COVID-19


As of this writing, my company, PCG, has been "social distancing" for the last 46 days.  About 2/3 of my staff have been working from home.  These are challenging times. I have been going into the office every day (Well, except for the weekends).  And it is the weekend!

Time to fish.

AmberJack opened up today (May 1, Saturday) - and the day is absolutely beautiful!  0% chance of rain and mild winds.  I can't think of a better reason to head to V Tower to hunt for AmberJack. Cameron has numerous friends who have said that they want to go fishing this weekend. I have known these boys for most of their lives, so I am glad to take them. It has been a while since I have been offshore fishing.  

The players this weekend:
  • "Tommy Tech"
  • Austin (porn stauche) headed up from Gainesville.
  • "I always bail on fishing Ronnie" 
  • "Dirty Dan"  (not in this picture because he is still driving over from Jacksonville)
  •  Hunter "Ladies Man" (Duuuuuuuuulin). 
  • And of course, Cameron - "Best Son Ever!"  :-)

Fishing Florida's Forgotten Coast

After meeting up with everyone at the boat Friday evening, we walk over to the Shak and have  spaghetti and a fire out on the back deck. 

  

Getting late. Time for bed and sleep - except for Tommy, who must sleep under Dan, in the bunk-bed.  Dan snores!  Poor Tommy.

7:00 a.m.

I'm not sure we could ask for a more perfect morning:

 

Everything passes on my checklist, so it is time to head offshore.

We arrive at V Tower around 8:30 a.m.  It is a long way, but we hauled-butt out here.  Smooth seas.  Interesting that it is called "V Tower" when it has "N26" in huge letters plastered on the side of it.


Fishing Florida's Forgotten Coast

Old-man body.  I hope my 3 readers don't get nauseous.


Ronnie catching his first AmberJack.  Free entertainment for the rest of us.  

Ronnie:  "The reel is broken, the reel is broken!"  
Um, Ronnie, pull UP, reel DOWN.  
Ronnie: "Hey, the reel is working again!"  
Priceless.


Ronnie won though!  Great job.  We need a new nickname for Ronnie.  He didn't bail! 
Perhaps, "The Bail Bondsman!"


Fantastic fish Austin.  Biggest of the day.

Gulf of Mexico

Nice fish Dan.  Pretty darn close to Austin's.  Hopefully it was worth the trip from Jacksonville.

Gulf of Mexico

Come on Hunter.  Work those biceps boy.


Also a keeper.  Nutcracker.  I have no words.  He WAS good luck though.  So what is the 6 ft Christmas nutcracker doing on the boat?  Glad you asked.  You see, Terri waited in line for Tallahassee's Goodwill stores to open during the pandemic.  When the finally did, she decided that she needed this 6 ft nutcracker for her store - for Christmas in 7 months.  But, she needed me to bring my truck to Goodwill cause it wouldn't fit in the Prius.  So I picked it up.  As I was leaving for the coast that same day, I heard the nutcracker dude say, "Hey Captain, I REALLY want to fish, take me on an adventure."  So he came with me to the coast and we bungee-corded him to the stern and took pictures with him throughout the day.  When Terri arrived home, she texted me and asked, "Where's my nutcracker?"  My simple response, "Offshore Fishing.  He is having the time of his life!"


Amber are actually quite silver coming up.  Go figure.

Long ride back to the dock boys.  Let's head home! Catching AmberJack is tiring.  


I think the boys had a great time.


They look even bigger in the bucket.

Captn Hook

Group shot!  
I think I will frame this one and put it on the Crak Shak "Hall of Fame" wall in the kitchen.

As the Captain, my final job is to watch people clean fish or clean the boat while I drink beer.  Cameron has become quite proficient over the years at cleaning fish.


Well, I suppose it is also my job to be the chef for the boys that evening.


Nothing better then fresh AmberJack - and I mean FRESH!

Excellent job Tommy on all the pictures!

I fully intend to make another AmberJack run soon before the species closes May 30, so when I do, I will try to find time to post again with some more pictures.

Stay healthy everyone in this crappy pandemic.







  


Snapper Fishing


For those of you who have been reading ALL my Sailing chapters, I couldn't let you down for your morning read - so please consider this post a "bonus".

Happy 4th of July everyone!

As I promised to provide in my last sailing post, this post is about offshore fishing. Specifically, red snapper. The season is only open for 30 days so I gotta get at least one trip in before it ends.
For the last four years, Cameron has been on the UNF ultimate frisbee team. Terri and I have hosted these UNF college kids (all 30 of them) at our house at least once a year for their annual Tallahassee tournament. All the college kids are a lot of fun, but there is one young man named Chris Daddario whom I really hit it off with. With the exception of Cameron, you won't find a bigger personality in anyone! I love this kid.

And, of course, getting an opportunity to fish with my own son for the 4th of July? Well, it doesn't get any better than that.

Recently, Daddario (not hot sister) told Cameron that he wanted to fish with Mr. Paul before he heads back to New York. Bring it on!

Scheduled. 4th of July offshore fishing, baby!

So on July 3, Cameron and Chris head over from Jacksonville to Panacea for the 4th of July. Devon, Cameron's roommate lets us know that he will be driving all the way from West Palm Beach to join us.  Glad you could join us Devon.

The boys arrive late at the Crak Shak in Panacea Thursday night. It looks like Chris has a Mohawk here, but it is actually a cabinet sticker above his head. Not that I wouldn't bet against him for having a Mohawk.

Early day tomorrow boys, so eat your pizza and go to bed.

Individuals on the boat today:  Me, Cameron, Chris, Devon, Josh, Harry Carey. I met Harry at the dock a few years ago. We've become friends. I have a hard time remembering names so I labeled him "Harry Carey" so I could remember. Josh I know through work.

Everyone arrives at the dock on time. We head out around 7:30 am.

Pretty day. Hot, of course. 
High chance for thundershowers in the afternoon.
For some reason, storms don't scare me as much.

We troll across Oar Reef - about 20 miles offshore. Catch nothing. That sucks. But I'm not really out here to troll. I/we are out here to bottom-fish for Red Snapper.  

We head farther offshore towards V Tower.  My first waypoint for bottom-fishing is about 35 miles offshore. Everyone drops lines. Immediately, the rock bass start hitting, along with a few Key West grunt. Devon, apparently, is the "Rock Bass King". The boy is good at catching them, which, surprisingly is quite difficult considering the size of the rigs and circle hooks I use.  

Although they are quite tasty, we are not here to catch little Rock Bass!  I want to see something big and RED!

Somebody, at this first spot, (Josh, I think), does finally manage to catch one Red Snapper, but right after that, the sharks show up:

I don't like sharks. Well, actually, I have nothing against them, they just don't taste very good and it is easy to lose fingers or a hand if you don't release them properly. I am definitely not out here to catch sharks. They are fun to fight, but they sure as heck aren't coming aboard my boat. Josh does a great job of cutting the line as close to the shark's mouth as possible. The shark will eventually rid itself of the hook and I get my large egg-weight back. Nice job, Josh.

We pull up lines on this 1st spot and head to my 2nd secret spot which, btw, is labeled "Fred - Snapper". If, for some reason, we don't catch snapper today, at least we have a bunch of rock bass and grunts in the boat.

I tell the boys to "drop":



Within 30 minutes
Everybody catches Red Snapper!
I love my secret spot.


Aren't they beautiful?

Within 30-45 minutes, we put 11 Red Snapper into the fish box! (We already had one snapper from our first spot). Well, that was fun. It is now 10:15 a.m. We have officially caught our limit of red snapper (12). Well....What the heck do we do now? Head back 40 miles to the dock?

Nah, we're already way out here, so we all agree to head over to V Tower and have some fun with AmberJack. We can't keep them (they are out of season), but we have an entire bait-well full of live bait. Little pinfish are like candy to AJs, they just can't resist them. And AJs put up a heck of a fight.  

So we head over to V Tower - it isn't far - about 4 miles away and we start fishing.

It doesn't take long: (2 minutes, perhaps):





All these AJs you see in the pictures are considered "small", but man they are a LOT of fun to battle.  At one point, we were tripled up with AJs. It is kinda madness on the boat when that happens because fishermen are moving behind and in front of each other all around the boat. It is like controlled chaos. I absolutely live for moments like this.

Motley crew.
Great picture though.
Awesome shirts!


It is a pleasure to spend the 4th of July fishing with Cameron.
Love you son and I am quite proud of you.
Congratulations on your upcoming graduation at the University of North Florida.

Cameron didn't actually like fishing much when he was younger, but he has become quite proficient offshore.

We spend about an hour-and-a-half catching AJs. I think we brought about 9 or 10 of them on board.  We release them all, of course. AJs will WEAR YOU OUT!  They are great fun though. We still have about 15 pinfish left, but in all honesty, I think the boys are done. Its only noon.

We start to move away from the tower towards home. Wait.... I'm hungry.  Time for my sandwich. So instead of going full speed towards home, I say,  "Hey guys, put the trolling rods out for a few minutes while I/we eat our lunches".

I only get about two bites into my turkey sandwich when the trolling rod goes off. Cameron catches this 5 ft King on a Stretch 30:


Great fish Cameron. We'll eat him for lunch or dinner at the restaurant back at Rock Landing. You shouldn't have punched him so many times with your fist to knock him out. Look at all that blood. At least it isn't Capt'n Hook's blood. Been there, done that - thanks Gene.

See the seas behind Cameron? Dead calm. Absolutely not a breath of wind - no waves. It's going to be impossible to sail today. Wait, no! I have big engines now! 500 horses to be exact. (Sorry, Nick - I couldn't resist.) Still love your little Johnson though. :-)  Wait....

It's time for us to haul-butt back in 40 miles and it wont take us 8 hours! :-)

Try to relax Josh. 
You look very stressed.
Thanks for all your help out there today. It's a pleasure to have you on my boat.

The boys take their time cleaning the fish. It takes them over 1.5 hours:



Thanks for cleaning guys.

Standing next to the fish cleaning station, they wonder why she didn't fish with us:


Devon and Chris clean the boat up on the rack:


What do I do while everyone is working so hard? 
I get served beers from "Becky, the beautiful bartender!"
I manage the other guys.

Good to be Captain!
Nice shirt, Becky. Sorry you got in trouble for wearing it.

After the boat and fish are all cleaned, we shower-up back at the Shak and return to the bar for a few well-earned adult beverages. We do a few one-handed push-ups (me, not Chris). Later that night, we watched a fantastic firework show out on the pier. We never did get any rain. But man is it hot out here.

That was a wonderful day fishing, boys. Thanks for joining the Capt'n for the day and for all your hard work.  Let's do it again someday.


Happy 4th of July everyone. God bless America.

This really will be the LAST post I write for a while.  Sorry about that.  :-(

Sailing - Final Chapter



6:30 a.m. Sunrise. Time to go!

We are just barely inside the channel, so it only takes 15 minutes to exit into the Gulf.

As we head North, Nick gets an innovative idea on how to make us some coffee. He sticks one of my coffee bags inside a water bottle. Then, he sits it outside in the sun to heat up; shaking it every now and then. After an hour?  Pretty darn good with some vanilla flavoring. So now, at the end of our trip, he is a better Captain AND cook than me. Thats humbling.

Last day on the water - and I have "relatively" hot coffee - I'm in a good mood.

Fishing Florida's Forgotten Coast

We know that when we make it to the Venice pier, we are getting very close to our final destination where we will ultimately meet Jeff:

Fishing Florida's Forgotten Coast

We just passed it.

We reach the Venice channel:


We tie up to the Venice Yacht Club dock next to a 100 ft yacht. 
If you look hard, you can see our sailboat on the left:

Fishing Florida's Forgotten Coast

We, of course, head to the bar next to the pool, to wait for Jeff.

Fishing Florida's Forgotten Coast

I have a feeling that this is a private club, but once again, my motto of: "It's easier to ask for forgiveness than permission".

Based upon that philosophy, we order frozen, tasty drinks.

"May I have your member #, sir?" The bartender asks me.
"Member #?" I ask.
"You don't have a member #?"
"No sir. We just sailed in from the Keys".
"Oh, in that case, I'll just make you a guest of 'Mike'."

I think the bartender assumes we are on a huge catamaran sailboat. Because of the big yacht between the bar and our boat, he can't see what we are on. (No idea who Mike is, avid sailor, perhaps?)

"Perfect, I reply. Mike loves the keys - and he is a great guy!"
"Yes he does, and he is" answers the bartender.

We pay for and enjoy our frozen drinks at the private Yacht Club :-).  At the end of our adventure, we are, apparently yachtsmen now!  I should have had them charge our drinks to "Mike". :-)

Jeff arrives a few minutes after we finish our drinks. Perfect timing, bro.

Is the cabin as clean as it started?

Um, no.


I won't miss hitting my head on the boom.
Tight quarters for this last week.

Here we are ending our sailing adventure, coming into the final dock in Venice:

Fishing Florida's Forgotten Coast

We, fortunately, make it back to Clearwater without any significant problems and park the sailboat in the driveway where it started.

Nick and I shake hands and hug. I let him know how proud of him I am for some of the quick-thinking decisions he made. I thank him for making me a better Captain. He really did a great job out there.

Why did we do it?  It wasn't the "sanest" thing in the world to attempt. I suppose it has something to do with being in your 50's. We are still healthy and we still can. Another decade of age? Perhaps not.

The best explanation: Nick and I both love being on the water. Sure, we yelled at each other a few times (mostly my fault), but come on, the average temperature was 95 degrees!

Are we still friends? Never closer.

Thank You's go out to:
  • Garmin corporation for their amazingly rugged and durable hand-held GPS.  That thing worked flawlessly through the rain and the sweltering heat. We relied on it for our lives.
  • Don and Natalie for housing us for two days in Bahia Honda.
  • Hancock Whitney bank for my handy-dandy Florida cutting board.
  • My employees for working hard while I was gone.
  • Brian, from Custom Hitch & Trailer in Naples.
  • Jeff, Sue and his family for housing me two nights and for coming to rescue us with the trailer.
  • My wife and family for letting me go without complaints.
  • The Coast Guard, for always listening to idiots (adventurers!) like us on the VHF and who are ready to come assist whenever we need them. And for maintaining those offshore buoys.  
  • The Lord, for changing the weather at the last second - and for my life.
  • Road Rangers.
  • All the nice and helpful people we met along the way. (Including Everglades City sailboat guy)
  • And most importantly to Nick's 1983 9.9 HP Johnson motor. My favorite engine - FOREVER!

Nick, that was an unusual experience my friend.  Hike part of the Appalachian trail with me next year? Sam says he is already "in".

How would I sum it all up?  Adventurous, Scary, Idiotic, Surreal, Beautiful, Strange, Hot, Epic!


And mostly to my blog readers (20,361 all-time pageviews) based upon Google stats - If you have actually read all of these Sailing chapters - thank you very much - I really do appreciate you spending part of your busy day to read them. As a writer, it warms my heart when you text me, or make comments on this site to let me know you enjoy them. (Thanks Lorraine for being one of my most avid fans.)

I hope I have kept all of you somewhat entertained with these short stories.

Back to offshore fishing posts reel soon.

Sincerely,


Marc Paul
USCG Certified Master Captain
"Sailing Yachtsman" :)
Fishing Florida's Forgotten Coast