A growing collection of facts, thoughts and events from a 79-year-old man and his family, friends, and the characters that he has met along the way . . .

A FISHY STORY . . .Part Three

As I mentioned earlier, one of my greatest pleasures about fishing was in helping to teach, and watching  my grandchildren as they learned all about fishing.  This wonderful experience started to occur when I returned to Palm Bay, Florida, in 1992 while on a vacation from my job in Antigua.  The “girls” began to take fishing seriously at a very early age,

The Girls are Intense Fisherpersons

especially Ellie.  On the other hand, Andrea seemed to enjoy learning how to cast:

Casting Practice Palm Bay

When they got a little older, I spent some time with them while they visited with their paternal grandparents who lived at the edge of a small private lake in South Miami.  The lake contained some really big bass and we often enjoyed fishing there.

Private Lake South Miami

When I completed my contract in Antigua in 1994 I returned to the Florida Keys and bought an old sports fishing boat – which I quickly renamed the Rubàiyàt.  I docked the Rubàiyàt at the Sombrero Country Club Marina in Marathon for a few months, and once again enjoyed fishing in the Florida Keys.

Rubaiyat at Sombrero

One of my first catches while becoming acquainted with my new floating home was a large King Mackerel:

King Mackerel

After spending many hours going in an out of Sisters Creek, crossing the reef regularly in the vicinity of the Sombrero Reef Light Tower, and maneuvering the Rubàiyàt in and out of heavy boat traffic in the narrow channels around Sombrero Key I became confident enough to plan a trip to Palm Bay.  I bought a new GPS and plotted a course that would take me up the Atlantic Ocean to the Sebastian Inlet, then up the Indian River to Palm Bay; planning to spend the Christmas-New Years holiday period with my family.

On Monday morning, December 19, 1994 – a bright clear morning under sunny blue skies, I fired up the engines and headed out Sisters Creek toward the reef[1].  But in the short time that it took me to reach open water the wind had already started blowing so hard I changed my plans and turned north in Hawk Channel, thinking that it would be too rough to make any headway out in the ocean.  Then, in a matter of minutes, it became so rough in the channel the wind was whipping the wave tops so hard the water was spraying over the flying bridge; soaking me through and almost blinding me.  By the time I reached the Channel 5 bridge, I changed course again, and headed inside, to the Intracoastal Waterway.  As soon as I reached much quieter water, and not wanting to have to shut down the engines and throw out the anchor, I shifted into neutral and went down into the cabin; stripped, and changed into dry clothing as fast as possible.  Once back on the bridge, things began to look much better; the skies cleared and the wind calmed as I made my way to Jewfish Creek, where I could top off my fuel tanks before continuing on to my first overnight stop-off at the Dinner Key Marina.  Although I had estimated that the entire trip would take me about 41 hours, it took me 11 hours to get to Dinner Key because of the bad weather that I experienced during this first leg of my journey.  I eventually made it to Melbourne after a two-day lay-over in Boynton Beach, Florida, due to a wicked storm that sent 2’ to 3’ waves rolling down the intracoastal on December 20th, and tied up at the Eau Galle Yacht Basin on December 23, 1994.

Reuniting with my family, and especially my granddaughters, Ellie and Andrea, was one of the highlights of my trip to Palm Bay.

Palm Bay, Florida, December 1994

A few days after arriving, I took my family on a trip up the Indian River:

All Aboard the Rubaiyat in the Indian River

While my son-in-law tried his hand at steering the Rubàiyàt, my grandson, Chris, got sleepy

Chris Asleep aboard the Rubaiyat

and eventually fell asleep in my lap,

Chris Sleeping Soundly

It was indeed a wonderful day.

Unfortunately, the 1994-1995 Holiday period ended much too fast and I had to return to Marathon.  My voyage back was a fantastic experience.  I sailed (motored) from Melbourne to Port St. Lucie; then through the St. Lucie Canal – through the St. Lucie Lock, to Port Mayaca, across Lake Okeechobee and on to Clewiston, Florida.  Upon leaving Clewiston, I entered the Caloosahatchee River and wound my way on to North Ft. Myers where I spent a night at the Fort Myers Marina and enjoyed dining on land with friends from the area. When I left Ft. Myers the next day, I continued on down the Intracoastal Waterway to Marco; then out into the Gulf of Mexico and on to Everglades City where I fueled up for the last time before returning to my dock at the Sombrero Marina in Marathon.

The Rubàiyàt had 2 Chrysler 225hp gasoline engines; the roundtrip voyage totaled approximately 700 miles and I burned about 750 gallons of gas at an average cost of $1.60 per gallon, or $1,200.00.  At today’s fuel prices (and fuel usually costs a little more when purchased from a marina than it does when purchased at a land-based gas station), the fuel for that same trip would now cost an estimated $3,000.00 U.S. Dollars.  I couldn’t afford it today!

The trip through the Port Lucie Canal, the Caloosahatchee River,  to Ft. Myers; through Marco, Florida, and then into the edge of the Gulf and back to Marathon was one of the most beautiful experiences of my life – and  I finally found the 16+year-old video. I have copied it to a  DVD and downloaded it here:

*What I thought was an Anhinga drying it’s wings when I looked through the viewfinder was actually a Cormorant!

NOTE:  The original video was filmed almost 17 years ago on an even older Video Camcorder; then copied to a DVD on September 8, 2011.  I must apologize for the poor quality of the film, however please take into consideration that I was traveling alone and had to operate  the camera with  one hand while steering the boat with the other one;  navigating through narrow channels in unfamiliar waters.  Consequently you will often get a glimpse of the boats controls, my eye glasses, or even a bare knee as I stopped filming (and forgot to shut the camera off) and attended to matters at hand.  I also wish that I had been able to film my entrance into and departure from the locks that I had to pass through on this voyage, but the process was rather “tricky” and I had to concentrate exclusively on the process of  handling my boat as it was raised or lowered to the level of the next waterway that I would enter.

The Rubàiyàt was registered as a commercial fishing boat by its original owner, and I kept that registration; transferring it into my name when I bought the boat.  Upon returning to Marathon, I managed to obtain a Florida Salt Water Products (SPL) Fishing License and I tried my hand as a commercial fisherman for about a year.  It’s a rough life, especially for an old man.  Up at daybreak to catch bait, fishing until 4 or 5 PM; then, if I were lucky enough to catch a few saleable fish, back to shore and to the wholesale fishing vendor’s dock.  Once the sale was consummated I then had to go to the fuel dock and refuel the twin fuel tanks for the next days outing.  Next, I had to return to my dock and clean up (the boat, my fishing tackle, and me).  Once those chores were done I was too tired to do anything more than eat dinner and go to bed.  In addition, there were too many days where the weather made it difficult – and often impossible – to fish; high seas, rain, wind, the hurricane season, all worked against “us” commercial fisherman; especially those of us fishing from small boats.  I found that I was often spending more money than I was earning, so I went looking for a part-time job – and ended up working as a cashier at the Flamingo Marina store in Flamingo, Florida.  The job included free housing, which, in my case, was a dock slip in the Bayside marina.  Water and Electric were included in the deal, and I kept the Rubàiyàt docked at Flamingo

The Rubaiyat Docked at Flamingo in the Everglades National Park

until I sold it a few years later.

Part Four – the final part of this story will follow soon.  Thank you for watching!  Ed


[1] I remember this journey as clearly today as if I had just completed the trip.

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