The captain and the lady

“Now that’s what I’m talking about,” is the thought balloon over the man’s head.

Boys on the rocks and man fishing on the north jetty, Merrimack River inlet, with Salisbury Beach beyond.

Woman with camera and telephoto lens in boat.

A Sunfish sailing light and fleet, a wing over water.

We put our small fishing boat in at the Salisbury Beach campground ramp yesterday, looking for some striper action.

My husband John, aka Everybody’s Friend, struck up a conversation with a fly fisherman at the ramp who was not having any luck that day. Warm water? Post hurricane? Middle of the day? Who knows.

But we had clams for bait.

Perfect summer weather – sunny, warm and breezy.

We scouted the river current, ocean tide and wind direction, puttered here and there, and finally headed out to the mouth of the river to drift in with the tide, and feel the weights on the end of our lines bump along the bottom.

We bobbed and sloshed over the waves. Occasionally an eddy would spin us like a slowmotion top.

I had my camera with me, which was good, since I seem to have become less interested in catching fish. I mean, it’s nice and all, but I’m not going to obsess about it.

“Keep the rod tip up!” John advised repeatedly, as I was reeling in my single striper of the day, not a keeper at 24 inches.

“It’s up,” I maintained.

“No, higher,” and he proceeded to lecture me on the physics of rod-and-line-and-fish for the duration of my (successful) battle with the adolescent striped bass.

“You know, you’ve become kind of a boat nag,” I say, after we let the fish go.

“I just want you to do it right; I want to help.”

“Honestly, I’d rather lose the fish than be incessantly instructed,” I said. “Not to mention this weird new thing you’ve got going now about coiling the rope just right. It’s actually harder to use the rope to tie up the boat when it’s all stowed away in a perfect looping circle with a special knot.”

He’s not like this around the house.

Look up. Glider over the mouth of the Merrimack, a pretty thing.

After that, we fished off opposite ends of the boat for a little while. But we couldn’t really be mad on such a nice day.

Well, except for the part where he went too close to the rocks and I reminded him of a recent fatality in that location. And he reminded me that the other name for striped bass is rockfish. Do I want to catch a fish, or not?

I took little breaks from holding a rod now and then to just lounge on the front deck of the boat and consciously charge my solar batteries for the long winter ahead.

Fisherfolk boarding the Captain’s Lady II, Plum Island.

It’s a wonder there are so many striped bass in the Merrimack when that fact is so renowned and pursued. I guess the regulations have been working okay. So maybe the government can do something right.

Still, it’s irritating that you can’t buy beer in a convenience store in Massachusetts. Because we really wanted one mid-afternoon but we were too grubby to stop at a restaurant.

The Captain’s Lady II rounds a Plum Island bar to head out the river.

They were drift fishing too, like us. They leave their engines running, though, and John, who is hypersensitive to all things mechanical (a good trait in an airline pilot), said, “That sound is kind of irritating, don’t you think?”

“Well, I didn’t notice it till you said so, but yes. Thanks.”

Another view of Salisbury Beach beyond the jetty. Pretty crowded for a Tuesday.

I look at a scene like that and feel pretty smug about being out on a boat in the middle of water. Remote, isolated, at peace. (Except for the roaring engines of the Captain’s Lady II.) John looks and wonders if he’s missing something fun. Maybe there’s a better place than here.

Classic introvert and extrovert.

But it takes all kinds. Without him, there would be no boating fun and adventure; without me, there would be no photos and story of boating adventure, or reflection on the various themes of Man and Woman On a Boat.

Here my husband, who has kept his rod tip up, reels a nice little striper over to the side of our craft.

We were using circle hooks, which are easier to get out of the fish’s mouth, as well as easier on the fish – less damaging. So you don’t “set” the hook with a yank of your rod. Instead, let the fish take the bait and hook itself, according to my Old Man of the Sea.

Now according to his Old Lady of the Sea, he really should be using a net at this

But you have to take time to find the net wherever it slid to on the boat deck, and it can be awkward and sometimes the fish gets tangled up in it. Guess we need a special place to stow the net. Which would probably require a larger boat. And I’m not saying that out loud.

I just hope in my next life I don’t come back as a fish that gets lifted out of the ocean by it’s lips.

Mars is proud. He got a thrill from the stalk and the catch. He is the man. He is excited and wants to do it again. So he does.

Venus thinks the fish is shiny and beautiful and it lives in a secret underwater place of mystery and profundity, and she wants to take a picture of it. So she does.

And then they release their catch and it swims away, to live its life… and maybe provide food and sport next summer.

At your own risk

North jetty, where the Merrimack River meets the Atlantic Ocean.

Someday I’m going to steal this sign and open my own drinking establishment, the Danger Bar.

Driftfishing for striped bass this afternoon in our 17-foot Cape Horn at the mouth of the Merrimack on an incoming tide with a south wind. I’ve seen much worse waves and chop there, and yet… on the ride home we heard on the radio that it is National Make-A-Will Month.

“Maybe we should get ours done right,” I said. “If we’re going to keep fishing in the Merrimack in that boat.”

More photos and story tomorrow, because I’m worn out from gorgeous sun and rocking waves. And on the way home we stopped at a convenience store on Route 1A in Seabrook to buy some beer.

“Let’s get something in cans,” I said.

“Hey look. Michelob comes in cans?” said John. “I haven’t had Michelob since I was a kid.”

That was the best line of the day! (The beer itself has nothing else to recommend it. But we don’t want it to go to waste.)

Seize the wave


Catch a wave.

Sunday, August 23.

Bass Beach, North Hampton, NH.

Watching surfers.

A good show.

Approaching high tide.

Hurricane Bill made it’s way to Nova Scotia.

Big waves in summer.

Sightseers at the easternmost point in North Hampton.

Impromptu beach party.

Seizing the moment.



Play day.

Getting into it.

Seacoastonline/ Youtube: Surfing the Seacoast with Hurricane Bill

Good-bye, Bill.

The sea pronounces something, over and over, in a hoarse whisper; I cannot quite make it out. – Annie Dillard

Sunday sun and surf

Spectators, Route 1A, North Hampton.

It doesn’t always work out this well. Offshore hurricane to make big waves but hot and sunny here. Thunderstorms holding off for now.

And it’s a Sunday in summer.

Off Bass Beach, North Hampton.

I chatted with a guy from inland who had a camera with a big telephoto lens. We agreed that if you love watching (and photographing) the ocean, surfers make it better because they are humans interacting with the water and waves, giving you perspective, something to size it all against, and firing up your imagination.

The good waves rolled in close together and there would be 5 minutes of good surfing then a lull. I heard the surfing was actually better earlier in the morning rather than closer to high tide when I was there.

It was exciting, relaxing and special to be there. Everybody was happy. Even though the traffic was moving at a crawl, no one seemed to mind because they could watch the ocean at the same time.

Some girls were walking around giving out free promotional cans of Red Bull. License plates were from NH and Massachusetts mostly, plus a surprising number from Quebec. Lots of joie de vivre down by the sea today.

More photos later.

Look when the clouds are blowing

Rye Beach south of Jenness, around 2:30 p.m.

I guess we’re all reasonably giddy there’s a hurricane forecast to pass offshore and make some big waves to watch (and surf) for the next couple of days.

We want to watch something that isn’t on TV.

We want to be tested. We want to test ourselves.

Look when the clouds are blowing
And all the winds are free:
In fury of their going
They fall upon the sea.

But though the blast is frantic,
And though the tempest raves,
The deep immense Atlantic
Is still beneath the waves.

– Frederick William Henry Myers (Wind, Moon and Tides)