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Or, What Not To Do On Someone else’s Boat

Wall Leadin

    Capt. Damon Sacco said he was offshore trolling with a charter when it happened.
    “I’m at the wheel and I hear this ‘thump-thump-thump.’ I’m looking around to see what’s going on, and I see this head bobbing in the spread.”
    One of the customers on the charter had taken a running, flying leap … from his tuna tower.
    “Now I have this human head in the water, and I have to go back and get him,” Sacco said. The man was drunk. “Hammered. He was hammered.”
    It was a common complaint among captains who agreed to discuss the topic with the Big Game Fishing Journal: customers – or even friends – who don’t know how to behave when they are on someone else’s boat.
    So what is the proper etiquette when you’re chartering a boat – or even just fishing on a friend’s boat? Charter captains often post a list of items to bring if you’re going on a trip – extra clothing, rain gear, food – but what about the items you shouldn’t bring. What are the things you shouldn’t do?
    If you want to be the kind of customer – or kind of friend – who’s welcomed with open arms on boats for repeat trips, read on and take note, so you don’t put yourself on the “never again” list.

    Problems with drunken passengers was one of the biggest issues cited. For some, beer and fishing go hand-in-hand. While most captains will tolerate a moderate amount of alcohol, they (and their mates) don’t want to be dealing with people who are so inebriated they lose all common sense.
    Many captains strictly limit the quantity and type of alcohol – beer only, for example – they’ll allow on a trip for that very reason.
    “A lot of these guys don’t get how dangerous it can be out there,” said one captain, who asked to remain nameless. “You’ve got hooks flying around, knives, teeth, thrashing fish.”
    There’s other dangers. Boat emergencies at sea happen. A fitting fails. A boat strikes a piece of debris in the water causing damage. Suddenly you’ve got a boat taking on water. In an emergency, everyone needs to be thinking clearly, and if you’re significantly inebriated, you increase the dangers to yourself and those around you.
    “It’s just a bad situation when someone’s hammered,” another captain said.
    But some who come out to go fishing seem to think their fare buys them the right to do anything, he said.
    Sacco echoed that sentiment. He recounted the tale of another trip where a drunken customer decided it was time to take a swim. Not in the ocean, however.
    “He yells up, ‘Hey, you know, this is like a jacuzzi!’ “ and the guy jumped into the livewell and started splashing around. “He’s in there with a whole bunch of scup,” Sacco said, adding he was not amused. While others in the charter tried to convince Sacco to relax, he knew that the impact wasn’t just messing up the bait. “He cracked the livewell. It’s cracked to this day.”
    One captain said on a few occasions he had customers who were inebriated when they arrived for trips. “One guy we sent home,” he said. In other cases, “you run hard and hit a few bumpswaves and pretty soon they’re getting sick. Once that happens they’re usually done for the trip” because they’ll spend the rest of the trip sleeping.
    Leave the illegal drugs at home, too. Most captains have explicit rules on this, but not everyone pays attention.
    “One guy started smoking pot in the middle of the cockpit,” one captain said. “We literally took it out of his mouth and threw it overboard.” But that wasn’t enough to deliver the message, apparently, because the man went inside the salon and retrieved some other drug from his bag and took it. They threatened to end the trip. “We ended up handcuffing him with zipties until he came down from the high,” the captain said. “His friends said go ahead because they were fed up with him too.”

    Another issue the captains I spoke with mentioned was that of fishermen going on another captain’s boat and touching things they shouldn’t, particularly the electronics and the wheel.
    “I’ve had guys say, ‘Hey, look, I marked all these fish,’ ” one said. “Don’t do that.” Each captain has settings they have finetuned for their preferences. You may be experienced and understand how the electronics work, but you may be changing something they have pinpointed after months and months of work.
    “They need to remember that it’s not their boat,” another said. “Just because it looks the same doesn’t mean it is the same.”


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