Thursday, January 3, 2008

Northern Islands

Before I proceed on, I would like to say HAPPY NEW YEAR and may 2008 lead us into a more suitable life-style.

It was on a Father's Day weekend (about 6 years ago) when I first went with my cousins Pete & Joe on board Pete's boat to Farallon De Medinilla. My youngest sister was running for the July 4th Queen and we had erected a fundraising booth near the Civic Center basket court. I was almost always present during its operation as I was counted on by family members to keep peace at the area. Come Friday before Father's Day weekend, my brothers and I were enjoying at the booth but come closing time, Joe came (basically) dragging me off our table-telling me we were to get ready for a fishing trip north with Pete.

With my head still pounding from our previous drinking session, I told my wife to drop me off at Pete's house where we were to meet prior to our departure. Upon arrival at around 2:00 a.m., I found Joe but Pete was nowhere around until I learned later that he was still keeping warm and cozy in the warmth of his bedroom. "It pays to be a Captain".

We finally lounged the boat around 4:30 a.m. out of the Marina but prior to that, Pete had managed to stop by Winchell's in Garapan where we bought a dozen donuts and each with a large cup of clam chowder soup-I had two.

The ride up north was smooth (the water was somewhat paved north by the good employees of the Department of Public Works) and I was already working on my second cup of clam chowder. Around 8:30 or 9:00 that morning, Pete brought the boat to a stop and informed us to prepare to "drop". I go " crazy...drop in this bottomless water" Pete chuckled, Joe started laughing "brod, get ready to drop our lines".

In the distance we can already see Farallon De Medinilla or Mendeniza as we all call it but still seems a speck over the horizon. I looked towards Pete's direction in the open cabin and saw him working the G.P.S. and depth finder. He's our Captain and so we obey what he tells us. "Drop" and so we did and as soon as the sinker hits home, our reels started vibrating that by the time we reeled them back up, "flores, flores" they were filled with bottom fish, Paka Paka, Gindai, Mafutti and other species that I've forgotten their names but they were still delicious fish to fry in the pan or "lechi'n niyok" (that's soup in coconut milk for the non-Carolingual).

While fishing this spot, we'd see a bunch of birds flying in groups (schools) in every direction. Joe goes "Pete, there's school everywhere. Aren't we going after them". Pete only responded "we didn't come for tuna, we came for the bottom fish" and so we continued until about 4:00 that afternoon when we started heading towards Mendeniza. On our way in Pete told us to let our trolling lines out to catch "2 pieces" tuna for dinner. We did and I got carried away because the school of tuna we were in had come up to the surface right next to the boat while it was still running. With Pete at the wheel, me on the line (on the fourth of fifth tuna), Joe was on the video camera taking a few short shots of what was occurring at the time. Just then the boat was on full throttle or so I thought. The lure at the end of my line was like someone skiing behind us when I shouted towards our Captain "SLOW DOWN" only to be shouted back at "I SAID ONLY 2"

We moored next to the island admiring what damage the military had done during their strafing exercises. They had what appeared to be 40 feet cargo containers on the rocks ridge and broken vehicles lining up towards these containers. These are what I think they use as their "fly by" targets. The native birds are still around-only their population has somewhat lessen by the numerous military activities scheduled now and then.

Anyhow, we anchored, fried some of our bottom catch, sashimi the tuna and out came the rice and beer. The rice was half touched as all our prepared fish for dinner was almost gone as chaser. From time to time, we'd hear something hit the side of our boat and were wondering what it could be. Pete came out with a spot light and as he shines it down the side of the boat, baby sharks were all around. They're either blind and dumb for hitting the side of the boat or they were mischievous ones trying to scare us.

Come first light in the morning, Joe and I were pulling up our anchor but it was wedged between an opening on the sea floor. It can be seen clearly from the boat but I was not about to volunteer a dive for it. "Can you open the back compartment and see if you can find the mask and fins in there" Joe looked, found them and was told by Pete "go and release the anchor", "failaar olomwoo, nge pael kewe". That just saved us from diving. Pete chuckled, got the mask and fins and off he goes freeing us from our situation.

We did a little trolling from the west side of the island heading north, came around the back and moved further east-away from land. We downed our lines again, caught more bottom fish which was now filling up our fourth or fifth 100 or so pounds coolers. Around noon, Mr. Ben Sablan's boat "The Proa" passed by us with their loud local music playing on board. There were plenty passengers on board as we could clearly observe them having a hell of a time with their can of beers waving our direction. Their boat turned towards the direction of Anatahan and disappeared from sight.

Around 2:00 p.m. Pete directed Joe and I to secure our full coolers. We headed back home and upon arrival at Pete's house, vehicles were lined up along the road and parking area. Almost every fish caught on this trip was gone as customers bought by the bulk. Joe & I cleaned the boat, secured our equipment and end up with 10 pounds each of bottom fish plus $200 pocket money given to us by Pete.

All in all, our fishing trip was so much a success that I would trade a drinking session for another.


I've recently gone on three different fishing trips on board the BLUE MARLIN I with 8 other crew members. The trip north is a bid slower than my first with Pete and Joe but still worth it. Several fishing spots have been marked on the G.P.S. equipped on the BLUE MARLIN I. The Fish Master ("Ay Baybay" Joe Manalo) decided on going to one marked "#4" which is further north and almost directly east of Sariguan. The catch there is good but not the big swells we get there.

We moved to #7 and caught big size Sass (don't ask me what its called in English). We moved to #10 and up comes Skip Jacks or "Skebbe Jacks" as we call them and large size mafutti (which are known as "Mafu-three" if you catch 3, Mafu-four if there's 4 and so on but when ones entire line is "flores", it is referred to as "Mafu-force 'that one I like".

I wouldn't say we are all experience deck hands but for the sake of it, the older or original members of this fishing boat are well assigned task. Felix is the boat's cook. He has a stash of can goods, a couple dozens fresh eggs (which are not layed on the ship but rather bought in stores) Ramen, "ingrediments" and vegetables. He cooks breakfast which will last until it's all gone. If he over estimates measurement for consumption, what you have for breakfast, you'll have it again for lunch and if he cooks lunch with plenty left-over, you have the same for dinner.

One evening he made a whole pot of fried rice (that can feed a dozen mouths) for dinner. The problem was, not everyone wanted fried rice for "dindin". Come the next morning, Felix went off with John (our Chief Engineer) on the smaller boat to try trolling before the sun comes up. I decided to cook breakfast and took initiative in doing so. Looked into his stash and found cans of spam, the eggs and other can goods. The pot of rice from dinner was still more than half full.

I first heated up water for coffee and invited everyone to a cup while I decided to scrounge for that particular mornings menu. I had my kompairi'n Ton crack the eggs while I started slicing up the spam for frying. First came the sauteing of the onions, poured the whole 2 dozen eggs into the pot and presto, instant scrambled eggs. Then came the thick slices of spam. Fried them too and was done. Someone ask for rice and I offered the pot more than half full from previous night. We ate, had coffee and told stories from previous day while we wait for Felix and John to return. They finally came, ate and had no time to tell stories but back to the days business but by the time they finished their breakfast, Felix complimented on whoever had cooked as all the prepared food that morning was good and gone with everyone on a full stomach.

By the 3rd day of this trip, all coolers on board were full and so the Fish Master rested while we (Henry, John, kompairi and I) celebrated in the back drinking Soju.


Felix's turn came to cook breakfast one morning. He cracks the eggs (scramble style), diced the spam and saute the onions prior to dropping in the dice spam. Everyone in the back of the ship (where Felix's kitchen is located) sipping coffee and waiting for breakfast. While waiting, we watch the diligent cook prepare his stuff. The spam had been sizzling with the onion in the pot for a few minutes but once Felix started pouring the egg in and like an innocent little boys voice came "I don't wanna eat egg with SPAM" from kompairi. "Why didn't you say that before I poured the egg in" and everyone breaks out laughing.

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