(Part 2) Cruising with the Hatteras

Pete’s Pub is one of my favorite places. Back in the early 1950s, Pete’s father, Randolph Johnston, feared that the world was headed for ruin. So he loaded up his family and moved to Man of War Cay in the Bahamas. Here, he was able to buy a rundown sailboat that he and his family used to explore the Abacos  and looked for a place to settle. They found it in Little Harbor.

This circular harbor, filled with crystal clear water, is home to numerous turtles and occasional spotted eagle rays which cruise the shallow waters. Close by, is a cut which opens directly into the Atlantic. A natural cave overlooks the harbor, and that is where Pete’s father chose for his family to live and resume his livelihood as a sculptor while they built a home.

The photo of Pete’s Pub in the cruising guide was about a half-inch square. It appeared to be a simple A-frame structure. Simple it was.

The family got cleaned up, launched our tender, and headed to Pete’s for dinner. We tied up at the dinghy dock, and made our way to the pub. As we approached, my wife stared in disbelief. The tiny building appeared to have been built out of driftwood, featuring a sand floor and a bar made from the remains of a wrecked boat.

Dee Dee stood there with her hair nicely done, wearing a polo shirt and khaki shorts with all of her normal jewelry, staring at the other patrons -most of who were wearing wet swimsuits or torn and faded t-shirts. Imagine going to a barbecue shack dressed in a formal ball gown, and you will have the image of how she felt. I was wearing a t-shirt, deck shoes, and shorts and still felt overdressed. I could feel her staring daggers at me as my mind raced on how to limit the damage.

“We’d like to order lobster dinners, a couple of beers for us, and cokes for the kids,” I said confidently.

“Don’t have no lobster,” the bartender advised me.

“Okay, then how about hamburgers and fries?” I asked.

“We got burgers, but we ate all the fries,” the lady replied in a bored voice as she filled our drink order.

“Okay, what do you have, potato chips?”

“Nope, ate all them to. All we got is tortilla chips.”

“That will work,” I replied, as I distributed our beverages and then continued outside to escape the daggers which continued to shoot from Dee Dee’s eyes. Once she figured out that this wasn’t one of my practical jokes, she relaxed. The burgers were great, and this became one of our favorite Bahamian bars.

Vixen in the Abacos fishing the Hatteras-Bertram Shootout

Vixen in the Abacos fishing the Hatteras-Bertram Shootout

A few days later, Randy, Don, and Skip- along with their significant others- joined us in the Abacos. We had a great time together, and decided to try our hand at fishing for marlin once again.

Now keep in mind that, given our recent bad luck with fishing the billfish tournament, I had never caught a marlin. Truth be told, I had never even seen a marlin. But I had learned something about the technique and, after deploying our baits and fishing for a short while, wonder of wonders, we actually hooked up a blue marlin.

Skip took his place in the fighting chair, and began the battle while I ran the boat. I was really excited to be hooked up with our first blue. But as the fight progressed, it dawned on me that there was something very wrong with the picture: I was up on the bridge, at the helm, and Skip was in all his glory in the fighting chair catching our first billfish. But it was great fun, and after releasing the fish (actually more like breaking it off), we celebrated.

Upon our return to the States, we left the boat down in Ft. Lauderdale for the next six months. With all of the experts there, it gave me the chance to learn how to properly maintain the craft and establish where to go to have “boat-things” done. But eventually, we brought it back to the northern Gulf and leased a slip at Bay Point Marina in Panama City, Florida. I really liked that area and enjoyed just hanging out on the boat there. But when I was fortunate enough to get a slip at the Gulfport Small Craft Harbor back in Mississippi, we brought Vixen home.

By this time, it had become clear that unless I wanted to spend full-time maintaining the boat, I would need to hire someone to help. Having developed a taste of blue water fishing after catching our first marlin, and having had plenty of time to think the situation over, I decided to hire a full-time captain who really knew how to fish.

Fortuitously, another friend of mine, Jack, was running a boat for the Grand Casino at the time, and the previous season had suggested that I hire his mate, Eric, during the slow winter months. He had been working on boats since he was a young lad. During the six years that he had worked for Jack, he had obtained his captain’s license. So with Vixen back in her slip, I met with Eric to see if he was interested in the job.

When he replied that he was, I told him that the only way that I would consider hiring him was if Jack blessed the deal. As I anticipated, Jack realized it was only a matter of time before Eric would spread his wings, and so he gave us the thumbs up.

Eric became the full-time captain of Vixen. It proved to be one of the best decisions that I have ever made.

The slip that I was in at the time was tight and shallow, so it required careful maneuvering to get the boat in and out. The first time I yielded the helm to Eric, he backed out and spun the boat around with a great deal more flair than I had ever displayed.

Shortly after coming on-board, literally, we decided to take Vixen to the British West Indies, otherwise known as the Turks and Caicos. I ran the boat most of the way there, but by the time we were headed back, Eric had completely won my confidence and had fully assumed his captain duties.

(The story continues in Part 3.)