Saturday, October 31, 2009

GillBilly Report: Todos Santos Islands Surfing - October 2009

Two trips to Killers October 23rd and 24th...

Unless one can enjoy himself fishing with the fly, even when his efforts are unrewarded, he loses much real pleasure. More than half the intense enjoyment of fly fishing is derived from the beautiful surroundings, the satisfaction felt from being in the open air, the new lease on life secured thereby, and the many, many pleasant recollections of all one has seen, heard and done.
Charles F. Orvis

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

GillBilly Report: S.S. CATALINA Removed From The Ensenada Harbor

As you entered Ensenada Harbor in the past you would have seen a curious sight to starboard that may have shivered your timbers. Half submerged and arising from the harbor mud was the carcass of a once proud ferry that served the run between California ports and Catalina in times past. For more than 20 years this navigation hazard kept vigilance on the busy port activities in Ensenada Harbor. Brought to Ensenada 26 years prior to serve as an entertainment center and gambling casino, the historic ship had been the subject of controversy for many years and now has been removed by the Port of Ensenada.

She was the million dollar steamship, in the days when a million dollars was a lot of money. She was built with chewing gum, or more correctly of steel, bought with the profits from a chewing gum empire created by Mr. William Wrigley, Jr., who happened to own an island about 24 miles off the coast of Southern California called Santa Catalina. The only major town on the island was Avalon, an almost Mediterranean-like setting, far removed from the hustle and bustle of Los Angeles, on the other side of the San Pedro Channel. By the 1920's, tourism to the island was booming, thanks in part to a strong economy and Mr. Wrigley's various enterprises on the island, including a training camp for his Chicago Cubs baseball team, and his own steamship line known as the Wilmington Transportation Company.

The new steamship S.S Catalina, was built in 1924 to provide additional capacity and more elegant transportation to the island. William Wrigley Jr., himself laid the keel on December 26, 1923 at the yards of the Los Angeles Shipbuilding and Drydock Company. Situated in the heart of Los Angeles harbor, this location later became the Todd Shipyard. The new ship was designated hull number 42. After a quick construction period the new vessel was ready to take to the water for the first time. Named for the island which she would serve, the S.S. Catalina was launched on May 3, 1924, by Miss Marcia A. Patrick, the daughter of Joseph Patrick, president of the Santa Catalina Island Company. The Mayor of Los Angeles, along with 3,000 other people were on hand to witness the event. A little over eight weeks later the ship commenced her maiden voyage from Wilmington, California to Avalon on June 30th, under the command of Captain A. A. Morris. Few on that first voyage could have envisioned that 25 million people would follow them onto those same decks, enjoying a 2 hour cruise to Catalina Island during an active career of 51 years!

The S.S. Catalina holds the honor of being listed on the National Register of Historic Places. But unlike the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum or the Mission San Fernando Rey, which share these accolades, the S.S. Catalina carried 25 million passengers in her heyday, and ferried more troops in World War II than any other military transport. A 2006 panga ride around the 302-foot-long, 52-foot wide vessel found much of the vessel's port railing stripped away, revealing a bizarre sight of sea lions bellied up to the U-shaped wooden bar where passengers once gathered to sip cocktails. Imagine the luminaries that once walked these decks!

I once gave up fishing, it was the most terrifying weekend of my life.
Author Unknown

Monday, October 26, 2009

GillBilly Report: Samoa Tsunami Account

This is from friends of the GillBilly who were cruising in Samoa

Sep.29,09 Earthquake/Tsunami report from American Samoa - Tuesday morning (Sep.29) I awoke after a fitful sleep at 5 a.m. I, then, made my way, in the dark, down to the phone station as a flock of giant fruit bats glided past me through the morning haze. I needed to make a call regarding parts that we needed shipped to Samoa to fix our broken head stay. (There is a 3 hour time difference with California.) As I returned to the boat a massive earthquake hit us. We were docked alongside a large cement wharf with 7 other sailboats. The earthquake lasted around 1 1/2 minutes and before it ended everyone was up and out of their boats.

We all exchanged comments on the magnitude of the earthquake and how long it lasted. After about 10 minutes everyone returned to their boats to start their day. I went below to get another hour of sleep and as I stepped down one of our crew members, Emily, was coming up. She was coming up do yoga on the dock. This is her normal morning onshore routine and luckily this early morning ritual gave us a slight warning to what happened next. A few minutes later, from below decks, I heard a heavy creaking and groaning. Then, we heard Emily yelling at us to get up topside. I jumped up on deck and all I could see was water rushing out and huge dripping pilings next to my head. I looked up 15 feet and saw Emily's shoes and heard her screaming at us to escape. Luckily, Matt had left his sharp knife by the companionway and I immediately began slashing the dock lines that weren't already broken by the strain. I fired up the engine.

Meanwhile, the boys were frantically pushing the boat away from the concrete pilings with their soon bloodied hands and yelling for Emily to run. The water was sucking out so much that all the sailboats around us were hitting bottom and leaning over on their sides. Somehow Banyan was in water just a little deeper. Emily was trying to climb back aboard the boat. As the boat sunk lower and lower the mast and the rigging leaned over and pushed against the cement dock where Emily was attempting to climb down. She was pressed hard against a giant fender tire and our wire rigging. After barely squeezing out she fell onto the deck of our boat. Amidst the panic she told me later that she then decided to climb back onto the tire and then the dock and make a run for it.

I was unaware of what was going on due to our canopy blocking my view I decided to quickly fire up the engine and slash the last line attached to our stern. I gunned the engine full throttle and headed out into the harbor. We made it about 15 feet away from the dock when I realized Emily wasn't on board. The next instant the water switched directions and came flooding back towards us. We went from almost dry land into a surge of water 30-40 feet high. I shoved the throttle to full and we actually traveled up the face of the oncoming tsunami wave. Luckily, the face was only a 45 or so degree angle. We were able to actually motor up and over it. The feeling was surreal. I must have put the throttle to full just has the surge hit us. The boat remained 15-20 feet from the dock and we miraculously held our ground against the incoming flow. From our vantage point we saw Emily wade through the rushing water to a light post on the dock. She clung to this post as the water began to rise ever higher.

The other six boats on the dock hadn't slashed their lines quickly enough, so as the water rose they all began to bunch up and smash against each other as they got crushed under the dock. The catamaran, directly in front of us, got one of her hulls stuck under the dock and was crushed as the water rose. Within seconds her bow snapped and the boat sprung into the air with a violent rush. Our eyes were glued to Emily as she clung to the light pole. Soon the water had risen above her head and she disappeared from our view. Mike and I frantically attempted to launch the dinghy in hopes of trying to save her. As soon as we launched the dinghy, with the motor attached, the force of the tsunamis surge hit us and the dingy instantly flipped over. At this time a sailboat on the other side of the dock broke free and was thrown up onto the dock.

The water had risen more than 30 feet and this 45-foot sail boat was soon sliding along the cement dock towards Emily clinging to her pole. Somehow, the captain fired up his engine, cut his lines and was able to motor off the dock narrowly avoiding the light pole. Soon the water sucked back out to sea and we could see Emily running from the light pole to the edge of the dock. We all frantically yelled at her to run to high ground. She then took off towards the dock gate and the side of the mountain. When a second surge hit us she actually struggled through waist deep water to make it to the end of the dock.

From the safety of our boat we peered through the binoculars and could see that she had made it to safety. It would be hours before we were finally able to find her again and to learn that she had run straight up the side of the jungle covered hill. It was a barefoot hike of more than 300 vertical feet. After reaching the summit she found a tree and climbed it to get a bird’s eye view of the whole bay. By this time the few sailboats that hadn't been damaged too badly made their way out to where we were circ ling around in deep water. We, then, heard frantic yelling coming from the boat that had been tied up directly behind us. I jumped in the dinghy and went over to see if I could help. The woman was hysterical. She told me her husband had fallen off the boat while attempting to cut the dock lines. She actually witnessed him getting sucked into the water and carried away.

We later learned from Emily that, from her vantage point on high ground, she could see huge whirlpools sucking docks and containers under water. I quickly went around the distraught woman’s boat and cleaned up her lines to avoid getting them sucked into the propeller. The next 3-4 hours were spent motoring around looking for Emily and the woman’s husband. After everything had subsided Mike jumped into the dinghy and I gave him a ride to shore in hopes of finding Emily somewhere. As we approached the dock we realized that our bicycle and generator were hanging by their chain cable off the side of the dock. We pulled them both dripping onto the dock. Mike jumped on the bike and set off through the disaster zone to look for Emily. Later Mike told us that he had gone to the head of the bay. He found a friend of ours whose boat was wrecked. His boat was stranded high up on a grassy bluff. Mike helped him unload his valuables as looters were instantly ransacking stores, shops and boats. It was total anarchy. When he turned around to continue his search for Emily he realized his bike had been stolen. He, then, returned on foot through the streets where gangs of teenagers were running rampant looting and bashing everything with sticks that they all carried. Somehow Mike followed a trail of people who had seen the white "palangi girl". He eventually found her at the top of the mountain still perched in a tree. We were completely relieved to hear the radio report from him stating that she was high, dry and uninjured.

I hope to have more reports on the aftermath once I get a chance. We are all pretty shaken, but so thankful to have escaped with no injuries. Our Banyan suffered no damage at all and we only received minor scrapes and cuts. Just today we finally fixed our headstay in a “jury rig” fashion with a chain extension. Under the circumstances that is the best repair that we can do and it will be fine. We are going to use some jib sails we salvaged (in place of our damaged self furling jib—damage not from tsunami, but done previously to arriving in Samoa) off a wrecked boat that we helped the owner unload. Everyone wants to leave this place.

There he stands, draped in more equipment than a telephone lineman, trying to outwit an organism with a brain no bigger than a breadcrumb, and getting licked in the process.
Paul O'Neil

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Bill Poole the Legend Passes Away

Bill Poole, a legendary captain and leading pioneer of sportfishing in and beyond San Diego, has died after a struggle with lung cancer. He was 87.

Poole died Wednesday, October 21st at his San Diego home with his family by his side, said Betty Stein, his longtime secretary.

Poole, who started with a barge he purchased after World War II, became a boat builder who constructed or had a hand in the construction of many top vessels still operating. They include the Royal Polaris, Royal Star, American Angler and Spirit of Adventure. Many of them are long-range vessels that help make up the world's most sophisticated sportfishing fleet.

Poole's own spirit of adventure drove him to build boats that could be at sea for days and access remote areas off Mexico, where tuna, wahoo and other subtropical species teemed.

His passengers included the rich and famous, but the personable captain admired how fishing treated everyone equally. "It doesn't matter how much money you make, how many cars you drive or how expensive your car is," he once said. "When you step onto a boat to fish, the fish don't give a damn."

Poole also owned or was part-owner of sportfishing landings, marinas and other real estate in San Diego. His wife, Ingrid, said her husband had three passions: "Fishing, hunting and an entrepreneurial challenge."

Poole's hunting exploits were legendary: He once spent 57 days in pursuit of a trophy-size bighorn sheep in Wyoming. "He was a sheep nut and a 10-foot bear nut, and an elephant nut," said Ingrid Poole, who accompanied her husband on many hunting expeditions.

In the sportfishing industry, Poole was known as a throwback character who made loans based on trust and sealed deals with handshakes rather than contracts.

"What you saw is what you got; he was a man of his word," said Bob Fletcher, a friend of Poole's and a former commercial and sportfishing boat captain.

"We lost one of the monster pioneers of sportfishing; nobody else had that kind of impact on our industry," Fletcher said. Paul Morris, general manager of Fisherman's Landing, which was co-owned by Poole and Frank LoPreste, worked with Poole for 42 years.

"He was like a father to me," Morris said. "He was one of those guys who would talk to the employees like they were one of the guys. He treated them like they were part of the group."

In addition to his wife, Poole is survived by their six children: daughters Sandra Schafer, Sherri Thomas and Billie Zambroski; and sons Randy, Eric and Stine.

A memorial service will be held Nov. 25 in San Diego.

You will find angling to be like the virtue of humanity, which has a calmness of spirit and a world of blessing attending upon it.
Izaak Walton

Monday, October 12, 2009




Play GillBilly Theme Song

Roll Titles and Credits

Open at sea on a glorious sunny day, fade into a shot of the transom of a huge sport fisher named the GillBilly with black smoke belching filth in the air from the exhaust pipes, scope out to the cockpit, Rockin’ Rod fishing with a GillBilly hat and shirt on, without a care in the world, surrounded by the best fishing gear in his cockpit, flat screen on in the salon showing a fishing show, cell phones everywhere, every style and kind, smoking a cigar and flicking it in Mother Ocean, drink in hand, playing Bobby Darin’s Beyond the Sea on the stereo, by himself, not getting a bite, no worries, Rod throws the cigar in the sea… the sun gets progressively darker with a smoggy haze, on the horizon a clutter of trash can be seen, and suddenly Rod realizes he is surrounded by the stuff, the boat starts to slowly spin on its center axis and a swirling vortex forms from the boat to the horizon, the yacht’s generator stops abruptly, the stereo starts playing slower and slower, Rod checks his battery meter, the battery voltage is in the red, the line he has in the water goes tight and his reel starts to whir and make that fish-on sound, Rod smiles with an air of superiority and reverses his hat, as above all this apparent adversity today, that’s his one gift in life, catching another fish, he grabs the rod and starts to reel in the line, it reaches the boat and the line starts to go in the swirling motion of the now totally foul cesspool that is surrounding his boat, he struggles with the current and pulls with a jerk on the rod and plop, the cigar he was smoking recoils out of the water and into his open mouth on his hook! Now an ugly black cinder cylinder, he spits it on his deck and the black goo from it seeps onto his deck and causes an ugly mess… the stereo stops and sputters and goes silent… he grabs every cell phone he has (big name paying recognition here as he names every phone he picks up, Blackberry Bold, etc.), they are all dead, as the sun goes down…

Rod gets thoroughly drunk in the dark, no moon, and falls asleep in a depressive mind-state and wonders out loud why he has been singled out for this unseemly situation. He wakes up and the sea is dark and brooding, no trash is apparent and the sea is placid and flat glassy, as if he was dreaming last night, he reaches for his stereo, still no battery juice, no music… he shakes his head and still drunk staggers and hits his head on the swim step as he falls in the water… the undersea life is suddenly colorful and alive with animated beauty. A wonder world of incredible and fantastic natural color and diverse creatures galore. Such a depart from the dark grey world he left behind when he fell into the water. Still dazed he struggles to get to the surface for a breath. Rod suddenly encounters Gnarly Charlie and realizes he can converse with the fish!!!! Gnarly Charlie teaches Rod how to breathe under water like fishes do saving him from drowning. Such a kind and friendly fish Rod is thinking, wondering why all his life he has been programmed to kill fish and fill his decks with fish blood. He thanks Gnarly Charlie and is confronted by a completely pissed off Drago the Dragon Fish, asking Gnarly why he saved this wrenched human that had invaded their space. Having been raised in a fish pen as a human experiment and having been put to sea by humans, Gnarly says he has a soft spot in his GillHeart for this man they now refer to as GillBilly after reading the name on his boat transom. Drago then goes into a long diatribe about his history of life as a prehistoric fish, the story is not pretty, and many flashback vignettes reveal why Drago is such a human hater… flashbacks to prehistoric times when Drago was a pup fish, and on thru the ages of human abuse of the sea he lives in daily, how many of his relatives and friends got caught by above the sea fisherman, growing pollution by trash, plastics and oil exploration, gillnetters and long liners, many shots here flipping between the animation world below the sea and the above the sea regular cinematography world covering centuries of pollution and Mother Ocean abuse by the humans. GillBilly is completely sympathetic to the new awareness he has been shown as an epiphany!!! He asks how he as a mere human (now feeling subservient to this beautiful group of new friends) can help to clear the air, the sea, and Mother Earth in its spiraling brown hazy and into the vortex state of existence. Drago spits out a pebble into GillBillys hand and asks him to grasp the pebble, and says he will teach GillBilly as best he can as a mere prehistoric fish to save the planet… so at this point they are acknowledging each other as equals and allies in the cause, both so small in the scope of the universe. Drago is the old salt in this world and well respected, all the sea creatures applaud this unification of effort. Fade with Eyes of the World by the Grateful Dead…

Fade into the scene at the docks at the Tip a Cap Marina, every guy walking on the docks has seemingly the same lame fishing shirt and hat on, the typical stuff, same boring genres and styles… groups of guys standing back and admiring their yachts, with all that fishing gear bling jewelry like Peewee Herman admiring his growing foil ball, GillBilly arrives and a bunch of guys help him tie up the boat, GillBilly recounts how a group of friendly fish ganged together after his fall into the sea and saved him and then guided him back to the port after the storm of pollution abated and allowed his yacht to function again. Oh brother they say, and they collectively now think GillBilly hit his head and whacked his brain. Rod is now labeled GillBilly by his peer group when he finds a change of mind toward his view of the sea and saving it for future generations. Before the term GillBilly was just a playful name of his yacht, now it is a stigmatizing slur toward his new found awareness of the plight of the sea. This sets up the pertinence of the line in the GB Theme Song as a hook, “come on and sing with me” as GillBilly is now the nucleus of a growing band of GREEN aware GillBilly partisans.

Down the dock strides a completely and totally rad fox of major proportions named Molly which just happens to be a marine biologist… she is lost and asks Rockin’ Rod where the yacht GillBilly is… since Rod’s boat is tied up stern out, she can’t see the name on his transom… she said she got an e-mail from an address, stating that she should contact the GillBilly for his help in her new program now totally underfunded to save the sea. Rod introduces himself and aw-shucks about his nickname and this woman’s incredible natural and on point beauty, in his mind thanking Drago for the favor of her new found company. Flash back to Drago in his sea office with some kind of wireless connection to the internet allowing him to type on his water proof (Dell or whoever, name branding $ push) lapper the message… then for the first time GillBilly gets a mind telepathy message from Drago realizing he and Drago are now allowed to converse via GillBilly to DragoBilly wireless… now Rod’s mind is in a newly found state of spinning euphoric frydom, realizing he has probably met the love of his life interwoven with his ability to receive Drago’s telepathic messages… the newly bonding couple retire to the cozy Tip a Cap Marina Bumbling Banter Diner (which looks like a huge yellow submarine) featuring fish and chips… suddenly, Rod cannot eat fish, and Molly and him share a Caesars salad and fries… both sharing Mother Ocean is the source of all our future wellbeing. Fade with You Got Me Floatin’ by Jimi Hendrix…

Fade to the fishing tournament that Molly has been concerned about as to the rampant and non compliant fish capture regulations. Rod tags along with Molly to the tournament weigh-in area, as the boats arrive with their catch of the day… the first boat arrives with a dead and 3 month old big decaying black fish (the eyes are white and the fish is black and covered in flies. The cheating fisherman got so violent, it was necessary for the police to take him to jail!) that was kept on ice for the tournament… foul… the next boat arrives with a fish that because of the gear on the boat was not caught legally and was deemed to have been bought from a local fish pen… foul… meanwhile Drago arrives under sea and telepathically informs Rod of his arrival and says there is a surprise coming for these fishing contestants, just watch… the next boat arrives and has its fish furled in a burlap bag, as they open the bag, and pop the catch onto the weigh scale, out comes a completely outlandish and pirate cursing animated “fish” proclaiming himself to be Fish Eye Ty, horrified the scalers throw this half fish/half man apparition back into the water and all the sea creatures including the GillBilly get a big laugh, Molly has no clue but as Rod laughs she joins in… heartily… fade in the Seaside Town song with a video of Rod and Molly having good times, riding ATVs on the beach, bobbing for apples, trying on matching track suits, visiting the fair and being both ends of a horse costume and the GillBilly being the ass end, sharing a messy chocolate dipped cone, visiting the fish market and frowning at the dead fish and smiling at the live lobsters in the tank… buying them all and releasing them at the bay… and they then talk to each other on cell phones across the table at the Bumbling Banter Diner… sharing kisses and rubbing noses… getting bad cell disconnected, looking at their phones and throwing them aside into their beer mugs and hugging… fade out.

Baja Marimba Band / Samba de Orpheu played as we pan the coastline and telescope from an extremely far distant shot to Rod on the stern of his yacht. Enter the bad guy, Fibber McFish and his clan of merry fish marauders. They cruise into the Tip a Cap Marina with an all black yacht named the Tractor Beam from the port of Optical Tweezer. A strange name for a yacht thinks Rod, and that port name sure did not ring a bell, as he sits out on his stern having morning coffee as the boat chugs by to the fuel dock spewing black smoke. Rod tips his cap to the Tractor Beam crew, which is the marina custom, but they just stare at him with glassy eyes like half crazed dogs… reminds Rod of the looks on the faces of his Fishing Anonymous classmates, he once attended, which of course did not work in his attempt to stop his bad fishing habits, now suddenly cured by his meeting with his new undersea friends….