Posts Tagged ‘ Shark ’

CAPT BLOOD GAVE POPE’S BLESSING TO FELLOW FISHERMEN.

THE HUMAN RACE

 THIS FISHERMAN TOLD IT AS HE LIVED IT!

     Gerrard Fiorentino made the sign of the cross with his left hand, blessing one of his own, fisherman Turk (Flame Eater) Emirzian. After seeing action in the South Pacific as a sailor aboard a mini aircraft carrier during World War II, a clergyman aboard ship “brought me back to God,” said Gerrard, adding, “Them Japanese kamikazes helped, too!”

     When he returned to commercial fishing at the docks in San Pedro, California, he began blessing his fellow fishermen, their boats and their catches. Since then, he was known by many on the waterfront as Father Gerrard.

     Yet Gerrard would be the first to admit that he was never 100-percent saintly. Proof: As a young fisherman, he was also known on the waterfront as Captain Blood.

The last time we talked, the (at times) cantankerous, white haired mariner was pushing 80.

     “I’m not an ordained priest,” said Gerrard who was standing at a long table cluttered with paper in the office of his waterfront marine supply store. “But when I bless these guys, all kinds of fish come.”

     The husky seafarer folded a pair of powerful hands across his chest. Anchored to thick wrists and muscular forearms, the hands were heavy and calloused from pulling in a lifetime of shrimp, tuna and other fish from the sea, splicing rope and cable, mending nets as well as handling the wheel and captaining his own boat.

     “The blessings seem to work,” claimed Turk, a commercial fisherman who operated The Fortuna, a gill-net boat. “Just like the Pope, Father Gerrard gives me his blessings and I come back to port with a boat full of bonito or shark.”  

     “Don’t laugh,” Gerrard warned, pointing a threatening finger. “We were all put here for a reason. The good Lord gave me this gift. I’m very religious. I bless everybody, even the priests at St. Peter’s in San Pedro. That’s a poor man’s catholic church. I don’t go to Mary Star of the Sea because that place is for aristocrats.”

     “Fishermen are like children,” Turk explained. “We need to have faith because every time we go to sea we face the possibility of death. It’s a very tough life.” He also noted that Father Gerrard’s blessings “miss sometimes. But so do the Pope’s! “

     Gerrard recalled an incident that happened many years ago on his own boat, the Santo Antonino, off the coast of Mexico. “We had been out on the water for 45 days and couldn’t find nothing. I was alone at the wheel, feeling very depressed, while everybody was down in the galley eating.

     “I go, ‘Please God, let me find a mountain of fish.’ I no sooner say that when I see the silver in the water right under the bow. I yell to the guys, get ready, we’re going to lay out a seine (large fishing net)! We pulled in 60 tons of tuna. No joke. Now that was a miracle. Think about it!”    

     “Go ahead, ask your questions,” he snapped restlessly.

     Did you go to college?

     “I went to San Pedro High School to eat my lunch. When I was 14, they took me off the dock and I went fishing on the St. Augustine. They told me, ‘Boy, this is temporary.’ Ha!” he bellowed.  

     “Fishing is in your blood. I don’t know how to explain it. It’s born in you.   I had the pride, the talent, the desire to succeed. You got nothing if you don’t have those. They used to pay me extra money to keep me on the boat. I was an animal. I mean it.”

     He pointed to several huge black-and-white photographs covering the walls behind him.

     “My entire life’s on these walls. See there,” he pointed to a young muscular man cradling a huge Amberjack. “CAPTAIN BLOOD” was printed in bold letters at the bottom.

     “That’s me!” he said proudly, pointing a thumb at his chest. “One time we were sitting on a school of tuna off the San Pedro Channel and the fish, they were getting out of the net. In my apron and boots, I jump overboard.

     “This is true. I go down into the net, get hold of the purse lines and bring them up so no more fish can get away. I was down there so long, my brother (Lorenzo) thought I drowned in the net. When I got back on board, that’s when they started with Captain Blood. They took the name from an old Errol Flynn pirate movie.

     “When you’re young, you take chances because you don’t know no better,” he said. “In those days I could do the work of five men. That’s the truth. Even today, if I thought I could handle it physically, I’d be out there fishing, right now. That’s how much I loved it.    

     “So now I’m Father Gerrard,” he said. “I do blessings with my left hand. It don’t work with my right. Go figure. I’m an Aries. A born leader. I hate monotony and routine work. But I am a humble person. I mean it! I care about the poor. But I’m still attracted to women. ‘Course, I’m not the man I used to be.”

     He recalled an incident from the past, long before he married his first wife, Kay: “I was a wheelman aboard Matt Flamingo’s boat, The Discoverer. Matt’s still around today. We had been to sea well over a month.

     “When we put in to Costa Rica, I took on eight prostitutes in eight hours. I’m serious.

     “I don’t know about all this infidelity; all this sexual harassment people talk about. When I was married, I never cheated on my wife. I loved her. She died a long time ago and went right to heaven.  

     “But when I was single, sure, I chased women. I still chase them!” He laughed harshly, then added, “You know, prostitution and commercial fishing are the two oldest professions? That’s why I’m proud to be a fisherman. Mary Magdalene was a prostitute. She became a saint! That tells me one thing: God forgives everybody. I don’t care where or how you worship. In God’s eyes, we’re all the same.”

     Gerrard believed that all fishermen go to Heaven. “When I go, Heaven will be filled with sardines. I love fishing sardines. They got more brains than some people. I used to call them my brothers. I’d kiss them whenever I’d see them. In my lifetime, I must have brailed maybe 16,000 tons of sardines… And lots of the other fish, too!”

     The sea, he said, is like a woman. “She smells good. She makes you laugh. She makes you cry. She feeds you. She humbles you. She is so beautiful, you can’t take your eyes off of her.”

   — Boots LeBaron —      

 

(THE HUMAN RACE, by Boots, is an inspirational self-help book interspersed with humor and light poetry for those who are in search of themselves. It’s available on Kindle as well as in paperback on Amazon)

 

SURFBOARDER/ARTIST’S VIEW OF LIFE

THE HUMAN RACE

                                      SURFBOARDER-ARTIST’S GLIMPSE AT LIFE

 

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                                                                                                   A Craig Cambra original           

     The lone surfer, a young man in black trunks, straddled the shortboard looking out to sea, waiting for a wave at 15th Street in Manhattan Beach, Calif. It was going to be another hot Tuesday in August.

     As it is today, the world was in turmoil. Bad news was everywhere. The O.J. Simpson double homicide, the Whitewater mess, the Rwanda refugee crisis, the bloody turf conflict in Bosnia-Herzegovina, the AIDS dilemma, drive-by shootings, suicide terrorists…

     At the time, Craig Cambra, a promising young artist, sat on his board unperturbed. The water was refreshingly cool on that early overcast morning. In fact, the 25-year-old graphic designer and fine artist left all the news and personal woes on shore with the rest of the city which was just beginning to stir.

     For Craig, there was more important things than politics and catastrophes on his mind. For example: The wedge. It was breaking just right. And he was in the perfect spot to catch it. He began paddling. Harder. Faster. Harder. Into the foam. Up on his feet. God, what a feeling. There was no describing it.

     The wave belonged to him. He was on top of it. He caught a right, pulled into a bottom turn, smacked the wave straight up… And bam! He threw the tail, slid with the crest of the wave, reversed, executed another bottom turn, then another and another until the wave pooped out.    

     As he paddled back out to sea, the muscles in his arms, shoulders and chest were tight. The thighs and calves ached just enough to tell him that the muscles and tendons did their job. His heart was pounding in his neck. For a surfer, it was a great feeling. It had been what he had described as “a good ride.”

    As he balanced on his 6-foot-2 board, manipulating the power of the breakers, Craig Cambra’s paradise was licking at his feet, propelling him through the water like a wild, untamed force compliments of the Pacific Ocean and Mother Nature.

     Despite politics and escalating global perils, the sinewy young dude’s world beneath him was clean and fresh and exhilarating.

     To a non-surfer, there’s no describing the experience of catching a “wedge” or a “peak,” harnessing the power, and “ripping away” from start to finish.

     “You’re just amped,” he explained. “It’s like a movie. You’re thinking about it as you leave, remembering all the surprises, and you go, ‘God, that was great!’ People who don’t surf can’t comprehend the exaltation you experience. Lots of people try to compare other sports to surfing. You can’t. Every ride, every wave is different.”

     During that watery moment, for Craig at least, there was nothing more in life than riding out a wave. Nothing. No problems. No gridlock. No bills. No heartaches. No anxieties.  

     In other words, for a surfboarder whose father died when he was three, who was raised by his mother, Nora, and whose older brothers, Rick and Phil “took my father’s place and did the best they could with a rowdy like me,” King Neptune was his psychiatrist.

     When he was 12-years-old, his oldest brother, Phil, loaded the youngster and an old 7-ft. Kanoa surfboard in his car and took him to 15th Street.

     “At the time,” recalled Craig, “I was scared. The waves looked awful big. He put me on the board, walked me out to the midbreak, turned me around and shoved me into the whitewash.

     “The hardest thing about catching a wave,” he said, “is learning to balance and stroking. I stood up, fell, stood up, fell.” He laughed. “When I finally rode one, I was on my own.”

     Ever since the first lesson, he has been surfing. And in recent years, surfing alone.

     “For me,” he said smiling, “it beats psychiatry all to hell. I mean, you wake up and the sun is shining. Rather than stare at the ceiling, you grab your board and head for the beach. There’s no one else around. You catch a few fun waves. When you get out of the water, you’ve had a good workout. You know you’ve done something for your body and your mind.”

     As he sat on his board waiting for King Neptune to blow a wave his way, he saw the world from a different vantage point than the people preparing themselves for life on the job in the city.

     “Every day when I’m out there, I can look out at the horizon. The sky is never the same. Gray, black, blue, speckled with clouds, it’s always beautiful and never the same.

     “I usually surf on week days — that’s when everybody else is making money,” said the free-lance graphic designer and fine artist who graduated in May from California State University, Long Beach, with a degree in (what else?) art.

     “Almost every time I go into the water, I see schools of porpoise, sometimes as many as 40. I’ve never seen a shark in these waters (like the great white that attacked a swimmer off the Manhattan Beach Pier in July 2014). But I’d recognize one if I saw one. As they move, their dorsal fin cuts across the water while the fin of a porpoise rises and falls.

     “Believe me,” he went on, “if I spotted a shark fin, I’d be outta there so fast you’d hear a sonic boom.”

     Pelicans, he said, are frightening birds. They are huge and powerful. One time while I was surfing in Malibu, one got hung up in my cinch line. It came after me like a dive bomber. Maybe he thought I was a big sardine.”

     Ordinarily, he said, “pelicans will gain altitude and dive, splashing into the water after a meal. Then they’ll bob to the surface with their breakfast in their pouch. Awkwardly, they’ll take off, flapping those giant wings.   Then awkwardly with a considerable amount of effort will take off, gain altitude and soon will be of sight.

     “Pelicans like sea gulls can’t surf but they can’t love this ocean more than I do,” said the graphic designer-artist-surfboarder who’s now an expert on all three arts.

 

                        — Boots LeBaron —

 

(Boots’ book, THE HUMAN RACE, is available

on Kindle and in paperback on Amazon.com)

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