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FAST AND FURIOUS:
A RUN-IN WITH
MOTHER NATURE

By Capt. Damon Sacco

  Editor’s Note: This article contains profanity that some readers may find offensive.
  Like my old-time friend and former mate used to say, “the sea is a fickle mistress.” He muttered that phrase like he earned it, as if he had learned the hard way. The only real certainty of the sea is change, and sometimes that change comes quick, like a punch-to-the-back-of-the-head quick.
  I’ve fastened my seatbelt a “couple” of times. My most extraordinary meteorological experience occurred offshore during a canyon charter in the summer of 2002. We were trolling roughly 10 miles inside the shelf between the Hydrographer and Veatch canyons. The sun-baked air had pinned me to the helm on my tower, the best spot on the boat to feel a 3-knot summer breeze. We had set lines in at noon and trolled southeast.
  In the mid-day hours, I noticed a peculiar cloud forming over the southern horizon. It appeared out of nowhere, a lone wisp of cotton, too low for a cumulus cloud and too strange for me not to wonder. It grew by the second. Each time I looked, a new clump of white unfolded.
  The cloud stretched in both directions, a perfect line, as if it had been placed on a shelf. It was the only cloud in the sky. The air above it glistened clear and blue. My crew was busy sorting fish in the cockpit, yellowfin. We had stumbled on a big pile of thirty to sixty pounders, and the bite was fierce. The boys could barely keep lines in the water. Drags squealed. Fish flapped. The cockpit deck stayed peppered in red, as if Jack the Ripper had painted it. The guys reeled while I stared at the sky. A funnel-like plume crept beneath the cloud. Its translucent hue swirled like a pointed finger … down and straight at the ocean.
  Holy s–t.
  I had never seen a waterspout, not with my own eyes. The swirling plume touched the sea and flushed to a blackened purple.
  “Check out the waterspout off the port bow!“
  The guys all turned and pointed. They barely had time to look before one of the rods bounced into another mechanical wail. I barely flinched. The screaming reel played second fiddle. The spout’s silhouette resembled a giant straw, one of those crazy straws that bends and twists. The sky above it dimmed as it sucked up the ocean.
  How many fish are in that cloud? A second vein descended, faster than the first.
  “I think there’s another one!”
  The cockpit hollered as the second spout stabbed into the horizon.

The cockpit was loaded with tuna during a great trip. Photo courtesy of Ken Schott
The cockpit was loaded with tuna during a great trip. Photo courtesy of Ken Schott
Darkening skies are a warning that it's time to head for port. Photo courtesy of Ken Schott
Darkening skies are a warning that it's time to head for port. Photo courtesy of Ken Schott

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fish with sun rays falling from above