By the time you read this column on Sunday morning, I will be fishing far offshore from my friend, Jerry O'Cathey's house in Islamorada. We have a trip to the Islamorada Hump planned with Jerry, his son Morgan (aka Captain Morgan), and their friend, Bob the Fisherman and me. That's how we refer to Bob... Bob the Fisherman. The beauty of the whole thing is that there will be a boat filled with fishing fanatics, or as some might call us, fishing fools. That term is a little harsh, but probably appropriate.
The wind has been blowing for weeks and those of us who have to work have had a hard time trying to schedule a fishing trip for a time when both the wind was calm, and we didn't have to work. This is no easy feat in itself. In fact, I had to walk out to the boat this week and start the motor, just to let it run for 20 minutes to keep it from clogging up. I don't really know what "clogging up" means in the scientific sense, but my buddy, Bill from Orlando, taught me that my motor would clog up if I didn't run it at least once a week. And, I believe him. Bill is one of my best friends and I doubt if he has lied to me more than several dozen times or so.
During the past few weeks, I have only been out fishing once. The conditions were less than ideal. The wind was howling. We called the trip early and returned with no fish. As most of you know, I am a recreational fisherperson. The best thing about that is that nobody gets upset when I don't catch anything. In fact, most of the people who read my columns, at least the ones I hear from, tell me they like the stories when I don't catch anything the best. If you are one of those people, you will probably really enjoy today's fish story, or should I say, no-fish story?
So, what do fisherpersons, me especially, do when they can't go fishing? I don't know about the rest of you, but I catch up on all of my house chores, yuck; pick up all the palm fronds in the yard, double yuck; and wash the car. After all this important stuff is done, I attack all the situations that exist in my alleged mind. And, usually, I buy something. So, here's what happened.
My buddy, Larry, and I were talking, hoping to kill six or seven days in idle chit-chat until the wind died down. We didn't make it past about 20 minutes, but it was a valiant effort. One of the topics we discussed was knife sharpeners. Go figure. I love sharp knives, extremely sharp knives. I buy only quality knives, I love the whole experience of shopping at "snobby" cutlery counters and learning about the history and the materials used to manufacture high-quality knife blades.
More importantly, I like to have extremely sharp knives when I filet fish, or cook. Being a sushi and sashimi fan, there is always the mystique of the tuna-sword master coming to the fish-house dock with his assistant to filet, in one pass, a giant blue-fin tuna. Very impressive. It reminds me of the Kung-Fu series, "With this sword, you must make one pass -- Grasshopper -- and prepare this valiant giant of the sea, who has given up his life to sustain our village." Or, something like that.
Anyway, I began the search for the ultimate knife sharpener. I have many sharpening stones, gimmicky-sharpeners that don't work, discarded electric sharpeners -- some attached to can openers -- they don't work like I would want either, and, of course, my favorite Henckels knife sharpening steel. I still don't understand how these steels work, but I love the sound it makes when you run the blade over the steel. It reminds me of the beginning of the Iron Chef show. You know, when Iron-Chef Hiroyuki Sakai sneers at the audience then peels an apple with a razor-sharp paring knife, in 25 seconds and the whole peel comes out in one piece? This is the type of razor-honed cutting edge I am always seeking.
Obsessive/compulsive? I don't think so. A little over-the-top? I'm OK with that.
A two-day research initiative brought me back to a product I have wanted to buy most of my adult life. The Chef's Choice Edge Select 120 electric knife sharpener. Did I mention that along with a slight obsessive/compulsive streak, I am also the world's cheapest person? I have tried for 10 years to find a less expensive alternative to this product. If I added up all the failed attempts, I have probably spent enough on inferior products to have owned three of these beauties. But no more. I made the purchase. Before I continue, let me say that I do not work for Chef's Choice and they were not involved in my purchase, and/or this column.
When I opened the box, I knew I would cherish this product. It is shiny chrome and extremely high-tech looking. I love that. Upon opening the box, I noticed a bright-red warning, "WARNING," it said, "Knives sharpened on the Chef's Choice will be sharper than you expect. Use them with great care." You've got to be kidding? Who do they think they're talking to? Did this warning come to be because of the McDonald's coffee thing? It did add to the excitement though.
Anyway, I pulled all the knives off the boat, out of kitchen drawers, out of the junk drawer, out of my car, my office ... you get the idea. At first I was too cautious, the instructions suggested making one pass through the slots where the wheels are turning, but after conferring with Larry, I made multiple passes on two of the three slots. One slot is reserved for very dull blades only. I would stay away from this one.
My knives slice through pieces of paper as though slicing through air. I cut a lemon and realized the blade did not stop on the peel when I placed it for the first cut. It actually sliced through the outside of the peel with hardly any force. "This is razor-sharp," I whispered to myself. I whispered because I was worried my wife might hear me talking to a knife.
Then, I held a Chicago-hard-roll in my left hand and sliced through the middle of it in preparation to make a sandwich. I took my eye off the roll for just a second, and when I looked back, I noticed the roll was bleeding. What? Why is the roll bleeding? It wasn't. My wife had just walked into the kitchen and saw me standing sheepishly holding my bloody finger. "Now, what have you done?" she admonished. "Stop playing with your new knife sharpener before you kill yourself!" "OK," I replied.
I love my new knife sharpener. But, I am very glad that I am, once again, out fishing; surrounded by needle-like fish hooks, metal-piercing gaffs and shark-infested waters. At least I am safe. And, my wife can finally relax.
And life is good in the Florida Keys; life is very good in the Florida Keys.
C.J. Geotis is a life-long fisherman who followed his dream to live in the Florida Keys 11 years ago. His newly published book, Florida Keys Fish Stories, is available at Amazon.com. He lives in Marathon with his wife, Loretta. His e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org.