The Finnorn ‘Not’ Top Ten

If you believe that you’ve never done anything stupid aboard a boat, you’re in denial. That being said, after compiling this list, I think we may have overachieved on our boat. Mix sleepiness, unpredictable wave motions, an old boat, and a few Finnorn boys with questionable equilibriums, you are bound to have some pretty memorable moments. (Share some of your moments in the comment section below)

Here is my comprehensive list of the Finnorn ‘Not’ Top Ten:

10. How to Build an Artificial Reef

I know we definitely aren’t alone in this category. It’s proof that everyone needs a checklist for their boat. We always had one. An edition we made early on: put the plug in. Why? Well, let’s just say we may have been too excited to get into the water without double checking.

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9. Melted Rubber

When I was around the age of 9 or 10, my father’s best friend, Mr. Joe, invited us on a fishing trip. He was visiting Orange Beach and had rented a boat. He and my father had grown up together in Mobile, and were always fishing buddies. Chances like this reunion were few and far between.

After a day of catching an entire hull full of bluefish and Spanish (keep in mind we grew up pier fishing), we needed to refuel. We pulled the boat up to the nearest dock for some much needed gasoline. When you’re not used to being on a vessel of your own, you try to act as chill as possible. Pretend you’ve done it before.

Yes. That’s right ladies. We caught over 50 of these grey-meated beauties covering the hull of the boat (looking back I don’t know why we didn’t have an ice chest).

I hung in the back of the Boston Whaler, while Mr. Joe pumped gas on the side of the boat. Mr. Joe had skillfully position himself with his back to the meter. Without a gas gauge, he had to stop it when he estimated the tank was full. But how big was the tank? No one knew.

Then, without warning, gasoline began to pee out of the side of the boat. In his distraction, Mr. Joe turned to observe the source of the tinkling and check the meter. And in this moment of curiosity, he lifted his hand and, along with it, the gas nozzle. In one fatal swoop, I was showered with a half a gallon of gasoline. Restaurant goers on the deck above were thoroughly entertained. In disbelief, I looked down and gas was already working it’s magic on my rubber sandals. They began to erode away, leaving black foot prints on my way to jump into the water.


8. The Hull Truth

Oh, I’m sorry. Did you think I was done with gasoline stories? Let’s fast forward to the 2000s. We had taken our new ’73 Chaparral 19 on a few fishing trips. We knew the drill by that point: lock the hitch, strap on the chains, put in the plug, load the safety gear. Every fill up required the right amount of oil mixed with gas, and you had to get it right with a two stroke engine.

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At 4 am, everyone is in at their peak state of alertness. It’s true. Our boat had every detail crafted with this in mind. In this state-of-the-art vessel, they made rod holders endless holes, perfectly mimicking the neighboring gas hole.

My dad was always very careful to watch the meter. At certain intervals he like to make sure he added oil to give it a chance to mix. But, something was different this morning. Five gallons into pumping, the gas station started smelling like an oil refinery. That’s right. We pumped five gallons into the bare hull of the boat.

(Two years ago I actually witnessed a 36 foot boat pump $600 worth into the wrong hole, which makes me feel better)

 


7. Let in the Breeze

If you’ve fished with the Finnorns, you might not have noticed the subtle ritual we practice when backing down the boat into a launch. The driver side window is always down. That’s because at 5 am on a Saturday morning, the prime time for fishing, we managed to lock ourselves out of the running truck. And of course, the boat was on the trailer, backed all the way into the water. At an extremely busy dock, where people can’t wait to get out on the water, we didn’t make many friends that day.wp-1486228508562.jpg


6. Offshore surgery

The worst thing you can do is injure yourself when miles from help and no land in sight. With large king mackerel hooks flying the air, waves rolling the boat side to side, and gaffs at your disposal in what is essentially a floating bath tub, the odds are low you could get hurt.

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My father was baiting a hardtail on one of the sharpest hooks we own. The hook had to be big to accommodate the feisty, strong bait-fish. As an added bonus, they came with a trailing hook just in case the fish misses the first. Hardtails are not very cooperative. As you might have guessed, this process led to a hook in the hand. But, it was perfectly OK. It didn’t go into his hand far enough to insert he barb. That would be painful and very difficult to remove.

As the hardtail fell to the floor, it snagged the trailing hook. The weight of the fish drove the point deeper into his hand well past the barb. Hardtails also have a habit of vibrating their tails very fast. Imagine connecting a jack hammer onto the end of the line to add some wiggle to the jammed hook.


5. One Month Later

Hook piercing number two. From then on he was extra careful around hooks. Good thing he got a tetanus shot the month before in preparation.


4. Within a few months

Hook number three. Same person, same place. At this point, I had completed my Trauma Surgery rotation before even setting foot into medical school. Three times in one summer. I can’t make this stuff up. There’s a reason why we keep wire cutters in the tackle box.


3. The Fish of a Lifetime

Along the coastline of Fort Morgan, Alabama lies a famous sand bar named Dixie Bar. Dixie Bar is an underwater sand structure that extends a mile offshore to Sand Island Lighthouse. A fifty foot channel lies adjacent to the shallow water. This drop off serves as a  mecca for fisherman looking for giant bull redfish. It is a common sight to observe dozens of boats riding the outgoing tide, dragging bait across the bottom over hungry drum.

We occasionally stop at the end of a fishing trip to try our luck out over the Bar. One such evening, we rigged a few rods and decided to surf the tide. It was a relatively busy day. Boats were in every direction. No one was hooking fish. If they were, it was either a hardhead catfish or the occasional shark, common annoyances in the area.

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I am always first to react to a rod going down. On the first drift, the live croaker was slammed. The drag peeled off the line rapidly as I set the hook. I knew that the hook wasn’t going to come loose, it had definitely found its mark. All the surrounding anglers looked at us with envy, and immediately tried to position themselves ahead of our drift.

For half an hour, I fought the beast, trying to convince myself it wasn’t a massive shark. But the fish was just dead weight, resembling the lazy strength of a big bull shark. Every time I gained ground, the fish would take away twice as much line. We chased him persistently with the boat as I hung on for dear life at the bow.

“Guys, you might want to see this,” my brother proclaimed.

I slowly backed down the boat and we gathered around the GPS. The GPS tracks every movement of the boat. The tracks went on like tangled line over the screen, but they looked oddly similar to flower peddles. They appeared to intersect at a central mark in the middle of the tangled mess.

I held tightly as we drove to the crossroads on the screen. It quickly became apparent that I had been snagged onto some sort of structure on the sand bar. I was exhausted by this point. With each strain and reel, I was pulling the weight of the boat. And with each break in between, the tide took us further away from the snag, simulating a struggling fish. Rocks fight hard.


2. Mahi Madness

Competing in the Roy Martin Young Anglers Tournament on Dauphin Island is no laughing matter. It’s the biggest children’s fishing event in the country. Thousands flock to the tiny island off of the coast of Alabama in the hopes of making it big. Naturally, we took this competition seriously. We woke up at 3:45 am every year, and raced down to the island to beat everyone to our favorite spots. The fatigue and 12 hour fishing day was always worth the trouble, especially if you were rewarded with a trophy for the mantle.

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One particular year, we found ourselves on flat, mirror-like water. The conditions had never been better. We decided to make a run for it. What would be cooler than winning a deep sea category in our 19 foot ’73 Chaparral with 12 gallons of gas? Even better, we had a 6 gallon spare tank, so even Cuba was in our sights.

Twenty miles later, everything came together magically. While bottom fishing over a shipwreck, a drift line rang with the sweet, high pitched scream of a running fish. I set the hook and immediately watched blue, yellow, green flashes break the water’s surface. It was a 6 lb mahi mahi! Although small by any standard, in the kid’s tournament it had a very high chance of winning. I carefully reeled the beautiful fish to the side of the boat, but we were far from done with this fight.

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Mahi Mahi landed!

Mahi mahi have a curious personality. If they see another of their fellow schoolmates struggling, they come to check out the action. My dad convinced me to leave the fish in the water and allow my brother a chance at a possible trailing fish. Sure enough, a larger flash of gold appeared behind my fish.We tossed a live croaker in the water and the fight was on!

Two offshore trophies on the same small boat? It’s unheard of! We were beyond ecstatic. After an acrobatic fight, we netted both and laid them onto the deck. Everyone yelled and high fives were exchanged.The victory of a lifetime was lying defeated on the floor.

What do you do with a vibrantly colored trophy fish? Undoubtedly, you hold it up to show the neighboring boats. So, proudly, the captain lifted our fish for a grand display.

Splash.

The biggest fish still was extremely lively and flipped out of his hands. For the next few minutes all we heard next was the repeated phrase, “I’m so so sorry Andrew!” Luckily, we had never taken the hook out its mouth. It was as if the fish realized the consequences of getting caught. He fought even harder and longer than the first time. So, in the end, my brother fought his first, and winning, mahi mahi. Twice.


1. Too fast. Too furious.

Have you ever experienced the exhilarating feeling of the wind in your hair, traveling at high speeds over the water? It can be hard to adequately describe. One day, out of Fowl River, the entire Finnorn family, parents and children, had the ride of a lifetime.My mother and sister rarely get the opportunity for a boat ride. So when they agreed to a Sunday boat outing, we were all excited to pack all five family members into our little 19 ft yacht.

We ventured up and down the river. We watched the ospreys fly overhead and breathed in the fresh air. In the end, my dad wanted to show the girls the open bay. It was a really nice evening and a great way to end the weekend. After seeing the lighthouse and freight roll up the channel, we sped towards the Fowl River Marina, eager to get home for dinner.

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Approaching Fowl River Bridge

 

“Peter it’s a no wake zone, don’t you have to slow down?”

Dad replied, “I know it is. I can’t.”

Pandemonium. The throttle cable had broken in full throttle and we were stuck at lightning speed. With a quick U turn we returned back into the bay to avoid the danger of the river’s obstacles. We continued like this for quite some time. My sister began to chant, “We’re all going to die!” in a desperate attempt to build morale. Meanwhile, we took the cover off of the running motor, and figured out how to move the throttle lever. This was conveniently located next to the fly wheel, which spun around like a saw blade near my hand. As if he felt things improving and decided to chime in, the youngest brother, David, proceeded to projectile vomit off of the side of the boat.

In hindsight, I’m pretty sure we had a kill switch. But, regardless, we managed to survive another day.

We would love to hear your stories. Post your unforgettable tale in the comments below!

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