When I was a child our family had a boat. A blue and white Tiberias with an inboard/outboard motor, fishing pole holders on each gunwale of the stern, an open bow and a snap on canopy that didn't get much use. I never once contemplated the brand name Tiberias but later in life while reading scripture, probably while in Catholic School as a teenager, I came across the well know passage of the multiplication of the loaves and fish and a correlation was quickly drawn. The miracle had been performed near the village of Tiberias and is the only town named in the Gospels in reference to this miracle. That boat, the biblical reference unbeknown to our family, brought more fish and shellfish to us than we could have ever procured simply on land. In retrospective it makes me laugh to think how after a good day on the boat and a good catch my parents would outfit me with a huge Tupperware container of fillets and have me go to all the houses on our street and offer our catch to our neighbors. A lanky kid in brown rimmed coke bottle glasses still in wet boat clothes going up and down the street multiplying the fish for the masses. Jesus must have gotten a laugh out of that sight.
The boat was a place where not only our family was strengthen but friendships as well. More my father's friendships but still none of the significance was lost on the young boy. I learned how to fight fish on that boat, I learned the significance of the tides and how to stall the boat high on a current off a reef or rock outcropping and fish right down the reef, letting the current take you with the fish. These fishing outings would usually come in the late days of August through the cold days of October. But in mid-summer our boat wasn't so much used for fishing as it was for ski-bobbing and Quahoging.
Up and down Narragansett Bay (and no, I won't say exactly where) I learned to Quahog. Either off the side of the boat with the big two handled rakes which you handled like a life size pair of scissors or wading in the shallows with a single rake. I think it would be quite amusing to be able to see my younger self, maybe aged 10, maybe a little older like 12, leaning over the side of the boat with the double handled rake digging away waiting for the familiar scrape of something hard. Then to have my small frame drag the rake over the gunwale, remembering to keep the handles tight as not to loose what was in the basket, and then dig out any Hogs from the rocks and conchs.
Though I know my father was next to me for so many of these hog adventures, one instance sticks out so distinctly that it seems like it could have been the only time we ever went out hoggin. Though I would hazard to guess that said memory is nothing more than the conglomeration of all my memories lumped into one hot and sunny day on the port/stern side of the boat. While I worked the teeth and baskets my mother laid out in the bow reading a book with her hair pulled behind a ball cap, my sister was off snorkeling by herself and my father was hoggin with his mask and snorkel. He would dive, dig his knife into the sand feel for the hogs or watch them squirt out sand and silt as they closed up in defense. I was either too young for this avenue of hoggin or just didn't have the comfort of the mask and snorkel yet (I put the previous up for debate but know that it was the later, I didn't take to the mask and snorkel till later in my adolescence).
My father donated the boat to U.R.I. some years later, I'm sure they turned around and sold it, but it was for a good cause for a great aquatic studies program. Life ebbed away from fishing and hoggin for me during my adolescence. The reasons are both personal and lost and would take up far too much time to detail here in one post. I took to surfing and riding the sea instead of fishing from her bounty. I have never lost my accord with the ocean but fishing or spearfishing never took precedence over a good swell. And well, with moving to Florida at age 18 I lost the opportunity to go hoggin or fishing with my father.
It's nine years later and I've set lures (which he has handmade and sent to me wherever I've lived) in Florida, California and Alaska. It's taken the nearly four months since my return for us to hit the beach together while neither one of us were working. But still what's more impressive is that it's taken us fifteen to seventeen years to don mask, snorkel, weight belt, flippers, gloves and metal spike and re-enter the Atlantic together. He never stopped Quahoging this way and I never stopped snorkeling but I still had another lesson to be learned.
For my first time, in this manner, I dug a fair share of Hogs and Little Necks. I nearly caught a sizable adult Flounder and saw a hundred of inch long baby flounder. My father pointed out schools of small Snapper Blues and I saw a Blue Crab with a claw about the size of my own hand. We exited the water side by side with the same beat-up yellow dive bag in my fathers hand that I remember sitting in the stern of the boat and just like it sits in my memory it sat heavy with today's haul.
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