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Sunday, May 27, 2007
Nicknames in the Fleet

Nicknames in the offshore albacore fleet seemed like a badge of honor. In my mind, it was a name bestowed on a skipper for a personality trait, an outside occupation, or to commemorate or sum up a notable event. Our friend, Don, of the Marine Star was a longliner before switching to trolling and earned the nickname “Longline.” Another skipper was a welder on the side…..”Steelbender” was the nickname. “Ponytail” of course had one. Stanley was "Steamer", and so on. I had a written list of nicknames in our fish log which can’t be found at the moment. It read like a hall of fame for fishing prowess, great escapes and escapades, and sheer bravery. I recall “Johnboy” who played a goofy revelie for the fleet....dogs barked out Jingle Bells ala Spike Jones. “Pokey” had a rogue wave bash in the side of his schooner during a typhoon north of Samoa. He and his crew lost the hatch cover and watched it wash overboard and then back onboard. They managed to secure it and saved themselves and the boat. “Sailor” had a beautiful black lab on board who had only one sniff of the green grass of Kiwala Basin in Honolulu before being whisked away to doggy detention. “Slider” slid. It was also the term when a boat tacked down wind astern to the waves and when the boat's motion was easier There were many more besides “Booger,” and “Popeye.” Three skippers of the upper echelons no longer with us are “Ultimate,"“Midnight,” and our mentor, "Shamrock."

One unusual event determined the season’s best nickname. The schooner Janthina was fishing south of the fleet one day and ran over a large swordfish, mortally wounding it with the propeller. Not to waste such a delicacy as “grilled swordfish,” “Ponytail” wielded the gaff and hauled it aboard. He steaked it and then froze them in his hold. The whole fleet was on the receiving end of many delicious swordfish steaks. A match struck our grill during a streak of good weather and we dined on barbecued swordfish until hit by the ensuing food coma. The fleet gave out a new nickname to the swordfish salvager…”Roadkill.” It stuck for the rest of the season.


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