I have great memories of Montauk, New York. Among them was a day spent hunting for sharks off the point with a great friend who wasn’t a very good fisherman. But he was a licensed captain with a lot of offshore experience, a nose for navigation and a love for that salty port at the east end of Long Island.
We left the dock in his sterndrive express cruiser. It was not quite the right boat for our mission, but it had rod holders in the gunwales so we could run a couple of trolling lines, and there was a belt for stand-up fishing tucked into a locker, in the event that we actually caught something.
I didn’t realize I’d be in charge of chumming operations. But there I was at the transom, ladling fish guts into the calm water, working hard to create what a local fisherman might consider a decent chum slick. My friend kept an eye on the fish finder and drove the boat at a very mellow 10 knots.
Hours went by without a tug on any of our lines, but we passed the time sharing stories about our experiences in Montauk, since we’d both spent childhood summers there in the 1970s. That was the era of Peter Benchley’s novel Jaws, the book that beget a blockbuster movie and brought the nation’s attention to a small town that’s home to some big, scary fish.
I’ve been thinking about that day out in Montauk because I’ve had the pleasure of working with an expert mariner who has deep ties to the area. Pat Mundus, who wrote the Seamanship column in this issue, grew up there and nurtured her love of boating in the waters. She took off for the Caribbean at 17 to work on charter sailboats, but returned to the Northeast to attend SUNY Maritime College, where she graduated as one of only 11 women in the class. She spent the next 17 years as a deck officer on tankers traveling the world before heading back to Long Island to start a business, East End Charters in Greenport, not far from Montauk.
Her credentials are impressive, although I think one of Pat’s best skills is the ability to be so generous with the wisdom she’s gained during decades at sea. She’s a mariner with real gravitas, and each story she writes contains valuable lessons for boat operators of all skill levels.
Here’s another fun fact about Pat. She is the daughter of Frank Mundus, the late charter captain who still holds the record for the largest great white shark ever caught with rod and reel. That 3,427-pounder was taken off Montauk, in the waters where he taught his daughter how to boat and fish. Frank, it’s been said, was also the inspiration for the character of Quint in Jaws.
Pat likes to say she writes about what she knows. She knows plenty, so look for more of her work in future issues. I’m hoping she might even touch upon the subject of sharks one day, or at least how to find one in a vast ocean. My friend and I never hooked up to a fish that afternoon in Montauk. We could have benefited from her advice.