Too many seminars, sales meetings, and fattening meals in one short week, plus a forced march across Alligator Alley on a dark night after a downpour had washed out the scheduled golf match...the team had put in a full week in Florida and deserved some recreation. A Saturday fishing expedition out of Miami with Miss Britt Fishing Charters was the perfect antidote, with Captain Brett Wilson and Geoffrey Campbell, the mate, keeping our crew in line.
Unfortunately, I had to fly north and miss the main event, but guest blogger and Boats.com/YachtWorld.com's Business Development guru Jason White stepped up with the following narrative. Not your every-day fish story, coming from a diehard sailor on his first sportfishing trip! Then again, I can identify because it would've been my first too. Next time I'll be there! - John Burnham
As we walked down the dock in Coconut Grove last Saturday, I got an eerie flashback feeling to some of the Key West Race Weeks I have done. In addition to the scurrying mates taking care of last-minute details who reminded me of race crews, the temperature was balmy, the water was blue and it was blowing just a little harder than I thought might prove comfortable for the day.
We met the captain Brett and the mate Geoffrey who told us where to stow our gear on the 34-foot Miss Britt, and we made headway for Government Cut, passed Miami Beach Marina where numerous SORCS and Farr 40 championships have been held and nipped behind the cargo container dock to “Bait Fish”. Apparently you have to fish before you can fish, something that was lost on me upon explanation, but then again there was a time when someone had to explain the concept of a leeward gate to me. Bait fishing is just like running sheets and guys. It’s something you have to do before the main event starts. So you take out a frozen block of emulsified sardine chum, put it in a mesh bag and chuck it over the side. Then you wait, sort of like a postponement.
I experienced the first thrill of the day while bait fishing. If you throw enough chum in the water, even an idiot like me can haul aboard a few 6 ounce live threadfins who were too stupid not to latch on to the hook I had thrown in to the water. Geoffrey gave us precise instructions on how to jig, drop and pop the line, Greek to me, but they bit anyway. I recalled a race one time where a high-priced tactician gave us 27 reasons why the right side of the course was favored and for whatever reason after 90 seconds up the beat we were hopelessly committed to the left and he was in tears shaking his head at our ineptitude, and I thought we were in for a long day. Having proved the tactician wrong (the left side caught a shift and we won) and poor Geoffrey chuckling at my own personal ineptitude, we brought on enough bait ("present the bait over the bait well and I will de-hook") the words sounded like a calm owner's representative steering us out of a near collision, for us to actually go fishing. (The pros never yell!!!!)
Now you get to the main event where the mate rigs the kite tackle. Really, they call it a kite, which it is, and it's set at the end of 300 feet of outrigger line and attached to an electric reel. I have seen great bowman over the years moving about a pitching foredeck with the agility of a cat, but they have nothing on a good mate like Geoffrey. Imagine a pitching boat DIW (Seas were 6-8, blowing 25 out of the east) a live threadfin in one hand and a stainless needle paired with a sharp barbed hook in the other, and within seconds we have lines in the water.
Brett, the Captain, is 25 feet up in the tower looking for fish the same way someone goes aloft to look for wind, and he can actually see the school of Dolphins (of the mahi variety) as they approach our lines. Seconds later, someone is screaming “Fish on”- two of us are winding reels in and all I could think of is that this was the same sort of hysteria at a leeward mark we have all encountered. You can barely hear Captain Brett as he is 25 feet up and awash in breeze, none of us know if we are supposed to wind the middle, short or long line – let alone if it was the left or right side, but miraculously one of us finds the offending reel and starts hauling in the fish. It’s sort of like the helmsman who clearly in his mind sees exactly which line needs to be pulled and thinks if he just yells loud enough, everyone on board will hear him more clearly. (Haven’t we all sailed with that guy and don't some of us work for that guy?) Ultimately, the deed is done, as we smack into a school of mahi. I can tell you the exhilaration of landing your first fish (not the threadfin bait) is just as cool as accepting a trophy in front of a bunch of half in the bag sailors with their latest free Mount Gay hat.
So if you are a sailor like me and are handed the opportunity to go fishing, run don’t walk to that opportunity. You won’t be disappointed. After 35 years of messing about in boats, I must be honest to say I never fully “got” the 60’ sport-fish tied up at the marina with the outriggers and the door in the transom thing, but now I do. They probably feel the same way when looking at a TransPac 52. But, when you get right down to it, there are a lot more similarities to what we both do than not. Go fishing, I guarantee you’ll like it.
Oh yeah- we set out for the infamous sailfish, which never materialized, and all we got were some mahi that the crew would enjoy as we all were flying home that night. A sane man would have been disappointed, but not me. I’ll go fishing again at the very next chance to fulfill the dream, sort of like that last beat in the last race of last season - we would’ve won if we had just gone to the beach a little longer…………