Results 1 to 6 of 6

Thread: Captain Robert Saunders.

  1. #1
    Viejo del Foro Just Plain John Wayne's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2007
    Location
    Puerto Cabezas Nicar
    Posts
    13,263
    Blog Entries
    3

    Default Captain Robert Saunders.

    Captain Robert Saunders.

    He was a Highliner and if this one doesn’t of my Sea Story’s, get published in National Fisherman Magazine, with a bit of editing, you all can Kiss My Royal Ass. And give a week to draw a crowd on the County Court House steps, with DDT presiding. So sit back and listen as a bit of history is being repeated to you and unfolds in front of the screen, or on paper from one who was witness too, and part of. I was there. This is not BS fiction from a creative mind, these are real people, places, and events. Of the story of Captain Robert Saunders as I knew him.

    With my Sea Stories I mean not to sway your opinions in any way, just telling it as it was as I remember it. Just you and me, a seasoned old Sea
    Dog as the writer and You the reader.

    LCT from one Basturd to another, I know you detest Gillnetters, but I love you Brother, you helped me as did others when I truly needed it. Despite all of our differing political or religious persuasions. I dedicate this Sea Story to you. And I hope you and others get a chuckle out of it or I touch your heart strings in the telling of this Tale, and committing it to eternity on digital.

    So if you will, let me take you back in time in your minds eye to about 40 or so years ago to meet a man that I did, with my sea bag with it’s strap over my shoulder and a Holy Bible In it, that my mother had given me before starting out on my walk through life as a youngster, I have it still today. And in the time and place, that still has a place in my heart. Weather he is presently living or dead, I honestly don‘t know. But I Love you man, and always will to the end of my life.

    Retired Fishing Boat Captain JW Gooding, I earned the title so I will use it.

    Captain Robert Saunders.

    If I remember right, and I think I do. In the early 1970’s, He was somewhere from around Eggmont Key or Chuckalusky, Pine Island, and Ochapie Florida that had an out house for a post office off old highway 41. Villages of people that couldn’t consume two cases of beer in a week, that is how small they were.


    Somewhere around that neck of the woods in the land of 10.000 Islands on the Gulf Coast of Florida in an area similar to the swamps of Louisiana, but in Florida on the Western coastal edge of the Everglades of the Great Cypress Swamp. Land of trees and glade. A damn good ’ole Swamp boy as I was and am, and a good fisherman. Somewhere around Everglades City the Metropolis of the area, that was just a dead road end off of old 41 going down to Monroe Station that wasn’t much more than we call in North Carolina a Hog path, to a creek that led to the Gulf of Mexico and a place to land fish in those day‘s, with maybe a dozen homes. It still tickles me they called that place a city.

    Gators and white tail deer abounded there and were often a nuisance to it’s human inhabitants. To their children and dogs a danger, and their small vegetable gardens located on a high piece of ground in the area that the deer got into. So they kept them thinned back by eating the basturds. I have to admit a piece of gator tail or deer meat fixed up fine, is a palatable pleasure.

    Captain Robert and his father and mother jointly owned a Commercial Fishing vessel named the Lady Lou after his mother. Which he was Master of, not a big boat but on the lines of the Dar-Dot owned by Captain Lloyd of Key Largo but bigger. Built of wood 45 feet in length and a GM 6-71 engine in her belly to push her thru the sea and would tote a hell of a load.

    He was closer to my age perhaps 6 or 8 years older, and in the silence of the night tied up to the dock still under construction of Uncle Jack’s Key Largo Fisheries, where I had first met him. I remember while we were snatching the Spanish Mackerel gilled off out of the nets, he would startle everyone up with a Rebel Yell loud and clear, and come out from the galley of his boat with a scrambled egg sandwich for those of us in the wee hours of the morning picking the fish out of the nets on the various boats tied up to Key Largo Fisheries dock while working on the loads of fish.

    Happy in the day’s catch. He would scramble 3 or 4 dozen eggs and with a couple loaves of Wonder bread (remember that one? Strong bodies 12 ways) and a big pot of coffee, we would all take a much needed break. It was day and night work in the push and shove of gillnetting thru the winter. Hands so sore and swollen from the work, that unless you have done something like that in your life you know not what I am talking about.

    Sometime in the month of March that season Captain Robert and his crew had unboated his Spanish Mackerel net into his heavy duty GMC pickup truck, went home and loaded his Kingfish net to go on to Key West for the tail end of that Winter season of gillnetting. Uncle Lloyd didn’t want to go and wanted to start getting ready for the lobster season there in Key Largo with his traps going over them in preparations.

    Captain Robert and his crew boated his Kingfish net there in Key Largo, left his pickup truck there and did set sail for Key West. When a net is Boated on the stern all you have to do is throw the lighted let go buoy as a drag and the net will peal off the stern to circle a school of fish.

    Captain Robert called Uncle Lloyd one evening from Key West and told him he needed me and if it was ok to ask me to go, and of course he went along with it, his son Little Lloyd being a spotter pilot for the Gillnet Fishermen. And in talking to me on the phone I agreed to drive his truck there and work with him.

    Now Kingfishing was different than the Mackerel fishing which was done in the day time with a streak of monofilament webbing sewn in the center of the net for the fish to gill off in for easy picking from the net. And being circled with the net thinking the streak of Monofilament was a way out got their ass caught. Stupid fish.

    Because of the strength and size of the Kingfish the nets had to be of a heavy nylon webbing top to bottom, and larger in their diamond shaped mashes, and we always were set out in the afternoons because the fish would mill about seeing the net encircling them and not gill off during the day.

    Boy it was Wild, to say the least, I never saw anything like that in life before. One afternoon I don’t remember where we were off Key West but Captain Robert said in gazing out over the sea. Do you smell ‘em? And his calling attention to it using his nose, I did smell them in the air with their odor. That huge school of Kingfish. He called Little Lloyd on the radio and said giving our location, come over here he said, and take a look here.

    Little Lloyd upon arriving in his plane at 1500 feet in the air and looking at it said it is a humongous school lets circle them, it might take two or three boats to load them but let’s do it. So we did circle the school of fish with the net lapping the ends good and lashing the cork lines good for them to be gilled off after dark. Little Lloyd watching the school milling about to determine when and where to turn loose the net for a wrapping of them. So we turned her loose, as another crew member on the boat called off the net overboard markings as we went along circling the school of Kingfish with the gillnet. And we waited for dark to set in.

    All the boats were designed to get a running start at the cork line and when the bow of the boat got to it, knock the engine out of gear and glide over it to get inside the circle of fish over a hundred yards wide. To “Beat up the net” which involved running over top of the school of fish. With a powerful portable spot light waving over the surface of the sea, pointing down into the water. All of us stomping on the deck and hitting on the deck with shovels on it making a bunch of racket and even dropping M80 waterproof firecrackers taped to rocks to scare the fish into the net.

    That night right after dark when we started beating up Captain Roberts net, every time we dropped a genuine M80 taped to a rock, which was bought by the box from Atlantic and Gulf Fisherman’s Supply in those days into the water, bursting with a flash of white light and a thump well below the surface, damn they were strong. I think they were named M80’s being an 1/8th of a stick of dynamite.

    The fish running from it hitting the net with such a force it would pull the cork line under the water from their weight hitting the net and being gilled off, perhaps even lifting the lead line off the bottom. Fighting like hell to get away, some passing thru the net of broken mashes slipping away in the ragged mashes cut and broken of it, and shark holes. And Captain Robert bless his heart, tossing a lit one overboard. And every time one of the M80’s went Thump with it’s flash of white light in the water, would do a Rebel Yell. These were like 30 pound or more mature fish. Didn’t take but three or four M80’s in the center of the circle to do the job right.

    Now why in the hell am I thinking of a Clint Eastwood movie right now as in Fist Full of Dynamite? As I write this personal, from to me to you, the reader, one on one. And laughing as I write, documenting history as it happened. As I said before it was Wild the gill netting in Florida.

    They, the Kingfish had completely sunk all of the cork line with their weight. I know a lot of them got away on the surface. And thru that raggedy ass net, but we got most of them. And these were football floats on the cork line, back to back sewn onto it. It looked to be a big jag of fish. After the fireworks, In riding around the net and looking at it with the spot light, the silver white light reflections off the fishes bellies flashed off the dead and dying fish reflecting back at us, we saw the net was full of fish.

    Boy’s, said Captain Robert in his Southern Drawl on the radio to some of the other boats that didn’t get their nets set that afternoon. I am going to need some help over here. This is the biggest school I have ever took in, any of you want a piece of this net to help me get it back come on over. This was at no cost to them other than the commission paid to Little Lloyd in the spotting of them. None of the Captain’s wanted to make a strike in the dark taking a chance on just a handful of fish with the heavy nets. Realistically a pain in the butt to handle the nets for little or nothing,

    That night the Gulf of Mexico off Key West, the sea was slick calm, like a pond, not a ripple on the water. Deathly quite except for the noise we were making on the boat with the roar of the GM engine in the belly of the Lady Lou in preparations to get our net back with the load of fish in it.

    So we did unlash the lapped ends and pulled the one end apart from it down current to take it aboard over the overhead power roller located about amidships to rope net, fish, and all aboard and periodically throwing shovels of ice on the pile to get the heat off them. We loaded the Lady Lou to the gills, shoving her gunnels almost to the water. And it took three other boats to get the whole net back. We took into Stock Island close to Key West 47,000 pounds of Kingfish on the Lady Lou on that trip of fish. And the other three boats had 20,000 or more each. Hell of a school of fish wasn’t it?

    We lashed the lighted let go buoy to the cork line when we had had enough, cutting the net into so the next boat could get it to get their share of the fish and we got the net back cut into pieces that was nothing to splice and sew back together for us.

    To the dock was where the work really began, oh the hours on end, pulling with gloved hands the net loaded with fish gilled off in it back to the stern of the boat in the net bin. Once in a while finding one that the head or the tail of it bitten off by a fish shark, but its remnants still stuck in the net. And we had sprayed with blown ice on them and the net to get and keep them cold. Leaving the engine running with the blub, blub, blub, out the stern of the boat. Silenced a bit but still a racket, afraid if he turned off the engine with it’s wet exhaust deep under the water from the load, that the water would back up into the engine causing a big problem.

    Most of the time having to cut a bar on the mash of the webbing to get the fish out of the net to be thrown forward to be later gutted. It made the nets look raggedy over time and they all swore it made them catch better because of it and so it was done in that manner. It was that year I really learned to gut a fish, which was all we had to do to them before going to the unloading dock.

    Working on the water all my life as a young boy from seven years old with my father and grandfather doing some Commercial Mid Atlantic Stripped Bass fishing with gill nets off the Virginia and North Carolina coasts right off the beach in a St. Peairie style dory with a outboard motor well in the bow of it. And a square stern pealing off the gill net thru the breakers and anchoring the end of it down returning to shore up current with a rope pealing off, spliced to the fluke end of the anchor to be hauled back to the beach with a 4x4 pick up truck, after giving the net time to do it’s work. Known in those day’s as a Haul Seine.

    I had become fast with my hands. A net needle or a gutting knife is still not a stranger to my hands. It’s like riding a bicycle, you never forget but you just slow down a bit with age. But I got even faster with the big loads of the Spanish Mackerel and Kingfishing there in my youth. I put my ole Holstered 110 BUCK folding Hunter knife in my sea bag along side of my Bible, and started using what everyone else was using keeping it in my pocket. A Barlow QUEEN STEEL folding Big Chief with an aluminum handle with a thin Stainless blade 5 ¼ inches long that although much thinner, with just a few passes on the wet rock you were ready to go back to cutting the fish. How many I did wear out or drop overboard I don’t know but we bought them by the box. From Atlantic and Gulf Fisherman’s Supply out of Tampa Florida. Who I still trade with today.


    Captain Jr. Harding from up around Pompano Beach Florida somewhere showed me the proper way to do it, with a man setting the fish up on the top of the ice boxes we used on the boats as a gutting table. Being right handed, tail of the fish to the left and head to the right on its side. With the left hand grabbing the fish about middle way where you are going to make the cut from anus to the gills.

    One shot with the right hand and a sharp knife, the left then reaching into the opened cavity and grabbing the gut, then a downward stroke of the knife to the gut on the right side of your left hand pulling the gut free from the head side and a simple stroke under your hand to cut it clear of the anus. Throwing the gut in a box on your left side and the right hand with the knife still in it by the head throwing the fish on the deck behind you as the left hand reached for another one. I got to where I could gut 1000 pounds and hour of the Spanish Mackerel for hours on end with the best of them. And I never cut myself even once.

    Gutting the Kingfish was much slower per fish but because of their size our pounds per hour increased. We had two on that trip that were exceptional specimens of the species and before they got gutted. Captain Robert took and weighed them, 49 and 52 pounds per fish respectively. We were not killing juveniles to sell. We were selective harvesting with the size of the diamond shaped mashes in the net a mature renewable resource for people that wanted to eat them, and getting well paid for the hard, ass busting work. Uuuh a inch thick piece of Kingfish Steak sliced diagonally, grilled or fried up was a bit of Heaven, and relatively boneless for fish.

    Getting to the unloading dock there were not in the industry in those days boxes large enough to hold the Kingfish, so they were bulk loaded on a thick bed of ice in the tractor trailer trucks with a cap of ice blown on the top of them, for the trip up the road to St. Petersburg Florida to Pinellas Seafood’s main plant for distribution. Captain Leon Kenny who I personally knew later on, and even flew with him in his push me pull you airplane, owner of the company and affiliated with the just starting out Red Lobster Seafood Restaurants. He had started out as a Mullet fisherman in his youth in a skiff. How he handled the fish I do not know.

    But I do know one thing. We had caught the fish and the market just right on that load of fish. It was just before Lent when the Catholic people cannot eat pork, beef, or chicken but could eat fish. The price had skyrocketed as it always does in Holy Week. We got .45 cents a pound, an unheard of price in those day’s. And my share for that one load of fish which involved about in total of 36 hours of hard work and risking my butt was over $900.00. I bought a brand new Honda C B 160 motorcycle at the end of the season to ride on. And gas was .29 cents a gallon.

    I met Captain Robert many years down the road in Carrabelle Florida when I, as a young Master walking a deck of my own on a 90 foot length overall trawler. He had sold the Lady Lou and bought a Landry manufactured Alabama built wooden Shrimp boat of mahogany and oak, about that same size, and going aboard her we had a bit of a home coming from years gone by in the galley of her, with hugs. We Southern Boy’s are not ashamed to hug one another in an intimate public display of companionship, a brotherhood if you will, more meaningful than just a hand shake, much closer to the heart in a man.

    As we sat in the galley with mugs of coffee going over what we had done since we had last seen each other. He told me he regretted the day he sold the Lady Lou and jumped on a bigger boat. The Lady Lou was a lucky boat, some are, some are not. And commercial fishermen are superstitious as hell about luck. Even to the point of putting a real Silver Dollar under the mast of a newly launched boat, so she would never be broke.

    About a month or so later on Captain Roberts shrimp boat that I cannot remember the name of for the life of me, the LP gas bottles for the galley blew up burning her to the waterline off Cape San Blas between Carrabelle and Port St Joe Florida in the Gulf of Mexico. Captain Robert and his crew were rescued by another Captain I knew and fished them out of the drink after floating a bit on the sea. Most people lost at sea do not drown, they die from exposure.

    Man I wish now to know how his life wound up, and to make contact again if he is still living.

    Captain Robert Saunders, I salute you, and I am a better man from knowing and working with you. And to quote and old cliché’ from the Old Sea Dogs, “When Ships were Wood, and Men were made of Iron”.

    Retired Fishing Boat Captain JW Gooding, I earned the title, so I will use it.
    To be called a "Has Been" I must surmise, is much Greater than to be called a "Nevah Been"... JW...



  2. #2
    Fightin Irish JackMcG's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2007
    Location
    Jinotepe, Carazo.... Nicaragua & OCMD
    Posts
    1,940

    Default Re: Captain Robert Saunders.

    Good read JW...

    don't let anyone touch it up too much...your style is authentic, an editor can screw that all up on you.....I would know something you wrote within 2 sentences of reading it.....let 'em clean up the spelling and the punctuation but don't let them feck with the soul of your writing!
    "If you ain't bleeding, you ain't working!"

  3. #3
    House SOB Little Corn Tom's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2007
    Location
    Pompano Beach, Florida
    Posts
    9,976
    Blog Entries
    5

    Default Re: Captain Robert Saunders.

    Well John.... the dedication is appreciated and I wish to re-nominate this post as "Post of the Year".

    Nice yarn!
    Life's different here ... It's a whole 'nother pace.

  4. #4
    House SOB Little Corn Tom's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2007
    Location
    Pompano Beach, Florida
    Posts
    9,976
    Blog Entries
    5

    Default Re: Captain Robert Saunders.

    Quote Originally Posted by JackMcG View Post
    Good read JW...

    don't let anyone touch it up too much...your style is authentic, an editor can screw that all up on you.....I would know something you wrote within 2 sentences of reading it.....let 'em clean up the spelling and the punctuation but don't let them feck with the soul of your writing!

    Amen bro!
    Life's different here ... It's a whole 'nother pace.

  5. #5
    Para aquí para acá Jonh's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2007
    Location
    La Florida
    Posts
    16,371
    Blog Entries
    15

    Default Re: Captain Robert Saunders.

    Chokoloskee Island


    Everglades City


    This part of the coast is still desolate and wild. These pictures are from 2002

  6. #6

    Default Re: Captain Robert Saunders.

    Nice read JW! Ah, but to be young again? I'm not sure I want to? Keep the nose lifted into the wind; you'll either fly or land softly.

Similar Threads

  1. Captain Kenny Land
    By Just Plain John Wayne in forum Blog: Just Plain John Wayne
    Replies: 2
    Last Post: 12-21-2010, 02:14 PM
  2. Captain Ponce de Leon Ham
    By Just Plain John Wayne in forum Blog: Just Plain John Wayne
    Replies: 1
    Last Post: 12-17-2010, 09:01 PM
  3. Robert Harvey / Down South Bob
    By Little Corn Tom in forum Personal Stories
    Replies: 2
    Last Post: 11-26-2010, 12:01 PM
  4. Robert Callahan
    By Danpolley in forum Events Calendar
    Replies: 19
    Last Post: 11-01-2008, 07:41 AM

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •  
Also visit the False Bluff Blog!