The fishing in Costa Rica has been hotter than the heat index on a black sand beach and during the past few months the fleet out of Los Sueños has seen a quite a few 30+ bite days. A week prior to Leg III of the Signature Triple Crown Series, Capt. Lance Hightower along with mates Justin Ringer, Diego Esquivel, Chase Travers, Kristie Evans and adventurous owners Jerry and Donna Reynolds aboard their 64’ Weaver Vaquero found a frenzy of sailfish and proceeded to set a new record for the most Pacific sailfish released in a single day of fishing.
Mid-April and the guys in Texas are already at it again, this time with yet another pending Texas state record giant bluefin tuna. The giant was caught just one year after the previous record was set raising the bar for anglers once again in the Gulf.
The story, retold by Capt. Justin Drummond, starts early on Tuesday, April 14, on the 64′ Spencer Quantified as the team headed out of Port Aransas in search of a very specific fish—the bluefin tuna.
The Bahamas Customs & Excise Department has launched its electronic submission portal for cruising permit applications on the Click2Clear platform. Visitors traveling by boat can now complete and submit declaration forms and make a cashless payment in advance of arrival. “This is all a part of our digital transformation agenda. It addresses a long-standing pain point for boaters who have been clamoring for a fully digital process. It also minimizes the opportunity for revenue leakage,” says Minister of State for Finance Kwasi Thompson. While we love living on island time, the new Cruising Permit module is expected to dramatically improve the processing time for boaters when clearing customs at the various ports of entry across the archipelago.
By Steve Dougherty
Encompassing two-thirds of the island of Hispaniola, the Dominican Republic is the Caribbean’s greatest escape and currently the best place in the world to catch a blue marlin. Renowned worldwide for premium cigars and major league talent, the D.R. attracts adventurous owners and captains searching for outstanding fishing amid magical settings accommodating both tournament teams and families that fish together.
By Elliott Stark
In a very direct sense, the pending new Texas state record bluefin tuna was a victim of the coronavirus.
Whether or not fish can actually catch this disease, who the hell knows, but the trip that resulted in greasing the biggest bluefin in the history of the Lone Star State was the result of being cooped up in the house awaiting the virus to run its course. Captain Robert Nichols, who runs the Rock Mama, a 55’ Hatteras based out of Galveston, Texas was gracious enough to tell us all about this fish of a lifetime.
Boat owner, and the man who reeled in the fish, Daniel Miers asked Nichols if he could round up a crew to take advantage of the weather window that presented the opportunity to get offshore and out of the house for a while. On the boat were Miers, his son Jacob, Capt. Robert Nichols and his two brothers Derek and Scotty. “We left out of Freeport Tuesday evening and slowboated about 100 miles to the Nansen Rig,” Nichols says.
“I talked to Capt. Troy Day. He had caught two blue marlin the day before but was heading home. Captain John Cochrane killed a bluefin that went 599 at Nansen too, so we were pretty excited. We planned to live bait for blue marlin.”
After getting a bit of sleep, the crew filled their tuna tubes at 4:30 am in the lights of the rig. “We put the baits out at 6:45. At about 7:00 there was an explosion. It’s hard to describe, but it looked like a 400 or 500-pound cannonball blew up in the water. There was a drill ship out at Nansen and we hooked the fish off of the bow of the drill ship.”
“We backed down a total of seven miles during the fight. When we were about four miles away from the rig, the tuna took a big run. The next thing you know, I looked down off the port side of the boat and there was a school of giant bluefin swimming and jumping around the surface of the water. We were surrounded by big tuna. I think the fish tried to join up with the school even though it was hooked.”
“My boss, Daniel Miers, hooked the fish and fought in the chair the whole time. We fought the fish for about six hours and 40 minutes. It was a pretty incredible feat. I think the whole time he might have had a few bites of kolache (a really great type of breakfast pastry) and three or four bottles of water—and that’s it. He hooked the fish himself.”
“My brothers, Derek and Scotty Nichols (who are also captains themselves) gaffed the fish. We gaffed it the first time we got him on the leader. We caught the fish on an 80 wide with 200-pound leader. The leader was light because we were fishing for blue marlin…”
“Ryan Doxey had to swim over from another boat to help us get the fish in the boat. We used the anchor windlass to help get the fish on board. We couldn’t have done it with just manpower. I removed the anchor and the chain and ran the anchor line around the boat and tied to the fish. As they were pulling, they yell up and I’d put it in gear.”
The fish weighed 820 pounds. It was 114 inches long with a girth of 80 inches.
“We got it on board but it was too big to keep fishing so we headed home even though the fishing was lights out.”
Nichols, Miers and company weighed the fish at Galveston’s Pelican Rest Marina.
Congratulations from InTheBite on the fish of a lifetime. The previous Texas state record bluefin mark was set in the 1980s.
Check out our gallery of more recent tuna catches:
Any comments or questions please feel free to ask us. Thanks in advance from InTheBite staff
By Elliott Stark
As the saying goes, there is more than one way to skin a cat. In the fishing world, there is generally more than one way to say just about anything.
If someone wants to refer to a big fish the following, depending on where the person is from, would be perfectly acceptable means of expressing the size of the creature: hog, lunker, sow, mogan, tank, slob, gorilla, donkey, cow, monster, fatty, huge!, giant, pig, a full-grown one, a real one—and those are just the ones that are fit to print (there’s a certain Australian exclamation that is outstanding, too). The following is a breakdown of sportfishing slang.
People: Anglers, Charter Guests, and other Non-Captains
Googan – an inexperienced fisherman that doesn’t know what he is doing. When it is ascribed to a person, it is generally done so with a fair bit of contempt. It is the universal term.
Jack Bag – a googan in North Carolina.
Shmiiii – a crustier name for a googan. It is used by South Florida guys and comes from the Smeagol (pronounced Shmeegal), the awful little creature from Lord of the Rings who’s always after “my precious.” It was provided to us by Capt. Matthew Miller from Pensacola.
Slapper/ Squeezer – Australian terms for someone who is a tool bag or otherwise too much to deal with. The terms, which may be used interchangeably, refer to a male person who is known to either squeeze or slap a certain part of his body quite often. It may also be used to describe a googan.
Potlicker – A term used in the Gulf of Mexico to describe people with googan-like tendencies. According to Bryan Case, owner of Venice’s Honey Badger Fishing, if you…. Only fish for trout under birds…. Change your oil wearing gloves… Use live bait while bass fishing… Bring an AR-15 deer hunting… or, if your mom makes brownies and you get the dirty bowl out of the dishwasher and lick it…. You might be a potlicker.
Lump – a Hawaiian term for a charter guest who gets on the boat and shows no energy. A lump just sits there all day and doesn’t talk to the captain or crew. Helpful Harry – a Hawaiian term that describes the opposite of a lump. It is a charter guest who comes aboard and wants to do everything in the cockpit.
When we asked our New England contributor for fishing slang words used to describe someone that is generally unlikeable, he replied, “Up here we are pretty blunt. If some-one is an a_hole, we just call them an a_hole.“ Speaking of those who are generally described with contempt…
This scenario plays out in marinas all over the world, every day. A sailboater comes ashore and walks up to the marina office. “How much is your fuel?” he asks. Upon hearing the answer, he unleashes a loud, annoying whistle the kind that suggests he believes the price to be too high – and that because it requires no fuel, his manner of propulsion is superior.
Immediately after whistling he asks, “Where’s your pisser?” What do you call such a person? A Whistle Pisser! Other names for sailboaters include: WAFIs – wind-assisted f ’ing idiots, NAFs – Non Angling F___s, blow boaters and cruisers.
Captains: The Big Skipper, Inhabitant of the Big Chair
Gilligan – an older term used to describe a captain who is nice enough, but generally clueless with many goofball tendencies. Origin – Gilligan’s Island.
Big Fish Bert – a captain who claims that ever fish he sees, especially those he releases, is extralarge. If this person is a charter captain, he may be engaged in tip chasing.
Clam Lipper – a captain, who after locating a body of hungry fish, forgets how to use his radio, failing to inform his friends and dock mates of the action. Hot Shot – an older term for a captain that backs in very fast and carries himself arrogantly. High Hook – the captain who caught the most fish on a day, trip, or season.
Marlin and Other Billfish
Flopper (Costa Rica), Jumper – a free jumping sailfish or marlin.
Mud Dart – a billfish that dies upon release, sinking out and sticking nose-first in the mud on the bottom.
Window Shoppers – fish that appear in the spread, but do not produce a bite.
Rat – a little marlin or swordfish. Capt. Steve “Stymie” Epstein tells us that in Hawaii a rat might also be called a cheese eater. The term is sometimes used to describe male blue marlin. Beakies – Australian slang for billfish.
Diablo – Translated directly, diablo is the Spanish word for devil. In Panama, diablo is used to refer to marlin. This name makes quite a bit of sense, given the power of marlin fishing captivate and enamor fishermen. When considering this power of marlin and thinking about the legends of people who have sold their souls to the devil, the name suits quite well. Que venga el diablo!
Another fascinating term that relates to marlin fishing in Panama is Chupacabra. While you may think a Chupacabra is a goat-eating monster, the term also refers to live bait-eating porpoises. How, you may ask, do you know if the porpoise approaching the live bait is a Chupacabra or a regular porpoise? You have to wait to see if the damned thing eats your bonito!
Blue Marlin – Man in the Blue Suit, blue one, line burner (Australia). White Marlin – Skillie (east coast)/ whitey, white one. Striped Marlin – stripeys, spanglies (Australia – named after the Star Spangled Banner). A Fixed wing is a black marlin in Australia. Chucker – Hawaiian term for spearfish. According to Capt. Chris Donato the term originated many years ago when a fisherman who was in the movie business was covered up by spearfish. Referring to the large number of spearfish, he said they were like “spearchuckers” a term for movie extras.
Sailfish – The sailfish is an interesting creature, one which has spawned an interesting language of its own. In places where sailfish are the kings of the offshore world (South Florida, Guatemala and tournaments in Costa Rica, for instance) they are referred to in glowing terms.
Spindlebeaks and dredge finders come to mind. Interestingly, in places where marlin are the target of choice, there are quite a few derogatory terms for the sailfish. There are those, especially when not looking to complete a grand slam, who actually hate catching them. Bad terms for sailfish include the likes of: sea turd, garbage bag, sea rat, and dirty diaper.
Grander – a thousand pounder. Tonner – the mythical 2,000-pounder. Big Juli – Australian term for a very large marlin who has been hooked many times, but never actually caught. Big Moes – Hawaiian term for big marlin, provided by Captain Marlin Parker of Kona. Erville – an Australian term for the largest marlin anyone has ever seen. It is a mythical creature that has never been caught. It is named for a dinosaur-like marlin statue in a shopping center in Cairns.
Tutu – the Hawaiian term for grandmother. It is also used to describe a big marlin. Dozer – a big marlin.
Slang Related to Tackle, Hardware and Electronics
Streakers – marks on the sonar of a tuna or other fish rising (to eat a bait or lure). Chirping/Marking – marking fish on the sonar.Gaffs, etc – steel, axes, picks (Australia), the Poco Tag stick – in honor of the famous tournament in Texas, of course. Harpoon – the brass mullet (North Carolina), dart, poon. Once a fish is harpooned or gaffed, it is stuck. A flyer is a flying gaff. If you’re a flounder gigger, you may feed the fish the five-eyed shrimp. If you’re going to kill a fish, you may choose to grease it, whack ‘em, stroke ‘em, hang ‘em, or ice ‘em.
When it comes to fishing oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico, Captain Jason Buck describes how captains refer to platforms and drill ships offshore in the same way they’d talk about deer camp. “I left the gate open for you,” is what a departing captain might say to one arriving when they have been catching a lot of fish at the rig recently. If the bite has stopped at the rig, he might say, “The gate is closed.”
Center rigger (and the bait that is fished out of it ) – stinger (Hawaii), WWFB – way, way f ’ing back (North Carolina). The backfield is another North Carolina term that refers to the long rigger and the shotgun.
Marlin lures – jigs (California), baits (Hawaii), plastics, or plugs. Fishing with lures is known as dragging and snagging or pulling plastics.
Gingerbread – an old school term for teak on a sportfisher.
Slang Related to Successful Fishing
Garring Out – A Florida panhandle term that is used to describe a day when you’re destroying your world. When you’ve killed a limit of everything possible and have blood pouring out of the bilges etc.
Shampooed – Capt. Daniel Spencer provided us with a North Carolina saying attributed to Capt. Billy Baum. When you have a blue marlin’s head and shoulders on the teaser you’re being shampooed. Baum also described
fishing on the Gulf Stream as being on I-95, because once you’re on it you’re moving northbound no matter what you do.
Covered up – a term for when there are lots of fish in the vicinity, when all of your lines are bit, and you’re having a hard time keeping bait in the water for very long. While covered up descries having a lot of fish in the area, a
rod that is hooked up (especially a chicken rig with multiple hooks) is loaded up. Ate up with it – the term used to describe someone (especially a boat owner or a member of his or her family) who is consumed with fishing and wants to do it every chance they get.
Gunnelled up – a term used on the east coast of Florida to describe what happens when you set the hook on a large grouper and it doubles the rod over and takes line. Dumping – a northeast term for a fish taking line. If a fish takes all the line on the reel, you have been spooled. Tight, Get tight – hooked up on a fish.
Once you get tight, when the rod loads up you are bent, bent over, or bendo. Una vaina bien – a term used in the Dominican Republic to describe something good.
Kurt – A North Carolina term that originated from fishing with a heavy-set guy… named Kurt. When you’re meat fishing and you ask the mate, “How are we doing?” in regards to keeping a fish, if he says “We’re Kurt.” It means you’re over the limit… and you’re heavy.
There are also a number practices and rituals that may induce fish to bite. The dunkaroo – with someone holding your feet, do a headstand and place your head in a bucket of ice water for 10-seconds. Then shotgun a beer. This of course, will make the marlin bite. The fish whistle – a medicinal practice involving the use of cannabis cigarettes to call in the marlin. Those who enjoy fish whistles commonly dream of catching square groupers.
Slang Related to Not-So-Successful Fishing, Going for a Boat Ride
San Cocho – the dreaded bodiless ballyhoo that comes back after you miss a bite. If the let down of missing a fish combined with the miserable sight of just a bait head flossed to a circle hook were not bad enough, now people make fun of you for having San Cocho’d the fish. Salado – a Spanish term used in Central America to describe a person who is unlucky or seemingly cursed. Translated directly it means “salted” or excessively salty. If you get 10 San Cochos in a row, maybe you are salado.
Palm Beach Release/Long Distance Release – dropping a fish quickly after hook up (but definitely before catching and releasing it). In some circles, missing a fish may also be known as practicing conservation. Knock down – when a fish knocks a bait or lure out of the rigger clip (usually associated with a bite that doesn’t result in a hook up). Skunked – what happens when you don’t catch a fish.
Douched out (Florida Keys)/Pea Soup – terms that describe green or cloudy water. When the waves are big and the water offshore is rough, terms such as nautical, sporty and rougher than shit may be used to describe the
situation. Zing pow! – what happens when you put too much pressure on a running fish and it breaks your line. The word comes from the sound made by the line breaking (right before all the curse words start).
Toothy critter – some fish with sharp teeth that either severs your line or your bait. It may be used to describe various types of mackeral, sharks, barracuda or other scourges of mono and flouro leaders. In South Florida, barracuda are sometimes known as the Abaco spotted seatrout. Sharks – the man in the grey suit (sometimes brown suit), the taxman – especially after it collects taxes by eating the cobia or tuna you’ve hooked. In the Northeast blue sharks are known as blue dogs.
Coryphaena hippurus – is the latin name of a colorful, good eating fish that goes by many names. In addition to the standard dolphinfish, dorado (Spanish) and mahi mahi (Hawaiian), the dolphinfish is known by a variety of slang terms. These include: dollies (Australia), dodos and a complicated size classification. As Islamorada, Florida’s Capt. Nick Stanzcyk relates, dolphin are known by the following classification.
An undersized dolphin (less than five-pounds or about 20inches) may be called a peanut, chicken, schoolie or a shaker (because you shake them off the hook at the side of the boat). A gaffer is approximately five to 15-pounds. A five pounder might also be a heavy lifter. A 20-plus pound dolphin is a slammer.
A super slammer is 40-plus pounds. Were that not enough, in the Keys wahoo are sometimes called zebras, queen snapper are known as goldfish. Sportfish captains who sailfish call kingfish slime (kingfish guys also hate sailfish).
Tuna likewise have various names in various parts. Rhode Island’s Capt. Jack Sprengel is a repository of Northeastern fishing slang – many of which relate to tuna. A yellow is a yellowfin tuna, a thunn or a Charlie is a bluefin, an eyeball is a bigeye and a penguin is an albacore.
Shearwaters, known as tuna birds in other parts, are called errrh! because of their obnoxious noise they make. Stormy petrels are known as butter chickens because of their habit of diving into chum slicks. On the west coast a yellowfin over 200-pounds is a cow. In Hawaii, a big tuna (over 200) may be a gorilla, though a fish over 100-pounds may be called an ahi as well.
Blue runners are a commonly used baitfish that are distributed widely. In Panama they make great tuna baits. In the Gulf they are livebaited for blues. Sailfish eat them, so do roosterfish and cubera snapper. Their variety of uses is matched only by the variety of names: hard tails (Gulf of Mexico), kujinua (Panama), runners, ghetto gogs (South Florida tournament kite fishermen who run out of goggle eyes). Making bait means catching live bait.
Marking bait, seeing a school of bait on the sonar. Run that dog refers to trolling a mullet down a seawall.
Acknowledgements: The following captains provided regionally-specific dock speak that made this article possible. Capt. Jack Sprengel (Rhode Island), Capt. Fin Gaddy (North Carolina), Capt. Glenn Cameron (Florida), Jarad “Dingo” Boshammar (Australia), Capt. Matthew Miller (Pensacola), Capt. Chris Donato (Hawaii), Capt. Marlin Parker (Hawaii), Capt. Stymie Epstein (Hawaii), Capt. Daniel Spencer (North Carolina), Capt. Nick Stanzcyk (Florida Keys), Capt. Tony Berkowitz (Cabo), Capt. Jason Buck (Gulf Coast), Bryan Case (Texas), and Capt. Dale Wills (Florida). Many others posted shared their favorite slang on social media. Thanks.
Do you know some fishing slang we haven’t mentioned? Comment below so we can add to our growing list.
By Steve Katz
It’s often an emergency that prompts a look at a boat’s steering system. While routine maintenance of modern steering systems is usually simple, an at sea steering issue can quickly and easily result in rudderless steering and an oily bilge! While I have witnessed many captains maneuver a boat with amazing skill using just the engines, having a properly operating steering system is prudent and allows safe operation in all conditions.
What type of steering system do you have? While most sportfish crew would answer hydraulic, there are many variables today that differentiate the design, components and operation of a vessel’s steering system. Learning about your boat’s system can assist when it comes time for maintenance, ordering repair parts and performing bleeding (more about this later).
Steering Systems of Old – And their Modern Counterparts
Some readers may remember the cable and pulley steering systems on sportfish boats of the past. This system was complete with cables and pulleys neatly hidden under the headliner and jackshafts, with more pulleys and cables, transferring the steering power to the rudders.
Most of these mechanical systems have gone the way of the dinosaur – replaced with a variety of hydraulic solutions on sportfish boats. Hydraulic systems provide better command of the vessel’s directional stability and result in less fatigue on the captain.
At its most basic level, a hydraulic steering system consists of a helm pump, steering cylinder, rudder(s) and interconnecting hoses. The helm pump is a hydraulic pump attached under the helm wheel.
When the helm wheel is turned, the helm pump pushes hydraulic oil through the hydraulic fluid lines and into the cylinder that pushes the internal piston one direction or the other, depending which way you turn the helm wheel. While most steering systems on sportfish boats are more complex with additional components, the operating principal is the same.
Steering systems are designed with many considerations in mind. These factors include: the size, weight and speed of the vessel, how the vessel is used, and the design and location of the rudder.
Physics and fluid mechanics provide the basis for the design of these systems. Luckily, most marine steering companies and boat manufacturers will perform the necessary calculations to recommend various steering solutions for your specific vessels requirements. Thankfully, you can leave your calculators and physics workbooks at home.
Steering System Maintenance
No matter what steering system your boat has, there are two common components to all systems: the hydraulic oil and cylinders. The most critical part of any hydraulic system is clean hydraulic oil. Many times, we hear about the need to bleed a steering system. The need is often caused by a leak in the system that let air or water into the system, while letting oil out.
A boat’s hydraulic steering is a closed system that operates on high pressures of 1000 PSI or more. At these pressures, even a slight leak from a hose or seal will quickly cause oil to leak out. This can possibly disable the steering system.
Each steering system manufacturer offers specific procedures for filling and bleeding of their systems. The basic premise for bleeding is to circulate clean hydraulic oil through the system while bleeding the air out until a steady stream of air and contaminant free oil is observed.
EPS systems often have a maintenance mode that may be accessed through the steering control display. Maintenance mode will walk you through the procedure for bleeding the system.
Varieties of Steering Systems in Sportfishing Boats – Description and Application
Cars, trucks and off-road machinery all have power steering, so why isn’t power steering as common on the sportfish market? Marine steering system manufacturers have made it easy to have safe and reliable marine power steering systems. Such systems provide precise steering from the helm, reducing operator fatigue and increasing steering accuracy at both low and high speeds.
The most common power steering system uses an engine-driven hydraulic pump to provide high pressure hydraulic oil for the power circuit of the steering system.
A marine power steering system adds a second hydraulic cylinder and second hydraulic oil circuit from the engine-driven pump. The high-pressure power circuit is actuated by the manual system from the helm wheel.
This is accomplished using a small servo cylinder/valve mounted on or near the steering cylinder. This cylinder/valve directs the power steering oil to the power cylinder when the helm wheel is turned. The nice feature of this system is that if the power steering circuit fails, the traditional manual steering at the helm can still function – though more force is often needed with more wheel turns lock-to-lock.
Electric Power Steering Pumps
This type of hydraulic steering operates similarly to the engine-driven power steering system, but without the engine driven pump. The hydraulic power comes from a standalone electric motor, usually supplied with DC power. These systems vary in design. While their primary application lies with large center console boats powered by multiple outboards, electric power steering pumps are becoming more popular in sportfish boats.
There are two design styles of electric power steering systems – one with a constantly running electric hydraulic pump and the other with an on-demand electric motor pump. While the end result is similar, the feel of the system and response time is slightly different.
Most of the large sportfish boats that use electric power steering include the constantly running engine, while the on-demand pumps system is often used in center console boats.
The constantly running pump system supplies high pressure hydraulic steering oil to the steering system continuously while the steering system is powered on. Contrarily, the demand system pump is always off, until the captain begins to turn the helm wheel, which triggers a sensor in the hydraulic system that turns on the pumps motor.
The on-demand system uses less electricity and helps reduce the steering effort as compared to manual steering, though the feel and reaction time is much different that and constant running pump.
Steer by Wire – Electronic Power Steering (EPS)
Electronic controls are not just for the engines anymore. Today’s electronic steering systems operate in a similar fashion to the electronic engine controls that run the vessel’s engines and marine gear. These steering systems are often called Electronic Power Steering or EPS.
In an EPS system, the helm wheel is connected to an electronic sensor instead of a hydraulic helm pump. Digital data signals are sent along wires to the steering system below deck, usually consisting of a computer processor, electric pump(s) and steering cylinder(s) that are connected to the rudders.
The most popular form of EPS is the Seastar Optimus system for outboards. This system consists of independent pumps and cylinders for each outboard engine. As you might imagine, a computer system controls the coordination of each outboard engine relative to the others. When the captain turns the helm wheel, the signals travel into the computer and then to each electric pump and engine cylinder.
This set up enables some amazing features that are unavailable with any other steering systems. An EPS system can be programmed to decrease the number of helm wheel turns lock-to-lock for ease of low speed maneuverability.
An EPS can also increase the lock-to-lock turns at high speed to improve stability, tracking and course keeping. The steering angles can also be customized based on the boat’s performance and speed curves.
Another feature of EPS systems is that the large hydraulic steering lines are replaced with small wires connected to each helm wheel. This makes adding a second or third steering station a much simpler task – as compared to routing bulky hydraulic lines. The new EPS systems are designed for both new construction and retrofit projects to replace traditional steering systems.
While a joystick was once reserved for steering Pac Man, the EPS steering system enables joystick control of outboard vessels at low speeds. Joystick control is possible in conjunction with digital fly by wire engine controls. This set up allows the joystick control to change the engine rpm, engine gear direction and engine steering angle. These joysticks steering for outboards are similar to the vectored thrust systems used in the Volvo Penta and ZF pod systems on sportfish boats.
Not just for outboards
The Seastar Optimus EPS system is now also available for inboard boats up to 70’. The Optimus system operates in similar fashion as other electric inboard power steering systems, but is also available in more advanced configurations, depending on the application.
In its simplest form, the electronic power steering system uses an electronic helm, single power steering pump and single cylinder at the rudders. In a more advanced system, there can be one pump and cylinder for each rudder without a tie bar. This allows the rudders to operate independently or in unison, depending on the pre-programmed operating parameters.
Viking Yachts knew an EPS system like this would have many advantages for sportfish boats and designed their own system years ago. The steer-by-wire Viking Independent Proportional Electro-Hydraulic Rudder system is referred to as the VIPER steering system. The VIPER’s rudders are individually controlled with one steering cylinder per rudder. When the helm wheel is turned, an electric signal is sent to a controller whose software dictates the optimum position for each rudder.
Viking can adjust the offset or rudder toe and the number of turns lock to lock by altering the software programming. The system can also be programmed with different parameters based on the vessel’s speed. The Viper system has its own graphic display, showing each rudder position and other steering information.
Whether cruising, docking, fishing or backing down, advancements in steering systems have contributed to the ease and reliability of operating a sportfish boat.
No matter how advanced the system, steering still relies on traditional aspects such as rudder size and shape, properly sized hydraulic cylinders, helm pump, hoses and other components. A regular visual inspection of your steering system components will help you to learn what you have and determine if and when maintenance is needed.
Most autopilot manufacturers offer a system for boats with EPS systems. These autopilot systems are similar to a traditional autopilot system, except for one component – the hydraulic pump. In an EPS system, the autopilot manufacturers substitute a gateway or electronic module for the hydraulic pump. This gateway
electronically connects the autopilot to the vessels steering system, allowing the autopilot to send steering commands to the EPS computer in a similar fashion that the electronic helm wheel would send steering input signals. This autopilot gateway is specific for each type/brand of steering system.
Boats with traditional hydraulic steering use an autopilot system that incorporates a standalone autopilot hydraulic pump connected to the steering system as an additional station. There are a variety of hydraulic pumps available and are selected by capacity based on the volume of the steering cylinders. Don’t guess or select the pump by price as an undersized or oversized autopilot pump can cause unacceptable autopilot performance.
If your boat has a constant running power steering system, you may be able to forgo the need for the traditional autopilot pump. Some autopilots can connect to the existing directional solenoid valves in the power steering system.
A technical note – In regards to the hydraulic portion of the autopilot system the National Marine Electronics Association (NMEA) installation standard 0400, indicates that “Isolation valves shall be installed in the hydraulic lines connected to all ports entering the autopilot pump.”
This allows for isolation, service or replacement of the autopilot hydraulic pump without disturbing the rest of the vessel’s hydraulic steering system. This practice is often overlooked in many boat steering systems.
Autopilots have advanced a long way in just a few years. Most components are shrinking in size and heading sensors are becoming solid state, multi-axis sensors and even using GPS as a basis for heading in place of a fluxgate compass. The advancement has also allowed autopilots to perform better and allow for new interesting features, such as Furuno’s Sabiki mode.
Captain Steve Katz is the owner of Steve’s Marine Service Inc in Ocean City, Maryland. He is the Vice President of the National Marine Manufacturers Association and holds ABYC Master Technician certification, NMEA AMEI, NMEA2000 certificates along with factory training from many manufacturers. To contact Steve, email email@example.com.
by Elliott Stark
With all of modern Costa Rica’s ease and amenity, it is easy to forget that Costa Rica hasn’t always been this way. The infrastructure enjoyed by residents and tourists are a relatively modern innovation. The first wave of traveling sportfishers came to the country in the 1980s. What these pioneers encountered upon their arrival was magical— virgin fisheries and rugged, untouched terrain. Sportfishing consisted of pockets of four boats here, six boats there, fishing without GPS or advanced bottom machines (rather as Captain Bubba Carter says— “using paper sounders and taking landmarks off of mountains.”)
What these early adopters may have lacked in marinas, logistics and the modern concept of civilization, was more than made up for in adventure. The incredible sailfish and black marlin bites is the stuff of legend. This is story of how Costa Rica of the late 1980s came to be the Costa Rica of today. It is told by those who were part of its evolution. If you do not find this fascinating, either I need to stop writing (for lack of skill) or you need to take up golf (because you do not like fishing)!
The Early Days
Bubba Carter is widely recognized as a central figure in the 1980s sportfishing scene. “My first time in Costa Rica was to Flamingo in 1985. We chartered Tom Bradwell on the Barbarella. At the time, there were four or so boats in Flamingo,” Carter reminisces. “I came down with Charlie Cippola from Canada the next year. He had a 43-foot Merritt and wanted to try something different. It started out as kind of a dare.”
“‘Can you get the boat down there?’ Charlie asked. ‘Well,’ I said, ‘there’s water between here and there…’” There was no GPS, no marinas and no range. Our first trip took 19 days from West Palm Beach to Flamingo,” Carter describes. “We had 300 gallons in deck and 300 gallons on deck. We had a range of about 350 miles… maybe 450 if we were chugging. We were so loaded down on our first trip that the tuna door started taking on water when we left he marina.”
Carter’s route would become a familiar one to the many who have since followed. He island-hopped his way through the Caribbean, transited the Panama Canal. From Panama City, he ran to Golfito; from Golfito to Flamingo. “At the time Golfito had a four-slip marina. Quepos had the banana boat pier. Tamarindo had four or five boats. Cocos had a couple, too. If everybody showed up all at one place for a tournament, there might have been a dozen boats,” says Bubba of the entire Costa Rican fleet.
“Flamingo was the place to be back then. You could fly into Tamarindo, but you’d have to chase the cows off the runway first,” Carter recalls. “It was kinda clannish back then. The group in Golfito and the guys in Flamingo, nobody really liked each other back then,” Carter recalls with a laugh.
Carter’s operation provided a testing ground for other of Costa Rica’s early entrants. One was Captain John Skubal, who now works as a yard manager at Merritt. “I headed to Costa Rica in 1990 for a couple of years. We were fishing out of Flamingo aboard the Ambush, a 46-foot Merritt,” Skubal recalls. “The fishery was unbelievable, everything else was pretty primitive. It was kind of jungle rules.”
“Flamingo was very quaint back then. There was one floating dock. You either tied up to it or anchored offshore. There were a couple of hotels, a couple of restaurants and basically that was it,” Skubal says of the old days.
Another of CR’s early adopters, and perhaps one of sportfishing’s nicest individuals, is Captain John LaGrone. His first trip to the country was in 1993 running the Magic for Tim Choate. “Flamingo was a thriving fishing village at the time. That was its heyday. Flamingo had a marina and a fuel dock and a maintenance section,” the veteran captain recalls. “Logistics were easy. The food truck came one day, the vegetable truck came one day, the coke truck came one day and the beer truck came another. Nobody drank bottled water then.”
Bubba Carter describes the early days of the fishery with a characteristic ease and understatement. After all, when you’ve done and seen as much as Carter, you don’t need to embellish anything. “The fishing was awesome. Now there are a lot more boats with a lot more tech, which make it seem good. Back then there were three or four boats fishing landmarks off the mountains. We had paper sounders. There were acres of sailfish—and the fishing was better.”
“Over 11 years, we averaged over 1,000 billfish per year. That was fishing around 200 days per year. Back then, many of the charters were record fishing on two and four pound. It wasn’t the numbers fishing like it is today,” Bubba describes. “My best day in the early days was 52 sails. My best year was 1,444 in 204 days. Last year was my best year overall—2,200 sails and 318 blues (in 46 days) in 198 days.”
While the fishing in Costa Rica was great then, as it is now, there were differences. John LaGrone provides context, “The size and number of sails and blue marlin were much different. In those days, it was very uncommon to catch a sailfish under 100-pounds. In the 1990s, they averaged 100-125 pounds. An average day was 15 sails and two blue marlin,” he describes.
“It was easier to target a black for your marlin— fishing the humps out of Flamingo. The average black was around 400-pounds, with some bigger fish around. You couldn’t fish ballyhoo for more than five minutes because there were lots and lots of dorado. Big dorado, too. Another difference was the size and amount of yellowfin tuna – there were lots of them. You could target the schools of yellowfin by following travelling birds. This was very common and there were lots of big tuna.”
“Some of the best days I had were a grand slam with my wife. We caught 35 sails, a black and a stripe. Fishing out of Cocos Island, we had 18 slams and two super slams in 43 days. The numbers were not the important part. It was the numbers, size, and variety of the fishery. I can’t say that the fishing was better then than now, but there were bigger fish before,” recalls LaGrone.
A Florida Keys native, Captain Randy Rode made his first fishing trip to Costa Rica in 1982 aboard a 31-foot Rampage. His first day of trolling, Rode caught eight big sails and two blue marlin in four hours. The experience was such that Rode shortly thereafter purchased a half acre tract in the town of Nosara for $1,200. Nosara, then with a population of 150 people, is located about 10 miles north of Carillo. Rode kept his boat in the half moon-shaped Garza Bay that was protected at its mouth by a stretch of reef with a gap in the middle. Getting to Nosara from San Jose in those days was a six to seven-hour drive that required crossing 13 rivers. Rode estimates that there were approximately 1,000 people living in the region at the time.
Randy ran his operation, Rode Runner Sportfishing, for the next 15 years. Rode placed moorings made of heavy equipment tires in the bay. He loaded and offloaded guests and fishing supplies to and from his boats via panga beach-launchings. For bait, he would fly 150-quart coolers full of Keys-caught ballyhoo down from the states. “In those days, you could bring anything down on the airplane,” Rode says.
The Story of Los Sueños
Just as the nation’s incredible fisheries draw tourists from around the world today, it was the great fishing and lifestyle attributes of Costa Rica that attracted investment and development. The story of how Costa Rica of the early 1980s became the Costa Rica of today cannot be told without first relating the story of Los Sueños. While there exist many other developments in the nation, Los Sueños Resort and Marina has been transformative. Just how impactful has Los Sueños been to the Costa Rica? Mr. William Royster is the founder, CEO and President of Los Sueños. He was also the man behind the vision for the project.
“In 1991 I decided to take a sabbatical. I had recently purchased a 92-foot long range sportfisherman. The marlin fishing is not great in southern California so he headed south in January of 1991, fished Mexico and Mag Bay. We kept heading south and got to Acapulco. We decided we didn’t want to go back so we went to Costa Rica. It is 1,100 miles from Acapulco to Playa del Coco, Costa Rica,” Mr. Royster recalls.
“We explored Costa Rica and kept moving south to get out of the Papagayo winds. We arrived to the tip of Guanacaste—around Nicoya. We were fishing about 60-miles offshore when we caught a roughly 800-pound marlin. At the time, there was not much in Costa Rica. We came into Herradura Bay and celebrated,” he says. Anchored in Herradura Bay celebrating the fish of a lifetime, Royster looked upon the coastline.
“I saw the Los Sueños property. It was an 1,100-acre cattle ranch. There was no infrastructure. I owned a large general engineering company with experience in development. I had the skillset,” Roster describes. “I contacted the owner of the property and began performing due diligence—country research, currency analysis. This was not my first development project, but it was my first time internationally,” Royster says.
“At the time there were around 120,000 travelers to Costa Rica each year. I scratched out the concept on a piece of paper. Over the next two years I travelled throughout Latin America to research resorts. We started predevelopment in 1994.” In 2015, an estimated 2.6 million tourists visited the country.
In the early 1990s Costa Rican law prohibited development within 50-meters of the coastline. Coastal construction setbacks are standard in many parts of the world, but make development of marinas a difficult task. “We had to legislate law through the Costa Rican congress to allow access within 50-meters of the coastline,” Royster describes. “In 1998, the president signed the Marina Law. It was the first time that a law was passed by 100% of the Costa Rican congress. We are pretty proud of that.”
“Since that time, we’ve grated over four million cubic meters of rock for the breakwater,” Mr. Royster details, providing scope of the project. “We put in all of the infrastructure—it’s similar in scope to the backbone of a small city. There’s a hook up for telecom and power at the gate, but we manage everything else.”
“In 2001, we created a completely vertically integrated company—everything is in house. We operate all restaurants, own the hotel, which is managed by Marriot. We own everything else,” he says. Vertical integration describes the fact that Los Sueños controls all variables of the construction, development, landscaping, etc. on the property. This integration provides quality control and the ability to deliver products and services as demanded by the market.
Today Los Sueños is the setting for 600 residences (the output is to be capped at 1,000 units—with 600 of the 1,100-acres of the development to remain rainforest in perpetuity). The marina contains 200 wet slips and 118 dry slips. The marina is at 100% occupancy, with some 64% of occupants also owning a home within Los Sueños.
When asked about the evolution of the property, Royster is reflective. “The Master Plan has been achieved. In many ways, we’ve achieved more than I thought. The demand has created a higher end product than we imagined. The profile of our customer has driven the increase.” Whereas Royster initially envisioned units ranging from $250,000 to $750,000, demand for larger, nicer outputs have steered production to units ranging from $750,000 to five million. “A vertically integrated company allowed us to control all of the variables and to steer to where the market dictated. People wanted bigger, nicer products,” Royster says. Los Sueños has delivered.
Modern Costa Rica
The Costa Rica of today is a veritable fishermen’s paradise. The elements of mystery, danger and isolation of the mid-1980s have been replaced by amenity and ease of access. The isolated natural bays that once sheltered handfuls of adventurous souls—fishermen, hippies and surfers— have been replaced by marinas, hotels, and tourism infrastructure capable of comfortably hosting even the least adventure-minded of individuals.
How does the modern fishery compare to the way it once was? Captain Terry Robinson provides a great bit of perspective on the relationship between the fishing then and now. Robinson’s first season in Costa Rica was in 1995 when he worked the cockpit on the Tyson’s Pride under Captain Timmy Hyde. “The fishing was fantastic. We fished what we knew. We fished the areas with infrastructure. The biggest change is that now there are so many boats and marinas. In the early days, you just wonder what was out of reach,” Robinson recalls.
“In the early days, we fished shallower, closer to the beach or on the edge. We caught more blacks. As more boats came, fishing expanded offshore. Now there’s no rhyme or reason for where fish congregate—it’s about finding bait and birds. Today radar, range, and gyro binoculars make it so much easier to find things offshore.”
“Today most of the winning boats in the Los Sueños tournaments are now fishing the 50-mile boundary. You just wonder what we would have found out there with a larger fleet in the early days,” Robinson ponders intriguingly. The answers to such questions are indeed the thing of legend.
The pockets of four boats here and six boats there described by Bubba Carter are now world class marinas in Golfito, Quepos, Los Sueños, Flamingo and other locations. The sportfishing fleet in Costa Rica these days compares favorably to Palm Beach or most anywhere else in the world. The flavor of Costa Rica may be different, but the charm remains and it is undeniable.
How about the fishing? In nine days of fishing, 43 boats fishing the three Los Sueños Signature Series Tournaments released 6,700 billfish. Yes, 6,700—that comes to around two fish per minute of fishing. Then there are the FADs. The numbers of blue marlin released out of Golfito are most normally reserved for days of dorado fishing, not targeting stick nose.
It is always tempting to long for the past. For most anyone who has ever fished, there is a desire to experience what captains Bubba Carter, John LaGrone and others witnessed in the early days of Costa Rican sportfishing. The paths blazed by the likes of Skubal, Rode, Royster and others have had the effect of opening Costa Rican sportfishing opportunities to the world at large. Pura Vida is open for business. While there are many differing opinions on the matter, one thing can be said with confidence. Costa Rica was… and Costa Rica is one hell of a place.