April 15, 2013
My Sea Daddy, Capt. Fred Morrow.
I've always heard you can judge a man by the company he keeps. I hope that's true because I'm a fisherman. As we've discussed before there's a difference in fishermen and people that really like to fish. Fishermen think fishing more than anything else and we're in love with the entire process of fishing.
I became a fisherman at a young age. To put it mildly, I was a punk. If you watch the show Wicked Tuna, I was the knucklehead on the "pinwheel." I had no respect for the older fishermen and I didn't need to know anything they could teach me.
Here's something else you need to know about fishermen. We're family. We will lie to and about each other all day, but if one of us is in trouble offshore nobody is leaving the ocean until we get him back.
Now, if you were fortunate enough to grow up with a fisherman father he made sure he taught you things like respect for your elders, appreciation of the ocean and everything in it, and how to get you and your crew through the worst day ever offshore.
For the rest of us, God gave us "Sea Daddy's". They were the elders of the family that snatched a knot in our tail, and let us know we'd better carry ourselves a certain way, or we would remain outside the family.
My "Sea Daddy" was Capt Fred Morrow. He didn't have a son to pass his wisdom on to, so the good Lord stuck him with me. The lessons started with, "Panic is the only thing you have to fear." When my captains license came through in 1979 he welcomed me to the "entertainment business." "The only thing that matters at the end of the day, is how much fun your customers had," he said. And the lessons went on and on, "Listen to your crew and you'll go broke." "Never leave fish to find fish," etc.
Today my Sea Daddy is 84 and has decided to disconnect his feeding tube. He hasn't even fished off the dock with me in six months and Parkinson's will soon win the battle to take his life.
I will be able to handle Parkinson's eventual victory a little better because he absolutely kicked its butt for a few hours yesterday.
Camachee Cove Marina called me yesterday because we had an alarm going off on Dos Amigos,and I needed to get down there and check it out. As has become my custom, I stuck my head in next door to see how Capt Fred was doing, and he was actually quite coherent and alert. I asked him for the umpteenth time if he wanted to see the Dos Amigos for himself, and much to my surprise he said "Let's Go."
I'll swear on my last blue marlin, once we got on the dock at Camachee his voice got stronger. Once he saw the boat, he could suddenly sit upright in his wheelchair. "Permission to come aboard Capt?" sent a shiver down my spine. before you know it, he was lifted into the fighting chair and a group of willing ears began to crowd around. "Aren't you Capt Fred Morrow" somebody asked, and the stories began. with the voice of a healthy fifty year old he talked about bringing the first sailfish into Jacksonville, winning the Greater Jax Kingfish Tournament out of his 16 foot Critchfield, and on, and on, and on.
Why am I telling you this Ryals children? Because such a time for me is right around the corner. So remember, after the doctors shake their heads, and funeral arrangements are on the horizon, just find me a fighting chair, and get me an audience. Maybe I'll suddenly remember where I buried that last hundred dollars I promised to leave you.