“5 Short Blasts on the Horn or Whistle”


From The Boatshop
by Ron Magen

“5 Short Blasts on the Horn or Whistle”
[The International Rules signal for DANGER!! - or DOUBT “. . .that another vessel is taking sufficient action
to advert a collision”]

When I grew up in Atlantic City, NJ, most kids had some variety of small boat. Or, back then, you could rent a small skiff at “Capt. Starn’s”- complete with a ‘handline frame’ wound with ‘cuttyhunk’ line - at almost ANY age {THAT’s another story !!}

One of the big reasons that small boats were popular, was the ability to ‘drift fish’ in the large Bay at the North end of the city. It was fed by the ‘Inlet’ between the end of Abseacon Island and Brigantine. The main object of that ‘hunt’ was the local {and delicious} Flounder. Of course, the greater percentage of what was hauled up were ‘Trash Fish’ such as Sea Robbin’s and the lowly Skate. There were a number of well-known restaurants that served a wide variety of fine seafood - often hauled in by a local fishing boat that very morning. One of the WORST things to say in a review was to accuse the establishment of using ‘punched-out’ skate wings for ‘Sea Scallops’.

Part of my typical ‘morning routine’ is to watch ‘Good Morning America’ while I have my second cup of coffee. The next show is ‘Regis & Kelly’, also out of New York City. Sometimes I leave the set on for a few more minutes while I wash-up; usually only for the opening comments where they ‘discuss’ where they went the prior evening.

A few days ago, Regis was raving about a VERY ‘Fru-Fru’, ‘by-invitation-only’, ‘THE beautiful people ONLY’ restaurant. “You know what I had ? . . . SKATE !! GREAT, Fantastic, Superb {and all-around $$$$$ !!}

In the past Sunday’s Philadelphia Inquirer ‘Food Section’ there was a half-page review of a Very Up-Scale - “. . . eponymous suburban bistro”. The featured item, complete with large color photo, “Pan-Fried SKATE . . . dusted with chili powder and served with brown butter sauce and guacamole”.

To me, this is only the latest ‘paragraph’ of issue that has been going on since the beginning of the ‘Industrial Age’. Because it seems to follow a geometric progression, maybe in the last 50 years it has reached such a high-profile view. In the last couple of months there have been articles about troubles with the NJ and Delaware Bay Oyster, and the Chesapeake Bay Blue Crab, fisheries. Add to this the fact that only a few years ago there was such an over-abundance of Horseshoe Crabs that the Cape May {NJ} communities were complaining about the smell. To try and ameliorate the situation, the Administrations were using bulldozers to backfill them into huge ‘troughs’ dug on the beaches. Today, they are wondering if there will be ENOUGH to sustain the normal migratory bird flights. While they are ‘trash’ to us, their eggs are ‘Flight Fuel’ for the birds . . . and a delicacy for the Japanese !! As well as the ‘Sea Urchins’ of the Maine coast.

There is also another set of negative factors. The rain run-off due to ‘paving over Paradise’ carrying ‘People Pollution’. Add to that the run-off from over-fertilization of farms flowing down rivers & carrying ‘Agricultural Pollution’. Plus the addition of ‘Industrial Contaminants’ from the ‘usual suspects’. All of this impacts on the once-abundant Ocean fisheries.

Now that we have reduced the stocks of the usual ‘desirable’ fish, shellfish, & crustaceans, which are ‘vacuumed’ out of the seas by highly efficient ‘corporation’ mechanisms {leaving the ‘smaller guys’ to literally ‘scrape the bottom’ for what is left}, instead of attempting to remedy this situation, by restraint and limits, the pressure is continuing. Hence, the ‘glamorization’ of usually ‘undesirable’ species. Some sharks are now considered ‘Endangered Species’.

EVERYONE who reads this ‘Electronic Magazine’, or any of the ‘boating’ Lists or NewsGroups has some involvement with the oceans; whether as far afield as the evaporation from a pond, or as direct as a ‘Blue Water Cruiser’. As such we ALL have an OBLIGATION to do what we can to try and change this course of events. I am not a Millionaire and can’t contribute money, nor do I even know {at THIS time} who I would give it to. However I do have a VOICE !! This column is only a start. While you, the internet subscriber, are reading this, a copy has been submitted to my ‘yacht club’ Newsletter, and the Philadelphia Inquirer.

My involvement with boatbuilding gets me on many ‘lists’ which fill my mailbox with brochures, flyers, and catalogs from many Maritime organizations. While it may be considered, ‘Preaching to the Choir’, they will also receive a copy. More importantly, all the major newspapers {Food, Sports, AND ‘Op-Ed’ sections} in my Tri-State area will also receive a copy. FWIW - so will GMA, and Regis & Kelly.

In no way do I imagine this sort of change can be accomplished by one person - WE ALL have to contribute OUR voices. Forward a copy of this column to YOUR local paper, or State & Federal officials. DO add your own comments, or write YOUR OWN ‘letter’.

My words may help form mental images, but they may not be descriptive enough. A much better, more dramatic, more ominous picture was produced several years ago. What I would like to see is EVERY Chef who promotes these ‘new’ seafood dishes, EVERY Representative who promotes rolling back environmental regulations, and a good part of the population, to attend a screening of this movie. Jacques Cousteau has actually documented regions of the Oceans that HAVE REACHED the levels noted in the secret ‘Blue Book’ that is sought

We are chillingly close to the last words of that film . . .