By John Platt Hurwitz and Irene Marie Hurwitz
Every boat we’ve had was special to us, but our second boat, the Zachary M, was one of our favorites. The Zachary was special because it enabled us to imagine what we could do. A little narrow in the beam but strong and sturdy as she cut through the water, she handled the weather, caught plenty of fish, and in time allowed us to dream big.
We started looking for a bigger boat. Frequently a tuna boat would pull into Noyo to unload or refuel on the way up the coast, and we would catch of glimpse of what could be. Then one day, that bigger boat pulled into the Noyo River harbor. This one had a “FOR SALE” sign in the window. It was the mid-70s.
For flat-out living the dream; this was Irene’s dream boat. It had a double bed surrounded with dark wood paneling. Resting in bed we could watch our little Sony TV mounted above the foot of the bed. We tried to watch it while at sea but the picture would turn snowy with each roll of the boat. The galley was equipped with the latest in propane stoves with four burners with metal bands to hold the pots in place, and an oven with a spring loaded door. An actual fridge, a sink, a wooden drain tray, and a bent metal hook for a towel, which more often than not, ended up in my back pocket.
It had a sound system for playing 8-track tapes. A head with a door for privacy. The galley table had a laminated chart of the coast off San Francisco and wood trim around the edge to keep our food from sliding off. The space under the table was a step higher than the floor, a perfect spot for our setter to sleep but bad on rough seas when he would slide out onto the floor. The carpet was a little worn, with grease stains and fish scales, but dark enough you wouldn’t really notice.
When it came to the business of fishing, it wasn’t bad. In fact, she had everything I needed. The wheelhouse had two VHF radios, and a single sideband with the beautiful squeal of voices traveling hundreds of miles across the Pacific. Radar with a 12-mile radius, an RDF, a Wood-Freeman 15B autopilot, a paper machine and two seats so both Irene and I could sit in the wheelhouse. Outside we had an Isuzu auxiliary running the ThermoKing blast freezer in the hold. Almost everything on the deck was painted brown so if it chipped, it kind of blended in with the rusty metal underneath. On either side of the deck were deck tanks painted brown, holding a hundred fifty gallons of fuel each.
Down below deck, the main fuel tank held a thousand gallons. A fresh water tank up front had a 400-gallon capacity. She had a 6-71 Detroit diesel in an engine room I could actually stand up in. Everything was so perfect that the day after we bought the boat, we had moved all our gear and belongings on board and sailed out under the evergreen Noyo Bridge.
Up and out we went, searching for tuna. We caught up with the fleet, fished and ran north for several days. Gradually the weather turned bad and the drift got steadily worse at night. Then one night I heard a loud bang, sprang from our comfy bed, hit the deck light, and ran out on deck to find the port side pole dragging in the water and banging on the side of the boat. With a quick survey of the situation Irene and I pulled in the broken pole, ropes, and wires. After hauling it all onboard, we secured it, fired up the engine, and started in toward the Columbia River.
Sailing into Astoria, we tied up at Barbey Seafood where they replaced the broken pole and treated us like highliners. The harbor was plugged so finding space to rig the pole presented a problem. Irene opted to climb the mast to the crosstree to fasten the lines to the pole. Standing on the crosstree she could see the entire harbor, all the boats, people walking on the docks, the river, and ships. It was in that moment that Irene confronted the harsh reality that she had a horrendous fear of heights.
I finally realized the faint cries for help I was hearing were from my wife! I climbed up the mast and convinced her to release her sweaty grip on the mast and climb down. Once down and after a few minutes of reflection, she was okay. Within a day we had finished our repairs without requiring Irene to swing from the yardarm.
We got groceries, fresh water, fuel and some new fishing gear to replace what we had lost on the trip so far. We left the harbor going upriver a ways, and tied up to a loading dock and waited for the next outgoing tide to leave. We exited the Columbia and set course for a point to hit the edge somewhere between our departure point and Newport, Oregon. We hoped to hit that warm water edge around a hundred and fifty miles west.
Eventually, we made the warm water edge and shut down to wait for first light. First light brought a setting of the gear. Half the lines down right away, and what followed was a steady bite, mostly till sundown. A couple tons we thought. The next three days brought another ton or two as we headed south toward the waters off Newport. Radio fish from below us sounded better than what we were doing, so south we tacked.
We hit the fish above Newport and continued trolling south till it dried up and then we back tacked to the original spot we encountered the fish. This turned out to be another good day to add to our logbook.
Our plan was to offload in Newport, and maybe get one more shot at the tuna before we continued south. On our way into Yaquina Bay, we heard on radio chatter that delivering into Newport consisted of long lines and longer waits. We turned around and decided to take the load home to Ft. Bragg. We had some luck on the way down, but nothing like we had around Newport. For our maiden voyage on our “new” boat, we totally surpassed our hopes and dreams.