Wednesday, April 14, 2010

El Viejo y El Mar: Letters to Ben and Andree (More Fish Stores)

April 12, 2010
Hemingway Marina, Havana, Cuba

Dear Ben and Andre:

We owe you breakfast. After 6 weeks of gestation the rod and reel you lent to us produced a beautiful 7 pound (maybe 10) tuna. At least we think it was a tuna. It was filleted and fried so fast it was kind of hard to tell.

Ocean to plate in 20 minutes!!


Meredith was travelling overnight trying to get to Havana a little ahead of schedule. About 3:30 a.m. the boat was struck hard by a rogue wave. Simultaneously the reel started to sing. The little clicks it usually made merged into a single soprano voice as line flew off the reel.

It was very exciting.

Our first bite after 6 weeks of Connie putting out the line day after day. We were getting a bit fatalistic about our chances until we met the crew of Magie (out of somewhere in Quebec) in Vita. There was a little 9 year old boy aboard, Phillipe, who caught a 50 pound tuna! In the victory picture the fish was bigger than the boy.

Connie grabbed the kid and marched him down to Meredith to tell us what we were doing wrong. Actually the little guy was delighted to be so important. We offered to rent him from his parents for a week so he could show us how to do it.

Magie caught one or two big fish every day.

For 4 more days we had no luck.

Then at 3:30 a.m. in the pitch black we caught a fish. A brutish black eel like thing with monstrous teeth and a sharp stickleback dorsal fin. Maybe a Barracuda I don't know. It looked evil - just like something that would be afoot at 3:30 a.m., when hell's gate is open to earth.

Once we had removed the hook from the thrashing pescadore and returned him to his watery grave the hook was once again set. We were very excited by the devil's fish we caught - it meant we were getting closer. I reasoned that now our hook smelled like a fish maybe something else fishlike would be interested.

At 10:00 a.m. it happened again. The reel began to sing. This time we played the fish in to Meredith. Hard work I must say. The fish pulled so hard I thought it must be 25 or 30 pounds. Somewhat deflating to see how small an opponent I had finally bested.

To hasten the poor thing's rush to demise we fed it a little alcohol in its gills. We read repeatedly that this would stun the fish and lessen the time it suffocated on land. We had a little blueberry vodka on hand from Annapolis that neither of us liked very much so it went to the fish. And it worked.

Once we were sure it was dead we got out our Rapalo fish knife (still in the package after 5 years) and read the instructions on the reverse on how to fillet a fish. It looked easy enough.

So we did it. We butchered the fish before we lost our nerve. By the time the fillets were ready Connie had the pan hot.

It was fish for breakfast baby.

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Now we want more.

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