Our First Boat Christmas

From Eric:

After the cold front comes through Cape Canaveral, we head back out the lock on our way south to Ft. Pierce.  Once again the lock is tricky because of the crosswind; however, this time our vast experience helps and it only takes us an unreasonable amount of time to get tied up.  Somehow there is a current in the lock that I didn’t account for and this causes a bit of trouble.  I think the lock operator just likes to screw with people.  (We also have dolphins travel the lock with us. They are so darn smart!) Once out of the lock it is a good sail to Ft. Pierce and we set down the anchor just after sunset. 

Two things are the driving forces for stopping at Ft. Pierce: a visit from my cousin Julie and going to the Navy UTD-SEAL Museum.   Both visits are fantastic.  I visited the Seal Museum when I was a kid 25 years ago, and they have over doubled in size.  Unfortunately we only have a couple of hours to get through the museum because our school day took a bit longer than anticipated.  The girls have a great time with all the interactive displays and go bonkers for the obstacle course.  It is fun showing them how to execute the obstacles.  They do an excellent job.

With less than a week before Christmas we decide to head down to West Palm Beach.  I have an uncle that lives down there, and my folks want to visit all of us.  The wind calms and we motor down to West Palm.  It is rather unremarkable save for the fact that we catch three smallish tuna.  We have been dragging lures through the ocean every time we go out, but to date, we’ve caught nothing that we’ve kept to eat.  As a matter of fact, we’ve been dragging lures so long that we don’t expect to ever catch anything so we are caught by surprise when a reel starts to sing. 

I am at the helm and hear the fishing reel start to pay out line.  My first thought is, “what is that noise?”  I recover my wits and identify its the fishing rod, put the auto pilot on and go to reel in what I can only assume is the dumbest fish in the ocean.  I mean we’ve been dragging the same lures for 1000 miles and every fish has passed them up.  So whatever fish has actually decided to take a shot at this lure must be solidly stupid, however, to me, this is awesome.  I reel in my stupid fish with great vigor.

There isn’t much of a fight and at the end of the line is a tuna.  It is about a foot and half long and I am able to grab the line and bring it onto the boat.  That’s when a debate starts.  Are we going to keep it for supper?  My girls are adamantly against killing the fish, but we don’t live in a democracy on this boat…and this fish is going to be supper.  Then things get interesting.  I had heard that people pour alcohol into the gills of fish to get them to stop fighting.  I sure as hell won’t be wasting my alcohol like that.  Another approach is to hit it with a club.  I think this will make a brutal memory for my girls.  I had also heard of using an ice pick to kill it.  This seems like the best option.  I have Kelly get our ice pick.  She brings out this flimsy plastic handled ice pick which I assess is going to be useless.  That’s when I remember that Kelly had given me a fish cleaning kit some time ago.  I tell Kelly to look in that for something.  All this time I am holding down the fish and it is fighting less and less.  Luckily there is a good two sided knife in the kit and that will be perfect.  It also comes with a cutting board.  I slide the cutting board under the fish’s head and go with a quick stab to the brain cutting the spinal cord. 

I had forgotten how much fish bleed and that tuna bleed red.  Luckily the girls have decided to go inside while I dispatch the fish because the blood flows.   My aim with the knife is true and the fish stops fighting right away, but that doesn’t stop the blood.  I decide that I will fillet the fish right there on the stern and get everything cleaned up. 

I haven’t filleted a fish in over 15 years.  I figurine it will come back to me, you know, like riding a bike; it doesn’t.  I have to make many correction cuts to get all the meat off.  By the time I am done, the back of the boat looks like a horrible massacre has taken place.  We place the fillets in a ziplock with some marinade and they go into the freezer.  I through the carcass into the ocean and wash down the deck.

Just as I finish, the other fishing rod starts to sing.  At this point, we have it down.  The girls run inside, Kelly gets the knives again, and I reel in another tuna.  I am astounded that there are more idiot fish.  We go through the same motions with a little more skill.  My fillet job is much more efficient though still very bloody.  Again as I clean up, the first reel sounds off again.  This is incredible!  We go through the exercise again and decide we are done fishing for the day. 

Later we find out that what we’ve caught is actually Little Tuni, which apparently aren’t desirable to most fishermen, but we don’t care. We finally caught something and we are going to eat them darn it! They end up being very good eatin and indulge ourselves. We even have a little leftover which I make into a dip that becomes a favorite. Also, with Eric spending so much time massacring fish on the stern, I spend a considerable amount of time at the helm, which I consider a step in the right direction.

From Eric:

We make it to West Palm in the early afternoon and are able to get a day of schoolwork complete with the girls.  West Palm is a great place.  There is an island just inside the inlet named Peanut Island.  It has a great beach, and we use a visit as a reward for the girls so they are motivated to complete their school work.  Additionally, the Palm Beach Sailing Club is jut a little ways into the inlet.  The sailing club is a great place to make a temporary home base.  For a temp membership fee you can use their facilities and get mail.  The people there are very friendly and we make some great friends. 

My folks come to visit us and stay through Christmas.  I also have a uncle that lives close by and we are able to have them come out to the boat for a Christmas sail.  We sail out of the inlet and into the gulf stream.  The wind is a little light and we have to motor our way back in.  Later we have a great Christmas dinner at my uncle’s house.  It is great to be able to see them and we have a great holiday. 

We are able to keep all but 3 of our Christmas traditions. Christmas morning is a bit different. We’re usually dealing with freezing temps, but this year we sit outside around the cockpit opening presents. We’ve made a lot of great memories during our first boat Christmas!

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