|The Baja morning shimmered with promise as we prepared to go ashore and resume our roosterfish hunt. We had not caught any the preceding day but had seen enough to persuade us today would be different. However, the soft offshore breeze strengthened as it changed direction coming from the south. By noon, the day’s fishing was scrubbed and the crew busily went about loading Sea Kat, the large inboard-driven inflatable, onto the deck.
By mid-afternoon we were speeding toward our next anchorage. The owners and guests enjoyed a rousing game of Whisk and I was left alone on aft deck, enjoying the warm diminishing breezes and following sea.
An occasional whale paraded across the wide wake and porpoise playfully frolicked as they escorted us to our next anchorage. The solitude and the moment reminded me of another time 23 years ago off Guadalupe Island where I sat alone on the aft deck.
Jim Jenks and Carl Lund had nominated me for membership in the Tuna Club of Avalon. When accepted into the Club, Jim called to inform me that we would be leaving the following day on his boat, Ocean Pacific, for Guadalupe Island to catch my voting fish. I could only hope.
The next day, Jim Jenks, Jock Albright, Hank Weeks, Captain Jon Ingram and I headed south for the island. A few of Hank Weeks’ concoctions of rum and something, (simply called “Hanks”), rigging tackle in the warm June sun and spirited debates on the pros and cons of various knots, etc., helped pass the time. The next afternoon we anchored near Monster Rock at the south end of Guadalupe Island.
The following morning I wandered onto the 50 plus-foot aft deck that looked more like a bowling alley than a boat deck. It only took a few hours to have enough scad mackerel to begin slow trolling. Wisely, Jenks stood in the day head trolling his scad for protection from the cold wind. I stood at the ready near the stern, line firmly pinched between thumb and forefinger, and waited.
Suddenly the line was snatched from my fingers and the coils of line on the deck slithered over the rail as an unseen something inhaled the four-pound scad mackerel. In less time than it takes to tell, the line came tight and the small rapid fire machine-gun-sound of the clicker went off. Reel in gear, a couple of firm hook sets, and it was ‘fish on’!
Fifteen minutes later, the bluefin was swimming on its side at the corner of the stern. Jenks, Jock and Hank were whooping and hollering congratulations! Finally I said, “Don’t you think we ought to gaff the fish first?”
In a heartbeat, Jock swiftly reached down with the gaff and brought the tuna on board. The boat scale indicated the fish weighed 71 pounds which would qualify as a button fish on 30-pound Dacron.
The rest of that day and most of the next we trolled back and forth along the face of Monster Rock with nothing to show for our efforts. We continued to celebrate my catch as we finally traveled uphill toward Avalon.
Then by early evening, I was left alone on the aft deck enjoying my triumph. The solitude added to my perfect moment during that ride home as we passed an occasional whale and schools of playful porpoise.
But doubts crept in. Was the tuna really big enough to qualify? Was the boat scale correct? Would the line test? Etc. These questions were still running through my head…even as we tied up to the Avalon pier.
The moment of truth came as Rosie herself pulled the lever on the scale. Up the needle went 68…69…70…stopping at an even 71 pounds. On we went to the club and strung the line on the shiny, new line tester. Ever so slowly they turned the knob, and the Dacron line became taut until it almost hummed. With a loud SNAP the line broke! We stared at the gauge for just a moment before everyone began cheering. The line tested at 29.75 pounds.
The stewardess Erin set the well-prepared fresh caught dorado dinner before me with a smile. “Is there anything else?” she asked.
No, I thought, as the sun set over the Baja mountains and we neared our next anchorage for tomorrows adventure. There is nothing else!
John Steinbeck, The Log from the Sea of Cortez, had it right when he wrote: "The very air here is miraculous, and outlines of reality change with the moment. The sky sucks up the land and disgorges it. A dream hangs over the whole region, a brooding kind of hallucination."
I can’t imagine anywhere on the planet I would rather be at this moment than where I am.
THE STEWARDESS ERIN SET THE well-prepared fresh caught dorado dinner before me with a smile. “Is there anything else?” she asked.