Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
SIXTY-FIVE MILES off Montauk the continental shelf begins to dip into a vast unexplored and as yet unconquered piece of ocean. It is August 1975. The seas are flat calm. It is 95 degrees on shore, but out here the temperature is 82 degrees and the water temperature is about 72. The steady drone of the motor combines with a mellifluous wash of water as the 42-foot Cricket II dips her bow into the ongoing swells.
A spindly twelve-year-old boy has wrapped himself around the crossbar of the crow's nest and is peering out from under his cupped hand, watching for any signs of surface action. His father, Harry, takes a determined stance in the pulpit. At 42, he has the wiry strong look of a professional angler. A younger man with a similar build stands with feet spread apart for balance in the stern. He is twisting a 20-foot strand of piano wire leader that will attach a large hook to the fishing line. It will be strong enough to withstand the pull of a large fish. He is the mate. If you looked at his hands and the wrinkles beginning to form under his gunmetal blue eyes, you could estimate the years he has spent in the charter boat business, ten years to be exact. His skin is not as brown and leathery as his Captain's. The Captain's left arm is pocked with deep crater-like scars and his right arm has the strength of two.
The Captain is now leaning over the steering wheel on the flying bridge, squinting at the compass. As the boat rolls and pitches, he corrects his course by easing the wheel left or right. In his right hand he clasps a Styrofoam cup of lukewarm coffee. He has on the standard gray uniform of the commercial fisherman except on the back in script are the words "Monster Fishing, Cricket II." Though he appears to be casually relating a story to a passenger, he clearly knows exactly where he is and what he is doing. The passenger only sees the gold earring, hatchet nose and twinkling brown eyes in the shadow of the Captain's shiny bill cap. His voice is slightly rough, almost musical, often rising to a high-pitched giggle as he remembers a funny incident that happened sometime in his career of over thirty years of charter fishing. The passenger stares ahead in disbelief. Fifty yards in front of the bow a huge brown torpedo breaches and slams down with an enormous eruption of white water. The passenger babbles a few incoherent words. The Captain missed seeing the fish but saw the "hole in the ocean" as he called it.
The passenger only needed to mention "brown and torpedo" and the Captain knew what it was. A great white shark. One of the few fish in the sea that doesn't know the meaning of fear. The Captain eases forward on the throttle while the mate dashes below for the heavy rig, a big rod with a reel the size of a meat grinder filled with 750 yards of 130-pound-test monofilament. Harry works his way back to the cockpit from the pulpit. The Captain now eases back on the throttle as the boat glides over the still bubbly water where the big fish jumped. He has been through this routine hundreds of times. His feet automatically land on the mast footholds and then on the motorbox in the center of the cockpit. By the time he has reached the two-inch pine deck, the mate has already thrown a ladle of chum--ground-up fish used by anglers to lure their quarry--into the water . . ."