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Chapter 30

Get the Net!

Danny Latorski and lake trout, Lake Huron

The guy holding my fish is Danny Latorski. We were fishing on his twenty-one foot aluminum boat called GET THE NET! Perhaps you can determine Danny's lineage by his name. If not, he is Polish and very proud of it. My wife Nonie attended school with his wife Pattie in Hazel Park, MI from first grade. With Danny, any friend of Nonie's is a friend of his.

He knew I liked to fish and had been after me for several years to be in Michigan when the season opened. He wanted to show me what real fishing was about. I was retired in 1993 and the following year we made one of several trips to see her folks. Danny takes two weeks around the 4th of July every year just to fish and do what most Michiganders do in the summer, head for the lake.

The night before the big trip, we were invited for steaks. Danny had asked me to bring a load of mesquite when I came up. In return, he promised the best steak in Michigan and it was. Huge T-bones, cooked to perfection over mesquite coals.

Danny had purchased a new gadget for his boat, a Loran. First one he ever owned and was very proud of it. He had fired it up at his cabin and assured me, it was working as advertised.

I met Danny and his father in law next morning about sunrise at the marina. I started having misgivings when instead of coffee, Danny was drinking beer. He seemed to be in control of everything except his mouth. A steady stream of profanity was directed at some other fisherman who were taking too long to launch according to his calculations. I still don't know why one of them didn't take offense. Danny is no giant, barely five six, about 150 pounds.

We were finally in the water and Danny set a slow course through the breakwater. He told me the bottom was covered with huge boulders that would tear the bottom out of a boat. Once in deeper water we set a northerly course for the fishing grounds. He kept up a steady prattle intermingled with profanity, some directed at his father in law who paid him no mind. Five minutes from the harbor and we were in a fog bank that limited visibility to the front of the boat. Didn't bother Danny a bit, we just kept trolling and our efforts paid off with this fish. The boat caught the fish, I just wound in the line and Danny netted it. Not bad for a beginner, an eighteen pound lake trout.

I had been looking at the compass now and then and saw that we mostly kept to a heading of magnetic north. When we stopped to net the fish, the boat took up a new heading - east. I looked at the face of the Loran, it was giving data that appeared reasonable. We trolled until lunch with only one small salmon for our efforts, all the while in dense fog. Now in case you folks don't know it, they don't call them the Great Lakes for nothing. They are huge bodies of water.

Danny decided it was time to break out the lunch he had brought along so we hove to, still in the fog. We were just drifting, engine shut down when I heard the sound of a big diesel engine. No sooner had this sound penetrated the fog, when I heard another one. A fog horn! It was blowing blasts about every second which to me spelled trouble. All at once, out of the mist was the biggest Great Lakes tugboat I have ever seen. It passed our bow no more than twenty feet away and received a good cussing from Danny. A crewman stuck his head out of the wheelhouse and cussed us back. The wake rolled us around like a cork in a tempest for a few minutes and Danny announced it was time to head for the marina.

He looked at the Loran for a few minutes, scratched his head, opened a beer, got out the manual and in frustration, hit the Loran with his palm. When I asked him what the problem was he said his father in law had forgotten to set in HOME before we left the dock. I thought that might have been the captain's duty but far be it from me to butt in. I pointed out the instrument was telling us where we were. All we had to do was look at a chart, type in the coordinates and head for home. Danny said, "I don't have any charts." "Still no problem", I said. "We can head south, travel about the same speed we had on the way out and since we knew when we left we could just about predict landfall." "Just about won't get it Hoss. If we miss it just a few minutes in this fog, we might run aground." "How about that marine radio?" I asked. Sure it works, Danny said and picked up the mike. Talk about dumb Polack luck. The man who answered was a fishing buddy. Danny told him our situation, he asked for our numbers on the Loran and five minutes later pulled up to our boat. We followed close on his tail almost to the marina when the fog lifted and we entered the marina.

We hauled the boat out and after it was secured I spotted a marine supply store. I went inside, told the man what I wanted and walked out with a set of charts, dividers and a plot board wrapped in plastic. I gave them to Danny and told him I wanted to see where he stowed them in case this ever happened again. I made several more trips with Danny. The charts were there and he had upgraded to a Global Positioning system and depth recorder. I felt a lot safer.

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