by Steve “Tuna” Tornovish
Be prepared! Ah, yes, the old Boy Scout motto. No better time to be prepared than when you’re out on some remote beach, far from what passes for civilization on this little island of ours. It’s important to remember the 6 P’s: Proper Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance! Here’s a couple entries from my fishing log that illustrates the importance of preparedness.
“Headed out at 11:00 pm. A guy was stuck in the sand near the Eel Point access. Popped him out with my tow strap. Finally got fishing. Black Sluggo only. Caught my standard issue 24-inch striper on about my seventh cast, just west of the fence. No one else there. Fished another hour, not even a hit.” Not the best night of fishing, but that’s not what this is about.
The Eel Point beach access has a narrow little passage filled with real soft sand. It’s like a bear trap for low clearance vehicles. This man had a Subaru wagon of some sort, equipped with 4-wheel drive. He told me that it generally scoots out to his fishing spot and back with no problem. This night, however, the lowrider SUV got bottomed out in the soft sand, and its wheels just spun. The man said he’d been stuck there for about an hour. Not to worry, my friend – Boy Scout Stevie is here to help! I opened up my black toolbox that lives in the back of my truck. The box contains, amongst other things, a heavy-duty nylon strap with steel hooks and buckles. It was exactly the right tool for the job. We fastened the strap on to each vehicle. I backed my truck up, the strap stretched taut and the Subaru popped right out.
So let’s roll back the tape and review this event: Getting stuck on the beach or finding someone stuck on the beach is not a particularly unusual event on Nantucket. You need to plan for these fateful occasions. My dumb self has been stuck plenty over the years, so I’ve developed some expertise the hard way. Hardly ever was I prepared to assist in my own rescue during those past events. Grey hair does have some benefits, of course. My toolbox now contains the nylon strap and hooks as well as long, heavy duty jumper cables (don’t cheap out here – get the good ones), a complete first aid kit, a little shovel/entrenching tool, a fire extinguisher, a small but sturdy plywood board, and a mini air compressor that can plug into ports inside my truck for power. Also, I’ve added some heavy duty plastic treads to stick under a stuck tire, and they’re lifesavers!
Did I earn my Boy Scout merit badge for this? Um, let’s talk about my short but memorable career as a Boy Scout… When I was maybe 11 years old, the Nantucket Boy Scouts were holding a campout at their really neat camp site, Camp Richard. This camp is in Nantucket’s State Forest, located in the central portion of the island. I recall that I was paired up with my buddy Mikey Ramos for this campout, the very same Mikey whose plumbing truck I ride around in when not fishing. Lifelong friends! We pitched our little Boy Scout tents on Friday night and did our campout stuff that night, telling ghost stories around a campfire and such.
Saturday morning was beautiful, filled with the promise of a fun day of scouting adventures and whatever else was scheduled, hopefully to include breakfast. The splendor of the morning was rudely interrupted by a highly agitated scoutmaster. It seems that a couple of the older kids had kept him awake during the night and now it was payback time. The scoutmaster told us to pack all of our gear up and prepare for a five-mile hike.
I’ve always been pretty good at math. I understood completely that we could hike for five miles with this scoutmaster who was reliving some sort of unpleasant boot camp experience, or I could hike for a mile and a half and be home. I’ve never been big on taking punishment for someone else’s actions, so I decided that my hike would be in a southwestern direction. This was a precursor to a song that I would write one day: If I Ain’t Digging It, I Ain’t Doing It.
I talked it over with Mikey. The vote came back 2 to 0 to say screw the fivemile death march. Off we went, out of the State Forest, across Fairgrounds Road, down Newtown Road to the Hooper Farm Road area where we both lived. I bid adieu to my intrepid fellow escapee Mikey. I walked into my house, grabbed some cereal and commenced to relax on the couch while watching Saturday morning cartoons.
Several hours later, all hell broke loose. My dad walked in, looked at me and said something along the lines of “What the bleep are you doing here?” His face had a strange mix of relief and anger that indicated I was going to receive some combination of a hug and a butt whupping. Next thing I know, cops and firemen were in my front yard, both relieved and curious as to how the morning’s events had come to be. It seems that the scoutmaster had only been blustering about the five-mile trek. Hey, I’m 11 years old, right: how was I to know? One of the cops said, “You dumb kid—the whole town is looking for you. We’ve got a plane circling over the forest!” I did the only thing I could think to do to perhaps minimize the trouble I was in—I started bawling. My poor father just shook his head sadly for the first time of many, many more such opportunities I would provide him with.
Enough of this childhood trauma talk—let’s get back to preparedness. I keep a couple of items in my truck that are pretty solid additions for fishermen and not a bad idea for everyone. The driver’s door pocket of my truck contains a tourniquet. This device, purchased for less than $15 on Amazon, could be the difference between life and death. Cops and other first responders are routinely carrying these now. They’re lightweight, simple to use, and when you need one to save someone else (or perhaps yourself) there’s really no substitute. Get one. Or a couple. Put them where you can get them in a hurry if needed. Crazy things happen and a person with an arterial bleed needs help real fast. Quick clotting hemostatic gauze is another important item to have. When things go bad and help is a half-hour away, you better have some tools in the toolbox.
I keep some heavy-duty pliers and wire cutters handy. These live in the driver’s side rear door pocket of my truck. Notice that I keep this stuff in very specific locations? When the bad stuff is flying, you want to be able to be certain and efficient. I have recently added a new item to this collection: a set of eightinch bolt cutters. Why might I need these three items, you ask? Well, let’s return to the fishing log…
“At Driftwood with Benny. Tied in little Tsunami teasers. Benny was on fire! He had a 10-fish lead on me at one point. He finished with 20 fish and even caught a double! All small fish early on. The bite cooled off. Ben went with a black Sluggo. I did as well and caught a 26½-inch fish. The fish flopped while I measured it, and I got the rear Sluggo hook buried in my finger deep. To the emergency room I went.”
In 50 years of fishing, I had never previously had to go to the hospital to get a fish hook removed prior to that night. This is not because I hadn’t stuck myself but good a couple of times over the years. It was because I didn’t want to hear Dr. Lepore (my brotherin- law) bring it up at every family dinner until the end of time. This hook was up against the bone of my finger. I couldn’t turn the hook and push it out through the skin so that I could cut the barb off with my nifty tools. I had no choice. I must say that young Benny was great. He laughed, he took a couple of pictures for posterity and then drove me to the hospital. Thanks, Benny!
I’m here to tell you, a guy doesn’t feel like Albert Einstein when he walks into the emergency room with a fishing lure affixed to his hand. Imagine my chagrin when the emergency room doctor used the very same tools that I keep in my door pocket to ultimately remove the Sluggo! In fairness to me, he also shot about a pint of lidocaine into my finger.
So, in conclusion: 1.) I was never much of a Boy Scout; 2.) I’ve always had a problem with authority figures; 3.) Keep essential items where you know they will be in case you need them or need to tell someone else where to find them, and; 4.) Don’t be a dummy: remove the hook from the fish before measuring the fish.
I hope this helps!
Steve “Tuna” Tornovish is a Nantucket native who
has spent his life fishing from the beaches of his
beloved island. He loves to introduce clients to the
joy of fishing with his Nantucket Island Fishing