A Speck in the Sea

I’ve been reading some good books lately. A Speck in the Sea by lobstermen John Aldridge and Anthony Sosinski is one of them.

Subtitled “A story of survival and rescue”, it tells the story of how John fell overboard late one night and the subsequent search and rescue efforts.

I’ve always loved reading stories of disasters and survival. I like to see how people react to unusual circumstances and imagine what I might do if something happened to me. I read about nuclear wars and EMP attacks, alien invasions, the zombie apocalypse, global pandemics, environmental destruction and the more likely (for me personally) disaster at sea stories.

A Speck in the Sea is one of those.

As the Anna Mary motored out from Montauk late one night, John stood watch while his parters slept below. Instead of waking them up as planned, he decided to let them sleep a little longer and started to prepare for the fishing grounds instead.

One small ‘oops’ and he was over the side. In the middle of the night. In the North Atlantic. With nothing but the clothes on his back. With no one aware of his situation.

The book does a great job of telling the story from both sides: John tells what he’s thinking and doing while he’s bobbing around in the cold dark ocean. Anthony and the Coast Guard tell us what’s going on as they discover John’s missing and their reaction. The entire community gets involved. Yes, they would. The seafaring communities are still like that.

As a fisherman myself, with a brother who’s still trying to make a living out there, I could immediately relate. I admire John’s resourcefulness and will to survive. I’m not so sure I would react like he did. I have a much more pessimistic outlook on life. Still, it’s nice to know that it IS possible to survive.

If you’re into sea stories, or in how to survive the unexpected, you might like this book. I recommend it. 🙂

A to Z: Honiara

I’ve been trying to catch up with posting for the A to Z Challenge. We’re posting every day in April (except Sundays), using a different letter of the alphabet for each.

Today’s post is on Honiara, the capital of the Solomon Islands. The Solomon Islands are located in the South Pacific Ocean, to the east of Papua New Guinea. There were huge battles here during WWll (Guadalcanal). It’s very quiet now (compared to that).

I traveled to Honiara as captain of a tuna boat. It was quite an experience. We would go into port there to offload our catch to the reefer ships (photo above). We sometimes had a little bit of time to spend in town and relax after a days work. I liked to go catch up on my emails, have a few beers, shop for post cards and snacks, maybe hit the casino at night with my crew.

The first time I flew into Honiara to join my ship, I was a little taken aback. It was a complete change from Texas, where I had been only a couple of days before.

I was really, really tired from the long flight from the US. It seemed like I had stepped into a movie set, or gone back in time a couple of decades. Honiara is a small, tropical city. Hot, humid, sultry and steamy. Palms grew tall among blazing red flamboyant trees and purple bougainvillea bloomed along the dusty roads.

The main drag along the waterfront was full of locals running errands and taking care of what business they had. Some looked like vampires with mouths dripping red from the betel nut they chewed and juices they were constantly spitting out. I was happy when we got to the dock to take the launch to my boat where I climbed aboard and promptly fell asleep after a quick turnover with the departing Captain.

Only to be shocked awake soon after by the loud pounding on my door and cries of “Captain. where is Captain?” I rolled out of bed and sleepily opened the door to a crowd of local girls, all trying to shove their way past me to locate ‘the Captain”.

I tried my best to inform them that I was the Captain, the “old man” had already left the ship to go home. They refused to believe me until I let one in to check the bathroom (not possible to hide under the bed since it’s built in over drawers). 😉

The disappointed girls finally decided to accept that I was the only person in the cabin and slowly made their way out through the radio room. I assume they joined up with the rest of the crew later. I was just too tired to care.

That was my introduction to the South Pacific.

tuna boat at twilight

tuna boat at twilight

I really miss it.

Gathering: The Daily Post

I haven’t been up to doing many of these challenges lately, but this week the Daily Post is doing a challenge on ‘gathering’. They seem to be looking for something more along the lines of a holiday gathering of family and friends. The typical Christmas kind of thing. Maybe I’ll find something like that later.

For now, I’m thinking more along the lines of gathering in the catch. Like this photo from the tuna boat. I took it a couple of years ago, when I was sailing as captain on the Pacific Breeze, hunting around the South Pacific.

I actually miss that job.


I was online last night trying to remember what kind of beer they had in Kiribati for an article I’ve been working on. I wanted to write a little bit about when I was working on the tuna boat out there. I googled Kiribati beer and up popped this blog post https://www.travelblog.org/Oceania/Kiribati/Tarawa/blog-429394.html

I was reading the post, checking out the pictures and what a surprise, I realized she was writing about me!

I should probably write more about my time on the tuna boat. I did really enjoy it and especially loved visiting all those out of the way islands. I do hope I can go back to doing that kind of sailing again. Where it’s an adventure, not just a paycheck.

Tarawa Sunrise

Here’s a sunrise for the Daily Posts Weekly Photography Challenge. This week, the challenge is to show a photo “taken in the early morning light”. Be an “early bird“.

I’m most definitely NOT an early bird! Last time I can remember really enjoying early morning was as a kid getting up for Saturday morning cartoons. 🙂

I was always a night owl. I used to stay up ’til 2-3 in the morning. I used to go out partying a lot. Or, I might stay at home reading a good book. Sometimes I just couldn’t put it down ’til I finished.

I’ve cut back a lot on keeping those kinds of hours now a days. Mostly because I have too much to do now. Things that have to be taken care of during normal business hours (9-5). Now I try to get to sleep by midnight (and it really isn’t too hard to do anymore). 😉

I only see the sunrise when I’m working the midnight to noon watch like I am now. I haven’t seen many good sunrises (or sunsets) this trip yet. Since we made arrival off Congo, it has been overcast. It clouded up a few days before we got here and hasn’t cleared up yet.

I took this photo while I was working on the tuna boat a couple of years ago. We were coming into the lagoon at Tarawa. The sunrise was just stunning. I had to run and get my camera.

This is one of my all time favorite ‘sun’ pictures. I keep one of my others as my header.

Into the Fray: Fishing For Tuna From the Pacific Breeze

Synonyms for fray

noun fight, battle

meleefracasdisturbanceriot, ruckusscuffleaffray,

contestrumpusbroilbrouhaha, conflict


I took a look at a few of the entries for this weeks Weekly Photo Challenge from the Daily Post (FRAY). Most of the ones I’ve seen so far seemed to flow from the use of the word as wear, erode, unravel, etc.

I already put up a post using the word ‘fray’ like that, but it also seemed like a good word to use to describe some of my experiences on the Pacific Breeze while tuna fishing. Sometimes, it really does feel like you’re ‘rushing into the fray’.

My photos don’t really do it justice. I only had a cheap point & shoot camera with me and most of the action took place a long way from where I was. I hope you can get the gist of the story from the few photos I’ll post here.

When the fish are showing, it can get like the Wild, Wild West out there at sea. There can be flashing schools of tuna as far as the eye can see and dozens of boats from a half a dozen countries all fighting for the chance to set their nets on the biggest schools of the best fish.

You better believe it is a SERIOUS business! It can get REALLY crazy!

It’s a real challenge. The fish are not as dumb as you might think. It’s not really that easy to catch them. They manage to escape before the net is set more times than not. Then we have to wait a couple of hours to get the net back onboard and everything readied before we can try again.

Yes, it is a real riot, the boats are definitely in a contest and sometimes engage in a scuffle. The fish are showing in a disturbance of the surface of the ocean and they broil at the surface. That is how we find them (along with the birds to lead the way).

The way it works with ‘school fish’ is that first we have to spot the school. The lookouts are up in the crows nest and report the sighting to the Fishmaster. He will decide if we are going to go any closer to check out the school.

We can spot the fish on the RADAR by their disturbance of the surface of the water. The large flocks of feeding seabirds also show up on the screen and help lead us to the fish.

Once we get closer, we can use our SONAR to look beneath the surface and get a better idea of what we’re looking at. The Fishmaster can get a lot of information on what kinds of fish are there, how many of them there are, the depth they’re at, etc. Then he will decide if it’s worth it for us to set the net.

If we do, the entire crew springs into action. A couple of guys will jump in the skiff boat. The Radio Officer will assist on the SONAR and RADAR. The engineers will be standing by in the engine room to make sure everything is OK with the power. A couple of guys will get ready to help keep the fish contained from the boat (they throw dye markers and pound on the boat to make noise-both of those the fish will avoid).

When the Fishmaster thinks the time is right, he will yell: “skiff booooooaaaaat……… LET GO!” and the skiff boat will drop off the stern of the boat with the end of the net attached. We will drive around the school of fish dropping the net as fast as we can while the guys throw out the dye markers and pound those hammers. It gets really exciting. 🙂

While we are rushing as fast as we can (not actually all that fast- maybe 10 knots tops), the speed boat and the net boat (and helicopter if the boat has one) will be doing all they can to keep the fish contained inside the area where we are setting the net around them. We need to get the net run around the whole school and then haul in the bottom of the net to close it before the fish get wise to the game and swim underneath it.

It’s such a great feeling. It gets really intense. Your adrenaline starts pumping, your concentration goes up. The challenge, the anticipation, the not-knowing, the feeling that you’re doing everything you can but it might all be for nothing. It can hook you along with the fish you’re trying to catch. I do love it! 🙂

Then it takes a couple of hours to haul in the net. We never really know what we’ve caught in there until we pull it up close enough to the boat to start ‘brailing’ it out. Usually, if we’re lucky it’s full of nice big amberjack tuna. And yes, they broil in the net! It’s always a thrill to count over 10 scoops (each one holds between 3-5 tons of fish). Lots of times it’s empty, the fish got away.

This is what a net full looks like when we’re brailing them out. If I remember right, this was a pretty good catch. 🙂


Just to clarify, the skiff boat is the one in the last photo holding open the net so we can brail it out. The speed boat is the little yellow one in the 3rd and 5th photo. The net boat is the one towards the bottom of the 5th photo, we use it to help hold the net open which makes it easier to haul it in.


Silhouette at Sea: Pacific Breeze

I thought this photo would be a good choice to illustrate the Weekly Photo Challenge from the Daily Post. This week the subject is “silhouette”.

I took the photo a while ago when I was working on board the Pacific Breeze. It’s a tuna boat, a purse seiner. We were fishing around the Solomon Islands at the time.

I was on board as captain (regardless of how many locals refused to believe that there ARE women captains).

I watched the guys set and haul in the nets and sometimes could get some great shots!