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Chapter 25

Rescue at Sea

The voice that came over the CB Radio speaker was tinged with fear. Weeeeellll, maybe it wasn't that bad but the guy was nervous. We had just cleared the Ma'alaea breakwater with four lines in the water when the call came. I was half way through my spiel directed at three elderly couples who had chartered NO KA OI IV for a day of sport fishing. Normally I would have been aboard the REEL HOOKER acting as First Mate (Glorified deck hand.) for Capt. Rick Gaffney. The HOOKER had been hauled out to repair a leaking seal on the starboard drive shaft. Capt. Mike needed a deck hand so there I stood trying to explain how Fin Nor salt water reels differed from Zebco 202 spinning outfits to six people who didn't know a perch from a blue marlin. And enjoying every minute of it. They were the nicest charter I had had the pleasure of serving to date.

The Capt. advised me to wind in the lines, we were headed for Kaho'olawe, the target island, a distance of about 13 miles. A hand line fisherman could not get his diesel motor started and was in danger of swamping because he could not run his bilge pumps. The battery was only strong enough to transmit a weak signal on his CB. The Coast Guard Cutter was on the other side of Maui and since we were the closest boat, rules of the sea demanded we make an effort to help the stranded fisherman.

A fresh Kona wind had kicked up swells of three to four feet. Not bad, but the trip would take about 40-45 minutes. I explained the situation to the folks and a couple of the ladies became very excited. To think, they were about to witness a real life drama unfold right before their very eyes! In the meantime, the fisherman was urging us to hurry. Without steerage, he was taking water over the stern and was having a hard time keeping the boat baled.

We finally arrived on the scene and here a set of jumper cables would have really come in handy. Not having any, we had to improvise. Capt. Mike told me to open the hatch and remove the starboard battery. When I had that task accomplished, I put a couple of fenders between our marlin step and the stranded boat. The Capt. backed down and we tied on. Now these batteries were not your run of the mill auto batteries. They are big, heavy marine batteries and weigh twice as much as conventional storage devices. With the marlin door open, I set the battery up on the rail of the other boat. Now we waited while the fisherman connected our hot battery and cranked his engine. Once the engine fired up and he made sure his generator was working we reversed the process. One of the reasons the fisherman was having trouble staying afloat was the size of his catch. He had fish iced down all over the boat! I can see why he didn't want to lose his boat or the catch, it meant a great deal of money to him.

A normal charter ran from seven in the morning, back at the dock at four-thirty. The sun was past the meridian by the time the rescue was complete and I thought we might have a little problem with the charter for cutting in to their fishing time. Not to be, thanks to the humpback whales who were playing in the channel between Maui and Lanai. We set out lines again, made one pass outside Lanai and started home with one small jack in the fish box. While we were trolling, the spinner dolphins and whales put on an aquatic show equal to Disney World. The dolphins would race along on the bow wake then all of a sudden race ahead of the boat, leap out of the water and spin on their tails. This brought a series of "ooohs and aaahs" from our guests.

It was easy to see these folks were on a fixed income. All friends from back home in the Midwest, they must have saved a lot to make the trip. Not hard to spot the high-rollers among the tourists. Even so, they wanted to give us a small tip at the end of the trip. Each of them told me how exciting it had been to watch us rescue the stranded fisherman. All I could think about was how dumb he had been for leaving his lights and radio on all night and running down his battery.

While we were cleaning the NO KA OI IV, I saw a sampan operated by a man and his wife trying to back in to their slip. They were not very experienced and what they were doing was slightly illegal. They were taking charters out on a boat that was not properly registered and I was surprised one of the regular charter captains had not blown them in. I noticed two men standing at the stern who appeared to have been in the ring with Mike Tyson. I also saw a marlin lashed by bill and tail hanging from the rail. Both men were holding rods and reels and glaring at one another.

A couple of us walked over to handle the lines and help them put the marlin on the dock. The fish had one lure in its mouth and the biggest tangle of snarled 130 pound test monofilament line you can imagine. It seems the men had been trolling and their lines became twisted. Somehow the marlin had struck and now both were claiming it. By now the captain and the combatants were on the dock and it looked as though they might start swinging again. The captain announced that neither one of them got the fish, the boat keeps the fish in Hawaii unless prior arrangements are made and that had not been done. This really started a row and it wasn't until one of Maui's finest strolled down to see what all the fuss was about did they cool down.

After the charters had left, we broke out some cool ones and the filet knives. We carved up two hundred pounds of marlin and split it among the crews who were hanging around. All in all a fun day.

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