Nov 13, 2009
Another Brick in the Wall: Capt. Josh Temple Report
(Disclaimer: Before reading this report, i think it's pertinent to provide a little background info on how this trip came together. It's taken Ben and i years of swashbuckling to garner these permits, which give us unlimited access to the Marias, Revillagigedos, Guadalupe, and more. After testing their validity out at the Maria Islands off of PV for over a year now we finally procured enough courage to have a run at the Revillagigedos. Before departing for Cabo, we double and triple checked with our contact in the Government to ensure that we wouldn't be risking a brand new three million dollar boat, or the prison-free history of anyone onboard. Our contact called ahead to the military base on Socorro, faxed them copies of our permits, alerted them to our intentions, and generally did as much as he could to ensure that we wouldn't have any surprises once we arrived. Oftentimes in life it's not what you know, but who you know. The pieces of paper that we now hold so dear are prime examples of this.)
As i write this i am hopped up on a headful of painkillers, strange Mexican candies in a vast array of colors that are doing their best to silence the monster breathing fire in my head. I'm awaiting dental surgery on thursday morning, extractions, implants, the works. So while this will likely not be my best literary effort - i will give it the ol' inebriated college try.
After two hundred and fifty miles of open ocean travel, fifteen long years of waiting, and innumerable hiccups along the way - it only took thirty two hours of trolling from Cabo San Lucas to realize a collectively life-long dream.
The feeling of all those aboard Salty when we deployed the lines after a long night of steaming south from Cabo towards the Revillagigedo Islands was a mix of emotions. We were all obviously stoked, but trepidation reigned in our enthusiasm as we all silently wondered if our permits to fish the restricted zone surrounding the islands were legit, hoping that by this time the following morning we'd be fighting wahoo and tuna, and not some nefarious gang in a Mexican jail somewhere. We've been using our permits for over a year and a half at the Maria Islands off of PV, but the Rev's are an entirely different story, with new people to deal with, and an entirely new set of potential hurdles to navigate along the way.
About thirty miles from San Benedicto Island, with these thoughts still fresh in our heads, the right rigger, a purple and black moldcraft wide-range (big surprise), imploded as if to silence our worries and remind us that, above all else, a 450# ballistic blue marlin was worth the chance of jail time any day.
Ben, who was up in the helm with me, literally flew to the cockpit and pushed up the drag as the marlin exploded through the wake. Gerald, Tony, and Matt sprang into action clearing the remaining lines as i pulled the boat into neutral and prepared for the chase.
With 400 gallons of extra fuel sloshing around in a bladder on the bow, and two tons of rations for the week long adventure ahead, Salty was surely sulking under the weight of her saddle. Nevertheless she responded with the same predictable tenaciousness with a push of the throttles in reverse and, despite the burden of her load, managed to outrun that feisty blue devil in record time.
Ben, who rarely gets a shot at a fish like this, soaked up the "OOOOHS" and "AAAAAHHHS" from the crowd as each leap of the fish and subsequent avalanche of water over the stern brought Tony B closer to his turn on the leader. After a few more spectacular explosions boat side Tony shook loose the hook and i do believe we all sighed in relief as our first of many good omens swam healthily away.
We continued on towards San Benedicto, jaws dropping a little bit further as the island loomed into view and the savage volcanic formations told countless stories of the magnificent power of creation, and the infinite beauty of these remote and isolated places. As we neared the island we changed out our marlin spread and deployed two marauders, no sooner coming over the 1,000 fathom ledge when both rods crackled, doubled over, and bled line with abandon as a double header of tunas made for the deep.
As the boys dove for the corners i took a long, slow 360 degree look around the boat. Thousands of birds, innumerable explosions, porpoise, mantas, cetaceans, fish of all shapes and sizes, and an island rising up from a seemingly bottomless ocean. The only boat for hundreds of miles, a hard core group of adventurous anglers, self sufficiency, and a tinge of danger means my kind of madness at it's ultimate best.
Once we crossed into the relative shallows surrounding San Benedicto it was all we could do to get two marauders into the water before another tuna or wahoo demolished the spread. Within an hour we'd ruined two 400# cable leadered marauders, the boys were shaking and sweaty, the cockpit a tribute to chaos, our adrenaline gland churning the nectar of adventure. Our choreography went from calculated to chaotic at best.
After a few hours of this, and countless tunas and wahoos on every kind of iron, popper, bomb, and jig you could imagine we decided to continue on to Socorro Island and check in with the Navy. Time to lay the cards on the table, push the chips to the middle - all in.
The mood on the boat as we neared Socorro and rounded the SE corner bringing the Naval base into view went from ecstatic to nervous real quick. I picked up the radio and alerted the boys to our presence, they directed us to the jetty and told us to wait for the commander who would be down to inspect the boat and review our permits lickity split.
It was a long and sweaty hour of waiting, and when the military truck finally wound down the road towards the jetty, with all kinds of manpower in tow, my heart eventually succeeded in locating my throat. With a few deep breaths i backed the Salty up to the jetty where Tony B, our unofficial liaison in situations like this, assisted the military inspection contingent onboard.
Anyone that knows Tony Berkowitz will agree that he is exactly the kind of front man you want in a situation like this. After twenty plus years of modern day pirating in Cabo San Lucas, there's not much that Tony hasn't seen or negotiated first hand. I've known Tony for a long time and while i had to twist Steve's arm to get him on this trip, my instincts were paying off in spades as Tony went into NATO mode and cooly smoothed over the powers that be.
I left the helm to Gerald and went below to join the meeting, the commandant was scrutinizing our permits and talking feverishly into his radio - allegedly confirming our paperwork with some unseen force in an office a long way away. It was a quiet fifteen minutes of fretting before the radio crackled to life and our vindication arrived over the airwaves. The mood on the boat immediately changed, a collective sigh of relief audibly noticeable from our crew, frowns turning to smiles from the people in uniforms, trigger fingers relaxed, gun barrels no longer pointing at chests.
"Bienvenidos a las Islas Revillagigedos amigos!" said the man with the stripes on his shoulders. "(Now who the hell do you know to get permits like this?!?!?!)"
Then it became jovial, almost festive, onboard. We traded information, gave them a tour of the boat, told stories of adventure, and picked their brains for information. We spent a couple of memorable hours with our new friends before the sun sank enough below the horizon to turn our thoughts towards bait fishing and the week of exploration that still lay ahead. We dropped them back off on the jetty, said our goodbyes, and quietly smiled as they wished us good fishing and bode us farewell.
"Until next time amigos!" we assured them. "And countless times after that."
And so we managed yet another modern day miracle, in spite of ourselves.
Gerald Scholl was responsible for much of the preliminary info on this trip. Having grown up working the long range boats out of San Diego, and later moving up to the third ticket position on the American Angler, Gerald had a wealth of first-hand experience from many trips to the islands before they were closed over a decade ago. Info we quickly put to the test.
Though it had been a long time since Gerald had last visited the Rev's, not much had changed over the years out there. Twelve years is nothing in geological time. The same spots he remembered produced time and time again, and when you have that kind of solid intel to build a foundation upon success is all but inevitable. Well that, and having access to an island chain that hasn't really been fished much in a long, long time certainly helps too.
We spent the first two full days of fishing at San Benedicto in a melee of seemingly endless tunas and wahoo. Legendary spots like the Lunker Hole and Lava Flow produced non-stop action on everything we threw at them. Live baiting seemed like cheating. The boys opting to throw jigs or topwater poppers instead. Rare were the times when we didn't have four or five fish tearing ass in opposite directions, creating a circus of somewhat choreographed madness from the cockpit to the bowsprit. Wahoos flying through the air with reckless abandon, at several points sending our crew scattering for cover and covering their heads.
"JEEEEESSSUUUUUUUUSSS CHRIST!!!!" someone would scream, over and OVER again.
Yup, it was the kind of fishing you dream of. Unending variety, consistency, and carnage. Back and forth we wandered between San Benedicto and Socorro, lost in our ravenous feast of enjoyment. Slaves to our wanderlust. Finding new glory in every drift, new adventure around every bend.
Eventually we stumbled upon a pinnacle on the northern ridge that produced our most significant tunas. With no sharks to nip at them, these fish would charge the boat with a savage fury. Time and time again nailing baits as they hit the water off the transom, screams from the crew as whitewater flew.
Dan and Dave Bedell, two of my longtime clients and friends who got the golden invite to join us on this trip, traded 150# tunas like punches. Steve D and Matt running frantic circles around the boat as monsters had their way with them. For hours on end we enjoyed crushing madness where every bait, jig, or popper in the water would meet with a bitter and messy end. Steve D was on fire with the iron, nailing 100 plus pounders on every drop. Four and five fish on at all times, Gerald, Tony, and Ben wrapping and unwrapping, re-tying gear, release after release at the corners, somebody - ANYBODY!!!! GET ME A BEER!!!!!
Biblical, epic, madness from beginning till end. On one particular stop the real bad boys crashed us, Steve, Dave, and Dan all hooking up real ones. Steve and Dave ended up pulling the hooks but Dan held on for another solid hour, finally leading 250#'s of fury towards the gaffs.
It finally got to the point where we just took the hooks off. Cramping, hyperventilating, exhausted.
A week at these islands gives meaning to gluttony. A deeper understanding of the definition of awe.
For Steve, especially, this was the trip of a lifetime. It's been a long, long journey to get to this place, but all of the heartache has certainly paid off. The Salty, the crew, the exotic, unparalleled locations. This one put a smile on our faces that may prove impossible to wipe off.
With too many incredible moments to remember, and a trail of broken and dwindling tackle in our wake, i spun the bow of the Salty towards Cabo. Eventually crossing the Jaime where another blue marlin crashed the same purple moldcraft. A fitting end to a remarkable beginning, i thought, 400#'s of blue marlin dragging Dan all about.
If it gets any better than this....
Ben and Gerald score the release for Dan as i push the throttles up one last time, running towards Cabo, the Salty literally leaping towards shore. There's no better feeling as a captain, to have pushed the limits, overcome the hurdles, returning home safely, having conquered the fish. To hell with those painkillers, those candy colored pills can't hold a candle to this.
Thanks to Steve D, Matt, Gerald, Tony, the Bedell boys, and Ben. To the Salty for getting us there and back safely, and the fish gods for blessing us yet again.
So we begin a new chapter amigos. God only knows what we'll be up to next.