The first time Windswept Charters took us fishing out of East Dennisport, Mass., on the Cape Cod Bay, we had a blast.
The owners, Bob and Deena Tolley, were doing me a favor so I could try out Discover Boating’s Movie Maker app and write about it for the Soundings Dispatches e-newsletter.
It was a lot of fun, even if we did get skunked. I loved hearing the fishermen talk on the radios about where they were having luck (apparently nobody was that morning) learning why Bob loved Parker boats and how he wanted to upgrade his 225-hp Yamaha outboard. I learned about hoochies, Sluggos and sea worms.
But on this trip, designed to make sure we caught some fish, I got to recall a crucial part of my childhood.
Click play for a look at the day through the Discover Boating MovieMaker app.
Reeling this guy in brought me straight back to standing at pond’s edge with bare muddy toes, pulling in a catfish, or on my dad’s little aluminum bass boat before he sold it. My dad was career Army and we moved a lot, which made keeping the boat too hard. I loved getting up early, packing sandwiches in a brown paper bag and going out with Dad on quiet misty mornings. I was sadder about that boat than any friend I left behind.
But even after he sold the bass boat, we still got up early, packed sandwiches and fished from shore. My grandfather also took us fishing. I think I enjoyed fishing more than my big brother. (I was always one to defy what little girls were “supposed” to enjoy doing.) My dad or granddad would gut and clean the catfish, and mom or grandmother would use cornmeal breading before frying them and serving them with hush puppies and sliced vidalia onion. When I was around 9, my granddad had me come watch him clean it, in part to teach me how, but also as an effort to show a kid who only knew meat came from grocery stores that an actual animal gave its life for our nourishment.
I’d forgotten what it was like to hook a fish and slowly reel it in. It all came back to me: “Keep the line taut, but relax a little if it starts fighting. If the line gets slack, reel faster.” The weight of the fish put an arch in the rod and was wonderfully exhilarating. How had I forgotten this?
My husband, Dave, and I reeled ours in at about the same time; they were our only hits of the morning. As a guy who grew up in the Catskills of Hudson, N.Y., Dave had only pulled little trout out of streams as a kid. This was his first big fish.
The next day, Dave’s Uncle Peter (a career boater who works for the Connecticut Coast Guard) rented a 16-foot Whaler for us to take back out into Cape Cod Bay. This was more like how I’d grown up fishing — a little boat, a few rods that we actually had to hold onto, some squid (less smelly than the stink bait my dad favored when we went freshwater bass fishing) and sandwiches packed in a paper bag.
I watched the radar on my Weather Channel app since a storm was approaching. We kept close to Wellfleet Harbor just in case, but it looked as if the storm would break up before reaching us. Scads of harbor seals surrounded the boat and checked us out, to my daughter Iliana’s delight, but to my son Ewan’s chagrin — they were a bit too close for his comfort. We had one strike before lightning flashed, and thunder cracked a beat later. That was my first time outrunning lightning on a boat, and even Peter, who has spent his life on the water, said it was way too close for comfort.
We returned the boat and drove back to the cabin when sunny, blue skies reappeared. So we took the Whaler out for more fishing. The wind had picked up, and the chop left Ewan and I drenched. Luckily, the bay was warmer than the air.
I kept my eye trained for birds, but not a single one hit the water. Some crabs snatched the squid from our hooks.
Fortunately, we still had plenty of striper in the fridge.
It took me until this week to make my movie because I was getting ready for our annual weekend-before-school-starts camping trip. This one took even longer to prepare for; Dave wound up getting sick, so I took the kids and German Shepherd on the three-day camping trip myself. I might even use the Movie Maker app for that.
— Reagan Haynes