For years I spent my working life in the corporate canyons of management. Aware of the customer and remotely sensitive to their needs but hardly ever hands on. You dealt with their products, their finances and their wants and needs through the self serving prisms of consultant reports and focus group feedback.
Moving to the “back nine” almost 20 years ago and away from the starched corporate environment, I wanted something different; something hands on with the customer.
Well, I stumble when trying to relate the difference between the corporate yesteryears and being a charter fishing captain here in South Florida. It’s really an incredible experience to be in the cockpit of a small boat with folks you just met for at least four hours sharing the excitements and disappointments of sport-fishing. It’s encouraging a youngster to land the big one to consoling the fishing aficionado who just lost his trophy. It’s putting bait on; taking fish off; re rigging gear – for four hours – no coffee breaks, no power lunches, no secretary, no staff meetings.
But it’s something that most will never have a chance to experience. I’d make the same career decision a hundred times over. No regrets. I got my “hands on” alright.
On many of the charter trips, after introductions and pleasantries, folks are inclined to ask, “bet you meet a lot of different kinds of people doing this.”
That open ended question is a standard. The standard response; “This is one of the most interesting and toughest jobs in the world. But 99.9 percent of the charters I’ve run over the years have been just great. And you meet all kinds of folks that just make the job fun”
Thought our story this week would be a rerun of an article I ran some six years ago that highlighted the unusual and fun part of charter fishing.
Our group that early spring morning was a arranged by a good customer and a ranking member of our local Moose Lodge. He was a retired dentist from the Northeast and maintained a close relationship with his fellow dentists from the same area. He would throw a long weekend for them here every year – the Moose Lodge dinner, the Phil in Naples, golf and of course a fishing trip were always on the agenda.
On this particular trip there were four retired “dental mechanics” as they so humbly referred to themselves as. As they boarded, one of the gang was introduced to me as Acronym Al drawing a guffaw from the rest.
I was puzzled at the handle until he greeted me with “NTBA” (He vocalized his acronyms) at which one had to figure out it meant. Nice to be aboard.
Which brought another layer of giggles from the “mechanics.”
As we got going, Al was like a leprechaun – sort of light hearted and silly in a nice sort of way. He was the group’s cheerleader, advisor on everything and all around helper for everyone.
As we started fishing nearshore, Al kind of flitted around the boat putting a bait on here and taking a fish off for a squeamish companion there. To accomplish his flitting, he would drop his rod on the gunnel with bait in the water as he ran to assist the others. I cautioned him about the practice saying if a fish would strike the rod was a goner – he gave me a “DW” (Don’t worry).
Sure enough, on one of his flits there was a unusual sound from the bow of the boat where Al’s rod had been left, as it plunged over the side and into the water never to be seen again. His answer to “I told you so” was SIPFI (Sorry, I’ll pay for it)
It got crazier, especially after a couple of mid morning MLs (Miller Lights). After a dissertation as to handing fishing technique for sheepshead on the reefs was really quite simple. Just lift, if you feel weight begin to reel it in. KISG (Keep it simple, guys) became everyone’s admonition if anyone lost a fish.
We were set up right on top of an artificial reef that was famous for snagging rigs. All the anglers would do their sheepshead lift as directed, feel the snag as a fish and scream “I’ve got a big one.” I’d say “Stop reeling. You’re hooked on the reef.”
The acronym king picked that up post haste and the cry for the rest of the morning was YHOR (Your hooked on the reef).
Amid the outbreaks of side splitting laughter as to Al’s antics, the others picked up on the acronym craze and we began to get multiple authorships of things like YLYBA (You lost your bait again); TARLF (That’s a really little fish) and, of course, NF (Nice fish).
There were lots of forgettable others as the ML’S took hold and soon conversations sounded like a foreign language.
Mercifully, the morning trip was winding down. There were some nice fish in the box but there was little concern over that. These old friends were having a ball and just letting go with unrestrained mirth – and Al was the unabashed leader of the band.
As we made our way home, I mentioned to my friend, the coordinator, as to Al’s incredible personality and energy.
“That’s nothing – you should see him at the Lodge at Happy Hour when the ladies are around. Wanna come down and join us this evening?”
In true AA (Acronym Al) style the answer was NW.
Capt. Bill Walsh owns an established Marco Island charter fishing business and holds a current U.S. Coast Guard license. Send comments or questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.