Monday, June 23, 2008

Fishing photos added

I just added some fishing trip photos to my Flickr page. The big wahu that the Capt is holding up is the one poor Jose lost overboard enroute to the resturant.

I am home now, so I hope to add a few more posts as well as some photos in the near future.


Sunday, June 15, 2008

Gone Fishin'

We went fishing last week. But this isn’t an ordinary deep sea fishing trip. We are required to go out every few weeks to test the ship’s systems. We are allowed to go anywhere in an area defined by a radius from a point near the island of Rota. We have Captain Smith on board now, so when we have to go out we always go looking for fishing holes (actually seamounts at least close to the surface) within our operating area.
As you can imagine, it takes a bit of work to turn a 650 foot-long ship into a fishing trawler. The captain sets up a hand line and two rods with deep-sea reels on the stern and we steam around the seamount, ready at a moment’s notice to stop the engines if we get a fish.
One of the biggest problems is that the transom (back) of the ship is about 40 feet above the water, so the captain uses a pulley system with quick releases to drop the fishing line down closer to the water’s surface. If a fish strikes, the quick release opens and he then runs over and starts reeling the line in. Speaking of line, the fishing lures are attached to about 150 feet of monel wire (to help the lure keep some depth) then to some sort of spectra fishing line that is nearly unbreakable. He puts out about 300 yards of line as we cruise around at between 9.5 and 10.5 knots. One reel has a built in electric motor and the other has a fitting to which we attach an electric drill. The hand line is the shortest, but takes a good 10 minutes to pull in. We are looking for the big, fast fish.
Of course a ship with 3 trolling lines running aft can’t turn too well. We were swinging slow circles well over a mile in diameter and taking about 20-30 minutes to turn around 180 degrees.
Well we were able to land three fish. The first was at an old fish ground near the island of Tinian called Esmeralda Bank. We caught our biggest fish there the first day. It was a 25 lb wahoo. We had a few other strikes, but didn’t manage to land any other fish. The second day saw us catch a 15 lb yellow-fin tuna, and late in the day another, but smaller, wahoo.
We got in Friday the 13th and the bad luck of the day manifested itself when the crew tried to get the fish from the now anchored ship to the Captain’s favorite restaurant. I lowered the three fish safely to the launch by the basket on the crane and it was in good condition when I last saw it on the deck of the launch heading to the port. Alas, the big wahoo never saw land, for as one of the crew lifted the fish in its bag, the bag opened and the fish slid into the water.
I heard the sad tale the next morning and had to take action. I posted this on the chalk board:


Missing one fish. About 3 feet long, 25 lbs. With white stripes. Last seen near Saipan pier.

If found, contact Jose “Butterfingers” Bonita at phone # 48.

The captain got a nice laugh out of it at least.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Farewell SS WILSON

I just heard that my old ship, the SS WILSON is now at the ship wrecker. They steamed her wide open towards, and then up onto, the beach.

I was third and then second engineer on her. We tramped to Africa, Yemen, Europe, and Southeast Asia on my two trips on her. She was built in the 1960's and was a "classic" C-5 steam freighters with yard and stay booms. The engine room was fitted in brass and was just a joy to work. The old steam ships seem to have more soul then the modern diesel plants. I prefer working on the old steam ships, but they are becoming more and more rare these days.

It is strange; getting that email from the ship as she was 2 miles from the beach hits me harder then it should. It feels as if I just heard about an old friend's passing. I guess in a way it is similar. I will surely miss the old girl.