Tales of Fishing Virgin Seas - Zane Grey - ebook

Tales of Fishing Virgin Seas ebook

Zane Grey

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Zain Gray, the master of the discovery of America’s old West, was a passionate fisherman. He was fishing for 300 days! This collection, first published in 1925, describes its fishing adventures in exotic locations throughout the Pacific. Illustrated by more than 100 photographs from a private collection of the author. These stories give rise to the passion that Gray felt like the first man to swim so much – from the Galapagos Islands to Cabo San Lucas, and also the first to catch and document many new fish species. No story lover about Zane Gray will want to miss these real adventures.

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Liczba stron: 322

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Contents

Chapter I

Chapter II

Chapter III

Chapter IV

Chapter V

Chapter VI

Chapter VII

Chapter VIII

Chapter IX

Chapter X

Chapter XI

Chapter XII

Chapter XIII

Chapter XIV

Chapter XV

Chapter XVI

Chapter XVII

Chapter XVIII

Chapter XIX

Chapter XX

Chapter XXI

Chapter XXII

CHAPTER I

A FISHERMAN has many dreams, and from boyhood one of mine was to own a beautiful white ship with sails like wings, and to sail into lonely tropic seas.

Sometimes dreams, even those of a fisherman, come true. In August, 1924, I bought a big three-masted schooner that, of the many vessels along the south shore of Nova Scotia, appeared to be the finest, and the most wonderful bargain. She had been built near Lunenburg five years before, and was one of the stanchest ships sailing from that seafaring port. The four skippers who had been master of her were loud in praise of her seaworthiness and speed. She had to her credit a record run from New York to Halifax, and that without a cargo. She had been twice across the Atlantic. Fortunately for me she had never been used as a rum-runner, as had practically all the ships I inspected. I would not have taken a bootlegger’s vessel as a gift.

Her length was one hundred and ninety feet over all, with beam of thirty-five feet, and she drew eleven feet six inches of water. I changed the name Marshal Foch to that of Fisherman, and left my boatman, Captain Sid Boerstler, in charge to make the extensive changes we had planned. The work employed a large force of men for over three months.

Before I left Nova Scotia I selected a sailing-master for the ship, and did so perhaps without as much caution as should have been exercised. Captain Sid had the engineers come on from Avalon, and he chose the crew from the Nova Scotia herring fleet, and the first and second mates from the Gloucester swordfish schooner fishermen.

The Fisherman left Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, early in December, 1924, and soon ran into the terrific gales then raging the Atlantic. The run to Santiago, Cuba, took twelve days. The next run was to Jamaica. From here the master set a course for Colon, Panama, and on the second morning out, despite the protests of his officers, endeavored to run between some dangerous reefs and went aground. While trying to work the ship off, canoes full of half-savage natives living on the islands in that part of the Caribbean Sea came out to loot the ship. Fortunately she was backed off with apparently little damage before the negroes could board her. At that, Captain Sid said he had his rifle ready. At Colon the ship was put in dry-dock, where it turned out she had stripped her keel. I was notified by cable to discharge the master and put Captain Sid in his place. Both the first and second officers were good navigators, a circumstance Captain Sid had wisely met. They reached Balboa, the Pacific end of the Panama Canal, on January 17th, two days before I sailed from Los Angeles on the S.S. Manchuria.

We had a wonderful voyage down the coast for nine days, only one of which was rough. Often we were within sight of land. Off Magdalena Bay, Lower California, we saw twenty-four broadbill swordfish in one day. Farther down, in calm weather, we began to sight small whales, turtles, and sailfish, and large schools of small brown-and-white porpoises, notable for their singular leaping proclivities. Occasionally one would leap out and whirl sidewise with a wrestling motion, something new to me. We saw many sailfish off Acapulca, Mexico, in which vicinity the ship officers informed me they sometimes saw thousands of sharks and swordfish. I was pretty well convinced that most ship captains cannot tell the difference between these fish.

Off the coast of Panama many beautiful tropical islands, some with high peaks, charmed our eyes, after so many glaring days on the wide barren sea. We passed the cape lighthouse about dark, and entered Panama Bay. Next morning when we awoke we were docked at Balboa.

I found my ship Fisherman something to explore, and more satisfactory than I had dared hope. Here at least was objective proof of my investment, and something worth possessing. The after-cabin had been built to extend over the forward hatch, and it contained eight staterooms and saloon. Galley and crew quarters were new. Below deck there was a combination saloon and dining room, four bathrooms, a dark-room for photography, tackle room, storerooms, a large refrigerator plant, half a dozen staterooms; and back of these the engine room, which had been Captain Sid’s particular care and pride. It contained the two Fairbanks-Morse driving engines, an engine to generate electricity for the lights and fans, another for the compressed air that forced water over the ship, an emergency engine to use in case of accident to the electric generator, and automatic pumps and devices. The tanks were all built of steel, and fitted into the sides of the vessel. There were tanks for five thousand gallons of crude oil and one for cylinder oil; tanks for five thousand gallons of water and twenty-five hundred gallons of gasoline. In the forecastle was an engine to hoist sails and anchors; there were lathes, tool bench, forge, and carpenter shop.

The Fisherman carried three launches, one swung over the stern, lashed fast, the other two in cradles on the main deck between the main and mizzen masts. These were launches upon which there had been spent much thought and work. They were intended to be an improvement upon the little boat we had sent to Nova Scotia and which had proved so successful with the giant tuna. These launches were built by MacAlpine of Shelburne, after the famous Cape model so long used to battle the high tides and rough seas of the Bay of Fundy. They were thirty-two and twenty-five feet, respectively, round bottomed, long and slim, and solid as a rock. The keels had been built particularly heavy so that iron bolts holding rings would furnish means by which they could be swung up on deck of the Fisherman. Both boats had two New Jersey motors and two propellers, and various other features we had found good in different style models. This time with the California, Florida, and New Jersey features we combined several of Nova Scotia.

For catching fish and battling the monsters of tropic seas we had every kind of tackle that money could buy and ingenuity devise.

The crew and two mates had been Nova Scotia fishermen and sailors all their days. Bob King, from Florida, was again with me, and this man had no peer in the use of cast net and gill net, in finding fish of any species and catching them. Captain Sid had spent six years with me in pursuit of Marlin swordfish, tuna and broadbill. R. C., of course, was in my party, and my son Romer; also George Takahashi, my invaluable genius for all kinds of needs, and Chester Wortley, Mr. Lasky’s favorite motion-picture camera operator; and Jess R. Smith, cowboy and horse-wrangler, straight from the Arizona desert, his artist wife, her sister Mrs. Phillips Carlin, and Miss Millicent Smith from New York, Romer’s friend, Johnny Shields from Avalon, was along; and lastly Capt. Laurie Mitchell, the English sportsman and an officer in the late war.

As this cruise was the most ambitious and hazardous and the most fascinating adventure I had ever planned, it was natural that I should endeavor to get the best equipment obtainable and as carefully select my companions. At the last moment, almost, the doctor and scientist I had engaged had been compelled to give up the trip, making it necessary for me to act in this capacity.

The long plan had come to fruition; the work had been done, all difficulties met; we were on board with ship and crew ready.

“The vessel puffs her sails: There gloom the broad dark seas.”

CHAPTER II

AT eleven-thirty A.M. on the morning of January 30th, we cleared from Balboa, dropped the pilot at the end of the buoys, and were soon out upon the waters of the bay.

The sea was rippling, and the breeze was refreshing after the moist heat of the Canal Zone. At three o’clock the soft green islands sank and vanished in the sea. Next morning we were out of Panama Bay, headed southwest over the lonely lanes of the Pacific. We did not see a steamship or a sailboat. Before the sun set that night I began to appreciate the vast waste of the ocean.

Next day we had a strong breeze that ruffled up a white sea, and we went bowling along at eight knots, without the engines. “Rolled to larboard, rolled to starboard.” It took hours for me to grow accustomed to the motion of a sailing ship. How slow and stately she rose and fell, and rolled! The great tall spars with their huge sails seemed to reach to the skies. I walked the deck and sat here and there, always looking. It was a lonely sea. That night a wisp of a moon shone out of the dark blue. Later the stars appeared new or out of place for me.

On the following morning I was awakened by heavy sousing splashes outside my stateroom window. I looked out in time to see a big leathery blackfish leap out high and plunge back. Then yells from R. C. and Romer called me hurriedly on deck. A school of blackfish had accompanied the ship for hours, so the mate said. They played around and ahead of us, sometimes leaping, and riding the swells close to the ship. They were not the balloon-nosed blackfish common to Catalina waters in summer. These were longer, shinier, lighter-colored fish, with a short dorsal, instead of the long hooked one we were familiar with. They were smaller fish, and more agile, sometimes leaping fully thirty feet.

The sea grew calmer as the day advanced, until it was almost smooth. The water began to grow beautifully blue, and its temperature was eighty-five degrees. That amazed me. It was too warm to enjoy a shower-bath.

Fish were scarce. Romer and Johnny rigged up a trolling line, with a hook and white rag, and a tin can at the boat end to draw their attention should they get a strike. It soon came. They hooked a beautiful dolphin that leaped repeatedly before it was drawn in. It was the largest and most colorful I ever saw, weighing about thirty pounds, and a glorious blaze of gold thickly spotted with black. The boys had several strikes after that, and finally lost the trolling line.

We came into a zone where sea birds showed occasionally, all of which were new to me. A dull-gray gull, long and graceful, flew close to the ship, plainly curious. We espied large white-and-black birds, with long bills, that I imagined might be albatross, but could not get near enough to classify them.

The sunset was beyond words to describe. Golden fire, edged about by purple clouds! Then the tropic dusk fell quickly and the silver moon shone straight above the dark sails and the spear-tipped spars. The motion of the ship was stately and beautiful, and the soft ripple of water, the creak of the booms, the flap of canvas, were strange to me. I stayed on deck for hours. It was something staggering to realize where I was, and to look out across the dim, pale, mysterious sea. The worries and troubles incident to this long-planned-for trip began to slough off my mind and to leave me with gradually mounting sensations of awe and wonder and joy. I was going down the grand old Pacific; and there was promise of adventure, beauty, discovery.

On the morning of the fourth day we were five hundred miles out in the Pacific, sailing a dark blue sea, where birds and fish began to grow numerous. Our first destination was Cocos Island, one of the least known spots in all the Seven Seas. If Captain Sid and our navigators had laid a correct course we should be somewhere in the vicinity of this tropic island. The three had worked carefully with instruments and charts, and were confident we had not drifted far from the course.

Naturally crew and passengers kept a sharp lookout for land. Bob climbed aloft several times; and one of the sailors, a brawny fellow, ascended the forward ladder to the crow’s-nest, and then, like a monkey, climbed the topsail spar clear to the end. It was wonderful to see him. He remained there for several moments before he descended. I observed that he climbed with his knees as well as with hands.

A half hour later I climbed the rigging almost to the top, and scanned the horizon. It was somewhat a fearful place to stand, so high above decks and swaying with the motion out over the sea, but despite some dizziness and nausea I clung there. The trade-wind clouds along the horizon were deceiving, and many were the formations that fooled me. But at last dead ahead, dim and far distant, I espied a sharp black peak. What a tremendous thrill the sight gave me! I was so surprised by the emotion that at first I could not cry out. I thought of the shipwrecked sailors at last seeing land, and Christopher Columbus at first sight of San Salvador. It was a new and beautiful feeling.

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