One of the oldest superstitions at sea is that a woman on board will bring bad luck. She will anger the Gods of the Sea. She’s a bad omen. The men will be prone to distraction with a woman on board.
Well, get me a whiskey and call me Hemingway, boys!
“To hell with luck. I’ll bring luck with me.” — Ernest Hemingway, Old Man and the Sea.
Who am I kidding? Can I really do this?
Sailfish are a highly prized game fish. They have been clocked as the world’s fastest swimming fish. They reach a length far longer than my 5 foot 9 inch body. Their weight is all muscle. They will fight you for their life. This is a man’s game.
We had one hour left in the waters off the coast of Florida before it was time to head in and pack it up for Kansas City.
Then we got a bite. Brett was called over to figure out what was pulling our bait.
Aw, it’s a shark.
Julie, do you want to reel in the shark?
Yeah, I’ll do it.
I stumbled to the bow of the boat where Brett was standing with the rod.
Ok, here you go. Let him take your line. Do NOT reel if he’s taking your line. Let him keep going. When it stops, reel. Fast. Pull up and reel fast down.
Ok, got it.
The shark was taking my line. I kept my eyes down at my hands, waiting for the line to stop feeding out into the ocean. Brett and Josh stood watching by my side. Scott was getting cameras ready while watching our other baits. Rob took control of the boat.
SAIL!! IT’S A SAIL!! SCOTT, SHE HAS A SAIL!! WOOOOOOO!!!
Wait, what? Brett! What’s going on?
I swore it was a shark. It was brown. He must have been chasing the sail.
Rob ran up to me.
Julie, look up. See him way out there? Look at him fightin’ you, girl!!
I looked up and squinted at the ocean. I saw a sailfish splashing out in the distance. He leaped and wiggled his body in and out of the surface of the water. His black sail stood straight up and sparkled silver in the sun. His razor sharp nose pointed to the sky before falling back down underwater.
REEL. NOW. FAST.
Ok. Ok, got it.
I started to reel. I pushed the rod into my abs to keep me balanced. I felt the weight of the sailfish pulling against me. Rob left my side then returned behind me to slide a fighting belt around my waist. It provided some comfort on my abs but the rest of my body was starting to feel pain. The pull of the sailfish never let up.
Brett stood next to me. The boat started to hit big waves. My stomach fell as the bow headed straight down into each wave. Water splashed at me as the bow went back up. I tasted salt. My arms were on fire spinning the reel over and over. My legs were strained, trying to keep me balanced while we rode each pounding wave. It was the ultimate physical test – to fight and survive.
JULIE! Keep the line tight! NO SLACK! Lean your legs up against the boat. That better? Keep the line straight with him and DO NOT LET IT SLACK.
Brett. I don’t know if I can do this. I’m tired.
Scott ran to me with a video camera in hand.
Yes, you can! You’re strong! Rob is driving the boat towards him. FIGHT! Use your guns you worked hard for at the gym! Come on, Bug! You’re gaining on him! You’re getting your sailfish!
Here. Scott, take the reel.
There’s color! Brett! He’s right here!
Brett ran to the side of the boat, under my line.
When I say back up, start backing up.
Like, physically walk behind you?
Yes, walk back! Ok, now! Back! Back! There’s slack! REEL, JULIE. REEL!
Scott held the camera down at the side of the boat. Brett reached down to bring up the sailfish.
Scott, what’s going on?
He choked on the bait. Brett pulled the bait and he coughed up blood and swam away. He wasn’t even hooked! You got so lucky!
WHAT?! I want to see him!
It’s ok. It’s considered a catch for the boat if the sail gets to the leader of your line. Sailfish get released anyway. You got him, Bug!! You got your first sail!!
I didn’t know whether to cry or laugh. I did it. A sailfish fought for its life against all the strength I have. And I won. I stumbled towards the stern of the boat. Josh gave me a high five. Rob grabbed me and gave me a hug.
You got your first sail on the Loose Cannon! How do you feel?
I can’t stop shaking. Oh Rob. I’m hurting bad.
Scott and Brett walked back to me and gave me hugs.
Look at my fisherwoman! Got herself a sail! That’s not an easy thing to do. You fought him hard for 20 minutes! Congrats, Bug!
Let’s get her whiskey!
They know me too well.