Though a straight line appears to be the shortest distance between 2 points, life has a way of confounding geography. Often it is the dalliances and the detours that define us. There are no maps to guide our most important searches; we must rely on hope, chance, intuition and a willingness to be surprised.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Gone Fishin’ or, 9 Men in a (5-man) Boat

Saturday: Finding Nemo Sunday: Fish Supper

Another cracking weekend for photos. After a few false starts this was to be the big weekend when we did BOTH the fishing trip AND the trip to Mexico.

Well… nearly.

The peace and tranquility of Haulover Creek at 5am is about to be disturbed by 150 horses.

The crew tuck into some meat pies for breakfast.

The fishing trip was a great lads day out. There were seven of us, including Evan, Mr Torres from next door, Ulises from El Salvador and Evan’s brother Wilbur. A 5am start was essential as we had to allow for a fair amount of faffing to get our kit in the boat, stock up on lots (and lots) of petrol and pick up our two ‘drivers’.

No small, open boat trip is complete without two large containers of 4-star.

Our route was a pretty ambitious one, covering half the country’s coastline, stopping at Frenchman Caye and Caye Caulker, and running within a flare’s distance of most of the other Northern Cayes.

Our boatman scans the shallows for the rare and exotic fish known as the ‘sardine’.

First stop was at Frenchman Caye, where a few of us transferred to a smaller boat to go fishing for the bait. It’s fair to say that the trip was always going to be 90% journey and 10% fishing and was all the more enjoyable for that. We actually spent longer (unsuccessfully) fishing for the bait than we did for the fish!

Mr Torres with the first catch of the day.

About mid-morning we arrived at our fishing site, just off the picturesque and exclusive Caye Chapel. I’m no fisherman but, in principle at least, the line-fishing technique sounded pretty straightforward to me:

1 Attach a sardine head or lump of non-specific fish to your hook
2 Throw the bait and weight as far as you can (making sure the other end of the line is securely attached to something in the boat – essential, that bit)
3 Hold the line taught and wait for a nibble (ooer missus)

Timing is now key. When the fish starts to nibble…

4 be patient and wait for it to take a bigger bite, at which point
5 jerk the line violently towards yourself (being careful not to fall out of the boat). If your timing is right, there will now be a fish pulling on your line, which you can
6 reel in hand over hand.

In practice my timing was – to use the Belizian – crap. After about twenty minutes, everyone else had one, two or three fish and I still had none.

My duck is broken as I catch my first Grunt. (So called because after you pull them out of the water they make a grunting noise – bit unnerving that.)

I’d like to think I then got the hang of the timing. Though it might just have been luck. In any case I caught five fish in a pretty short space of time, including…
…The catch of the day.

This beauty was a Shell Fish. It has eyes and lips like a horse and head-on is almost a perfect triangle in shape. I was tempted to throw it back as it looked more like an exotic pet than prey but I was assured that it is very tasty (a bit like chicken) and it is now safely stowed in the bottom of Mr Torres’ freezer.

The rest of the trip was spent celebrating our good fortune in sea-faring style, including a stop at Caye Caulker to replenish our beer and rum supplies.

When the rum runs out the crew resort to wearing their pants on their heads for cheap laughs.

Evan does a moving Cpt Bligh impersonation. Though the solemnity of the moment is rather spoiled by the boatman grinning over his rum and coke.

The last stretch of the trip was a long motor up the coast to Rocky Point. From here we could see Mexico across the waters of the Caribbean, before we turned west for the run along to Sartaneja and San Estevan where we stayed the night. Sadly that was as close as I got to Mexico. Due to some confusion, which was largely my fault, though Evan insists it was his, I left my passport in Belize City and so when we got up in the morning I had to stay in Belize. Foiled again.

‘scuse me, while I kiss this pike…