Edition 25, 2020.02.13. Love on the docks! In honor of Valentine’s Day I chose to feature this infatuated couple thought to be Mr. and Mrs. John Rose of Indianapolis, who fished aboard the New Dixie Queen during the annual CDQF tournament in 1969. This photograph is indisputable proof that deep sea fishing can be romantic. I am Kim Davis Whitfield and I believe loving smiles emote more readily when you don’t have to wash the boat or clean the fish.
Edition 27, 2020.03.05. Photo of Grover Davis (right) and his beloved mentor, Wally Helmke (left), circa 1976, in front of the Captain Davis Queen Fleet ticket office on the St. Andrews Marina. In his early years, like so many kids to follow, Grover learned to deckhand by paying attention to the nearly toothless, mumbling, old salt that I knew as Uncle Wally. My mom, Judy, remembers watching Grover follow along behind Wally around the docks. The former Merchant Marine was crotchety, dry-witted, stubborn, and extremely skilled at decking, fishing, and garnering respect. When caught talking to himself by Grover, Uncle Wally said, “It does me good to talk to an intelligent person now and then.” Grover loved to share that memory of his old friend. Hats off to Capt. Richard Holley for taking care of Wally and Iyone Helmke as the elderly couple approached the end.
At the approximat age of 14, while deckhanding on the Ocean Queen for Capt. Don Holman, circa 1968, Gary Warriner learned from Wally Helmke, the only other deckhand on board, what a hernia is. The boat was chartered by a repeat customer group called the Tennessee Snapper Grabbers. Under Wally’s direction, all the lines were baited and set just so. After several minutes of complete inactivity, suddenly every rod was loaded heavy. Wally and Capt. Don knew from the action that it was a boatload of warsaw groupers on the way up, mostly in the 50-80 pound range with 2 or 3 in the 200 pound range. Wally then informed wide-eyed Gary that due to a hernia, he would not be able to help. Gary went running to Capt. Don, “What’s a hernia?” he asked. Capt. Don replied, “A hernia means you’ll be getting all these big fish on board without Wally.” The struggle was real (if not Wally’s hernia). Gary used every method and means available, including the Tennessee Snapper Grabbers, ice tongs, gaff hooks, and a rope across the roof to boat the big ones. And now Gary Warriner knows what a hernia is. I am Kim Davis Whitfield and Gary's story proves Wally was a good teacher.
Edition 30, 2020.05.13. In celebration of Mother’s Day, I am using a picture from only 13 years ago and an epic fishing story from the 80s to illustrate my mother’s lifelong devotion to her family. Seen here with my son, Davis at age 7, my mother, Judy Davis, is having a blast bottom fishing with her family and some dear friends aboard the Patriot, April 29, 2007. She lives for family events and recreation, which for us usually involves a boat. Time and time again, Mom has boarded a boat to go fishing with her kids and grandkids, and a pack of friends in tow. She has participated enthusiastically in vacations to numerous exotic locales, all centered around boating and being with family. But the fact is, Mom gets seasick in a bathtub. Every pill or remedy she tries makes her drowsy, and if there is anything more than a ripple, she battles nausea regardless. Only once have I known Mom to complain, and it’s a story she now tells with a smile.
On a trip to the Bahamas in the 1980s aboard the Fantasy Island (a.k.a. the remodeled New Dixie Queen), Judy struggled to survive as we crossed the Gulf Stream at night into an unexpectedly intense gale with a confused sea. The boat pitched and yawed and rolled, again and again, hour after hour after hour. Dehydration was taking its toll on Mom and she dreamed of something refreshing and flavorful to drink, something to remove the taste in her mouth, but not too bold. She crawled to the galley in darkness, the light switch seeming to hang hundreds of feet above her head, believing her only salvation would be a glass of tea. She poured the brown liquid by the dim light of the refrigerator as she swayed unsteadily back and forth on her knees, contents striking her like missiles, and the door pounding against her. As if nausea was not enough, Mom was being pulverized, and things were about to get worse.
Unbeknownst to Judy, and truthfully not meant to be a practical joke, someone had put Crown Royal in a plastic jug in the refrigerator. Earlier in the day, we had needed an empty liquor bottle to drag as a teaser while trolling for pelagic fish. It was essential. Given the sea conditions, we had saved the contents instead of drinking them. That was a good thing. Not labeling the jug used to store the Crown Royal, that was a bad thing. It looked like the tea Mom desperately craved. She took one big swallow and . . . Let’s just say Mom didn’t smile again until we were tied to the dock at Walker’s Cay. To this day, nobody knows who put the unlabeled jug of Crown Royal in the refrigerator. And to this day, undeterred by pain and suffering, Mom continues to put all of us before herself with unmatched love, joy, and strength. I am Kim Davis Whitfield and Judy Davis is my mother and my inspiration. Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms who put the interests of their children first.
Edition 26, 2020.02.20. Harris "Spider" McKinney (left) and George McKinney (right), 1966, dragging a 400+ lb. warsaw grouper to the scales. This fondly remembered father and son team fished together aboard Captain Davis Queen Fleet vessels for many years and were among the first to tackle the challenges of landing such massive fish. They used two rods/reels, two lines, one big hook, and a screen door spring as a shock absorber that stretched to 30 feet when done. Spider was a fighter pilot who survived being shot down over North Vietnam, and he enjoyed buzzing CDQF boats offshore. The coolest thing about this Harold Gornall photograph is that it captures their commitment to each other and their joy. I am Kim Davis Whitfield and I believe fishing is one of the very best ways for a father to spend quality time with a son OR DAUGHTER.
Edition 28, 2020.03.18. Photo of the Queen of Queens (QoQ), circa 1960, loaded with an impressive catch of fish as she makes a challenging turn into her berth at the small, crowded marina known as Smith Yacht Basin with the original Shrimp Boat Restaurant in the background. Designed by and launched in 1951 for George Davis of Capt. Davis Queen Fleet, the QoQ was the first double decker fishing boat in the area and the first with three 6-71 Gray Marine Diesel Engines. According to George, the second engine guaranteed the boat’s return, and the third engine guaranteed that the boat never missed a trip due to engine failure. Because it compromised stability and performance, the attention-gathering upper deck was removed soon after this photo was taken. In those days, the primary captain of the QoQ was none other than A. R. Holley, a vital part of CDQF operations and the bustling fishing village of St. Andrews. I am Kim Davis Whitfield wishing that I could retrace the steps of A. R. and my grandfather, George, for just one day in St. Andrews in the 1950s . . . one very long day.
Edition 29, 2020.04.16. I have no idea who this “Don Juan” with a fish is, only that he appears committed to the seduction of women. If you look in the background, he has ladies lined up against the rail to watch him strike a daring pose for the 1960s. A visit to the St. Andrews Marina as the boats returned from a day of fishing was about more than checking out the fish. It was a social gathering created by boat operators doing their best to put on a show and entertain as many people as possible. I’m sure my Uncle JoeEd was happy to capitalize on Don Juan’s presence as an opportunity to boost ticket sales to women. This picture probably hung on the Capt. Davis Queen Fleet ticket office for months. I am Kim Davis Whitfield hoping that social gatherings are coming back to St. Andrews very, very soon. Stay well.