Fish Tales & Exaggerations – Jolly Rogers – October 2019

In a previous article, I recounted the purchase of the “Red Ruin,” our new cozy home overlooking the Bay. Truth was that the home had good bones, but that was where the positives ended except for a large fireplace in the great room. As the only son and part time aluminum boat captain, I was tasked with hammering every nail on the floors. I was nominated for this because of being uniquely equipped with a skateboard. I put a rug on top of the board and slowly moved laterally with my hammer and nail punch. There were thousands of nail heads to pound, prior to the sanding. I learned, quickly, not be distracted from watching the hammer hit the punch. After icing my hand, a couple of times, I learned to concentrate. Whilst doing my ministrations, my Mom and friends were cleaning the walls. Unbelievably, it took 37 quarts of ammonia to clean the grime off the walls. Turned out under the grime, lay some beautiful tongue and groove cypress wood paneling. The heating unit was an old oil burning unit, that occasionally blew smoke into the house. On the plus side, we ate well, and were warmed by the large fireplace. At night, we would eat dinner and then sit by the fire. Then the task was to stay awake after 9pm, as Pop and I discussed our next fish harvesting adventures. The fire was warm, and the wind blew hard and cold, outside. The old heating system needed to be replaced, as it belched a smog – like vapor. We brought the redwood furniture in from the deck for the winter. While the systems were changed, I found that lying in a sleeping bag on a redwood lounger by the fireplace was very rewarding. Eventually, we were comforted by a new, less smelly, gas heating system. I however used the lounger and sleeping bag combo for the rest of the winter, at least when we didn’t have guests.

Spring finally came and there was a shift from the inside reclamation projects to the need to get boats in the water and get back to catching our own dinner. Pop’s vision could now be realized. The Garvey could now be launched from our own beach. Our friend Tom had a Ranchero with a trailer hitch and soon we were watching him drive backwards with the pride of our fleet. Being new to beach launching, an unforeseen issue arose, soon the trailer’s wheels sank into the soft sand. One of the advantages to restoring the Red Ruin, was there was a lot of construction material/debris available for use. Work began to create a wooden railway down to the bay. This was an amazing engineering feat, but due to the length of time to design and construct, the tide went out. Bad timing. Tom pulled to the side of the house and a cinderblock was placed under the trailer tongue. Time to eat and drink, not that there was ever a bad excuse to take a break, this one was a required break, due to unfavorable tides. The beer, manhattans, martinis and for me, a Coke began to flow. That night we ate flounder and shrimp on our new back deck and watched the sunset. I noticed that occasionally Pop would glance at our 16 – foot Garvey as if it was a yacht. I guess for him and, actually for Mom and me, it really was. Tom came back early the next day and the Garvey was launched. Pop stood proudly, line to the Garvey in hand and proclaimed that the clams and crabs were once again subject to become our dinner. They didn’t answer him, though I am sure that they dug deeper in the sand.

Soon, we would wade out to the boat and bring it ashore to load up. Once the appropriate harvesting equipment was loaded and the cooler containing drinks and the much-revered hoagies were on board, off we went. Soon we were bobbing in the Bay and dropping a fishing line, disembarking to the clam grounds or throwing a line with sinker and piece of menhaden overboard. Life was good. Then, we had a guest who asked if he could water ski behind the Garvey? That simple request would, again, impact our maritime life.

Pop thought that this would be a fun idea and was another use of the Garvey, other than the merciless harvesting of unsuspecting sea creatures. So, we went to the local sporting goods shop and purchased skis and ski rope. I cannot remember the name of the fellow that wanted to ski, but I will call him Biff. Into the Bay we went. We attached the rope to an eye bolt on the port side and Biff swam out with the skis and rope. Attached to our Garvey was a 35 hp Evinrude motor. Biff gave the hand chop signal, indicating that he was ready and the general direction he wanted to go, I think. Pop rammed the throttle open, the bow rose, and Biff took a header. Not the anticipated outcome, but Biff was game to go again. He said that we needed to start quicker. Good luck. We got everything aligned, again and this time Biff rose like the bow and we had ourselves a ski boat. Now the Garvey was a flat – bottomed boat. Down the Bay we went, practically sideways, with Biff in tow. We look like a plane trying to land in a crosswind. This was a new way of crabbing for us. Biff had fun, we had fun and the sea life was preserved.

So many memories, so little time.