By Capt. Jeff Waxman
In the early 70’s the fleet at Oregon Inlet Fishing Center (OIFC) consisted of some 30 charter boats, almost all run by owner operators, almost all single engine, much like today. The newer boats were likely to be the 37’ers built by Warren O’Neill, pushed often by Cummins 903’s running roughly 16-18 knots. The older rigs, like the Jerry Jr. and the Erma Queen, had the old style canoe stern, workboat lines and paddled along at maybe 14 knots…maybe.
Spring of 1974 though, caused a bit of a stir. The Gal O Mine built by Omie Tillett was splashed. She was built for Big Al, Allan Foreman, local charter Captain. She was big..53’. And she was fast…23 knots at 1850 turns being pushed by a Detroit 12v71 Ti..and she still had more in reserve. And she was beautiful, proud bow, lots of flare, sweeping sheer line, with gleaming Awl Grip to show her off! Some folks even commented that her size and power might just cause her to break up in heavy seas!
Well, not only did she not break up, she ushered in a new era. The following spring, Buddy Davis splashed his hull number one..the 46’ Capt BC for Buddy Cannaday, who soon would follow building boats himself! The BC was pushed along at 21 knots powered by a single 8v71Ti.
But, the Gal was Queen of the Fleet, Big Al at the helm, leaving daily at daybreak…first out and first back. She even had the then unheard of electronic marvel of…radar! On more than one occasion in fog or heavy rains most others followed her.
But, by the early 80’s, Big Al bought a strip of marshland on Roanoke Island and sold the Gal to Jap Richardson, likely who hired Benjie York as Captain. At this time, the Gal was docked right beside my partners 35’ Harris, a private rig. We marveled often at how well the Gal rode and how comfortable she was, how many folks could relax in her huge cockpit…
Well, of course the inevitable took place…my partner, Capt Joe Perez, bought the Gal from Jap in the early 80’s! Joe hired the best..Capt Sam Stokes… as full time Capt and the name was changed to…Fight N Lady. Sam and Joe ran her through the 80’s amassing a record of successes along the way…including in 1985 a 1020lb blue marlin..then the third largest Atlantic Blue taken in the world! Add in the countless limits of tuna and dolphin, the big eyes and the years of multiple releases of white marlin…an enviable record.
But, by the mid 90’s the Detroit 12 was getting tired, wheezing a bit, smoking a bit..so a new power plant was installed…a 3412 Caterpillar, manual not electronic, bringing her up to 1050 horsepower. Now, her cruise increased to 25 knots and her fuel burn went down. A typical full day offshore run? 130-140 gallons…efficient enough to make her profitable to run even with fluctuations in fuel pricing.
Through the 90’s the Lady remained a top boat. In fact her Tee Shirts have been seen not only in the worlds best fishing spots, but also in places like Bangkok, Copenhagen, Lucerne and on and on. Sam ran her generally with Joe filling in as needed.
As the times changed, Joe talked seriously about perhaps a new build Lady. The newer rigs were now pushing 60’, cruising 25 knots plus and gorgeous to look at. But, every time he crunched the numbers and did the analysis, it was crystal clear…the Fight N Lady was the perfect combination. She was fully updated, beautiful to look at, still fast, economical and great in any sea!
Fast forward to 2018. Sam has retired, Joe still runs her on occasion, a new and capable Captain, Roger Parker is at the helm ( he was the mate for many years before getting his ticket) and she stays fully booked and continues as one of the top boats in the Fleet! In June 2018, I took a friend on her for a two day busmans holiday…limit of tuna by 9:30am Wed, limit of dolphin by 9:30 Thursday capped off by a sailfish release…and back at the dock by 1:00! And her powerplant? Over 30,000 hours, running strong as new, oil changed religiously and risers every five years or so!
A true Carolina Classic in every way..from the builder, to her Captains and to her owners…she’s as good as it gets!
Just a side note: to give you an idea of the forward thinking of Big Al, her first owner and Captain, the piece of marshland that he bought in 1980? Today it’s known as “Pirates Cove”.