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Bite Me!

April 6, 2012

Three days on the hook at Kealakekua Bay, where Captain Cook was killed in 1789, and now am nestled back amongst the Sport Fishing fleet in Honokohau Harbor. Here the water is clear if the sky is not and the docking fee is but $6 a day.

My wife arrives this evening by plane from New York via San Francisco and Los Angeles, and though she will not be staying with us, I’m deep-cleaning Murre as if she were. Mold has grown on the ceiling during the rainy months in Kauai. And dust continues to exploit its evolutionary niche no matter how predatory is the ships’s broom. Murre may or may not be cleaner after my work, but her heavy odor of Pin-Sol gives evidence to effort.

A sign on a nearby boat defines this place: “Kona is a drinking village with a fishing problem.”

The fleet departs daily before I wake and returns in the early afternoon to its own cleaning ritual of first the prizes, ahi, mahimahi, wahoo, and then the boats. A quiet day on the dock always ends with a party, regardless of the catch.

But today is different. Today one of the Bite Me charter boats landed a 465 pound Marlin.

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The Bite Me operation is impressive. A small fleet of charter boats in harbor, its own restaurant with its own dock and, conveniently, its own fish hoist.

“The first 50 pounds of catch goes to the customer,” says a less successful captain, a beer in one hand, a hose in the other on a boat now smelling strongly of bleach, “the rest goes to the restaurant.”

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“I hooked a fish as big as that last week,” he continues. “We fought him for an hour and a half and he flipped the hook right here,” and he points the the boat’s stern.

“How old do you think that fish is?” I ask the skipper.

It seems a natural enough inquiry.

“I dunno,” he replies, “never raised one.” He laughs by way of suggesting that was the dumbest question he’d ever heard, and then gets to the nub of the matter. “Sure taste good though.”

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Fishing boats in harbor outnumber sailboats twenty to one, and the only other active cruising boat here is directly ahead of Murre. She is Tao, Chris and Shawn aboard. From Oakland by way of Mexico and soon headed to New Zealand via the Cooks, Tonga, Samoa, and Fiji.

We joke that we have the state of Hawaii to ourselves. Cruisers who arrive here often depart as soon as possible, having seen but one island and its one marina. Admittedly island hopping in Hawaii presents unique challenges (see last post), anchorages are often exposed and rough, and official rules are not cruiser friendly (though the officials themselves are sweet as pie after a time). But rugged beauty there is in abundance, and we marvel at the islands’ bad reputation. Which is not to say we are disappointed. More catch for us.

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