BACK ON THE BRIDGE

A re­turn to the helm of The Hooker

Marlin - - FROM THE BRIDGE - BY CAPT. SK IP SMITH

Be­ing a boat cap­tain for so many years and now be­ing an in­sur­ance agent nerd, I had to start re­pair­ing and check­ing off the sur­veyor’s rec­om­men­da­tions as I con­tin­ued the re­build of my 48-foot G&S, The Hooker, in Panama. I am re­ally safety con­scious these days, so I called in com­pa­nies to in­spect the fire-quench­ing sys­tem, fire ex­tin­guish­ers and the Zo­diac life raft mounted on the bow. Mean­while, I had set a goal of be­ing ready to fish out of Tropic Star Lodge in Au­gust and Septem­ber for its great blue mar­lin sea­son.

Clean­ing the boat’s in­te­rior was crazy too. I dumped out ev­ery drawer and sprayed in­side the cab­i­nets for bugs. I peeled off the wall­pa­per, pulled up the car­pet and threw away two re­ally beat-up old couches too.

The 32-year-old sa­lon door had some rot, and when we tried to re­move it for re­pairs, it crum­bled in half as we were try­ing to dis­as­sem­ble it. Now it was time to find a car­pen­ter. As I started to take the cab­i­nets apart, I re­mem­bered the lead car­pen­ter at G&S, Ju­lian, who had done a lot of the boat’s in­te­rior work. He told me back when we were build­ing the boat that some­one would have to take this all apart some­day. Now here I was do­ing the work my­self, and his ghost was talk­ing to me with each turn of the screw­driver.

Get­ting around Panama City is no easy task ei­ther, be­cause it has plenty of traf­fic. One thing it does not have is road rage though. The driv­ers are re­ally po­lite since you have to merge a lot, and they do not mind you cut­ting in on them. I had to make sure we had a com­plete shop­ping list of parts and sup­plies when I headed to the ma­rine store in town — I had to en­sure we got ev­ery­thing in one trip be­cause it would take three to four hours to get in and out of the city. Once I had the parts, it would be back to work on the boat for hours on end.

I also started to or­der equip­ment from the United States and have things shipped to Panama. The coun­try was re­ally nice and did not charge me duty be­cause I was con­sid­ered a yacht in tran­sit. Two new air-con­di­tion­ing units and a wa­ter­maker from Dometic, a re­frig­er­a­tor, a bunch of new Garmin elec­tron­ics, couches, a new mi­crowave/con­vec­tion oven and an or­der of rods and reels from Shi­mano were soon headed south.

Now it was time to go to work as we pulled the old air han­dlers and com­pres­sors out of the boat. The new air con­di­tion­ers are so nice. They’re one-piece units and fit per­fectly where the old air han­dlers were, which left space in the pump room for the wa­ter­maker we would re­ally need. We also had a Pana­ma­nian in­stalling the new wall­pa­per, and the car­pet was be­ing cut as well.

Af­ter we changed the fuel and oil fil­ters and were fi­nally ready to sea trial with the new props, The Hooker ran great, just like I re­mem­bered from more than 25 years ago.

We still needed to haul out to go over the bot­tom and in­stall the new trans­ducer, along with the rest of the Garmin elec­tron­ics, but that would wait un­til we got to the new boat­yard at Ma­rina Pez Vela in Que­pos, Costa Rica.

I was back on the plane headed home with one last parts list, and we still had plenty of work to do. I was not too sure we would be ready for the very first trip. My friends wanted to catch an IGFA world record on ei­ther 8- or 12-pound-test line. No pres­sure there!

We were barely ready when we left the port of Bal­boa for Tropic Star Lodge. We ran through the Per­las Is­lands out to the canyon and put the teasers out. Our first bite was a sail­fish, and our guest, Kathy, hooked it on 12-pound-test line — it was like I had never missed a day. The Hooker slid back so smoothly, and in no time we re­leased our first bill­fish. We caught another sail­fish on 8-pound-test line and missed a few blue mar­lin, but it was awe­some to be back fish­ing on this old girl, and even bet­ter yet to be back on the bridge once again.

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