Neil Robbescheuten, 62, was ice fishing on a Canadian lake when a zero-visibility fog snuck in and knocked his bearings for a loop. He was in a proverbial fog and clueless as to his own – or anyone else’s – whereabouts.
Hey, I’ve been ensnared in just such a sky trap, down on little Collins Cove, Mullica River. The fog was on me in a muffled flash. Things went from eagle-watchingly clear skies tosights out within a few minutes. I can assure that an instantaneous fog atop ice is surreal. In my case, Pink Floyd music leaked in. “Is there anybody out there?”
When the cove fog just hung and hung, I worriedly packed up and cold-footed off in the direction of a patch of fog that looked a little more familiar than the rest. I was blindly targeting the one safe exit point off the ice, where a flimsy board lay across a moat of deep, unfrozen water at river’s edge. The exit point was a football field distance away. In fog terms, that’s miles away, as I literally shuffled along in spoon-sized segments. Missing the board would be an SOL’er. I SOL’ed.
But thanks to some rowdy arriving ice anglers, I essentially listened my way back to the crossover point. Had they not raucously arrived, it coulda cost me (see below).
Which brings us back to Neil in Canada.
His situation was significantly larger than mine, seeing he was in big, obliterated sky country. His internal compass got so fouled up he wandered onto thin, shoreline ice – where he took a little unscheduled dip. He hauled himself ashore, surviving by the skin of his chattering teeth.
Holding his sense of survival high and dry, he cell-phoned 911 and, through triangulation, got a rousing response. Three fire trucks and a bevy of first responders fought off the fog and found Neil, who had survivalistically stored himself next to a large tree for proper pickup.
It was well after the thanks were issued and warm showers were taken that the rescuee got a shock above and beyond that of falling into freezing water. He received a “rescue bill” for $5,392.78.
He’s fighting it for sure, but not as an unappreciative sort unwilling to pay for the services of those who saved his life. He says he sincerely hates the message sent by billed rescues. He told reporters it set a bad precedent, warning that even fully compromised folks might avoid seeking trained rescue help, fearing it might cost an arm and a leg.
Knowing our local firemen and first-aiders, the best in the business, I have no doubts they would never slight anyone based on an ability to pay. Still, I can’t phantasmagorically picture for-pay rescue services:
“Rough and Ready Rescue, how may I help you today?”
“Uh, I’m pretty sure I need to be rescued, ma’am.”
“Have you been rescued by us before, sir?”
“No, this is my first time.”
“Ok, sir, I’ll need a little primary information. Where are you located, exactly?”
“Uh, you mean right this minute?”
“Yes, sir, that would be helpful.”
“Well, actually, I’m not real sure. I’m in the woods somewhere, thus my need for rescue.”
“So, you don’t know where you are, correct?
“Uhhhh, that’s correct.”
“Then, it seems you’ll likely need both a search and a rescue, sir.”
“Damn, I was afraid of that. What types of searches and rescues do you carry?”
“We offer standard, enhanced and royal.”
“What do I get for the standard?”
“That includes one fire truck, an all-terrain vehicle, six rescuers and a complimentary canister of regular oxygen.”
“Wow, that’s not much. I’m in pretty deep and I saw a largish snake just a couple minutes ago.”
“Actually, sir, you just might be in luck today. We’re running a special on our enhancedsearch-and-rescue package. It’s 20 percent off the regular price and includes two fire trucks, two all-terrain vehicles, 12 rescuers, state of the art megaphones and two canisters of imported oxygen, with either a hint of mint julep or a breath of lime.”
“I guess I better go with that special. And gimme the julep, please. No, wait, make that lime.”
“Great. Now, would you like your enhanced search and rescue to be the casual model or the harried model?”
“Uh, I’m just not sure. Which is which?”
“The casual means that all rescue actions will be taken at a walking pace, plus a protracted stay at the station to make doubly sure all equipment is in order and that all rescuers have peed first.”
“And the harried option?”
“The harried option includes high-speed response out of the chute, including rescuers running to and from rescue vehicles at all times. The harried search also entails personnel moving more speedily in the field; increased yelling during radio communication; and exaggerated bodily gestures across most domains, except in water. You’re not in water are you, sir?”
“No, I’m pretty much hopelessly up to my ass in briars. There is no water in sight. In fact, I’d love some water right now. I’m dehydrating pretty fast.”
“Then I highly recommend the harried rescue, you’ll be found much sooner and the rescuers will display far greater excitement and relief when they’ve found you. Also – and only during the duration of this phone call – I can offer three large bottles of chilled Evian water from the French Alps at a buy-two/get-one-free rate.”
“Oh, for sure, gimme the harried special – and two orders of those Evians.”
“OK, then, that’ll be one harried, enhanced rescue with double Evian water and lime-scented oxygen canisters.”
“Just out of curiosity, ma’am, what about using aircraft?”
“I’m afraid aircraft usage is only available with our royal search and rescue package. Unfortunately, you must be pre-approved to qualify for that service.”
“Uh, wouldn’t that entail knowing ahead of time that you’ll need rescuing?”
“Exactly, that’s why our royal package is the surest way to know that anytime you go missing, you’re at the top of the rescue list and you’ll have entire squadrons of rescuers rushing to find you. What’s more, Evian water is administered intravenously when you’re found. I can send you an application if you’d like.”
“Yes, I definitely would like that, very much.”
“Ok, then, we’re almost ready to hit out your rescuers. All we need now is some personal information and to work out financing. So, stand by, while I transfer you to someone in our finance department to discuss payment options. And thank you for using Rough and Ready Rescue.”
HEART-TOUCHING TALE: A good buddy of this column, Jay E., says he owes his life to Superstorm Sandy. The concept has an odd twist of irony – and a splash of WTF.
Just this past October, Jay made the quantum leap from North Jersey straight into Beach Haven West – damn akin to a Star Trekish change of worlds.
You remember how, back in the day, folks new to an area would be greeted with a pie and grape juice from door-knocking neighbors? Well, within only weeks of transplanting, Jay got a door-knocking welcome like no other. “Hi, I’m Sandy …”
They say location is everything in real estate. Well, it seems timing ain’t no small matter, either.
Jay’s home was amongst the hardest hit in a hardest hit area.
Having his whole ball of wax wrapped in his new home, he fought back tooth-and-nail. He hand gutted from sunrise to sunset.
Then the chest pain set in – and not just a stress ache. In an e-mail he wrote, “I told my doc about it and one test led to another and now I’m going for open heart surgery …to open up a couple of clogged arteries.”
The thanks to Sandy followed.
“If not for the hurricane and ensuing chest pain, I would have never known about the blocked arteries and a heart attack would have been imminent.”
I kinda like this story, though I don’t think I would routinely prescribe superstorms as a desirable method of detecting heart disorders – any more than I would prescribe digging out after snow storms. Still, there is this oddly philanthropic underpinning when an otherwise deadly storm brings new life to some.
SIMPLY BASSIN’ 2013: The movers and groovers behind the annual, spring Simply Bassin’ tournament are fairly fired up to get the event up and going this year – of all years.
A successful Simply Bassin’ 2013 would offer a strong display of angler recovery. Surfcasters shorted by the Sandy-shortened LBI Fall Surf Fishing Classic will hopefully see this contest as a way to get back into the swing of big striper things.
Despite some very fine bass caught during the shortened Classic, it was still far from a stellar stripering fall before the curtain suddenly came down – and was washed into the bay.
Overall, the bass mass out there is just fine. Ironically, the superstorm led to a huge biomass bonus, as un-kept NJ stripers now enhance the big-picture stocks. I don’t know the final estimates of NJ’s 2012 bass poundage but it has to be way below average. I know it’s a sour subject but the Saltwater Angler Registry is meant to nail down just such harvest numbers. I know I didn’t get a call – so I could report zero stripers kept in 2012. Even as a fervent catcher-and-releaser, that’s something of an all-time low.
As for the upcoming spring, there’s absolutely no reason to think the cows won’t be knocking down the fences. A coldish winter, like we’re having, seems to evoke a fine spring run. What’s more, the better bass will surely hug the coast longer than last year, when the weird mildness had them bolting out of our zone in nothing flat.
I’m interested to get a read on whether or not folks will be up for this contest. I harbor this nagging fear that some LBI regulars might not be returning – ever. I’d be appreciative if you could take a second to give me some insights at email@example.com, or let participating shop owners know.
I’ll keep you posted on the progress of Simply Bassin’ 2013.
HUGE FOR ALL: In the near future, the borough of Harvey Cedars will attempt to have a lower court ruling tossed out by the New Jersey Supreme Court, one that entitled oceanfront homeowners to a huge chuck of monetary compensation because their beachfront easements were taken under eminent domain. That court decision kept major Island replenishment efforts at bay, as towns understandably balked at busting the bank to pay for oceanfronters’ alleged lost views.
For Island folks, seldom has so much been riding on a Supreme Court ruling.
For some inexplicable reason, the judge of the first trial, won by the HC homeowners, would not allow Army Corps testimony regarding the overall social benefits of beach and dune replenishment, including little things like the protection of life, limb and property.
A wee bit of compelling natural evidence has come ashore since that rather curious initial decision was rendered in favor of the oceanfront plaintive. It’s almost inconceivable that the approaching appeal won’t see Superstorm Sandy called to the stand, so to speak. Still, it’s far from a slam dunk, as was seen in the first failed effort to get the courts to understand the underlying benefits of beach and dune repairs.
A loss (upholding) at the state Supreme Court level would be very bad for Island folks in general, though not necessarily end times for grassroots easement drives. Towns and citizen groups have been working under the cloak of that initial decision during an ongoing effort to amicably persuade oceanfront homeowners to consider the welfare of their neighbors.
Might amicable efforts intensify into legal picketing of holdout properties, boycotting real estate companies that rent easement holdout homes, and such? I’ve seen stronger forms of legal public protest over infinitely smaller issues.
A victory (reversal) for Harvey Cedars could pave the way to a far faster replenishment of LBI, one relatively free of easement entanglements – though there could still be room for a counter appeal.
Ponder point: Through emergency federal funding, the Army Corps should very soon have enough money to go the replenishment distance on LBI, i.e. replenishing from Holgate to Barnegat Light, or vice versa. It is that close to happening, per experts.
HOLGATE ROCKS: The community of Holgate’s individualized effort to win over its oceanfront easement holdouts has paid remarkable dividends. That Long Beach Township section is now down to a lone holdout. Outstanding, A-Company. (See related story this issue of The SandPaper.)
Per a FaceBook communiqué, the lone Holgate holdout is in favor of beach replenishment, but in the same breath, wants direct private access to the beach and also that suddenly controversial capacity to see “over the dunes.” Uh, how far over the dunes?
Ouch on that last demand. Hell, it might be cheaper to give her home a “cosmic variance” and allow her to build a towering widow’s watch – maybe throw in a Zeiss telescope, personally signed by Mayor Mancini.
And they say I’m not a problem solver.
By the by, I had it firmly confirmed that no beach replenishment work in Holgate would go even an inch past the boundary with the Forsythe Refuge, even though the beach portion is owned by the state. Only a massive trickledown effect from a Holgate fill would help slow the eroding away of the refuge – until such erosion presents a hazard to surrounding properties, in which case higher state and federal laws come into play.
SAND COMING SOON: For now, an ad will be going out this week announcing the Army Corps is seeking contractors to do emergency beach and dune repairs to Harvey Cedars, Surf City and Brant Beach. The work, pumping in sand from a borrow site just off the beach line, will be identical to the earlier replenishment projects in those sections. The pumping will begin soon after the contract is awarded, surely by spring.
This rapid response by the Army Corps is proof apparent of how vital it is to be aboard the current federal/state/local replenishment program train. Those already on-board get handled firstly and quickly.
The most remarkable catch on Super Bowl weekend might have been made before the big game: That of a 987-pound blue marlin by four anglers who were at least in their 80s.
Capt. Manuel Dominguez said the youngest angler in his charter group, which embarked from the Mexican resort city of Cabo San Lucas Saturday morning on what it hoped would be a brief and relaxing tuna-fishing excursion, was 82.
The excursion lasted a grueling 16 hours.
While aboard the 32-foot cruiser, Ziggy, Arizona anglers Sergent and Sandy Snagirett, and John and Edie Rayno, had caught several tuna before deciding to reel in the lines and call it quits.
It was 1:20 p.m.
But then something very large struck the line attached to the right outrigger. At the end of the line was a lure resembling a flying fish.
An epic battle was at hand, whether the old-timers liked it or not. All took turns with the rod but neither could make headway. (Neither angler is pictured in this post. They were said to have slept in and missed the weigh-in the next morning.)
The crew members helped with the reeling duties but even they could not turn the head of the valiant billfish.
Capt. Dominguez initially thought the fish was a giant tuna, but after 40 minutes it jumped. "I thought it was around 800 pounds because I've caught two around that size before," he told Tracy Ehrenberg, general manager of
, which was first to
blog about the catch
They were still fighting the fish as the sun began to set over the Pacific.
Left to right: Deckhand Alejandro Suarez, Capt. Manuel "El Chichi" Dominguez and Jaime Dominguez. Photo courtesy Mario Banaga/Pisces Sportfishing
Would they be able to bring the behemoth to the boat before sharks moved in?
Dominguez was more worried about fuel; the marlin had towed the yacht several miles offshore and showed no signs of tiring.
Thank goodness for cellphones. Dominguez phoned Pisces Capt. Julio Castro, who gathered some friends on shore and made a run to the nearest gas station. They then voyaged out aboard Tracy Ann and met up with Ziggy.
The new crew helped battle the marlin for two more hours before realizing they were supposed to play in a soccer match later that night, so they scurried back aboard Tracy Ann and sped toward shore.
Finally, Capt. Dominguez took the rod and fought the marlin until it was alongside the boat. His crew promptly gaffed and secured the billfish with ropes, but determined it was much too large to be brought aboard, or even draped across the stern swim step. (It remains unclear why this group chose to kill, rather than release the fish.)
With no other recourse, they simply tied the head of the marlin to the swim step and left the body dangling in the water during the 16-mile, four-hour ride to port. Everyone was too whipped to weigh the fish that night, so they hired a watchman to keep an eye on it until morning.
At 8:30 a.m. Sunday, the marlin tipped the marina scale at 987 pounds. Many wondered how much weight it lost while lying on the concrete dock overnight. The best estimate was 10 percent of its body weight, meaning it would have easily topped 1,000 pounds if weighed when it had arrived.
Regardless, it remains one of the top five or six heaviest marlin ever caught at Cabo San Lucas, and it's undoubtedly the heaviest ever fought by four senior citizens from Arizona.