Lessons learned and an Island Cup regained

Billy Pollack of the Nantucket Anglers Club holds a small striped bass he caught during the Island Cup competition. — File photo by John Piekos

Every fishing season, I learn something new, or relearn old lessons. This season has been no exception.

Last Friday, I hurriedly launched my boat and parked my car and trailer. When I returned to the boat, I saw it had water in it. I know that boats are designed to keep the water out. I recognized immediately that things were not developing as they should. I relearned an important lesson — check that I’ve replaced the drain plugs in the transom before launching.

Charter captain Phil Cronin was on the dock. “I do something like that once every season,” Phil said.

I have also learned that it can pay to be a good Samaritan.

I own an 18-foot Tashmoo. It is a center-console fiberglass boat built to mimic the design and qualities of the traditional Jonesport lobster boats built in Maine. It is powered by a 30-horsepower Evinrude engine that pushes it quite nicely.

I have done little to the boat, built on Martha’s Vineyard, in the 16 years I owned it. The engine has been under the care of boat mechanic Don Edgar and has given good, steady service. My major investment was to purchase a new trailer a few years ago, after the original deteriorated.

Although I own a boat, I like to fish from shore. This preference for terra firma invites comments from my wife each spring about my use — really, lack of use — of my boat.

My view is that just because I own a machine does not mean I have to use the machine. My lawn mower, for example, fits into that category. My wife would say the dishwasher, vacuum, and washing machine do as well.

This season I decided to make a concerted effort to use my boat more often. I made my first voyage on a Friday three weeks ago.

I was fishing for fluke off Robinsons Hole between Naushon and Pasque, waiting for the tide to run. The fishing was very slow. Bored, I monitored the marine radio.

A call came over the channel used to contact the Chilmark harbormaster. The man said he was in an Eastern center console, and he had run out of gas about a mile out of Menemsha. Could someone bring him some gas?

In keeping with standard practice the answer was no. Boat-US, a sort of boat AAA, was monitoring from Falmouth and said they could deliver gas.

I picked up the radio and said I was nearby and had a small can of gas. I said I would be happy to help. Boat-US went on standby.

Normally I would not have chimed in because the truth is I am not much of a boater. I do not even have the radio lingo down. I blame my willingness to get involved on the popular reality crab-fishing show, Deadliest Catch.

The night before, I had watched an episode where a fishing boat was in trouble. Other fishermen responded — it is the code of fishing in the Bering Sea, they said. I pondered the many reasons I would never go crab fishing on the Bering Sea. But how could I not help another boater in distress?

Trying to sound like I knew what I was doing, I hit the talk key on my radio: “Vessel out of gas, vessel out of gas, this is the Tashmoo (the best I could do for a name on short notice). I am off Robinsons Hole, probably not too far from you. I have a can of gas I can bring you.”

I imagined a small center console. I thought it would be close. I was wrong. The boat was closer to Cuttyhunk, and I did not immediately spot it.

When I did find the boat it was roughly a 28-footer and powered by two 225-horsepower four-stroke engines that likely weighed more than I and my boat do, combined. There were four guys onboard.

I handed over my little one-gallon gas jug. The guys got the engine started, and I said I would keep an eye on them as they made their way to Menemsha. As we putted along the Falmouth AAA guy arrived with a five-gallon jug. Like the Lone Ranger, I decided I was no longer needed and left.

I went into Menemsha Harbor. The boaters I had assisted also arrived to gas up. One of the men came over and thanked me. He handed me a rolled up bill.

I said it wasn’t necessary (the code and all). No, he insisted, it was for my gas. Later, pulling out of the harbor and a polite distance away, I pulled out the rolled up bills and realized he had given me $45 for my one gallon of gas.

I had done a good deed and made about $43. Nice, but in the future I think I will leave gas delivery to the professionals.

Island champs

It may not get the attention devoted to the world cup, a competitive event that I place just above ice skating, but at least the “Island Cup” takes place without those blasted horns.

The annual surf fishing competition between the Martha’s Vineyard Surfcasters Association (MVSA) and the Nantucket anglers club (NAC) was held the weekend of June 19 on the Island. The clubs alternate hosting the event and the participating fishermen.

Each participant plays host to a member of the visiting team, which involves housing and surf-fishing with that person. In an email, Jim Fraser of Oak Bluffs said the unique format lends itself to a lot of fun and allows participating fishermen to meet new fishing buddies from our neighboring island.

Each participant keeps track of the other’s largest bass and bluefish and at the end of the event there is a little gathering and closing ceremony at a local pub where the totals are computed and a winner announced.

After a two-year losing streak, Jim said the MVSA redeemed itself with a solid win to take back the Island Cup. Jim said he bears some responsibility for the loss last year. His sense of sportsmanship got the better of him.

“Personally, I am glad we won this year because for the past year I have been receiving a lot of grief from the MVSA members about how I lost the cup last year for our team while fishing on Nantucket,” he wrote. “My partner’s bluefish was escaping into the surf and I jumped in the suds and pulled out the fish and tossed it on the beach for him. This fish just happened to be enough to put the Nantucket team over the top for the win last year.”

I hear the French team was booted from the world cup early and has some time. Maybe they could learn a thing or two from the surfcasters about sportsmanship and teamwork.

Junk boat

Phil Cronin found this hulk tied at the end of the Lagoon launch ramp dock. Phil moved it to the inside, out of the way. My guess is that this boat does not belong to a summer visitor from West Chop who decided to dispose of it in a very inconsiderate way.

Environmental Police sergeant Matt Bass and Tisbury harbor master Jay Wilbur are working on tracking down the owners of junk boats and trailers. Anyone with information is encouraged to contact Sergeant Bass at 1-508-726-5208.

Speaking of considerate, two couples were very busy scrubbing and washing down a boat tied up on the inside of the dock Saturday afternoon. Why they chose a busy public dock on a Saturday to do something better done elsewhere is a mystery.