A Day For Maggie
By Capt. Marlin Scott
as seen in the Keynoter, Saturday August 2, 2014
There are not that many of us in the four children+ club. I personally have guided five of my own children into adulthood with fairly good success and I have the scars to prove it. There is nothing easy about it. My good friend and client Maggie Whitcomb is in the club too with four of the most inquisitive and intelligent kids I have ever had on the boat. Raising kids in numbers is one thing, but raising kids that are extremely smart is a bit more involved. They will flat wear you out, especially in a place as stimulating as the Florida Keys. That's how she came to me, ready for a break. She asked me "Captain Marlin, can you take my kids out fishing and snorkeling for the day?" I asked if she was going and she slowly smiled and said "Nope!" so "A Day for Maggie" was added to the calendar.
Maggie and the children showed up at Cudjoe Gardens Marina where our charter boat the Reel Deal is located carrying snorkel gear, drinks and snacks. They were all dressed in varying attire. It was all so familiar to me to have kids from the same family be so different from each other. All four personality quadrants were represented for sure.
We loaded the young crew and gear and pushed away from the dock as mom Maggie took video of the boat loaded with her children as it slowly faded out of sight. She was free for the day and the kids were heading out for a trip to remember. Perfect.....
The mangrove snapper spawn offshore of the lower Florida Keys was in full swing and everyone knows that large congregations of reproducing fish attracts sharks. There is nothing more exciting to kids than large predators, especially sharks. My mate and second youngest son, Captain Seth Hopp is one of the best I know when it comes to hooking and leadering big sharks. The crew from Atlanta didn't have to wait long before the 50 lb. class rod was bent and drooling line first at a small clip and then at a full speed tear shortly into the battle. When this transpires we always announce that we have hooked a "fast" shark. One of the really, REALLY mean ones is what we told our little warriors - and the battle began.
Taylor Whitcomb started the long landing process and held it together for over 15 minutes before handing the rod off to nine year old Eli. Taylor had to support the rod while little Eli two handed the reel handle in an attempt to gather line. Sister Grace took the third position and wondered aloud "Why?" as she was only along for the ride and the snorkeling but was still required to take her position in the big battle. Finally young Adam jumped in the chair to relieve Grace. In the final hand off, Taylor was able to finish what he had started. The bull shark was within reach.
The inquisitive nature of the Whitcomb clan came shining through like a locomotive headlight. "Can we get in the water with it?" Of course these kids would ask THAT.
Captain Seth opened the Reel Deal’s tuna door, while keeping the shark at a safe distance, had each of the four kids lay down on the deck with their mask and snorkel so they could put their face deep enough in the water to get a full underwater view of the large bull shark. Each time one would sink their head under, they would make a series of snorkel inhibited “Oohs and Ahhhs" as the shark slowly went back and forth. They had clearly never seen anything like it before. A moment they'll never forget.
Lining up four kids at the exact time as a fully spent bull shark swings into view off of the starboard side of the Reel Deal was likened to herding squirrels into the same tree but we did it. They smiled all at once towards the upper station as Seth clicked the camera. Then they crowded around the tuna door to watch Seth remove the majority of the gear from the sharks mouth so it could swim away with limited damage. As the shark disappeared into the blue water, the Whitcomb Four asked in unison, "Can we go snorkeling now?" Big sharks and then snorkeling? I wasn't all that surprised they asked....
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