Never underestimate Mother Pacific

“Every day fishing adds another day to your life.” Most of us have heard that at one time or another, probably made up by someone who liked to fish, “I’m going to add a day to my life, Honey.” Whoever it was hadn’t done much fishing in the Pacific Ocean.

One day in late October, Richard and I motored under the Golden Gate Bridge headed for the southern-most Farrallon island, 26 miles west. In the middle of the bridge we set a waypoint on our brand new Loran (G.P.S.) as a precaution. The Fishing Machine was a 19-foot boat, not overly large for the ocean, but, by and large, a dry and seaworthy vessel.

The sky was overcast, but the water was calm through the potato patch, a particularly treacherous bit just outside the Gate and the graveyard of a whole bunch of boats and ships.

This day it was pretty flat and we made good time to our destination. At first we attempted to drift the reef just south of the island. It was spawning time for the rock fish, and we were hoping to snag a couple of ling cod, a particularly ugly fish that grows large and was excellent eating.

Almost immediately the wind picked up and we could not control our drift. After a couple of butt-clenching moments with the rocks on the southern end of the island, we abandoned plan and moved to the little cove on the eastern side of the island. Here we were sheltered from the prevailing winds.

A few hours later, while we rode at anchor, we had a dissolute conversation about how nice it would be, after all that work, if we could actually catch a fish. One large capazone sacrificed itself and that was the sum of our success.

Late in the afternoon, I glanced at the point off the northern tip of our little sanctuary and saw large whitecaps with froth being blown off the tops. A commercial fisherman would have referred to this as “gnarly.”

“Richard, we need to get out of here while we still can!”

Normally, the last guy to give up a day of fishing, the man was actually a little shaken. We pulled anchor and began the long trip home. A couple of miles toward the Gate, fog dropped down on the deck and visibility became a matter of feet. The seas were big and very close together, which required intense concentration to keep the following seas off our stern and avoid plowing into the ones forward.

At this point, a pelican appeared off our bow and I yelled to Richard that we had a pilot, somehow this made me feel better. It pooped. The resulting mess came down, hit the edge of the windshield in front of me, and I became very familiar with the inner workings of a pelican. There is a lot of stuff that comes out of those birds.

As we neared the coast we had a horn blowing to our north. “The Loran (G.P.S.) is wrong,” says Richard. “That’s Mile Rock and we have to be north of it.” San Francisco Bay is guarded by two navigation aids; Mile Rock on the south and Bonita Point on the north.

We altered course and suddenly found ourselves in the surf off Cronkhite Beach. Fortunately, Richard, besides his other faults, had very good reflexes and managed to spin the boat out of the surf and back into the ocean proper; I promised God that I would never pick my nose in church again.

After giving the matter some thought, I realized that Mile Rock has a bell and Bonita Point is the one with the horn. Fort Cronkhite lies north of Bonita Point.

When we finally reached the middle of the Golden Gate Bridge, the Loran went to zero exactly where we had originally set it. Instead of another day of life from this fishing trip, I still sport the many gray hairs that resulted.