The Old Man and a Sea
The sand left in life’s hourglass was falling fast. Add in the progression of cancer, and well…you get the scenario. Make time count.
My dad and I had spent a lifetime fishing. Figured, if I carefully tended to every detail, we had one more big trip still in us. Maybe even one of those “once in a life-time”, epic adventures. He was up for it, (with conditions of course). The logistics, chartering the right boat and Captain, etc., had to be managed pretty tight, but all do-able.
Decided on the waters around the Galapagos Islands. World class, unique, big water and big fish.
We flew from Miami to Guayaquil, overnighted there, then Guayaquil into San Cristóbal. My new best friend, Julio, met us at theJosé Joaquín de Olmedo International Airportin Guayaquil and made sure that we navigated smoothly. Did the same on the return, and was just a godsend.
In fact, there were many “new best friends” that helped us throughout this adventure.
The Fishing: The main events were at Banco 030 and Banco Espanola, a bit more than an hour run from the San Cristóbal harbor.
Classic fishing, trolling long lines with lures, short lines with teasers.
It’s mid-morning, no action, quiet start to Day 1. Off the starboard side, about a quarter mile away, was a frenzy of boobies dive bombing through the surface. The chatter (in Spanish) between the Captain and mates (we had two mates) was fast, excited and while I don’t know what they were saying…I got the message. Sometimes they would just point and yell out “Boobies!”…the gist…if the birds are feeding from above, the fish are feeding from below. Although I also thought they just liked shouting out the word “boobies”.
We make our 1st pass, everyone on edge…watching close.
Long line right hits…more like slams and bends the rod in half. Then a 2nd marlin rises and is very interested in the short line teaser. Hubert (lead mate) pulls the teaser, I pitch out the real bait, gently easing it a couple feet off its left side.
There is absolutely nothing more exciting than a 500lb marlin surfacing 20 yards back and pitching bait to get a bite. You are watching it happen right at the surface.
Slowly the line starts to run. I’m free spooling, so no drag. The outgoing line picks up speed, the bite is now in full play, a few more seconds and the line’s running hard, I put tension on the drag and pull back. WHAM!
The hook is set, the fight is on, and a gorgeous blue marlin blasts out of the water like a rocket.
It runs harder and my line is “zinging” out. I need to hold tight, let it run, not over-press to break the bite or under-press to allow slack.
About 10 minutes in, I’m sweating and swearing to myself “should’ve hit the gym more often”. There’s no fighting chair, just a belt around my waist with the rod butt lodged in.
The momentum starts to shift and I’m making some progress “slowly pull the rod up, reel on the way down” …repeat about 200 times. About 30 minutes later, the fish was alongside the boat. Some quick pics and a few moments admiring its size and beauty, then release.
Over 4 days, about 60 bites, 19 catches, all released. Largest was a 600lb blue, with plenty of blue and striped marlin…none less than 250lbs.
The Team: We were fishing on the VERTIGO, a custom made 39’ that resembles a Bertram. Everyone from Galapagos Sport Fishing were exceptional, across the board. A few language barriers on the boat, but we all made it work. The Galapagos National Park Service does provide English speaking guides that accompany every charter. It was just part of the adventure.
San Cristóbal: People were warm, gracious and ever helpful. Those big turtles are across the island and interesting, but move pretty slow. There sure are a lot of sea lions in the harbor, on the docks and the beach. A lot. Is it wrong to suggest maybe “thinning the herd a little”?
My Dad: It was a level of fishing he’s never experienced. The majesty of these fish tail-dancing the ocean surface and the intensity of their fight was simply breath taking. But more importantly, and as you well know, it was about the adventure together. And a time to reflect on a few life lessons the old guy has passed along over the years.
People. It just doesn’t matter your status, it’s about what’s in your soul and the fabric you’re made of. The people that became our guardian angels this trip live a tough life, but are happy. The measurement of a person is in their heart, not their purse.
Adventure. Hey, we hear it over and over. One life. Easier said, but in many ways the old adage “work hard, play hard” (in that order) creates that opportunity for adventure. It doesn’t need to be marlin fishing off the Galapagos, it can be finding the “new” in something you’ve done a hundred times, or maybe just stretching yourself just a little bit more. That sense of adventure can come to you in so many ways, whether simple or involved…be open to “new”.
Work Hard & Save.Depression era children grew up in a world without social security. They knew tough times, and learned to save, work hard and that the harder you work, the better things get. In fact, the deep lesson comes with the value of hard work. There was word he once referenced: TINSTAFL. “There is no such thing as a free lunch.”
Make a Difference. Post his working years he volunteered at a hospital, the Red Cross and served on community-based non-profit boards. It’s that notion of giving back, but also being relevant. It’s also that notion that it’s never about you, but those around you. Open the door for someone, pick up that piece of trash blowing across the parking lot, or just give that person you pass on the street a warm smile. You never know when the smallest of gestures makes someone else’s day.
All the while I thought I was doing this trip for him. Looking back, I think he did it for me.
One interesting piece of trivia I picked up…the equator is exactly 10,000 kilometers from each pole. Research the nautical history, you’ll win your next bet at the bar.