2010 11 07
Dinghying to the dinghy dock at St. Augustine Municipal Marina you are forced, no matter where you are moored, to pass by the fuel dock. In St. Augustine the Fuel Dock serves two purposes. Not only does it provide a long easy entry dock for boats to belly up to the fuel pumps but it is also used at to dock especially large powerboats - those large sterile white plastic mastodons whose sticker prices are set in multiples of $10 million.
Somehow it seems appropriate that these floating temples to the god of conspicuous consumption be tied up at a fuel dock. Some of them must be plumbed in to the fuel tanks directly just like some boats plumb themselves into the municipal water supply.
It happened that the night we stayed at St. Augustine there was tied to the fuel dock a multi storied embarrasment of a boat which prominently displayed on its ground floor (or its water level) the statue, a very large statue, of a dwarf.
How appropriately nautical. Does a statue of a dwarf on your boat not just scream competence at sea to any casual observer?
What the dwarf statue signified to the powerboat brain that paid the mortgage on this aquatic mammoth will never be known. Perhaps he had made his fortune selling Disney memorabilia or maybe he ran an internet porn site featuring sex amongst little people with large protuberant probosces. You get the idea: he must have been a very classy fellow. I mean, look at his boat.
The boat's name was "Grumpy".
Grumpy did not figure large in our daily thoughts until the morning we left St. Augustine. To depart this lovely tourist mecca you must transit a bridge. Bridge openings are tightly controlled, never more tightly than during "rush hour" for the local auto traffic. The Bridge of Lions opens every half hour on the hour and half hour but does not open at 8:00 a.m. This is problematic at this time of year as sunrise is not until 7:40 a.m. and most boats leaving want to use the 8:00 a.m. opening - first light sort of thing.
Meredith slowed her departure procedures to a nicely languid pace and eased into channel ready for the 8:30 a.m. opening. Prior to casting off we contacted the bridge operator to verify that the Bridge would indeed open at 8:30. This was confirmed.
8:30 came and the bridge began its opening right on schedule. As the traffic gates came down the radio picked up. "Bridge of Lions, this is Grumpy. I am at the Municipal Docks. Will you hold the bridge for me?"
"Aaahhm sorry saahhr" replied the bridge tender in a timbre of voice that confirmed large size and a life spent growing up in the deep south. "If you can get your boat in the channel before I close you can make the opening" he finished, rather obviously I thought. But he was talking to a powerboat.
"But, I am GRUMPY" demurred the owner of the dwarf ship. "You must have seen me here at the dock. Can't you hold the bridge for me. I am Grumpy" he reasserted in closing.
The bridge operator did not lose a beat nor did he alter his slow steady monotone response. "Well saahhr, I woke up a bit irritable myself this morning. So you listen to me when I tell you that the next bridge opening is at 9:00 a.m. and if your boat is not in the channel and ready to proceed at that time you will just have to wait for 9:30.; Y'all have a nice day now."
Cheered mightily by this gentle yet substantial putdown Meredith continued out the inlet and into the open waters of the Atlantic. Three hours later the reel on the fishing line started to buzz and we landed a very nice tasting blackfin tuna. That provided lunch and dinner and lunch the next day.
Mid afternoon the reel started to buzz again. Picking up the rod I knew immediately that this was a different sort of fish. I had a fight on my hands. Whatever took my hook did not want to be eaten.
I had no idea how right I was. It came to me over the next half hour that whatever was on the hook wanted to eat me for lunch. It had eaten my hook as a means of getting on my boat - and at me.
The fish pulled and dove and ran in an arc. After 25 minutes of fighting hard to reel in my "catch" I still had 50 feet of line to go and it was being reeled in an inch at a time. When it dove the last time I knew it was a shark.
Do you remember the scene in the movie Jaws when the ill fated fishermen managed to speer the shark and tied 3 large buoyancy drums to it? Then the fish dives as if the buoyancy drums are not even there.
This was my fish. When it dove the last time all I could think was: Jaws.
Exhausted I finally got the aquatic predator on deck. Half an hour of fighting and this shark did not quit once. As it hit the deck it's tail started to swing back and forth with tremendous energy. The Budget Committee moved towards the thrashing beast intending to put a towel over its eyes to calm it. Too loud I yelled at her to stay away. Make no mistake, I was just a little bit afraid.
At that the shark gave one last thrust of tail and threw itself off the deck. Suspended by the hook in its mouth it continued its machinations hanging in mid air until the hook in its mouth tortured from the combination of weight and irresistable force bent itself straight. The fish slid off the hook and into the water.
We were both glad.