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Thursday, September 4, 2008

Can you get back home happy after a dreadful fishing week-end?

Yes, you can. This is my answer to the title of this article. Last week-end, having been released from my duties as a father and husband I picked up the phone and called my friend Fernando in Marbella, to see what the weather was like and if there was a chance to do some jigging in the Straits of Gibraltar. Fernando, probably a saint or at least a man of great patience and a great friend of his friends, told me that the forecast was fantastic and that he would be very happy if I could go and stay with him. I didn't have to think about it for too long, picked up the phone, booked me a hop in the Ave train, and on Friday morning I was at the Atocha station, loaded with luggage, ready to begin my journey to the south.

Atocha, for those who don't know, is one of the most beautiful train station you can find in the world. Inside the huge building you find a gorgeous tropical garden, perfectly taken care of, regularly sprayed with drizzled water or steam to keep the temperature constant. I got to the station almost 45 minutes before the train departure and soon put my hands on the D80 and started taking some pictures. People were looking at me in a funny way, wondering what that guy was doing in those weird position loaded with a quite large suitcase (at least for a week-end) and a long black tube that looked pretty threatening (the rod case). Couldn't care less, I was in my own little world, right behind the viewfinder, trying to awake the photographer in me.

The train trip was relaxing and comfortable. I love trains as much as I started hating airplanes. I spend a good deal of time travelling from one end of the world to the other during the tropical fishing season and I'm getting planephobic, if I'm allowed to say. But trains are different and the AVE (Spanish high speed trains) offers a beauty of a ride. Is fast, quiet, spacious and in less than 3 hours it delivers you to the Malaga station, something that by car takes at least around 5 hours and dimes. During the trip I took some horrible pictures that nobody would ever want to see. Thus, since this is a diary of my week-end I will show them, sorry!

After a quick change to a slower commuter train to Fuengirola where Fernando was waiting for me we headed for the first important stop, the restaurant. We picked a good meat place, in fact we though we would have enough fish during the following days. Lunch was average, the meat OK but not impressive and we resumed our short drive to Marbella. Once we were done with the supermarket shopping for food and drinks for the boat, we unloaded the luggage and the purchase into the Bormar VI, Fernando's beautiful 58ft Hatteras.

This was going to be home for the next two days, and I couldn't be happier. What happened was that once Fernando knew that I was coming, he called our group of closer friends and organized a live aboard trip, where the crew would stay on the boat, for fishing, eating and sleeping. This was a major surprise for me, I wasn't expecting it and I thought was just the perfect plan. Even if the fishing sucked we would have had a hell of a great time, in fact the company couldn't have been better. Imagine yourself stuck for 2 days in a limited space with some of the nicest and funniest guys on earth. The only risk you can run is to die of a heart attack because you laughed too much, but apart from that, nothing could go wrong. Of course I spent some time taking pictures of the port, but there's no need to say it right ? After dinner, only myself and Fernando would sleep on the boat, the other guys were expected to arrive at 06:30 in the morning for the departure. None of their wives allowed them to join us on Friday for an early start, good boys...!

Saturday morning, as sharp as Swiss watch all the guys arrived at the mooring. I had a bad sleep and woke up early to catch the sunrise (too early though...), but we were fast on maneuvers and the boat left Marbella at first light. We cruised at good pace heading to Gibraltar where we could refuel, buy some spirit and depart again towards the fishing grounds.

A good chunk of the morning flew at 18 knots, cruising and cruising until we hit the first spot. At this point I have to tell you that I will talk about the fishing at the very end of this piece, there's no point now. For some strange reason while on a boat I eat like a hyena. Everything edible that was coming from the fridge, was being processed at the speed of light. The massive supermarket purchase was shrinking as fast as it gets and my belly slowly changing shape, into a more rounded one. Yep, more than usual.

In the evening we approached Barbate, our port for the night and we saw an helicopter and a rescue boat working right on the area of Cape Trafalgar, a good chance to use my 200mm. Now, you have to understand that in Barbate there's one of my favourite restaurant ever. I have been there with some Japanese friends a couple of years before, again with Fernando and his boat, and just loved it. El Campero is the name, and if you ever happen in this pretty ugly and not too interesting town, please pay it a visit. The entrees are just fabulous, but my target was pretty clear: Toro sashimi.

Barbate is a major point of Bluefin Tuna processing and harvesting. The Almadrabas (giant fish traps) still catch a good deal of giants before they enter the Mediterranean for the spawning, and the tuna meat is either sent to Japan (the largest part), a bit to the Spanish market and a part is treated locally in form of canned Tuna, smoked etc.

Back to the sashimi, this is made with the most priced part of the Tuna, the belly. For a tray like those they serve at El Campero, in Japan you would pay a fortune, but here hey, ain't cheap but neither is untouchable. Tuna belly was also my choice as main course, this time grilled, and a couple of bottles of Luis Caña, a delicious red wine from La Rioja, killed our thirst. The dinner was a truly joyful moment. Six grown up men behaving like silly teenagers and having pure straight fun. It could have been great even without the wine but it sure helped warming up the atmosphere. Somehow we left the restaurant on foot and got the the boat for a sound sleep but unfortunately the only sound was coming from a club all night long, until 06:00, with painfully ugly music.

The following morning was not so easy to leave the bed and we had quite a slow start. The sun was already high on the horizon and our faces didn't look as good as the previous day, we needed a rush of adrenaline to clean the arteries and get back on track. And adrenaline we had, or at least Fernando had, because one of the engines started heating too much. Fortunately was a minor problem and once fixed we could resume the cruise and the fishing. We made our way back slowly, from spot to spot, looking for finned critters willing to give us a thrill. Once my stomach settled down, I resumed the eating process and most of the guys helped me clearing what was left in the fridge. The day was slow and nothing exciting was taking place so what could we do better than eating and chatting? Well, some sleep wouldn't hurt, in fact between one spot and another people were disappearing downstairs and coming back with wrinkles in their faces. The pillows were being hammered.

We arrived late in the afternoon to Marbella, and while the Atlantic in the Strait was pleasant and flat, the Med welcomed us with a rough face and lots of big waves. No big deal for the large boat, and we moored in the Marbella port safe and sound. It was finally time to say goodbyes and hug the Andalusian friends. I put my camera on a tripod, grabbed two flash and the remote control and shoot some group photos, as a memory of a beautiful week-en. From left to right: Fernando, Victor, Cecilio, Kikin, Juanjo and myself

And the fishing? Well, you can imagine, it sucked. One of the worst week-end ever, this fish you see here below is the only think we landed that was over 100g. Who care, this was one of the best fishing trips of my life. I relaxed, had fun, and enjoyed the company very much.

Muchas gracias chicos.


juan jose said...

La pesca es un actividad apasionante, entretenida, y que sirve de justificación para conocer, a veces tratar, y menos veces apreciar a otros pescadores. Esto es lo que hicimos el "memorable" para olvidar fin de semana.

!Anda que si encima pescamos!

Un fuerte abrazo, y gracias a todos.

Roberto said...

Looks like you've had a great time, e sono un po' invidioso...

I miss you

(old Sardinian friend)

Anonymous said...

Away such a perfect weekend, lástima la pesca, ¿Quien sabe porqué?
La próxima, no se si mejor, pero seguro con más retrateras de peces.

Un abrazo, eres GRANDE