Sunday, October 16, 2011

"The Old Man And The Sea" of Cortez

 
What do Ernest Hemingway and I have in common?  We are both wearing the exact same style of fishing shorts in these two pictures.  Check out the shorts. That's Hemingway on a fishing boat some place in the Caribbean, and that's  me with the captain of a small fishing boat in the Sea of Cortez, just out of Cabo San Lucas. Or, could it have been in the Arctic Ocean, looking at the way the captain is dressed for cold weather? 














In June we went to Cabo San Lucas for a wedding.  Some of the groom's family made arrangements to go fishing and invited me.  I'd long thought about going "deep sea sport fishing" but never did.  This was a chance.  That, plus the romantic idea of joining the likes of writer and "tough guy" Ernest Hemingway. 
 


Cabo San Lucas is certainly beautiful and warm, with blue sky and water and lots of sport fishing.  Cabo San Lucas is located on the southern tip of Mexico's Baja California Peninsula, on the same latitude as Hawaii.  It's approximately 1,000 miles south of San Diego.  It is now definitely a tourist destination. 


 


 
Although the Sea of Cortez is named after Spaniard Captain  Hernan Cortez, his navigator Fancisco de Ulloa is credited with discovering Cabo San Lucas in 1537.  It has a history of pirates raiding Spanish ships taking treasures back to Spain.  A fort was established there and the area was opened up to further exploration.  In 1730 a Jesuit mission was built.  The biggest obstacle to development was lack of a steady water supply.

That's one of the things I wondered about when I got there-- Where does the fresh water come from?  I have since learned that the
Laguna Mountains to the north produce about 30 inches of rain each year from the clouds.  The rain feeds into the underground Rio San Jose and accumulates underground and in nearby estuaries.  The stored water is then treated for consumption.  At any rate, the fresh water problem has been solved in Cabo San Lucas.













Staring at the surf we noticed flying manta rays. There were quite a few of them close to shore.  For game, people fish for all types of marlin, sailfish, and sometimes sword fish.  There are also dorado (mahi mahi), yellowfin tuna and several types of shark.  We were going to fish for the tuna.
 












We were picked up on the beach by a couple of small boats and then we bought some live bait from another small boat anchored out.  You could see many local residents relied upon tourists fishing, just as many worked in the tourist hotels.

We started fishing for the yellowfin tuna, and we caught some before too long.  Apprently, that's not always the case.   While the water had a little bit of chop to it, particularly where the Sea of Cortez collided with the Pacific Ocean, it wasn't so bad that I got sick-- only pretty queasy. 



After catching a few tuna, the chop was getting to us gringos and we decided to turn back to town.  But, on the way the captain spotted a marlin and asked if "we" wanted to catch it.  We said okay.  This is the way it actually worked-- the captain got his engine running again (it had broken down and we had bobbed up and down in the waves for a while as he tried to fix it, breathing the gasoline fumes, which didn't help a whole lot), quickly got in front of the swimming marlin, got a stiff pole, and then baited a hook and threw it over in front of the marlin (while I steered the boat for him, thankful for having something to hold on to).  Sure enough, the marlin grabbed the bait and was hooked-- all thanks to el capitan.



Sam, the other adult in our small fishing party, had caught and reeled in marlins on other trips to Cabo, so he asked if I wanted to reel in this one.  Wanting to save face and act like Ernest Hemingway, I agreed.  That's when I started identifying with "The Old Man and the Sea."  It didn't take days to reel in the marlin, but it still seemed like a long time to this queasy, thristy (my mouth no longer had any spit in it) ol' man.  I never felt like giving up-- but maybe secretly hoped the marlin would break loose and free me

Hemingway's short story "The Old Man and the Sea" was written by Hemingway in Cuba in 1951 and published in 1952.  Apparently, it was his last major work of fiction produced and published in his lifetime.  Born in 1899, Hemingway commited suicide in Ketchum, Idaho in 1961, at the age of 61.  Anyway, "The Old Man and the Sea"  is one of Hemingway's most famous works.  It was made into a Hollywood movie starring Spencer Tracy in 1958, and into a television movie starring Anthony Quinn in 1990. 

"The Old Man and the Sea" centers upon Santiago, a Cuban fisherman who has had a string of bad luck.  One day he goes out and finally catches a fish, hooking a monster marlin.  Santiago respects the marlin and battles it for a couple of days in a test of wills, holding on while being pulled by the marlin out to sea.   Santiago finally wins and the too-big-to-get-into-the-boat marlin is tied to the side of the small fishing skiff as Santiago returns to shore.  Of course, sharks attack and eat the marlin, so Santiago returns to port with only the large skeleton tied to his small boat.  But, at least all the townspeople see that he his luck had returned and he had caught a very large fish.  He's not a "has-been" yet. 





In the Hollywood movie, Spencer Tracy at times almost looks possessed.  Note that in the pictures, Spencer Tracy and I are wearing almost the exact same shirt.  The similarities don't end there, however.  While there is no picture of me, battling the marlin for probably less than 20 minutes, with the exact same possessed expression of a desparate man who had been fighting a fish for days, I'm sure it was there on my face to be seen.  (Instead of a fishing line, imagine pulling on a five-mile long drinking straw with the other end in a tall, cool Diet Coke on ice.  That's what I was imagining). 

Would I do it again?  Well, probably not-- although later in the month a couple of friends and I went out on the Pacific Ocean off the Washington coast, fishing for salmon, which will be the subject of another post. 


Land Ho!

1 comment:

  1. I think you and Santiago would have worn almost the exact same shirt and shorts to pull in the marlin if Hemmingway had written the story in modern times. I like both stories (your's and Hemmingway's)!

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