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Fishing Charters in Panama

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Written by Matt   
Tuesday, 18 March 2008 17:10
We boarded the boat, ailment a 58-foot Hatteras at the Amador Causeway to find the captain, a large, withered old bear-of-a-man, sleeping on the couch with a half-finished peanut butter sandwich on his chest and a still-sweating glass of scotch sitting on the table.
He had fallen asleep watching a popular video series in which teenage girls flash the camera in exchange for beads and t-shirts, and while we weren't positive we were on the right boat, our doubts were resolved when a small man showed up, hobbling down the dock calling out the word buddies.

"Hey buddies!" He shouted, wobbling the way (ironically) a pirate might on two peg legs. "Hey buddies! Alright! Ready buddies? Cool, everything cool! Yeah?"

No one knew what this guy was talking about. But in reality, it probably sounded not unlike one of us upon spewing out a few of our Spanish words. As he neared, Carlos's emerged as a jolly little man with a pair of seriously clubbed feet. He hopped aboard, performed several high-fives, then swung himself up into the cabin. He had clearly become adept with his hands due to a deficiency in his lower half, which I found remarkable. The boat was beautiful, the rolex of fishing boats I think they called it. Although I don't know why, for me Carlos' feet were the main attraction.

We motored off the Causeway around 5 AM, distancing ourselves further and further from the city skyline and everything that was motionless. I recognized this because it was from this point on that I wouldn't stop moving for approximately 56 hours.

Upon sunrise, we all woke up and started trolling for sailfish and marlin as our hangovers from the night before started to set in. I remember lying sprawled out in the crow's nest, trying desperately to repent the last shot of vodka I sponsored at Guru. I swallowed two Dramamine pills then vomited them up along with the Gatorade and almonds that I had just semi-enjoyed. Meanwhile, Keenan was busy clogging the toilet with refuse from his other end. The Bash Brothers I think they were calling us.

It's not that the boat wasn't spectacular. The sides and back showed a giant network of cables and poles that looked, maybe to the novice, like an elaborate clothesline system. The inside cabin sported a comfortable L-shaped couch, a spacious kitchen, and three decent sized bedrooms: I say decent because apparently, in the boating world, a bedroom the size of a tanning booth is considered seriously roomy. The toilets in each of the bedrooms worked on a high-speed flushing procedure that was designed to sweep away remnants with one, high-pressured suction swoop. It was amazing. While the guys caught 20-lb albacores and bonitos and dorados, I found myself thunderstruck, flushing the toilet repeatedly.

It wasn't as if I was the only person concentrated on something other than fishing. One friend on board occupied his time piecing together words he remembered from Spanish classes into broken, random phrases then unloading them casually on the crew. "Are you kiss my hands?" he asked the first mate.

"You hands?" the man queried back. Viewing the conversation from afar, I figured the mate was hoping he had lost something in translation.

"Yep. My hands." He showed his palms the way you might for a round of patty cake, before he repeated himself. "Are you ready to kiss these hands?"

I tried sleeping to ward off my sea sickness, an exercise akin to bench pressing a tractor. I now knew what homeless people feel while snoozing on the subway, and while they had clearly learned to phase out the constant bumping and rolling, I was experiencing serious problems. The bedroom was warm and windowless; something like I imagine they might do an earthquake experiment in, testing to see which paintings fall off the walls first. There was a lone marble that had found its way to a nearby drawer, rolling around with the waves like a metronome of nausea.

I was told that being inside the cabin is the worst thing you can do for sea sickness, so I went outside and laid beside the captain's deck. I found myself in miserable pain lying there, when the boat hit a choppy wake and a giant reel came loose from its holster to hit me square in the groin.

At a later point, the group began to catch a fish called Jack Crevalle. "Isn't that a famous golfer?" I asked from an area in the shade, barely lifting my head from an NCAA basketball game that was being televised live on TV.

Carlos stood wobbling on his peg legs, trying to hoist the fish into the holding chamber while the rest of us watched curiously. The fish had amazingly been hooked in the side of the head and behind him pelicans began diving frantically into the water for bait fish, like little kamikazes. The coast behind the boat was magnificent, with white sand shores and cliff-like islands just offshore.

It was a magnificent scene, but for some reason, I don't know why, I turned and took a piss off the side of the boat.

The fish was large and shiny, its palpitating chest reminding me fondly of a Billy the Talking Bass placard my grandfather used to keep above his kitchen table. Because that would be the last trolling fish of the night, the captain called for all lines to be brought in before we anchored just off the coast of Isla San Jose in the Pearl Islands.

"This captain needs a rum and coke" I heard him mutter to himself as he gently turned off the motor. We drank wine into the evening and ate fresh dorado steaks, cautioning if only momentarily, as little panga boats passed thinking they were FARC guerilla drug runners.

"Hey, guy! Here, yeah everything pretty with the cocaine!" Carlos yelled out after a piercing whistle. "Hey buddies! Cocaine please!"

The boat eventually docked back at the Causeway where Carlos filleted the fish and jokingly threw a skeleton at Keenan. "Chiney," he said to Keenan as some parting words. "Chiney, you are good. But you have many problems."

It was later that night, standing in my bathroom, that I found it unusually splendid that my sink wasn't moving to and fro. I noticed keenly that the water in the toilet was calm as a lake and I watched cautiously, the little tube of toothpaste sitting dangerously on the edge of the counter, but alas it did not fall. For several days more, I noticed acutely how everything sits uncannily still on steady ground.

We rented the boat for those days through where you can arrange various fishing charters with the crew you just read about. Our specific trip took us through the Pearl Islands and down near Pedasi, but itineraries can be highly customized.
Comments (1)Add Comment
had me laughing
written by pete w. , March 19, 2008
funny article. had me laughing out loud in my office which is hard to do. cheers!
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Last Updated on Monday, 11 August 2008 22:18