Blue Water Adventure
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by Rick Magers
Description: After several years of constant battles with thieves pulling their lobster traps, two Florida Keys fishermen decide to buy large offshore boats and go into the Caribbean with their traps. Often trapping several hundred miles from land, they were at the mercy of weather, but that was mild compared to the Pirates they encounter. Ray and Roland soon learn that these modern day pirates who steal their traps and lobster, would rather die than work--they did.Changing fisheries laws in the Caribbean force them back to America. While Ray begins bringing their traps back, Roland and Becky take their airplane and begin searching for a place to relocate. Musselshell City was nestled in the Everglades, on the coast of Florida Bay. From the air it looked like the answer to their dreams. Lobster traps and stone crab traps lined the canal where commercial boats sat moored side-by-side. The dream soon ended when they learned that?" Ray, Roland, and their crew find themselves in a setting reminiscent of the wild days of the western frontier of America. Horses were replaced by 150 mph pickup trucks and 75 mph airboats. 15 shot automatics in shoulder holsters replaced the old six-shooter on a hip. Men, who a decade earlier were setting fishnets from small skiffs, now piloted half-million-dollar boats and airplanes. The sheriff and his deputies didn't have fast trucks or airplanes. The posse didn't gallop across plains and over mountains. They quietly moved in and out of the gatherings of men who they planned to send to prison--they did. Roland warned everyone. "The adventure's over boys, better get outa town while you can." He and Becky climb into their airplane and headed toward their fishing resort in South America. They began creating The Honey Hole a few months earlier when Becky noticed that several sport fishermen had small walkie-talkies in their suit pocket and a gun in a shoulder holster. Within days after they flew south, the population of Musselshell City took a nosedive. Some were killed--many went to prison.
eBook Publisher: Grizzly Bookz Publishing, 2003 1st Books Library
eBookwise Release Date: December 2004
1 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [962 KB]
Reading time: 724-1014 min.
"Blue Water Adventure is based on a true story. The author's personal experience as a Florida commercial fisherman and the people he lived and worked with provide the basis for this novel. He has cleverly included individual photos, which give the novel a personal touch. Raymond James and his father Bol trap Florida lobster (crawfish) for a living. Leaving their home in Florida to escape crawfish thieves, they move to the Virgin Islands. Life in paradise is good until once again, crawfish pirates steal their catch and they are forced to take the law into their own hands. The story takes us from Florida, to the Virgin Islands, Bahamas and back to Florida over a span of about twenty years. Boats get bigger and airplanes are added. The temptation of large sums of money beacons to our weary fisherman. Drug lords, pirates and island life mix and mingle to create an exciting novel by author, Rick Magers. Characters are lively and entertaining. Rita, also known as 'Little Bug', Raymond's island girlfriend, adds sparkle and wit to the dialogue. Ray's best friend, Bangor, provides comedy relief. Roland, Becky and the many crewmen are real life characters with interesting pasts, all forming a melting pot of spicy camaraderie and conflict. Island jargon and local expressions are peppered throughout the dialogue bringing the Caribbean settings to life. Rick Magers' experience, along with his extensive research, plus many trips back to South America and the Caribbean provide an in depth, highly detailed look at the industries of lobster trapping & drug smuggling. The original book was more than 600 pages. The previous printer's choice of a large font, made the book unnecessarily bulky. All in all a good read with lots of excitement, adventure and romance--a good gift for the fishermen and boating enthusiast in your life."--Shirley Roe, Allbooks Reviews
He reached up and removed the domelight bulb and hoped no one would notice him here out and about so early. He picked up the two boxes of bullets and got a good grip on the old WW II, M-1 rifle. He didn't close the door because he knew one trip wouldn't do it this morning. The rifle usually stayed on the boat but he'd taken it home to give it a good cleaning--Ray's buddy, Jesse Finn had taken his home also. Only two days until the season opened and they could begin pulling their traps. After checking a few here and there, the men knew that they would have a good start this year; many of their traps were full. The tourists, cruising around in their boats knew it too. A lot of freezers would have free lobster tails in them when this week was over.
One professional lobster thief knew it too. He had worked Raymond James, his dad Bolford, and Jesse Finn over very bad the previous season. Among the crawfishermen in Key Largo, they were the only three that put traps far north, around Pacific Light. They realized that it was risky being so far out of the main stream of trappers, but the crawfish were plentiful in that area and they felt they could look out for each other. One of them was out on the ocean every day; but it hadn't worked because this thief was good. His boat was fast and low in the water so it didn't show up until you were very close to it and he had guts--he'd keep pulling traps until you were within a half mile or less before he'd run.
Raymond untied the boat and pushed it away from the dock before starting the engine. He knew it would start because it was brand new. It was also powerful and huge, taking a solid week of work just to make the engine bed big enough to handle it. When he pushed the starter button Ray wanted to get quickly out of the canal and into the channel heading to sea.
They knew the thief would be pulling their traps this day because Ralph Stoff had spotted him Friday through the powerful telescope he'd mounted on the second story porch of his house, overlooking the ocean.
The professional thieves did not pulled on weekends because they never knew when one of the many pleasure boats might be one of the fishermen trying to slip up on them robbing their traps. They had been shot at enough during the last couple of years to know that this was a deadly game they were playing.
When Ray left the canal and gave it a little throttle he thought, We've got a little surprise for you if you're out here today you son-of-a-bitch
* * * *
An hour before Raymond James had pulled into the trap-lot in Coral Cove, Jesse Finn had pulled away from the dock behind his house. Jesse was nothing like Ray, even though they had become the very best of friends. This six-foot-three-inch beanpole wore his emotions on the outside of his skin. He had left the chicken farms of Ocala while still a teen and started working on a crawfish boat in Key Largo as a deck hand. It was love at first sight and by the time he was twenty he had his own boat and traps. He never once considered leaving Key Largo or crawfishing. With his sun-reddened face and constantly peeling ears, he looked like a fisherman. What he didn't look like though was the deadly serious man he became when he caught someone stealing his catch. It never mattered to Jesse how many crawfish he was getting out of his traps, or what time of day it was. If he saw someone that he thought was robbing traps: his or anyone else's, the chase was on.
While Ray headed North up Hawk Channel along Key Largo's mangrove cluttered shoreline, Jesse was passing by the Elbow Marker a few miles straight out on the edge of the reef. He was ready to begin the long run north. When the sun came up he would be outside Pacific Light and with the sun blazing behind him he would be impossible to see.
As Ray and Jesse sipped hot tea, moving steadily along their pre-arranged course, Louis Pellit was just pulling away from Joey Simm's house in Palm Beach Gardens. Louis had a home within eyeshot of the beach, just north of Jupiter. At thirty, he had it all and was the envy of almost every man that knew him. Six-foot-tall--lean and muscular--one hundred and eighty pounds--surfer blonde hair--handsome face highlighted with Elizabeth Taylor eyes. He was very charming when he wanted to be. Louis Pellit had it all--all that is except the human ingredient that separates men like him from real men like Ray, Jesse and a lot of other hardworking fishermen working the same waters he was: scruples. Louis had absolutely none. He would steal a cripple's crutch if he thought he could turn a profit.
This would be the teenager's second trip. The previous December Louis hired him to go along to pull traps belonging to a friend--according to Louis. It had been hard work, plus they had to work very fast to get them all pulled in one day. Louis paid him fifty dollars, which really made Joey's Christmas.
Joey was born in the house in Palm Beach Gardens where he had lived all of his seventeen years. Ever since he was old enough to earn a few dollars, neighbors saw the redheaded boy going from house-to-house asking, "Anything I can do to earn my movie money?" When confronted with those enthusiastic gray eyes, even those neighbors who had nothing that needed doing, found something for this energetic young boy to do. Now almost full grown at five and a half feet tall, he only weighed about the same as a croaker sack of crawfish. What he lacked in size and weight he more than made up for in energy and ability. Louis liked the way he caught on quick to what needed doing, but the reason he was glad to have him along again was that the kid could pick a crawfish trap clean quicker than anyone he had yet used.
He had never been on a boat like Louis's and loved the roar of the big engine. The boat almost leaped from water when Louis gave it the gas. The new pickup truck and boat trailer clicked down the highway smooth and quiet. On the trip to Homestead, the small town just north of Key Largo, there was little conversation. Joey didn't know Louis very well but he knew he didn't chat a lot. Joey kept quiet and enjoyed the ride; he was excited by the prospect of a day on the ocean.
Joey kept the flashlight beam on the rear truck tires as Louis backed the boat and trailer down the Homestead Marina boat ramp. Louis kept the back-up lights lined up in the truck's rear view mirror as he eased down the ramp. "Stop me Joey, just before the truck tires go in the water."
"Yes sir," Joey said, but kept his eyes glued to the tire in the beam of light. He wanted everything to go right so Louis would take him every time he needed a helper. "Okay that's it," Joey yelled, "the tires are about to go in the water."
Louis set the brake and shifted into park. "Hop in the boat Joey and get the bow line," Louis said, then smiled as he realized that the kid was already up in the boat.
"Here you go Mr. Pellit," Joey said as he reached down with the coil of rope.
"Louis, Joey, just plain Louis; enough of that mister stuff, Okay?"
"Yessir mister.... uh Louis."
Louis removed the safety chain that secured the boat to the trailer, then pushed the switch on the electric winch and released the tension on the cable. He un-snapped the cable from the bow-eye and handed it to Joey who was already reaching and down for it. Louis climbed up in the boat and went straight to the controls. One push on the starter button and the engine roared to life. He flipped on the running lights then the instrument panel lights. His eyes went immediately to the oil pressure gauge. Good, he thought as he scanned the panel. "Joey, give the cable a pull to be sure it's running free."
"I already did, it's free and ready to run out."
Around the cigar that was always sticking out of Louis' face he said, "Remember to hang onto it as I back off the trailer. Don't drop it till I'm all the way off, we wanna be able to snap it back on the boat when we get back this afternoon."
"Okay Louis, I'm ready." Joey got a good grip on the stainless steel cable and hook.
Louis shifted into reverse and eased the boat off the trailer. He saw Joey drop the cable onto the trailer in the glow of the running lights. He pulled the boat alongside the dock and in a flash Joey was on the dock with the bowline, securing it to a cleat then at the stern as Louis tossed the line up, smiling around the cigar.
"You're gonna make a seaman yet, kid." As the boy secured the stern, Louis hopped from the boat and headed for the truck and trailer. He parked in the closest space to the ramp and after locking the truck he shined the flashlight beam on all the tires on one side then went to the other and did the same. He checked the hitch and safety chains then flipped the power winch into forward and tried it. Louis knew the importance of being able to get the boat loaded and out of whichever marina he used within a few minutes of arriving. Once last year while pulling traps out near Fowey Rock Light, two crawfish boats had chased him. He made it back to his truck and trailer at Dinner Key Marina with little time to spare. Only his fast boat and organized departure got him on the road before his pursuers arrived.
Louis checked the slack in the stainless steel cable to be sure it would reach the bow-eye. Assured it would, he laid it in the center of the trailer between the guide bars that stuck up five feet on each side, to guide the boat on. As he stepped on the boat, Louis said, "Untie the stern."
Joey tossed the stern line in then went to the bow and removed the line from the dock cleat. He stood waiting for Louis's command.
Louis slipped the gear lever into forward and when he felt the gear engage he returned it to neutral. He then tried the reverse gear and when satisfied that all was working as it should, he leaned out the cabin window. "Hold the bow tight Joey while I bring the stern out."
"Yessir, got it," Joey answered eagerly.
Louis put the gearshift into forward with the bow against the dock and waited for the boat to pivot out forty-five degrees then put it into neutral and leaned out the window, "Okay kid, let's go."
Joey jumped on the bow and brought the line down the gunnel with him. Louis backed away from the dock as Joey secured the bow and stern lines. He turned the boat and headed out into the pitch-black darkness of Homestead Bay.
As soon as Louis swung the boat to an Easterly heading he turned on the fathometer. As the engine temperature slowly rose he kept easing the throttle higher. Fifteen minutes after leaving the dock the boat was on top of the water at three-quarter throttle. Louis always held the top end of the throttle in reserve for emergencies. He kept the compass on due east and moved the powerful searchlight back and forth across the dark waters ahead.
He had brought the first steel fenceposts out five years earlier when he first began stealing crawfish for a living. At low tide he had driven them into the bottom along the edge of this sandbar and a dozen other places between there and the deep water that lay beyond the barrier islands. The reflectors had to be replaced every year, but that was little work compared to the benefit they offered him. Many others used them too and often replaced and added reflectors. A few that were in tricky locations looked like Christmas trees when the searchlight's beam hit them. Near several of them were grooves in the sand and grass, offering lasting proof that more than one would-be Yacht Captain had watched the sun come up on his boat sitting in six inches of water.
They really paid off when weather forced him to find his way back in through rain and rough seas. He told friends, "Don't let anyone tell you that it can't get rough in the bay. I've seen it so bad I thought I'd gotten turned around and was heading for Nassau, out across the Gulf Stream.
The powerful searchlight beam finally picked up the first of four markers. He headed straight for it then at the last second swung to a 070 heading and turned off the searchlight. He kept the compass exactly on that heading. As soon as he had turned at the marker he began the slow count that he knew would put him a hundred feet from the second marker. He glanced at the fathometer to be sure the bay bottom stayed far enough below the boat. Nine feet deep and we're flying, he thought.
This was thrilling to Joey. He had learned to keep quiet until the sun lit things up so Louis could see where he was going. On that first trip he had said something to Louis, and his reply had been a growling, "Shut the fuck up."
At the count of fifty, Louis flipped on the searchlight and about a third of a football field ahead was the next marker. As he passed it he began to count again. Right on schedule, he thought as the next reflector bounced off the light's beam. When they passed the forth marker he counted to twenty then brought the compass around to a due south heading.
"Keep your eyes sharp now kid, way up ahead there's a red light that flashes every four seconds."
"Okay," Joey said, "want me to get up on top of the cabin?"
"No, we'll spot it easy as clear as it is this morning."
Joey really loved roaring through the darkness like this but he was also a little frightened. The windshield was propped open and except for the slight glow of the running lights there was solid blackness out in front of the boat. God, he thought, what if we run into another boat, or an island, or something? He felt his legs begin to quiver a little so he forced them hard against the wall in front of him. Just as he considered suggesting that they slow down a little to look around, he saw the blink of the red light ahead. I better wait till it blinks again before I say anything, he thought.
"Did you see the red light blink, kid?"
Joey tried to sound casual when he replied, but the "Yessir" that leaped from his mouth sounded more like a cat's yell when its tail was stepped on. He couldn't see the smile on Louis' face, but he knew it was there. He frantically ran his tongue around in his mouth trying to get rid of the dryness before he had to speak again.
More to himself than to Joey, Louis said, "We run toward a point a quarter mile north of that blinker, then we look for my first marker."
Joey was much more at ease now, as the blinking red light became more visible. Boy, he thought, Louis sure knows his way around out here. His mouth was back to normal so he ask, "Is this the way we went out the last time I went with you?"
Around the cigar Louis mumbled, "Too long ago, too many trips since then; don't know, mighta been." He swung the boat around a little to the left. "That fencepost of mine'll be right up ahead so keep your eyes sharp." Louis had the searchlight on again and was scanning back and forth in front of the boat. Joey hadn't seen a thing when Louis said, "There it is," and brought the boat hard around to the left, then cut back hard to the right. They passed the marker so close that Joey was sure he could have reached out and touched it.
Almost as if to answer Joey's unspoken question, Louis said, "Gotta stay close to these markers and keep 'em on the port side when you're going out. This is a very narrow channel across these flats and around Adam's Key."
"The port side is the left side, isn't it?"
"That's right, now be quiet while I get on out Caesar Creek, and into Hawk Channel." Louis kept the searchlight on each reflector as it was picked up in the beam. He regularly glanced at the fathometer for added security. He watched the depth vary from twenty-five feet to ten as they flew along in the narrow channel. He had been through the area many times and knew that even at high tide like now there was only a couple feet of water on either side of the channel. He also knew that in a couple of places the channel was only a dozen feet wide; little room for error. Ahead of the boat he could see marker twenty, flashing red. He breathed easier knowing Hawk Channel was only a quarter of a mile ahead.
Had he known what was waiting less than three miles ahead, he would not have felt so confident.