From the Pastor: Easter Fishing Trip
A group of men from the parish had planned an Easter Monday fishing trip on one of the party boats out of Clearwater. I have both great memories and not-so-good memories of party boat trips, missed trips, and canceled trips from my youth. On the “great” side, I remember fishing party boats (these are not “fiesta” type of parties, but rather large boats holding 30 or more people fishing shoulder to shoulder, as opposed to a “charter” fishing boat where only a few people are on board) out of Daytona Beach and catching plenty of amberjack. That was back in the 1970s and the fish were plentiful. Of course, if you have ever caught amberjack you know that they swim all over the place when hooked, and, with everyone fishing so close together, oftentimes the person with a fish on the line would tangle a dozen more lines before he either got the fish up to the boat or it broke off. A lot of time was spend getting untangled! Every once in a while two people on opposite sides of the boat would each hook a fish and their fish would then tangle with each other, resulting in two men straining to pull in what seemed like a monster fish when the reality was that they were each trying to reel in the other man’s line! The stronger of the men would “win” but generally at least one of the fish had broken free by the time the fight was over.
The “not-so-good” memories were not really bad memories of fishing but rather of other things associated with the trip. For instance, one time the weather was absolutely terrible out at sea. We were on an all-day trip, so there was plenty of time for the captain to search for a place to fish that was not directly in the storm. But in the meantime, we were all forced to sit in the cabin, where we were crowded together like sardines. And then people started getting sick. The smell and sounds of children and adults losing their breakfasts, the humidity from all of the body heat and breathing, plus the up and down and rocking motion of the boat was, well... sickening. I don’t think I got seasick but I certainly got sick of other people’s seasickness! The groans and moans and green faces, the... sorry, to be too descriptive would not make for a good article. But just let me say that even the crew got sick just from being in the cabin helping the sick passengers. The only two people onboard who remained unfazed were the ship’s captain (he was up in his own place and not breathing in the fumes or seeing and smelling and hearing the rest of us!) and my grandfather, a life-long fisherman and boater himself. He just serenely took it all in and remained just as nonchalant as could be. He was always my fishing hero. Of course, we eventually found a place to fish. The waves and wind were both strong but not so much that we were in danger of falling overboard, so the boat stopped and we were all able to get outside. Only about half of the people were able to fish, if I recall correctly, and the rest were just miserable for the rest of the day, staying inside (the worst place to be) because they were too seasick to move. We managed to catch a lot of fish, but grandpa outcaught everyone, as usual.
We also had at least two times when we arrived at the dock only to be told that they had no record of our party making reservations. After getting up at 4 in the morning to get out to the boat, bringing all the cousins and uncles from Michigan out for a fishing trip, that news did not go over too well. But there was nothing to do about it! The boats were all fully booked and, most likely, someone slipped a few extra bucks to someone to get aboard and we were left behind. And onetime our boat simply left early and, though we were there on time, we were stuck looking at an empty slip instead of a boarding plank. Oh, those were the good ol’ days before social media or any other real way of complaining, so they could get away with whatever they pleased.
Anyway, back to the Epiphany men’s trip. They asked if I would like to join them for a half-day trip. I had to respond in the negative because I had two morning Masses and confessions and Adoration. Fishing and priesthood just don’t work out too well now that we are supposed to be catching men rather than fish! So they asked Fr. Mangiafico if he wanted to come. Instead of saying “yes” he said, “Tell Fr. Palka that I will celebrate his morning Masses for him and he can go.” So on Easter Monday, I had to wake up extra early in order to celebrate a private Mass before the morning Masses began, then drive to Clearwater through the morning traffic, and, wait, it sounds like I am complaining! Nope, this is fishing. This is how men become strong enough to be real Catholics! We sacrifice sleep, comfort, eating, and other things just to perhaps catch some fish which would have been more cheaply purchased at leisure from the market. And we love it! We brought the fish we caught to the restaurant at the dock and had them cook lunch for us. We feasted on Easter Fish and enjoyed every minute and every mouthful. Thanks, Father M! Thanks men of Epiphany!
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka