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Literary Corner

Literary Corner

STAY SALTY

A once-told memoir that is as good a recollection of an unforgettable encounter on Great Guana Cay in the Abacos as I can muster.

By Capt. Ken Kreisler

Author’s note: The following is a work of fiction based on a loose collection of factual information, personal experience, and extensive travel. Literary license has most definitely been taken. To protect anonymity, some names have been changed and some have not. That’s for you to figure out. I can’t do all the work for you.
I hope you enjoy it. –Capt. Ken

DSC_3343

This is how it happened.

“So?” I said, not yet three sheets to the wind but getting there fairly quickly on the latest round of rum drinks that had come my way. The first one was a Good Mojito; or maybe it was a Mojito Perfecto.

Anyway, it was definitely a Mojito and I know the one before Shaggy’s Hana Bay was something called a Belt of Orion. Go figure.

“Now there boy-o,” Conlan countered, his musical, Irish-lilted accent wrapping softly around my ears like silky, sweet caramel; the big paw of one hand gently resting on my shoulder while his other one waved in the air about us as if he were bringing in the string section of a symphonic orchestra.


seagull with beer
Conlan was one Capt. Rowan Conlan, a great bear of a man, full and thick through the neck, shoulders, and chest; an ex-pat’s ex-pat, he had seen what had to be seen, been where he had to have been, and done what needed to be done. These days, as he mellowed like fine, single malt Irish whisky, he contented himself with running big, expensive yachts, both power and sail, from the rich haunts of the likes of Palm Beach, Florida, to all of the islands and out islands of the South Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean. If it floated, Rowan Conlan could handle it with his eyes closed; which, by the way, was often the case. But in all the time he has been skippering, he has never once put so much as a scratch on a hull, bumped a coral reef, nor delivered his charge in any condition other than Bristol fashion. And when he needed an extra hand, as with the 140-footer we had picked up in Hilton Head, SC, I got the first call.

“As I see it,” he continued after first downing the last of the backwash of his Captain’s Vacation, “The greatest western film shootout…Yank, of course…was that which occurred between Cherry Valance and Matt Garth, played by John Ireland and Montgomery Clift respectively, in Howard Hawks’ 1948 Red River.” The statement was delivered with the utmost finality, ending any chance of a subsequent retort or counter thesis on the matter. Said and done. Done and said. Conlan was not a man to be trifled with.

Take ‘em to Missouri, Matt!” I replied, perhaps a bit too loud and laced with the kind of over enthusiasm, taking into consideration my present state of inebriation, which resulted in a very poor imitation of Tom Dunson, the John Wayne character. Very poor indeed. Embarrassingly so. Pathetic, in fact. Circle the wagons pilgrim.

“Better than Alan Ladd as Shane, drawing down on Jack Palance as gunslinger Jack Wilson in the 1953 George Stevens directed film of the same name?” I said, perhaps an octave or two too high. “Or how about Will Kane doing Ben Miller and Jack Colby, played by Gary Cooper, Sheb Wooley, and Lee Van Cleef, in that order, thank you very much, at High Noon in Zinnemann’s 1952 film? Oh, and let’s not forget Clint Eastwood/William Munny blowing away Gene Hackman/Little Bill with Ned Logan’s Spencer rifle—played by God himself, Morgan Freeman—along with several others in the climactic Big Whiskey saloon shootout in 1992’s Unforgiven? “

With a bit of self-consciousness, I managed to get control of my pitch and felt assured my words were still coming out of my mouth with some regularity of cadence and semblance of coherency. Yet I knew they were very close to finding themselves flopping around on the floor as they spilled, rushing river-like, from my grinning oral cavity and my condition moved steadily up a notch at a time on the Idiot-O-Meter.

“Better’n than the lot of ‘em, boy-o!” he said, smiling broadly and giving the barkeep at Nippers Beach Bar & Grill on Great
Guana Cay, Jonny the Boss Man himself—after we had rolled in from a stop at Grabbers to first get ‘toasty’—the ‘another round’ signal. “Reunion rum punch this time, Jonny,” said Conlan. “And let’s be kind with the pour, eh?”

“You’re forgetting The Wild Bunch and Butch Cassidy,” said Jonny as he set up two new glasses and went about concocting a most pleasurable libation for us. The warm evening breeze swept landward across the water and I heard Thong Gone Wrong segue into Fake Boobs and Belly Buttons, both memorable Barefoot Man tunes, playing in the background. Could it get any better? In a scant few moments from then, it would. By leaps and bounds.

DSC_1039Now, being a writer I am hard-wired to tune into conversations within earshot; letting my scribe’s internal radar unit pick up nuance, inflection, attitude, emotion, personality, and a host of other stimulating and often-provocative auditory experiences I can then filter and translate into words, sentences, and paragraphs, and will hopefully result in being motivated with self-urging to embark on a meaningful creative endeavor, ultimately ending in something worthwhile coming out of the morass. And the lively and spirited tête-à-tête taking place down the bar from where we were now parked had definitely peaked my attention.

“Whaddya mean, it wobbles,” said the smaller of the two men, this one wearing a tuna-themed, faded blue Guy Harvey t-shirt, a pair of salt-stained cargo shorts, and well-worn sneakers. No socks. His sandy colored hair was a wild, wind-swept tangle sitting on top of his head, his Ocean Waves sunglasses hung from around his neck by a length of 80-pound monofilament fishing line.

“The earth…it,” the other man said, bald, his tattered baseball-style fishing hat pushed back on his head and somewhat taller with a bit more flesh on his bones, now illustrated with one hand flitting about in front of his face, making the point. “Wobbles. And that, my friend,” he said emphatically and Oliver Hardy-like to an unenlightened Stan Laurel, “Changes its orientation towards the sun, thus affecting the amount of sunlight reaching higher latitudes.” He was similarly dressed except his muted yellow Life Is Good t-shirt featured a stick character holding a fishing rod and he wore the familiar sunglass outline of many a flats water guide on a deeply tanned face.

“I don’t feel no wobbling,” Stan said, hunkering down for a moment before downing the last of his beer and reaching, squinting with one eye as if trying to steady the bottle hovering before his outstretched arm, for his back up. “A bit of spinning now and then but no…wobbling.”

“The point is,” his buddy continued, adjusting his hat a bit more back on his head, “That’s what caused the last ice age, some 10,000 years ago. And even where we come from, down in the Keys? Once the ice receded, it left, well the land exposed.”

“Damn,” Stan whispered, almost reverently, as if he had just had some sort of insightful revelation; some deep understanding of a most complex, unsolved mystery. “That’s why I run aground off a’Lignumvitae Key. Damn ice receded.”

I quickly grabbed a handful of bar naps and hit all my pockets looking for something to write with, knowing full well that as the seconds ticked by, I would be in jeopardy of not getting down, word for word, a transcription of the conversation I had just overheard. And that’s when a small note pad, followed by a vintage Pelikan fountain pen, a 1937 101N Brown Tortoise Shell to be exact, came sliding down the bar, its top on of course, and stopped just to my right. Lest I digress and go off on a tangent I may not come back from, my tie to this particular pen and in fact, my fascination with this specific writing instrument is for another story.

“Y’see sonny, it’s like this,” the old guy sitting two stools away from me said, first down to his almost done drink and then, lifting his head slightly and looking straight ahead, to no one in particular. Jonny, who just happened to be passing by at the time, was stopped in his tracks by the old man’s now-outstretched finger; for the record, the pointer finger of his left hand.

Jonny stood for a moment and waited. The old man slipped three fingers around the base of the glass, indicating the amount of pour he wanted. Jonny turned, grabbed an unmarked clear bottle of some deep amber liquid off the shelf, lifted the already corked stopper off and dispensed the requested quantity. The old man nodded as Jonny left to tend to some business at the far end of the bar, then lifted his glass, hesitating for a moment that I construed to be a ‘thank you’, took a slow and careful sip and placed the glass back down on the bar.

“Y’get a coupon in the mail,” he continued, turning a bit in my direction to three-quarter face me. “It’s for $30. But as you read the fine print, you find out you gotta spend $50 to get the deal. But you don’t need to because all you want is the goods for $30. But, hey, what the hell, ‘I can find something for $20 more’, you figure. So you do. And maybe, a bit more. Now, they got you reeled in ‘cause the items you’re adding ain’t really what you need or want. And it don’t cost them jack ‘cause most of the stuff they’re offering is on some preferred-only, leftover list they limit you to pick from. Leftovers. What they gotta get rid of. Do the math. You catch my drift here?”

DSC_1080He stopped and took another measured sip. “Writer, ain’t ya,” he stated with no interrogative slant to his query. “Can smell you a mile away,” he said before I could answer. “Go on now. Take up that pen and pad there, write what suddenly got you all in a tizzy, thinking what you heard might of meant something and then take your piece of paper and put it in your pocket and read it later. Like tomorrow or, even better, next week. See if it still has the relevance it did when you first heard it; see if it still strikes the same chord and has the same colors, smell, feel and touch. Pay attention to the background as well as what’s going on in front now. If it does, you may have something there. If not, well…” he said, turned fully towards me and smiled. “You catch my drift here. Don’t ya.” Another sip. “And I’ll be having that pen and pad back when you’re done.”

“But that’s a…” I stammered, looking down at the pen sitting there on the bar.

“I know what it is,” he said. “And I see, so do you.”

“Thanks. I will. Absolutely. No worries,” I said, slowly picking it up and holding it in my hand as if I’d just touched an undeniable piece of the original cross.

“Make sure you see to it,” he nodded into his glass again. “You Aussie?”

“No. From the States.”

“Uh huh,” he smiled and seemed to enjoy his next sip a bit more than the others.

Bars like Nipper’s tend to fill up around you rather quickly as the night wears on, especiallyDSC_2251 when you’re somewhat distracted by the effects of alcohol, as in my present case, the various and sundry rum drinks and the fact that I was trying so hard, so very hard, to get my transcription just right.

Therefore, it came to no surprise to me that by the time I had finished my scribbling, or thought I had, and my Captain’s Vacation, which had now, unseen and as if by wizardry, become a Dark & Stormy, both Conlan and I found ourselves pushed shoulder to shoulder to make room for the crush of patrons growing to six deep at the bar, the thrum of some incoherent and incessant Reggae beat somewhere in the background and just audible scattered here and there in the din of the press of people.

Rowan had definitely attracted the attention of a rather lovely cinnamon-toned woman whose male companion had been ignoring her, instead to get involved in a spirited political conversation with some yachties from various ports of call. “Cap,” I said, my tongue starting to feel a bit like a balled up pair of old, long forgotten socks. He wasn’t listening. No, just couldn’t hear me. I tapped him on the shoulder and he turned towards me, a wide grin slowly creeping across his face as he tried to keep his eyes focused.

“Eh?” he said as his head began a slow but steady dive towards the bar as he gallantly tried to fight off the gravitational pull of the earth.

“Rowan. Come on, stay with me here.”

“Oh yeah. Okay,” he grinned, up again. “Okay. Yeah. What? I’m good. ‘Sides, she’s far better looking than the likes of you boy-o.”

“You see where the old geezer went?”

“Weezer? Don’t know anybody goes by the name of Weezer ‘cept that L.A. band…you know which one I’m talkin’ ‘bout?” he more or less slurred and would have kept on going, getting this current jag moving along and headed off in several directions had I not stopped him. “Hey,” he said with a sudden bolt from the blue, “Wasn’t there one of them Our Gang kids named Weezer? In them old black and white films made in the 1930’s? I kind of remember one of them kids nameaweezer.”

“Nah. Geezer. Geezer. Old guy, sitting down there a bit,” I hooked a thumb over my shoulder and in that general direction. “Looked like Willie Nelson ‘cept no braids.”

“Tweezer? Freezer? What ‘chu sayin? Can’t hear ya bud. Makin’ no sense.”

He looked around, saw the crowd that had grown, amoeba-like, around us, smiled, picked up and downed his drink, and said, “Time to blow this taco stand pal.” Before he gave up his stool, he gently tapped the lovely cinnamon-toned woman on the shoulder. “Here now love,” and he whispered something to her and she smiled, nodded her head and slowly, lightly, planted a soft angel’s kiss on his cheek. Rowan had the gift.

Outside, the air was cool and the soft swish of palm fronds and the gentle lapping of the water at the nearby shoreline, helped there by a calm breeze, quickly overtook the din of the crowd and music. An endless carpet of stars stretched above us and looking up I saw the gossamer-veiled and ghostly cloudy remnants of long gone galaxies seemingly drifting by as I readily handed myself over to the giddy inertia and vertigo, slowly spinning around to take in the vastness of it all. And somehow, as we always did, Conlan and I made it back to our boat where we would sleep the contented sleep of the thoroughly plastered.

I heard the knocking but oh, no, did not want to heed its call. No! Please, no! I had been
deep. Very deep in a vast whirling, swirling, floating, spiraling, caressed and cared for, protected, most blissfully peaceful sleep. And then it came again, this time more insistent, pulling me back as I turned my head down and looked from where I was now receding; from where I was being called to answer for my sins.

I saw my outstretched arms, my fingers rapidly tapping away on their own as if playing the Rachmaninoff #3 on the piano, pleading not to go and desperately trying to hold on to the ethereal slumber. I was really doing a great job, by the way, with the complex piece as Vladimir Horowitz and Arthur Rubinstein sat nearby, listening to and discussing my work; “What do you think, Vlad?” I had heard Artie ask. “Ach, maybe there’s hope. If he practices a bit more,” said Horowitz as he sipped his Arnold Palmer Lite through a squiggly crazy straw out of a jumbo cup. “Mmmm. I like this. Very refreshing,” he said and smiling, lifted his glass in my direction. And then I was awake.

My eyes opened, that is as best they could, and inside my head there began an incessant pounding that morphed into a throbbing and, quickly changing tempo, became a hammering punctuated by a Doppler effect echoing. I don’t remember sitting up, but there I was, feeling the blood, tsunami-like, rushing into my skull. Surely it would explode if I did not lie back down. And what was that thing dangling out of my mouth? Panicked I had terminal hanging tongue syndrome, I frantically reached for my face and tried stuffing the floppy mass of flesh back where it belonged. Ha! It would fit as long as I could move all the wads of cotton out of the way. Reality was still a ways off, if ever I could recover it.

Self-preservation kicked in and I was attempting a slow recline, back to the supine position when my right arm hit something hard and unyielding. Something cold. Metal. I propped myself up on my elbows and took a peek. Damn! I was in the engine room. On the deck. On the thick, black, rubber mat that protected the shiny aluminum diamond cross-cut pattern deck plating between the two main engines. The bright, ultra blue-white, LED lights were on and the whole space hummed with the constant, low dB purr of our dockside electrical system. I quickly shielded my eyes with one arm. “Okay. Okay,” I yelled. “I’ll tell you anything you want to know. Troop strength. Where the artillery is. Chain of command. Anything. Just, no more. No more!”

The knocking. I clamped my hand over my mouth to keep myself from allowing any further foolishness to be uttered and, grabbing onto a rather sturdy engine part, lifted myself off the deck and, slowly, like the Frankenstein monster taking his first baby steps, made my way out of the engine room, shuffled through the crew quarters, past the crew galley, and up the four steps to the transom door leading out to the stern deck. The sunlight hit me like a bolt of lightning and I covered up as best I could.

“I’d like my goods back, sonny,” said a voice, seemingly coming from the center of the life-giving orb hanging in the sky.

“Huh? What?” was all I could muster while trying to protect myself from the radiance.

“The pen and pad,” I heard as I squinted at a shadowy figure that was slowly ambling towards me. “The ones I gave you at Nipper’s last night during your literary revelation. Here. Try these.” I saw an extended arm and hand appear holding a pair of sunglasses. I took them and slipped them on.

Shielded from the daylight, I saw Walsh standing there as my synapses, still misfiring, kicked in to some recognition. “Oh. Oh yeah. Yeah! I got it. I remember. Something about running aground in the Keys during the ice age…”

“Whatever. The pen and pad please.”

“Right. Okay. Uh, I know I got them somewhere…” I stammered and began looking for my pockets…pockets? What pockets? Pockets! What pockets! I wasn’t wearing any shorts. I glanced down. Shorts? I was naked! No shirt. No shorts. No shoes. No socks. Naked.

“Unless you got ‘em stuffed somewhere I can’t see, you best get yourself inside and find them. And what the hell did you sleep with last night? Looks like you was lying down with a sizable octopus or a pretty big squid.” I looked down at myself again and saw I was covered with perfectly symmetrical circular red outlines. The engine room’s rubber mat.

“Oh.”

“Alright, now that we got that settled…” he said.

“Wow. Uh, why don’t I…” I said, turning a bit back towards the open transom door.

“Yeah. Good idea.”

“Uh, so, why don’t you come aboard then, right through here and up the stairs on the starboard side. Keep walking forward and you’ll get to the main deck galley. Meet you there?”

“That’d be fine. Go on now. And I won’t be following behind you. I done a lot of things in my time and don’t mean to start doing something like that. Go on now, give you some time to find your way.”

“Right.”

“Okay. Go on now.”

“Going. Now.”

I stood there.

“Go on now.”

I turned and stepped through the door.

DSC_0940“Hope you don’t mind me makin’ myself t’home. Tasty biscotti, by the way. Mighty tasty.”

“No. Not at all,” I said and handed him back his sunglasses. I had mine in place and was now, fully dressed.

“Thanks. Almost didn’t recognize you with your clothes on,” he smiled. “Coffee?”

“Uh, no. Never touch the stuff. Had a bad experience when I was a kid…kind of never got over it.”

“Yeah. Know what you mean. Kid stuff, that is; unresolved kid stuff,” he said with a knowing trace in his voice and a bit of a wry smile on his craggy, deep-lined face, “Can have a long-lasting effect on you if you don’t straighten it out that is.” He dipped the other half of his biscotti in his coffee cup and gingerly, carefully, slowly, somewhat politely, lifted it and, again, with that same feigned, almost-elegant mannerism, put it in his mouth. “Sooner rather than later, if you catch my drift.”

I went to the refrigerator, took out a container of vanilla almond soy milk, and made myself a respectable bowl of cereal consisting of a combination of several whole grain offerings topped off by some home-made granola, a just-right banana, a spoonful of wheat germ, and a sprinkle of blue berries.

“Done that before, haven’t you?” he asked.

“You noticed,” I said as I sat down opposite him and proceeded to replenish my internal ships stores with the right proper nourishment. It was a good start and in direct concord with the First Law of Life on Earth: Do Not, Under Any Circumstances, Go Out Drinking With Captain Rowan Conlan. There is no Second Law.

“I didn’t get your name last night,” I thought I had mumbled, my mouth full as several streams of the vanilla soy milk dripped from my chin and back into the cereal bowl that, positioned just right under my outstretched neck and round-shouldered sitting position, waited for just such mishaps. “Flmmid yurnim listnt,” is what actually came out. “Sorry,” I said.

“Guess you also had a problem with speaking with your mouth full? Still up in the air on that as well I see. Walsh. Name is Walsh.”

“Walsh?” I asked as I wiped my chin and sat up straight.

“Just Walsh will do.”

I was ready to dive back down into my bowl of cereal when I suddenly became aware of a rapid change in the atmospheric pressure of the room and, at the same time, that so much of the available oxygen was being sucked out at an alarming rate; so fast, in fact, that I imagined myself getting ready to breathe my last breath. Conlan had entered the room.

“Well now, boy-o!” he boomed, winked, and smiled, placing one hand on my shoulder while he held my neck in a gentle squeeze with the other. “How did y’fare with them sixteen cylinder engines? Oh, you were a sight there! Now, tell yer old pal Rowan,” he leaned in close, “You favor the port or the starboard?” he loud-whispered and somewhat conspiratorial. “Ha! You were a sight boy-o. Good thing the owners are due in tomorrow.”

Looking across from me, he saw Walsh. “Ah then, ‘tis Mr. Freezer as I remember,” said Conlan, offering a big, wavering hand across the space before I could introduce Walsh to him. “’And a strange kind of name ya got there, but, as the Bard said, ‘What’s in a name…a rose is but a rose.”

“That’d be Act II, Scene II. ‘What’s in a name? That which we call a rose. By any other name would smell as sweet’. Romeo and Juliet,” he said as he reached across and met Conlan’s hand with his.

“Hmmm. Right fine grip you have there Mr. Freezer…that is, for a man your age now.”

“Uh, Just Walsh, Rowan Conlan,” I said pointing back and forth between Walsh and, then over my shoulder, at Rowan. My headache, dulled a bit by a quick shower and a couple of whatevers for pain, was coming back in spades.

Rowan was as unfazed and untouched by the effects of the monumental drinking we had done as I imagined Mother Theresa would have been had she been out and making the rounds with us, even with all the foot washing and such, and I was always amazed at his ability, dexterity, and stamina in avoiding the horrors of the following day, and sometimes days after, that plagued mere mortals such as myself.

“Well then, that’s a fine Irish name y’got there, Just Walsh. And a tad better’n Freezer I’d say. Just Walsh. And honorable to boot!”

“It’s a long story,” I said to Walsh as I once again lifted an ample spoonful up from the cereal bowl and hesitated a moment before partaking in its wonderful flavors and consistency, hoping the wholesome and nutritional sustenance would soon replace the hellish brew that had presently taken up residency in my entire gastrointestinal tract.

“I believe the lad borrowed these from you,” Conlan said as he first reached into his shirt pocket and then around back, to his shorts. I saw the pen and pad as they were pushed across the marble top to well within an arm’s length of where Walsh sat.

“Thank you,” he said and picking up the pen and pad, got off the stool. “Nice vessel you boys lookin’ after. Fair winds now.”

He turned, stopped, and said, “Mind?’ and pointed to one of the two biscotti left on the plate. “Be my guest,” I said. “Mighty tasty,” he said and, picking it up, walked out of the galley towards the aft door.

“We’ve barely met but I like that you’re a man of very few words, Mr. Just Walsh,” Conlan called out.

Walsh stopped. “You’d be surprised cap,” he smiled and then turned to me. “When you get your little ditty there fleshed out and want to discuss writing, come look me up. Your magazine stuff ain’t half bad what with it being limited by the subject matter and the constraints of article length. Also might want to put a lid on that internal editor, most likely from years of corporate filtering, and let yourself go. I got a place over the other end of the bay there. Y’get turned around, just ask anyone where Walsh lives.”

And then he left.

Later that afternoon, after we had finished some work in the pump-room clearing out a bit of growth in the sea chest and making sure the air conditioning intakes were free of any fouling as well, Rowan and I drifted over to the Orchid Bay Yacht Club and while a bit tony and pricey for the likes of us, we sat at the outdoor bar and had one of their signature burgers and one beer. Well, at least I had one beer. A root beer soda, for the record.

DSC_0932“Owners’ll be flying into Marsh Harbour in the morning and I’ll be taking the big dinghy over. They’ll be stopping in at Green Turtle for a business meeting and we should be back by, oh, around 4 p.m.,” he said as we strolled on the ocean side beach to where our boat was docked at the head of the T of the Guana Marina Village.

I always welcomed Conlan’s companionship and I can’t think of a time when I didn’t look forward to being with him. Truth be absolutely told, there is no one, but no one I would rather be at sea with than him. Daring, brave, and absolutely fearless, he is nonetheless totally focused and in tune with what is going on above, on, around, and under the water and is the consummate professional aboard the boats in his command. And while a risk taker he will never compromise safety. Never. But he is a force of nature and getting caught up in his inexorable vortex can sometimes be trying.

I needed to get some writing done—having left the corporate editorial offices a while back, I often freelance for many of the marine industry’s consumer magazines and knew there were several deadlines looming on the horizon for me—and so I begged off the afternoon fishing trip that Rowan had set up with a couple of local fellows from the Albury Brothers boat building crew over on Man O’ War Cay, knowing full well what the après event would inevitably lead to.

And then, as if a neon sign came crackling to life inside my head, I remembered what Walsh had said to Rowan as he left us earlier this morning. “You’d be surprised cap.” It wasn’t so much the words but more, how he phrased and said them. My internal radar screen was pinging away and I knew there was more to Walsh than first experienced even though our initial chance meeting was a rather uniquely coincidental one at that. Or was it? Unique, yes. Coincidental? I began to try and do the math in my head and put my writer’s chops out there to test the deep waters of creative imagination. What were the chances of his pulling out a classic 1937 Pelikan and me knowing just what kind of pen it was? For me, the game was definitely, afoot. Oh, and, by the way, that quote is from Shakespeare’s King Henry IV Part I, circa 1597: “Before the game is afoot, thou still let’st slip.” My English lit mentor, Professor Eastmond would have approved, and for a moment, though I did not know why, a thought passed my mind that Walsh would have been very proud of me as well. In fact, I was kind of pleased with myself for pulling that one out of the hat. I’ll drink to that—but not just now.

DSC_0972“Uh, excuse me and good afternoon, I’m looking for Walsh’s place?” I said.

“Walsh?” the old woman asked as her beautiful plum-blue face erupted in a huge smile and her eyes seemed to glow for a moment. “Why, honey, dat whare Walsh live. Ovah dare,” she sang and pointed, her words a wonderful, lilting melody of bygone and inherited Lucayan, British Loyalist, African, and a smattering of this and that influences gathered from contact with here and there. I could listen to her speak all day. “An you tell dat ole man, Mama gonna bring him fresh bake johnny cake and sommeme crack’d conch jus’ soon as I cotchin’ Krayco’s shirt. Ha ha ha!” she laughed, shook her head from side to side, and continued walking in the opposite direction. “He know what I mean. You tell him. Right ovah dare, dat whare he live,” she stopped and pointed again, nodding her head up and down and wiggling one arm and hand and urging me to turn around. I heard her warm and pleasing laugh once more before she disappeared around the curve in the road.

It was a spectacular sunny and mild afternoon with great, puffy-white fair weather clouds slowly drifting by like someDSC_2414 unbelievably immense and never-ending mountain range. Everest, K2 and Lhotse flanked to both sides and being convoyed above the earth by a myriad procession of other formations. The wind was off the sea and the air was satisfyingly pungent with the salt smell and I could hear the muffled and delicate caress of the water on what I knew was the soft white sand of the small beach front just on the other side of the road.

The crumbled and bleached bits of shell, pounded and walked on for decades and most likely generations, crunched away underfoot in a familiar and satisfying manner as I followed a small bend which opened up onto a peninsula-like formation of land that on one side, faced the ocean and on the other, a small bay. I could see where the grading rose, forming a rather wide, flat-topped cliff built on solid crater-like coral rock, perhaps some forty feet off the high tide mark and populated by native scrub and a host of coconut palm trees. This is where the house stood and I had a sudden feeling that quickly swept over me, and as quickly left; that this setting was all too familiar but for some reason, I could not yet put it together. Perhaps it was a variation on a George Carlin quip, and I was having a vuja-de: I’ve never been here before but would very much have liked to.

DSC_2408I was about twenty feet from the steps that led up to the porch; one that wrapped around the entire front of the house, a handsome two-story, white with a deep green trim clap board affair offering a prominent widow’s walk above, when the screen door opened and Walsh stepped out. It squeaked a bit, about half way through being opened and once again, on the way back to being closed. Squeak. Squeak. A little WD-40 would solve that but in the same moment, I thought, no; it should be there, as is. This was going to be an interesting afternoon.

“Glad you could make it,” he said, his hands stuck down into the front pockets of his khaki shorts. He wore a plain white T-shirt and had a pair of reading glasses hanging from his neck. Dark leather boat shoes completed the outfit. He was clean-shaven with sparse and wispy silver hair on top and his stature was a bit thinner than my mind’s eye remembered but then again, given my altered state last night, I couldn’t be too sure. “Come on in.” Squeak. Squeak.

There was no foyer, only a large living room with several, well-placed seating areas and a sizeable stone fireplace. The interior, as far as I could see, was painted everywhere in a flat white color. And as I looked up and saw the slowly spinning rattan-bladed fan and then at the eclectic collection of wood and leather furniture, large planked wood flooring, and well into the next room with wainscoted walls and a considerable dining table that could easily seat twelve, and the commanding views of the ocean out the front and side windows, the wood-slat blinds open and letting in both the incredible light and the breeze and the tanginess of the air, and the storm shutters propped in the up position, it came to me. Ernest Hemingway.

“You noticed?” he said. “You got that look on your face.”

“It’s the Bimini house. From the opening of Islands In The Stream,” I said, nodding a bit as I continued to look around and take it all in. “Some of what his home in Key West looked like too?”

“To some extent.”

“But…?”

“I got a good laugh out of those two fellas at the bar. I mean, runnin’ aground because of the receding waters at the end of the last ice age…well, ya just gotta smile at that now, don’t ya?” he said. “Come on, have a seat,” he motioned at a well-worn leather chair and sat down on a matching two-seater just opposite.

“Well, look at me, being a poor host. Can I get you something?”

“No thanks,” I said as I sat down. “I’m…”

“Been there. Done that. And more times than I’d like to remember,” he smiled, nodded, and held up one, knowing hand. “Looked like you fellas really hung one on after I left. I always go before the crowds get there anyway. I’ve had enough of those shenanigans. Made a damn fool of myself more times than I’d like to think of. Say now, sounds like I’m repeating some of my phrases. Don’t like to do that. Stuff like that’s got to be avoided. In your conversation as well as your writing. How about an ice tea? Seltzer water?”

“Seltzer’d be fine.”

He got up and went into the dining room and turned right, for what I assumed was the kitchen.

“Lime?” he called out.

“Sure,” I said, a bit too loud.

“No need to yell there, young fella. I can hear just fine.”

He came back in and put a small tray with two glasses, and what looked like several fried something’s on a plate, down on a side table, its wooden corners trimmed with brass fittings.

“Black grouper fingers. Fresh caught by one of my neighbors’ boys last night. And try that sauce there. Puts a right nice kick to it,” he leaned over, took one, dipped it, picked up a glass, and sat back down.

“Oh,” I said. “I ran into someone down the road called, Mama? She told me she’s bringing you some johnny cake and cracked conch as soon as she can, uh, once she gets someone’s shirt?, I think she said.”

He didn’t say anything but just smiled, nodded, and took a bite.

“You peaked my interest son. ‘Sides that amusing conversation we both overheard…I got it down pretty much word for word if you’ve a mind to compare notes…it was more you knowing about the pen.”

“A vintage Pelikan? Brown tortoise-shell? What I wouldn’t give…”

“I’ve had that pen since 1937, when it was first released,” he said. “That’s when he give it to me. I was twelve years old.”

“You mean..?”

“An’ you didn’t call him Ernest or Ernie or Hem or Mr. Hemingway, I can tell you that. He was, Papa.”

“Wait a minute,” I said, leaning forward in my chair.

“Once sat right there, in the very chair you’re sitting in too. Remember it…well, as sure as you and me is sitting here now. I picked it up years back when they closed up the Key West house.”

“What!”

“This here one I’m sitting in as well. After all, couldn’t break up the set. Now I know this is a bit much for you to take in but hear me out first, and then decide for yourself.”

The rattan-bladed fan spun ever so slowly and the breeze, now warmer with the late afternoon sun, came in off the water somewhat tangier to the scent and, heard through the open windows and blinds, the palm fronds with their long green, brown-tipped lengths, sitting full and on top of the bent tree trunks, whispered softly outside.

My glass, with the piece of squeezed lime caught, suspended in the middle of the drink by several ice cubes, sweated as a rivulet of water tracked down the outside to land on the coaster that protected the top of the wooden table.

I took in another look at my surroundings; and while there were neither animal heads nor facsimiles of dead fish mounted on the walls, the undeniable presence of the writer was there.

And then Walsh began to tell me the story.

“I first met him in 1935, when he took Pilar down to Key West from Miami. He had bought her from the Wheeler boat building company, up there in Brooklyn, New York, where she was built the year before and wanted them to make some alterations to her like putting in a live well, some sort of engine work, and a big roller across the transom for hauling in all the huge fish he was going to catch. Catch, not release. Only time he ever released a fish was when it broke the line or spit a hook.

“Well, he come over to Bimini three times with the boat; the first being in April of 1935. Hear tell he shot himself in both legs on that crossing, trying to boat a shark he hooked and had to go back to Key West for medical attention. We were all waiting at the Navy Pier where he docked the boat and not so far from Whitehead Street, where he and Pauline and Patrick and Gregory lived. The dock crew strung up the carcass while Papa limped from the boat and got his wounds tended to.

“I remember a fella by the name of Mike Strater was aboard there along with John Dos Passos. Carlos Gutiérrez of course, Pauline and the kids too. I kind of liked her the best of all his wives. Papa called her Pilar, it was her nickname and he named the boat after her. That major character in For Whom The Bell Tolls as well. She was most settled in her mind to me, thinking about it now. Never knew Hadley; her real first name was Elizabeth, by the way. Elizabeth Hadley Richardson. Martha Gellhorn, whom he first met over at Sloppy Joe’s, was wound too tight and Mary, well Mary got him at the end. But what the hell did I know back then what with me being ten years old. Kid stuff, eh? But we already spoke about that.

“Hey,” he said to me as I stood there as they helped him up on the dock. “I know you. You’re young Walsh, right? Live near my house over there on Whitehead?”

“Uh huh. You catch it?” I said, pointing to the hanging fish, its skin now tight and dry and faded in color, its maw open and dripping slime, its eyes dead, a gaping bullet hole with dried blood in its head just above the left side.

“Yes I did. Killed it too.”

I looked at the shark again and then back at him.

“You can help my friends clean up the boat. How’s that? They tell me you do a good job, I’ll get you one of them big teeth. Okay?”

“He carried a Thompson submachine gun onboard. I saw it, lying there on the bunk in the cabin. Told me later on he used it to chase away the sharks when they had a big fish on. Probably had some other weapons with him as well, including the Colt revolver he killed the shark with and shot his legs. Kind of figures. And I was sure looking forward to getting that tooth.

“But enough of that crap. Now…” he said, adjusting his seated position some to emphasize what he was about to say and I suspect, to get somewhat more comfortable.

“This story I’m going to tell you? Well, I ain’t spending time on all the stuff we already know; the countless detractors, the analysis of his writing, the legend, the myth, the carousing and drinking and infidelities and what may or may not be the truth. Been done to death already. No. What I’m about to tell you is the time he was fishing out of Key West on a bet against a woman.

“That’s right. You see, two of his many fishing pals were Alfred Glassell and a fella by the name of S. Kip Farrington. Now Kip was a Wall Street stockbroker who gave it all up to be a writer and fisherman. And did a right proper job of it, he did. Garnered quite a notable reputation for what he brought to the sport and how he conducted himself during tournaments. Set lots of angling records, was the editor of Field & Stream magazine for some thirty-five years, and wrote a whole bunch of books to boot. Well liked and a real gentleman.

“So, what we’re talking about here got nothing to do with them and instead with Kip’s wife. Now don’t go raising your eyebrows. This is one time where the woman got the best of him without, well, giving it up. You’ll see what I mean.

“Her name was Sara Houston Chisholm and to those of us who knew her, she was always ‘Chisie.’ Word was, the day she started her fishing career was the day she met Kip. They got married in 1934 and a year later, while up there in Nova Scotia, she became the first woman to catch a giant tuna on rod and reel. By the time the news made its way down here, well to Key West that is, Papa had a fit, got in touch with Kip and told them to meet him there and he would take Pilar over to Bimini to settle the issue on just who was the better angler.

“Imagine that. He got himself all turned around ‘cause of some fish caught by a woman. But she was not just any woman. No sir. This was Chisie Farrington and I guess that’s what got it stuck in his craw.

“Y’see, she and a bunch of her contemporaries, the likes of Babe Didrikson, Helene Madison, Kit Klein, Helen Wills Moody, Ginny Van Wie, and of course there was Amelia, were shooting and flying and fishing and golfing and writing and getting out in front of life in much the same manner as he was.”

He stopped for a moment and sat back in the chair, looked over to his right, to where the sun streamed in through the open wood slats of the blinds. “Imagine that,” he said. “Seems a bit silly now, to be carrying on like that. Damn silly.”

He turned back to face me and smiled.

“I’m running on a little, ain’t I? Well, come on, hold that thought and let me show you something,” he said and lifting himself up out of the chair, shuffled right along into the dining room.

I followed and as I entered, in the corner and off to the left, was a small, alcove-like second room, with two open windows; one looking out over the ocean and the other of the bay.

“Right in there,” he said.

There were books and the three walls of the room were hung with framed, black and white photographs. Papa with fish, boxing, in Paris and in Africa, Idaho and Havana and Spain, New York City, the Key West house, with his wives and the kids, Carlos Gutiérrez, Capt. Gregorio Fuentes, on Pilar, with boat builder John Rybovich, Dos Passos, the Life magazine cover, and at the Finca in Cuba and others. So many others. The center of the desk was positioned under the window and gave anyone who sat in the Shaker-like chair a commanding view of the ocean. Atop the desk were an old typewriter, a writing pad, and a Deco-styled reading lamp. A pen, the pen, was lying closed, on the pad with a bottle of ink nearby.

“That there is his Corona 3. I tried to get the Underwood and most likely would have settled for the Royal; should’ve had them years back, but I hear tell one of them Hollywood stars got it for her husband. The Underwood that is. Missed opportunities son, remember that. Like first impressions, eh? You never get a second chance to make one. Funny,” he said.

“What’s that?” I asked.

“His view about having regrets. ‘Those with the least are the closest to being happy. I guess I’m not very happy then,’ I recall him saying.”

He seemed to hesitate for a moment, as if remembering something he needed to spend some time with.

“Anyway, Hadley gave him that one in 1921. That very one. I know. I know. Someone’s
always saying they got it but, that there’s the one. And look here,” he said and stepped forward and picked up something that was lying on the desk.

He opened up his palm and showed me a large shark’s tooth. “The very same,” he smiled and placed it back down on the desk.

“Let’s go out on the deck and I’ll tell you the rest of it. Getting on to the nicest time of day. Of course, that’s my opinion now. Some would argue though. But that’s what makes for point of view, eh?”

The wide, teak-planked porch wrapped around the entire front of the house and made turns down each side so that commanding views of sea, sky, and land could be seen no matter where one sat.

“Guess you were wondering about this big house I got here and me being the only one living in it,” Walsh said as we sat in big, comfortable wicker chairs.

“Came to mind but I’m still overwhelmed by the Papa moment.”

“Yeah, I get it. Most react the same way but I gotta tell ya there son, ain’t too many heard it like you’re hearing it. Gets back to you knowing about that pen. That done it for you…if you catch my drift.”

“Go figure.”

“Now don’t be short-changing yourself. Facts like that deserve to be tucked away and brought out when you need ‘em. Like you done at the bar. The way I got it figured, we wouldn’t be sitting here but for that.”

I nodded and turned away, looking out past the wind-bent palm trees, the fragrant frangipani, the spiky aloe plants and white-flowered Beggar’s Tick; beyond the blue-purple of the pea vine and giant spider lilies, to the scrub weeds on the edge of the cliff and out, where I could see the shallow water, all light green and reflecting the white sandy bottom with dark, grassy spots here and there and then off, into the deeper water, where the coral reef began.

“Been staring at water like that all my life. Never tire of it neither. ‘Cept when I got myself sent overseas. Didn’t like that water at all. Signed up when I was 18 with a buddy of mine by the name of Tom Scanlon and we hit the beaches in Normandy in ’44. I was an infantry grunt and he was a combat medic, not much older than me. We saw things later on that I still don’t talk about. Got out in ’46, married my high school sweetheart and used all that GI benefit stuff to get us going. I finished my schooling and made a good living. We had a couple of investments pay off but I always came back to the boats and my writing. Managed to get some books published; mostly for the kids. Bette and I had seven of them; kids that is. We lost Henry in Iraq in 1991. Got plenty of grandkids and a couple of great-grandchildren. It was her who found this place; time was right, price was right. They all still visit; school holidays and whenever they can. Quite a gathering it is and I’m glad of that since the cancer took the wife a few years back. Sails luffed a bit, again, if you catch my drift.”

We were both now staring out at the water and the pause was neither awkward nor uncomfortable. Instead, it was purposeful and necessary.

“Well then,” he said, the breeze freshening a bit as it shifted around from due east to favoring the north. “There I go again. Now, I’m going to tell you how the rest of it went as best I can remember and just to be above board, I’ll be takin’ some literary license here and there, ‘specially to what was said, to fill in the blank spaces.

“So after that, I became a regular at 907 Whitehead in Key West, coming and going whenever I wanted. Got to fish with him and John, when he was around and who was about my age, and Patrick, who was a couple of years younger than I was. I fished with them quite a lot, especially when school was out. Gregory was there too but he was, oh I think four at the time and Pauline kept him with her whenever Papa went out on the boat.

“The Farrington’s showed up just after he was planning to get on over to Bimini again. We were sitting around one afternoon on the boat going through some old hooks and frayed line to throw out and stuff like that when we saw them coming down the dock. Kip was a dapper sort of guy, well-groomed and well spoken as I remember, but it was Chisie who was the head-turner. Now, it’s not that she was a drop-dead beauty; yes, a good-looking, attractive woman, but there was so much more to her that if you didn’t see it, didn’t look for it, you were really missing out on something special.

“It was the way she carried herself and the way she presented who she was and why she was doing something that really seemed to matter. And because of that, you immediately paid attention to her. You see, young as I was back then? I could tell. Something else I could tell too; and that was how Papa was literally bristling at the notion of a woman besting him at anything let alone his fishing.

“He mumbled something to us as she approached and he stepped off Pilar and on to the dock. Sounded like ‘Didn’t know she was a gimp’ or something like that and he smiled that big smile of his at us that said, ‘I got this one boys’. I didn’t like that. Didn’t like it one bit. You see, I think Chisie had a type of polio when she was in her teens and it left her with a touch of a limp in one leg and, as I noticed when we were out there in the Stream fishing, she had some trouble with one of her hands.

“There was a lot of ‘hellos’ and vigorous hand shaking and conversation punctuated by shoulder slapping all around before Papa invited them aboard to show off the boat and his fishing gear. Kip was a bit shorter and a bit more slender than Papa and Chisie was almost a head smaller than her husband. I remember she wore her fishing hat somewhat cocked to one side and when she stepped aboard, it was with all the assurance and confidence of someone who had done this before, many times, and had not the slightest fear of being on a boat and away from the dock. Papa saw it too.

“And who is this?’ she said to me, smiling my way after tussling Patrick’s hair some. Before I could answer, Papa looked up from the helm where he and Kip and Carlos Gutiérrez had been talking it up some. ‘That there is Walsh. One of the neighborhood kids. Right handy ‘round a boat and got all the makings of being pretty fair with rod and reel. That is, if he keeps at it,’ he said, giving me a wink and a smile. ‘Well now, we’ll just have to see how it goes once we get out there, won’t we Walsh.’ ‘Yes ma’m’, I said noting how her statement was not a question and with my cheeks all flushed, I stood there grinning like some sideshow idiot and feeling as if my clothes were now ill-fitting and my sneakers way too big for my feet.

“It was Chisie who suggested we go out that afternoon and I got the feeling it caught Papa a bit off his game as Pilar pulled away from the dock. She got right to rigging up several large and small hooks, and along with Kip, our trolling baits.

“Papa, Carlos, and Patrick and I watched as they expertly tied their knots while balancing themselves with the pitch and yaw of the boat as it moved out through the channel, rounded the corner, picked up the sea buoy, and headed out into the Stream and deeper water. There was a moderate chop that day, and further off, a bit of a swell coming from the north by northwest being driven by a front that would sweep down and in from the west over the lower Keys chain that evening.

“Patrick and I were assigned to be the lookouts for any significant weed line indicating a good opportunity to pick up any schooling dorado and it was at least a half hour later that we saw the first promising signs. ‘There,’ I nudged him as I spied a large patch of floating yellow flopping around ahead and to port. ‘Where? Where?’ whispered Patrick. ‘I don’t’ see it Walsh. Where?’ ‘Right there. Over there, see?’ I put an arm around his shoulders and brought him in closer to me so he could follow what I was looking at. ‘Oh yeah! I see it now. Hey Papa! Look, over there!’ he cried out and pointed. ‘I see it son. Good boy. Good eyes. Now, let’s go get some fish!’

“I didn’t mind that he didn’t say it was me that saw the weed line first. In the short time I was hanging out with him, I liked Patrick and knowing he was younger than I was, thought it was all okay. Besides, I guess I figured he needed all the help he could get what with a father like Papa to contend with.

“Carlos swung the wheel to port, cut the engines down before putting them in neutral and brought us, with enough forward momentum, right near the floating weed line.

’We’ll try for the schoolies first and then rig up for some bigger fish’, Papa said as he moved aft where the smaller, shorter, light weight rods were stacked on the inside and to either side of the cockpit area. His larger gear was secured in the overhead in the main cabin.

’Let the boys have at it,’ Papa said as he handed the rods over to Patrick and me. ‘Sounds good,’ Chisie jumped right in. ‘And how about we team up as well. Me and Walsh here and you and Patrick. We’ll let Kip and the captain there tend to the boat?

“No sooner did I get my line drifting out than I got a hit; sudden and strong as the fish strike startled me and started to run the line off my reel. ‘Watch it now, they’ll be schooling up with…’ Papa never got to finish what he was saying as Patrick’s line also started to disappear and the little boy was trying his best to fight for control.

“Unable to overpower or gain anything on the fish, he pointed his rod at the water. ‘Pick it up!’ Papa yelled. ‘Pick it up or you’re gonna lose that fish!’ And sure enough, he did as the line went slack and the fish spit the hook. Patrick stumbled backwards and would have hit the deck had Carlos not been there to catch him.

“I managed to get my fish close to the boat and looking into the water, saw the iridescent green and blue and yellow of the colorful fish and flashes of the others as they gathered around the hooked and struggling dorado.

“Chisie had the gaff out and, leaning over the gunwale, was getting ready to lift the fish out of the water when it darted away, went back down, and snapped the line. She straightened up, put a cork back on the sharp hook, and looked at me and smiled. ‘Well, that’s one for the fish.’

‘That’s enough for them,’ Papa said grimly, no longer smiling.

‘Ah come on, they’re only kids.’ Kip said. ‘Sides, that’s why they call it fishing and not catching,’ he laughed and gave us both a gentle touch on the shoulder.

‘They won’t always be,’ Papa said and busied himself with bringing down some of the big gear from the overhead. ‘Carlos, we’ll troll on the other side of the reef, out in the deeper water.’

“The boat swung off the weed line and headed offshore. Papa set up three trolling rods, one on each side and another affixed to a rod holder on the chair.

‘You want weedless or Horse Ballyhoo on the rigs?’ Chisie asked.

‘How about we mix them up? See what we get. Y’never know what might be swimming out there,’ Kip said, trying to change the serious mood that suddenly occupied much of the space aboard the boat.

‘That’s okay. I’ll see to it,’ Papa said, his jaw tight as he got busy with the work.

“And he did. Rigged up all three rods just the way he wanted them and for the rest of the day,DSC_0810 or what was left of it, we trolled east and then north, a bit to the west, and then back around to the south without so much as a tickle to any of the lines. Patrick and I played Go Fish—he beat me three times in a row before I gained a game on him—while Kip and Chisie and Carlos talked it up at the helm trading stories of their fishing travels. Papa sat by himself in the fighting chair staring out at the rolling ocean.

“Pauline had invited everyone back to the house that evening and besides the Farrington’s, the place was crammed with some of the local denizens, as well as a smattering of neighbors and friends, and literary types both pseudo, fawning, and genuine. I remember the radio being on; Astaire singing Cheek to Cheek, then there was the Lombardo orchestra’s Red Sails in The Sunset, Johnny Green with She’s A Latin from Manhattan, the Dorsey Brothers’ You Are My Lucky Star, Fats Waller doing Lulu’s Back in Town, and a whole bunch more. Always liked music. Guess that’s why I remember it so well.

“Anyway, me and Patrick and some of the other kids were sitting outside, on the steps a little ways down from the wide open front door. The house was lit up on the inside and the light spilled out all around it. There was lots of cigarette and cigar smoking going on, of course drinking, and we could hear the din of the party inside, the music, and now and again, some loud laughing from both men and women.

“There was someone talking about some new singer named Sinatra and another conversation on whether Detroit’s Hank Greenberg would be the MVP for the American League by the end of the baseball season with that same team taking the World Series.

“We had some dessert things we were munching on when we heard the door open and shut and Papa and Pauline stepped out, she leading the way, turning right, and walking to that corner of the wooden porch. They didn’t see us and we all kind of stopped eating when she started yelling at him.

“’You think I don’t know what’s going on? You think I’m going to stand by and sit here while you…’”

“’I will do with my time what I want,’ he said to her, his voice sounding mean and angry as if he were speaking through his teeth without opening his mouth.

“’I remember Patrick looking at me for a moment and what I saw in his eyes, even though he was only seven years old at the time, troubled me. Papa then turned away from her and, striding across the porch, his steps making a steady, deep, and decisive sound on the wood, stepped down right by us as if we weren’t there and walked away from the house, most likely, from what I could tell, in the direction of Duval Street. Pauline stood for a moment and then as she moved towards the door, stopped and then saw us on the steps.

“’Patrick,” she said, her voice a bit timorous and strained. “Time for bed and time for the rest of you boys to get yourselves on home. Your folks are most likely wondering where you are anyway.’”

“And with that, he got up, met and held his mother’s outstretched hand, and went on inside without looking back.”

“When Kip, Chisie, and Papa arrived at the dock the next morning, Carlos had the boat ready. We would fish this side of the Stream and then go across to Bimini, arriving at the Compleat Angler Hotel late in the afternoon.

“Where’s Patrick,” I asked him.

“Not going today,” was all Papa said without looking at me and I sensed, not really knowing why, I should leave it at that. And so I did. He was the kind of man, and as I would find out for myself as I grew older and moved out into the world, who was easy to read if you paid attention to the signs.

“The morning fishing quickly took on a competitive air and uneasy as it felt, there was an excitement aboard as we headed out past the reef into the deeper offshore waters on the west side of the Stream. Kip, Chisie, and Papa randomly selected which trolling rod, port, starboard or center and all rigged with Julius vom Hafe B-Ocean Size 12/0 reels, would be theirs for the day and bets were placed on the first, biggest, and last fish caught. Papa didn’t want me to go but Carlos said he could use the extra hands, even though they were small, just in case. ‘Okay, but you stay out of my way Walsh. Understand?’ I really didn’t, but I did what he said.

“The wind was calm and the Stream was down and the sun was alone in a cloudless sky. Far off to the eastern horizon, a line of haze was just visible coming from the direction of Bimini and the Bahamas and presented no change in weather so far but could indicate a front was due in. We would have to keep it in mind and sight as the day progressed.

“The cobalt blue of the deep water was littered here and there with floating weeds but our concern was not for anything swimming or feeding just beneath them. Our quarry was something bigger; something that hunted in the cold water at the 1,000 foot drop-off below our hull and would be searching in the thermoclines, on the edges of all the temperature gradients, and come up close to the surface when it sensed prey.

“Our giant Ballyhoo baits were strung out on rigs that made their pull through the water look as if a small school of the fish were moving along just as they should and unaware of the danger from below. And that’s how it must have appeared to the sailfish that came up very suddenly, showed his head, and took a swipe at Kip’s bait.

“He had good reflexes and had his rod out of its holder, snapped off the port outrigger, and affixed to his waist belt in just a few seconds, then, while keeping his eyes out on the water, dropped back some line in hopes the fish would take it again.

“Easing off the drag just enough to let the force of the rig take it further out about twenty feet, he reset the tension and waited. Sure enough, he had a strike, lifted the rod high in the air, and the fish was hooked.

“Chisie and Papa, he reluctantly by both the look on his face as well as his none-to-eager reaction, pulled in their lines so that the fish could be fought properly without getting it tangled up with the other rigs. I could see that Kip was good at what he did and played the fish well, taking line when he could, especially when it tail-walked several times, and giving it up when he needed to. Carlos kept a sharp eye at the stern of the boat where Kip had now positioned himself, still standing up instead of using the chair, and made sure we stayed on course.

‘That’s it Kip, keep it coming,’ Chisie spoke quietly and smoothly as the fish, now tired from its struggle, began to swim from side to side as Kip eased his stance and moved from port to starboard and back again. ‘It’s going to go for the bottom once you get it closer,’ Papa said as he watched carefully. ‘Carlos?’ he called without looking forward to the helm. ‘I have it Papa,’ Carlos said.

‘A little closer and I can grab the leader,’ Chisie said, now positioning herself just in front of Kip with the dancing rod now alive with the struggling fish. ‘Okay, okay. One more turn in,’ she said and leaning over so far I thought she might pitch right overboard, grabbed the line, wrapped it once, then twice around her gloved hand, and the fish was alongside, just like that.

‘Walsh,’ Kip called out to me. I literally ran the distance from where I was standing with Carlos and was at his side. ‘Here,’ he said, ‘Hold the rod.’ He gave it to me and from where I was positioned, I could see the fish near the transom. Kip leaned over and took the line from Chisie, gave it a tug and a turn and popped the hook right out of its mouth and I watched as the fish, its sail peaked, floated just below the surface, its dark blue and gray and black colors wavering in the water, realized it was free and slowly, undulated its slim, strong body, disappeared back into the deep.

‘Good fish there,’ Papa said and, taking out his wallet from a back pocket, took out a $20 bill and handed it over. ‘Your first is always the one you remember most, eh Farrington?’ he laughed heartedly and slapped Kip on the shoulder. ‘Now, let’s look for something really big!’ he added. ‘Something we can boat.’

“Never once, that time, or for the rest of that day, did he acknowledge Chisie’s expert line handling and the way she skillfully conducted herself during the action, no matter who had a fish on the line.

“Papa caught the next two; a small hammerhead and then a Wahoo, none of which had him in the running for biggest. He wanted to shoot the shark in the water in hopes the blood and ruckus would raise a big mako but Kip cut the line and it swam away before the weapon could be drawn.

“The day dragged on and those once far off clouds were now piling up, one on top of the other, massive and imposing. ‘I think it’s best we stay on this side of the Stream,’ Papa said, nodding upwards at the sky. ‘Looks like Bimini is out.’ Everyone agreed.

“Kip lost a king mackerel right at the boat, a very small sail spit Chisie’s hook, two more Wahoo, one for Papa and one for Chisie. We ate lunch, they all drank beer, and I spelled Carlos at the wheel for a time, climbing up on the stool he sat on and sitting on my knees so I could see out the forward windows. And it was then, while I had my hands on the wheel, intently watching the swing of the compass needle and looking out as several gulls hovered and picked at the surface of the water, that Chisie’s line got hit and hit hard.

“Carlos was quickly back at the helm and lifted me off, carefully placing me on the deck. ‘This is a big fish Walsh,’ he said without ever taking his eyes off Chisie as she lifted her rod out of its holder and placed herself in the fighting chair aft. ‘This is a big fish,’ he said again as she watched the line disappear from the reel.

“Papa and Kip brought their lines in and once the rigs were aboard, placed the rods on the deck. ‘Take those baits off the hooks, tie things up, and move the rods inside the cabin and put them below and make sure they are out of the way,’ Papa said to me, leaning over and looking me straight in the eye. ‘Right now,’ he said and then turned and watched Chisie’s back as she seemed to have stopped the fish and leaned into it, trying to raise the rod some but unable to do so.

“I heard the pitch of the engines diminish and then there was nothing for anyone to do but wait. Pilar moved through the water, wallowing some in the gentle swell as Carlos kept her on course. I started to say something, to break the monotony of the droning, of watching Chisie in the chair one hand placed above the reel of the bent rod with the other gently covering the handle and gear mechanism, but Carlos looked at me and shook his head back and forth. I walked aft and stopped just short of the cockpit.

“Papa was sitting on the port gunwale and Kip stood to starboard, holding onto the outrigger on that side with one arm while he looked out into the water. He took a step over to the chair.”

‘What do you think Chis?’ he said quietly. The boat dipped, rose, and dipped again.

‘Think?’ she said as she held on to one, then another muscular tug. ‘Whatever it is, it feels pretty big.’

‘Marlin?’

‘Could be,’ said Papa. ‘Could be. Bull shark maybe. Pretty deep though. We sent that rig down further than the rest. Mine was mid way and Kip’s was just below the surface and sometimes skipping out of the water. Do you want us to take it for a while?’

“Chisie pulled back on the rod and Kip locked each side of the reel to the chair.”

‘No way,’ she said. ‘I got this.’

“She had been at it for almost an hour before we all saw the line start to straighten out.”

‘That fish is coming up,’ Carlos said as he worked the wheel to keep her in the best position while we motored ahead enough to maintain just the right tension on the line.

“And it did. Exploded right out of the water about a hundred yards aft and off to port. A big Atlantic blue marlin, wriggling its massive body once then twice, trying to shake the hook from the side of its mouth.”

‘Wow!’ was all I could say. Papa looked away for a moment, leaning over the side of the boat and down into the water before he got himself back into what was happening on deck. Kip stood behind his wife and placed his hands lightly on her shoulders.

“Chisie held the rod high and reeled furiously, trying to take up as much of the line as she could, knowing full well that the fish would quickly hit the water, maybe run a bit before jumping again and perhaps make another dive. Either way, she was in for it.

“The fish did not dive deep but did go under, now pulling steadily on the line and we could all see the strain Chisie was undergoing especially with her bad hand. She smiled up and over at Kip and he kissed her gently on the top of her fishing hat.

‘You can take a break; there’s three of us that can hold it while you rest,’ he said to her. ‘No one is going to think any less of you for doing so. And you know that.’

“She nodded her head up and down, smiled, and leaned back in the chair. ‘A little while longer. Just a little while,’ she said.

“About a half hour later, the fish came up again, this time not leaping up out of the water but instead, with its head held high, kept shaking back and forth.”

‘I think we can turn it now Carlos. Get it close in on the boat so we can put a stick in it,’ Papa said as he began rigging the long harpoon. ‘Then we’ll slide it up over the transom rollers. May not be able to sling it up on the gin pole. Looks like 400 pounds to me so we better make sure it’s dead.’

“Chisie had gained some more and the distance between the fish and the back of the boat was getting closer and closer. She pulled back and held the rod up high and in to her body.”

‘Carlos, let’s back down a little, slowly, and let her get some more line in,’ Papa said.

‘The engines went into neutral and then into reverse. Chisie dipped and pulled and the fish turned and we watched as it began circling, its huge head and a great deal of its body on the surface.

‘I hope the sharks don’t come up after it,’ Chisie said.

‘I haven’t seen any,’ Kip said.

“Closer. The fish was very close now and I could see how really big it was and where the hook had taken hold. In a very short time, it would be close enough to get a line slipped over its head and put the harpoon into it. And then it would be over and it would be dead.

‘I don’t think I want this one stuck,’ Chisie said to Kip.

‘What?’ Papa almost cried out, the harpoon ready in his hands.

‘It’s my fish and I’ll do with it as I please.’

‘You damn women are all the same!’ He was furious.

“Even closer.”

‘It’s your call Chis,’ Kip said to her, having already dropped the stout line that he would have used to hold the fish against the boat’s hull.

“By the time we got back to the dock, the weather had closed in with low, gray clouds replacing what had been a mostly blue sky and the air was thick with humidity. Papa left the boat before anyone else saying he had something to take care of in town and that he would see us all for dinner back at the house.

“The wind-driven rain started later that night and we never did make it over to Bimini the next day. Dinner was just that with no crowds and no party atmosphere. Pauline insisted I ask my parents and my younger brother and sister as well and the evening was rather sedate and somewhat boring for us kids with some lively table conversation usually coached and radiating from the Farrington’s. Chisie sat next to my mother and Kip was on the other side of the table, flanking Pauline, who had several of her friends over as well. Papa was not there and nobody asked why nor asked where he was.

“On their way out, and as everyone said goodnight, Kip took Pauline on the side and handed her an envelope. I saw them exchange a few words as she nodded and placed it on a small table by the front door. I didn’t know what it was but I kind of guessed, thinking about it later on, that it was the money they had rightly won from the fishing bet.

“Kip and Chisie left Key West the next day but came back a few weeks later and did get across to fish Bimini during that time. You’ve seen the photos of them and Papa on the dock with those big marlin hanging by their tails and everybody smiling,” he said and paused a moment. “I never did hear anything else said about the fish she let go, that night at the house, or about the money I imagined was in the envelope. “But I do remember when she came back there in 1936 and was on board another boat with Kip when she caught a 542 pound blue fin tuna,” he said and paused. “Now that’s a coincidence.”

“What’s that?” I asked.

“Oh, most likely nothing. But that year, September, 1936? That’s when he published The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber in Cosmopolitan magazine. Kind of funny when something like that sneaks right up on you. Maybe should have seen that coming a long time ago.”

“I’m not following you,” I said.

“Well, you read it again and when you do, consider that day we were out on Pilar and Chisie there lets that big fish go and how steamed he was at her for doing that.”

“You mean…”

“I’m just saying. He often turned most of his women, whether between the pages or the bed sheets, into something else. And as he saw it, something not too nice. You just go read that story over again,” he smiled and, looking out at what was left of the light, went silent for a moment.

“Well, you know it all turned out. He went to Spain and met Gellhorn there, had his falling out with Dos Passos, came back to Key West, fished and divorced Pauline; she stayed there with Patrick and Gregory until 1951, the year she died,…” At that, he seemed to trail off, not wanting, I imagined, to bother with the rest of it.

“I think he really managed to settle things with himself and Chisie later on when she hooked and boated a broadbill swordfish. First woman angler to do so. Sent her a note; they called it a cable back in the day. ‘Perfection! The real record is to take the first one, because if you catch the biggest fish, someone eventually is going to catch a bigger one,’ he said to her. I remember it word for word because she showed it to me. But then again…ah, what’s the point?” he finally said to me as he looked out at the ocean as the last remaining daylight waned and began to slide down over the western horizon and disappear.

“Y’know,” he said as he got up from his chair and stepped to the side of theDSC_1035 porch, now facing the bay to the west and the last arc of the sun as the earth slipped away into late dusk. For a moment, I saw him bathed in a warm red, orange glow. “For as long as I can remember, I never saw that green flash everyone talks about down here. Never once. How about that.”

“I tell you something; I’ve never seen one either,” I said

“Good news is you most likely got lots of time left. Me? I don’t buy green bananas these days. Well then, you keep looking and maybe, one sunset, you’ll get lucky. The thing is son, to keep on looking. You catch my drift?”

“Sure do.”

“Now look at the time. Flies when you’re having fun, eh? I guess Mama’ll be coming by pretty soon with that cracked conch of hers; course there’ll be some jerked chicken, fresh-baked johnnies, and some other tasty things. Might tasty things. Brings her family over as well, her son and her daughter and all their kids and, how do they say it these days? ‘Significant others?’ You’re welcome to stay.”

“Sounds like fun but I have to get back to the boat what with the owners most likely there and Conlan’s gonna need some help.”

“Open invitation. Anytime you’re in town then.”

I stood up, took the few steps over to where he was, and offered my hand.

“But what about the pen?”

“Oh yeah, that old pen. It’s what started things going between us, didn’t it? Well let’s save that story for the next time we catch up with one another. Whaddya say?”

“Deal. And, thank you. It’s been enlightening to say the least.” I took his firm grip.

“Well, you’re very welcome then. And thanks for listening to the ramblings of an old man.”

“That was far from ramblings.”

“Alright now.”

I turned to leave and got to the bottom step of the porch and stopped.

“I didn’t get your first name,” I said.

“Just Walsh will do son,” he smiled and laughed.

“Yes. It will.”

I held up my arm to say goodbye, turned and began walking away.

“You got plans to use what we overheard at the bar in anything you’re working on?” he said.

“I’ll let you know. Promise,” I said.

“You stay salty now,” he called out.

“Yeah, Just Walsh, you too,” I waved again and watched him open the screen door and move inside.

Squeak. Squeak.

For the moment, I was able to still see him surrounded by the yellow glow of the lights inside the house where I imagined him crossing through the living room, past the dining room, maybe with a momentary glance towards that writing space and then into the kitchen, there to prepare things for his evening with his friends.

I smiled and continued walking down the crumbled seashell pathway, past the pastel-colored homes and stores of his little neighborhood and out on the main road where I thumbed a ride back to Guana Village Marina.

“All that because you knew what kind of pen it was? Well now boy-o, it looks like all that so-called well of useless information y’got stashed up there in your noggin paid you back some,” Conlan said as he gently poked at my forehead with one of his meaty, sausage-thick fingers as we sat at Grabber’s looking to most likely close the place pretty soon.

By the time I had gotten back to the boat, the owners, along with their guests, and Conlan holding court and regaling them with stories from near and far, were all gathered in the main salon. Some familiar jazz music I had heard before was playing in the background, soft and just below conversational tones and along with several bottles of wine, there was a nice assortment of hors d’oeuvres set out on the stylishly modern coffee table around the convivial and strategically placed seating arrangement, that, of course, was in total harmony and balance with the rest of the décor and artwork that adorned the interior.

According to Rowan, the wife, a self-taught and somewhat respectable gourmet chef in her social circle, was also a fung shuist. Balance, harmony, and of course flow. And as we were going over to Grand Bahama in the morning, it was a no brainer for us to excuse ourselves under the guise of getting things ready for the early morning crossing and checking our weather window. Hence the late night respite at Grabber’s.

“Troy, my boy, me and the lad here will have just one more of your excellent Guana Grabbers and then we’ll be off, to leave you and this fine establishment to the winds of chance as we let loose our lines and shove off for points unknown and to adventures yet…adventured!” Conlan said to our barkeep, he already in the midst of breaking down for the evening. “And that would be one each, my good man. One. Each.”

“Where you guys heading off to?“ Troy asked, hoping to hear of some distant and exotic port of call as he put our drinks together; a wonderfully poised and perfectly balanced blend of pineapple and grapefruit juice, a splash of Grenadine, light, dark, and coconut flavored rum, and a lime twist. Cherry garnish is optional.

“West End Grand Bahama,” I said wryly and with the beginnings of the idiotic grin of the slightly-but-getting-somewhat-more inebriated.

“Some real unknown parts you boys heading for there,” he smiled. “’Bout 75 nautical miles or so?”

“That’s from up there at Moraine Cay!” protested Conlan as he thrust out a feigned pugnacious chin. “And taking the route to the south of Mangrove and Great Sale Cays, I might add. ‘Sides, we’re sitting here in Great Guana. So, it’ll be a bit farther as I see it and the crow flies.”

“Enjoy. It’s on me,” Troy said, smiling and shaking his head with all the fun goings-on as he put our drinks on the bar, and got back to closing up.

“You sir, are a gentleman, and a scholar,” Conlan said and after a wobbly slide off the bar stool, stood up ramrod straight before leaning over and offering one big paw of a hand out to Troy. They shook. “Said and done and done and said,” said Conlan.

By the time we finished our drinks, we helped Troy fit the storm shutters in place and watched as he hit the main electrical breaker and shut off all the lights. It really was, time to go.

As we walked back to the marina, the conversation went back and forth between what each of us thought was the best movie fight scene. Rowan insisted it was the 1945 black & white Cagney flick, Blood On The Sun where the aforementioned lauded actor has a knock-down, no-holds barred judo brawl with the evil Oshima, and our hero ending it with a good old-fashioned series of American-style bare knuckle jabs and roundhouse punches. I countered with Scorsese’s 1980’s Raging Bull where Jake LaMotta’s doomed rematch with Sugar Ray Robinson is both surreal and brutal.

“Come on Rowan, after he gets his ass kicked, DeNiro’s LaMotta says to Johnny Barnes’ Robinson, ‘You never got me down, Ray!’ It’s all-time,” I said, not wanting to even bring up Bruce Lee’s Enter The Dragon or the fisticuff mastery of Matt Damon’s Jason Bourne or Daniel Craig’s 007. I figured I’d save that for another flavored and alcohol-stoked one-to-one.

Back at the boat, I checked all the lines, quietly secured the doors and hatches, and after noting Conlan, already asleep in his wheelhouse quarters, and knowing he’d be right as rain as soon as dawn made an appearance, headed for the rack and a very good night’s sleep.

We spent two days at West End and then crossed over to Ft. Lauderdale for a haul-out at the Lauderdale Marine Center, there to check in with customs, deliver the boat for some scheduled work, and meet up with the first mate/engineer and her regular captain who had some family matters to take care of up in Boston.

Rowan went over the ship’s log with them, got us squared away with the owners, and just like that, we were at the airport’s departure terminal. I was going back to New York and he was bound for the offices of Edison Chouest Offshore in Cut Off, Louisiana, there to do a month’s stand-in on one of the company’s big supply ships running out to the oil rigs.

“Look up a good buddy of mine when you’re down there. Capt. Ed Baker. You two will definitely hit it off. Promise,” I said.

“Will do.”

“Hey Rowan,” I said as I hitched my carry-on up to my shoulder and offered my hand out to him. I watched as it disappeared in his paw after which he grabbed me in a manly embrace. “I got one more thought for you.”

“Yeah?”

“Did you know that the first Godzilla suit worn by Haruo Nakajima in the original 1954 Toho production vanished and is still missing?”

“Did not know that boy-o, but I do now. And a better man I am because of it.” He smiled broadly, gave me a soft cuff on one shoulder, turned and strolled away.

“Stay salty Rowan,” I called out.

He didn’t look around but I knew, just by the one raised arm he gave me, what he was saying.

Always was and always will be. Said and done. Done and said.”

Until the Muse and I share yet another encounter, fair winds, shipmates. Fair winds.

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Posted by on December 2, 2014 in Literary Corner

 

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Literary Corner

Literary Corner

Welcome to the Boat & Yacht Report’s Literary Corner. From time to time I get submissions from authors all over the world to have a look at some of their boat-related themes, works in progress, or published works. This hit a chord with me and I decided, while it is still being written, I’d let you have a look at the first two chapters of a novel-in-progress that I am penning. If you find this interesting, please let me know by using the Leave a Comment button at the bottom of the page. And if you have any creative works with some sort of connection to our watery way of life lying there on your desks, in a desk drawer, or sitting in a file on your desktop, whether they be poetry, a children’s story, or novel and want to share or test the waters with the world, just send them on over and I’ll give them a read and hopefully, with your permission of course, put them up here on the site.

Excerpt from: THE GREAT CORINTHIANS

Copyright © 2015 by Ken Kreisler. All rights reserved.

brass-nautical-compass-692732_1280I remember him standing there, the freshening breeze whipping his raven hair back and forth across his brow while one hand clutched the mainsail’s varnished boom with its deep-set grains a myriad and mysterious canvas of visible whorls and curves, the other hand holding the helm’s spoked wheel, its front and back sides inlaid with brass, the teak bungs a bit lighter in color than the mahogany wood it was hewn from. Like all of us, he wore a long sleeve, white cotton shirt, open two buttons at the neck, and no cuff links holding the arms closed at his wrists. His baggy navy shorts hung loosely at his hips and just made the tops of his knees. It was his look. Our look.

I could see the outline of his sunglasses the summer spent in the sun had made around his eyes; the same glasses that now hung rakishly from his neck, held there by a length of fishing line; and the burnished brown color that tinted every exposed part of his skin.

He was a force of nature now, one with it in mind, body, and soul, imploring us all to join him; our Hornblower and Raleigh, our Nelson and Drake, and yes, even our Morgan and Ahab, entreating all aboard to set sail for glory and honor on a once-in-a-lifetime grand adventure. He looked over at us standing there on the dock, all of us barefoot, our blood up, with muscles taut and honed from a season of physical work.  In that moment we would even have followed him down past horizons none of us could ever have imagined. And all he would have had to do was ask.     

“Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you from the prize. Such a person goes into great detail about what he has seen, and his unspiritual mind puffs him up with idle notions,” he smiled and said, pointing at the other boat, its crew going about one routine after another in preparation to getting underway. It was the one we would not only have to beat, but beat so soundly and so convincingly, that there would be no question as to which was the better vessel manned by the better crew.

“Colossians 2:18,” yelled Jack as we cheered a deeply resonant and hearty ‘hoo-rah!’ in response.

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith,” I yelled almost maniacal, stepping forward, now totally caught up in the living, growing vortex of what we were about to do.

“Yes, Just Edward, master of the foresail! Timothy 4:7,” Kevin said to me, pointing my way and smiling broadly.

 “That’s the spirit! Now, on with it lads. Let’s show these louts what real sailors can do. Let’s show them how we balance and master wind with water and spirit on this fine boat of ours. The spirit is the prize, mates. The spirit of why and how we race the race. It’s what we do. It’s what we are. Mos insisto in nostrum excito! They will follow in our wake!”

“And who are we?” we all shouted as one voice.

“We are The Great Corinthians!” we answered mightily, arms held high, feeling the camaraderie of fellowship that, once touched and savored, may urge one to spend an entire lifetime pursuing in hopes of experiencing it just once more.  

And as we clamored aboard, clasping hand to shoulder, turning to the tasks of getting underway that would bind our souls to each other, to him, to our boat and to the wind, we knew, beyond a doubt, every one of us, that this was our time.

 Corinthian story wingding

On the day after Charles Lindbergh landed at Le Bourget Airport near Paris, seventeen year old Edward Collins, just graduated from high school and looking forward to entering the freshman class at Columbia University as a journalism major in the fall, sets his sights on landing his first job as one of the dock boys for the impending regatta season, that being from Memorial Day to Labor Day, at an elite and private yacht club on the northeasterly waterfront reaches of New York City’s well-heeled Westchester County.

There, as Edward either sinks or swims, for he has no background or experience within the exclusive world of sailing yachts, or of those whose station in life is far above his, he falls in with a robust and brigand band of young sailors and mariners, captained for the most part by a charismatic, talented, and free-spirited teen who leads his salty cohorts in tending to the wants and needs of the well-heeled yachting set. Over the course of the summer, and as he is quickly seduced by the ways of fine yachts and their polished brass fittings and deeply varnished rails and teak decks; by the natural ebb and flow of water and wind and tide, he will develop, have nurtured and made valid, his own style of maritime swagger and unique view of the world. He will also have his heart broken by a soon-to-be debutante, the daughter of a high-profile and valued club member. And with all the trusting innocence of his youth, Edward will find out in an all too meaningful way when he is tested by the inner workings of money and privilege, and how an act of deception and lack of moral character can threaten to tarnish and attempt to bring down the notion of how true and lofty the meaning of honor and friendship can be.

THE GREAT CORINTHIANS is an adventurous story of bravery and self-discovery; a bittersweet coming of age tale of how best to embrace the responsibility of savoring victory or accepting oneself in the face of defeat; of the angst of unrequited first love, and the often-harsh life lessons and rites of passage that can either strengthen forever, or work to test, weaken, or even break, the ties that bind us together.

THE GREAT CORINTHIANS

Copyright © 2015 by Ken Kreisler. All rights reserved.

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“The mind of the master of a vessel is rooted deep in the timbers of her, though
he command for a day or a decade.”
                                                             –Stephen Crane, The Open Boat

“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”
                                                                      -F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

“Such is the human race, often it seems a pity that Noah… didn’t miss the boat.”
                             -Mark Twain

                 “I yam what I yam and tha’s all what I yam.”
                                                                                    -Popeye, Sailorman

browse-2371920_1280Chapter 1.

Incoming Tide

How I had come to seek a job at the yacht club that summer of 1927 is one that I have long since stopped questioning. Instead, and with that same bravado I had when I first set out to cast my fate to whatever lay ahead of me by the time I had reached the barely enlightened age of seventeen, between when I would graduate from high school and enter my college studies that coming September as one of the freshman class at Columbia University, accepted the steps that guided me off the train from New York City that late spring day and walk the mile and a half through the well-heeled town to the manicured and seemingly genteel waterside grounds of one of the most venerated and exclusive sailing communities in the country. I had not an inkling as to what it meant to jibe, of what being on the edge of a broad reach could deliver, the importance of beating downwind, or what the difference was between a barque, a brig, and a sloop.

By the time I found myself sitting in the main dining room of the clubhouse, surrounded by 19th century maritime oils on the walls, ones even in my present state of ignorance I knew to be original and genuine, and well-set tables all around me, waiting to be interviewed by the club’s manager and vice-commodore, things in the real world were changing rapidly. Earlier that May, a man by the name of Philo Farnsworth had transmitted the first experimental electronic television pictures. And just yesterday the entire known civilized portion of the planet was notified that Charles Lindbergh had landed in Paris, becoming the first person to make a solo, non-stop transatlantic crossing.

I had worn the only suit I owned at that time, a dark blue affair with what was termed then as having a banker’s stripe in it, and of the proper pants length and cuffed of course. My mother had starched and ironed my white shirt, polished my black dress shoes, and I was using my father’s gold cuff links, his leather braces, and a tie he thought would fit the circumstances I was now surrounded by.

“These are the kind of people that are not like us, Edward,” he said to me as he stood an arm’s length away and showed me how to tie a proper Duke of Windsor knot. “There. Now that is what a correct knot should look like.” He paused, stepped in some, smiled, and grabbed both my shoulders giving them a gentle squeeze before stepping back and putting both hands in his pockets.

Harry Collins gave a tall appearance, most likely because of his rather slim build, but missed measuring six feet by a bit more than an inch. I always remember him being well-groomed and clean-shaven with features that were not remarkable. Most likely he would not have stood out in a crowd. But then again, he was the kind of man who did not have to and nor did he want to.

But for his suit jacket, he was almost fully dressed himself, wearing his gray suit, also one with a faint stripe in the fabric, a pair of black cloth braces with brass fixtures, his six button vest, a light blue shirt with a round, white collar, and a very nice silk tie.

“Yes, as I was saying Edward, they are moneyed people son, with the kind of money that we on the street have come to know as old. And that means they are privileged, with their own rules and their own way of doing things. Trust me son, I know.”

It was said that I got my business sense from my father and my intellectual capacity from my mother. He was a somewhat successful Wall Street broker who, with his sharp, conservative business acumen and instincts, would see what was coming two years hence, and, along with a small handful of others, manage to survive the great economic calamity. Those of his clients, the very few left who had stuck by him and took his advice, were most appreciative during the recovery years later, allowing my parents, and my younger sister who was still living at home at the time for both my brother and I had already found our own ways in the world, to enjoy a level of life he had always dreamed of but never quite achieved before.

What Peter was to Christ, my mother was to Harry Collins. She was the solid raw material, the natural resource upon which my father could build his life, standing by him when he was unsuccessful in his endeavors or decisions and sharing in the happiness and adulation the family enjoyed when things went well. My father always knew who he was and where his shortcomings were and perhaps, more importantly, knew who she was and what she meant to him.

The former Dorothy Tolliver had met Harry Collins during his initial and unpaid six-month internship at E.A. Pierce and Company, being signed up in the senior year of his college studies at City University where he excelled in several areas, the best of which were mirrored in his oft-quoted senior thesis on factors that could affect the somewhat volatile futures market as it related to various bond offerings and certain commodities both here and abroad. Upon her graduation from Barnard, with a magna cum laude standing in her class, and armed with a degree in English literature that was bolstered with a natural way with words both spoken and written—my mother never received anything less than an A- for any paper she wrote during her four-year baccalaureate degree work, once even arguing and winning the battle with an established professor on a B+ rating she refused to accept—she had also been hired by the firm, answering a campus recruitment ad, to act as a tutor to some of its veteran executives as well as those targeted as up-and-comers.

The money was very good at the time and young Miss Tolliver decided to delay taking a teaching position at a grade school on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, at least for a year. While still living at home with her parents, and being the last of four sisters still remaining in the house and finally having a room all to herself, she laid out a plan on how best to put away enough money to get a place of her own in the future. To that end, she set her sights on the Greenwich Village neighborhood she imagined would suit her social sensibilities and challenge her intellectual aspirations.

Harry Collins was smitten by his tutor almost immediately. Beyond her comely good looks and pleasing personality and charm, and that devastatingly wonderful perfume she wore, there was something about the young woman; some almost indefinable assuredness that while just out of explanation was nonetheless as real and substantial as granite. There was an enduring quality about her, surrounding her like a gossamer aura, seemingly thin and delicate at first and easily parted, but possessing the kind of moral strength of character that set her apart from others.

It was with these thoughts of my parents, about how they were with one another and what they had attempted to give to me and my siblings that, combined with some of my own self-inflicted judgments and fears, I now found myself staring almost absent-mindedly with some passing interest at the panoramic view of the long horseshoe-shaped cove that lay at the bottom of the gently sloping hill upon which the clubhouse, circa 1850, was built on and decided to get up from my chair and stride over to the window. There was a lot of activity going on both shore side as well as out on the water as small dinghies and launches darted back and forth, guided by what appeared to my landlocked eyes as a young and roguish band of tiller handlers and sailors, quite sure and adept in their abilities as they went about their tasks of setting the anchors for the vast mooring-ball field, one that would soon be dotted all over every shape, design, and length of sailing and motor powered yacht.

Whether intimidated, should I actually get hired, that this would be the kind of work I would be doing, or just allowing my own natural shyness to get the better of me together with the fear of trying to be at ease with accomplishing, to any degree of success or expertise, the tasks of those I now watched, made my mind wander some and away from the activity outside. Instead, I scanned the room until my eyes landed on the calligraphy-styled names inscribed on a rather austere looking roster framed in what appeared to be gilded gold and mounted over a nearby large fireplace, one of many in the sizeable room, its mantle strewn with polished silver cups of varying sizes and, as I figured, importance; especially the particularly large and ornate one positioned in the middle. I moved over for a closer inspection.

He strode into the room from somewhere else, and as I heard his precise and measured footsteps on the highly polished, dark walnut, wide-planked floor behind me, I turned in my place, smiled as per my mother’s direction, and knew this was the man with who rested the decision for my summer employment.

“One always wants to see a pleasant smile upon the face of a handsome young man rather than the scowl or overly concerned look on one who is confused or ill at ease,” she had said to me.

He was tall with a long, character-lined face, high forehead, and wore his silver hair combed back and parted in the middle. He was very well-groomed and it appeared, from the pink hue of his skin, he had just come from a private session with a barber, having been given a flawless shave and hot towel treatment. He had pale blue eyes and carried himself like a banker, corporate executive, or head of state. And a very accomplished one at that.

“Those names there,” he said, pointing up at the roster. “Chilton and Turner. Family names dating back to the Mayflower. And you are?”

“Edward. Edward Collins.”

“Yes, Mr. Collins. Your father is a mid-level broker with E.A. Pierce and Company, originally A.A. Housman and Company, a firm founded by William and Arthur Houseman in 1885 and taken over by the aforementioned Pierce concern earlier this year. Housman was the broker for J.P. Morgan and played a prominent role in calming the trouble back in 1901. That was when he brought Mr. Pierce aboard. The Baruch Brothers were also there at the time,” he added with a much different tone that seemed to emphasize that last statement; a disapproving and somewhat disdainful quality punctuated by a momentary glance away and at nothing in particular. It was as if he had remembered tasting something bad and was trying to get the memory of the flavor of it out of his mind.

His voice had a special timbre to it; an almost hypnotic resonance that at once compelled me to listen to the information I was being given and then at the same time, filled me with dread and insecurity at not having any knowledge of what it was about. And he knew it too.

“But for what my father does for a living, and that he and my mother met there, I did not know all that other information.”

“Unless you were planning to enter the world of finance, and even at your age, I would think there would be no need for it. But you, Mr. Collins, will be attending Columbia this fall with a major in journalism. Yet another writer in the chute. John Daniels, vice-commodore of the club,” he said as he offered his hand across the distance from where he stood, making no attempt to cross the chasm. I stepped forward and gave him a firm shake and saw him smile and nod.

“Yes, well then, Edward, let’s grab a seat over there by the window and talk a bit. Shall we?” He didn’t wait for an answer and quickly turned.

I followed a step or two behind, noticing the confident way he walked and how exact his tailored clothes, that being a tan suit, light blue shirt, navy and yellow striped silk tie, and brown wing tip shoes fit him.

“The reason I mentioned the Pierce firm is that it seems they oversee a portion of a small number of our members’ financial portfolios, and especially a limited but nonetheless, somewhat significant percentage of the investments of our long-time member, Mr. Arthur Cook which in turn, are tended to in part, by your father. For myself and my holdings, I choose to do my personal banking and speculation elsewhere, but that is of no consequence to this conversation. Do you know the Cook family?” he said as we sat at one of the dining room tables I could see easily being set for eight with plenty of room to spare.

“No sir.”

“Would you like something to drink, Mr. Daniels?” She was silent in her approach, appearing as if out of nowhere, and waiting for the correct moment when it would be proper to interrupt. She was an older woman, conservatively dressed as I would imagine someone whose occupation was that of a bookkeeper or accountant would be. Or perhaps, someone whose job it was to prevent unimportant people from trying to see important ones.

“Mr. Collins?” he said directly to me, tilting his head somewhat to one side and smiling.

“Uh, no thank you.”

“Half a cup of coffee for me then, Margaret. Black please.”

“Thank you,” she said and left without a sound.

“So,” he said, squaring himself in his chair, crossing one leg on top of the other, and settling his hands, the right one covering the left, in his lap. “Tell me about Edward Collins.” The large class ring on his right hand matched the small pin he wore on one lapel of his suit jacket. While I could see that both said Yale, the numerals indicating the years were too small to notice from where I sat.

I most likely let a bit too much time pass before I answered but not having any experience in being interviewed, and especially with someone possessing the commanding presence of vice-commodore John Daniels, my mind went blank for a moment as I fished around in my brain for something, anything, to say.

“I’m seventeen years old, and will be eighteen this coming August,” I finally stammered, trying to get comfortable in the chair, in my suit, in my voice, in my own skin. “I uh, as a sophomore, played baseball on my high school team, have a younger brother and sister…”

“Do you have any politics Edward? Any thoughts in that area? Anything to say about the current administration of Mr. Coolidge and Mr. Dawes?” he said, cutting me off.

“No, not at the moment.”

“Continue,” he said, remaining quite still and not taking his eyes off of mine.

“I like to read. I, read a lot, that is,” I said.

“Oh? And which of today’s authors do you prefer?” he said, smiling once again, this time more like some predatory animal, toying with its prey.

“I, uh, liked The Great Gatsby, Mr. Hemingway’s In Our Time, and my mother just gave me a copy of Thornton Wilder’s The Bridge of San Luis Rey. She thought I would enjoy it.”

“And, as you will be entering Columbia as a journalism major, your own writings?”

“Starting in my sophomore year too, I did some for the school newspaper. I’m, well that is, still working on my voice, uh, in that area.”

The foolishness of being ill-prepared for such questions, and the fact that I was way out of my league here, had taken hold of me as the words spilled out of my mouth and flopped and plopped on the floor, there to congeal and create quite the mess on the highly polished surface under my feet. In desperation I looked to my left, out of the window, trying to escape the now stifling surroundings of the original 19th century maritime oils hanging on the heavy oak paneled walls, the brass sconces with their little linen shades casting a yellowish glow, the great fireplaces and trophy-laden mantles, the deep burgundy-hued leather Chesterfield couches and elegant wing chairs, their hand-carved clawed legs resting on antique Oriental rugs of muted russet and browns and maroon colors in the outer rooms, and people such as Daniels and the specter-like Margaret and all the others who, so far unseen, I knew inhabited the grand clubhouse and the world of regattas and protocols and privilege.

“The sophomore year seems to have been a busy one for you. Anyway,” he said, breaking the silence as I looked back at him, my face not attempting, nor able, to hide my humiliation. “Mr. Cook has asked me, on behalf of your father’s request to him, to look into possible summer employment for you here at the club. Do you understand how this works?”

“Yes,” I answered, a bit mechanically, resigned to my lowly station by my own words.

“Good. So, this meeting was just a formality so we could make sure that at the very least, your physical presence would best typify the kind of young person we feel will represent the high standards and ideals of our organization. On that consideration, you present yourself well.”

“Thank you,” I said, feeling a bit strange now as I realized, and with the floundering way I tried to bluff my way through, that the job, whatever it was going to be, was mine.

“As far as your background is concerned, do you have any experience working around boats, sailing, and with those who own and race them? Do you know of, or are aware of the set of rules governing colors, the procedural methods covering regatta events, the Corinthian attitude towards amateur competition, and the finer distinctions of yacht club membership?”

“No.”

“I see. Well then,” he said, now leaning forward and placing both hands, palms down, on the table. “As a request has been made by one of our esteemed members to see this thing through for you, we’ll just have you make a go at it. Sink or swim, as it were. You see those boys down there?” he said, still looking at me but motioning a bit with his head.

“Yes, I was watching them before, while I was waiting.”

Margaret had reappeared and placed on the table, what looked like to me to be a fine china cup on a small plate. She poured the coffee from a silver decanter, as elegant in its design as was the cup, and wiped the lone drop of dark liquid from its spout with a white linen napkin she held in her other hand.

“Thank you Margaret. ”

“Mr. Daniels,” was all she said, nodding her head slightly and taking two or three steps backwards, turned and walked quietly across the room and, opening a door, was gone.

“I think that is where we shall place you. Yes. It’s good outdoor activity, will test your mettle, and is of the kind I feel you will most likely benefit from. That is, unless you would rather work here in the dining room, not as a waiter of course, but most likely in the kitchen as a food runner, dish washer, or helping to clear tables. Or perhaps with maintenance or the grounds crew?”

“I’ll work out there, with the boats, with them,” I said without hesitation.

“Good. Why don’t you take yourself down there and introduce yourself to a, Mr. Marks. He’ll show you the ropes and start to get you, as they say on the docks, squared away. Quite the sailor, Marks is. Been with us, let me see, I believe this will be his third season now and he seems to have gotten the attention of those in charge of our racing committee. Won last year’s annual Labor Day Club Employees Regatta quite handily in a rather contentious affair with one of the other boats helmed by a member’s son. They did go at it some but in the end, Marks’ crew did prevail. Could make for a rather interesting rematch. Odd young man, though. He’s a, bit different from the rest. You’ll see what I mean. Now, will there be anything else?” he smiled while lifting the cup of coffee and taking a careful, almost silent sip.

As he looked at me over the rim, I could smell the deep, dark aroma coming from it, an adult scent that I did not understand nor could ever, at that moment in my life, along with many other as yet undefined things still shrouded over in mystery, fathom becoming familiar with.

“Uh, no. Thank you,” I said, not knowing whether to get up and offer my hand, or continue to sit there and reach over the table.

“Edward, you are supposed to ask about your salary,” he said, putting the coffee cup down and leveling his gaze at me.

“Oh. Uh, well then, what is it?” I felt myself go flush, becoming stupid and awkward again after almost recovering from a moment ago, and now beginning to sweat in my shirt as well.

“You will be paid twenty-five dollars per week, delivered by check, the week consisting of six days with a day off on a rotating schedule. Do your job well and there will most likely be gratuities coming your way; that is, you will get tips from the members and their guests. It will not be expected but earned. You will be issued two working shirts, which must always be clean and wrinkle free. There is a laundry service for the help but it will be your responsibility to get it done. Your hair must be neatly groomed and combed and as I see you have yet to shave, need not worry about that for now. Should you start to sprout some growth during the summer, make sure it is gone before reporting for the day. But Marks will give you all the necessary information. Keep your nose clean and take care of the members, their families, and their boats. This is a highly visible position and serving the membership is of utmost importance. And Edward,” he said, in a tone that told me our time together was just about up.

“Yes?” I said, standing up for no other reason than I had nothing else to say and wanted so much to be out of there.

“Stay away from the members’ young daughters, those of your age. While they may appear to be friendly and a tempting vision for the young men here, especially the boat crews what with their bravado and seeming ease and expert prowess with tiller and sail, such fraternization is not only frowned upon but is against the club’s rules of etiquette and station and serves as grounds for immediate dismissal. Understood?”

“Yes sir.”

“Well then,” he said as he stood up, “The best of luck to you Edward. Have a good summer and if you show enough of what we like to see around here, perhaps we’ll have you back again for next season. That’s a well tied Windsor knot, by the way.”

He offered his hand across the table, which I again, following my father’s advice, met and left him with a firm clasp. He smiled, nodded his head, picked up his cup of coffee by the dish and crossed over to the window.

“Edward,” he said, not turning around. “Make sure you send a personal, hand-written note to Mr. Cook, thanking him for his trouble. Be careful of spelling and grammatical syntax. But of course, you being a, writer, are already aware of that. Use the club stationary and leave it with Margaret at the front desk. She’ll see to it that he gets it.”

“I will. Thank you Mr. Daniels,” I said and, hesitating for a moment in anticipation he might say something back, which he did not, turned and walked out of the dining room. I made my way through the vestibule and outer lounge and past one of the bar rooms, pushed on one side of the double, oak-doored main entrance and stepped out on the porch, where quite soon, the handsome and varnished, bent-wood and cane furniture with their dark green canvas cushions and nearby, glass-topped tables, would be placed, and into the late afternoon sun of a late spring day.

boat-2387790_12802.

Laying The Keel

The grounds upon which I walked that day, down the gently sloping and already well-manicured rise, its brown winter coat now green and shorn of its tattered growth, towards the docks and the boat crew huts, had come into being under the ownership of the yacht club in 1850. That was when the four original founding members of a very small but up and coming racing club, leased the then modest home on the hill from a wealthy industrialist who had moved on to another location but had not yet decided to part with the real estate. As the membership swelled, so did its coffers and they were soon able to purchase the property outright in a cash deal as well as acquiring the surrounding land. Then, as fortunes rose with new and wealthier members, they expanded the place until it reached its present and grand appointments.

Generations before that, of course, and in the time when the Boston Post Road ran between New York City and Boston, going right through the now wealthy and incorporated municipality, founded in 1661 according to the well-maintained signs found on both sides of its legal boundaries, itself a smaller hamlet within yet a larger and equally affluent town, it was land inhabited by the Manhatatan Mohicans. The tribal chief, Wappaquewam, was convinced by a prosperous English trader named John Richbell, to allow him to acquire three necks of land on what was known back then as the Westchester Path. It was on the middle neck that the yacht club’s grounds would take root.

While the image of a rough-hewn longhouse occupying the very ground on whose surface I now stepped, or that of hunting parties paddling across the cove in birch tree canoes with sides painted in images depicting animal and spiritual deities, the braves’ bows and quivers secured about their necks as they rowed across the placid waters never materialized in my mind, I did stop and turn around to look back at the grand clubhouse perched on top.

The rambling, two-story Victorian structure, with its three turrets, the largest one in the middle and the one sporting a rather whimsical weather vane in the shape of a whale, with two others steeples of equal height at each end, was built in a somewhat stretched-out V-shape that followed the natural contour of the land.

The finishing touches of the exterior paint, an elegant shade of brown, like the kind I’ve seen in the leather seats of grand touring cars, set against a dazzling white with some gingerbread trim here and there, was still being paid attention to by a group of painters, their scaffolding visible along one of the upper sides of the building.

Off to the side of each of the wings, and far enough away from the main complex so they would not mix with the membership, I could see the small clapboard cottages, shacks, and bunk houses that the summer and kitchen help occupied. They were painted white with green roofs and were maintained by whoever the current tenants were. It all had the look of that of a summer camp.

The first floor of the clubhouse consisted of several lounge and bar areas, a men’s cigar room, separate card playing rooms, one for the men and the other for the ladies, a billiard room, private conference areas, the kitchen, and the administrative office. The main dining room, from which I had just come from, was also located here and occupied the bottom of the V with both sides offering commanding views of the docks and the entire cove through massive floor to ceiling windows, ones that were framed in elegant curtains which could be drawn should the sun be too harsh for breakfast, lunch, or an early dinner seating.

The vista seen through those windows was nothing short of spectacular including the buoyed markers leading out to the vast sound that lay beyond. By dusk and until the first light of dawn, they flashed red to port and green to starboard, showing the safe way in and out to those so anointed as to partake in this protected harbor of privilege and ideal community.

The second floor was accessed via two ornate and carpeted staircases, found to either side of the main floor’s entrance hall, their brass holding rods always polished. A small electric elevator cab was located to the right of the hall and was for those unable to make the climb. Upstairs, there were well-appointed guest rooms for the occasional and special visitors needing suitable accommodations. Situated in the eastern turret was an extensive, double-tiered library, whose offerings included many eclectic and varied reading materials, both contemporary and classic volumes of literature, a special first edition cabinet, and most importantly, the latest business periodicals and books penned by the sharpest minds both here and abroad. There was even a librarian on station starting at nine a.m. and staying until colors and the cannon firing in the evening.

There were also a pair of extra private conference rooms, equipped with tickers and telephones for both the domestic and foreign markets, which were set aside for discussions and meetings requiring such a need for secrecy or for those whose undisclosed information said between themselves, should it become common knowledge too soon to either the general public or those in a position to act upon it, could affect the price of oil, wheat, or some other commodity or stock. No, in a case like that, nothing but an ordered, timely, and controlled situation could be tolerated.

After all, vast fortunes were being made on the speculation of the futures market, and so far, all was well with the inner workings of the country’s great financial machine as it drove on, all pistons pumping, its immense furnaces glowing hot and liquid with explosive industry, guiding itself forward along a highway built and maintained, and sometimes under construction with no terminus in sight, by those same single-minded captains of industry who now also held the wheel.

But as I turned back around, totally unaware of what was happening on Wall Street or any other street for that matter, and not giving it any thought as to how or why it should or would affect me now or in the future, my focus was fully intent on the activities going on at the water’s edge and out in the cove itself.

There was a beehive of movement in progress, much of it accompanied by a cacophony of varying pitched whistles, some skillfully made by placing two fingers in one’s mouth while others used the usual and familiar mechanical device held between clenched teeth. There were yells and a great waving and gesturing of hands and arms, all seemingly random and somewhat confused at first glance. As I kept on watching however, I noticed a rhythm and an order; that each physical gesture was a signal and part of a method and plan leading to a solution to all the comings and goings of the many small and agile boats, some equipped with outboard motor power, others under sail, and all being guided, driven, and manned by young and, by their dexterity and expert timing of working with wind and current, sailors and mariners of great assurance and prowess.

As I noted before, the cove was somewhat horseshoe-shaped, its open end lying out to the west with its rounded edge off to the east. By my untrained eye it appeared to be about a mile wide and perhaps four miles long until its outermost boundary ended and it opened up and emptied out into the sound. Near where I now stood, a series of docks were being towed into place and assembled along what would have been the shoreside of the bay and the shorter of the two horseshoe legs. A duckwalk was also being constructed by a separate crew and when finished, would connect the docks to several pathways at the bottom of the hill.

“I’m looking for a Mr. Marks,” I said as I approached and then stopped at a group of them who were working just short of what, as soon as it was finished, would be the main face dock.

“Oh, you are, are you?” he said back at me, his voice decorated with what I assumed to be quite the Irish inflection, and looking me over for a moment before turning back to face the water.

He had a full head of red hair, was freckled across the face and cheeks, and quite tall and broad shouldered with the kind of arms and neck common to someone used to doing manual labor. He was stripped down to a t-shirt and shorts, had on a pair of well-used work gloves and very stained and dirty, very worn out, high-top sneakers of the kind I had never seen before.

“I guess you’ll be the new boy,” he said, grabbing a long plank of wood and handing if off to another who had been waiting there. “Best get rid of that suit and them shoes right quick and get yourself a proper work outfit and a pair of Connies,” he smiled broadly. “What?” he added when I didn’t seem to know what he was referring to.

“Uh, how did you know?” I said, a bit uncomfortably, now once again becoming aware of the insecurity of my surroundings and the fear of my limited abilities, both intellectual and physical, as the feeling seemed to encase me like an ill-fitting coat.

“Boy-o, there’s very little around here that doesn’t get noticed. An’ y’best be gettin’ used to it right from the start,” he said and, looking past me and up at the windows of the grand clubhouse, threw one arm up in the air in a wave. “Hiyadoin’ up there, Mr. Daniels,” he smiled. “The old boy’ll be watchin’ us for sure. Name’s McCurdy,” he said, now lowering his arm and, taking off one old glove, stuck his hand out towards me. “Just McCurdy will do.”

“Edward. Edward Collins,” I said and grabbed at his big paw, watching as it seemed to devour my hand. I would be amazed when I found out he and I were of the same age especially since, at first impression, he had the physical appearance and more defined facial features of one who had already left his teen years behind.

“And what shall we be callin’ you then? How do you prefer to go by?

“It doesn’t really matter. “

“Well then, we’ll settle on Edward for now. A right sounding name y’got there boy-o. I’ll be checkin’ in with me mum on this, but I believe it means you bein’ a wealthy guardian back in the old country. She’s one of the cooks here, up in the big house there, and for sure we’ll be fattenin’ you up some and, from the look of you, fillin’ them shoulders and arms out a bit. Say, you be one of them rich fellers, kin to one of the members maybe, what like to kick around with the workin’ class but havin’ nothin’ to do with them?” he said, his tone suddenly a bit on the unfriendly side. While I obviously knew nothing of McCurdy, there was one thing I was sure of. He was the kind of fellow one wished to be standing shoulder-to-shoulder with rather than face-to-face.

“No. Not me. My father does some business with a Mr. Cook…”

“Ah, then it’s a favor to Mr. Cook what got you here?”

“Yes. I guess so.”

“’Tis or ‘tisn’t, Edward. A bit of advice, then: Don’t play the fence, not with this bunch,” he said as he gestured out towards the water. “Never know where you stand that way, whether it be here on the land or out there. It’s just the way things are for some of us.”

“Yes. That’s the reason.”

“Alright then. Favors is part of what makes things move in life. Mr. Cook’s one of the right fellows, an’ I found him to be a fair man. Does good by the boys what does good by him.”

Just then a shrill whistle cut the air, followed by another and another and yet another; the first having its origin way out on the water with the subsequent  sounds being relayed to shore. They were at the same time a signal and a call to arms as would a heralding of trumpets indicate, as most of the boys near us stopped what they were doing and gazed seaward, out past the furthest buoy that marked the entrance to the channel leading into the cove. Some donned sunglasses while others, like McCurdy was doing now, shaded their eyes with one hand.

“There be your Mr. Marks, out there and beatin’ downwind Edward. And you’re about to see a right smart demonstration of sailin’ ability. You watch close now, boy-o. Ain’t many can do what he’s about to do. You watch at how it’s done, and done all Bristol-fashion proper.”

From where we stood, all I could see was a rather small boat that had just turned the far corner at the top of the seaward arm and entered the lane of buoys. It was actually a twelve-foot sailing dinghy that went by the name of Buster, with a single sail that was now billowed out and full with the stiff wind.

“He’s got her now. There’ll be no luffin’ ‘till he brings her in, starboard side to,” grinned McCurdy.  “And with the wind against the tide.”

There was admiration in the way he spoke, an esteem I rarely heard from those of my age and with whom I generally referred to as friends, and as I stared out at the quickly approaching boat, I could see the way it moved across the water and the spray it now and then threw up as it hit a small wave. But as for nuance; as for the fine distinction of expertise everyone else but me seemed to be observing, it was as if I were a blind man lost in a dark cave, beating around in desperation with my hands and trying to get a sense of where I was.

And then I saw him, leaning out over one side of the boat, stretched out at almost his entire length, his body seeming to hover in the air as if in the next moment he should surely be tossed, heels over head and into the water.

He held onto a piece of line I surmised was attached in some manner so as to control the sail and clutched in the other hand, a shorter line I was sure had to be affixed to the tiller. His repositioning, and that the boat on his side immediately reared up out of the water, made me think that surely this maneuver would cause him to capsize. But instead, the boat seemed to do exactly as he wished and even picked up speed.

Then, as he tugged a bit at the sail line he was holding and the taut sail was pulled in some, the rate of his approach increased two fold and now, by all accounts of my perception of speed and distance, he would most assuredly crash headlong into the yet to be completed face dock, quickly scattering his fellow workers to safety as he dashed his boat to splinters and most likely, a great deal of his own bones.

Everyone had now stopped what they were doing and watched as the boat and its demon helmsman, hell bent for sure destruction, skipped and sped into the very basin where the mooring-field buoys were being set. With just visible and deft movements of the tiller, he avoided one after the other, cutting them so close as to make them bob up and down as he sped by, barely losing speed in the maneuver, and quickly recovering his intended track after passing the last one.

They whistled now, but not in the signaling manner as before. Instead, the shrill calls joined in on an exuberant and excited collective resulting in one steady sound. The kind that was a clamorous declaration of support and admiration and one that would crescendo in its approval to the kind of bravado that was obviously going to be the product of an audacious display of sailing skill and individual bravery.

For some reason I turned away from the water for a moment and glancing up and back at the porch outside of the main dining room, saw one of the big doors open slightly and someone I assumed to be Daniels, walk out and stand there, waiting and watching. I imagined a slightly toothy smile crossing his lips as he patiently sipped at his cup of dark and sharply aromatic coffee. And in that same instant I had a sense of apprehension, as if some vigilant and eternally patient and omniscient overseer, having put into play his own rules of the game, was waiting for things to follow his pre-set course, knowing what the eventual outcome would be.

“Here he comes now Edward. You’ll be wantin’ to see this,” McCurdy said, his voice immediately bringing me back to watching, with the utmost anticipation, what surely was going to be an impeding disaster unfolding before my eyes.

But instead of wood crashing upon wood; of a human body flying uncontrollably through the air, itself to be dashed upon the dock, I saw him quickly and deftly sit up straight, the boat now on an even keel. In one motion he tucked the tiller under one arm, and in almost the same instant, with the hand holding the sail line, gave a rapid pull on it that caused the sail to immediately drop. With the wind now gone, the boat had all but stopped its forward motion and, with the outgoing tide on the bow, glided safely into less than a boat’s length away. The dinghy drifted the rest of the way, coming to rest alongside as it just slightly touched the dock. He got out of the boat, tied it off, and smiling to all who were watching, touched his forehead slightly with one hand and bowed.

A cheer went up. A hearty and hale ‘hoo-rah!’ from most all who had been watching and I found myself unable to control my smile or my hands as I too joined in the clapping and whooping and hollering that ensued.

And as I stood there in my dark suit with my black dress shoes on, aware of the perfect Windsor knot against the collar of my starched white shirt, I felt an elusive something brush by and pass very close, so much so that I could take in its exciting fragrance. It was a slight, playful and insistent thing that pushed at me, now so close I could hear it whispering something I could not quite make out and knowing, at the same time and in the same moment that I wanted very much to listen to it again. It was at once delicate and powerful and moving, much like the irresistible effect the moon has on the tides. And then just as quickly, it was gone but not before leaving a memory of the promise of something to come and of the possibility of an unknown and as yet to be determined change. One that I would be given a choice to either follow or ignore.

With the revelry now over and as the work quickly resumed, ramping up to its previous fever pitch, he made his way up from the dock. I could see he was heading straight for where McCurdy and I, along with some of the other boys, stood. I stole a quick glance up at the porch and noticed the figure was no longer standing there.

“There’s hope for you yet Kevin,” McCurdy said. “But you surely would have broken an egg on that landing.”

“Yeah,” he said. “But I feel I’m kind of getting the hang of it.”

“This here’s Edward Collins. He’s the new boy.”

“Just Edward will be fine,” I said to him, knowing full well that McCurdy, given our most recent introduction and upon hearing my words, would be grinning from ear to ear.

“Now,” he interrupted, as if on cue and scratching a bit behind one ear, it almost covered over by his wild red hair, squared himself, his arms folded over his chest. “Would that be Just Edward, because you are a righteous and honorable chap, or Just Edward, the dolt, too dumb to get a stone out of one of his Connies while readin’ the instructions what was written on the bottom of the sole?”

“I’m working on just what a Connie is but I think I’ve got that stone thing figured out,” I said, now finding myself unable to once again, hold back the smile as well and enjoying being the object of the joke so much so that I even relaxed in the comfort of it, somehow knowing that the rag I was getting was in good-hearted fellowship rather than in taunt or torment.

“Well then, Just Edward, seems like you’re going to fall in rather quickly with this bunch,” Kevin said, extending a hand out. “Kevin Marks. Welcome to the boat crews.”

“Thanks,” I said and met his hand.

There was handsomeness about him, one that I would remember years later as possessing the same kind of looks I had seen in a young Gregory Peck in his very first motion picture. It was not so much for the fact that he had very black hair, not quite straight but not overly curly, that seemed to enjoy being tossed back and forth, especially in the light, landside breeze that puffed at and around us every now and then, carrying with it a tinge of salty air.

Nor was it in his somewhat lighter brown eyes and his facial features, a mostly square face with ears flat against his head, which were more or less in balance with the rest of what he looked like. Not overly tall nor broad, especially when compared to the likes of McCurdy, still he, much more than his manly appeal, did have a quality of person about him that was immediately, quite likable. And like many of his comrades and cohorts, I too would find no trouble, much like a moth drawn to a flame, in following him. But unlike being burned and destroyed, the light we pressed on towards was one based on friendship and honor and the kind capable of forging a bond as timeless and as enduring as the sea itself.

Like most of the other workers, he wore a pair of baggy shorts, stained and dirty from the almost non-stop activity that had obviously been going on long before I arrived, an old and worn sweat shirt, its sleeves pushed back up on his arms, its original color suspect and long hidden from the many washings with darker items, and a pair of beat up leather moccasins.

But that would all change with the coming Memorial Day Weekend, the official launch of the yachting season here, and as of Thursday afternoon, just three days away, what with the mooring field finished by then and several boats due in, no one on staff would present themselves dressed in anything but a clean and pressed uniform, no matter what their individual job was or what kind of activity they were involved in. Hair would have been cut to the proper length and all other grooming would constantly be administered to and monitored by managers and supervisors. And it would remain so until the Monday of the Labor Day weekend. For that was when, in rain or shine, with gale-driven or becalmed seas, the last sailboat regatta race, that being the young boat crews taking on all comers, would take place.

It was a privileged tradition dating back to 1861, when the idea for the competition first took hold and became an integral part of the club’s lore, that but for several years during the Civil War, would now continue with its latest contest and my participation at the end of this summer. While September 5, 1882 was the first recognized Labor Day holiday, the initial challenges took place on the day before the annual migration south began and the yacht owners made preparations to send their boats to warmer climes.

Regardless, the participants followed the strict regulations and conventions of the club, ones adhering to in a most sacred and almost holy way, to what was known as The Corinthian Rules of Amateur Competition. And anyone found in violation of those set of consecrated, inviolable, and granite-tableted laws would face the humiliation of the club and all those affiliated and cross-honored institutions.

In short, it would be nothing less than a nautical excommunication and the kind of badge of dishonor all within the yachting community would know of. And therefore, in much the same way as the rings of water made by a tossed stone work their way outwards in ever-expanding circles, the word would eventually reach the world of business, finance, and banking.

All of that was of no concern to me that day. “I’ve never seen anything like that before,” I said, following Kevin and McCurdy up the hill.

“Thanks,” Kevin said. “But, as with anything, if you do it enough times, you get comfortable. This is what I do. Wish I played a musical instrument as well. Or painted.”

“But you still have to have the talent,” I said.

“I guess,” he said and smiled. “I guess.”

Just as we were getting to the top of the hill and picking up the path that led to the boat crews’ bunkhouse, I saw another fellow coming towards us. Where Kevin and McCurdy were rugged and fit, this other boy, of average height for our age, seemed a bit soft and in his physical presence and demeanor, in the way he carried himself I mean, I sensed something of the unsure about him. Not that I was such a good judge of people back then, having had such limited experience in the world, and while I cannot explain it, it was there all the same.

I have found that sometimes these first hunches about someone can ring false and then what follows is a great deal of ground to make up with oneself and that person that could have been avoided in the first place with just a bit of patience and understanding. But not in the case of Mason Goode.

There was nothing notable in his appearance and he possessed a rather plain and unlined face. Not that any of the other boys were as yet etched with character, still with most you could see it in the way they smiled or when engaged in conversation, whether it be of a serious nature or one of telling a tale or a simple discussion of sports or some news heard over the radio. And then again, there was the conspiratorial exchanges and quick and animated banter often associated with talking about the girls, whether real or imagined, that inhabited the thoughts some of my friends or of the young men I was about to take up with. Then it was all wide-eyed and filled with the kind of innuendo that was often whispered with a ‘you-know-what-I-mean’ delivery, even though most times both speaker and listener did not know at all.

He had sandy-colored hair that sat up on the top of his head and wore long, tan khaki pants, a pair of leather moccasins that looked quite new, and a long-sleeved Oxford shirt, white with blue stripes, worn outside of his khakis.

“Showing off again, Marks. Very impressive, as usual, to some,” he called out as he approached.

“Watch this,” McCurdy said to me in a slightly conspiratorial way as he smiled and leveled his gaze at the approaching boy. “Whattya know, whattya say, Goody?” he called out in a voice laced with seemingly lighthearted joviality.

“It’s pronounced, Good. The ‘e’ is silent,” he said sullenly and with impatience, grabbing a quick glance at McCurdy and then, with a slight nod at Kevin, his dark eyes darting about some as if making visual contact were something he wished to avoid.

“Then why is it there?” McCurdy said and stopped, as we all did now standing a few steps away from him.

“Obviously beyond your understanding,” he said.

“Ah come on Mason, lighten’ up the load a bit. You still wincin’ from that trouncin’ we give you an’ your boys last year? That was one hell of a race, boy-o. An’ we give it to you good too. I worked on varnishin’ that transom myself so’s you’d be getting’ a good look at it from start to finish.”

I saw him flinch slightly and blink once too often. It was as if he were removing a rather nasty splinter from the fleshy part of his palm, and missing grabbing it a few times with the tweezers until finally getting it out only to discover a small sliver still there under the skin and a bit too deep to go in again. When that happened, there was nothing to do for a time but live with the discomfort.

“I hear you got a new boat boy. This him?” he said, choosing to ignore what McCurdy had said and looking at me.

“Edward. Edward Collins,” I said and stepped forward a bit, offering my hand.

“Mason. Mason Goode,” he said, again emphasizing the correct pronunciation of his surname.

His handshake was half-hearted and much like making the effort for him was not worth what he would be getting back. He let go first, and I got the feeling he wanted to be done with the whole convention.

“He going to be one of your, Great Corinthians Marks?” he said, this time his voice mouthed the words so that they were singed with sarcasm and finished off with a vitriolic attitude.

I was a bit taken aback at how quickly this had become adversarial and was somewhat confused at all the goings on when Kevin stepped in. Then things changed.

“That will be for him to decide, Mason,” was all he said, delivering the message in a non-threatening way while at the same time, diffusing the somewhat charged atmosphere.

“I guess you heard Lipton has Shamrock over at Jacobs’ yard on City Island,” Mason said, changing his tone and now, being bested by personality, was looking for a way out, perhaps even to gain some ground with this information.

“And Resolute will be visiting Seawanhaka. You never know then, do you Mason? Maybe they’ll have a go at it right here. By the way, you got a boat in mind yet?”

“What?” he snapped.

“Oh, don’t you know? There’ll be three Herschoffs. All thirty-one foot Fisher Island rigs, right here for the summer. I’ll be tending to Kestrel for the Dunleavy’s.”

“The other two spoken for?” Mason said, his voice going up an octave.

“You’ll just have to find that out for yourself,” Kevin said.

I had been watching with fascination as Kevin and Mason squared off and noticed how, with this last statement, the conversation was over and everybody knew it. Mason had let a little too much time pass before coming back with a response.

“I guess I will,” he finally said and with that, walked away.

“You watch out for that one,” McCurdy said to me before I had a chance to ask who Mason was. “Yeah,” he called out. “See you around the docks, Goody.”

“What was that all about?” I asked as we again began to make our way towards the crews’ bunkhouse. I saw Kevin stick his hands into his pockets and shake his head some and smile, and while McCurdy turned to me to say something, a quick and sharp whistle coming from down the hill caused him to stop.

There were two of them and as McCurdy waved, they raced one another up the hill to where we waited. Quick and agile, more like cats in their lively movements, they were smiling and elbowing one another up the steep grade, legs pumping in counterpoint to their arms, in what was obviously, good-hearted and spirited competition, finally rushing past us in tandem and falling to the grass, huffing and puffing.

“I won than one,” the taller of the two said in one breath.

“No you didn’t,” said the other, gasping a bit between his words. “I had…you by a… chin.”

“No you didn’t. I stuck out my hand. If there was tape there, I would have busted through it sure as anything and definitely way before your chin.”

“How could you be sure?”

“I was watching you.”

“No you weren’t. I was watching you and I didn’t see you watching me.”

 Yes I was.”

“The good Lord was sure havin’ pity on their folks when they was born when He arranged for one of them to get kidnapped by the last of the Barbary Coast pirates and sold to a traveling Rumanian circus. Imagine these two being in the same house as babies,” McCurdy said.

“Come on. Who won McCurdy? You saw,” the smaller one said as he got up and brushed off the grass from his elbows and knees.

“I beat him this time Kevin. You tell him,” said the taller one as he too got up and, after sweeping the shock of brown hair off his brow and eyes, brushed off some lingering grass from one shoulder and, turning him around, from the back of the other boy’s shirt.

“Thanks,” he said.

“You’re welcome. But I still beat you,” he smiled and pushed the smaller boy away, again in what could only be described as affection and care.

While they were indeed brothers, and as I would find out, one of them not kidnapped by pirates, Frederick, the taller one, and Jack could not have been more different in both appearance and personality. They were dressed more or less in the same manner as all the others; a pair of shorts and t-shirt and those well worn, high-top sneakers I had figured out by now were the Connies McCurdy had mentioned.

Jack was a gregarious fireplug of a boy, with strong legs and shoulders for someone fifteen years old. Frederick, senior to his younger brother by eighteen months and who could be at times somewhat introspective, was thin but not skinny. Instead, and as fit as Jack, his physique was more lithe, as if his muscles were tightly coiled springs whose force was ready to be released at a moment’s notice. Where his older brother’s hair favored a mostly brown color, Jack’s was that of a shorn corn husk and worn close to his scalp. Neither possessed what could be called handsome looks but both boys had a hardy and almost devil-may-care quality about them that made them at once quite likable and fun to be around. And though seemingly in constant competition, they were as devoted to one another as siblings could be.

“Hey, Jack, Frederick, say hello to Edward,” Kevin said.

“Edward,” Jack said, sidling up to me and shaking my hand with a big smile on his face. “You seen it too. Go on, tell him I won.”

“Hey, I tell you, from where I stood? It looked like a tie,” I said, immediately enjoying being part of the banter.

“That is a diplomat,” Frederick said, shouldering his brother aside and offering his hand. “Glad to meet you Edward.”

“We hung Just Edward on him,” McCauley joined in, clasping me on the shoulder hard enough so I could feel the power in his big hands.

“Just Edward?” Jack asked, squinting in the sun.

“Alright, that’s enough of that. We’ll explain it later. Edward’s joining us this summer as part of our crew,” Kevin said. “We’re on our way up to the quarters. Are you guys done?”

“Got three more anchors to set on our line,” Frederick said.

“Okay. We’ll be down as soon as we get him a bunk,” Kevin said.

“Bunk?” I asked.

“Now, don’t tell me Daniels didn’t tell you,” he said, grabbing a quick look up into the sky and then over at the main clubhouse. “The boat crews work around the clock, in shifts. We run the launches back and forth from the mooring field to the face dock. Once things get going, and they get going really fast, we’re always on call. There are four crews, each with five to a crew, and ten launches, two to a launch. One helmsman and one to handle the lines and help people get on and off. That means we live here. In there,” Kevin said, pointing to the white clapboard bunkhouse, with the green roof, ahead of us.

The one-story structure had eight windows, four to each side of a single door in the middle. Above the door, cross-crossed like two dueling swords, was a pair of wooden oars, and between them, at the space above the point where they met, was a small, old-fashioned anchor.

“Home sweet home,” said McCurdy.

“Okay. Here’s what we do,” Kevin said, a plan already worked out in his head. “I’m assuming you’ve got no gear with you, nothing. Right?”

“Yes,” I said, feeling a bit uncomfortable now. While I had no trouble staying out now and then, I had never been away from home for more than a weekend at a time and then, at a cousin’s or some other relative’s home. Now I would be sharing space with nineteen other boys. “My father got a phone call telling me to come up for an interview. That’s all I was told.”

“Okay. You live in Manhattan, right?”

“Yes.”

“McCurdy. Go up and find out the train schedule back today and when they start running tomorrow morning,” Kevin said.

“Like this?” McCurdy answered, gesturing at his work-stained clothes.

“Right. Uh, tap on the office window and explain to Margaret that we need a train schedule to and from Manhattan. Better yet, ask your mother.”

“She ain’t gonna like it either but it’s better than dealing with Margaret.”

“It’s only to ask for a train schedule and besides, you’re not going through the dining room. And your mom’s on our side.”

McCurdy turned and jogged his way up the hill and soon disappeared behind the building.

“You guys get back to work. I’ll be down in a few minutes and I’ll help you run the lines out and finish things off,” Kevin said to Jack and Frederick. “And Frederick, you run the boat. Jack, you can take it tomorrow.”

“Ah, come on Kevin. I been working the line since Sunday,” Jack said.

“Hey, he’s about my size Kevin. He can borrow some of my stuff,” Frederick said, smiling over at Jack.

“Thanks,” I said, still feeling a bit inadequate at not having all the information I needed. It was like when I didn’t ask Daniels about my salary.

“Well, we’ll work on that,” Kevin said. “Okay, get going.”

“See ya, Just Edward. Don’t worry, we got your back,” Jack smiled and, tapping his brother on the arm, led the way back down the hill. “Welcome to the boat crews!” he called out, turning around and grinning and waving one arm.

“Come on, let’s go,” Kevin said to me and began walking off at a quick pace.

It took me a step or two to catch up and I followed him into the bunkhouse. It was a big, rectangular room and as I stepped inside, and even though most of the windows were open, I was met by the familiar odor of a locker room, much like the one at school and in a similar state of masculine disarray. There were two doors; the one we came in from and directly opposite, on the other long side, another one and four windows to the left and right of the doors and two on each end.

Up in the rafters and hanging from lines strung every which way, were a riot of pennants, hundreds of them, seemingly of every color combination possible, some faded with age and others still vibrant with letters in fancy script or possessing numerals or symbols, their secret meaning known to only those on the inside, and all representing the collections of the many crews that had inhabited the bunkhouse over the years. And in the corners stood wood masts, rigging, block and tackle, canvas, small triangular-shaped sails, and short and long oars. Scattered on the floor in piles were oarlocks, pelican hooks of all sizes, coiled up line, worn and salt-water stiff leather gloves with the fingers and thumbs cut off at the second knuckle, fids and other marlinspike tools, thick hemp boat fenders, and bent and barnacle-encrusted brass propellers.

Sixteen cots, with small wood tables and a lamp alongside were set up, one under every window along the two long walls of the room. The other four beds, two on each side, were located under each of the far side windows with the same table and lamp set up. At the foot of every bunk was a medium size steamer trunk, some of whose lids were open with their contents seemingly spilling out and on to the floor as if trying to escape captivity.

“It’s not pretty. Doesn’t have to be. You’ll be grabbing a couple of hours of sleep between shifts and not much else here. It suits the purpose,” he said looking around. “There. Over there. That’s us,” he pointed off, down the line. “One, two, three, four, along the wall and that fifth one under the far window on that wall. We like to keep the crews together. We’re known as Boat One Crew. Over there is Boat Two. And on the other side, Boats Three and Four. You’ll meet the rest of them later, most likely at breakfast in the morning. As soon as McCurdy gets back, we’ll get the timing straight.”

“Hey Kevin, I’m, uh, sorry about, well…” I began to say.

“Ah, never mind. We’ll get it sorted out.”

It was the way he said it and how I was feeling that started to put me at ease and I began to promise myself that I would now think about things more carefully; stay a step or two ahead of what I saw and heard in anticipation of what could be coming my way. I would ask the question and get the answer.

“I hope I didn’t mess things up for you and the others,” I stammered.

Just then, the door opened and McCurdy walked in. “Sometimes, boy-o, it truly is the luck of the Irish,” he said. “Mum told me one of the drivers is pushin’ on down to the city in about half an hour and runnin’ some fresh produce errands before going over to the Fulton Market. He’ll be there for quite awhile before he starts to come back. Where’s home?”

“Upper east side,” I said.

“Why then, he’s practically going right by your door. He can drop you off and by the time he starts back, he’ll put in a call to your home and you’ll be ready to meet up with him for the ride back. Come on, I’ll take you up by the road and we can wait there,” McCurdy said.

It was a great plan and with its play about to be put into motion, I willingly joined in the conspiracy, feeling a shudder of excitement run through me. I felt safe in their company, ready to stumble and lurch my way into their good graces; become one of them and, while partaking in the adventure, learn to do something so different and thorough enough so that someone would take notice, as I did while watching all the work going on, that there was no doubt I knew what I was doing and able to do it well.

I looked at Kevin for approval. “Go,” he said. “We’ll cover for you. Besides, the higher-ups will be leaving soon. None of them stay on the premises now. When you come back, get off at the same spot and walk on down here. It’ll be late and we’ll wait for you. Save you some dinner as well. Go on.”

“Okay. See you later,” I said and began to follow McCurdy outside.

“Hey Edward, wait a second,” Kevin said and walked to the back of the room, grabbed at something on the floor and came back to where we stood. “Here.” He handed me a dark green canvas sea bag, the kind that you see sailors often carrying, slung over one shoulder.

“You can have it. Anything you can’t fit in that bag, you won’t need,” he said, smiling.

I caught my ride, told my parents and my siblings what I would be doing, shed my dark blue suit, starched white shirt, and shiny black shoes for a pair of blue jeans, my school sweat shirt, the only sneakers I had, and packed my sea bag.

“Edward, here, this is for you to use,” my father said to me, as the driver had phoned and I was almost ready to leave. He handed me a small leather case, the one I used to admire and covet growing up as a child and something I recognized as one of those objects that I perceived as defining being a man. It was his toiletries kit, the one that held a toothbrush, comb, and other necessary items for one to have while traveling.

“Have a good summer son. And don’t forget to call your mother, at least twice a week,” he said before stepping forward and embracing me.

“I will,” I said.

“I have a sense that you are going to be quite the man. Now, go say goodbye to mom and your brother and sister. I’ll walk you down to the street and wait with you.”

Before I got into the truck for the ride back, my father handed me some money.
“It’s just to get you started until your first paycheck. Then, you are on your own,” he said as he closed the door, waved goodbye, and walked back towards the front door to our apartment house as we pulled away from the curb and headed north.

“Thanks dad!” I called from the open window. “Thanks!”

To be continued…

 
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Posted by on December 26, 2012 in Literary Corner

 

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The Salty Life

The Salty Life

Maybe The Filthiest Engine Room Ever

dirty-old-engine

By Capt. Ken Kreisler

I found this unattributed quote on the Internet: “I believe you should live each day as if it is your last, which is why I don’t have any clean laundry, because, come on, who wants to wash clothes on the last day of their life?” Indulge me here dear readers, as I flex some wordsmithing chops and try to explain how this fits in with the title of this installment of THE SALTY LIFE.

While musing one day, as I am often inclined to do, on how I got to travel on this life’s watery journey, and for whatever reason things like this happen, this particular time out I had a most peculiar thought; no, it was more like an image. Actually it was a complete sensory experience that while involving all of the senses had in fact isolated and excited the neural synapses of my olfactory and optical memories. Smell and sight shipmates; a little deep-gray-matter tap on the shoulder that asked, “Hey, remember this buddy?”

Now, allow me some leeway here in laying out the foundation for this essay. I promise you, I will try to make it an entertaining read which hopefully, will begin to materialize in your own consciousness and perhaps unfold your own similar memories as the words line themselves up and the images appear in the narrative. Peeling the proverbial onion as it were.

For those of you who have been following some of my past writings, you know I was born and raised on the inner city streets and in the environs of that most fabled of New York City boroughs known as Brooklyn, and for most of my growing up years, made a weekly family pilgrimage, usually on Sundays, to the Sheepshead Bay area where both my maternal and paternal grandparents resided. The mornings were spent with my father’s parents while the afternoons were set aside for mom’s kith and kin. For those of you who don’t know this, well, now you do and are up to speed with everybody else. And so, I take up again.

In those days, the stretch of waterfront along Emmons Avenue was still a bona fide fishing village and not the over developed neighborhood it is today. I clearly remember it, sans the Roll N Roaster’s, RB’s, and any of a number of ‘those kinds of places’ that now dot its length. In my youthful days, it was the original Randazzo’s Clam Bar—yes, with the hot sauce, please—and of course the not-so-sublimely iconic and Spanish Colonial revival-inspired building on the corner of Emmons and Ocean Avenues, that was an anthem, nay, a holy of holies shrine to some of the finest sea food found anywhere; that being the fabulous and wondrous Lundy Brothers.

lobster-1662978__480It was said that in its heyday, the cavernous restaurant, always bustling with the noise of its waiters in constant motion, rushing here and there, huge trays of food, stacked skyscraper-high and held up in the air, seemingly and miraculously defying the laws of gravity and balanced on one hand, as they threaded their way through the always packed room, served as many as 2,800 meals per day.  Also once known as the largest eatery in the United States, local urban legend has it that on one particular Mother’s Day, its kitchen and staff served some 15,000 meals by the time the doors closed late that evening and the lights went out behind the beautiful leaded glass windows. The huckleberry pie, the biscuits, the incredible raw bar where I watched in utter amazement as shuckers, their fingertips and the inside of their thumbs wrapped with white tape, opened and served up many a plateful of Littleneck clams in seconds, complete with lemon wedge, little fork, and a packet of those round, salty crackers; the incredible Shore Dinner, the whole Gestalt of the thing was truly, the stuff that legends are made of.

Sadly, like so many other things, the restaurant is gone. The landmark building is now subdivided into separate stores. Even the head boat fishing fleet across the street that ran along the waterfront, at one time one of the most prestigious and hardy found anywhere, and where things started for me, has shrunk to a mere shell of its former self.

The once proud line up, many of the them refurbished WWII U.S. Navy vessels, sometimes tied up three to a pier and stern to bow, their jaunty and salty mates with faces, arms, and necks wind and sunburned, the white outlines of their sunglasses clearly visible around their eyes and across the bridges of their noses on their five o’clock stubbled faces, suitably garbed in rubber boots and either yellow or black rubber bib overalls, perhaps one shoulder strap hanging rakishly loose from one arm, and out on the concrete walk, hawking and urging you aboard for a day’s fishing, are for the most part gone now, replaced by a cadre of dinner cruise boats.

But back then, in those halcyon days, it was one of the most exciting things in my life and I looked forward to going down there each Sunday afternoon, first as a young boy with my grandfathers, and then on my own when I got older. Hang in there, we’re getting real close now.

I remember always trying to be there about three o’clock in the afternoon when the boats came back, their horns blaring, announcing their return with fish, soon to be laid out for sale on the sidewalk in wooden crates packed with ice. They had names like Dorothy B, Grace, Brooklyn, Rainbow, Ranger, Wahoo, Eagle, Sea Wolf, Rocket, Amberjack, and many others. And then there was the Carrie D II and her skipper Capt. Sal Dragonette.

How I had first come to go fishing on her, and then wind up as an occasional mate, splitting my time aboard with mostly working as a yard snipe at the nearby Schatz Brothers Marina during one summer off from my junior year in high school, is a fairly messy mélange of memories and foggy recollections. But I do remember being hawked aboard one early morning back then for a day of drifting for fluke as I strolled the quay front with a friend of mine, our fishing rods seated with Penn 60 reels swinging from one hand, a small duffel held in the other containing extra sweatshirts, hooks, sinkers, a 100-yard spool of monofilament line, a couple of bottles of Hires root beer soda—one rolled up in the sweatshirt so as not to break against the other—a package of Hostess chocolate cupcakes—you know, the ones with the white squiggle across the chocolate fudge top, often a pb&j sandwich, and usually a piece or three of some chicken of sorts wrapped in tin foil and placed in a brown paper bag along with some candy and a couple of Tootsie Roll pops. Unlike today’s disappointing confection, back then there was still a fair amount of Tootsie in the pop. I digress.

“Five bucks a piece, ten for the two of you.” We got a wink and a smile from the wind- and salt-weathered mate, and I noticed the odor of fish and something else emanating from him even though he stood a good distance away from us. “Two spots left. Whaddya say, fellas?”

She was an old wood tub, painted with some kind of orangey-brown color on the trim with what still passed as a white hull and superstructure, given the rust stains and whatever else tinted her exterior. She had her pilothouse way aft and a very long foredeck, where on port and starboard sides most of the fishermen had already staked out their territories. There was some kind of boom apparatus forward that I assumed worked back when she did whatever it was she did before being put into head boat service only to find out later that it was a steadying sail. Whatever. I’m sure it didn’t work now either. I had already seen the movie version of The African Queen and by the looks of what I had paid my hard-earned five bucks to go fishing on, the Carrie D II could have been that vessel’s grandmother. But my friend and I could care less. We were going out to sea on a warm early summer’s day, to go fishing, and that was all we were thinking about when I heard a voice coming from the open forward windows of the pilothouse.

“Okay, let’s get it out of here,” it said, raspy, gruff, croaky, thick and husky, a disembodied and bellowing declaration from inside that pilothouse. Our captain, like Ahab in Melville’s Moby Dick, was unseen so far but yet whose presence, I now sensed, pervaded every bit of the boat. What had I gotten myself into here for five bucks a piece, two for ten?

“Get them lines off…an’ watch you don’t let ‘em drop in the water like you did last time, you knucklehead. Almos’ caught a wheel, fer Chrissakes.” And then the boat shook, making some kind of rumbling noise as if it were a great beast being rudely awakened from a seasonal sleep and now in a most foul mood and undoubtedly, quite hungry.

Thick black smoke coughed and belched from her exhaust ports as the mate skipped fore and aft, slipping and flipping the lines from the port side and up on the pier, each one of them landing with a soft thwacking sound and heralding the signal of one blast of the boat’s horn indicating all lines were off. The craft was quickly enveloped in smoke, what with the wind softly blowing from stern to bow as I now clearly recognized the aforementioned fragrance complementing the mate’s fishy odor. Lube oil and diesel fuel. Unmistakably a burned and acrid variety of Eau d’#4 Home Heating.

We started to slip down the pier as three more blasts of the horn were sounded—engines in reverse, but you knew that, right?—and by the time we had cleared the end and our phantom skipper had swung the bow to starboard and picked up the channel markers indicating the preferred narrow passage seaward through the bay, its outer sides dotted with many mooring balls, the breeze, now on our port, carried our smoke and scent landward from whence we came. As we turned the corner of the bay and headed for the buoys that would take us across the Coney Island flats and out to the fishing grounds on the edge of the Ambrose Channel shipping lanes, I noticed the trail of the now dark-gray smoke we were leaving behind.

sole-2057110__480Fishing was good that day with every long drift producing a flurry of activity for those with the right touch and feel even though, and more than once, someone managed to get themselves all tangled up resulting in a series of salty epithets delivered in various languages and dialects. Two got seasick, most likely from the pervasive exhaust smell as the sea conditions were barely noticeable, and were most emphatic is consigning verbal wills to their friends, adding several addendas at various times during their explosive episodes of mal de mer.

It was almost time to head back to the barn when I noticed the door on the port side of the pilothouse opening and out stepped Capt. Sal for what I was sure was the first time. He seemed as wide as he was tall with a red-flushed round face littered with a two-day stubble, a headful of wild hair, and big, meaty hands. I had to look back and forth between him and the pilothouse while trying to judge his girth with that of what I perceived was the interior dimensions of his inner sanctum. I had a most disturbing thought then: There was no head—a nautical bathroom for those not in the know—that could not have had any chance of even remotely fitting in there. Armed with that information, it was no wonder I quickly willed not going any further with that notion and instead, put that part of my mind under lock and key but not before I just managed to imagine the fleeting image of a five gallon bucket. Like not wanting to look at a train wreck…well, you know the rest.

He hitched up his tan khaki pants, and adjusted the tan khaki web belt that hung way below his ample stomach; the cinch that seemed to help prevent said gut from hanging to his knees, and tried to tuck in the back of his khaki shirt. He then gave a shrug of his shoulders, as if the whole ritual was a big waste of time. On his feet he wore some kind of bone-colored, paint spotted and oil-stained, and much worn boat shoes. Capt. Sal, I gathered, was an earth-toned kind of guy.

“How we doin’there, boys?” he croaked to some of the guys fishing at the rail as he flipped the butt of a cigarette up, out, and into the water and promptly lit another one. Not waiting for an answer, he waddled aft, totally at ease with the gentle roll of the drifting boat, looking at each fisherman’s catch, sometimes nodding and other times not until finally reaching a point on the other side of the boat just opposite where my friend and I had been fishing all day. And we knew where the head was.

“Hey,” I heard him say, after which he gave a quick, wet sounding cough and promptly took a big drag on his cigarette.

I didn’t know the mate’s name was Hey; I thought it was Dave or something like that. But he answered, “Yeah Cap?” as he made his way forward after netting a fish for someone near the stern.

“Go on down there an’ check the earl, will ya. I’ll be kicken’ them over and this’ll be the last drift.  It’s almost time. Hiyadoin there boys?” he said to me as I looked over to where Hey had now joined him.

“Got some nice fish,” I said as my friend brought up a very big sea robin, swung it up over the rail and plopped it down on the deck. The hook came out fairly easily and he stood up and was about to throw it back overboard.

“Don’t be trowin’ dem big ones like dat back in. I got some Portogeese guys taken ‘em,” he said.

“What?” I think my friend said as the fish wriggled and slipped out of his hands and splashed into the water.

“Fer Crissakes,” Capt. Sal said as he shook his head towards the deck, the cigarette now dangling from his mouth. “Ah, what the hell. Go on now, check that earl so’s we can wrap this up,” he said to Hey and, brushing past him, made his way aft, down the starboard side to the other door that led to the pilothouse and in he went. A moment later, a cigarette butt launched itself out of one of the side windows and I had no doubt, another was promptly lit up.

As Hey emerged from the depths of what I gathered was the engine room, wiping his hands on an oil-stained rag, and looking towards the pilothouse, he gave a thumbs up sign after which came three quick toots of the horn signaling all lines up. The Carrie D II, heretofore under the influence of the somewhat hypnotic and low decibel rumble and vibration of the generator, constantly emitting its own noxious fumes from a hull vent, suddenly reverberated with the sound and shuddering of the main engines. First one, then the other, and then the billowing black smoke.

There was some sort of announcement that came over what passed for an amplified sound system aboard, but with the hanging rusted speaker secured by some piano wire and duct tape to keep it from dangling and banging off the side of the pilothouse from the lamp wire that snaked its way out of a disastrously drilled-out hole there, the words and message were wholly unintelligible.

“Pool fish in the stern,” heralded Hey, acting as interpreter for the other-worldly, public address, static-laden communication as he made the rounds of the deck. “I clean the fish too, for fifty cents each.” By the time we docked, the trail of dark gray smoke that had been following us around finally dissipated into the late afternoon sky.

I think by now I’ve painted a pretty clear picture of what kind of boat the Carrie D II was and how she was an unfortunate reflection of her skipper. I would imagine that in her hey day, those first few years after her launch, she was a pretty tidy craft. And while my friend and I continued to fish on her—that five buck a piece/two for ten deal to a pair of soon-to-be high school seniors suited us just fine—and even managed to win a pool or two, I would not realize the full extent of what I had only imagined was below decks until one mid-summer trip. Just as I was about to get off, Capt. Sal, leaning out of the lowered window of the pilothouse’s port side, and flicking a butt into the water, said: “Hey kid. I notice you’re pretty much a regular. I may need an extra deck hand. Wanna make a few bucks an’ fish for free?” he said as yet another cigarette appeared and was as quickly, lit, a cumulus cloud of smoke momentarily blocking out his face. ‘Well, whaddya say. Yes or no. This ain’t no math test.”

“I have another job over at Schatz. In the yard. I’ll have to check what days I work each week. It changes,” I remember saying, already with the lure of free fishing and a couple of extra bucks in my pocket presenting some tantalizing low hanging fruit to me.

“I know dem guys. Sommtimes when I got to get a wheel dinged out, I go there. Out and in the same day. Haven’t been since last year though. Okay den, you let me know. But don’t wait too long. I got a lot of guys want to work this boat,” he croaked, coughed, and took in a long drag.

“Okay,” I said and turned and got off the boat and looked back one more time.

“Free fishing an’ you get tips an’ the boat gives you a few bucks,” he said.

I managed to get a schedule that gave me Tuesdays off and since the yard was a short walk from the fishing boat piers, I left a message for Capt. Sal that I could give him Tuesdays for the rest of the summer.

Hey—his real name was Brad and for as long as I worked the decks, I never heard Capt. Sal refer to him by another other handle—and I got along just fine and I had no problem in acknowledging that he was the Alpha mate on board the Carrie D II. None whatsoever. But now being the new guy, I was relegated to perform all the slop jobs Hey/Brad was doing before, like Ishmael, I signed my soul over to Capt. Sal Dragonette.

Shape up was at six, and we usually tried to pull out of the dock by seven a.m. While Capt. Sal was out getting bait or whatever, Hey/Brad and I started to square things away for the day’s trip as a few of the regulars started to show up and grab their usual spots. I was shown the engine room hatch and, with a dirty old Boy Scout flashlight—you know, the olive-green one with the ninety degree bend to it, this one so oily I could feel the residue on it—stuck in a back pocket of my jeans, descended into the dark inner domain of the Carrie D II.

Now, in those days, my entire knowledge of working machines and wiring and pumps and filters and couplings and generators and harnesses and transmissions and expansion tanks and head gaskets and well just about anything that concerned making this boat move through the water was as nil as could be, making me as dumb as a bag of hammers when it came to its operation.

As I made my way down the slippery metal ladder, my hands getting oil stained as I went from rung to rung, until finally alighting on the engine room deck, still feeling that slippery, sliding effect underfoot, I looked around. The only light was that from the open hatch above and I scanned the densely packed space for a switch or a cord that would illuminate the place.

“Hey,” I yelled up at the open hatch above, smiling as I did and then adding, “Brad!” Only a few minutes aboard and I was already taking on Capt. Sal’s persona. I wondered about how Hey/Brad’s mind had so far been affected what with him being, more or less, permanent ship’s company.

“Yeah,” he said, peering down into the hold.

“There a light switch down here?”

“Port side. Behind the generator. But if it don’t work, maybe the bulb is out. Use the flashlight. Dips’re on the inboard sides of the engines. Also, check the oil in the generator too. But it’s on the outboard side so you’ll have to do some climbing over it. Sal’ll be back soon and want to fire it up, so let’s get going. If you need to add any oil, look under each engine. There’s a space there where we keep it. Fill it just past the top mark on the dips.”

There was a good reason the switch didn’t work; there was no bulb in the overhead socket. Actually, the screw-in neck was there but the bulb was not and I found a few remnants of broken glass underfoot as I stepped between the main engines. I took the flashlight out of my back pocket.

Suffice it to say, Dr. Frankenstein’s lab had nothing on the engine room space aboard the Carrie D II. The overwhelming smell of oil and diesel fuel, mixed in with a rather raunchy bilge odor, permeated everywhere and, with the hatch open, most assuredly wafted upwards. I was already enveloped in its bouquet and quickly realized how it followed Hey/Brad wherever he went. Now, I too was so anointed.

All three engines, the two mains and that of the generator, with their weeping cylinder covers streaking the blocks, needed oil and as I scanned the underneath areas under the now yellowing glare of the Boy Scout flashlight, the only things I could find there were about a half-dozen, oil-stained quart milk containers. I lifted one, feeling the weight of some liquid and, pinching the lid open, looked in. It was oil alright and even under what I knew was the quickly fading light of the flashlight, I could see it was very black and thick. I found a funnel and fitting it in the oil fill, started to pour the viscous liquid in. It only took a few minutes, even with having to climb over and then waist-straddling the generator, to get it done. Before climbing up and out of what surely was the inspiration for one of Dante’s rings of Hell, I gave each engine a quick coolant inspection as instructed in the recent past by one of the mechanics at the yard. I twisted the cap off, stuck my finger in and if it came up wet, it was okay. Today, all was fine.

children-968121_1280Finally getting back to the surface world, after what seemed an eternity, I realized I was now covered with the kind of dirt and filth quite unlike that which I picked up while fishing, with the latter being totally acceptable. The spaces under my fingernails were black and there was a wide swath of gunk across my gray high school sweatshirt that also covered the waist area of my jeans. There was a black smudge across the top of my right hand and a matching one that ran across my brow. The palms of my hands were dirty and oily and I felt as if I were walking on a film of it as well. And of course, there was the smell.

Capt. Sal waddled aboard a short time later. He wheeled a rusted hand truck piled high with about 24 white rectangular boxes, 12 of each containing a frozen block of squid and spearing, from the beat up van he parked in his usual spot opposite the boat and left it on the dock as he let himself, step by step, down the boarding ladder—it was dead low tide and with no floating docks along the entire waterfront, it was the boats that rose up and down. By the water trail it left, that was now puddling up under the rusted conveyance, the bait was already beginning to thaw. Capt. Sal did not drive a van with a refrigerated compartment.

“They ain’t gonna get aboard by themselves,” Capt. Sal said to me as he tried to hitch his pants up above his ample belly, gave a ‘thumbs over there’ signal, and disappeared into the pilothouse. (Think what you want about the Carrie D II, but we always had plenty of bait aboard, what with the leftovers being added exponentially from the day before, albeit some of it, by the time the later part of the week rolled around, was getting a bit ripe and added to the overall multi-fragranced odor that always accompanied the boat.) I heard the low rumble of the generator coming to life, saw the belch of black smoke snaking up over the aft port rail from the exhaust port in the hull there, and recognized the crackle of the VHF radio as he turned it on. With a couple of buckets of salt water drawn from the bay to thaw out the bait, Hey/Brad and I got things ready for the day’s fishing.

This was the routine aboard the Carrie D II for all the trips I made on her for the rest of that summer. I indeed fished for free, made some tips, and got some bucks from the boat. For the most part, boats like the Carrie D II were already on the other side of the changing times. And as it turned out, even though she was an old tub and way past her prime with many of the other boat owners already bringing in newer, faster, and more comfortable head boats, and Capt. Sal was as an irascible character as there ever was, still it was loads of fun as the days slipped by and I went from being a high school junior to entering my senior year.

Whenever I have the opportunity to drive along the Belt Parkway, that famed roadway whose construction began in 1934, girdling the edges of waterfront Brooklyn, whether going east or west, I often take the Coney Island exit and stop at famous Nathan’s for a quick hot dog, greasy fries, and a root beer soda, after which I make my way to Emmons Avenue and begin a slow crawl along the concrete piers. It’s changed and changed so much to my memory’s eye that I find it almost unrecognizable. But still, the sights, sounds, and experiences that set me on my life’s course are there for me to bring up once again, whenever I please. And coming full circle in this bit of nostalgia that I have been sharing with you, is the image of the machinery space aboard the Carrie D II and the place it occupies in my consciousness as what could be, maybe the filthiest engine room ever.

If you have your own SALTY LIFE experience and would like to share it with us, please send it in, along with any images, drawings, illustrations, maps, or photos. If it gets posted, I will send you two dozen of my world-famous, hand-made, chocolate chip cookies. Promise. And don’t forget to let me know if you have any food allergies, like with nuts, so I won’t load them up with pecan, walnut, or macademias. You’re going to love ’em. Fair winds shipmates! -Capt. Ken

 
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Posted by on May 9, 2011 in The Salty Life

 

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The Salty Life

The Salty Life

 Nautical Feng Shui

Is Beelzebub in your bilge? Are there gremlins in the galley?

A how-to guide for banishing seafaring superstitions aboard, nautically balancing your vessel, and keeping it that way.

By Capt. Ken Kreisler

GIVEN THE NATURE OF THE INFORMATION, A NECESSARY INTRODUCTION IS FORTHWITH:
Edmund Burke, the 18th century British political writer said, “Superstition is the religion of feeble minds.”
Hamlet, Shakespeare’s most melancholy Dane, cogitated that, “All is not well; I doubt some foul play.”
“Horse hockey!” remarked a crusty curmudgeon of a captain I once fished with.
While poets, scientists, scholars, and theologians have contemplated the roots of superstition throughout the ages, none seem more under its spell than those of us who goes down to the sea in ships. And as you may ascribe to some Neptunian/Poseidon-based superstitions, I have chosen to arm myself using a parallel interpretation of Newton’s Third Law of Physics—For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction—to dispel any ensorcells coming my way. Therefore, in order to share my so far unbroken lucky streak in dealing with these waterborne perturbations with you, my shipmates, I offer the following solutions. But before we begin, let the wise mariner beware. Since karma is like a boomerang, you always carry yours with you. Hopefully all your worldly good deeds to date far outweigh your bad ones and therefore, should any of these conditions befall you, I hope you have enough juice built up to repel them.
The only guarantees here are that there are none.  Good luck!

 CHANGING THE NAME OF A BOAT

flowers-and-statue-1332942

Photo credit: Freeimages.com/kcom 1208

It’s bad luck to change the name of a boat. Well, what if you don’t like the name of the boat you’re contemplating buying? Or, perish the thought, already own? Tripe Stew. Muck & Mire. Regurgitation. Skid Marx. Haggis. Yes friends, these and others, some way too blue to make it into print for this collection—this is, after all, a family experience—are names I’ve seen adorning the transom, often in gold leaf and lavishly illustrated, of many a craft. If you really can’t stand your boat’s present name, you can change it without fear of reprisal. But do it only in the following manner lest you stir up a heap of trouble.

First, you will have to ceremoniously obliterate the old name everywhere you find it. For example, run a piece of sandpaper once across the transom, or if the bows and superstructure are so festooned, up there also. And don’t forget the tender. If there is a ship’s log aboard (logs are often kept by new owners for maintenance schedules), or a life ring, raft, salt and pepper shakers, and so on, take a pen, pencil, or marker and draw a single line through the name everywhere it appears. Continue doing this throughout the boat, making a mark that in some way deletes the odious cognomen.

Next take a piece of paper and write the soon-to-be-exorcised name on it. Fold the paper up and place it in a small cardboard or wooden box. Burn the box completely until there are only ashes left. Scoop up the residue and take it to the water’s edge. Throw the remains into the sea on an outgoing tide. (If you live on a lake, do it at night and only during a new moon. For you river dwellers, send the scoriae downstream.) You may now change the name everywhere on your vessel without fear of irking the ire of any mischievous water sprite. And of course the monogrammed towels will have to go.

AN ASIDE: Eugene V. Connett III, born 1891 and who died in 1969, spent most of his adult life fly-fishing and publishing rare and collectible sporting books at his Derrydale Press. Such was his obsession that he exhausted his family fortune pursuing his dream and wound up in financial ruin. His take on the difference between a boat and a chicken coop is especially telling: “Boats are quite different from chicken coops; things on a boat must be able to take any licking to which they are exposed or you take the rap. In a chicken coop the chickens take it.”

WHISTLING ABOARD

How about whistling aboard? In olden days, becalmed sailors whistled whether at the tornado-2090803_1280wheel, swabbing the decks, or chained in the fo’csle. This warbling was believed to bring up the wind. Of course, centuries later, since the last thing some of us motorized boaters need is a blustery day—sail boaters need not heed this particular fallaciousness as they often require some sort of snotty blow to get them from Point A to Point B and even perhaps back again lest they turn on their engines to cover some ground at the very least; so for the ragbaggers amongst us, tweet and twitter away to your heart’s desire. So be it. For the rest of us, trilling aboard is absolutely verboten. However, if any of you power boaters happen to forget yourselves and by chance do pucker up and blow, merely spit overboard in the direction from which the wind is coming, and any errant gust will hasten itself to disappear. Don’t forget to duck or feint one-way or the other lest your chucker hit you on the way back. If it does, take a bucket of water from the ocean, lake, river, or bathtub and douse the spot where you were hit. If it lands on your face, you can’t just wash the spot off. Instead, you’ll have to dump the whole bucket over your head. Of course there’s a more salty approach but again, this is a family site.
Fresh Fish: The first person to write in English about using a fishing rod was Dame Juliana Berners, whose Treatyse of Fysshynge wyth an Angle (c.1496) remained the basis of fishing knowledge in England for 150 years.

VOYAGING ON A FRIDAY

luck-2216208_1280Then there’s the one about not embarking on a Friday. Well that comes from the idea that perhaps Christ was crucified on a Friday, and therefore it is very bad luck to set out on that day. And as far as where letting your lines go if the day falls on the 13th, well, perish the thought. Even thinking of it will bring disaster down upon you on a biblical scale. However, my good friend and dock buddy Father “Fishin’ Magician” O’Really—actually O’Reilly but due to his penchant for telling exaggerated fish stories we hung this respected moniker on him—has a remedy for this one. Should those whose minds have contemplated such a voyage on that particular day of the week, he advises his marinized parishioners to say the proper novenas—especially those concerning St. Francis and St. Peter—and all will be just fine. “And for my Hebrew friends, of which there are many,” he said as we shared another wee Bushmills during this conversation, “Well it just doesn’t matter now does it my boy? They can set out any old day they wish.” See where I’m going with this?   
graffiti-771696_1280Overheard on a recent flight from Boise, Idaho to St. Petersburg, Florida: “Hey, Olive, be a dear and pass me that can of spinach.” Popeye, sailorman

 

BANANAS

grammostola-1198225_1280Bananas. Now, how can nature’s perfect food ever be bad luck on a boat? Well shipmates, it seems that long ago, when iron men sailed wooden ships, many a voyage often put into exotic tropical locales for reprovisioning. Among the foodstuffs taken on were copious amounts of bananas. And in these bunches of bananas, living happily on nature’s perfect food, were all sorts of bugs, spiders, and snakes and creepy-crawlies that, once aboard, often lived just as happily in the victuals, bunks, and on the bodies of the crew, including many a vexed captain. Soon unexplained fevers and sores spread throughout the ships companies, and eventually to almost all the ports of call the vessels made, including its home port, as the insecta–the Latin family nameinterlopers made it ashore.bananas-504478_1280

When the irate masters finally figured out the source of the scourge, the word spread lickety-split from port to port and any form of genus Musa—that’s Latin for banana—aboard a ship was prohibited. To cement the edict, they fed into the sailor’s trunk of superstitions that bananas aboard portended all sorts of ill and thus deemed the fruit bad luck.

Of course today this is all so much bilge water so there’s no need to deprive yourself of nature’s perfect food aboard your boat. But if you feel the need to dispel any chance of any bad mamma jamma coming your way, simply throw the peel into the water—not to worry tree-huggers, it’ll quickly get eaten as it rejoins the circle of life—while balancing on your right foot. That’s your right foot. Never the left. And oh yes, make sure you’ve finished the banana before tossing the peel.

The code of the old U.S. Lifesaving Service: You have to go out, and that’s a fact. Nothin’ says you have to come back.

           GETTING ON AND OFF A BOAT                    

billiard-ball-157929_1280And don’t make light of this left foot thing. Getting on and off a boat with your left foot—you’re not supposed to in case you didn’t know—is a big no no. You question the authenticity of this fact? Then you research it in the Gutenberg Bible on your own. But if you happen to absentmindedly make this podiatric faux pas, merely retrace your steps backwards exactly as you made them forwards until you are either dockside or deckside. Take off your shoes, sneakers, flip-flops, or whatever and switch them to the opposite foot. Then step on or off the boat, right foot first of course, after which you can put your whatever’s back on the proper foot.

If you’re one of those unshod boaters—go figure anyone with a splinter/hot-deck fetish or having a penchant for picking up all sorts of foot fungi that are more than happy to take up residence and multiply and be fruitful between your toes—perform the same maneuver. Do the reverse shodding thing, and get on or off. Right foot first please, or you’ll have to do the whole thing over again but this time twice. Once ashore or aboard, feel free to unshod yourself if you must.

In response to the question of how long a particular seaman had been a sailor, there’s some insight I found in this little ditty:

All me bloomin’ life.

Me mother was a mermaid,

Me father was King Neptune.

I was born on the crest of a wave                                                                 sailor-612255_1280

And rocked on the cradle of the deep.

Seaweed and barnacles are me clothes,

The hair on me head is hemp,

Every bone in me body’s a spar,

And when I spits, I spit tar.

I’se hard, I is, I am, I are.

KEEPING GOOD LUCK ABOARD

leaf-1679736_1280Getting from bow to stern on many a craft is often a task that is made even more difficult by the many things that can be left on deck. Anything from a mop to a length of line to last night’s empties lying about can and will get you in trouble. And should you accidentally overturn a bucket full of water, you are leaving yourself, your vessel, and those aboard facing dire consequences. You see the water inside the bucket is considered to be good luck and the more that spills out, the more good luck will be leaving. Therefore, make all haste to right the bucket and save even the smallest amount of water. Any luck left is better than none at all. Under no circumstances should you leave the bucket overturned. A prudent skipper will therefore alert all in his crew to make sure they are ever vigil whenever buckets full of water are about.

Should this happen aboard your boat, and you have been successful in righting the bucket and saving some of the water, immediately fill the container with water which has come from overboard in the general area where the spilled liquid found its way to the sea; it takes a sharp eye and a keen mind not to panic when this happens. Just follow the trail to the nearest scupper. But do not use the righted bucket for fetching. Instead use another ewer, jug, carton, cup, container, pitcher, basin, decanter, or carafe until the pail is half full.

Then, as you are pouring the very next fill into the bucket, throw a copper penny overboard on the opposite side from where you are filling. As copper is the main ingredient in protective anti-fouling paint, this is a way of making an offering to safeguard your hull bottom as well. The metal was also used as copper sheathing on hull bottoms on ships in days gone by. Anyway, making this submission while refilling your bucket with water will ensure that good luck will return aboard your vessel. Once the bucket is filled, you can now slowly pour the water overboard, allowing it to surround your boat with fair winds, clear skies, and no underwater obstructions.

Should you kick over a bucket below decks, quickly sponge up as much as you can and get it back into the bucket. Then, with as much alacrity as possible, get topsides and proceed with the already mentioned instructions. In this situation you can fill the bucket from any location but remember to toss the copper penny into the drink opposite from where you are.

On Launching A Boat

This one has some overlapping with the not-voyaging-on-a-Friday annoyance. As you recall from that one, bad luck will follow you for the rest of your days—and then some—if you set sail on any Friday, double that for a Friday the 13th.christian-1316180_1280

To bolster the point, I recall the story of a ship building company at the turn of the 19th Century whose principals decided to test the hex to the max. Cutting to the chase here, they signed on to build the ship on a Friday, commissioned the keel on a Friday, finished driving the last fastening on a Friday, hired a captain named Friday, on a Friday, by the way, and launched and christened the vessel on a Friday. There were lots of other Friday occurrences but I’m sure you get my drift here. Oh yes, one more: The vessel was named…yep, Friday.      

Anyway, on her maiden voyage, she smartly slipped her lines and drifted away from the dock on the outgoing tide. With family, friends, and investors waving from quayside, her crew unfurled her sails. She caught the wind, and slowly, bit by bit, made for the horizon after which she was never heard from again. So, as my good friend Father O’Really would have me do, let’s uncork a bit of the wee Bushmills and set aside Fridays for other things rather than splashing our boats.

But let’s get back to the problem at hand. Before the notion of using champagne to wet the bows of boats slipping down the ways, or more likely being lowered in the TravelLift for the vessel’s first taste of water, wine was poured upon the decks and represented a libation to the gods, what with their well-known and avid proclivity for the drink, thus ensuring to bring good luck. Christening a ship by breaking a bottle of champagne across her bow at the time of launching arose from this practice. However, there is one derivation of this that is a bit more macabre. Somewhere back in antiquity, Druid stuff and all that, it is said that only human sacrifice could appease the capriciousness of the spirit world. With the decks thus bloodied, the vessel could now sail upon the waters in safety. I, for one, am glad that’s over with as is, I am sure, the hapless participant of such a ritual.

Now, to guarantee a good and proper launching, and to make sure no calamity, disaster, mishap, or ruin comes of your beginning this portion of your watery adventures, it is important to have this most sacred of nautical undertakings well planned out.

First, arrange your launching on an outgoing tide; preferable at the top of the flood and just before the ebb. In addition, if you can plan things during any cycle of a full moon, neap, or spring tide, this is also desirable but not absolutely necessary. But doing it during this special astronomical occurrence couldn’t hurt. This might well irritate your marina manager, but when you’re dealing with the alternative, I’d opt for the short-lived annoyance that anything from a six-pack to a freshly caught fish to a t-shirt can usually cure.

shoes-1560610_1280With everything now in place, take a pair of old shoes, whether one by one or tied together, and throw them in the water at the moment any part of the hull first touches the water. Having someone standing by helps to coordinate this. There is, of course, some leeway in the timing of the toss so don’t implode if you are either slightly ahead of the dipping or just behind it. The shoes—boots are also permissible as are boat shoes, sneakers, sandals, flip flops, or any other type of foot wear—must be well worn, beyond repair, and a long-time favorite of the boat owner’s. The older and more seasoned the better, as the long accumulated mileage will guarantee that much time and tide will pass before any monkey business will, well, monkey around with your vessel. And as far as that champagne goes, please make sure the bottle is well scored so that it will shatter and bathe the bows in liquid on the first shot. You are allowed a second shot but in doing so, this will lessen the amount of protective time the shoes were originally giving you. For the full effect, you must wait at least 24 hours before cracking the bottle. To counteract this blight, hang the shoes overboard in the dock, much the same as a zinc guppy, for the same amount of time.

Once the boat is safely afloat, retrieve the footwear—I’m sure your dockmates and neighbors as well as that feisty marina manager don’t want a pair of old shoes floating around the docks—and toss them in the garbage with complete confidence as they have now and forever, served their purpose.

amphibian-1297728_1280“I’m going below to put on my 50 mph hat cause I only got 40 mph hair.”  Dick Weber, owner, Canyon Club Marina/South Jersey Yacht Sales, Cape May, New Jersey, as we hit 41.8 mph on his 73-foot Ocean Yacht in Biscayne Bay, Miami, February, 2005.

On Having Redheads On Board

Okay guys and gals, for all of you who are smitten with significant others whose hair, locks, tresses, curls or mane are carrot-topped, crimson, scarlet, ruby, burgundy, or any hue, shade, tint, color, tinge, tone, or blush in any variation on the color red, this one is for you.

Since the days of yore, having a redheaded person on board has been considered a vintage-1650593_1280harbinger of bad luck. Whether its roots can be found in the old ‘Red Sky At Dawning, Sailor Take Warning’ elegy or some other limerick, couplet, rhyme, or verse dating back to when the first mariner set off from terra firma to float upon the watery world, we will most likely never know the true reason for this particular predicament.

However, should you be expecting a redheaded person aboard, you must, lest you suffer the most dire of consequences, not allow them to speak to you first. Therefore, the utmost vigilance must be taken. As soon as you see them coming down the dock, quay, gangplank, wharf, pier, or being ferried from ashore via dinghy—a pair of high-quality binoculars should be used—be prepared to speak first. Whether it’s a hearty ‘Hal-lo!’, ‘Ahoy!’, ‘Hey, hiyadoin!’, or whatever greeting, salutation, welcome, salute, or any other means of communication available that causes you to say the spoken work, it absolutely, without question must be you who utter it first.

Should the unthinkable occur, you will have to immediately cease all tête-à-tête, discussion, dialogue, conversation, or any communication that may be construed as verbal discourse, including singing or speaking in iambic pentameter, or any other lyric or poetic presentation, with the offending person. Even if they continue to assault your auditory senses with lexis, you will desist with all your inner strength. Using an intermediary, or if no one else is around or refuses, on secular or religious grounds, to be part of this exorcism, you will, without delay, communicate with the aforementioned scarlet-headed person via the written word or sign language as long as no sound utters from you.

During this inscribing or gesticulating discourse, after you have explained yourself fully and made it quite clear that you are most serious about the unfolding and subsequent ramifications of these event—you may be looked upon with dread, scorn, revulsion, as well as a stare that might very well question your sanity, but, my dear fellow sojourner, see it through—you are to ask for a small cutting of hair. You are then to place it in a small envelope, seal it, and place the packet in a larger sachet and mail the package to someone you know who lives inland and not within sight of a major body of water; whether it be ocean, lake, stream, pond, brook, river, tributary, waterway, canal, channel, inlet, gulf, bay, cove, creek, sound, or fjord. They are to be instructed to place the parcel, unopened, in a dark place such as a closet or drawer, and keep it there for one complete cycle of the moon after which it can be thrown away. Choose wisely now pilgrim, for entrusting such an important burden should only be asked of someone worthy of the responsibility.

The parcel must always remain unopened up to the time it is trashed. For the length of its incarceration, and until it is properly disposed of, you and your vessel and everyone on board will have immunity from harm. And once the package has been forever dispatched, you and your redheaded crewmember can live in everlasting nautical harmony. Now isn’t that a nice way to wrap this one up? I think so too.

Gongoozler’s and dockwalloper’s are two distinct kinds of people. The formergeek-499140_1280 stands around the waterfront with their hands in their pockets watching other folks do things while the latter walks around the dock, checking things out.

FULL MOONS

By now dear travelers, you’ve most likely picked up on the importance of not only chasing but keeping away some of these troubles by coordinating their unraveling with certain phases of the moon, especially when it is full. This particular component is nothing to be scoffed at or ignored as the moon not only plays a special role in the natural world but as we all know, “There are more things in heaven and earth dear Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

wolves-169282_1280From time immemorial, the dead orb that accompanies our planet on its own ceaseless celestial voyage has had a profound effect on humankind. Such is the upshot on our collective consciousnesses that there’s “Moon For The Misbegotten” and “Moon Over Miami”; Native American author William Least Heat Moon of Blue Highways fame; pop star Moon Martin whose 1978 album—yes, in those days it was albums kids—‘Shots From A Cold Nightmare’ was received quite well; the infamous Moonies of the 1970’s and 80’s; H.G. Wells’ “From The Earth to The Moon”; moonshine whisky; Pink Floyd’s remarkable Dark Side of The Moon as well as Van Morrison’s mercurial Moondance; NFL pro quarterback Warren Moon; other songs such as Blue Moon, [It’s only a] Paper Moon, By The Light of The Silvery Moon, Shine on, shine on Harvest Moon, the Rolling Stones’ Moonlight Mile, and Warren Zevon’s They Moved the Moon; Streit’s Moon Strips matzohs; of course there’s always howling at the moon and the Moonwalk, made famous by pseudo-human Michael Jackson; the well-known Man in The Moon, not to be confused by the movie of almost-the-same-name, The Man on The Moon nor the movie of the same name starring Jim Carey as hell-bent-for-destruction comedian Andy Kaufman; moon pies (they came in artificial chocolate and strawberry flavored); Moon Dog, the Viking-clad existential poet who, until he died, made it his life’s work to stand on a street corner in New York City; and then there was his parallel universe buddy, Moondoggie, the half-wit surfer dude from those Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello flicks; the absolutely wonderful Goodnight Moon children’s book; the persistent sophomoric inclination towards mooning; the famous comic strip of the 1940’s and 50’s, Moon Mullins; Frank Moon, who played the role of the doctor on the hit television show, The A-Team; D.H. Lawrence’s, “…the new moon, of no importance”; lots of Asian kids having Moon as a surname; many references in literature, poetry, and music to moon-faced girls, none of which I can name right now but I know they exist; Moon Unit Zappa, daughter of Frank Zappa, transcendental leader and driving force of the 1960’s band, The Mothers of Invention; the movie Moonstruck with Cher and Nicholas Cage; a moon reference from Coleridge’s “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” reads thus:

The moving Moon went up the sky.
And nowhere did abide;
Softly she was going up,
And a star or two beside-

sleepwalkers-946608_1280To Honeymooner Jackie Gleason’s exasperated signature shout as Brooklyn bus driver Ralph Cramden, “to the moon Alice!”; the nursery rhyme line where the cow jumped over the moon; the moon adventures of Baron von Munchausen. And who could ever forget the cheesy 1950’s black and white sci-fi film classic, Cat-Women of the Moon; in colonial America, March was the time of the Fish Moon; for the Chinese, the month was known as the Sleepy Moon; the Cherokee tribe called it the Windy Moon while the Choctaw and Dakotah Sioux knew it as The Big Famine Moon and the Moon When Eyes Are Sore From Bright Snow respectively; for the Celts it was the Moon Of Winds; Medieval Englanders christened it the Chaste Moon while the Neo Pagans naturally dubbed it the Death Moon—go figure, Pagans; and to those people inhabiting New Guinea, the appellation for the full moon occurring in March ranged from Rainbow Fish to Palalo Worm to Open Sea to Rain and Wind Moon. A rose by any other name, eh? And of course looked what happened to poor Larry Talbot in the original Wolfman film.

Then there’s the whole tide thing coupled with our own bodily makeup of lots of water and the fact that we begin life by swimming around in amniotic fluid for nine months and the possible effect the moon could have on that. I could easily go on and on and fill several more pages but I think you catch my drift here. So bottom line, don’t discount the effect that the moon has on us mere mortals when dealing with keeping good luck aboard and bad luck at bay. When in doubt, or if you need an extra push, it couldn’t hurt to wait for the proper time in the lunar cycle to get things done right. month-179836_1280

Well friends, that’s it for now. There are legions more to deal with but this is all I have room for in this edition. Spurred on by my terminal wanderlust, I will be scouring the Seven Seas and visiting every atoll, island, port-of-call, harbor, wharf, quay, marina, town, seaport, and mooring in my watery travels to uncover not only the sources of other ills not dealt with here, but more of the spells, incantations, charms, potions, concoctions, remedies, cures and treatments for all that ails ye. If you have a hex that needs dispelling drop me a line here at the site and I’ll see what I can do. Hopefully I’ll be able to help you free your boat of any bad mojo that you may have unwittingly conjured up.

If you have a salty cure of your own for what ails us poor unfortunate souls, please send it on in. If it’s truly worthy of a posting–this is some serious business after all–I’ll send you two dozen of my world famous, hand-made, chocolate chip cookies. You’re gonna love ’em. I promise. (Make sure to let me know if you have any food allergies, especially to nuts, so I won’t load them up with any macadamia, walnuts, or pecans.)

In the meantime, don’t leave any hatch covers lying upside down on your deck, if a redheaded person is getting aboard your boat always be the first to speak to them before they speak to you, and never, absolutely never mess with an albatross. Now, if I can only find that Fijian talisman that my good friend Capt. Bill Pike gave me I just might be able to go fishing again.

Fair Winds Shipmates

If you have your own SALTY LIFE experience and would like to share it with us, please send it in, along with any images, drawings, illustrations, maps, or photos. If it gets posted, I will send you two dozen of my world famous, hand made, chocolate chip cookies. Promise. And don’t forget to let me know if you have any food allergies, like with nuts, so I won’t load them up with pecan, walnut, or macademias. You’re going to love ’em. Fair winds shipmates! -Capt. Ken

 
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Posted by on April 28, 2011 in The Salty Life

 

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The Salty Life

The Salty Life

Winter Blues Finally Turn to Green

I had a thought back there while I was getting my Palm Beach Dock Walk posting together. I mentioned how we here in the northeast, and in particular in New York City, have just come out of a pretty awful winter. Now I know my friends in the midwest, those same stalwart buddies who have, for years, been trying to get me to visit in the vast hinterlands of Michigan and Wisconsin, to sit around a hole in the ice in a shack out on a frozen lake with unlimited amounts of Jaggermeister and other swill at the ready,  laugh most heartily at my complaining. To those wonderful folks then, I do dedicate the following memoir of the New York City Winter of 2013/14, the ones past and those to come. I hope you enjoy it and the spirit in which it was written. It goes something like this:

The Adventures Of An Urban Fisherman

 Braving the wilds of Gotham’s cavernous streets, I take on the Big Apple’s angling challenge.

By Capt. Ken Kreisler

fishing-752584_1280In November, when the north winds blow and the jet stream dips down from the wilds of Canada across the island I have called home all my life, it brings with it the icy chill that stays with this part of the country until well into March. All of my hearty fellows anglers have long since packed up their fishing gear, stripped and oiled down their reels, and put all things pertaining to piscatorial pursuits away until next spring. Some will patiently wait out the winter until they hear that the first flounder has poked its eyes up out of the mud while other unfortunate souls will sadly have at the family fish tank.

It’s different for me. I have long since had my seasonal fill of multi-million dollar, cushy battlewagons outfitted to the hilt with every conceivable electronic instrument, the likes of which can also be found on the space shuttle. And as well, those fishing rods with broomstick-thick tips, high-speed and yes, even electric reels with line capacities capable of girdling the globe. Instead, I have decided to even out the ichthyologic playing field some by becoming an out of the ordinary kind of angler. I am a New York City ice fisherman.

Yes folks, I live in Manhattan, one of the five boroughs that make up the Big Apple. For those of you who slept through the Enlightenment, Manhattan is an island. And while it’s joined to the hinterlands and the neighboring state of New Jersey by no less than 18 bridges and three tunnels, it is indeed surrounded by water. I know. I’ve circumnavigated my island home many times.

We islanders are as tied to the sea now as we have always been. And one of the strongest bonds we have is fishing the waters that surround us. Pshaw, you say? Well, I do admit that even though we’ve gotten a rather bad rap in recent years as to the quality of our local tributaries and the denizens that inhabit it, I haven’t seen a two-headed, six-eyed, glow-in-the-dark fish landed in quite some time now. I’ve had bass in the Bronx, bluefish at the Battery, and flounder in Flatbush. But I digress.

As far as I know, I am the only ice fisherman fishing the island. Given the population of Manhattan hovers around 1,541,150, I’d say I occupy a fairly unique position here. While my fellow metropolitan dwellers scurry hither and yon along the concrete sidewalks of our cavernous city, I, garbed in gear suitable for the purpose, set out for several of my favorite sites that have been the scene of epic battles. Ones that in the past have seen me pitted against the elements and my finny combatants in contests with but one outcome. Always, it’s all or nothing. Take no prisoners. Failure is not an option. Semper Fi marine. Hoo-Rah!

alone-1839190_1280For today’s outing, I have chosen Central Park. The Park, as we islanders know it, was conceived, designed, and built by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux after winning the commission to do so in 1857. They transformed the then swamps, bluffs, and rocky outcroppings into the magnificent 843-acre haven it is today. Among other features, it has equestrian paths, two ice skating rinks, one swimming pool, roadways, open fields, a reservoir, more than 40 bridges, 51 renowned sculptures, statues, and fountains, a conservatory garden, tennis courts, the Delacorte outdoor Shakespearean theater, a castle, a zoo, a model sailboat racing pond, restaurants, one of the greatest art museums in the world on its eastern boundary—that being the Metropolitan Museum of Art—and three lakes. It is the lakes that I will fish today. And my quarry? No less that the scrappy golden shiners, the aggressive largemouth bass, big-shouldered pumpkinseed and bluegill sunfish, fighting carp, and the elusive chain pickerel. All worthy opponents.

My first stop is Rowboat Lake. At 22 acres, it is the largest of The Park’s waterways. Turtle Pond, the smallest, is at the foot of Belvedere Castle right next to the Delacorte bordering the East 79th Street transverse, and the Harlem Meer is uptown at 110th Street and Fifth Avenue. When I arrive, much to my dismay, there is only patchy skin ice covering the placid waters. I expected more of a challenge as the daytime temps have been hovering around the freezing mark and plummeting at night. No need for the hammer and chisel. Undaunted I ready myself for work.

When it comes to this kind of action, I carry two rods with me. In one hand I hold a St. Croix six-foot Legend Elite that I wrapped myself with distinctive patterns taken from Native American motifs.  My reel of choice is nothing less than a Fin-Nor Steel River SR1000 with a spool of four-pound test on it. But slung on my back, in its custom carrying tube with a crush test weight of 600 pounds per square inch, is my pride and joy: An Orvis two-piece, eight-foot-four-inch T-3 with a mid 6.5 flex paired up with a Bat Large Arbor IV reel. Yes, life is good.

With rod and reel ready, I begin with one of my favorite hand tied lures; a perfect replica of a juvenile Blattaria Americanus—the American cockroach, indigenous and prolific to this area—tied with a basic non-slip knot for more natural lure and hook action. I cast. A double whip-out-and-in followed by a full arm push. It hits an open water area with a solid plop. I peel off some line. This “fly” been a good fish raiser in the past and I watch as the splash rings move out from the center. I give the rod tip a little flick, then another, in hopes of coaxing a fish up. I wait for the strike.

A rustle in the bramble to my left diverts my attention for a moment. But that’s all it takes in this kind of game. I hear a splash. Quickly turning around I think I glimpse the tip of a tail disappearing in the inky water. All I see are expanding concentric rings. Time to bring Blattaria in and swap it out for a Lepidotrichidae, one of 370 species of silverfish living in North America. Mine is a work of art.

“Hey buddy,” a raspy voice calls out to me from behind. “Got something for an old veteran?” I really don’t have time for this right now. Any break in concentration will surely mess up my rhythm. But I am a humanitarian at heart and so I turn around to face a fellow human being who has not coped well with life’s ups and downs.

“Tell you what sarge, I have no money on me but I’ll gladly give you something to eat,” I said. It is the absolute truth, as I have no legal tender on me but for my Chase ATM card. Hey, you never know.  He paused for a moment and seemed to ask a question of someone standing off to his left. When the phantom did not give him the answer he was expecting, he steadied his gaze once more on me. “Yeah. Okay. Whatchagot?”     

I pulled out the other half of a great big gourmet sandwich I had left over from Dean & DeLuca, that truly wondrous and fabled food store that opened up a branch east of The Park’s Fifth Avenue border on the corner of Madison Avenue and East 85th Street, and offered it over. “What’s that?” “Honey glazed turkey, avocado, sprouts, red and yellow bell peppers, and romaine lettuce,” I answered. “And this heart-of-palm salad,” I added, holding up the small plastic container, as if that would surely end this exchange. I was eager to see my fellow human being not go without a nourishing meal but just as motivated to get back to the business at hand. I was burning daylight. 

“What kind of bread?” he asked. “Sourdough.” “I’ll pass,” he said and walked off. Obviously, from the look on his face, he was more than content to continue the conversation with the phantom walking along side of him. Over 1,541,150 or so stories in Gotham, and I had to run into this one. 

I worked several spots near the Loeb Boathouse and around the back of the lake. winter-1592830_1280Both the Cherry Hill and Strawberry Fields spots produced nary a nibble. Time to pack up at head for Turtle Pond. Again, I am on the schnide. That’s city street talk for zero. Nada. Zilch. Not even my superb Musca Domestica Linnaeus, the common housefly, or a most wonderful rendition of Hemiptera Gerridae, the wingless water skipper, could entice my quarry up from the deep. And the same fate awaited me uptown at the Harlem Meer. Time for this fisherman to head for the barn. That’s home, in fish parlance.

It’s been a trying day and why they call it fishing and not catching. The sun is very low in a graying sky, and the lights of the buildings around The Park begin to glow amber as evening begins to take over. For me, it’s a short walk home to strip off my fishing gear, put on a pair of sweatpants, sneakers, t-shirt, and polar fleece jacket, and take the dogs—I have two Tibetan Terriers—for a walk.

In the waning hours of what is left of this day, I find that we have aimlessly wandered past Rowboat Lake. For a moment I stop and notice an expanding ring in the lake’s center where no stone had been tossed or breeze swept across its surface. 

 “You win, old fighter,” I whisper, my breath hanging on the night air, glowing with the slight mist of a gossamer web under the blue white light on the side of the lane. “This time.”

If you have your own SALTY LIFE experience and would like to share it with us, please send it in, along with any images, drawings, illustrations, maps, or photos. If it gets posted, I will send you two dozen of my world famous, hand made, chocolate chip cookies. Promise. And don’t forget to let me know if you have any food allergies, like with nuts, so I won’t load them up with pecan, walnut, or macademias. You’re going to love ’em. Fair winds shipmates! -Capt. Ken

 
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Posted by on April 7, 2011 in The Salty Life

 

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Uncharted Courses

Pompano Palooza!

A stream of consciousness essay on how, and perhaps more importantly why, I chose to go pier fishing for dinner.

Photography & Story by Capt. Ken Kreisler

Ahoy there shipmates! Welcome to Uncharted Courses; part travelogue and part my attempt at sharing with you my experiences in what I call marine cuisine, or as it’s sometimes known around the boatyard—and setting my gourmand ways aside—as your basic manifold cooking. The format is fairly straightforward as well as I’ll often be angling for various edible species in a wide variety of locales. Translation: Recipes that are simple to prepare and good to eat.

I intend to be wined and dined aboard some really terrific charter yachts as well, enjoying the good life and participating in a bit of joie de vive. But do not despair my fellow traveler, for even in the rarified air of opulent surroundings I will also be discovering a hidden gem or two along the path less traveled to share with you.

You see, my affection for food as well as my terminal wanderlust began years ago, and way too many for me to be comfortable with admitting now. When I first started out on my watery career, I began as a yard snipe at the Schatz Brothers Marina in the Sheepshead Bay section of Brooklyn, New York, eventually learning, along with many other hands-on expertise’s, how to sand and paint, caulk seams—yes, we worked on wood boats back then—pull props, and that most mysterious of nautical arts, the laying on of varnish. How I got the job is another story, and one that I’ll weave to you at another time.

Suffice it to say that, after spending most of my teen years proving myself to be quite adept at cleaning up the yard, I often got asked to go a’money fishing on several real old commercial tubs with some genuine old salts who, for lack of a proper galley aboard, or for that matter, not having any real need for one—instead using the space for storing as much gear and equipment that most likely would have made the Collyer Brothers cringe—relied upon the heat of a diesel engine to cook their fare for the day. I distinctly remember everything from canned sardines to really big Quahog clams, warmed and served on the half shell, to some fairly tasty meatball subs being heated up on an engine’s manifold and washed down with a balmy Yoo-Hoo chocolate drink served at engine room temperature.

There were a myriad number of on-the-go, indigenous ‘recipes’ back then that I was part and parcel to throughout the years, which I readily admit, were responsible for me getting my daily sustenance. Shiver me timbers friends, but Nathaniel Philbrick’s Heart of the Sea comes to mind.

I jest, to be sure. But dining that way, under those conditions and in that environment, keeping in mind that the catch was what was putting money in my pocket so I could pay my college tuition, buy books, and retire to the campus pub now and then, I quickly developed a taste for, well let’s just say the esoteric end of dining aboard boats whose only mission was to fill their holds with as many fish as possible. As Lucretius mused, “What is food to one man may be fierce poison to others. “

Most of our victuals involved some sort of canned mystery meat—Dinty Moore and the legendary Spam comes to mind as do some Goya products as well whenever one of the deckhands were of Latino descent—a couple of holes punched in the top for venting purposes so as to prevent any explosion of said and very questionable animal protein from being splashed all over the engine room. Not that it would have mattered down there anyway. Once, when I was asked to do an oil change on a pair of naturally aspirated 671 Detroits, the result was not being able to get the taste, smell, or film of grease off me for a good two weeks. But I digress.

The can, or whatever vessel, pot, pan, or jerry-rigged appliance being used, was strategically placed and wedged on the valve covers so as to optimize it being cooked up at just the right temperature. When some member of the crew happened to remember—time is very important in this type of preparation and the longer the better—it then served as the base for a veritable cornucopia of added edible ingredients being devoured en masse and as quickly as possible on a pitching deck while the fish were flying in over the gunwales. As preventive maintenance, and having the upper hand on a first strike capability, I quickly discovered that a couple of Tums before and after the meal was a de rigeuer survival technique to be sure. But for now, let’s get back to a more civilized form of gastronomy.

Cooking fish has always given me the willies. For those of you who didn’t grow up on the streets of New York, the willies are the same as the heebie jeebies. You know, the term coined from that 1956 Little Richard song, or for you really crusty old pirates, the 1926 Louis Armstrong and his Hot Five version. Anyway, you catch my drift here. Either way, having the hb’s are at best, a bit of the jitters by way of some angst. But before you cook ‘em, you gotta hook ‘em. So, think like a fish and let’s go fishing.

Now, for those of you who haven’t been reading my offerings in the pages of Power & Motoryacht or Yachting Magazine for the past 15 or so years, I live on the island of Manhattan in New York City. Trust me, Gotham is an island. [As winter is getting ready to leave parts, I’ll be posting my Adventures of an Urban Fisherman piece for your reading pleasure: An off-the-cuff, tongue-in-cheek remembrance of the passing season. And good riddance!] I know. I’ve been around it by boat. However, I’d be quite reluctant to partake of any of our finny brethren who inhabit its waters even though there is a vital and active striped bass population in the East and Hudson Rivers as well as in the lower bay area during the summer months and continuing into early fall.

Instead, I choose to do my piscatorial tussling from the beaches of New Jersey. The Shore, to be precise. Long Branch, to be specific, where the family and I spend our summers and where my good buddies refer to the beach across from my home there as, ‘the Cap’n’s office’.

I’ll be covering the New York striper action scene with some local legends that regularly fish the area as well as sharing my Jersey surfcasting adventures with you in a future installment.

When the halcyon days of summer finally come to an end and the autumnal equinox has past, and I find myself sitting alone at the top of the lifeguard chair, wrapped in a warm parka, hood up, a pair of sweat pants on and finally wearing socks and sneakers, staring forlornly at the tawny sand, a white-tipped ocean and a slate gray sky, I content myself with hopping a plane south, to Palm Beach, Florida, to visit with family, friends, play some golf, and take in a bit of fishing. My quarry during my last outing was Pompano. Hands down, one of the best eating fish there is.

Because it’s best to know the species before you set out to try and catch it, let’s get a few basics down first. Florida Pompano, with its short, blunt mouth, is a mostly silver colored fish with a bit of gold color on the ‘throat’ area as well as the pelvic and anal fins, belongs to the family Carangidae, and is the same that includes Jacks. Its Latin name is Trachinotus Corolinus.

CAP’N KEN SEZ: If anybody out there can help me out with the translation of the Latin Trachinotus Corolinus and how it relates to this fish, I’ll send you two-dozen of my famous, hand-made chocolate chip cookies. Just let me know if you have nut allergies and I won’t put any walnuts, pecans, or macadamias in the mix. Trust me, you’re gonna love ‘em.  Promise.

The heaviest Pompano caught in Florida waters is said to have weighed in at just over eight pounds and I have neither delusions of grandeur nor any desire of breaking the record. No my friends, a little fishing fun is all I am after and hopefully, something for the table.

Pompano range in warm waters and have been seen from Massachusetts down to Brazil but are most common in the coastal waters south of Virginia and into the Gulf of Mexico. They run in schools and most are in the one to just under three pound category and are fairly fierce fighters for their size and weight.

Their favorite food is crustaceans such as fiddler crabs and in particular, mole crabs of the genus Emerita, popularly known as sand fleas, sand crabs, sea pigs, or beach hoppers, which they expertly ferret out of the sand.

Since I’ve long given up fishing for any genus with equipment as thick as the business end of a baseball bat, I’ve decided to leave the Louisville Slugger along with the multi-geared, big winching, hawse-thick lined reel at home. Light tackle is best, and in my opinion, the lighter the better. While I have a garage full of excellent paraphernalia at the Long Branch digs for the wide variety of species that inhabits my local waters during the early spring, summer, and late fall seasons, for this scrappy little battler I prefer my Wal-Mart special: a six-foot, fast taper, graphite spinning rod on which is seated a Penn Silverado reel loaded with eight pound test that I keep in Florida for when I visit.

The family lives in a superb golf community and there are a slew of ponds, stocked full of freshwater large mouth bass galore, spread out over the three, 18-hole courses. Late in the afternoon, when all the members are done, and I’m out walking a few holes, it’s no problem whatsoever, once the coast is clear, to pull out my handy Popiel Pocket Fisherman, hidden deep within my golf bag and get a couple of casts in as well. And just to show you where in the hierarchy of importance this fishing thing occupies for me, I keep a plastic bag full of pre-rigged artificial worms in the same compartment reserved for my Titleist golf balls.

Since this wily predator is a sandy bottom feeder, before setting out on the quest, I get down to the beach and dig up some sand fleas, the aforementioned favorite Pompano food. A little plastic hand rake and pail will do. While digging in the sand, usually on the outgoing tide, look for the little v-shape ripples as the water ebbs or if you happen to catch site of the little buggers as they scamper away, trying to make their way back down into the soft sand.

And oh yes, I always carry a bunch of Doc’s Goofy Jigs with me as well. Now legend has it that Doc, a transplanted Brooklynite—you see, there is someone else besides me and Walt Whitman [editor of the Brooklyn Eagle newspaper, 1846-1848, among other notable achievements] who were able to achieve some level or prominence given our ties to that most sublime of New York boroughs—and retired Pinellas County Water and Sewer worker, was not only a rabid Tampa Bay fisherman who achieved celebrity status, but was also somewhat scaly in his DNA makeup.

Anyway, his wobbling-action design seems to do the trick by moving a bit funny as it heads for the bottom, there to hit the sand with a puff so as to simulate the activity of sand fleas. Two turns in, making sure to work the tip of your rod a bit, and there you have it. If there’s a ‘golden nugget’ around, you had better have your drag set right. Doc’s original yellow jig seems to be a favorite with the regulars and I’ve heard tell the new kid on the block, the Silly Willy, is also a winner. You can check all this out with your own expert at your local tackle shop the next time you go Pompano angling.

What makes fishing for Pompano great family fun is that you can do it from the beach, a bridge, or from a pier. This way there’s no chance of anyone getting seasick. And, as often happens, if the fishing winds up not being catching, and the troops are grumbling and getting bored, you can always just pack things up and go to the beach, or if the weather goes south, stroll the aisles of your local Home Depot; a great family bonding experience. When it comes to fishing, my philosophy is that there’s always another day. And for you Hemingway-like diehards who just have to, hire yourself a local with a boat and get out there, strut your stuff, and make us all proud.

I’ve had good results just before the last of the ebb and about and hour after the flood starts. On this particular foray, I’ll be angling from the Lake Worth Pier. If I have the time over the next few days, I’ll try and get my lines tight from the surf at the Lantana Public Beach and perhaps, the north side of the Boynton Beach Inlet.

The 960-foot long William O. Lockhart Municipal Pier was so severely damaged during Frances and Jeanne in 2004—most Floridians I’ve spoken to do not refer to their named storms by hanging the word ‘Hurricane’ to the moniker and its best not to go there and ask why—that it had to be rebuilt. On May 9th, 2009 it was reopened, much improved and greatly appreciated by the locals and visitors alike.

pier-fishing-at-sunset-1565425.jpg

Photo credit: Freeimages.com/James Taylor

There are bathrooms, loads of benches, and shaded areas for those who have forgotten—perish the thought—a hat, sunglasses, and the absolutely requisite 30+ sun block.

Other amenities include a bait shop and bait-cutting stations, and of course, famed Benny’s On The Beach restaurant. No sense in fishing during off tides when, among other fare, a good burger and fries is available if one hasn’t packed one’s own lunch.

So far my luck has held out. It’s early enough on this bright and warm sunny day that the parking lot has plenty of spaces—so worth the three bucks—and I pull my car next to a group of fellow anglers engaged in a bit of tailgating festivities. Obviously, from their camaraderie and banter, they are regulars. We talk a little bit and then, as if following some natural calling reminiscent of the migration of the caribou or the majestic journey of the gnu, a.k.a. wildebeest, across the vast African savannah, they begin to peel off, one by one, getting their gear together, gathering buckets and hand nets, slapping high spf factor sun block on necks and ears and noses, and checking to make sure there are fresh batteries in portable radios and affixing the ear buds of the ubiquitous iPod.

One rather robust fellow dons a Foreign Legion-looking hat with a long bill and neck flap. “There’s rednecks and then there’s rednecks,” he smiles, chuckles, and, with gear in tow, heads off to his spot on the pier. “See ya out there. Good luck to ya,” he says as he walks away and, not turning around, lifts the two rods he carries in one hand up in the air in a momentary salute. It’s time.

I get a spot on the south side of the pier about three quarters of the way out. Good thing I have on a pair of quality sunglasses, a long sleeve T, and one of my favorite hats. With the cloudless sky, and as the day progresses, the glare off the water is going to be something to contend with.

CAP’N KEN SEZ: Hats are a big thing for those with piscatorial aspirations, and if you have a favorite story about a favorite fishing hat, send your narrative on in, with pictures, of course. If it’s a good story, I’ll post it and you will also get a couple dozen of my aforementioned excellent chocolate chip cookies. Trust me, you’re gonna love ‘em.  Promise.

The tide is right, the bait is fresh, and I work my Wal-Mart rig with finesse. It pays off as I ‘get jacked’ pretty soon and, as do my cohorts to the right and left of me, quite often. Jacks proliferate the area and take the bait more than not. Even with the small ones, it’s lots of fun what with my extra light tackle, and I am careful to take the fish off the hook and return it to the water as quickly as possible.

Nobody near me has brought up a Pomp as yet and with about an hour left to the ebb, if nothing happens by then, it’ll be a wait-and-see when the tide turns. As it’s going to take a good hour or so for that to happen, I take the time to enjoy the bit of a breeze coming in off the water and the really hunky tuna wrap I made myself before setting out on this adventure.

It’s a wondrous late morning meal; the well-mashed tuna is prepared with an equally well-mashed avocado—I try to avoid the cholesterol-friendly mayo—then in go the walnuts, finely diced celery, and a small handful of delicious Crazins to make things happy—if you can, get the loose ones at Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, or some similar, top quality market; if not, the Ocean Spray package will do just fine—all of it wrapped up in a snappy leaf of romaine lettuce before being snuggled tightly together in the soft, whole wheat wrap.

For liquid refreshment, I’ve brought along, and filled to the brim in one of those sharp looking, insulated stainless steel containers, a fruit smoothie that I blended up at home before I left for the pier. The preparation is simple and there is plenty of room for theme variation and experimentation to accommodate individual tastes: In a blender I place eight ice cubes—more for a thicker outcome—and one inch of fresh mango juice and two inches of fresh squeezed orange juice. In go a handful of berries; blues, rasps, straws, and blacks, all washed well, and finally a large banana, sans peel. I’ve also tried some pear slices—Bosch, please, and a bit on the soft side—as well as quartering an apple—Macintosh, and leave the skin on both fruits—as these seem to add quite a nice bouquet to the rest of the mix. Go through the blending speeds one by one until you reach liquefy and keep it there for a few moments. Pour the mix into your own sharp looking, insulated stainless steel container and put it in the refrigerator until you are ready to head out. And as there will be some overflow, have yourself a glass in the house as you go about your business until its time to leave.

With the slack tide, and my early lunch, now over, I note how the incoming has started in earnest. There are a couple of novices down pier of me who have gotten their lines tangled with some of the regulars and while there doesn’t seem to be any resentment or harsh words, a short primer ensues on why not to unspool your entire line into the water once you hit bottom. You see the best place to fish for Pompano is where there is a strong current, and that is most apparent next to and around the pilings below. But you have to know what you are doing and how to work your rig in order to hook your own fish and not everyone else’s line.

The fishing scholar speaks little or no Spanish while his student, little or no English. But in the international language of angling, things seem to be working out just fine. Maybe we should invite our dysfunctional world leaders out to the pier for a bit of Pompano fishing. Perhaps they can work things out that way, as obviously, it doesn’t seem to happening under present conditions. But then again, they’d most likely find some way to screw that up as well. And then, as I work my rod while enjoying the tete-a-tete still going on as the jumble of lines are being untangled, I get a quick tickle, a hit, and up comes my first Pompano; a definite keeper at just under what I judge to be two pounds. I get it off the hook and slip it into my pail of ice, which I cover with a small white towel. And while there were other Trachinotus Corolinus caught at various locations on the pier during that tide, I would only see one more that would wind up in my ice pail. Oh well, fish have tails and besides, I would be going home with dinner.

There are two ways to enjoy your Pompano catch: Cook it whole or prepare fillets. Hopefully, you all know the proper way keep an edge to your fillet knife and how to fillet the fish. If not, I’ll cover both of those in an upcoming segment. For this outing, I’m going to prepare and cook the fillets.

I’ve already cleaned out all the entrails, cut off the fins and tail, scraped the skin—I’m leaving it on for this particular recipe but if you want, you can strip it off—washed the four fillets with cold water, blotted them dry with some paper towels and, placing them skin down on a plate, put them in the refrigerator while I get everything else together.

Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees and make sure you don’t put your fish in before it gets to the right temperature. If you have an oven thermometer, use it. If not, give it a good 15 minutes. You should know your own oven and how quickly it heats. Get some unsalted butter and leave it out on the counter while the oven is heating so it can soften. You should also have a bottle of extra virgin olive oil, fresh Hungarian paprika, a few peeled cloves of garlic, a handful of almond slivers, and a half dozen chunked pieces of fresh pineapple.

When your oven is ready, take the fillets out of the refrigerator, place them on your counter and carefully rub some of the softened butter all over them. The secret here is not to overwhelm the natural flavor of the fish but merely to enhance it. Therefore, when cooking Pompano, less is better.

Once you’ve got a nice coating of butter on, take a few drops of olive oil and spread that over the fillets as well. The garlic comes next. I prefer to slice the cloves as thinly as possible, quick-sauté them in just a bit of olive oil along with the almond slivers—don’t burn ‘em; just get ‘em a bit on the brown side—and then place them on top of the fillets after which you sprinkle on a dash of paprika. Spray a bit of Pam cooking spray on your broiling pan, and, using a wide spatula, you’re ready to carefully place the fish in the pan. Surround each fillet with three pineapple pieces and pop the whole kit and caboodle in the oven for about four or five minutes.

Since a colorful plate is a healthy plate, try some greens—string beans, peas, snap peas, or baby bok choy—thinly sliced yellow and red peppers, and either garlic roasted potatoes or a well-cooked yam. A side dish of endive with crumbled bleu cheese sprinkled inside the leaves and just the slightest drizzle of balsamic vinegar atop is a nice addition. I like a nice flavorful beer with my Pompano; Anchor Steam, Bass, or a Sam Adams is on my short list. However, if wine if on your palate, try a Sancerre or a PouillyFumee as an excellent pairing for your freshly caught and prepared Pompano.

Enjoy the meal, shipmates!

CAPT KEN SEZ: Have a favorite Pompano story and preparation? Send it on in. If it’s a good one, I’ll post it and send you two-dozen of my famous chocolate chip cookies. Trust me, you’re gonna love ‘em.  Promise. 

                                                   See you next time with a tasty and easy-to-prepare fresh pasta primavera!

 

 
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Posted by on March 18, 2011 in Uncharted Courses

 

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