The strange calls began a few weeks ago.
I was puttering around the house one day, trying to look busy as a storm raged outside, when all of a sudden my pants started playing Christmas carols. Searching for the source of the sudden burst of holiday music I reached into my pocket and pulled out my cell phone. Sure enough, a classic version of “Deck the Halls” was playing from the speaker and “No Caller ID” blinked across the screen, signalling an incoming call.
“Hello?” I said suspiciously, cautious of potential telemarketers.
A faint, childlike voice with a thick Nordic accent answered back on the other end.
“Ah yes guud, is dees da Keptain Jarsh Temple?”
“Ah yes guud, my name is Alabaster und ve haf been lukeing fer yew. Vell it seems like yew are da keptain wiff da feeshing out uff da tewn uff Tofino. Und ve wood like ta book un feeshing trip wiff yew in Decemburr.”
I couldn’t help but chuckle, almost certain that one of my friends was putting me on - something that has been known to happen on the regular.
“Hahahaha…yeah” I said, and then switching to my own version of a Nordic accent replied “Vell yew’ve come to tha right place, cuz I’m da Keptain Jarsh ata yer service.”
The conversation wore on long enough for me to realize that I wasn’t talking to one of my friends after all, and that I had potentially insulted a new overseas client. I quickly apologized and answered their questions. They thanked me for my time and promised to get back in touch with me soon to confirm the booking.
After ending the call I scrolled through my iPhone settings and checked my ring tone. Sure enough, it was set to my usual classic tone setting. How strange, I thought. I quickly forgot about the discrepancy until a few days later when all of a sudden “Deck the Halls” started playing again.
I yanked my phone out of my pocket and sure enough, “No Caller ID” flashed across the screen just as “Fa La La La Laaaaaaaa La La La Laaaaaaa” blasted from the speaker.
“Hello?” I answered
“Ah yes guud, Keptain Jarsh it’s yer friend Alabaster again. I’d like to conferm da feeshing trip wiff yew fur Decembur.”
“That’s fantastic Alabaster” I said, “How many people will be joining you?”
“Ah yes guud, vell dats da ting ya see. Dere’ll be eight of us all toogeddur.”
“Whoah! eight people!” I said. “That’s going to be a real tight squeeze all on one boat Alabaster.”
“Ah yes guud, vell to be fair seven of da people are quite child-like in stature. I ken promise that it von’t be a problem I assure yew.”
Not wanting to risk further insult I hastily agree to the booking. Alabaster is gracious and polite, and listens intently as I provide him with the directions to the office and marina.
A week later with the Christmas holiday season was in full swing. Tofino was brimming with travellers and visiting families, winter chinook salmon were biting and life was a busy blur of holiday preparations and charters. I arrived to the marina early one morning and set about getting things ready for the day ahead when there arose quite the clatter from atop the gangplank. I poked my head out of the boat and saw seven of the smallest people I had ever laid eyes on making their jolly way down the docks and towards my boat. So rambunctious was their excitement that I almost missed the seemingly-giant, large bellied, full-bearded individual bringing up the rear.
With wide eyes and a bemused look on my face I greeted the crew as they sauntered up to my boat. The little fellow in the lead of the pack held out a tiny little hand.
“Ah yes guud, Keptain Jarsh it’s a pleasure to meet yew. I’m Alabaster und dis is Shinny, Jingle, Merry, Perky, Pixie, McJingles und da big fellow over der is Kris.”
One by one I shook their dainty little hands and helped them onboard. Kris finally clambered over the gunnel and asked me how the fish were biting.
“Well to be honest Kris, the action the past few days has been a little slow.”
“Ho ho dere Keptain” he replied with a wink and a smile and said, “not to worry I tink dere in a bitin mood today!”
I shrugged my shoulders and gave the group a safety orientation before throwing off the dock lines and maneuvering the boat out of the marina. A gusty southeasterly wind was churning up a choppy sea. I told everyone to make sure they had a good grip on something as I pushed the throttles forward and ran towards the fishing grounds.
The boat lurched and we pounded a few good swells. The group let out a few yells of alarm and excitement with the bouncing. I played with the engine tilt and the trim tabs in effort to smooth out the ride. Suddenly, I noticed the boat level out and begin to glide along as though we were cruising on air. I marvelled at how smooth the ride had become considering how choppy the seas were. I caught Kris’ eye and he gave me another wink and a smile, obviously he must be impressed with my captaining skills I thought, firing him a wink of my own in reply.
We arrived at the fishing grounds and I deployed the lures. I was just about to tell everyone that patience is a necessary part of fishing when one of the little fellers shot past my right shoulder and dove for one of the rods. I spun around just in time to see McJingles rear back with everything his little arms had and set the hook into a big, head shaking salmon.
“Ho Ho Hookup!” Kris yelled and all of the little fellers cheered.
McJingles cranked on the reel as the big salmon raced for the depths. Each time the fish tore off on a run the chorus of “OOOHS” and “AAAAHS” erupted from the crowd. It was a heated battle but in the end McJingles steered the fish towards the net and I scooped up the mighty salmon and brought it on board.
The fish hit the deck with a solid thud and we all stared wide-eyed at the size of the catch. It was the largest chinook salmon I had caught in years, a massive beast of nearly sixty pounds.
It took all seven of the little fellers to hoist the fish up for a picture, and what a shot it was! Seven beaming little faces struggling to hold up the monster fish. We snapped a few pictures and I gave everyone a round of high-fives.
Elated, I sent the lines down again and barely had time to catch my breath before Alabaster shot past me on the left, followed by the big man Kris on the right. Both of them reared back on the rods and not one but two salmon tore off for the depths.
“Ho Ho Ho…DOUBLE HOOKUP!” screamed Kris through his beard, his cheeks rosy from the thrill of the fight.
On and on it went for the duration of the charter. It was by far the best action I had seen all year. For the life of me I couldn’t figure out how such a massive school of salmon had happened to appear. When the smoke finally cleared we had released over fifty salmon and kept a few real beauties for hearty Christmas feasts.
On the run home we celebrated our good holiday fortune. The little fellers danced and sang and Kris laughed a big belly laugh that seemed to carry the boat over the waves all the way home.
Things were kind of hectic back at the marina so I never really did get a chance to say a proper goodbye to that crew. A few days later though, on Christmas morning, I awoke to find a thank you card and a gift box of some of the best smoked salmon that I have ever had.
The card read:
Tanks fer a fantastic day on da water. From all uff us to yew, we vish yew a Merry Christmas.
Kris Kringle & Krew”
– Captain Josh Temple