Mea navicula pendens anguillarum plena est”, 323AD).

”Let’s have tempura halibut tomorrow night!” Exclaimed Becky, who happens to be the beautiful, charming and infinitely patient wife of the Putz. Coincidentally, she also has the ability and to commit legal battery in biblical proportions; up to and including sending folks to the happy farm.

We were anxious to please her, believe me; but the portents were ominous. There was a small craft advisory. Mercury was in the house of Venus. The moon was surrounded by a green ring and the dog had eaten the prime rib. Well, not eaten exactly; the roast was too big for that. Bereft of a carving knife, Shadow could only chew the roast frantically like a massive wad of bubble gum; her frenetic efforts spraying gobbets of fat and huge ropes of saliva which festooned the kitchen cabinets and floor like the guts of a Santorini priest’s chicken.

Besides, we had to get up at 3AM. Nothing doing.

So, well before dawn we were on the 34 foot skiff-hulled aluminium “Can-Can”. Case would take us 75 nautical miles down Stephen’s passage to the five finger reef. There, he promised, we could sate our fishy blood lust.

Now, 75 nautical miles is normally a four hour trip, but Case was willing to get us there in three, as long as we didn’t care if a few of our fillings were slammed loose.

A whale giving us "the fluke". Rude bastard.

We anchored off five-finger reef and rigged the halibut poles. Around us humpies blew, broached and dove in search of their own chow. We wished them well and concentrated on our own dinner. Soon I had a strike, and was happily reeling in a halibut. Or, so I thought. Turns out I’d caught a championship sized double-ugly. That is, if anyone cared to rate double-uglies. They don’t taste very good, and are covered with venomous spines. If you ever want to see three grown men dance about like a bunch of spastic crack-addled river-dancers, just put them on the deck of a small rocking boat and throw a large pissed-off venomous fish into their midst.

Muwahaha! There'll be halibut tonight, my fish challenged friends!

Or not. I'll shut up now.

After catching and releasing three more of the ugly brutes, we decided that we ought to move on. We attempted to raise the anchor, but it was jammed and the windlass froze up. Oh happy day! After breaking the anchor free by engine brute force we hauled it up by hand. Without the anchor, the sea proved too snotty to pole-fish.

“Not to worry.” Case said. “I’ve got king crab pots in Wyndam bay. We'll do crab tonight.”

Brilliant! After an hour of kidney punishing pounding, we arrived at Wyndam bay. We rigged the crab pot lifter and lifted up about 100 feet of line before the pot puller also seized. Unburdened by a plethora of common sense, Putz enthusiastically proposed that we pull the put by hand. Similarly bereft of reason, we agreed.

We pulled up about 50 more feet of line before giving up (the pots empty weigh in at 200lbs empty and were laid in 480 feet of water). Yes, we wussed out.

However, if Case would push the boat to its spine-jarring limits, we could get back in time to buy some halibut and crab at Cosco and no one would be the wiser. Case did so, and we disembarked to get the sea food.

First, we stopped to catch the two-for-one happy hour shot special at the Red Dog; purely as a precaution against the chills, mind.

Late that eve, we returned to Becky triumphantly, brandishing the traditional Alaskan fruits of the sea; take-out Chinese.

And that's the way I likes it.