2008-02-15 / Sports

Rockaway Outdoors/Tales From The Wheel House:Recalling Rockaway

By Captain Vinnie Calabro

Sand is a small particle as particles go, coarse to the touch, and it has a knack for winding up in the most ungodly places.

It would be pretty indistinguishable from sand in the sandbox, as well as sand from the dunes along the beaches of Rockaway, or for that matter, the sand along the path to Kuwait.

So were his thoughts as he navigated the Hum Vee along this alien stretch of sand. Looking out onto the horizon in the stillness of this predawn hour, he couldn't help but ride the tide in his mind back to his beloved beaches of Rockaway.

Ah, Rockaway Beach in the summer, hot knishes and orangeade. Authentic knishes wrapped in wax paper, delivered to your beach blanket by a charbroiled tan man in khaki shorts, or how he would lower the air pressure in his tires before his 4x4 drove on the backside of Breezy.

Getting onto the beach, ever so carefully, as to watch for shore birds' nests. The nests often hid amongst the disheveled grasses holding the dunes together. Easily, they could be mistaken on this day for land mines secreted on his route. Dawn hadn't fully shown over the sea. Instead it stealthily crept onto the horizon, reminiscent of the sunrises along the beach in Fort Tilden.

He had to squint as the reflected sunlight mirrored off the ocean. Usually, these mornings were accompanied by terns, high fliers as we fishermen call them, looking down into the ocean for their next meal. Overhead the shadow of a plane interrupted his thoughts. Not like the prop jobs towing Coppertone ads. Instead, a big impersonal thing. Continuing on his assignment, his nostrils filled with salt air. An elixir for the moment, it erased the fatigue from his young body. The salt air wafted from the ocean, as it sighs, lapping onto the shore. The waves playing a game of tag with sand pipers. In formation they go back and forth, care free. If you listened close enough, you could hear the chime of seashells clapping against each other as they're moved about by the tide. It was an irreplaceable moment, a moment he longed for.

Sentries became seagulls, perched atop the Pavilion at Riis Park; motionless they observed the ocean. One in particular caught his eye, balancing on one leg, obviously a casualty from bluefish encounters over the years. Once in flight no one would know his misfortune. Still, the silhouette haunted him.

The shadow cast by his rifle oddly reminded him of the yardarm standing at the Coast Guard Station. He smiled, recalling the morning after prom night senior year, when twirling around its base he pledged his love to his future wife.

He was handsome in his dress blues, her teal gown the perfect complement. The sand shifted as he drew her close. Petals from her corsage, parachuted slowly to the sand beneath their embrace.

The triangular shaped plastic fit tightly across his face. It was a good tight fit, the air being delivered easy on the lungs. As the IV penetrated his skin, the pain reminded him of blue claw crabs. The one jumping from the bushel basket, its claw clenched tightly on your finger. You know, the jumbo jimmies trying to escape the steamer pot. Gone, however, was the Old Bay seasoning smell, replaced by the antiseptic renderings of a hospital ward.

His nose itched, it itched a lot, kind of like peeling sunburned skin itch. Cool Noxzema would sooth that feeling. No lifeguard in his right mind would take his stand without a smear on his nose. But for lack of the ointment in the dark blue jar, a simple scratch would have to do. Awkwardly, he went to do so, the relief only a good old- fashioned scratch would deliver.

But for some reason his arm didn't respond. Looking down, he followed a path of bed sheets to where his arm should have been. Further down, the blankets neatly pleated and tucked under, between the shiny Formica bed post, he observed what remained.

For a moment he recalled the seagull...

The Wounded Warrior Foundation is an outstanding group. On February 19 from 6 p.m. until 9 p.m. they have a dinner at O'Lunneys Time Square Pub. For details you can contact them or me. Also, if anyone's interested, I'll be giving a fishing seminar at West Point to a small group of disabled veterans in a few weeks. The exact date not yet set.

You can call me at 516-728-6952, or you can contact Wounded Warrior Project directly at 212-629-8881.

Back to the local scene for a moment. It appears that this season anglers will have to fish through the new regulations being imposed upon them. The hardest hitting ones are pertaining to Fluke and Blackfish. I think both matters impact local fisherman in a variety of ways. From an economic perspective it really seems to be handcuffing those who make a living on the sea the most.

Blackfishing as we know it is also a thing of the past. I was approached by a marine biologist and a group from New Jersey SSFFF, which stands for Save Our Summer Flounder Fishing Fund, in an effort to recruit local sport fishermen and commercial fishermen to unite, and hopefully, have a more listened-to voice with the powers that be.

Briefly to fill you in, I made available my staff and fleet should, they need data and staff for survey help and research. I'll keep you readers updated on that. I think everyone realizes that fish are a tremendous resource in our area.

They provide great pleasure as well as food and sources of income for all connected to the fishing industry. I think we need to take a more active role as guardians of our fisheries so that we may intelligently provide a voice that is educated and united. I think fishermen both commercial and recreational, need to become allies and address matters in a way that can benefit all.

If one looks at today's economy, fish have a common thread through it. Restaurants relish the availability of local seafood, which in turn supports the fishermen and fish markets, continuing along to the purveyors of fuel, bait and tackle, and the overall marine and fishing industry.

At the surface some may not consider the ramifications, but trust me, it runs deep. That being said, you can contact me to share opinions on these matters and, hopefully, I'll be able to post them and excite some interest...

Until the next tide, Tight lines........

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