With the coffee mugs filled, a bundle of jackets stuffed into a bag and a boat attached to the truck, we head out in the early morning darkness to Fort Desota Park in St. Petersburg, Florida, for a day of fishing. We arrive to an empty beach giving us our choice of docks and parking! I am not much help — not any help — to the captain on this morning. The sky takes all my attention.
“Oh, look, Saturn is so beautiful this morning,” and it is. The Big Dipper hangs in balance and the waning gibbous moon is bright enough to cast shadows large enough for dancing!
Sitting on the dock looking out over the water, I finish my coffee and notice another car pulling up. I nod and smile, those will be the paying customers. I will get to tag along on this day as I personally know the captain.
Adam grew up as a farm boy; the first born of my three sons. Although he is only the oldest by only three minutes, he took on the role of eldest son by the time he was two. This son of mine always knew what he wanted and had dreams and schemes to get him there. I think the key was hard work.
For 17 years he has lived and worked in St. Petersburg with the hopes of becoming a charter boat captain. He was first in his captain’s class and bought a boat, found and purchased his license for international waters and became the owner of Playin’ Hooky Charters. He has, however, kept his day job … at least for now.
This winter he married Tara Rinkle and she decided becoming a captain would be beneficial to the business. As they say, “Two captains are better than one!”
Adam and Tara prepare the boat before we all board. Poles are in position, motor checked,and we are allowed on the boat. Adam says I can sit with him, up next to the captain’s chair. I am honored, although I think it is merely to keep me out of the way.
Tara gives the safety talk and we head out into the Gulf of Mexico as the sun is just casting rosy ribbons upon the water. The water is smooth, and for now, there are no other boats. We stop before we have traveled too far to catch small fish for bait. I watch these two Indiana kids working the water and the boat and the customers. I am amazed at their skills and talents and knowledge.
After enough bait is caught, we head 20 miles out into the Gulf. The catch is marvelous. The guests, all from Wisconsin, are catching fish! One caught a 250-pound dusky shark. Of course it is illegal to bring it aboard, and who would want to? Adam reaches into the water and takes the hook out of its mouth. I shudder and say, “Don’t do that, honey.” I know full well I should not say that. He gives the souvenir hook to Dan who is beaming from ear to ear.
The sun rises higher and we share salami sandwiches and bottled water. Adam puts a pole into my hands after lunch. Even though I raised three sons on a farm in Indiana, I don’t know much about fishing. I am thrilled I get to fish. The pole bends and I tug and tug and pull up a gray snapper! It is as if I caught the shark!
Today is a half-day charter so by noon the talk shifts to going back in, but no one wants to. The captains both smile and let them keep fishing. By the time we do go in, the fish box is full. Everyone stretches out as we head back to shore.
Once back on the dock Capt. Adam and Capt. Tara clean all the fish for their guests. We feed all the scales and scraps to the waiting gulls and pelicans. I watch their skilled hands filleting the fish.
The folks from Wisconsin leave with a cooler full of fish and rosy cheeks from the Florida sunshine. The day is not over yet for the captains, however. It will take several hours to clean the boat and get the poles ready for the next trip.
I caught four fish in total. But mostly, I watched my son living a dream, and you just can’t put a price on that.