It is often said that the happiest days in the life of a boater are the day he buys the boat and the day he sells it. But not always true and therein lies this tale.
In 1963 when I started in practice in Granada Hills, CA I didn’t know a billfish from a bullfish and tuna came in cans. My only experience fishing was back in Chicago as a Gill-Netter (for smelt). That first summer one of the local GPs, Dr. Al Figliozzi, asked me if I would like to go Albacore fishing. I winked at him and assumed that this was some kind of a game like Snipe hunting when we went to camp. He explained the process and took me off to one of the local discount stores where “we” purchased a Truline C4X1 rod, a Mitchelll 302 spinning reel, a generic trolling rod with a Penn black plate 4-0 trolling reel.
So off we went and fished on one of the smaller boats out of Fisherman’s Landing with a very low freeboard - so much so that my shoes were soaked by the end of the day. Next stop: purchase fishing boots. We trolled all day and caught one (1) albacore on a boat line. The fish was then raffled off on a basis of our bag numbers and I won it. I proceeded to give it to “Fig” who had a new smoker for further processing. I didn’t get sick on the trip and that convinced me I was to be a salt water fisherman. Of interest, next to the Landing where the current entrance is there was a two story building with a “greasy spoon” restaurant on the main floor. One of their hamburgers was great for starting off on a trip out on the high seas.
On the trip I met Bud Perkins and Bob Solinski, both Lederle reps. Bud was an active fisherman and arranged for Lederle to sponsor these trips in order to entertain the docs (and Bud). I also met a local surgeon, Sanbo Sakaguchi, and his friend Frank Hedge. Frank was a chain smoker and always had a cigarette hanging out of his lips with the smoke curling up and making him squint his eyes - almost oriental like. When Sanbo introduced him as Hedgemoto I thought that that was his actual name. Naive? I was one of those Boy Scout tyros who went looking for a left-handed monkey wrench.
Along the way they taught me “all” about Albacore fishing and especially knot tying. On subsequent trips I was able to catch several “pig tails” before I managed to tie the knots properly. So I became a regular on these weekly Wednesday trips. Eventually, the group settled in on the old “Searcher” (later renamed “Conquest”) with, first, Dan Sansome, and then Frank Lopreste. We finally took Carolyn out and she took it well. And Janice Flamer became a regular on these drive 150 miles to San Diego, “dine” at the Greasy Spoon, jump on board, spend the day fishing, drive back to the Valley with a pit stop at Colony Kitchen in the San Clemente area on Wednesday nite, get a few hours of sleep and back to work on Thursday AM.
One day Bob & Janice Flamer asked us to go on a boat ride. They had gotten into boating with Janice losing out on a fur coat - i.e. “My Mink” was the name. We went outside of Marina Del Rey and there were huge gobs of bait (anchovies) everywhere and every group attracting herds of bonita. We dragged small feathers through these groups and it was instant hook-ups. So we (i.e. I) got the boating bug. Bob introduced us to Harvey Small at the Seafarin Luhrs dealer on Lincoln avenue. So it wasn’t long before a 28’ single gas engine Luhrs named “Cast Off” (paying homage to the Orthopedic profession) joined the family. Meanwhile, the Flamers had moved up to a 32’ single Diesel Luhrs - “Petty Cash.” And then, we were introduced to both the Del Rey Yacht Club and the Del Rey Marlin Club and proceeded to join up. This occurred in approximately 1969. On one of the Club’s trips to Rancho Buena Vista I caught my 1st Marlin - “70 kilos.” This was no great achievement catching it on 80 pd.gear in 5 minutes. It was mounted and has made the rounds of various offices and currently adorns a wall in the waiting room of Aloha Printers in San Marcos, CA.
And so we made the obligatory trips to Catalina and managed to wrap a mooring in Cat Harbor and a beach swimming area line in Avalon Harbor. There was one near catastrophe when we took all four parents for a ride and when we stopped for fuel it became obvious that the fuel tank had come loose, slid back pulling free from the fill hose and the gas was going directly into the bilge. The local fire patrol was called and with their gas “sniffers” they confirmed that there was “gas in the bilge.” As if our nasal “sniffers” couldn’t identify that odor. Fortunately, we had not attempted to start the engine.
For two years we learned a little of this and that, but wanted something to be able to take us out for the Albacore. So we talked to Seafarin and we then became the owners of a 32’ twin (Perkins) Diesel Luhrs sport-fisher with the name of “Ken-Dan.” (Note: Carolyn knew nothing of this transaction til Harvey Small called and asked it there was supposed to be a hyphen between Ken & Dan. Oops!) But all went well and on we went. We got a slip at Marina Cortez and for three years, putting 600 hours on the boat, we made many a drive to San Diego and many a trip to the “grounds.” We made many a trip with regulars Bud Perkins, Bob Solinski, Sanbo Sakaguchi, Yoshi Nakagawa, et al. Carolyn made many of the trips and Jan Flamer and Joan Freeman (Mrs. Bruce Kessler) also came along from time to time. On one epic trip we had two stops for 88 Albies and 24 SkipJack. Those were the days that Albacore could be traded in for cans ( we often had 6 or more cases at home at any one time) or even sell the fish - helping to pay for expenses. In the mean time we continued with the weekly “Searcher” trips. On these trips Sanbo and Frank Hedgemoto constantly talked about the Los Angeles Billfish Club and their participation in out-of-country tournaments.
In 1971 The Del Rey Marlin Club faded into history and I (along with Bob Flamer, Bruce Kessler, and Al Epstein) joined the LABC. There were monthly meetings at the Corsican Restaurant on La Brea and we met many of the Club regulars. At one time Lee Marvin and Jonathan Winters had been active members. I think I met Marvin at one of the meetings. I also met this little fella, Geoff Halpern, who promptly adopted me. It turned out that the Club was entering the San Diego Marlin Club’s ILTT (Invitational Light Tackle Tournament) and Geoffrey managed to have us entered (along with Carolyn and Al Epstein) in the tournament. It was during that tournament that I caught my 1st Marlin in local waters and it turned out to be the largest fish caught on 30 pd. line (193 pds). And that’s another story. But Geoff became a regular on our various trips and soon he and I became weekly Marlin and Albacore fishing buddies.
Along the way I fished at Kona as a member of the LABC team and managed to catch a 296 pd. Blue Marlin.
In the summer of 1973 I somehow was in Newport Beach and met Mr. Bob Henry of Yachting Associates, dealers for Pacemaker and Egg Harbor boats. In the front of their lot there was a 38’ Egg Harbor Sportfisher. After several trips and conversations he made me an offer I could not refuse by putting an inflated value on the 32’ Luhrs. When I drove down to finalize the paper work Bruce Kessler came along because he wanted o look at a new Hatteras. But when we stopped Yachting Associates Henry had 5 48’ Pacemakers sitting at the docks and was anxious to deal. Bruce never made it to Hatteras and soon was having a new 48 footer “Zopilote” made to his specifications.
You may have forgotten, but in the Fall of 1973 came the first great oil embargo resulting in the price of petro-chemicals (including fibreglass) sky rocketing. Thus, I was getting the new boat at the sitting pre-embargo price. The cost of f-glass boats suddenly became out of reach for us. And so, the 34 year saga of the 38’ KEN-DAN began in January, 1974. Actually, at the time, Carolyn and I were in England and Bruce and Joan brought the boat back to MDR for us.
From then on we regularly fished around Catalina and maintained a slip on “D” dock at Marina Cortez on Harbor Island in San Diego from where we regularly chased the Albacore and the Marlins. On the dock was the old “El Tigre” skippered by Kenny Dickerson who later managed to forget my name and came up with “Murray.” We were involved with the Los Angeles Billfish Club Avalon Invitational Tournament the full 18 years of the tournament during which we won the tournament twice and boated the 1st Broadbill taken during the tournament (by Sanbo Sakaguchi). We participated in many of the San Diego Marlin Club’s ILTT (Invitational Light Tackle Tournament) and scored several 1st and 2nd Place finishes. One Sunday off La Jolla Carolyn boated a 136 1/2 pd. BigEye Tuna on 30 pd. line for a new World Record in that line class - persisting the past 25 years. In another memorable week off La Jolla (fishing with Geoff Halpern) I boated a nice Broadbill (they are all nice) on a Wednesday and three days later on Saturday while fishing with Kenneth and Daniel I boated a second “two-finner.” Gaffing the fish was aided by Lon Chaney who transferred over from George Nelson’s “Karima.” Nothing before, despite several different encounters, and nothing since. And then there was Kenneth’s near miss (after 6 1/2 hours) where we had one chance to gaff it, but I screwed that one up.
So through the years we watched the family growing up and a series of “fish” pictures with the respective crews including the various family members watching them grow up over the ages. Kenneth got his 1st Marlin off San Diego on Yom Kippur while Carolyn and newly arrived Melody were still hospitalized. And Daniel got his off the Catalina East End.
Not only did the family age, but so did the boat. You know the saying: “A boat is a bottomless hole in the ocean into which one keeps pouring unlimited funds.” After doing a major over-haul on the original Cummins 504 (205 H.P.) engines we later repowered with Caterpillar 3116 (300 H.P.) engines. We added a larger refrigerator and an additional freezer to the flybridge preparing for a trip to Cabo San Lucas. We made that trip and kept the boat in the new Marina down there for several months. This permitted us to fly down several times and fish “the Cape.” Three years later we did the same and on another occasion we made the trip to “Mag Bay” and back. But time took its toll on not only the boat, but this (getting) older body as well.
I retired from active practice in December 1996 and we moved to San Diego, mooring the boat at the Kona Kai Marina on Shelter Island. We continued with the regular Albacore and Marlin fishing trips as well as participating in both the Marlin Club’s ILTT and the Tuna Challenge tournament sponsored by the Kona Kai Anglers. We were fortunate to win that tournament twice and finished 2nd another time - each time bringing in the largest fish of the tournament. In addition, the family became very active in the Tuna Challenge Committee helping the tournament proceeds (going to the San Diego Chapter of the Make-A-Wish Foundation) to grow each year.
Through the years almost every piece of equipment on the boat was replaced. But keeping up with repairs became an insurmountable task, even with the help of various divers, painters, carpenters, electronics personnel, and various “boat people” like Tony London, and best of all, Mark Henwood. But major surgeries (Prostate, Coronary By-Pass, Knees, Feet, etc) have alerted this body that the time had come to part company. The mind is willing and losing 50 pds would help, but, after 34 years, it was time to say good-bye to this boat that was, quite literally, a member of the family.
Ken Schilling, a local San Diego boat maven, handled the negotiations and the boat will be making its way to Cabo San Lucas where it will join the local Charter Boat fleet. It was a good 34 years and most agree that we got our money’s worth out of it. So Bon Voyage to Egg Harbor Hull #38-184 and thank you for everything.
On Thursday, Dec. 13, 2007, Ken (Schilling, that is) pulled her out of the slip and headed south. Hopefully all goes well and we will await his report when he returns in about 9 days. From the outside there has been a major improvement with replacement and reinforcement of the ladder hand rails. In addition, he removed the cock-pit freezer as well as the bow bait tank replacing it with the 100 gal tank that I had used several years ago on one of our trips north from the Cape. Inside, he removed the window blinds and re-worked the bait pump system.
Upon his return, we learned that all had gone well except for the main batteries that were not holding the charge and had to be replaced at Turtle Bay. They, too, had worn out.
They were then able to get into the red hot Marlin fishing from “the Finger” bank to the Golden Gate and on to the Cape. So if you get down there look around and see if the old “girl” is still afloat and catering to the public.
And so this “last day” was not a happy one, but, sadly, time to say good-bye to an old family friend.