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The Bullride

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The Bullride

Postby yak2you2 » Sun Oct 13, 2013 9:33 pm

The bite was hot, but I couldn't go. Oh, I could drive out there, but I'd never be able to fish it. East 30 was just to much for my little boat. So, I'd found a quite spot, calm and safe, but generally not very productive. It was an interesting drag usually, you could put 20 fathoms out, and almost have a pole tip over the boulder strewn beach. At the end, was a long stretch of wash rocks, set in place to guide your way, like stepping stones. I'd picked up a decent king a ways back, but nothing on this end. As I neared the mark I'd made when I'd caught the first fish , I caught another one, bigger this time. And so the day was progressing, every couple of passes I'd scratch a king out of the little town meeting I'd stumbled out to. It wasn't much, but at this steady pace, I'd make a meaningful day out of it. I caught a big one, the spring pumping had stirred me out of a daydream. Pulse quickening, my senses acute, I was focused on the hunt now. I barely even noticed if at all, that the winds had died out to an eerie, breathless, calm. After cleaning my recent catch, I had just sat down in my chair, when the radio crackled to life. A very young newly wed fisherman, with a bride at home even younger than he was. The long hours away from each other while he fished made her lonely, the calls were frequent. I enjoyed ease dropping on boring days if you want to know the truth. Not that there was anything steamy, or pointed toward fish, it was just refreshing to listen to the way people so young talked to each other. It reminded me of how it felt so long ago. Today though, the conversation started out very differently. There was an immediate sense of urgency and deep concern in the young girl's voice. As soon as they'd switched off of hailing channel, she fairly blurted into the radio, " are you ok!!" After a long pause the young lad came back, "uh, yeah, why wouldn't I be?" With only a slightly reduced tone, the girl came back, " well, I'm looking out the window, and it sure looks scary, there's HUGE white caps in front of our house, and the trees are whipping around everywhere, are you sure your ok? When are you coming home??" The lad came back, "hey I got a fish here, I gotta let you go, I'll call you back soon." switching off the radio, I remember being puzzled...I knew the house the young couple lived in. About 5 miles away toward the South West of where I was, it was as protected from the east as where I was. I knew the girl wouldn't know how to exaggerate the conditions she'd described, even if she'd tried, I just couldn't get my mind around how. I opened the door and walked out on deck, still dead calm, this was the first I was aware of it. I remember thinking it even, "hmmm, the winds have died out to nothing. Crazy girl, she must be describing a charter boat wake or something, but she said the trees were shaking violently??" I don't get it . And right then, almost as though I'd whistled for it, it came. The first little gust of Southwest wind hit me. It wasn't much, just enough to texture the water, and give me a little shiver. I went back inside. I was fully exposed to the Southwest where I was, but I didn't hold much concern. I also was less than 15 minutes run from safety at the 25 knots my boat could do. I remember mulling all the new information over for a few seconds, But I discarded it just about as quickly, and went back to thinking about how to conjure another big one up out my new little lucky spot. It happened that I was just coming up on it, and sure enough, the spring began to pump. I walked out on deck and began to crank for him. By now the SW wind was filling in, I had maybe 15 knots, with gusts a little higher. Not anything special, but it WAS making it more difficult keeping myself off of the nearby rocks with one side up and the other side down. I got the fish, put the wire back out, and had just turned the boat around to run with the wind back over my spot. Much calmer running with the wind, I'd stepped back into the house. The radio was abuzz with different fisherman talking to each other, most of them talking about jockeying and turning into it, it still hadn't penetrated my thickness, the trouble I was in. Then again, what happened was so unexpected, there really was no way you could have prepared for it. Nearing the end of the rocky reef, running along with the wind, I got my first real warning sign. A massive gust came rolling up the channel. I could hear it whistling through the poles and rigging, and feel it laying the boat over. Not long afterward, the chop began to build immediately. I decided then and there, that I was going to spin around and troll my way back up and in out of the exposed spot I was in. I began an orchestrated turn, which it always is on a boat as small as mine with 20 fathoms of wire trailing over either side. If you wern't careful you could easily cross the wires up making a huge mess, or worse, get one in the prop. It took me quite a while of working it just to get it spun around and facing back into the wind, and in that time, it filled in even more, and things were getting fairly ugly. By now it was probably 30 with higher gusts, water black, and white caps rolling through here and there. Time to go. These three words are what a little boat guy lives by. I got out on deck and pulled a wire into the boat, as soon as I did, it unbalanced the boat, and the wind caught me and was pushing me towards the rocks. I know perfectly well how fast the bottom comes up here, and today is not one of those days I want to be snagged on the bottom. I put the wire back out, and ran inside to correct the course. I repeated the drill a couple of minutes later, only to arrive at the same outcome. I considered trying to turn and run with it, which would have made it easier to pick the gear up, but I didn't want to go through the fairly concerning turn I just made all over again. I was alone, and I just couldn't steer and pull in the gear at the same time. I only had to make it about a mile I thought, before it should be much calmer, I can do this, I'll just troll out of it. Big mistake. less than 5 minutes later, I was genuinely scared. I have fished commercially my whole life, and I don't scare very easily. The gusts had steady built by the minute, and the odd thing was, they wern't really gusts. They'd hit like one, but they didn't subside. It was more like a steady incremental increase. I had my little kicker motor off and pulled, and was running on my big motor, this in it's self was no small feat. As I looked out on the water now, I knew, I'm in trouble here. The wind was probably steady 40, with gusts well over 50. There was no way I could pull the wires before I was pushed up on the rocky beach. I looked over at it. Less than a hundred yards away, it was now a boiling, thundering tempest of breakers crashing into boulders. I was mortified of getting a wire in my main motor prop. I'd be dead in less than a minute. I contemplated running out and cutting them off with my cutters, but things had gotten bad enough now, where I dare not take my hands off of the wheel, not even for a second. I applied power to the motor, which gratefully lifted the wires back and away from my prop, and settled in. It was time for a fisherman to experience a bullride. Every bit as rough, and no less terrifying. I looked out the window on what had been a fairly serene sight not more than 15 minutes ago, now looked like the gates of hell. The wind had increased to a steady 50, with higher gusts. There was at least a 5 to 6 foot chop, stacked right on top of it's self. The Mai Tai was holding her own, but this was every bit the max of what she could take. I kept enough power on to keep the nose up, but it was all I could do. If I gave it anymore, the pounding became so violent I was afraid of breaking something, and inevitably, it would cause the bow to dig in, and the dark green water beneath the foam would wash up around the windows. Thinking back on it, I was scared bad at this point, but I didn't realize it then. Kind of shell shocked, I was sort of operating on instinct. Waves were breaking on the bow, and over the widows hard enough that I could imagine one breaking through. Only one other time in my life had I ever felt this way in a boat with windows. For the first time in my life, I was considering putting on my survival suit. I didn't want to even consider the prospect of trying to make it through the maelstrom that the boulder beach had become, but the options simply didn't exist. No one, not the Coast Guard, not a fellow fisherman, could have saved me. If my ride sunk out from under me, I'd be on that beach, in less than 5 minutes. Thinking back on it, the padding would have been nice for tumbling through the rocks, and the floatation factor might have helped too, but this fight would be won or lost, long before hypothermia in the water was a factor. For this reason, I decided that if it came to it, I'd grab my survival suit, and try to hold on to it, so I'd have something warm to put on on the beach, if I made it out. I simply didn't have the time to fight the steering and put the suit on, but at the time, I would have given a lot better odds that the boat was going to go down, than make it. By now the scene outside was amazing. Though it was absolutely terrifying, and I hope to never relive it, it was surely one of the most amazing experiences that will ever take place in my life. The sea now looked like one endless river bar, covered with breakers as far as the eye could see. White streaks of foam ran with the wind. I've seen these foam streaks before fishing on bigger boats when I was a kid, usually it meant you were in trouble. I needed a plan, and I needed one fast. There was a little bay about a mile up from me. It wasn't much, but I could maybe tuck in there and be able to get the gear in. I don't know how long the bullride went on, seemed endless to me. Steer this way, steer that, throttle up, throttle down. Thrashing bucking, most of the time the view out the window was like being under a waterfall and looking out. My mind had long since gone numb, I was in robotic, fight for your life mode. Eventually, I made it into the little bay, and things eased up a little. I was somewhat protected from the waves here, but not the wind. I was being driven back into the bay at an amazing clip. I decided to put her into neutral, If I was going out to haul the wires in, I didn't want to have to share myself with the duty of trying to keep the wires out of the prop too. In neutral, I was sailing along faster than the speed I normally troll at. there was no screwing around. I was cranking on the gurdies liker a madman. When I came to a spread of gear, I'd unclip it and throw it over my shoulder on the floor. Didn't care about the mess, mind still numb and in self preservation mode I'd have thrown them over the side if it would have made things any easier. Though I didn't even hardly slow the pace down at the time, it was at this point that a funny thing happened. with the boat in neutral, reefing gear like a madman, about a 15 lb. king came up on a spoon. The irony of catching a fish in all that madness was lost on me at the moment. For all the hell that my world had become, things were calm and placid in his world. I didn't even reach for a gaff. I simply hauled him up to the boat and slung him over my shoulder too, like some of the old time trollers I seen do cohos without a gaff. I unclipped him and got a glimpse of him slithering and flopping madly in now what was a complete disaster of a deck. water, empty fuel cans, tangled fishing gear, whatever was loose, was a chaotic tangled mess. The relief of finally getting the gear aboard and at least now being able to make a fair fight out of it was amazing. I never really realized how much drag my rigging had in the air. Just the gusts of wind going by while I was at a stand still would lay the boat over enough to cause concern. By the time I was done, the backend of the little bay was looming precariously I had drifted close to a mile in almost no time at all. Now, having the full capability of my boat back, and the relief of not having to worry about killing the motor with a tangled wire, I could focus on getting out of it somehow. I inched my way up the beach, there was a little mink trail here. In between the waves breaking over the rocks, and the tempest just off shore was a little stretch not much wider than a highway that was relatively calm. I followed this up to the point of the bay that had been my protection. Looking out into the bigger bay, was intimidating. I didn't want to cross it, but I didn't have any options. The little bay was keeping me alive, but only for now. There was no way I could get an anchor to hold in it, so then what? Drive around until I ran out of gas? I didn't know how long of a blow I was in for. I had to go back out into the maelstrom, that's all there was to it. At least by now, all I had to do was cut across it sideways, and didn't have to take it full on the bow anymore. So I headed out into it. I vaguely was aware of the sounds of tubs sliding around, and my dipnet crashing down from the deck cover, but I didn't even turn around to look. Once again, I don't how long it took to get across the channel to safer waters, everything was a blur of action and reaction. All I know is, a very looong time later, I came limping into my stall and tied up. Standing there on the solid dock by my boat, the gusts still felt like they could blow you off of the finger and into the water. I climbed back aboard and began to untangle the mess. First it was my knees that began to tremble. Then, the spasms crept all over me. As the adrenaline of the moment began to fade, and the logic of what I'd just narrowly escaped began to set in, I began to shake rather violently and uncontrollably. I went in the house and had to sit down for a while. I turned the radio up, and began to listen in to the other fisherman still out fighting it, and began to worry for them. Eventually I calmed down enough to clean up, I couldn't get off of that boat, and away from the water fast enough. Mother nature had just slapped this old fisherman around good, and taught him a lesson about who is REALLY in charge,,,anytime she wants to be. Never in my whole career as a fisherman have I seen the weather change so fast, or so violently. Odd part about it was, by the time I drove home, it was already dying out. I picked up the shovel and knocked over trash can on my deck and went into my nice, safe, little house. About an hour later I poked my head back out the door, and everything was dead calm, like all of it had been a very bad dream. I remember thinking it, I wonder if the fish are still hanging around my lucky spot? I laughed at myself, and shut the door. - October, 2011
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