Because of where our slip sits in the heart of the Harbor Walk in the beautiful A&B Marina, we often tend to be treated by passers-by as an information center. There are certain questions that I get asked repeatedly when we’re not out fishing. Obviously, there are the routine ones about directions, restaurants, the charters we run and/or “What’s biting?” However, there are many others that I also hear on a constant basis. Probably the most popular is “What are those big fish in front of your boat?” That refers to the large pod of tarpon that hang around the area of the dock filleting table next to the boat, waiting for their next free meal when one of our boats tosses its fish scraps in the water. The related one is: “Are they edible?” (No, unless you’re in survival mode or worse!)
Speaking of tarpon, if you’re ever in our area when one of our charter boats comes back with fish and if you’ve never experienced a tarpon feeding session first-hand, it would be worth your while to check it out. The marina also has a scheduled daily tarpon feeding at 4 PM.
Another question commonly asked is “How do I get to be you when I grow up?” My answer is always the same simple one “You can’t be me if you grow up, because I never did!” I really believe that is a truthful answer. You can’t live the relatively simplistic life-style and do what we do every day unless you still have a lot of little boy (or girl) left inside of you.
The other one that goes hand-in-hand with that last question refers to my primo location. “How do you rate a slip like that?” I guess people automatically assume you have to be a great fisherman to have “earned” a spot like mine. While I truly hate to dissuade them from that delusion, in the interest of honesty I reluctantly admit that I was just looking in the right place at the right time when the spot became available and was savvy enough to realize what I’d found at that time. As they say, particularly in this biz - “I’d rather be lucky than good!”
Yet another. “What do you do around here on your days off?” There are actually two totally opposite interchangeable, yet totally true, answers that I give folks to that one. The first – after spending twenty nine years in a previous life in a real “job” – is “EVERY day is a day off for me!” Thing is, I honestly mean that when I say it. I find what I do to be so much fun and the people I meet to be so interesting that I really think of every day in this charter fishing life-style as a day off from real work. I’m not in a suit and tie; I’m not sitting in an office; I’m not stuck on some crowded, smoggy freeway; I’m very often on a boat fishing: and I very often have a beer in my hand while I’m “working” and not actually running a trip, e.g. while doing maintenance or trying to book trips. Sounds like a day off to me!
The alternate answer to that question – usually given when I have engine room oil and grime oozing out of every pore of my body - is “What’s a day off?” I mean that totally truthfully, too! During “high season” – February to June – especially, we run trips so often that it is not unheard of to have charters for more than 20 straight days. When you do finally get that “open” date, you wind up having to do all the routine things you need to do to keep the boat/business running. Believe it or not, a lot goes into that. First, there’s that old acronym “B.O.A.T.” (“break out another thousand”) that refers to the fact that something on a boat is constantly breaking, wearing out, or needs maintenance, especially when you’re running every day. Just for example, there are oil changes to be done – on the generator every 100 hours of operation and on the two engines every 150 hours. Fuel filters on them also have to be replaced about every 200-250 hours. Air filters need to be cleaned or replaced regularly. Engine and generator zinc anodes, needed to inhibit corrosion, also need to be checked regularly and replaced as necessary. Battery water levels also require constant monitoring and “topping off.” Then there are the unexpected things, such as the leaky engine crankshaft seal being worked on today; the air-conditioning plumbing hoses and strainer we had to replace 2 days ago; the worn-out fish-box drain pump we had to replace 3 days ago; the engine and cockpit area hose clamps were replaced the week before. You get the picture! While you may pay somebody else to do the more complicated engine things, when you run a charter boat to hopefully make a decent profit, you have to do most, if not all, the routine things yourself. And, even when you pay someone else, you need to be there to assist so that he gets it done, and gets you back to running charters, ASAP. Oh, and then there is the bookkeeping any business requires; the constant cleaning/laundry that any heavily used charter boat needs, especially one that sits in salt water; and the necessary errands for such things as parts, bait, tackle, etc. What was that about a “day off” again?
On a more comic note, a lot of the questions I get, at least some of which are sarcastically asked, require more cryptic responses For instance, to the average person, the average offshore “fighting chair” that many charter boats have looks very exotic. We have one that is probably as big and as exotic-looking as any around. So I’m often asked why we have such a chair, sometimes with an additional comment like “”I guess you used to be dentist and just had to do something with that old chair!” I just look at them with a straight face and say “Nope. Gynecologist!” That either causes them to bust a gut laughing or to slink away with a disgusted look on their face. What’s that saying about “there are no stupid questions, just stupid people that ask them?”
Speaking of the fighting chair, another thing I regularly get asked is “Can I (or my friend) have a photo taken in your chair.” Initially, I was reluctant to say yes. The old lawyer in me worried about someone getting hurt needlessly getting on and off the boat. I also thought it would be a pain in the butt if I constantly let people do it. Then, one day about 9 years ago, as I was coming out of the cabin, a little boy – I’m guessing around 7 – was trying to get under the chain-rope next to the boat to get on it, while his dad was trying to hold him back. I didn’t see anyone else with them and told the dad to let the kid come aboard. As I helped him step down, I noticed that he looked pale; had odd-looking reddish-brown splotches on his arms and neck; and looked generally very frail. He went straight for the chair and climbed in. I put a big rod in the chair’s gimbaled rod-holder and placed his hands around it while his dad prepared to snap a photo from the dock. Just at that moment, a woman came around the corner from the front of the boat and walked straight to the dad. When the boy saw her, he yelled “Look mom! I’m fishing!” She instantly started to cry and laugh at the same time and said “Wait until we get you back to the hospital and the doctors see what you were doing!” I didn’t dare ask the boy’s condition, but the smiles/tears on all their faces at that moment convinced me never to say no to anyone who asks for a photo on the boat again. While the photo attached to this article is of a different boy who appeared perfectly healthy, the look on his face will tell you why that is now one of my favorite questions to answer and why it always gets the same response - “Sure!!!” It’s a simple way to make someone smile – and it gets us on a lot of Facebook pages, too.
Some of the other questions can be varying levels of annoying, such as ill-timed general questions like “What’s a boat like this cost to buy?” or “How much does your slip cost you?,” especially when asked while you’re emerging grimy and sweaty from a 100 degree-plus engine room on a hot day, obviously in the middle of a tough project. While I try to be as polite as possible, I’ve got to admit that sometimes my responses at such moments can be a little “terse”. If you are among those to whom I gave such a response, please give me a pass and try again someday. I really do appreciate the opportunity to meet and talk with the people who pass by our slip. Moreover, I really do enjoy most of the questions most of the time, especially if they are ultimately directed at booking a charter and at least temporarily getting me away from – guess what? - answering even more questions.
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