“…His sword was as long as a baseball bat and tapered like a rapier and he rose his full length from the water and re-entered it, smoothly, like a diver and the old man saw the great scythe-blade of his tail go under and the line commenced to race out.”
“He is two feet longer than the skiff,” the old man said…
from “The Old Man and the Sea” by Ernest Hemingway
Santiago, the old fisherman in Ernest Hemingway’s classic novella, often fished alone offshore from his 16 foot skiff. While he is a fictional character, Hemingway based Santiago on real Cuban dory fishermen. Hemingway combined his knowledge of their methods with his vast knowledge and experience of offshore fishing to weave a compelling tale.
“The Old Man and the Sea” is really quite a remarkable work, and the scenes he describes capture the nuances and images that are burned into every offshore fisherman’s memory. If you have not read it, you owe it to yourself to pick up a copy.
After reading the story for about the 10th time last month, we were struck by the matter-of-fact way that Santiago dealt with being alone offshore. We were reminded that in many areas of the world, fishermen go to sea and capture some pretty amazing fish in boats that we might not take out onto a large lake. Many times they fish alone. These fishermen understand that for the most part, whether or not you come back from a trip is determined not by courage or equipment, but by preparation, respect for the ocean, understanding the environment and keeping a level head.
Solo offshore fishing doesn’t fall in the same category of risk as solo ice-climbing – not by a long shot. But it is not without risk. Fishing alone means that a lot of situations which might be serious when a second person is on board can become grave or life-threatening when you are by yourself.
And of course, offshore fishing in general is more easily done when there are two or more people on board. Whether it’s setting out the trolling lines, driving the boat while fighting a fish, or landing a big fish, having another one or two sets of hands is a definite advantage.
This series of posts covers a number of these points – ones that we think are particularly worth thinking about. It’s by no means a complete list, and we don’t claim to know everything there is to know about this subject, but we’ve tried to hit what we think are the most important issues.
You probably won’t be surprised to learn that there’s not a lot of content available on fishing solo offshore, although over the last 10 years, the amount of data has increased significantly. What I have discovered over time is that the number of solo offshore fishermen is actually larger than one might think, but no one who does it regularly makes a big deal out of it.
Our brothers “Down Under” have been leading the way, with a number of sources available in Australian/New Zealander print media, forums or websites. Peter Pakula’s website has a great article, BlueWater Boats and Sportfishing magazine covers this on a regular basis, and there are forums such as the Solo Offshore forum in sydneyanglers.com.au. On the US side, there has been a general lack of interest, other than when kayak fishing, and Sport Fishing magazine ran an article titled “Blue Water Solo” in their December 2001 issue, but other than that, we haven’t seen much.
By the way, we have one rule of thumb that we always try to follow: If we have the smallest amount of doubt about our trip, WE DON’T GO. Sometimes it’s just a feeling on a particular trip, sometimes it’s the weather, but whatever the cause, if we don’t feel fully comfortable with the trip, we go to “Plan B”, and make the most of it.
Still interested? Then keep an eye out for Part II – Safety Issues