The 13th annual Barracuda Bash was held on January 23rd & 24th. Steve [Treasureman] and Rosie have been going to Isla for many years and have always stayed at the Vistalmar. I have witnessed firsthand how much they work to organize this event- from making sure we have enough of each size T-shirt through ordering enough food and getting cooks for the banquet, through obtaining the appropriate permits from the harbormaster, I often wonder why they continue to do it…..this year we decided on “safety yellow” [read: florescent] T-shirts with teal lettering- one of the newbies, Doug, owns a small graphics company and he made the T-shirts. I decided 3 or 4 years ago to donate the T-shirts through my company [my logo is on the front of the shirt so I have been using it as an “advertising” expense]. This year, Doug made up 15 dozen T-shirts. Steve and Rosie brought down about 3 dozen and the remaining came with us on Monday after I had given a few away to folks who contribute significantly to my business. Sign-up for the Bash is always at the Vistalmar where Rosie documents the names of the captains/first mates and boat names, and the names of the people who will be fishing. The names are given to the Harbormaster/Coast Guard so that in the event of any mishaps, everyone can be accounted for. She also sells T-shirts and tickets for the banquet which is held the evening of the second day of fishing. The proceeds go towards paying the caterers, the captains, the gasoline, the bait, the prize money and the refreshments for the boats while the fisherpeople are out. The Bash runs for two days, 4 hours of fishing each day in search of bagging the biggest fish. Wednesday morning Brian and I prepared for the day- I ate a banana, a small pastry and a bottle of water. We were supposed to meet at Velazquez at 8:30 AM for photos and to get our boat assignments. Before leaving the Roca Mar, I took a Bonine [thanks bjmpac for the tip] and headed out along with my CT compadres. In our bright yellow shirts as we wended through town, I felt very conspicuous especially when Doug kept quacking and telling me to keep all my ducklings in a row-LOL. As we walked down Medina, we saw a stream of other yellow shirts heading towards our rendezvous with our pangas. The usual catcalls from previous participants mingled with the nervous pacing of those who did not know what to expect, as this was their first Bash. The usual chaos ensued- Rosie yelling out instructions, cameras snapping; Steve collecting side bets for the 8th largest fish caught that day. Finally, everyone was there, the captains and first mates had placed all the bait and refreshments in their boat coolers and the group pics began. Captain Tony was there [he is so handsome and I just love his hugs!]and took a picture of all the participants while he was perched on the top of a beached panga- his picture came out beautifully and he gave me one at the banquet- it will soon be framed and hanging in our TV room. Doug the newbie was to be my fishing partner on Alberto’s boat, Sue & Randy were together with Alan B, aka “Gilligan” on Julian’s boat, Jamqueen’s Alan was on Dom Paldo’s boat with Steve and the remaining CT connection stayed on shore. Hubby Brian has been the official weigher since he ruptured a disc while fishing in the Bash a few years ago, and Rosie and Sharon were the official recorders of fish weights, etc. Since the boats all end up at Velazquez restaurant when the 4 hours are up, many landlubbers stay there and imbibe their drink of choice while waiting for the brave barracuda-slayers to return. Sooo……with a whistle and a shout from Rosie and the gang at the Vistalmar, the boats are off!!!! There were 13 boats total and I was seeing everything this year through Doug’s eyes….it is comical to witness the engines roaring, the various participants yelling out encouragement, disparagement [typical fishing stuff], the handkerchiefs waving from those left on shore and the boats split off and everyone heads out to their favorite fishing spot. I have known Alberto for several years, and we have caught some big fish with him so I told Doug that we would have a good day. Alberto headed towards the other side of the bay to another spit of land which is also a part of Isla Mujeres….the first mate [Raul] talked nonstop but for some reason, I could only understand 1 out of every 5 words even though I speak Spanish….maybe it was his voice or something but I wanted to tell him to SHUT UP and FISH! Actually, they cannot touch the fish or bring it in, the participants must do this or the fish doesn’t count. I THINK most of the captains understand this-LOL….but you’ll have to ask Steve about his captain-LOL. The first mates bait the hooks and take the fish [with their menacing teeth] off the hooks. We fish with handlines so the hook is on heavy line attached to a spool and all you do is let the line out for 60 or 80 feet [I think] and do a rhythmic pull on the line so that the bait looks a little livelier to the ‘cuda below [hopefully]. It is important to wear gloves as if you do a hook a big one, you can slice your skin wide open. My gloves did not fit well and I did end up with two battle scars on the lateral part of my little fingers on both hands. We trolled for awhile and I was so thankful that the waves were calm. Doug kept looking at me and saying “this is AWESOME.” Now, Doug is a BIG guy, he is 6’6” and probably 235-250 lbs, very fit abut despite the big tattoo on his bicep and his size, he is a marshmallow. I cannot tell you how many times that week that Doug said “thank you for including me in this trip” or “I am so honored that you guys asked me to come.” He is a very articulate man and he is not afraid to let his feelings show and that is A-OK in my book. I have known him for a long time but we were never “friends” per se. He was responsible for sponsoring the Peruvian Special Olympics team in our small hometown when the worldwide Special Olympics were held in Connecticut about 15 years ago. He organized all kinds of things and was able to get free housing for all of the athletes. I was one of the interpreters and I remember even then; what a neat thing for him to do. He also ran [unsuccessfully] for First Selectmen in our town so I respect that he is not afraid to get involved in community. I now consider him a true friend. I was so happy to be out on the water, trolling for ‘cuda and being grateful for this life, I am blessed in so many ways...being on the the water is so good for thinking and dreaming….
YIKES!!!!The line jerked in my hands, I yelled “got one!” As I frantically pulled in the line, everyone on the boat was saying incomprehensible things but we were all hoping that maybe this would be a big one……but nope. The first fish was a small ‘cuda, probably 2 ½ ft long, maybe 6 lbs……but it was a start! Doug was so happy but I had secretly hoped that he would get the first one. As the fish flopped around in the back of the boat, we dropped our lines again…..of course I have no time reference but it felt like shortly thereafter, I pulled in another small one…. Now Doug has the fever and we keep trolling. FINALLY he yells, “got one!” and he pulled in a decent sized ‘cuda, probably 3 feet, 8 lbs. He was ecstatic and was obviously unaware that we would need to do MUCH better to win the prize, these fish were babies compared to the monsters that lurk around Isla [don't mean to distress you snorkelers-LOL]And so the day went…the 4 hours was coming to a close so we headed back to shore. We finally cracked open the beer in the cooler and toasted each other to a great day in the sun…..that beer was cold and oh-so-good….next part will be the second day of the Bash, the weighing in and the post-fishing fiesta…..and ---Did Sandia or Doug catch the BIG ONE???!!!!