For friends of Charlie Carter, the world is your ocean and you carry the beach with you wherever you go–and it’s an easy companion. The owner of Chaos (there is some talk to be had here, I think about whether a man ever truly owns a boat or whether a boat owns a man, but for me, I think it tends to be a delicate dance somewhere in the middle-maybe this is why boats are always a “she”), a gorgeous 45 foot Cabo Express docked in Cabo San Lucas, Charlie was, for us this last weekend, The Ambassador of Sun.
At the helm of Chaos every day is Captain Ivan. Now, there are men who fish and then there are fishermen and the chasm between the two is as wide as the sea. Not since the difference between Ishmael and Ahab has a distinction been so clear. You know his kind–it is hard to tell if a life on the water has carved his face into an expression that could be a grimace, but is more likely a white toothed expression of eternal contentment–staring somewhere in the distance at a spot in the water where he sees potential where others only see blue. It’s true, if you charter his boat, he will take you wherever you want to go, but he’d much rather you just sit down, drink a cold beer and let him take you to the fish while the crew does a melodic dance as old as time. They bait the rods, cast the lines, laugh, and make sure you’re comfortable, all the while cleaning and polishing a boat that means more than a lifestyle to them. It means a life.
There are fish that you eat, there are fish you can keep, and there are fish that belong to the sea–perhaps a life of negotiating with drunk men who fish has given these men an ease in telling you which kind your fish is–matter of factly and without apology. They simply let you know, “No, those don’t taste too good and he needs to go back, to get bigger” while letting it free. Your fish can stay just long enough for a photo, then it needs to be released back to the world so that it can become what it is meant to be.
Ivan and his crew are not employees of Charlie’s. They are family. Watching their bromance is like seeing a long choreographed salsa of easy camaraderie. When you’re a client, your are treated like a first class passenger on a lovely cruise–you land all the fish, your drink is never empty, never warm, they chop the fish as they are pulled from the water and make homemade ceviche with fresh tortilla chips that is food from the gods. When you are a guest of Charlie’s, it’s even better. You are related, embraced, you become “one of” not “one apart” from this crew. The music, the laughter, the food and drinks, the abject revelry of our jolly little cruise brought the whales and dolphins from the depths, curious to see the party and to enjoy it for a while from the periphery. It’s every man for himself on the rods, but every fish landed is a victory for all. Every ice cold beer tossed into a waiting hand is met with a smile or a joke. . .. a brotherhood. When you are family, you get to really know these fishermen. They bring their sons on the boat and you see that these quiet boys are cut from the same cloth as they are–just like the sea, they are hard men to know, but easy men to love. Warm. Unforgiving. Free.
From the front of the ship, lying on beach towels with fresh drinks pushed into our hands more often than sunscreen, whomever was steering often turned the boat to troll another direction just to insure that our tans were even. They roused us from our sunny slumber whenever whales surfaced nearby, when dolphins appeared to frolic in our wake, and whenever a sea turtle or ray showed its curious back. For the record, every time I see a whale up close or a dolphin jump with mischievous frivolity, I tell myself, “O.K. Next time, you can be mature about this, next time, you won’t be filled with such childish wonder,” but I’m wrong time and time again. The novelty never wears off. Their proximity and willingness to share in my day are a bottomless well of bonelessly relaxed elation.
I guess that what I am trying to say is this, if you fancy a long weekend in Cabo, I recommend that you spend it on the Chaos. No matter what the quality of the fishing, the very good times are always a catch.