Journalist for Life

Recent Posts

Step back in time by stepping aboard a Maine Windjammer

ROCKLAND, ME – Your checklist before boarding one of the Maine windjammers, venerable sailing ships that slice through cool, emerald-green, coastal waters: / Something to read. / Something to talk about, including yourself. / Longsleeves, shortsleeves, raingear, a swimsuit — but not socks / Romantic […]

On the road again – with 26 strangers, in Ireland

On the road again – with 26 strangers, in Ireland

Above: Passengers get a mini-concert by a driver on his button accordion.By Robert N. Jenkins Gougane Barra, Ireland –“It’s all about getting into the landscape,’’ driver/guide Deidre “Dee’’ Harman advises as she wheels a 14-pasenger Mercedes Benz minivan through southwestern Ireland. “When we are out […]

No chance that Germans will run out of beer varieties

No chance that Germans will run out of beer varieties

Above: Beer kettles dominate the ground floor of Freiberg’s 250-seat Hausbrauerei Feierling.

TRIER, Germany – Located on the banks of the Moselle River, whose vineyards produce the grapes for Riesling, the No. 1 industry in ancient Trier is winemaking. Indeed, there are five vintners within city limits.

Thus, “It was difficult to open a brewery here” 18 years ago, recalls owner Klaus Tonkaboni. His Kraft Brau (brew) hotel and restaurant is in a building that was a winery until 1918.

“Now I think the city is proud to have its own craft breweries,’’ continues Tonkaboni. “We brew 12-15 kinds of beer during the year, have another 10 or 12 refrigerated beers from other German brewers.

“It is important to bring people to other beers. In the past 20 years …  with the coming of microbreweries, the people want a local taste, not a huge beer.” 

There are an estimated 1,340 breweries in Germany, more than 90 percent of them independent, small-batch operations. Typically they create relatively small amounts for consumption within their own city or region. Many breweries offer tours or tastings.

Brewers here and in other parts of the world are aware that 2016 is the 500th anniversary of the Reinheitsgebot, the German Beer Purity Law. Meant to halt adulteration of the brewing liquid with herbs and plants – which had included the poisonous wolfs bane — the law holds that true beer is made from just three ingredients: water, barley and hops. Yeast was added in the late 1850s.

Emphasizing the purity law’s anniversary, the German National Tourism Organization organized multi-city/multi-brewery media tours that preceded the annual Germany Travel Mart.

Brewer Tonkaboni’s Kraft Brau is representative of the recent expansion of craft, or micro, breweries. Then there is Hausbrauerei Feierling, founded in 1877.

Located in Freiberg, 185 miles from Trier, the Hausbrauerei (brewery house) complex is a two-story, 250-seat restaurant wrapped around its ground-floor beer kettles. Across the street is its 700-seat beer garden.

For all these customers, Hausbrauerei produces about 92,500 gallons per year. But it doesn’t sell its beer off-premises.

The beers change seasonally, a chore for the brewers. “Our job is to keep the flavor in each type tasting the same, even though the malt and hops (which provide beer’s flavor) can change yearly, ” says apprentice brewer Phillip Heist, 28.

While many small breweries were created by families or by friends, Hausbrauerei has an atypical founding, as related by co-owner Wolfgang Feierling-Rombach:

“My wife (Martina) had family in brewing generations back, and she was always fascinated by it,” he said.

In 1989 he quit his work as an economist and banker to take over the business operations of their new brewery, while Mrs. Feierling-Rombach oversees the brewing done by a master brewer, brewer and apprentices.

As for his change in professions, Feierling-Rombach smiles as he declares, “There is no way I would go back to the bank — never, ever.”

A guide takes visitors past the 15,000-gallon tanks at Brauerie Ganter.
A guide takes visitors past the 15,000-gallon tanks at Brauerie Ganter.

A few minutes’ tram ride away, Brauerie Ganter has 16, 15,000-gallon tanks to hold its products. But to maintain quality and taste, the 151-year-old Ganter does not ship beer more than 65 miles from Freiburg.

This brewery creates up to eight beers simultaneously, beyond the capability of most craft breweries.

For instance, in Heidelberg, the 150-seat Vetter’s Alt Brauhaus (old brewhouse) restaurant will create 10-12 brews during a year but usually only four at a time. In that mix, says co-owner Michael Vetter: a popular smokey-flavor beer and a “double bock that you must drink slowly because it tastes a bit like cough syrup.’’

In addition, Vetters 33 has been honored by the Guinness Book of World Records as “the strongest beer made under the purity law’’ — 500 years old and limiting pure beer to being made with only water, hops and barley (yeast was added centuries later). Says Vetter of the strong 33: “Only one in 10 likes it during tastings.’’

Atypical of such microbreweries is Heidelberg’s Brauerie zum Klosterhoff:

/ It is located on the grounds of a monastery.

/ It was opened 7 years ago by partners with 30 years’ experience in brewing.

/ In those seven years it has created 28 beers and ales.

“We have a strong community of customers willing to try something new,’’ says manager Till Barucco. “None of our beer is filtered or pasteurized – the richest taste is before pasteurization.”

With a fulltime staff of just five plus college students learning the craft, this brewery produces about 92,500 gallons a year. “We easily work 10 hours a day – it’s like a free-will offering if we work 10 hours on the sixth day.’’

But in deference to their landlords, the monks, “We never work on Sunday.’’

 

 

End Bag, the new book from Bob Jenkins, collects his best stories from 19 years as travel editor. Available now on Amazon.com. View a sample at Smashwords.com. Read more about End Bag here.

Danube river boat: One smooth history lesson

Danube river boat: One smooth history lesson

Above: The Scenic Jade is docked across the Danube from Hungary’s spectacular Parliament buildings, in Budapest. MELK, Austria – The question is not who created the design. Perhaps not even who executed the idea. No, what grabs your attention is HOW the artist reached the […]

Another Louisiana: A Place of Small Charms

LACOMBE, La. – While time on the water – fishing, boating, paddling, gaping at ‘gators and birds – is a constant theme in southern Louisiana, the serendipity of life, and the celebration of food, hover in the background. But not too far back. Driving away […]

Scottish Highlands, charming and filled with history

Hanging valley in Glencoe 

A glacier-carved “hanging valley” in the rugged Glencoe. 

PORT APPIN, Scotland — Alastair Allward is celebrating a golden anniversary this year, but he’s not getting much back from his love.

That’s how it goes with 700-year-old castles – strong but silent types.

Dominating an islet near the village of Port Appin, this somewhat forbidding structure bears the marvelous name Castle Stalker (Gaelic for falconer, or hunter). A tour of Stalker is prime among the lures beckoning visitors to leave the two-lane A82 through the Scottish Highlands and to stay awhile.

Throughout this region of west central Scotland, there are more castles, and bigger ones, there are glistening lakes and waterfalls, there are glacial valleys defined by rounded hills and craggy mountains. You’ll also find examples of man’s love of whisky. And smoked salmon. There is one granite-walled embodiment of ego, and lots of marshmallow-soft beds …

Allastair Allward, at Castle Stalker  
  But first, step ashore from the pontoon boat piloted by Allward for a walk through Castle Stalker. He and his siblings inherited the castle from their father, D.R. Stewart Allward. While a WWII POW, the senior Allward had kept his sanity by planning a future he was determined he’d live to see.

  The plans included having four children – he did – owning a Rolls Royce – the successful lawyer did – and buying a castle — he purchased the uninhabitable Stalker in 1965 from a member of the venerable Stewart clan.

   Is the Holy Grail about?

The castle’s wee island is in the Highlands’ Loch Linnhe. On his tours, Alastair Allward, above, in front of the castle,  recounts the centuries since the castle’s creation, most likely in 1320, and numerous changes of ownership due to warring between Campbells and Stewarts.

But before he leads guests up Stalker’s spiral staircases linking its three stories and on to the roof, Allward cheerfully displays the castle’s most-recent claim to fame, and his own, too:

Both were featured in a memorable scene in 1975’s madcap Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

Stalker stands in for a French castle visited by King Arthur and his squire. The castle was rented for 50 pounds for one day’s filming, discloses Allward, who adds that he was paid 5 pounds to be one of the knights on the ramparts ridiculing the king.

A publicity still displayed in the castle shows Allward in chain mail and helmet, thumbs to his ears as he waggles his fingers at Arthur.

Silhouetted against mountains and tall hills on the nearby shorelines, Stalker is often typecast as a symbol of the historic Highlands. It comes alive with Allward’s narration – 10 years of part-time renovation work produced a new roof, electrification, two modern bedrooms and a bathroom (only Allward relatives use them).

Wildlife, and one man’s ego trip

While the décor is now period pieces and reproductions, Allastair Allward is an original. Time spent with him at Stalker is typical of the region – charming, spilling over with historical tales – which is an easy drive west from Scotland’s largest city, Glasgow.

You can see but not tour another castle, older than Stalker, on an hour-long boat trip out of Port Appin. Duart Castle, pictured as Sean Connery’s hideaway in the 1999 film Entrapment, is on a bluff on the island of Mull.

The captain slows the boat and passes around binoculars the better to view red deer, the occasional sea eagle or seals lolling on a shore.

Just a few miles up the coast from Port Appin is Oban, which has just 8,200 residents but is the second-most populous town in the Highlands. Oban is a busy port for ferries to the islands of Mull, Islay and Skye. Providing a superb view of the harbor and town is its hilltop landmark, the circular McCaig’s Tower.

That man, a banker, commissioned the structure, about 660 feet around with 94 arches in its wall. Its hilltop site is 220 feet above the harbor and main commercial street. McCaig  died in 1902, before his grandiose plans for statues of his family within the center were completed. Instead, its interior garden is the scene of weddings, picnics and kids running around.

About the time your trip north on the A82 causes one flock of grazing, black-faced sheep to merge into the next, there appears a loch – Gaelic for lake – or a snow-topped mountain: the U.K.’s tallest at 4,409 feet, Ben Nevis dominates the horizon at one point.

Coos, salmon and a dram

HamishMore interesting than the sheep are the Scottish cows –“coos’’ in the thickest local accent – whose hair hangs over their eyes like shaggy bangs. The coos are universally nicknamed Hamish, and miniature coos are a staple in souvenir shops.

So, too, is a Scotch whisky sampler. But to cut out the middle merchant, Highland travelers can browse through distilleries such as Glengoyne. There, they can even blend their own 7-ounce bottle after tasting five different 16-year-old distillations.

During this tour – it begins with a “wee dram’’ and toast before a video of the distilling process — visitors learn why Glengoyne’s Scotch lacks the smoky flavor traditional in most of the nation’s whiskies: The germinating, wet barley is not dried over a fire of peat. Rather, Glengoyne’s 60 tons of barley used weekly dry when spread 5-8 days on a floor heated from below.

But smoke is the desired element at the Inverawe Smokery. Although health laws prevent visitors from entering the production facility, a series of displays and miniatures explain what takes place just over the adjacent hill.

You might meet co-owner/founder Rosie Campbell-Preston, who confides of the little dioramas, “I had the best time placing the sheep.’’

Manage this stop so you’ll have an appetite to sample, in the Smokery’s café, four kinds of salmon and smoked eel, prepared by methods you’ve just learned.

You also will have learned that about 95 percent of the Scottish salmon served in restaurants and sold in stores is from fish “farmed’’ in pens. Too few wild salmon are now available, though anglers catch them occasionally in the adjacent river Awe. The name of the Smokery, Inverawe, is from the Gaelic inver, meaning mouth of the river.

A loch serpent, you say?

You’ll get far broader water views elsewhere driving through the Highlands, where brilliant yellow gorse bushes steal the scene from all but the largest landmarks such as Loch Lomond. While Lomond is the largest lake in Great Britain (24 miles long, up to 5 miles wide) and may be renowned in song for its “bonnie, bonnie banks,’’ it is far from the most-famous lake. That would be Loch Ness, farther north.

The A82 also parallels Ness’ 23 miles of shoreline. Sightseeing boats, the passengers on the lookout for the famed Nessie, patrol the lake first reported in 1933. Presumed to be a remnant from the age of dinosaurs, Nessie’s existence has never been verified despite more than 1,000 tales of sightings and several scientific searches.

Urquart Castle, on Loch Ness    

The ruins of Castle Urquhart, on the shore of Loch Ness.

Still, the sightseeing trip is a fine break from the drive, and the boats pass the hauntingly picturesque ruins of Urquhart Castle. Far larger than Castle Stalker, some of Urquhart is also older, dating to the 13th century. Urquhart draws hundreds of thousands of visitors to walk about the ruins each year.

Rugged lure of the Highlands

But Urquhart can’t come close for oohs and ahhs to Glencoe, a national reserve originally formed by volcanic eruptions an estimated 420-million years ago. That landscape would be repeatedly scoured by glaciers, until 12,000 years ago.

Driving north or south in the Highlands means traveling through Glencoe, 22 square miles of massive hills separated by glacial valleys dotted by small lochs and streams. A view down such a valley, where purple heather and gorse liven the green hillsides, is one of the lures for 2.5-million visitors to Glencoe annually.

Mostly they come to trek miles of trails, to train on their bicycles at elevations, to paddle canoes or to challenge rapids in kayaks. Birders and campers spend days in less-demanding pursuits. Some simply buy a few hours in an off-road vehicle driven by a ranger.

Taken together, the rugged beauty of Glencoe, whether under a brilliant blue sky or the scudding clouds bringing Scotland’s iconic storms, is a symbol of the allure of the Highlands.  

Loch landscape

        A traveler photographs one of the Highlands’ iconic landscapes.

 

If you go

Getting There: Flights from North America to Glasgow usually involve a change of planes, typically, in London or Amsterdam.

Getting Around: Rental cars are available at the Glasgow airport, but you’ll enjoy the scenery much more if you don’t have to concentrate on driving on the “wrong’’ side of the car and on the “wrong’’ side of the road. The answer is to hire a car service. The drivers will also narrate the trip, so that you can learn about the Highlands culture and history even if you are not stopping at a specific place.

I traveled with Little’s. Based in Glasgow and now in its 49th year, the company offers chauffeured vehicles ranging from Jaguars to minivans. The web site is http://littles.co.uk/global-coverage, e-mail to enquiries@littles.co.uk

Staying There: There are numerous B&Bs and both small and chain hotels throughout Scotland. But you can add memories to your trip by paying more to stay in places you aren’t likely to encounter back home  — manor houses, grand hunting lodges, lakeside resorts with their own golf courses, in-town boutique hotel, even a former royal yacht. Ever stayed in a 6,500-square-foot hotel suite? Below, a guest room in the splendid Glencoe House.

Glencoe House   Those are all available in the consortium named Connoisseurs Scotland. It is a collection of 27 properties – not only Queen Elizabeth’s former yacht   the Hebridean Princess, but also the renowned Royal Scotsman train. The 27 properties offer something for everyone’s taste – tennis, golf, horseback riding … falconry, anyone? Most of the properties are in out-of-the-way places and so pride themselves on their fine dining.

For details, go to www.luxuryscotland.co.uk/index.html, e-mail to info@luxuryscotland.co.uk

   Castle Stalker: Times of tours are subject to the tide and are generally one per day, on most days, April-October. Those with mobility issues will not be able to visit the upper floors. Check availability www.castlestalker.com. Adults are  £19.50, 16 and younger is £9.50, a family ticket (two adults, two children) is £50.

 

Glengoyne Distillery: Still using part of the original 1833 facility, the distillery is about 14 miles north of Glasgow near Killearn, on the way to the Highlands. It offers a range of tours, starting at 45 minutes for £8.50 a person, to the six-hour Master Class (tasting five whiskeys, five sherries, tour of the warehouse, lunch). The blend-your-own Malt Master tour is just under two hours and costs £55; you’ll leave with a boxed seven-ounce bottle of your favorite blend. www.Glengoyne.com; reception@glengoyne.com.

Inverawe Smokery: On the way to the Highlands form Glasgow, Inverawe is a bit more than an hour’s drive, into the gorgeous countryside – indeed the Inverawe property includes walking and nature trails and picnic areas. Get a pamphlet when you enter the smoking exhibition building for a complete explanation – learn why the fish must first be cured in salt, and the difference between “cold’’ and “hot’’ smoking. This self-guided tour is free. The café and gift shop are next door. www.smokedsalmon.co.uk, info@inverawe.co.uk. There is a charming video on YouTube, with Rosie’s husband, Robert, narrating; that’s Rosie autographing her cookbook.

Appin Boat Tours: The one-hour castles and wildlife trip (you’ll also circle a lighthouse designed by Robert Louis Stevenson’s grandfather) leaves from the tiny wharf at Port Appin. You might see puffins, otters and dolphins. The boats can carry up to 12 passengers and generally make this trip twice a day in the summer. Fares are £20 for adults, £15 for 15 years and younger. http://AppinBoatTours.co.uk, info@coastal-connection.co.uk.

Glencoe Visitors Center: A modern museum and information area, with a cafeteria. Is about 35 miles north of Oban, near the town of Fort William. This is the place to get information on the walking, climbing and cycling routes, history of Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Jacobite Rebellion, and just great spots to stop for photos. www.glencoe-nts.org.uk, or www.discoverglencoe.com.

End Bag, the new book from Bob Jenkins, collects his best stories from 19 years as travel editor. Available now on Amazon.com. View a sample at Smashwords.com. Read more about End Bag here.

Where the wild things are

Where the wild things are

  Above: A female leopard guards her kill, an oribi, that she has hauled into a tree to keep it from other predators. ARUSHA NATIONAL PARK, Tanzania — Seeing me fumble for a seatbelt in his Land Rover, safari guide/driver Peter Kibwana (cq) advises, “You […]

A taste for learning

A taste for learning

Above: Darina Allen, left, chats with one of her students. At a farm in the Irish countryside, people come from near and far to learn cooking from a master. SHANAGARRY, Ireland — The city banker told the country woman that he was rejecting her application for […]

Plan ahead for your shore excursions

Plan ahead for your shore excursions

Above: Locals and visitors stroll among the compact, centuries-old streets of Quebec City’s Lower Town.

CHARLOTTETOWN, Prince Edward Island, Canada — Cameron MacDonald, who never met Edward Palmer, is busy trashing the man: “He was a politician, and a landowner who taxed his tenants, and he was a pretty horrible man!”

Looking quite comfortable despite the heat in his knee-length frock coat, high collar and tall hat, MacDonald actually is portraying Palmer as MacDonald’s part-time job with the Confederation Players. This troupe relates to tourists how and why isolated Charlottetown, on smallish Prince Edward Island, initiated the effort to unite all of sea-to-sea Canada into one nation.

Now chances are if you’ve bought a ticket aboard a seven-night cruise – as I recently did for a trip from Montreal to Boston as I did — you weren’t looking primarily for a history lesson. Nor do the majority of cruises, whether in this hemisphere or around Europe, offer an in-depth look at the ports of call:

On my cruise aboard Holland America’s Maasdam, these visits were eight to 10 hours, with the cruise line selling more than 60 excursions. Often, however, passengers might reject scheduling two of these guided visits in one port due to overlapping of the stops or departure times too close to the end of an earlier excursion.

So, how to get the most out of a typical cruise? While the trip may be for relaxation, spending time checking each port’s tourism or chamber of commerce web site:

/ Look for special events or festivals during your visit. It’s a chance to see what the locals enjoy, or even celebrate.

/ Review the site’s suggested “to-do’’ list. These might include activities such as fishing, sailing, hiking, biking, visiting a farm or vineyard, even sharing a meal with locals.

/ There will also be tours of historical sites – that means you, young Mr. MacDonald – such as forts, palaces, government buildings, homes/mansions of notables.

/ Comparison-shop; send e-mails to or call local operators/attractions listed on the sites. That’s how I learned that my 90-minute sailboat ride on a Nova Scotia lake sold for just $35, though the cruise line priced the sail – and a 50-mile bus ride to and from its dock –at more than four times that. I even priced a rental car to get to the sailboat: another $69.

On the other hand, while the ship offered a three-hour trip to a picturesque fishing village near Halifax — in charmless, 50-passenger buses – either of two locals would charge me more than twice as much for tour by minivan or Jeep.

/ Contact your destination’s tourism agency about hiring a guide available for individuals or only a few visitors at a time.

The main advantage of buying from the ship’s excursion desk is that the cruise line has experienced the tours it sells, understands the minimum amount of time needed, and it has vetted the local operators for reliability, narration ability, even cleanliness of the transportation.

The main disadvantage is that the cruise line charges a sometimes-hefty fee for playing middleman.

On my cruise, I bought three excursions off the ship but also did my own walkabouts and thus saw more of each port than the narrated tour provided. Among my favorites:

MONTREAL — Most vessels offer only perfunctory 2- or 3-hour bus tours in the cities where they load and unload passengers, essentially to fill time before you board your ship, or your plane home.

I contacted Montreal’s tourism agency and was hooked up with Ruby Roy, an articulate native who knows her city so well, some vendors in the daily market she showed me called her by name. By the way, you couldn’t get a busload of 50 through the market’s aisles, so the ship doesn’t offer this attraction.

This market was a short drive from Montreal’s walkable Old Town, the cobblestone neighborhood that is the most-popular shore excursion. Also offered by locals are culinary arts/tasting tours and a three-hour trip combining architecture, culinary arts and history lessons.

But from my guide I learned candid insights I was unlikely to hear on a standard tour:

“Montrealers’ passions, in order, are hockey, food, cycling, dancing and art,’’ advised Ms. Roy.

“Montreal is nothing like the rest of Canada, nothing like the rest of Quebec province: This is a European city. Quebec is a French city.

“We are North America’s only functioning bilingual city; English language instruction starts no later than first grade. Yet Montreal is a mosaic, not a melting pot. Speaking in your parents’ language is encouraged. Our neighborhoods are ethnically mixed.’’

Then she showed me several, as well as a special observation point between stately homes near Mont Royal. No tour buses there …

QUEBEC CITY – If Jacques Cartier claimed at least the eastern portion of what is now Canada for France in 1534, and then Samuel de Champlain founded Quebec City as a trading post in 1608, so that there were about 75,000 French merchants, trappers and farmers living in Canada a century later, why isn’t Canada French?

The answer is the history lessons that is Quebec City.

Rising above Quebec City's Lower Town is the iconic Chateau Frontenac, built in the late 1800s by the Canadian Pacific railway.
Rising above Quebec City’s Lower Town is the iconic Chateau Frontenac, built in the late 1800s by the Canadian Pacific railway.

Many of the original French settlers were trapping the lowly beaver, so its fur could be made into proper hats for the heads of European gentlemen, guide and lifelong resident Michelle Demers related as she drove me around.

But in September 1759, British troops successfully followed a siege of walled Quebec City by turning away their French counterparts. The British would soon seize the city. Though battles for what was then “New France’’ raged for four more years, Britain eventually claimed all the French lands.

That decisive fight took place in the Upper Town, at what is now Battlefields Park, near the Citadelle, a star-shaped fort. Both are on a high bluff above the Lower Town, where your ship is docked. Prominent in both sections are charming, twisting, cobbled streets past European facades.

To get an excellent view of the city and an easy-to-absorb history of Quebecers, head to the Observatory of the Capital, nearly 700 feet above the street and the provincial Parliament Building (where staff maintain a vegetable garden on the front lawn). At the Observatory windows on all four sides, touchscreens offer a photo of the view, with some places noted; touching these noted spots brings up a ground level view and a history of the building or neighborhood.

Prime among those communities is the Vieux-Quebec, designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of the preservation of so many centuries-old buildings along charmingly crooked little streets.

Cruise passengers are often content to spend an hour in the imaginative, chockfull-of-artifacts Museum of Civilization, across a parking lot from the dock. Or they wander and window-shop boutiques or have an al fresco meal in the narrow lanes of the Lower Town.

It is worth the time to admire the open square of the restored-to-antiquity Place-Royale and the shops on North America’s oldest merchant street, Rue de Pettit-Champlain.

But much of this is a facade to amuse tourists. Just a 10-minute walk from the iconic Fairmont Chateau Frontenac hotel, Rues Saint Jean, Saint Paul and Saint Pierre are residential/commercial streets that are home to art galleries, antiques shops, bistros, chocolatiers and the daily farmers’ market.

Yet if you had not asked the tourism office, or a guide such as Michelle Demers, you wouldn’t know that the real-world Quebec City was so close to the version preserved more for visitors than residents.

Charlottetown, PEI — Unlike fellow islander Cameron MacDonald, Mark Jenkins does not focus on 19th-century history, and the only costume he dons for work is his polo shirt and ball cap bearing the logo Top Notch Lobster Tours. Then he becomes Capt. Mark, a lobster, crab and bluefin tuna fisherman.

And between the two-month lobstering season and the briefer tuna season, Jenkins and his brother Cody — sometimes Mark’s wife Patti-Lynn fills in — Mark takes tourists out on how-we-do-it trips on his boat.

Capt. Mark Jenkins and "crew member'' Larry, an 8 1/2-pounder.
Capt. Mark Jenkins and “crew member” Larry, an 8 1/2-pounder.

The morning trip is strictly instructional, as he hauls up traps to display rock crabs and lobsters, while the two afternoon trips include full meals of lobsters cooked earlier that day.

Jenkins earned a degree in engineering electrical “because I didn’t want to follow my father and fish,”he explains. “But I’m not gonna’ lie to you — I love my job.” Even after 20 years at the helm, “I love getting up early and going to fish.”

With his paying passengers, Jenkins candidly discusses the prices of lobsters and how the supply seems to have no relationship to the fees the boat owners collect.

Even with his brother or wife on board, Jenkins has one more co-worker. Pulling his final trap for the passengers, Jenkins hauls out “Larry,” an 8-pound lobster. Larry measures about 18 inches long and Jenkins estimates him to be 28-30 years old.

Larry appears to be equipped not with claws but with opposable shovels. As Jenkins explains it, lobsters are buoyant and swift underwater, but Larry’s claws are so large he cannot lift them to defend himself against Jenkins.

He plans to “pay” Larry by setting him free as soon as lobster season is over.

That is the part of the year Jenkins likes best, when he can fishing for the massive bluefin tuna.

Those who come from around the world to fish them for sport will pay huge fees to charter a boat such as Jenkins’. But Mark is just as happy trying to land one himself, to sell to the Japanese market.

In 2012, brother Cody hooked one that took 7 1/2 hours to land. It weighed 847 pounds, and the borthers sold it for about $11,000.

Mark’s license allows him to put 273 lobster traps in the water during May and June, when he earns 60-70 percent of his year’s income. He runs his three tourist trips seven days a week in July and August. Says the nonpracticing electrical engineer:

“Fishing is all I’ve ever done, and I can barely wait for the tuna season to start.”

 

Former Tampa Bay Times travel editor Robert N. Jenkins has been on about 60 ships to write about them.

 

End Bag, the new book from Bob Jenkins, collects his best stories from 19 years as travel editor. Available now on Amazon.com. View a sample at Smashwords.com. Read more about End Bag here.

Walking among polar bears

Walking among polar bears

Above: On the tundra, a bear decides it wants to continue coming toward us. North of Churchill, Manitoba – Moments after I clamber out of the single-engine plane and realize just how cold it is on this frozen edge of Hudson Bay, Andy MacPherson breaks […]