Monday, October 30, 2006

Say Hi to Tony

About 4 years ago when i was using only one boat and a much smaller one, i had only one crew. At that time it was Francis with me. He's now traveling the world working in the "Mega Yacht" industry. Anyway, one morning Francis didn't show up at my house at 7:30am like he usually did. I called his phone and his parent’s home and got no reply. Nobody had seen him, and i started to worry about him as well as about the tour i was about to do on my own. It was doable, and i had done it before, but it was very hard on your own. I called around all the other kids who helped me part time, but there was nobody to help me out. Anyway, i left the home to go towards the boat and just driving down the hill, i see Tony walking my way. I totally forgot that i had just hired him to do some gardening one day a week at my house. This was his day to cut my grass. Tony, like about 12,000 other residents here, comes from Guyana in South America. Guyana, by the way, is the only English speaking country in South America and has the least disturbed rain forest in the world and is one of the least populated countries in the world. The Economy there is very bad unfortunately and many Guyanese have come to Antigua looking for a better future. Tony was having a tough time finding that better future working only a few days a week. When he first came to work a gardener, i took one look at him and figured he was not going to be that tough. My garden was more of a jungle that a garden, and i was worried that all the work was going to kill this skinny little South American. Tony, however, proved me wrong. He is without doubt one of the toughest people i have ever met. Anyway, as i saw him walking i pulled over and asked him if he knew how to swim. Most people here can't swim, so that was the first question i had to ask. He said, "i wasn't born in Antigua man, all Guyanese people swim". so i told him to jump in. "You are working with me on the boat today". Then i saw his lovely smile for the first time. He was happy to be escaping the dreaded jungle and possibly even then thinking that his "better future" was on the horizon. Well after all these years, all i can say is that it was my future that had gotten brighter. Tony has helped me in every way that i asked him to. He is excellent at learning things quickly and now he not only works on the boat as a tour guide, but he does all of our minor maintenance, and is at the front of all of our major maintenance. Everything from taking off and apart the propulsion systems, to taking apart the engine, to painting, to fiberglass work. There is nothing Tony can't do. He excels at all of this and never complains about the toughness of the work. I remember last year when we were doing some reinforcement on the eco boat, Tony was below the deck in the "guts" of the boat grinding away fiberglass in the middle of the day. It must have been 120 degrees down there and the toxic fumes and horribly itchy fiberglass dust were bothering him. Tony didn't stop until the job was done. I don't know many people out there who would have done such a thorough job in those difficult conditions. He did.
He loves working on the boat though. Tony is a shy person by nature and i have always tried to get him to open up more on the boat. His calm and relaxed style can be misunderstood but if you give him a chance, he will open up. One of the things that he got into as a result of working for me and being a friend of mine is fishing. Tony loves fishing. We often go on our days off and he is a very lucky fisherman. I guess the fact that he doesn't eat red meat makes the fishing even sweeter, but Tone is also very good at it. Remember the toughness? Well recently we got into Blue Marlin fishing and he proved his toughness to the island. Another thing Tony and i have in common is the need to do things properly. If we are going to do something we want it done the best it can be done. Marlin fishing is no different. Marlin fishing though, is the most extreme kind of fishing that anyone can do. These fish swim so fast and are so powerful that if you are not prepared and ready for them, all 1000 yards of line will have vanished from your reel before you know what hit you. You always hear storied about the big one's that got away. Those stories are true and are true usually because the angler made a mistake. We don't believe in making mistakes. They are not part of Tony's or my plans. We did the marlin tournament here last year to see what it was all about and we did lose "the big one". Two other boats saw it jumping and escaping us. We think it was about 500 lbs. We hooked another few but only managed to catch and release alive a small one probably about 90 lbs. Anyway, after the tournament we knew we had work to do before next year. I purchased new gear and we practiced. People laugh when they think about us out there practicing, but that's how we approach things. We had a few obstacles and disadvantages too. I neither of our boats are fishing boats, and we don't have fighting chairs which are designed to help you get that fish into the boat more easily. Instead i purchased a special "stand up" fighting belt where the angler is strapped in to the rod so that he can use his body weight to fight the fish all the while taking some of the strain off his/her arms. Tony doesn't have much body weight....
Another disadvantage we had is that because of the boats designs we can't reverse towards the fish like all the big fishing boats to. We turned this into an advantage though by practicing to follow the fish going forward. Boats after all, are designed to go foreword, so as soon as we had something big on, we'd turn towards the fish and essentially "chase them down". One last thing that we had against us is the tackle. I believe in fighting the fish instead of just winching them in. Some marlin fishermen use 130 lb test line which gives the fish more tension and less chance to take all of your line. My uncle Jim likes to say "why give the fish a chance". I like the challenge so we went with 1000 yards of 50 lb test line. This proved to be pretty damn tough on us. In five weekends we got about 15 marlin, and we released all but one. The big one.....
This blog is taking way too long today (i have some of your emails to reply to) and if i had the chance i would keep going on and on about the fight with the big one. I will just say that our crew, Tony, Big John, and "Corey" form cocos hotel all worked together as a team seamlessly as planned. Tony, the iron man attached to the rod with Big John and Corey taking turns to hold him. Being pulled over the side my big marlin has happened many times world wide and we didn't feel like losing the man. Believe it or not, chasing this monster marlin made me the driver tired as hell. I was in and out of gear, turning this way and that reversing and following. We followed the fish for 2.5 miles according to my GPS chart plotter, and did 7 circles along the way while the fish tried to be just another "big one that got away". After 2 and a half hours we got the beast to the boat. The helicopter hired by the Tournament with press hanging out of the door had just left 5 minutes before. They were running out of fuel. I had never caught anything that big but knew it was over the minimum weigh in size of 300 lbs. We decided to keep it, but i told Tony that i thought it was like 350 lbs. He screamed immediately saying "i am ready now for a 500 pounder". He wasn't even tired and i had seen one of my other crew (who shall remain nameless) nearly pass out after catching one that was 1/4 the size. Tony is an iron man. The fish was just shy of 600 lbs. Tony works on the Eco Tour as well as The Xtreme Circumnav, and is training to be one of my future captains. The future is bright for both of us!

Ask him about the fight if you see him. I will put a photo up later.