Saturday, December 19, 2009

OLAF'S GREAT FIND









In the beginning of November, I received the following email from a glass float collecting friend and trading partner Olaf, who lives in Norway:

"Hi Tom

Thank you for your mails today.

Here is the story:

There lived a fisherman, born around 1850, on an island in the Oslofjord, located only 500 meters from Hovik Verk (Hovik glassworks).

The fisherman had 3 sons, and they divided the island in 3 equal parts.
They were all fishermen. One of the 3, was the great grandfather to the man I met today. This great grandson wanted to dispose of all the nets, cork, floats, etc., due to rebuilding the boathouse. I was lucky to buy the 5 enclosed small floats from him.

They are all unmarked, but he could tell me that they are all from Hovik Glasswork, which according to him, didn't mark their products until later. These 5 must have been used as glassfloats on floating nets. I also purchased the stones which were used on the bottom of the net for weight, and some corks.

In addition, he had 30 glass floats used by his great grandfather, and interesting enough, they were all the same size: abt 3-3.5", clear and green. Twelve were marked PCF, 8 were L dotted, one was an I dotted by three dots and the rest were unmarkt.

Most of the unmarked were clear/colourless, and the same type of glass as the small ones. No doubt also from Hovik Glasworks, in the early 1870's.

Conclusion :

The H floats, which I have 3 different kinds of-light green and dark green with same size H, and the aqua H which is larger, are not from Hovik Verk.

The H floats are Hestviken glassworks (westcoast) and Holmen glassworks (north).

Holmen closed down 1840, but my guess (which you have thee same assumptions written in your email for Schimmelmann) is that Holmen produced floats before it was officially known, or credited to Faye/Berg in 1842-1843."


What a day!!!"

After reading Olaf's email, and seeing the photos of the floats that he had found and purchased, I was amazed, incredulous and happy for my friend's good fortune.

Prior to Olaf's photos, I had seen this style of float in a photo sent by Roger and Maria the previous spring. The photo of that net full of beauties (shown above) is from the Smogen Museum.

There was also a very curious bullet-shaped netted float, which sold for almost $1,000.00 on a Norwegian auction site. It was impossible to see the float within the capnet, but the shape and size lead me to believe that float was one of the Hoviks.

David from Sweden, found a similarly-shaped Knobbed Egg a few summers ago. That float's glass was aqua. Now, not only had Olaf come across a handful, he also was able to purchase them for his amazing glassfloat and commercial fishing gear collection.

Immediately, we began exchanging emails about his wonderful find. An idea popped into my head, and I wrote: "Hmm. Maybe that "..." float I have, will be worth trading for one of the Hoviks, if you want to trade one?" The next day, Olaf wrote back, and we began to discuss possibilities and availabilities.

For two weeks we talked trade, discussing floats that I had which he did not, and trying to formulate a trade that would also be worthy of the cost for postage from Norway to New Jersey. The cost from Norway to send a single float is very expensive, whereas a box with 3 or 4 floats, costs very little more. Putting together a sizeable trade added another degree of difficulty.

I have not been able to entice Olaf to go American, or Asian. He has one of, if not the finest, Norwegian float collections, and is also interested in Euros. The problem is-he has just about every Norwegian float known to collectors, and his Euro collection is first rate too. There were some gems in the collection, and it was possible to part with three of them. I had enjoyed the floats for many years, and felt it was time to share their beauty with another collector. In return, new and exciting floats would join the collection.

The trade was put together, culminating in both of us having had a good time during the negotiations, and an equally good time waiting for our packages to arrive, then opening them. Thanks to my trading pal, I now have one of the Hovik style of floats, as well as a beautiful small and colorless Swedish Dog Float.

I look at both of those floats everyday, and there still remains another trade in the works for the shorter and fatter style of Hovik. We're working on it, but with the holidays, etc., we are dickering at a slower pace.

The story has continued. More information from the seller of the Hoviks and his family has surfaced, as well as additional information came to Olaf through other Norwegian glass collectors, and research exchanged between us in later emails. Olaf put a story together for all of us to read, and today his email story arrived to be shared.

"Subject: VS: glass floats

Hi Tom
Here is the family history of the man who sold me the Hovik floats:

THE FISHERMAN IN OSLOFJORD

If you are visiting Oslo, the capital of Norway on a cruise-ship, you will at the end of the journey, pass the Swedish West coasts prior to entering into the Oslofjord. From there it is about 1 hour's sailing to Oslo. The Oslofjord has always been rich in fishing resources.

There lived a fisherman, born around 1850, on an island in the Oslofjord. The island is located only 1500 meters from Hovik Glassworks. Hovik Verks was a glass factory constructed for the production of glass bottles (and fishing glass floats) in 1871. However, a large fire in 1875 made a stop for further production of glass bottles - and likely also fishing glass floats.

The fisherman had three children. One son-who became a fisherman, and two daughters who married two brothers - both fisherman. They all settled on another small island nearby. One of the 3 fishermen was the great grand father to the seller's wife. The descedants of the fisherman still live on the island today.

In 1865, the old fisherman-Nils Pedersen, is registered as living on an island called Snaroya, just outside Christiania. The capital city's name-Christiania, was changed to Oslo in 1924. He was married to Berte Evensdaughter, and had 4 registered children, Pauline born 1856, Evdard born 1859, Nicoline born 1861 and Mathilde born 1862. His son Edvard also became a fisherman as well as the two brothers Peder and Kristian Kristiansen, who married two of Nil's daughters.

Kristian Kristiansen born 1852, was married to Mathilde-Nils Pedersen's daughter, and they had the two sons Oskar born 1884, and Wilhelm born 1887.

In 1886, Nils and his two sons-in-law bought two small islands outside Snaroya in the Oslofjord - the price was nok 999.999 - and the family settled there.

In the year 1900, four families lived at these two islands. They were all fisherman.

It was an hour's rowing to Christiania, were they sold the fish and bought necessary equipment and food to survive at the island; and it was an hour's rowing to Hovik Church every sunday. The Hovik church was located very close to Hovik Glassworks.

According to glassworks literature' a company called Christiania Magasin established sale of their glass products in Christiania from 1857. In 1868, glassbottles and glassfloats were sent from Biri Glassworks by railway, from Eidsvoll, and sold by Christiania. Biri Glassworks marked their glass floats with BV, but we also know that Christiania Magasin marked glass floats with CM, likely after 1898.

Another family who lived on the island was Andreas Jansen, from Bygdoy, a place closer to the Oslo. One son, Henrik died as a fisherman in Oslofjord year 1900. The other son Fredrik, emigrated to U.S.A., where he lived 16 years before coming home to continue with fishing. Andreaas Jansen also settled down on one of these islands.

In 1881, Andreas Jansen and Godtlieb Hendriksen made a contract with the manager of one of the king's residences - Bygdoy Kongsgaard - which allowed him to fish along the coastline at Bygdoy for eel. The yearly contract fee was NOK 32 and that remained until 1925. The small oblong glass floats were used on the net leading the eels to the the eel-pot. Today, the decendants of the fishermen's family still live on the islands in Oslofjord.

One day in autumn 2009, whilst renovating their boathouse, the great grandson found the fishing equipment, nets and glass floats, of the old fisherman.

A few CM's, a few PCF's, and a few dotted L's,-all the same size of about 3/3.5"-all likely purchased in Chirstiania, when the great grandfather was there to sell fish. In another box were the small Knobbed Egg glass floats, about 12 cm long and about 3.5/4 cm wide, most likely purchased in the 1879's from Hovik Glassworks, by Nils Pedersen.


Olaf continued writing with a history of Hovik Glassworks

Hovik Glasverks was founded in 1855, by an Englishman named Thomas Graham Smyth, for bottle production. The business was difficult in the beginning due to the poor quality of the bottles being produced.

In 1862 the glassworks was taken over by the same company behind Hadeland/Hurdal/Biiri glassworks, and in 1898 by Christiania Glasmagasin. Also Drammen Glassworks became part of this group in 1898.

In 1871, they constructed a new Hovik Glasverks, with Swedish glassblowers who produced beer, wine and mineral water bottles, and a relatively large production of fishing glass floats. At that time Norway was in union with Sweden."

In an email written to Olaf prior to receiving this story, I asked Olaf if he thought that the glassblowers at Hovik might have been Swedish or been trained by a Swedish glassblower? There are definite similarities between the glass in the Hoviks when compared with other colorless Swedish floats. It appeared to me as if the same glass mixture had been used. It was good to read that my guess was right. This helps to confirm the thoughts of myself and others, that it is possible to look at glassfloats, and determine the country of origin, or the nationality of the glassblowers and/or mixers. Not foolproof, but as difficult as it is to find out who the makers were, it's nice to have a touchstone now and then. Olaf continues:

"In 1875, Hovik Glassworks was engulfed by a fire, which stopped the production of bottles and glass floats. 16 buildings burned down, together with all equipments and stores. The owners did not give up, and built a new glashütte a year later. They employed glassblowers from Hadeland. Mr Berg-the owner, established a lamp factory.
The new paraffine oil lamps were a success from the beginning, and Hovik Glassworks became a world leader in the market.

In the late 1870's, the factory exported a lot of lamp products to Sweden, until new export laws stopped the exporting to Sweden in 1897. The sale of oil lamps stagnated towards the end of 1890's due to the importing of electric lamps and better gas lamps.

Hovik Glasworks made products for Christiania Glasmaagasin (CM). After 1898, Christiania Glasmaagasin purchased Hovik Glassworks. The Hovik factory was shut down in 1971/1972, and they moved the production to Halden, a city close to the Swedish boarder. The company was named Hovik Lamps."


Have a good day,
Olaf


Olaf's story of the seller's family history is quite interesting. The layers of generations, their marriages, land purchases and the fishing tradition evolved through the years, until one day, Olaf answered the advertisement to purchase fishing gear from an old boathouse. On that day, he became the proud owner of rare Hovik Knobbed Eggs. And thanks to Olaf, we all benefit from his research and sharing of the story behind the floats. The story continued for Olaf and me.

This post was started before the Christmas holidays. Since the first purchase, Olaf was able to buy a few more of the Hoviks from the great grandson, who did keep two of them to remember his family by. The two of us have just completed a trade for the second variation of the floats. This morning we both went to the post office in our homelands, and started the Atlantic crossing of two wonderful glass floats.

I traded Olaf a rare AT float purchased from England a couple of years ago. Olaf is excited, and so am I. There is a spot on the top shelf of my display cabinet just waiting for the tiny Hovik Knobbed Egg. It will sit there in front of the colored Made In Czechoslovakia floats in a line consisting of the Selkie Knobbed Egg, its Hovik mate and Per's Aalesund beauty. I can't wait!

The photos above:
1. Smogen Museum display showing the net with the Hovik Knobbed Eggs from Roger &
Maria;
2. From the website devoted to Norwegian paintings: The photograph of the painting
shown above, was done by Gude. He felt that this was one of his major works.
Acquired by the National Museum in Stockholm, it is a representation of fjord
scenery in south-eastern Norway. The view across the water at Sandviken,shows
the smoke of Høvik Glassworks rising on the distant shore;
3. the Primus Stove;
4. Olaf's original purchase and
5. the author's Hovik Knobbed Egg

Sunday, December 13, 2009

On The Trail Of The Whale & Lighthouse Floats







I wish I had a Doughnut float, or a Ship's Wheel, or someother outrageous glass float-for everytime I've been asked if the Whale and the Lighthouse floats really exist. It would be terrific to be able to at least see a photo of one or both. It isn't as if the search hasn't been going on for years now, or for lack of trying to finally know for certain that they exist. Like you, I want to have a chance to hold one or both in my hands one day. It just hasn't happened yet. Be confident. One day, one or both will appear.

Certainly, most all of us started the search for those floats due to the initial exposure to the markings, which are found in Stu Farnsworth and Alan Rammer's wonderful two editions of GLASS FISHING FLOATS OF THE WORLD. Both editions of those books show the markings, a bit differently drawn from one edition to the other, but both clearly showing a lighthouse beacon. An aside: if you've got the book, on the Acknowledgements page, you will see the name, Bruce Gidoll. Bruce will fit into this post a bit later.

"Tom, My goal is to find the Whale and the Lighthouse floats."
"I've been looking hard."
"Do you think they really exist?"

A bit of paraphrasing from David Neff emails. David lives in Sweden with his wife and family. He has found a few of the rarest Euros known, but his goal is to find that pair. Is there a float collector anywhere, who does not share that desire?

Just a few weeks ago, a friend-who with tongue-in-cheek, labels himself, "Float Collector Extraordinare," and who in reality-is one, asked me if there was any proof of their existence. I sent him a couple of the photos above, which show the Spanish-made metal Lighthouse marked floats, together with the promise that I would write a post about what proof I do have.

My own search for photos of those floats started by asking collectors who have been around since the 1960's, and who knew collectors from earlier years, if they could turn me onto someone who has the floats in their collection. I have not been able to find anyone who can either contact or put me in contact with, someone who has either of those embossings on glass floats.

Then I received a tantalizing email from Stu Farnsworth. And thanks to Stu, I am now happily communicating with the writer of the following email: William Jessop. Bill is an incredible researcher, as well as a float collector.

It was important to first, introduce myself, and secondly, ask for permission from Bill to use the email story. An email was sent to him one Sunday. Not only did Bill give me permission, he also sent a wonderfully articulate and fun-to-read email. He has since sent two terrific float-research emails which will be presented in future posts. Bill has a lot to say, and what he says will stimulate all collectors who are interested in floats and glass making.

Here is the email from Stu, then Bill:

"Hey Buddy;
Here is an article I thought you would enjoy. I just dug it up while going through emails for deletion. Anyway, this had your name written all over it.
Stu"


From: Bill Jessop
Subject: FLOAT STORIES
To: stujay
Date: Thursday, December 26, 2002, 1:35 PM


Stu, as promised, here is a very interesting exerpt ("...") from my
correspondence with a chap in the Orkney Islands that I bought a float
from...it certainly provides insight & color re: the use of the floats &
why there aren't many left:

" There is no clear indication of where this 'brand' of float was
manufactured. UK and Norway seem to have been the biggest manufacturers of
these and yes, they were produced as trawl floats as you mentioned. Very
difficult to say where they would actually have been used. They were
beachcombed on the small islands here years back, and were commonly found up
to about 10 years ago. Now they are never seen. The local fisherman used to
send the children out looking for them, and they were then used as single
ended floats on the inshore Lobster Creels. Absolutely amazing that they
survived this, as the inshore Lobster fishery is just that-about 15 yards off
the rocks on the shoreline!! The storms and swells we get here put "paid," to
many of them.
They have washed up here for decades. The Orkney Isles being right at the
north of Britain, we catch the Gulf Stream and also the North Sea and
Atlantic meet here, so the tides are severe. 12 knots at times in certain
places. Also, with the different directions of the North Sea flow, all sorts
of items wash up on our shores, even coconuts and dead turtles from the
Carribean.
Regarding age, most of these tend to be from around 70 or 80 years ago, I
think, with the free blown ones being a bit older. Many old timers here
who used to set creels have a few still lyng around in their sheds, and they
come up for sale from time to time. We get the full range of marks on the
floats including some of the very rare ones like the 3 fishes, lighthouse
and whale. Also the colours tend to vary widely, green being the most common,
clear, amber, aqua and cranberry being found as well.
There would have been lots more of these but sadly, young boys finding these
on the beach in years past, took great delight in taking them to the cliff
tops and hurling them over to see them 'bomb' on the rocks below.
Thinking back, I can remember lads going up there with wheelbarrows full of them that
they had found that day."

While reading the email, my first reaction was, *@#&!! How many more stories am I going to have to endure of floats destroyed by being used as targets; broken to get the little balls inside for grinding into marbles; thrown at the rocks to hear them explode, bombed to smitereens during WWI and WWII, or buried in tiffs or trash dumps at the bottom of cliffs? Then I realized that I was reading about someone actually saying that they had seen the Whale and the Lighthouse marked glass floats. Immediately, an email was sent to Stu thanking him for thinking of me, and to tell him how exciting it was to read that email. It is a story which is now continuing to be passed around.

Unlike the experiment, which starts by telling a story to the first person in a line of people, and continues... by having each person retell the story to the person behind them, until the last person in line is told the story, and which always reveals changes in the story from the first telling to the last-this story is as unchanged as the day the email was first written.

Is this a fable from the man in the Orkney Islands written to impress Bill, or is it a factual history being passed on?

Early this year, I received a box from a float collecting pal, Richard Carlson. In the box were two differently-sized metal floats, with the Lighthouse marking on them, as well as numbers and the name, La Coruna. What a great gift, and how "enlightening" it was to see the mark resembling the drawing found in Stu and Alan's book.

On a hunch, I Googled, "La Coruna," and was surprised to find quite a bit of information. La Coruna is the second largest city in Galicia in northwestern Spain. It is, and has been a very busy seaport and center of trade, because it faces the Atlantic Ocean and major trading countries in Europe.

The Romans conquered Galicia in the 2nd century BC. Prior to being named La Coruna, the town was named Brigantium. The Romans used the port for trade with England, France and Portugal.

The population at that time was small, and most of its inhabitants made their living from fishing. Present day, Marina Avenue is known as the area where the original fishermens' houses existed.

The lighthouse drawn in Stu and Alan's book, and also embossed onto the metal floats may be La Coruna Lighthouse, which was originally called the "Tower of Hercules." Built by the Romans more than 1900 years ago, and considered to be the oldest existing lighthouse in the world. It was originally kept lit by constantly-tended wood fires.

In the 1800's, a glass business was established in the city, possibly called, glass factory La Corunesa? I have not been able to conclusively find the name of the original glassworks yet. Close by, Almeria, is well known for its glass industry, and La Coruna is noted for the beautiful glassed-in porch fronts (seen in the photo above showing La Coruna's fishing boats) on many of the city's houses and buildings.

Glass was very important in the area of the Tower of Hercules. My guess is that the Lighthouse mark pays tribute to La Coruna and the Light, and may also be a testament to the strength of it's protectors during the many sieges that occurred throughout history. The light kept shining no matter who attacked the city, and to mariners, besieged by storms, and fog, the shining lights point the way to safety and security.

That was an interesting time spent researching, and I would like to ask, if you have the time, Google La Coruna, to see what you find. Perhaps additional information can be added to this post via the comment section below the post?

Bruce Gidoll.

During one of our frequent and always enjoyable phone conversations, my friend Bruce Gidoll, who was acknowledged for his contributions to Stu and Alan's book, gave me a piece of his float history. I was on the hunt for someone who had either or both of the floats, and thought to ask Bruce about what he might know. Bruce said that he had actually seen both of those floats in one man's collection! I was incredulous, and as we talked, thought about writing this post, and tried hard to remember all that he told me.

Time passed. The Carribean story was written. This post had been swirling around my head. An email was sent to Bruce promising a phone conversation, together with the asking of a favor. The favor: would Bruce think hard about his sighting of the floats, and search his memory for every fact that came to mind? Bruce came through with the following story:

This story begins in the 1990's, when Bruce and his wonderful wife Lupe, lived by the seaside in Oregon. Much of Bruce's early float collection was established either through trades or by finding floats in antique stores.

While on vacation in West Yarmouth, Cape Cod, Bruce was drawn to one of Yarmouth's four great antiques shops. The window display of one shop featured a selection of glass floats. He opening the door to enter, and was surprised by something banging on the inside of the door. A red basketball-sized Made in Czechoslovakia float, which hung on the inside of the door, and acted to alert the shopkeeper like a doorbell, was responsible for the banging . Bruce purchased that float. It is the only basketball-sized red Czech float that either of us has heard of.

Also found in that shop were four American Teardrops, and a selection of two sizes of American-made Neversinks. As Bruce began to look through the floats, he realized that another man, perhaps in his 40's, was also looking through the floats.

Naturally, the two collectors struck up a conversation. Enjoying their conversation, Bruce took the man up on his invitation to follow him home to see his collection. The man lived in the exclusive community of Chatham, which is west of Cape Cod.

Bruce said that he believed that the time of this trip was prior to 1997, and that it was definitely before the year 2000, because he and Lupe were still living in Oregon, and had not begun the process of selling their home, and moving to the East Coast.

He followed the man to his home. At that time, some of the West Coast Asian float collectors were collecting Euros as well. Bruce is now a collector of rare colored floats, and could care less about maker's markings, but at that time, he did collect Euros, and specifically marked floats. That trait is still the norm for Euro collectors, although shapes, other than the round ball, are also quite important too, just as they are to the Asian float collectors. I digress...

While looking at the man's floats, Bruce spotted both the Whale and the Lighthouse embossed floats. Never having seen those floats before, the queston was asked,

"Where did you get them?"

The man said that they were given to him by his father. That was the extent of the history he knew about the pair. Another question,

"Are they for sale?"

The man would not part with his legacy.

I asked Bruce for some specifics on the floats, and this is what he said. They were both standard 5-inch Euros. They both looked old, but were in good shape with some use abrasion. He believed that the Whale float was pale green glass, and that the Lighthouse was of colorless glass. The marks were both embossed on the side of the floats, and both were good sized embossings-clearly seen.

The markings were drawn from memory, and sent to Stu and Alan prior to the 1st. edition of their book. Two or three years later, Bruce went back to Chatham to visit the man, but he had moved, and Bruce was unable to find out where he had moved to.

Is this the end of Bruce's story, or is it possible that the owner, or another person reading this post, will add to it? Do you still doubt that these floats exist? Was the Lighthouse float, Spanish-made? Does the Whale float symbolize the Whale trade that brought so many Portugese fishermen to the Northeast Coast, or is it a mark that pays tribute to those magnificent mammels?

If you doubt their existence, kindly keep in mind some of the floats which appeared during the last year. A number of never-before-seen floats have come to the surface. What collector had ever seen an example of the beautifully shaped and colored Aalesund floats before Per Einar found them while on expedition last spring?

On Roger and Maria's glassfloat website, there is a just posted photo of an aqua M (Moss Glasverks) embossed grooved float. The photo may confirm the conversation that Per and I had early last summer. Feeling that the glass color of the grooved European floats did not conform to Flesland's normal colors, and there is also the lack of a Flesland maker's marking on the floats, we agreed that Moss glassverks could have been the maker.

There is a photo on Vebjorn's site of a wonderful float that is knobbed on one end, round on the other. This float resembles the plum bob shaped float on the patent drawing of the S.H. Davis & Co. gill net.

And who can forget the first photos of the partial Ship's Wheel float, then later, the actual finding of a whole Ship's Wheel, followed by the Ebay auction of another that was found in France?

Who knows what is in our float collecting future? I believe Bruce's story, and feel confident that one day, we will all see the first photos of those two floats.

Merry Christmas, and best wishes to everyone, for a healthy, happy and prosperous New Year, and lots of glassfloat happenings!

P.S. It's Sunday evening, and I've just received an email from Richard Carlson. Rich is the pal who gave me the pair of metal Lighthouse floats. I would like to share Richard's observations on the Lighthouse and Whale floats:

Hey Tom,

After reading your latest post on the Lighthouse and Whale, I was wondering if the small metal float I sent you, says Hercules on it? Mine does, so it must be the Tower of Hercules.

Also, as I'm sure you've noticed, both Lighthouses-metal and glass, have 3 rays coming from the light. Could be coincidence, but when you think about things, a Levis logo has looked the same since 1855 or something like that. I would wager that La Corina is the center of glass as well as metal lighthouse production.

If Bruce says the Whale is clear glass, then I would vote for France for two reasons. From the design standpoint, an area might use shared technique. The star and the ship's wheel are old nautical symbols as is the whale. Stars and the Ship's Wheel have come from France, and once using pictures as marks rather than letters, maybe a glass house continues to use pictures on their products? Who knows? There could be clear (and sun turned) floats with fish, sails, ropes, chains etc.

The second reason is the color of the glass itself. So many floats are showing up
in France that are clear or sun turned clear. LVs, Stars, that LI in a Wreath, UVE, JMS, I'm sure I'm forgetting some. Ahhhh maybe there's a sun turned Whale out there?

All the best,
Rich

Thanks Rich for sharing your thoughts and inferences.

P.S.S. Sunday, Jan.3,2010, During our telephone conversation yesterday afternoon, Bruce told me that I had a fact wrong. The shop that he found the Red Czech, the Teardrops and the pair of Neversink floats in, was not the shop in which he met the owner of Whale and the Lighthouse floats. The shop where the floats were purchased was located in Chatham where Bruce's sighting took place. Those floats were found at a later time. So in the desire to be as accurate as possible, I wanted the readers to know the facts.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Row, Row, Row Your Boat








As we followed the curving island beach, and walked to the end of the debris line, we arrived at our first challenge. Stan said,

"We've got to make a landing by clearing the rocks away. They could put a hole in the bottom of the raft."

Starting on the shoreline, I began clearing the sharply pointed rocks aside, while the other guys worked on blowing up two rafts. After clearing out a nice area on the beach and out to knee-deep water, I stood up, and looked out at the channel between us and our next goal. The tide was flowing in, with a stiff breeze pushing it. A strong current, the breeze and the incoming tide would have to be crossed to get to the other side, and closer to float hunting paradise. My partners had opened the box with the 4-man raft inside. The battery-powered pump was ready to go, and my mind talk continued:

"Man! Those little plastic paddles look flimsy."
"How in the heck are we going to cross that channel with those?"
"Is it possible?"


Our hope was to find a treasure trove of glassfloats hidden in the brush after being deposited there by the surging waves of great storms. Reaching our goal: an island about a mile away, was shaping up to be something other than a simple walk in the park.

At 7:30 that morning, we received a phone call from a Belonger friend of Stan's who had a boat. We were hiring him and his boat to take us to a hard-to-reach cay for another float adventure. We woke up before dawn, had breakfast, and packed our gear in anticipation of the call. The news was not good.

"The engine is apart."
"We're at the mechanics."
"Maybe it will be ready later this morning."
"What did you want to do
?"

This was our last chance for a trip, and we could not waste the day wondering if the boat would be ready. We needed to talk about it, and would call him back.

I offered the plan of going back to where we left off after our first day's adventure. I did then, and still want to go back to that spot to keep hunting. The vision of the point of the island a good mile away, and it's potential for finding more floats was in my mind's eye. There was a lot of territory between our first day's finds and that point to explore. That idea didn't go very far. We still wanted to try to get to our original destination.

Rudolfo's charge on the flight to the islands, was to carry a 4-man raft with his luggage. As the reader may remember, we all had to pack-mule something important for either the trip or the house with us. The fact that we had two rafts, a one-man and a four-man raft, became the focal points for the feasibility of this adventure. The maps of our planned destination came out once again, and the exciting possibilities conjured up by the story of the last time Stan had been on the hard-to-reach island spurred us on.

The preceeding spring, he and his son had tried to beachcomb that island, but shortly after starting their treasure hunt, a sudden storm came over the horizon. They were forced to run across and around the island, then make their way to the channel, cross it and get back to the house. They did so, just before the tempest struck. Luckily, the tide was with them that day, and the channels were wadeable. Before crossing back to the other side of the island, Stan told us how he had looked down a beach that they had no time to search. He saw a line of fishing floats and debris, stretching on and on. That was his vision, and now his vision was in all of our heads.

"We've got the rafts."
"We can drive to this trail, then pack everything to the channel."
"We'll blow up the rafts, and row across."
"Once we get to the small cay, we paddle along its shores then across another channel to our destination."
"We can do it!"
"Ok! Let's load the truck and go
!"

That battery-operated pump did a great job of blowing up the rafts. The decision was made for Stan to take the one-man raft across with three of our packs. The three of us would take the big raft with the extra gallon of water, and the rest of our gear. Stan got into the raft and started across.

Luck was with us. We had arrived at the 1st. crossing, and made the rafts ready at the end of the incoming tide. Before beginning to paddle, high slack tide had come, and the wind was now a gentle Carribean breeze. We crossed without incident.

Rather than paddle in the raft to the next channel, I decided to carry two packs, one from Stan's raft, the single pack from the three-man raft and the rakes, then hike the cay. It would be easier to paddle the raft with one less person and the gear. Maybe there would be a float or two on the cay? The hunt was on, and as I hiked and looked, my companions started rowing again. Twenty minutes later, we met at the next crossing, loaded up, paddled the short distance to our destination, and sat under a beautiful stand of Casuarinas to eat lunch.

What a beautiful site to be in! It was so comfortable sitting in the shade of the trees, eating and talking excitedly about our adventure up to that point, and what lay ahead. In front of us was a beach that was the epitome of pristine.

A beautiful sandy point stretched out for a quarter of a mile to meet the torquoise ocean. Just a couple of hundred yards off the end of the point, a tiny cay, covered in sunlit green growth, jutted out of the water. Bright cumulous clouds with their Carribean breeze tails floated in the blue sky. The sand was white, and there were four or five drift lines leading out to the point. A beautiful large green, white and yellow marker buoy lay in the sand in front of us.

Unable to sit there and not explore the drift lines, Rudolfo and I, with sandwiches in hand, began to walk and search the drift. Shells, absolutely beautiful shells lay in the drift. Both of us picked up a dozen or more specimens. Nancy was there with me in spirit as I gathered the souvenirs. Excitedly, we showed our finds to our pals, then we got down to float business again.

Shouldering our packs, we hiked through the stand of trees, through the brush and stopped on the crest of a low hill. Looking across a mile-wide expanse of brush, boardered on the right by a large lagoon, Stan took the maps out again. Pointing to where we were, and where we had to hike to, one could not help but take a deep breath then gulp at the thought of crossing the pathless brush to the edge of the lagoon. The hope was that hurricanes had backwashed glassfloat-laden storm surges into the lagoon, then into the brush. Once off the crest, and down into the brush we were quickly enveloped, and could only see a few yards in front of us.

We kept to whatever openings we could follow, yet tried our best to stay on a line toward our goal. Whenever we came to a higher outcropping of rock, we could look ahead, and that helped us keep our bearings. The good spirits kept flowing, and after awhile, we broke free of the brush and found ourselves on the edge of the lagoon.

Walking the shoreline, there was a conspicuous absence of debris. Rudolpho and Jim walked ahead of Stan and me. We made the occasional foray back to our left and into the brush in hopes of finding a debris line. We soon lost sight of our pals. Stan found a debris line, and a couple of floats-plastic and metal. He called me, and we both started looking harder in the brush. After a while, I stumbled onto another part of the line, and found a wonderful metal float with the embossing: Manufactured Phillips Trawl Products Ltd. Grimsby, England. As a student of European commercial fishing history, the port of Grimsby, England is significant to me. Even though the float was not glass, I could not leave it behind, so decided to carry it with me for the time being.

We called the guys on the "talkies," and told them about finding some parts of a debris line and floats, and they too began to go away from the shoreline and into the brush. Stan and I continued forward, but found nothing glass except a few bottles.

Finally, we all met at a tidal creek with a Mangrove swamp on its opposite shore, which blocked our way to the target point at the beginning of the shoreline that Stan saw on his last trip. We had no choice but to cut inland toward a stand of Casuarinas on the coastline. Hopefully we would not be stopped by more Mangroves, and have to go back the way we had come.

After a surprisingly easy hike, we came out on the backside of the trees, and walking through them, reached the beach. Now what? Rudolfo decided he wanted to walk the beachline up to the rocky point which marked the end of the beach, and toward the rafts. Jim wanted to go in the opposite direction toward a cove. Stan followed Jim. I was not too sure which way I wanted to go, and headed into the Casuarinas with the thought that perhaps I could find tidelines pushed inland. Once, I turned around to go back toward the cove with Stan and Jim, but decided that walking on the other side of the trees, than back under them to inspect all of the debris might pay off.

Twenty minutes later, Jim excitedly called to say that the cove was covered with all kinds of debris. Stan was close to him. Rudolfo was quite a way up the beach, and I had covered close to a quarter of a mile by that time, so decided to continue on my path. Later, after a few messages from the guys talking about all of the debris, there came the call that Stan had found a glass V over B float. Having found nothing but plastic, and a couple more metal floats, as well as being fooled by two sangria bottles, I began to wonder about my choice. Calling Stan to congratulate him, the sad news came that the float was in three pieces. It looked perfect, but when picked up, only the top of the float came away from the sand. What caused that float to be broken like that?

Time passed. Except for the wonderful diversion provided by a pair of Cuban Crows following and talking about me, plastic floats and bottles, the long grove of trees ended. Standing on the beach, I saw Rudolfo up ahead, bent over and searching between the rocks on the point. Stan and Jim called to say that they were headed back to us. We had to get back before the sun set. Twenty minutes passed as I slowly hunted the brush and beach toward the point, when Stan appeared a few yards away. In his hand was the glassfloat. What a beautiful float it was. Its V over B mark was on the seal, and appeared to be a more modern embossing than is normally found on either the side marked, or the other seal marked examples that I'd seen. The letters were larger, and from a different engraver and/or tool. The glass was bright green, and the ball was in three perfectly-fitting pieces.

Stan showed me the way it looked when he found it, then we hiked to Rudolfo to see what he had been looking for. In the sand by his pack were two huge biscuit shells found on his hike up the beach. Searching the crevices in the rocks, Rudolfo had found a good handful of beachglass, some of it cobalt blue. A few minutes passed, and Jim joined us. The glassfloat was buried in the sand by the point just as Stan had first found it, and we decided rather than cross through the brush to the other side of the point where the rafts awaited us, that we would hike the debris-covered rocky point. Lots of netline, plastic floats of all sizes and some metal balls lay in the crevices, but no glass Euros or Great Ones were found. Of course, the chances of any glass surviving the rocks was practically impossible. We looked though, and even chanced to look over the inland crest of rock where the thick brush started. None.

I continued to carry the Grimsby float. At least three times before the point, there were thoughts about relieving myself of its weight, but unless it was replaced by a glass float, I continued to keep it with me. We reached the end of the point, and realized that we would have to cross a stretch of thick brush to continue on. Rudolfo took the lead, and surprisingly found the openings in the brush that quickly and relatively easily, brought us to a continuation of the rocks. Across a cove we would have to hike around, was the beach leading to our rafts. Th sun was now setting.

We made it to the rafts, and headed back. The tide was dead low, and the water between the beach, the small cay, and the channel was often too shallow to paddle over, so we got out and pulled the 3-man raft for most of the way. Stan in the 1-man raft, continued to paddle his way back. Crossing the channel was easy, and soon, we had the air out of the rafts, folded and put them back into their boxes. Picking up our gear, we hiked toward the path that would lead us to the truck.

Once again, Jim and Rudolfo forged ahead of Stan and I. It was enjoyable talking about the hike, and speculating on the possibilities of the cove, and the next island over. Then we saw a shark, big enough to do some serious damage, only a few yards off the shoreline. It was now dusk, and the shark was in the shallows hunting. We both realized how fortunate we were to have gotten back to the sands, and out of the water. Other sharks were probably hunting in our wake. It would have been dangerous to be in the water at that time. The adventure still wasn't over.

The sun had set, and it was getting close to dark. We had not found the path that would lead us out to the truck, and it was hard to see. Finally, we decided to head inland. The thought that we had missed the path was expressed. The mosquitos would be out in full force very soon. It got darker.

Thankfully, the light-colored sands' visibility enabled us to make our way through the brush, and we reached the dirt road. Following the thought that we had passed the path, we headed back down the road, and ten minutes later, there was the silhouette of the truck. Of like mind, we all speedily finished the hike, and upon reaching the truck, packs were shed, placed into the back of the truck with the rest of the gear, bug repellant quickly applied, and cold beer was soon gushing down our throats. The beer bottles were quickly drained, and an ice cold coke apiece handed out. Laughter and exaltation were shared between us. Soon, we started the truck's engine, and headed home to a shower and a good meal followed by the last of the and rum and coke.

After a late breakfast the next day, Jim and I were walking a village road on the way to the homes of the lady Belongers to purchase their handmade beachgrass baskets. Jim asked me,

"Are you disappointed that we didn't find many floats?"
"Sure!"
"I'm glad that I did find one, but I'm sorry that you couldn't have found a whole one too."
"It was fun looking, wasn't it!"
"Yea."
"I think that we would have found them if there had been any big hurricanes this season."
"I haven't had much luck on these trips, but I sure do enjoy coming here."
"Maybe next time."


The afternoon was spent visiting acquaintances and Stan's island friends, culminating in a wonderful visit with our fishing guide and his wife to see his treasures. His gracious wife sent us home with a wonderful meal of conch stew and rice with vegetables. Her gift, together with the final treat of fresh lobster provided by Stan and Rudolfo, was a great last supper. We went to sleep with the house in clean-going-home shape, our bags packed and a storm blowing. Rudolfo and I lay under the screened in porch on our mattresses, talking as we had done all week before going to sleep. The talk that night was punctuated by the crashing of the ocean's waves upon the shoreline, and the blowing of the winds. We wondered what had blown up from the south, and whether it would blow itself away from us by morning?

Just before first light, I opened my eyes to the new day, and quiet. The crashing of the waves was gentle compared to a few hours earlier. No wind, no rain, and soon everyone was up. The last breakfast was quickly made. All the leftovers from the last couple of days, and the last three eggs were used. Bags were zipped up, and promptly at 9:00 A.M., our transportation arrived to take us to the ferry dock. After customs at Miami International Airport, Stan, Jim and I met up and said our goodbyes. Rudolfo, called us just before he left on his plane to New York. He was on his way to see his family and new grandson. At 2:00 the next morning, I arrived in Philadelphia International Airport to a wonderful series of hugs and kisses from Nancy.

The end.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Crabbing



"Ouch!"

Smack..smack..brush the ear..brush the neck..brush the arm... Darn Mosquitos! Suddenly, Jim shouted with a start. I looked over in his direction, and saw the silhouette (great word for a spelling bee) of an open shed, and the light from Jim's flashlight swirling around, as he tried to see something flying at him.

"Are you alright?"
"Gees! What was that!"
"What happened?"
"I think a big bird flew out of here right at my head!"
"Flew right into my head!"
"Scared the helloutofme!"
"I've had enough of these mosquitos' 'I'm going back to the truck.' 'What about you?"
"Yea, me too."

Back inside the truck we both asked the same question,

"Where are the crabs?"
"That guy got 24 of them, and we can't find one."
"What the heck are we doing wrong?"

An hour earlier, feeling great after a good meal, Jim and I decided that tonight we were going crab hunting. The crabs found on the island were Land Crabs, and came in two varieties: black and white. The difference seems to be in the coloration of the shell, and the word was that some prefer the white to the black for eating. From the Belongers we talked to, they both are quite edible. Thoughts of a Linguinne and crab dinner filled this cook's head.

I grabbed a long-handled tool with a metal head that opened and closed like a jaw, (still don't know what that tool's purpose really was) from its position just inside, and to the left of the downstairs entry door. It was purposely put there in anticipation of the crab hunt. Feeling confident that we could pin any Moby Crab down, and not get our fingers pinched off, Jim and I jumped into the pickup. Our companions wanted nothing to do with this adventure, preferring to stay in with cold glasses of rum and coke. They did wish us good luck, but it seemed to me that there was a slight hint of derision in their wishes too. So with laughs, and good lucks, Jim and I set off on the hunt.

Driving slowly out of the village, and even slower on the road, we headed north. I was riding shotgun, and with the windows down, hung my head, shoulder and arm out the window while using the flashlight to look closer into the edge of the brush. This technique was alternated with looking directly ahead, in the hope that we would see a herd of crabs slowly crossing the road. After half and hour of hard looking, the herd of crabs would gladly be exchanged for just a glimpse of one.

"Maybe, as we drive closer to the Flamingo bays, we should see crabs.' 'Right?"

Nada. Nothing.
Past the bays, and a mile or so further, we pulled onto the dirt road leading to the boatdock, where we had met our guide a couple of days earlier.

"There's got to be crabs around here."

After the startled-bird-flying-into-the head incident, the thought of a cold rum and coke, convinced us to turn around, and head back. We hadn't given up though. At that point of the hunt, all we wanted to do was to at least be able to say that we'd see one. We both hated the thought that we would return to our pals with absolutely nothing to tell.

I drove this time, and decided to slowly drive the truck in a leisurely side-to-side curving pattern up the road. Since leaving the house, we had not seen another vehicle out on the road, so felt no sense of being the cause of an accident. We were the only ones out there hunting. Still, we were careful, and slowly made our way up to the village, and left-turned into it, toward the house.

A block later, we made a right turn, and saw a fellow walking up the road ahead of us. I turned off the brights. Jim and I both felt and said the same thing about wanting to go back with a story that was better than, "didn't see a thing." We had even talked about the possibilities of setting up a crab trap. They had to eat something. What did those crabs eat? Could they catch those quick little lizards? Did they eat bugs? Eachother?

"Sure wish we didn't throw all of the fish carcasses into the ocean."
"Bet if we'd left them in a pile on the path to the beach, and checked the pile every 15 minutes, sooner or later, crabs would come to it."
"Yea.' 'We should have tried that."

Suddenly, at the end of a driveway, I saw a crab.

"There's one!"
"Where?"
"At the end of the driveway!' 'I'm shining my flashlight on it!"

Jim jumped out of the pickup. With pincerpole in hand, and flashlight shining everywhere like a kaleidoscope, Jim's big body suddenly flashed across the headlights, and in an instant he was standing over the crabspot, with pole down, and pointing the flashlight into the brush. For a big guy, he sure moved fast!

Seconds later, I was standing next to Jim, cardboard box in hand and looking down. Seeing nothing, I asked,

"Where is it?"
"I can see it!' 'There it is!"

Down stabbed the pole, and there was the crab, throughly pinned. Jim reached down to pick it up, and did so, by grabbing it from the back. But he got his fingers too much on the body, and the bugger got him just as he was releasing it into the box.

"Ouch!"

Laughter, followed by a look with the flashlight to see if the finger was still attached to the hand. Yes! Everything was still intact. A bit of blood, but we still had the crab. Nice big black colored Land Crab. Now, we had a story to tell.

Handshakes, more laughter and excitement punctuated the night's air as we drove up the road to the house. Passing the fellow walking up the road, we both noticed that he gave us a funny look. We laughed some more, and talked aloud about what that guy must of thought of those two crazy whitemen in the truck, and the stories he would tell to his friends and family.

Back at the house, we climbed the outside stairway up to the second story rooms, proud as can be with our box and it's new inhabitant. Opened the door to see our pals hurridly getting up from their chairs to greet us. The box was put on the table. The question, "did you get anything?" was followed by proudly tilting the box for them to see our great catch. That crab looked a bit forelorn. Mad too.

As a couple of pictures were being taken, the crab scrambled forward, almost making it over the edge and out of the box. Guffaws of laughter, exclamations and the quick tilting back of the box, just saved the victory from turning into a "mad crab dashing around the house, being chased by four crazy white men" moment.

After the victory, pictures were taken, Jim took the boxed crab down to the beach path, and freed it. Can't imagine what that crab must have thought about its personal Karma. "What the heck just happened to me?"

Timing is everything.

To be continued...

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Seven or Twenty-seven






The pattern emerged: a day of intense float hunting adventure, followed by a day to recoup our energies for the next battle in the brush. Looking back on the total trip, there were new adventures everyday, even during the days of leisure. As the sun was setting after an easy day, Jim and I walked the path from the house to the beach to try a bit of fishing.

It was good to have company, and good to have a pal like Jim to share the unknown with. No one in the house had any experience with fishing the surf there. Except for my tale of having hooked two fish, but not seeing them, and the story of a local woman catching a better than 20 pound snapper on a handline, fishing on the beach was a shot in the dark.

The path to the beach is right next to and behind the house. Strolling down the sandy road, there is a garden literally carved out of the brush, with various plantings of corn-green, but struggling to put on height due to the lack of rain this year. The path was crossed by many vines of a succulent type of pink morning glory. Even though they grew across the path, it was no problem stepping over them to walk to the sea. The end of the path went slightly downhill to a short stretch of sand.

The shoreline was mostly rocky outcroppings made up of fossilized hunks of coral from the reef, with an occassional short stretch of sandy beach. Looking to my right, the beach stretched south as far as I could see. A quarter of a mile to my left, there was a high rocky point that one would have to traverse in order to continue up the beach.

The color of the water varies from cobalt to purple outside of the reef, to turquoise, green, and many shades between inside of the reef. The color changes are dependant upon what is on the bottom. The water itself is a very light shade of green, similar to the light green color of some Heye Glass clover-marked floats.

Looking out about half a mile, the Atlantic Ocean's waves crashed against the reef. There was enough force from the Atlantic's waves to continue over the reef, to the shore. Depending upon the wind's force and direction, the surf could vary from calm as a bathtub, to chaotic crashing upon the sands. Seeing hightide debris lines on the land behind and above ten-foot high walls of rock, I could not help but imagine the force of the hurricanes that came ashore.

That evening, there was a breeze-smelling of salt and beachgrass blowing from the north, and the tide was going out. Jim and I were both using jigs with rubber tails. We cast them over the edge of the inshore rock ledges, and worked them over the rocks trying not to get them snagged. The breeze, the breakers and the rocks made fishing a bit difficult.

I had walked a hundred yards to the right of where Jim was fishing, then cast my way back toward him. Neither of us had a strike, and managed to keep our lures from snagging badly enough to lose them in the rocks. Suddenly. a fish grabbed my lure. The reel screeched as the fish took line, and Jim quickly realized I had hooked a good one. What a fight! Even though it was a very strong fish, it wasn't able to break or cut the line on the rocks, and finally tired enough to allow me to use an incoming wave to swim it safely over the ledge, onto the sand.

What a beautiful fish, big-shouldered-silver body tapering to a sharp forked tail that was highlighted in bright yellow. It had a large mouth, no big teeth and the biggest round black eyes I had ever seen on a fish of its size. We later learned it was a Horse-eyed Jack Crevalle. It was such a beautiful fish, too beautiful to kill, so we set it free. What a great feeling it was to see it swim strongly back through the surf. After happy handshakes followed by a few more casts, we headed back to dinner, and rum and cokes-with a story to tell.

Our next "leisurely" day was spent arranging to borrow a club car to drive the path to a great swimming and shelling beach. Sounds innocent enough, but nothing we did was without the potential for some calamity, and this was no exception.

The arrangements were made, and we visited a local friend, who gave us the key to another friend's garage where the club car awaited us. Both the car and the engine had a through going over prior to our arrival, and the engine problems had been diagnosed and corrected. Hmmm.

After a discussion of rust (everything in the village that was made of metal, other than stainless steel, had a very short life span), and directions on how to get around the electric pole to be able to continue on the path, we loaded the trailer with our gear, and jumped in. The difficulty around the pole was caused by erosion from Hurricane Ike, which had eroded the side of the path where it passed the pole. Supposedly, there was just enough room to get around it, without falling off a ledge. Hmmm.

The engine started easily, we backed out and headed down the road toward our destination. Then we came to the pole. I have to give it to our driver, Stan. With just a bit of guidance, he gunned the vehicle at just the right spot, and got that vehicle past the pole without a scratch. With happy gusto, the four of us jumped in, and we headed through the brush toward the promised land.

Stories of a few choice floats being found on earlier trips, had me anxious to forget the swimming, and go float hunting. We passed through the soft sand then up and over a high hill. Passing over the crest, we saw the most beautiful sandy beach boardered by two rocky points. The beach was about 250 yards long, and looking at the high tide drift line, we could see plastic floats, and debris. Two of us chose to walk above the hill leading down to the beach, and two walked the driftline.

I decided to explore the brushlines that descended toward a small bay cove. Looking as throughly as I could, and feeling certain, that sooner or later I would spot a glass float, I continued all the way down to the cove. Nothing. But I still had the return trip, and could explore where I had not covered. Nothing.

The last time that I saw Jim, he was up ahead, going over a rise. When I came out of the brush, the end of the sandy beach was below me, and the tracks of my companions led back and around a point to the beach's beginning. I found them separated a few yards apart, waist deep in the surf, and all looking down. Then Rudolfo, tossed something up on the sands. They were shelling.

Quickly joining them, I began looking down into the crystal clear water where a line of shells could be seen below. Unfortunately, we did not have snorkels or fins, which would have been fantastic. As the series of small waves rolled in, there would be a break when for a brief 20 or 30 seconds, the waves would receed and leave the shells exposed. If you had your eye on something in particular, that was your chance to quickly grab it. In no time, I had some beautiful Cowries, small Welks, Tritons, etc., filling my hands. My partners had had enough, and were sitting in beach chairs with a cold brew in hand, when I came up to my towel to deposit the shells. We compared our finds, and I returned to the surf. Both the shelling and the swimming were wonderful. Thoughts of finding shells for Nancy gave me a feeling of closeness to her.

The cold beer felt great going down, and after another swim, we decided to get into the club car, and drive further up the trail. That's when the engine decided to play games with us. It easily started, then died. Stan tried to get it to turn over again, without success. Then we thought to try a different combination of turning the key to the on-position, putting the transmission into 1st. gear, then turning the engine over. Started right up, and off we went.

After climbing a couple of hills, we came to a beach that held promise of some good beach glass, and decided to check it out. We wondered if we should keep the car running, but confidence ruled out, and we shut her down. Of course, on the next attempt to start up, our latest engine-starting system didn't work, and we began to have the feeling that maybe our luck had run out. Stan kept trying to get the engine to turn over, then out of desperation, decided to change the position of his tongue, and the crazy engine turned over!

Except for jumping out to push the car up a sandy hill, the trip back to the telephone pole was uneventful and fun. We all felt so darn good. Smiles, jokes and laughter filled the drive. We came to the pole, and without hesitation, Stan gunned her right past it, and we were good to go.

Arriving back at the house, showering, and sitting down to a batch of rum and cokes, we were wondering what to have for dinner when there was a knock at the door. Our host opened the door, and found the chef and owner of the restaurant smiling and offering two heaping containers of Conch fritters-the promised missing course from last night's meal. The dinner question was answered.

Plans for the next night's poker game, great conversation, more rum and cokes, and stomachs filled with fritters and hot sauce, were followed by more conversation as unexpected guests stopped into say, "Hi!" One Belonger (the name given to the local inhabitants) came to tell us that he had just caught 24 landcrabs that night. A spark filled Jim's eyes, and mine too. Recognition passed between us, and plans were hatched with a, "We've got to try that!" Satiated, the hunt would have to wait for another night. A great 2-hour discussion of politics and foreign policy ensued after the last guest had come and gone, then it was off to sleep with high expectations for the morrow, and that night's poker game.

The sound of the waves breaking on the shore, and a star-filled sky were our companion's during the night. The cymbal-like sound of waves coming ashore, greeted me as I opened my eyes at first light. Half and hour later, the coffee was made, everyone else was awake, and plans for the new day were discussed as I prepared breakfast.

As soon as breakfast was finished, and the dishes washed, we bagan to clean the house throughly, and get the furniture and table set up for dinner and the game. Our menu for dinner was planned, and with a four-man-flurry of gusto and work, we had everything ready. Then sandwiches were made, camel packs loaded with water, gear stashed into the pick-up, walkie talkies checked, and we were off to do some float hunting.

We went to a beach area where our host's son had found a 20+ float cache of Euros, inexplicably left by a Belonger many years before. Maybe he forgot which bush he left them under? The story of the find had us all looking very hard to duplicate the feat. I did find another cache, but it was a cache of fuel and water containers, and not floats. Doggone Sangria bottles fooled me at least twice more, then I stumbled across a beautiful amber Euro-in at least twenty pieces.

The find was stimulating, and pushed us on, but that was the only float found. There were numerous bases, sides and tops of bottles at the surface, with the largest portion of the bottles buried, indicating that there must be many many floats buried beneath the sands. This year's hurricane season on the Atlantic was very quiet, so nothing was disturbed. All of those buried floats will have to wait for future storms. Portents for future hunts. We returned to the house, showered, and began preparing for dinner and our guest's arrival.

I can't help but wonder what has been stirred up by the huge storms that have pummeled the Asian Pacific shores this season?

Dinner was terrific. The poker game was a lot of fun, especially learning a bunch of Southern Illinois poker games. One of the favorites was called 7/27. Aces count for 1 or 11. Face cards are 1/2 a point. Numbered cards count for the number on the card.

To start the game each player is dealt one card up, and one card down. One additional card is dealt to each player on each pass, and bets placed. If you pass on the dealing of cards twice, you have to sit pat with your hand. You can be dealt as many cards as necessary to reach your goal, and when the last player is finished having cards dealt to them, the final bets are placed followed by the totals being counted. There are normally two winners, one who's cards add up the closest to 7, and one who is closest to 27. There's nothing like being in the catbird seat, knowing that you are the closest to 7, while everyone else is trying for nearness to 27. That catbird sitter, can run up the pot, because half of the pot is guaranteed.

Our guest was cleaned out, your's truly won a few bucks, Rudolfo came away from the table breaking even, our host was throughly skinned, and my fishing partner Jim, was the big winner.

To be continued...

Thursday, October 29, 2009

No More Sangria!








After word of our arrival became village knowledge, there was a constant procession of visitors honking car and truck horns in the driveway, or coming up the stairs to knock on the door.

The morning of day two was no exception. Guests started arriving right after breakfast. I had taken it upon myself to do the morning cooking, which was a lot of fun, and was an opportunity for me to show my gratitude to be invited into the established three-way friendship. It was fun meeting these folks, who universally had smiling eyes, a warm grin, and very pleasant manners. The conversation was always from the heart and genuine.

I was the first to wake up in the morning, normally before first light, and was quickly followed by Stan, who made the coffee. On that 2nd. morning I went surfishing, and on the first cast hooked a fish, but lost it when the hook pulled free. Later, another fish grabbed my jig and tail combo, and was also lost without seeing it. Nothing but fish stories.

After breakfast, we decided to do some work on the house. All of us had packed something extra for the trip together with our normal baggage. My extra was an indoor/outdoor fan for the new screened in porch. Once the electricity was sorted out, charged to the switch, and the fan put together for hanging and wiring, it only took a few more minutes to have that baby running. Sleeping on that porch with the cool circulating air from the fan, and the sound of the waves to go to sleep by and wake up to, was intoxicating.

The third morning found us up early, and after a filling breakfast, we jumped into the gear-filled pickup, and headed to a dock to meet our guide. On the way there, we passed a flock of Flamingos grouped together in the middle of a small bay. The sunlight illuminating off their feathered bodies shone a beautiful shade of pink. We stopped to try to photograph them, but they were pretty far away, and no one had a telephoto lense. At the landing our guide pulled up in his pickup, and we began to unload his fishing gear, extra motor, extra gas cans, etc. In no time we were ready to go. The boat's engine was running nice and smooth, and we took off for an outer Cay.

Once we reached the cay, and pulled the boat up onto the beach, we donned our camel packs, grabbed our hand rakes, and started hiking into the brush. I don't think 15 minutes passed before I saw the gleam of purple glass. Rushing over to the gleam, and pulling back the brush, I was greeted by two pieces of a beautiful amethyst float. The rest of the float was nowhere to be found. Finding an amethyst float was my second goal. I guess finding two pieces was apropos.

Finding the hurricane debris line and the walking were so much easier than our first foray into the brush. It was hot, but the cay was surrounded by water, and not that wide. A sea breeze was easy to find. There were bottles, and plastic floats all over the place. In no time we were separated-each covering a different part of the debris lines. Bottles, plastic floats, light bulbs, more bottles, then suddenly I saw the round side of a green float. I took my time walking up to it. Looking throughly at everything between the float and me, and not wanting to miss seeing another float, I reached my find. Stooping to pull it free from the sand, I was dismayed to find that my float was in reality the bulbous end of a sangria bottle. Fooled! That episode was repeated at least a dozen times before our trip ended. We all were all victims of the ruse-over and over again.

Hours of walking only yielded lots of bottles and plastic floats, but no glass floats. What happened to that promising beginning? Finally, working my way to the beach, I could not resist the cool inviting water, took my clothes off, and jumped in. Man! That felt good. Stan emerged from the brush, asked me how the water felt, but declined to get in because the dry salt on the body made him uncomfortable, and we still had most of the day ahead of us. Having lived with a salt-caked body for more than a week on a month-long Baja trip, a few hours of salt on me was nothing to deter me from a great swim.

A short while later, together with our guide, we met under the Casaurina trees for lunch. In front of us, with low tide wavelets lapping at its emaciated body, lay a dead half-grown Sperm Whale. The sharks had cleaned the flesh off most of the body, and there was no odor.

Lunch was terrific. After lunch we decided to walk a bit further, and soon came to a high coral bank where a "Great One," was smashed to smithereens.

"Great One," is the name given to the large Japanese floats that are sometimes found in the Carribean. Of all the places to beach. That "Great One," pounded on a rocky cliff, and that was all she wrote. A short time later, Stan found our only whole float of the day, a nice blue/green unmarked Euro. I believe that it was made by Fabrica de Gijon Fabril which produced the "Scrolled 65," or the "GF in the boat". Coming to an impenetrable Mangrove forest, we decided that float hunting was over for the day, and it was time to go fishing. We were also on a bit of a timetable.

The preceeding afternoon, we had arranged to have dinner at a local restaurant after our guided trip, and didn't not want to keep the cook waiting. Piling into the boat, and stowing our float hunting gear, we broke out the fishing tackle. We had two fishing rods, and four guys, so paired up, and made a deal to give up the rod to our partner after each fish.

Trolling plugs through the outlet of the coral reef, we were in purple water when a big one grabbed my lure. I could feel the strength of that fish's body as it took line, and quickly knew that there was not enough line on the reel to weather it's run. There was no turning the boat to chase it either. As the line disappeared, there was nothing left to do but clamp down on the spinning reel's spool with my hand, and hope the fish would give up its run. Quickly the line parted. What a fish.

We had a great time after the big one got away. Blue Runners and Rainbow Snappers grabbed our trolled lures every 5 minutes, and we soon had a nice mess to eat. The conformations of the inland cays were beautiful, lime/green with growth, and varied in shape. There were caves created by the eons of crashing waves, and rocky points that hung out over the water resembling half of a bridge. Two of those points had collapsed into the sea, due to eons of undercutting of the rock by the surf. The waves crashed over the fallen points as we trolled by.

Entering the inlet of the creek leading to the boat dock, we had to help our captain by keeping watch for rogue waves coming at us from the side. The tide was coming in, and the waves behind us were big and pushing us forward. The rock wall to our right was only 10 feet away. Wouldn't you know it? A really big fish grabbed Jim's lure.

There was no moving that fish, and we could not stop to fight it. Line was melting off the reel. Jim tried to battle that fish, but it was just too strong, and another monster got the better of us. Then Stan hooked up with another brute. That fish was as strong as it gets. We lost it coming through the gap, and when the lure was retrieved, one hook was completely pulled off the plug-including the O-ring. The other hook was straightened, and its O-ring was just about pulled open too. The lure had been crushed, with holes in the tail, and water inside. Great Barracuda, King Mackeral or Wahoo? We'll never know. But we negotiated the entrance safely. The ones that got away!!

Our guide was the best, and we thanked him profusely for a great day. Luckily, he is a good friend of our host, and has since become someone who I admire and like very much. He visited us twice more, and filled hours with stories of his family, and life. On our last day on the island, he and his wife invited us over to see the treasures he had found while diving for Conch and Lobster, and beachcombing.

The four of us were still high on excitement, and all talked about the day as Stan and I quickly filleted the fish, packed and refrigerated them. Then everyone showered and dressed for dinner. It was an amazing dinner. We were the only guests at the restaurant. Conch had been caught that afternoon, and was as fresh as is possible to eat. Our chef presented us with a starter of Conch salad, a fresh vegetable salad, followed by a boneless filet of Grouper, beans and rice and Conch fingers. All was washed down by cold beer, and the owner's wife joined us for dinner and great conversation. We were promised Conch fritters too, but that is another story. It was great not to have to cook that night.

To be continued...

Monday, October 26, 2009

We're Still Alive








On the morning of our second full day at the Carribean Island house, the four of us were loading the pickup for an easy trip. I blurted out the title above, and jokingly said that would be the heading of our 1st. story on the blog. Lusty, testosterone laughs were followed by a barrage of witty quips. We were in Paradise, knew it, and shared the same feelings about the day before. Thursday was a day to recover.

Our planes had landed 20 minutes apart at Miami International. Getting off the plane and through the C gate, I was greeted by floor-to-ceiling installations of beautiful fiberglass molds of all the popular sport fish in Florida's waters. Each species of fish was arranged in an artistic design of 4-10 fish with about 2-3 levels of designs per wall. They were beautiful, and I took a few photos as I waited for my companions to arrive. We'd never met before.

Standing in the waiting area in front of the gate, my eyes and the eyes of my host-Stan met. We recognized eachother immediately, thanks to photos shared through the previous year's emails. I had wondered during the many months of waiting for that moment, what it would be like to see the real faces and persons responsible for great philosophical and float-sharing emails. The glad-to-see-you shake and hug answered the question. Followed by two more similarly warm greetings from the last two of the Buoy Brothers Rudolfo and Jim, we were quickly talking. For the next 9 days, the only lull in great conversation, came when we were asleep or reading our books during the short snatches of minutes between adventures.

Needing a lot of hydration was the lesson learned on our first float hunting expedition. Each man carried a camel pack, bandages, net bag for floats, walkie talkie and camera. We had battled thick brush, with little-to-no-shade, over 100-degree temps, and no cooling ocean breeze filtering through the Casuarina trees to relieve us. There were many moments of dizziness, trying to catch my breath and breathe through my nose, and not my mouth. There was a breakdown when I draped myself over the waist-high branch of a 7'tall palm. The top part of my torso from armpits to the top of my head was bent over, supported by the palm's branch, and I wondered if my companions would find me if I passed out? From somewhere deep, came the strength to stand up, clear my head and push on.

Half an hour earlier, while searching for a piece of tideline left over from Hurrican Ike, Stan had called me on the walkie talkie to come see a glassfloat that he'd found. Our two companions were searching closer to the Casuarinas, about a quarter of a mile away.

Stumbling as quickly as I could through the maze of brush, scurrying lizards and bleached Landcrab remains, I found our Buoy Brother standing over an opening in the brush, looking down on a beautiful colorless Euro. Quickly, a few photos were snapped, and Stan stooped over to pick up the float and see if it had a maker's mark. It did...LT. Our fourth float of the day. Rudolfo had found an unmarked amber shortly after we started. Jim had found two throughly broken floats, one a Heye Glass Clover.

Fifteen minutes later, and only a few moments before the draped-over-the-branch experience, I'd decided to walk to my left to see if I could find the tideline again. I found it, and just after finding it, there in front of me was another colorless Euro embedded in the old debris right next to a European metal float. What a beautiful pair!

I called Stan over, and while waiting for him, I snapped a couple of floatos. I'd found an RG Made in Portugal 5-incher. My goal was realized. During the summer months between that moment and the initial surprise invitation, I had tried very hard not to set myself up for lack of float finding disappointment, so kept the hope alive that I would at least find one Euro on this adventure. There it was!

Walkie Talkie conversations evolved into a plan to leave the brush and get back to the truck where cold beer was waiting for us, where we could convert our long legged brush pants into shorts, and get the hot and sweaty socks and hiking sneakers off. That old dirt road was a little piece of heaven when we broke free of the morass. We slogged back to the truck. The only thing comparable to being able to sit down as we drove back to the house, rolling the cold beer bottles on the sides of our throats and faces, and drinking a good long gulp of liquid refreshment, was putting my face up and my body into the cool outdoor shower on the back porch. Nirvanna!

The next day's easy pace, and rehydrating ourselves throughly, was what we all needed, because our third day was planned. We were hiring a guide to take us to an outer Cay for more float hunting, and some afternoon fishing.

To Be Continued...

Monday, October 12, 2009

A Great Invitation





Hope those alarms go off as scheduled! They're set for 3:15 A.M. Nancy and I have to get it together, and make it to the airport by 5:0O A.M. The plane takes off at 6:30. Nancy will be dropping me off, and heading back to begin her long day of work. What a Sweetheart!

This is the first installment of another expedition diary, thanks to an incredible invitation to go searching for glass fishing floats on off-the-beaten-track islands. I am unable to tell the reader more than that concerning the locations.

The invitation came during the later part of spring, and it's been a long wait for this moment to arrive. My bags are packed.

This diary will be written in a different style. There will be no computer access where we are going, a written diary will be kept, photos taken, and upon our return in 8 days, I will invite the readers to follow our day-to-day beachcombing adventure.

What awaits the four of us on those pristine beaches? The summer months have been a delicious blend of anticipation, phone calls, emails, exchanged photos, dotting the I's and crossing the T's. Oh Man!