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THE BIG FISH AND THE MAIDEN VOYAGE

The year was 1972 and Capt. Sam Stokes was busy preparing his new charter boat, the ‘Fight-n-Lady’ for the upcoming season at the Oregon Inlet Fishing Center. Young Capt. Stokes was still working feverishly to finish outfitting the brand new vessel, which he had custom built on Roanoke Island by Sheldon Midgett. Sheldon, or ‘Papa Shel’ as he was known to most had delivered the boat to Sam with everything pretty much ready to go. However, when a boat builder turns the finished vessel over to the skipper or owner, the boat still has to be outfitted to fish.

This is how Capt. Sam found himself, down at the dock on the first day of May, feverishly trying to install outriggers, and fighting chairs, working on all the new tackle and otherwise working to finish the outfitting in time for his first charter coming up in just a few days.

He had only one outrigger on the boat and no fighting chairs when a group of men walked up to the stern of the Fight-n-Lady and asked Sam if he would take them fishing the next day. Sam tried to explain that the boat wasn’t really ready to go fishing but the men had heard that Sam was the best in the business and they insisted that they didn’t mind if everything was completely ready to go. So Sam agreed to take them the next morning and quickly set about trying to beg, borrow or steal enough stuff to go to the bluewater.

The next morning found them pulling away from the Oregon Inlet Fishing Center before dawn. They had mustered enough stuff to go fishing, including a couple of portable folding fighting chairs and all the tackle from Sam’s garage where it had been sitting all winter. They cleared the sea bouy and set a course of about 150 degrees. Their plan was to go fish the rocks southeast of the Diamond Shoals light tower some 50 miles away.

When they got to the gulfstream they found conditions to be good. The sea was calm and there were birds and all kinds of marine life to be found. Soon they began catching blackfin tuna and continued to do so all through the morning and into the afternoon. By all accounts this maiden voyage was a successful one, but the real action was yet to come!

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