FORUM: Deck Exercise

Half a century of learning and practicing transformed me into an excellent big-game fisherman. Well-trained and equipped, and highly-experienced, my hand and foot reflexes were fast, my technique was classic, and I was strong and flexible.

I had good endurance, hiking seven miles daily in Point Loma—locally called “Tunaville.” In the mornings when the overnight and long-range boats returned to dock, I’d walk two blocks from my apartment to say “Good Morning” to friends and survey the catches.

I was leaving on a 14-day charter heading south to hunt giant tuna. We were going to Hurricane Bank, a 24-hour cruise from Clarion Island.

Anglers going on the trip stayed up most of the night in anticipation, hanging out at the dock, greeting old friends and making the acquaintance of anglers on the charter for the first time.

Starting a few hours after sunrise we boarded the boat (a choreographed process which took two hours to complete), prepped our cabins, and stored our equipment.

In the meantime the boat left dock and travelled to the bait barge, where the crew carefully placed hundreds of scoops of sardines (our bait) into the live bait wells. When this was finished we left San Diego Bay heading southwest into the Pacific—we would travel four days and four nights to get to the fishing grounds…

It was time for a delicious lunch in the galley. Anglers were tired and quiet. The methodical sound of the engine, and of water rhythmically pulsing against the sides of the hull, made for a tranquil, serene moment. After eating, 15 of 18 anglers, and four mates, retired to their bunks and quickly fell asleep.

Ross—one of my best friends and the best angler I’ve ever met, Ralph Michelson—the “Long Ranger,” a hero to big-game fishermen—and I stayed outside on the fishing deck.

Ross and Ralph were preparing their gear. I didn’t want to pester them, so I decided to practice walking and then, once I was certain I could keep my balance, jogging up the side of the boat while I had it to myself.

The water we were heading to is frequented by wahoo (called “hoo” by anglers), one of Earth’s fastest fish. Hoo are called “ono” (pronounced “oh-no”) which means delicious in Hawaiian.

Catching hoo often requires anglers to rapidly travel from where the fish is hooked in the stern (back of the boat), forward to the bow (front of the boat), following the fish as it rockets away.

To maximize realism I would conduct this practice while wearing my fishing boots: as Coach Lombardy said, “Practice doesn’t make perfect—Only perfect practice makes perfect.”

I began walking next to the rail, circling the boat. The water was calm so I was very stable. I calculated that 99 revolutions of the parts of the deck by the rail permitting foot traffic constituted three miles—the shortest distance I usually walked on a land hike. I added three revolutions just to be sure my mental calculations were correct. Thus I would complete 102 revolutions.

After a few revolutions I realized that I could safely run, because the boat was so stable. I dashed up one side (I was a sprinter through college), quick-walked three large steps across then dashed down the other side.

This felt so good that I threw off my already sweat-soaked shirt, shifted to high-speed long-stride running, and pounded out 102 complete revolutions. I felt fantastic.

I needed a drink of water and a shower. I was happy everyone was asleep, because I could take my time in the head. I entered the galley—which I presumed was a ghost town. I was planning to go down to my cabin and obtain my shower kit and a change of clothes.

To my surprise, every single angler was awake, sitting on benches in the galley. Every angler was silently staring at me. I had no idea that anyone was awake—the galley windows were covered by shades, so I couldn’t see inside, and nobody came outside. Why, I wondered, was everyone awake?

I soon realized that the aisles which I was running up and running down were directly above the bunks in which the anglers were trying to sleep.

For 102 revolutions I pounded up one side of the boat and down the other—right above everyone’s head.

They forgave me. Only one person spoke: Captain Cameron exclaimed “Planet, you’re the man!” It added to my reputation, and further validated my nickname.

I must run…

Deck Exercise

Paul R. Yarnold, Ph.D.

February 3, 2021

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