Thursday, April 21, 2011

Catch of the day

     This week my friend Rich arrived, he’s crewed on Si Bon before and he managed to break the losing fishing streak this boat has been on since leaving San Diego months ago. Since he’s done a lot of sport fishing he pretty much had to catch fish or lose face. When he hooked his first fish, I climbed onto the swim step to kill it. When I sailed to the South Pacific many years ago, and actually caught some fish, I was taught a humane way to kill them from my friend Ann. Alcohol is extremely poisonous to fish. Pouring any hard liquor (over 80 proof) on their gills will kill a fish in less than 30 seconds, any size fish. It takes a shot on the gills on each side of the fish, less for the smaller ones, so no thrashing around, no violence, no blood spraying all over the boat. I used to keep 100 proof vodka in a soap bottle to make the application easier. Real fishermen usually don’t believe this works until they see it happen. I flooded the Trigger fish’s gills with tequila and it calmly expired, much easier than the time honored tradition of beating them over the head with a winch handle. Trigger fish are good to eat, but have tough leathery skin that even a very sharp knife won’t penetrate so I started cutting through it with scissors, pulled its guts out and fed them to the seagulls. Rich had mentioned a few days before that I’m not a typical woman and I honestly (maybe dumbly) wondered what the hell he meant, until Sharon, the Captain’s girlfriend dashed below in a tizzy and wouldn’t come back on deck until the fish was dead, filleted and wrapped in plastic just like the ones in the grocery store. It was then I realized I’ll probably always be considered just one of the guys. Self-sufficiency gives me the confidence to survive anywhere, so it wasn’t an unpleasant thought.
     When I was ten I begged my parents for a microscope and dissecting kit. While my sister was taking ballet lessons, I was busy exploring the inner workings of dead frogs. I took engine repair and radio building in summer school. My sister paid attention to style and dressed well, she could walk down any street and turn men’s heads. I learned to fix their cars. I don’t think she’s ever cleaned a fish. It’s not that I envy women with the power to swivel heads, it’s just that the finer points of femininity have simply eluded my grasp. I gave up worrying about it a long time ago, but I still have a mild appreciation for women who swoon while dinner is killed and gutted simply because they seem to have something I don’t. I remember the look on a group of Mexican fisherman’s faces a month back on a beach as I picked through a pile of fish guts where they were cleaning their catch for the day. I didn’t have enough Spanish to ask questions, but I really wanted to know how they cut up different types of fish. That’s how I knew what to do with the trigger fish. But I’d bet money as those guys watched me turning over the carcasses of large dead fish, not one of them thought about asking me out.
      The following is the cover of the soon to be published telephone book for American Samoa. The painting is of Michael Talitiga Isaako, a talented Samoan fire knife dancer who I used to know. Please write to me at if you are interested in purchasing a gicleé print on canvas of this painting. I cannot recommend the McDonald’s in Tafuna though; they gave me such violent food poisoning that I ended up in the hospital.  

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