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Jamie Blue of Carthage and Joel Foster of High Point had an unforgettable fishing experience in the Jolly Mon King Classic Saturday.
They are fortunate to still be alive to talk about it.
They were among the competitors in the two-day tournament that attracted 294 boats. But a fierce, fast-moving storm Saturday morning capsized one boat and left one person dead. Two others from that boat were rescued.
That more people did not die is remarkable, considering how powerful the storm was.
Blue, 24, and Foster, 25, left the inlet a 6 a.m. in Foster’s 29-foot Tall Tails boat. After a futile search for bait, they were in the Lighthouse Rocks area by 8:30 a.m. They caught a couple of really small king mackerels, about 12-18 inches apiece.
“Then we started seeing the whitewater come up,” Blue, 24, said. “It was just all of the sudden. We had been watching the storms and there was a little break between them and we thought it was going to blow over.”
He saw an ominous line of whitewater.
“The wind picked up,” he said. “And it hit us. The temperature dropped 10 degrees—and it was fast.”
“Everything just blew in,” Foster said. “It was on us.”
“(Joel) told me to pull in the lines,” Blue said. “I pulled them in. We had kind of a mess because the waves threw everything together. I bit everything off and threw everything into the bottom of the boat.”
Navigating through the waves became the biggest challenge.
“The waves were so bad,” Blue said, “that we were scared to turn the boat. We hit one and it threw the stern of the boat up so high it pulled the props out of the water. We decided we had to turn then.”
They made a smooth turn and traveled at 7 knots to reach the Shallotte Inlet.
“It took us about an hour to get back,” Blue said.
Making the situation worse was the low visibility.
“The visibility was so bad we ran up on a 23-foot Sea Fox boat,” Blue said. “We didn’t see it until we were 75 to 100 yards away.
“Joel was driving and I said, ‘Joel, did you see that boat’ And he said. ‘No.’
“They tried to duck in behind us and let us beat the waves down for them a little bit, but they couldn’t keep up. And we couldn’t slow down. In those kinds of situations, you got to do what you got to do.” (The Sea Fox did make it back safely. “We saw him Sunday,” Foster said. “He’s all right.”
Once back at Ocean Isle Beach, which was around noon, the weather had cleared, so Blue and Foster headed out for three hours of fishing.
“We caught a bunch of baby dolphins, a couple of 10-pounders and lost one big fish that bit through the wire leader,” Blue said. “We probably had about 200 yards of line out and then he wasn’t there. We reeled in about 8 inches of wire leader. Then we saw another thunderstorm building, and we weren’t going to play with that one. So we came on in.”
They were still rattled by what they had been through a few hours earlier.
“I was driving the boat,” Foster said, “and here I’m thinking, ‘I have my sister on board. I have one of my friends. I have her friend.’ ”
And he thought about his parents.
“They were (due) in town (Sunday) from Italy,” he said. “I thinking, ‘I might not see them again.’ It was that bad. There were times I was thinkingee‘I hope I’m doing everything right to get us back.’ ”
“We took one wave over the bow,” Blue said, “and in a 29-foot boat to take over that bow at that speed is pretty tough. We had 4 inches of water sloshing around in the bottom of the boat and it drained out.”
Blue said there was only other storm he’s been in during a tournament that worse than this one, and that was earlier this year at Little River, S.C.
“We got in 12-foot seas,” he said. “That was the worst one. But this one was not far behind. I don’t ever want to be in either situation ever again.”
MICHAEL PAUL is the sports editor at the Beacon. Reach him at 754-6890 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.