Random cues to odd memories

  • Robbie Engelhard (2nd from right) with a 1,289 pound black marlin he wired during the 1980 season on the Great Barrier Reef. The author is far left. (Courtesy photo/Jody Bright)

  • Local legend and HMT Series Radio Man Robbie Engelhard sitting on a 917 pound black marlin caught off the Great Barrier Reef in 1980. (Courtesy photo/Jody Bright)

The Hawaii Marlin Tournament Series concluded this past weekend with the It’s A Wrap Tourney. Results were not available by press time, so we’ll run a summary next time. For now, here is a story involving local character Robbie Engelhard: the voice of Tournament Control Radio. It’s also a story about what happens when a Hawaiian and a Texan are out at sea with a bunch of Aussies.

We were on the Great Barrier Reef for the black marlin season. The year was 1980. The sun rose high enough to stop blaring out the horizon. Robbie and I were finally able to sip coffee and stare out past the reef to assess an angry Coral Sea. Wind was blowing 25 to 40 knots carrying salt spray and an odd tropical chill that added shivers to our trepidation.

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Robbie looked down at his coffee, eyes not seeing. “White horses everywhere,” he muttered.

I scanned the entire eastward sea, panning from north to south. “Immense droves of wild horses,” I said, quoting notations from an 1836 map of Texas. “Endless.” Being fresh out of Texas, the new parts of the world were digested by comparison. “The Gulf is rough, but it ain’t got nothin’ on this! Is it going to blow like this all season?” No one replied.

Robbie brought the white horse colloquialism from Hawaii. Fishermen can look towards the Alenuihaha channel from the calm Kona waters and watch as strong trade winds push giant waves crested with froth to a gallop across the horizon – white horses shooting the gap between Kohala and Haleakala.

A couple of Aussie crewmen brought their coffee to the mothership rail behind us. Everyone is a neophyte their first season on the reef. It doesn’t matter who you are or what your reputation. We eavesdropped on them, hoping for guidance.

“Mate. I could barely get off me bunk this mornin. Now, it looks like Huey is gonna carry on like a pork chop again today.”

“You’re not wrong, Norell. I’m knackered. Not exactly frothing to get out there again after that biffo yesterday.”

Not wanting to give away our ignorance, Robbie and I exchanged sidelong glances, mouthing; “Who’s Huey? Carry on like a pork chop? A biffo?”

“Hey youse Yanks! Whaddya reckon? Ready for another blue out there today? Huey is as cross as a frog in a sock today, eh mate?”

No Aussie will pass an opportunity to have a go at a Yank, so the other chimed in; “If youse didn’t get a gut full yesterday, you’ll be right today.”

I turned and nodded G’day at our buddies, trying to act nonchalant. “Mornin’ fellers. Say, who is Huey?”

“Mate, don’t you have Huey in the States?”

“Well, yeah, lots of Hueys.” Coming from Austin, I referred to music; “Surely you’ve heard of Huey Lewis and The News? They’ve a new song out.”

“Mate, our Huey is no bloody muso. Huey brings the rain for cockies. Huey brings the swell for the surfies. But, sometimes Huey goes too far when he brings the wind, like now.” He looked out to sea for emphasis.

It was Robbie’s turn to confuse the Aussies. “Hawaiians have gods like Huey. Lono-makua brings rain for farmers but Laamaomao brings wind and storms. The Hawaiian word for wind is makani. We get choke makani today.”

The Aussies were indeed, lost in this. “Wha’? Choke what, mate? We aren’t talking about a god. We’re Aussies. That’s too complicated. Some bloke out back named Huey used to shoot off a cannon to make it rain. Now when Huey brings rain or surf, everyone says things like, ‘Look what Huey did.’ We don’t pray to Huey. In fact, we cuss like hell at him when the weather is bad.”

We were manufacturing confusion now, so I asked; “Let me get this straight. Huey morphed from the name of a guy out back with a cannon into Huey, the personification of all weather?”

“Fair dinkum.”

“I see,” said Robbie. “That is much less complicated.”

“Huey is easier to pronounce than La’amama too,” I pointed out. Robbie glared at me for my sacrilege and for defecting already.

Feeling the need to clarify even further, one of the Aussies added, “Farmers are cockies because Cockatoo’s sometimes eat all their crops, so they seem to raise more birds than grain.”

We were both stymied by this one, so I just nodded knowingly. Robbie flung a Shaka.

Through a porthole, we heard the captain cuss. In a flick the Aussies were gone. Our coffee had become chilled by the wind, so we tossed it and went to work, wondering how we could all be speaking the same language.

I hadn’t thought of this memory in over 40 years, but last week, Laamaomao brought makani to Pu’uanahulu – 25 to 40 knots. As it wailed across the side of Mauna Kea recently charred by fire, it created a ginormous dust cloud. Robbie and I closed up the house from wind and dirt as we had the boat from wind and salt spray, 41 years ago.

The next day, we were leery of another biffo with the weather, as we had been on the GBR. I scanned Kohala not for white horses, but for clouds smushed against the mountain, evidence of makani. The breeze came too early, not a good omen. I poked my head inside and said to Robbie, “It’s already puffin’ outside. What’s the weatherman say?” Before he could answer an odd chill ghosted through, and it cued up that 41 year old memory.

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This made me think: “Why did I remember this conversation, and not the giant marlin caught that year? If a random combination of elements cued up an odd memory from the 1980 GBR season, what would someone remember about this season, 41 years from now?”

Next episode, we will look back at the 2021 season and ID some potential future memories. If this seems a convoluted way to go about all this, just remember how Aussies morphed a guy with a cannon into weather, or farmers into birds, or…

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