Sunday, January 31, 2016

Free Lobster Report

Call me Gilligan.

This report is inspired by the remaining free-stuff loving heroes who selflessly occupied the Malhuer Wildlife Sanctuary, monkeyed with Native American artifacts in a televised blur of incoherency and demanded that they be given first dibs on the use of public land held in trust for the benefit of all.  When they ran out of food after threatening to kill anyone who blocked access to their food bowls, they just all wanted to go home and be free.

On Friday, January 29, my calendar cleared and I was free.  Free to do whatever I wanted because this is a free country.  My friend, Secret Skipper, had offered to take me lobster fishing at an undisclosed island off the western coast of the United States.  The forecast had been for big weather, but it seemed we had a window of opportunity, as the nasty stuff was still a day away.

      I asked my bride Wendy if I could take my two little guys, Tommy and Davey, who are about to turn 11.  The answer was no.  They  were not emancipated enough to go, but I could go, so long as everything was free.

      I got away from the office right after I ate a free lunch provided by one of our company's vendors. 

     My assigned task was to get salmon carcasses and Kentucky Fried Chicken on the way to the marina, as we were somewhat pressed for time.  One was for eating and the other was for lobsters.

     I first went to the San Pedro Fish market and got a bag of salmon heads.  After the fishmonger weighed it and wrote up an invoice, he asked me if I would like it cooked right there.  I said yes.  While he was distracted by putting the salmon heads into the steamer, I grabbed another bag full of fish parts, along with a T-shirt I took and put on from the stack of  employee uniforms.  I quickly cruised out to the parking lot without getting noticed.

    Wendy loves when I get her souvenirs from industrial fishing places and this one is a dandy.

     I patched out of the parking lot in my supercharged hybrid car before anyone in charge realized I had liberated their merchandise.
      I headed off to KFC and ordered a bucket of original recipe.  There was nobody in front of me in the drive-through, so when they handed me the bucket I kept rolling and just grabbed it like the touchdown hand off that the Sea Hawks never made to Marshawn Lynch in last year's Superbowl game.  I hauled ass past the last window and turned for the Cabrillo Marina to join Skipper with our plunder.   The young attendant was swearing at me as I looked back into the mirror, but I knew it was only because she hated my freedom. 

"It's free-range now, Baby!" I yelled as I peeled away onto Gaffey Street..

      We hit the gas dock to put on a couple hundred gallons and started stuffing salmon parts into the seal-proof bait tubes Skipper has designed and built.  He then broke out his secret weapon - duck heads from the Chinese market.  We zip-tied these delicacies to the bottom of the nets.  

     While we were at the gas dock, the attendant, who is an experienced lobsterman himself, admired our  first rate gear and asked Skipper about how he came to acquire the automatic line pulling robot, nick-named "Bagman," that is the mechanical heart and soul of Skipper's system of success.

"Where did you get that puller?"  He inquired.

"I got it from a guy who is an amateur engineer.  He made it for me."

"How much would he charge to make one?" 

"He made it for me for free."

 "That machine looks incredibly cool and I would gladly pay for it."

Skipper replied, "Like I said, these robots are free.  You can't get one."

     Skipper and I headed out for the island in a building swell that gave way to greasy calm conditions once we got to the lee of this enchanted isle before sunset.

     We encountered another boat "Early Times" crewed by a pair of lobster hoopers with whom we exchanged pleasantries and information about where we would be putting our respective sets, so as to minimize confusion once we started pulling in the dark.  Because Secret Skipper has re-rigged some of his sets to get down as deep as 300 feet, we would be substantially outside of them.

     We set out three in about 65 feet; four in the 175 zone; and two out around 260.  We started pulling the first three inside rigs before 7 pm and got several shorts, one legal, and a huge, dangerous looking spider crab.  The next group of four produced many bugs, but they were just barely short.

     We rolled out to the two outside rigs, which were utterly loaded with big ones and many that just missed the mark.  Bagman made it easy work, even though it was a long pull and a big pile of rope.

     Meanwhile, the Early Times was hitting the shallow water for a decent go at some legals and a huge dose of harassment from large seals, which seemed to prefer the shallower zones.

     The second set was much the same, as the inside produced small bugs.  We hit a few good ones in the middle, getting us close to limits before we even got the last two deep ones.  We reset all of our gear, knowing that this big crawl could stop at any moment.
The two deep ones once again proved to be in the magic zone as we harvested several really nice specimens.  This bounty forced us to exchange these bigger creatures for some pretty good legals we started throwing back into the sea.

     We went back to retrieve our gear to head back home for the easiest and most efficient lobster fishing I have ever experienced.  As we pulled in the hoops, which had not sat for long, we continued to bring in and throw back nice, no-need-to-measure sized bugs. At that point we were plugged and just trying to break everything down for an early exit with a load of bugs that were all over 2 pounds. 

     We left the island with all of the gear dismantled and stowed for the ride home by 9 pm.  We had a great view of the stars and planets as we cruised home at over 30 knots with an incoming weather front on our port shoulder.

     The Coast Guard broke in on Channel 16 to broadcast a gale warning astern of us, with 16 foot waves and heavy winds bearing down on San Nicholas Island.  We had avoided all the big coastal weather and the earlier forecasts probably kept the island un-crowded for us.
     I did go see "Finest Hours" in 3-D the next morning, so I totally feel like I virtually experienced what the Coast Guard was talking about without having to be frightened or uncomfortable.

     Back at the dock, I dumped all of the lobsters onto the deck.  At Skipper's direction, I threw the huge spider crab into the water near the dock, so it could dominate this domain and scare the crap out of all of the creatures that lived in that corner of the marina.  I started playing with the lobster, forgetting that I had taken my gloves off.  While Skipper was trying to clean up the boat, I was pushing them around like toy cars while making race car sounds with my lips.  I was making them collide and fight with each other.


     "Hey, those lobster you're playing with are completely cutting up your hands and its getting blood all over this deck I am trying to wash."

     I noticed the cuts and the red stains I was leaving everywhere.  I put some gloves on and divided the lobster into the two ice chests.  We cleaned up the rest of the boat and gear while Skipper kept mopping up the bloody hand marks I kept leaving just behind him as he worked backwards.  He was becoming exasperated because of our peculiar arrangement whereby I do not have to pay for gas if I spill a certain amount of my own blood on his boat during one of our outings.

"Okay, you win.   Just get off so I can wipe it down without you doing that anymore and we can leave."  Skipper asked for gas money anyway, but I said no, because the entire adventure had been to so perfect, it had to be free.

I syphoned a gallon of gas from an old F 150 in the lot and was home by in bed before 1 am.

  This weekend we are feasting with our pals and eating enough to make me dream in color. 

 Last night, I dreamed I was in a crowded urban barber shop.  We were all talking about the Laker organization putting up another bronze statue of the Laker most responsible for revolutionizing the game as the originator of the soaring grace that characterizes the exciting, modern-style NBA game - it was Elgin Baylor....  Suddenly, StoneFOX debate mistress Megyn Kelly sat down in the chair next to me and shouted out, in a harsh New Jersey accent -  "Make me look like the Fonz!" 

 I was startled back into  reality by a gentle touch and a soft voice  whispering "Wake up, Honey.  Don't be scared."  It was Wendy Jo and she was leaning over the bed, holding a tray full of lobster omelets and Bloody Marys.  She was wearing a lobster bib style nightie from Victoria's Secret.  The logo sequined to the front of the bib read: "You've been served."

Glad that haircut nightmare  was just a dream, right? If I could dream up a perfect evening of lobster fishing, I just did.

Well, Dream On, because:

These are the Days