Archive for Singer Songwriter
Jennifer Clarke’s latest album, Trinkets in Rubble, is lyrically adept and beautifully arranged. Produced by Steve Catizone, the record features a tight core of musicians: Charles Haynes (Raphael Saadiq, Meshell Ndegeocello, Kanye West) on drums, Baron Browne (Jean Luc-Ponty, Billy Cobham, Andrea Bocelli) on bass, Duke Levine on guitars and Steve and Jennifer on keys. Jennifer’s music is engaging, original and strongly personal—a new take on sophisticated, soulful alt-country and rock that defies categorization.
The sonic synergy between Jennifer Clarke and Steve Catizone started in the studio for collaboration on the song “Ghost Heart.” The magic was undeniable, and the two decided to return to the studio to create Trinkets in Rubble. They are now working on Jennifer’s next anticipated release.
Who is Steve Catizone? The Los Angeles-based producer works on both coasts and is comfortable working with a range of genres. We caught up with him for a brief Q and A.
How did you begin collaborating with Jennifer Clarke?
Steve Catizone: I met Jen through a mutual friend and we spoke for a while about writing and producing music for a bit of time, then began our collaborations on her song “Ghost Heart,” which is on her latest release Trinkets in Rubble. We went back and forth with production and recording concepts, which led to us realizing we had a lot in common between interests in music and production styles. We then began talking about working on more material. Six months later after many enjoyable sessions, we put the finishing touches on her latest release, Trinkets in Rubble. We had a lot of fun writing, producing, and recording the record, with a great cast of musicians.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
SC: I have been producing music for 15 years, and am co-owner of Serenity East Recording (aka Sanctum Sound Productions, Inc.), which was established in 1999. I have written under Wyclef Jean (Fugees) and for independent artists for over a dozen years. I have a degree in Music Synthesis from Berklee College of Music, and have worked out of Boston, New York, and Los Angeles.
Download Trinkets in Rubble here:
Visit Jennifer Clarke’s website here.
Rescue at Sea, Part III
Continued from “Lost at Sea”
Slowly but surely, a boat emerged, crawling across the grey horizon. It had definitely turned in our direction. We were now sure they had seen the flare and were responding. Buddy and I were cautiously optimistic. We knew it was only the first step, and we immediately began discussing how we might convince them to take us under tow. If it was a “dragger” (a very large commercial boat carrying its nets on a huge wheel at the stern), they would be unable to tow us, but could perhaps radio another boat or the Coast Guard for us. If it was any other type of vessel that was better designed, we knew taking a broken down charter vessel like ours under tow in rapidly deteriorating weather was not something any captain would be eager to do. It didn’t matter how desperate our situation was: everyone must look out for themselves at sea. Though people will respond to an emergency, in the end, they carry with them the resonating reality that puts their own safety first.
As they got close, the squall was at its worst. The rain was blinding and the wind was a steady roar. Communication was going to be difficult. To our relief, the approaching boat wasn’t a dragger. It was a fifty (or so) foot steel-hulled offshore lobster boat. Its huge stabilizers, or “birds” as they call them, were swinging violently as they carefully backed down to us so we wouldn’t be crushed. “Birds” are gigantic, and very heavy steel arrow like masses that hang from outstretched metal poles (like outriggers) from either side of the boat. They are carried up above the water and protrude about twenty to fifty feet (depending on the size of the ship) off the side of the hull. When the seas kick up they can be deployed or dropped down just below the surface of the water so they “stabilize” the boat from rolling too badly from side to side. This is mostly done to aid in fishing rough water and only used while traveling if conditions are really bad. The boat, “Dorado,” was a welcome but somewhat scary sight as it got close enough to interact with.
The Dorado’s captain was a guy named Steve Viejo and he had his cousin with him that day. Steve explained that his cousin had just happened to walk into the bridge smoking and was immediately kicked out for it. Steve was furious, as no smoking was permitted on the bridge. It just so happened that the instant he opened the door, our flare shot right in front of him. He then went back inside and told Steve what he’d seen. Steve being a good captain took it seriously enough to investigate.
A small man with sunglasses, a beard and tattoos from head to toe appeared like a strange apparition on the stern deck. It was raining and blowing so hard I could barely see him, let alone hear him. He attempted to ask what the trouble was, and we proceeded to yell back and forth. Buddy explained that we were dead in the water and in need of a tow northward. He also said that his brother Chip would be along at any moment to meet us and relieve them. It was a bit deceiving but an important part of the bargaining process. There was no way they wanted any part of towing us all the way to Martha’s Vineyard. They agreed to try to raise Chip on the radio as all of our electronics were now completely dead.
Shortly, the man reappeared and said he’d had no luck with respect to contacting Chip. Buddy then began the process of convincing them to tow us north. They were actually headed back to New Bedford ahead of the “storm that was coming.” They asked what we had for them (i.e. money, etc.) and we told them we had plenty of beer. “What kind?” they asked (to my exasperation) and Buddy replied loudly “Red Stripe!” “Ahhhh, Jamaica Mon” the guy said. “Sounds good to me!” That sealed the deal. One of our clients onboard, Denis Sweet, said he’d buy him a brewery when we got home! Charles Ogletree began throwing them one Red Stripe at a time, which took awhile and was no small feat. He only missed with one that shattered against their stern amidst much laughter.
A feeling of hope spread quickly throughout the boat as Buddy and I proceeded to rig the towing line up with the proper knots. I didn’t know it at the time, but the only rope we had was what Buddy had cut from the anchor. We now had no anchor line if we needed it. That would come back to haunt us later. Buddy announced that, by his estimation, we would be home in Menemsha at approximately 3:30 AM. It was probably 7:00 PM at the time.
As we began the tow ride we were tucked in close behind them and it was actually pretty comfortable. Charles began hunting for his Crown Royal which he’d saved. He had no soda left so he mixed up what he called “The Tuna Trip:” Crown Royal and Cranapple juice in an empty Red Stripe bottle. We bailed out the last of the water from down below and Buddy nodded off in his captain’s chair behind the wheel. The others followed suit shortly after and I went out on the back deck and continued smoking and feeling restless. Everything was working out pretty well, but I couldn’t shake the strangest feeling that I would look back on this time and wish we could have held onto it. I just knew so strongly that things were going to get much worse even though there was really no reason to think it. I’ve never had that feeling before or since but it was undeniable.
Then the tow rope broke for the first time. Buddy woke up and went up on the bow. The Dorado steamed back and said we’d just won Steve fifty bucks in a bet that the rope would chafe from where they’d tied it. He took his time re-tying the line, saying he wanted to do it right this time. He didn’t want to have to stop again. “You guys are making my night interesting!” he yelled.
Soon we were back underway. Everyone was fast asleep again. After awhile, I noticed we were only making three or four knots. The seas were building fast. We were still over thirty miles south of Noman’s Island when the rope broke again, on our end this time. Buddy retied it and we continued on saying nothing. I bummed a cigarette off of Denis and when they all fell asleep again I went back to the stern. As I lit it, the wind hit me like a wall. The gust nearly blew me off my feet. I had been hearing vague pieces of radio transmissions from the Dorado to the Coast Guard, but had just considered it proper protocol on their part, nothing to be really concerned about. We had no access to weather alerts, so I had no idea what they were forecasting. But Steve Viejo did and it wasn’t good. The nightmare was about to begin, and I knew it. I sat with that thought until I finished my smoke and then went in to wake Buddy up to tell him we were going to have a problem.
“Holy shit! Where did this wind come from?” he asked. I just shook my head. We agreed that the rope was going to break again soon, and he said he was not looking forward to climbing up on the bow again. I said we’d be very lucky if the Dorado would even resume the tow. Minutes later with a huge pop, the rope was gone again. I watched the Dorado ahead of us just sit there and idle, and I knew they were on the radio to the Coast Guard telling them they were giving up the tow. I couldn’t blame them. It was just too rough. But when they steamed back down on us with all of their deck lights on the water, I was horrified. We had been riding so close that it was fairly smooth in their wake. It was so dark I hadn’t been able to gauge the seas. But now confronted it was absolutely stunning. The conditions weren’t just bad, they were horrific. I wished so badly that they would turn the deck lights off so the others wouldn’t see, but it was too late as they awoke, terrified at the horror of the seas.
Steve got upwind of us and shouted at the top of his lungs that he couldn’t tow us anymore. He was suddenly very angry and I was taken aback. He kept screaming, “Look at what you’ve gotten me into. Look at this shit!” Now he felt his life was in serious jeopardy and that we were to blame! I felt horrible, for him, his cousin, but mostly for our friends who were aboard. He steamed off and Buddy flipped out. But we both knew he’d come back. When he did, he seemed to have regrouped and he said he’d told the Coast Guard they needed to come get us and that he’d “stand by” until they got there. It was a courageous and kind move on his part. He said, “We can go down together if that’s the way it’s going to be.”
I then set about reassuring everyone on board that things were going to be fine. The Coast Guard was on its way, and we needed to go over some important things. First, I went down below to get life vests and anything else I could find for them. I think there were only five, so I passed them out and helped everyone get them on. Next I found every “luma light” I could. these are strobes you pin to your vests so you’re more visible to planes or choppers. We were going to be very hard to spot in the water if that’s where we ended up, I knew that. I was seriously alarmed at the amount of water that was in the cabin I was gathering stuff from. I would deal with that shortly. After everyone had vests, luma lights, smoke flairs, and whistles attached to their vests and they were properly donned, I told them we had to start bailing fast. At least one plank in the bow had come loose and more were close to letting go. We were taking on water steadily, not so quickly that we would sink imminently, but fast enough so that we needed to keep on top of it. They were all terrific. They made the best of it and did what needed to be done to buy us as much time as possible. I didn’t know how long it would be. I seriously didn’t know if the Coast Guard would even get to us. It was almost 9:00 PM and very dark. Would they want to wait till morning? Would they just decide the conditions were too bad, as they often did? They weren’t supposed to endanger themselves to try to come save us, and with those seas, who could blame them?
As the Dorado cleared away from us to the north, we finally turned “side to” in what was now towering whitewater. We had no rope left to attach to our anchor as we’d used it up under tow. So there was no way to keep the boat headed into the sea, which is what you want. It’s what boats are designed for. Sometimes it’s best being able to put the seas on your stern and take what’s called the “following sea.” Worst, and absolutely lethal, is taking the waves “side to.” It’s something you avoid at all costs. This gives you the highest chance of capsizing. After evaluating it honestly, I decided it was just a matter of time, simple. We were going to be knocked down. It was just a matter of time.
As a result, I tried to walk everyone through what would happen when we flipped over. Buddy and I would have sawed the outriggers off if we could have, but we couldn’t. We didn’t have the tools. I didn’t want anyone to get “caught in the rigging” and drown. It happens all the time. So I made everyone imagine the deck layout as if we were upside down and encouraged them to mentally walk through what that would be like. I reminded them of the fighting chair and to use it as a bearing to get clear of the boat from the stern, their best way out. Buddy and I gave our pocket knives to whoever wanted them. “Cut yourself free if you need to,” I said. But above all I made it very clear that even if the boat was overturned, they should stay with it. Most people are found with the boat even if it is barely afloat. The chances of Coast Guard rescue go up exponentially because of your greater visibility if you’re still with the boat, no matter what shape it’s in. All we could do now was sit and wait, hoping desperately they wouldn’t take too long to find us. We were simply at their mercy and that of the monstrous sea.
…To be continued!
Find out more about Jennifer Clarke HERE.
I’ll be performing May 4 at the Serenity East Recording Music Showcase! Come join us!
WHEN: May 4
WHERE: Club Church, 69 Kilmarnock St., Boston, MA
WHO: Jennifer Clarke, Louie Bello, Joy Daniels, Sophia Moon, Bassline, Lucia Marie, Alisa Apreleva, Bear Language, Mike Irving, Noya (DJ set)
$10, 21+, 8 PM doors
Questions? Hit me up on Twitter!
Part II, continued from “Dead in the Water: a Perilous Fishing Journey and Rescue at Sea”
We were ?shing an old 28-foot Mackenzie Bass Boat. I have no idea what year it was built, but it had de?nitely been on the water for more then a few decades. They used to make them on the neighboring island of Cuttyhunk (within site of the Vineyard to the north). It was all wood planks with a wood cabin down below which had only bench seats. The tuna tower was added later, and a bit unorthodox. A tuna tower is series of square platforms suspended above the deck and bridge, the control center where you run the boat with steering, electronics, etc. They rise up in smaller and smaller mini decks that you access by a metal ladder. There is a very small area at the top that serves as a lookout. It is incredibly helpful in sight ?shing for sword?sh, tuna, marlin, etc. Serious “sport ?shing” boats are rigged with steering and throttles up there as well so someone can stay up there all day moving the boat toward whatever they see. The line of sight can be absolutely amazing, but the climb up and down can be a bit unnerving. Sometimes just being up there can be quite uncomfortable if you are at all afraid of heights. I have no idea where or when this boat’s tower was installed, but it was made of an unusually heavy, lead-like material. There were no controls up at the top. It was downright frightening to climb up to and down from it. Because of its weight and height as well as the fact that it was really never meant to carry a tower, the boat rolled much more violently in the water than it should have, which is never a very safe thing.
I set about letting our clients know that we were experiencing a bit of mechanical trouble and Charles asked if he could keep fishing. I recommended it and said Buddy would probably figure out the problem soon. Charles was used to experiencing engine trouble of all sorts while fishing with Buddy so he was not yet alarmed. The others looked at me kind of blankly. I could see they were trying to hope for the best before letting any other concerns set in. What else can you do? It’s nice to hope for the best for as long as you can. I knew immediately that we were screwed. My head was spinning with thoughts of how to make a phone call. The cell tower in Montauk, NY was a long way off and probably our only hope for a connection. Then I had to figure out the one best person to call because I’d be lucky if I could reach anyone.
I began to pull in some of the gear from the riggers. We were adrift and the gear would tangle if left unattended. I had a “daisy chain” lure pulled in on the port rigger, but I hadn’t unclipped and stowed it yet so as the boat rolled in the waves it would just touch the water with a dimple and then rise up again. It was like a bomb went off: the water below the rigger exploded and the line released and started screaming out. We simply couldn’t believe a tuna ?sh would launch itself out of the water and hit a bobbing lure when we weren’t moving and it was probably two to three feet up in the air! Charles was still in the ?ghting chair, so I handed him the rod and he settled in with a huge smile to ?ght the ?sh. It was big, that was for sure. Buddy was initially amused, but quickly ducked his head back into the engine. I knew then that he either had no idea what was wrong with it—or more likely, had ?gured out the problem and simply knew that we didn’t have the parts to ?x it.
As Charles fought the tuna through the gathering sharks, trying to land it intact, a cold breeze came up. By the time a giant blue shark bit through his catch right beside the boat, it had started to rain. It was like we went from day to night in an instant. I looked up and saw Buddy at the very top of the tuna tower with his cell phone. I hoped to God he was getting through to someone. My instinct was to call Karsten Larsen, an avid commercial tuna fisherman who was frequently offshore and an all around lunatic, whom I knew would come find us and somehow get us in. Buddy’s idea was to call his brother, Chip Vanderhoop, a great fisherman and harbormaster, and have him haul out all the gear he thought we’d need to fix the boat. Chip got the call and I silently put my phone under my foul weather jacket I had grabbed and quickly put on. “He’s on his way,” Buddy said while climbing down the tower. “He’ll get here in a couple of hours.”
Buddy’s enthusiastic news was met with silence. A couple of hours out there in that weather was a long time. A lot could happen in a couple of hours. Everyone was crowded around under the bimini top, which only covered about the forward half of the boat. Charles had ducked below to get whatever waterproof gear they’d brought or anything a bit warmer as the temperature began to free fall. The rain was coming down so hard it felt like someone was pelting me with rocks. I walked out to the stern to look around from beneath my hood. I couldn’t see more than 30 feet in any direction. There was definite concern in the air and maybe downright fear among the clients as I took Buddy aside at the stern to talk. Rain poured down.
I was convinced that Chip would never find us. Our electronics were still working, but we were wearing the battery down to blinking trying to reach help from another boat out there and I knew they’d be completely dead soon. I also noticed as the seas built that we were drifting south and east away from land and away from our cell tower and we were damn lucky to have gotten one call through. Soon, that wouldn’t work either. So how was Chip going to find us literally somewhere in between Montauk and the Azores? Radar? He would never see us through the “clutter” of rain that would fill his machine like so many targets or boats. It was about as possible as winning the lottery, I thought. Funny what you think about when the very real thought of possibly perishing against insurmountable odds takes root in your mind.
Buddy went back up into the tower as the first of the squalls subsided. “It’s Chip!” he yelled to me and I quickly began to climb up too. The phone calls kept dropping out, but Buddy was making out a few words from him with every brief call. I couldn’t believe we still had any signal even though it wasn’t very good. “Shit,” Buddy said “Oh, shit… Now he’s in some kind of trouble south of Nomans. Jesus Christ, I think he said the waves were fifteen feet up there… What the hell!?” I suggested that we should call Karsten. Buddy said, “No, Chip will get it together and get down here.” That’s when I expressed my doubts at him ever finding us. Buddy looked at me and I could tell he agreed, but we hadn’t come up with another plan yet.
“How about I shoot off a flare just for the hell of it?” I said. Buddy nodded, thinking, and obviously worried about his brother. It was nearly dark and he hadn’t understood clearly what had happened to Chip. How much trouble had he gotten into trying to come get us? And how could he have been put out of commission just seven miles south of the Vineyard on the backside of the island we fished often on half day charters? We figured we were a good 40 miles south of that! I climbed down from the tower and announced to everyone that we were going to have some fun with some fireworks because what could it hurt right? I remember the cheer of approval from those poor guys who were cold, mostly soaked, exhausted and definitely concerned at that point. So I stepped down below into the cabin and was happy to find no shortage of flares onboard. I noticed some water under my boots that wasn’t there before, but stuck to the task at hand. I took the biggest and baddest one I could find and brought it up. I looked at Buddy and gave it to him to shoot. He’s a freak for shooting anything, and his instincts are just uncanny. Plus, I trusted him instinctively. I swear he has some serious connection to his Wampanoag ancestors and their spirit world. He’d even shared a story or two with me about being “led out of trouble, or pointed home” in really bad situations he’d been in by unseen forces familiar only to him. I think of it as his “mojo.” And it’s got some serious juice, in my humble opinion.
We watched it go off like a rocket, arc, pop and start to float down in the distance. Buddy had calculated well, and he timed it just before the clouds would envelop us again. Suddenly he said, “Did you see that boat, Jen?” The big dragger or something over there to the north?” I could barely make out a big grey shape on the water and just before the lights went out in another blinding downpour I could swear I saw it turn. But it was hard to tell. So we waited and listened for the crackle of the radio.
To be continued…
When I first became obsessed with fishing on the Vineyard, I read a quote I never forgot. I may have read it in a magazine or a book. It said simply, “if you spend enough time ‘out there’ [as in, out on the water] eventually something terrible is going to happen.” It’s true.
At 4:30 AM, I was down on the dock in Menemsha waiting for Captain Buddy Vanderhoop. He had asked for my help on a tuna charter with Charles Ogletree and his three friends. Tuna fishing is virtually impossible to do alone. The gear is a massive undertaking and requires constant watching and adjusting. We’re usually towing at least six or eight lines with outriggers to spread them out away from each other. Just to drive the boat and deploy them without tangling or other problems is not an easy job. When you get a fish on, let alone a double or triple hookup, all I can say is that all hell breaks loose. Then you immediately reorganize and set out again, hoping to catch more fish in the school while gutting and icing the fish already aboard. It’s incredibly exciting, and I was happy to have been invited to help out.
That day, Buddy said it might be a bit bumpy going down, but the seas would settle in a few hours and it would be beautiful. We were headed for the dumping ground, or the “Dump” as we refer to it around the docks. The “Dump” is a one hundred square mile piece of water. A six hour steam from Montauk (and made quite famous by Capt. Frank Mundus and his hunt for great white sharks that was arguably used as the basis for the character Quint in the book and movie Jaws) a bit west of Nantucket and 40-60 miles south of the Vineyard. Below the “Dump” are the canyons, literally huge underwater “Grand Canyons” where you find everything that could possibly get caught up in and swept north by the almighty Gulf Stream and brought within reach in its eddies. We keep watch on these magical clouds of warm water that billow off the main stream with temperature charts these days. Temps can be in the eighties down in the heart of the Canyons and then in the sixties and seventies on its “walls” and in shallower water. It’s a veritable smorgasborg of baitfish, billfish, whales, porpoises, turtles, sargasso weed and pretty much everything you could imagine. The temperature “edges” are the key to finding the fish. The veritable lines of water that can mark a three degree or an eleven degree change in temperature. Follow these lines, and you will catch fish if they are there and you have the right presentation. The canyons are ninety miles south and I had not yet ventured that far. It’s a long way to go on a day charter, and I had heard stories of terrible squalls, monstrous waves, and boats getting “caught” and “lost” at sea.
The trip to the “Dump” was a rough, bone-jarring ride from the start, and I remember it was the first and I think the only time I had taken Dramamine. I would be thankful for that later. I knew it would be a long day, and you never knew what would happen. Usually it was an awful lot of banging around, fishing, and not much catching. The tuna just weren’t there in huge numbers that summer. With the limited time in a day charter, you can’t get much farther out.
We stopped crashing our way southward as a huge red sun peeked over the whitewater and started trolling just above the center of the “Dump.” Things were slow at first. Buddy was fishing his squid bars, his obsession which seemed to attract some serious ire from others aboard when nothing was happening. I was getting leery of them when we got our first “knockdown.” That’s what happens when a big tuna-like fish hits your “spread,” the vast array of lines you are towing behind the boat. These multiple bait imitations resemble a rather large school of fish dancing, swimming and smoking through the water. The sheer force of the fish hitting a line actually knocks the line down from the outrigger to the deck with a bang. The line screams out, and you struggle to gain control before all the line on the reel is lost. The first fish on was a beautiful yellowfin tuna, probably sixty pounds and close if not a bit above average for that species in that water. I remember Buddy was heading east. As he gutted the fish and put the lines back in the water, I began driving the boat. I quickly retraced our path and we had two more yellowfin on. This was turning into a really good morning.
Everyone had been horribly seasick, but when the fish started to hit, they started to recover quickly. They fought fish, ate some saltines, drank some cool water and began to laugh and smile from ear to ear. The sun came out, the sky turned blue and the seas slowed to a gentle roll.
We switched up some lures during a lull, and moved along to the south listening to the crackle on the radio about hookups, figuring which boats they probably were and getting close enough to check out the action. Some were good, some weren’t, but we managed to find fish all day long. It was pretty spectacular. As a result, I found myself watching the fleet of charter boats (day trippers) turn tail and spill diesel smoke at us as they headed for home. It was definitely getting late, but tuna fever had gripped our Captain and crew and we weren’t even talking about quitting quite yet. The water was now calm and the evening was spectacularly beautiful. We were trolling slowly and Charles was in the fighting chair with a beautiful fish on. At this point, we were playing a crazy game of trying to land the fish before big sharks of all varieties could get their teeth into them and leave us reeling in little more than the head. It was becoming a bit ridiculous and definitely late in the day.
Buddy was topside and I was back in the stern next to the throttles when the boat stalled completely. After a second of silence, Buddy started to yell at me not to throttle back and asked why I stopped the boat. I stood there in silence and waited for him to take a breath, then calmly walked forward away from the charter happily engaged in the tuna-shark war and told him quietly that I had done nothing. The boat had just quit.
“Whaddya mean!?” He asked, irritated and a bit startled. “Just what I said,” I repeated. I didn’t touch a thing. It just died. At this point, Buddy and I looked at one another, knowing we could very well be in serious trouble. We were alone, sixty miles from land and dead in the water.
…To be continued
“Trinkets in Rubble,” The first single from Jennifer Clarke’s Trinkets in Rubble is available for free download on Viinyl today!
Thanks to the amazing team of musicians that helped make Trinkets in Rubble: Steve Catizone (Wyclef Jean, Earth Wind & Fire, Sully Erna, Jojo), Rich Travali, Greg Calbi of Sterling Sound, Charles Haynes (Raphael Saadiq, Meshell Ndegeocello, Kanye West), Baron Browne (Jean Luc-Ponty, Billy Cobham, Andrea Bocelli) and Duke Levine.
Download the free song here:
Meeting my Mentor, Captain Buddy Vanderhoop
Captain Buddy Vanderhoop fished The Tomahawk, an old 25-foot Surf Hunter. It broke down more than my whaler. Lucky for him, he could usually find the problem, bang on what he thought it was with his grandfather’s mallet and get her back up and running in no time. His motto was, “Bass is our Business, and Business is Good!” He had one gold tooth, smoked cigars like a chimney, and listened to vintage blues music at a volume you’d swear would scare away every fish within fifty miles. He out-fished everyone. He was known everywhere. With his gravelly voice, distinctive laugh and knack for hooking and landing 50- and 60-pound stripers frequently, he was hard to miss.
It was 1997. I married Lenny and bought the house and the Whaler the year before. Lenny was out of work, so we weren’t in LA for the first fall in years… we were home on the Vineyard, Amen. It was a cold October and the wind was blowing like hell. I had somehow coerced the incredibly kind Menemsha Harbor Master to give me an empty slip for the month in the same harbor where Buddy kept his boat. The “Derby,” which I knew nothing about at the time, was well underway.
At dawn I headed out onto the water. I could barely make out shapes of shore fisherman on the beach in the early light, but I heard their voices. Every one of them told me to turn around: it was too rough. There were easily eight footers rolling onto the jetties. I couldn’t clearly see the waves, just the whitewater on top. It didn’t concern me much. I was soaked through before I had cleared the break wall. I didn’t care. I throttled up, pointing the bow toward Gay Head Light and the “rip” of Devil’s Bridge. It’s a place that’s aptly named after sinking hundreds of ships, including the SS City of Columbus on January 18th, 1884, which prompted one of the greatest rescue efforts by the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head. Those rescuers were Buddy Vanderhoop’s elders. His mother still has pictures of the tragedy. There were only 29 people saved, and 100 froze or drowned–right on the spot I would be drifting over hoping to catch a monster bass.
There was a guy helping us with leaks, paint, and all kinds of other troubles with our new home, and he was the only local fisherman I knew. He was out there fishing already, albeit not very happily, due to the conditions. We were both taking waves over the bow, over the sides and every way we turned. The tide was screaming against the wind, so after your drift over “the bridge,” you had to turn and beat your way back through a wall of whitewater to do it all again. There’s nothing quite like fishing a big rip where water piles up between two radically different depths on a ledge of boulders, and in this case, sunken ships.
By my third drift, I had hooked into a decent fish using an eel for bait and what little knowledge I possessed. I fought the fish for awhile. Suddenly my rod broke! I froze. I didn’t know what to do, but I certainly didn’t want to lose the fish. With one hand holding the line, I called my friend on my VHF radio. It was the only electronic equipment I had. He said I should cut the line, let the fish go and head in. He was in the process of leaving as the rip was getting too tall and too dangerous. I said I wanted to land the fish, stay out and catch more, but I didn’t have another rod aboard. I was having the time of my life! After some grumbling, he said he’d call Captain Buddy Vanderhoop on the radio, introduce me and ask him to lend me a rod. He thought he’d have an extra, and he knew he was crazy enough to stay out there and fish out his morning charter.
After his garbled introduction, I tried calling Buddy and did my best to introduce myself and ask to borrow a rod. He told me to come on over to his boat and he’d lend me one. I motored over and Buddy shimmied out onto the bow to hand me a rod. It wasn’t an easy transaction. He was laughing like hell over the blues music playing on the boat. We were bobbing up and down ten to fifteen feet and I heard him say I must be pretty damn crazy to be out there in the first place, especially in a little boat like mine and in water as rough as it was, but he was happy to help. He never implied I should go in like everyone else. He just thought I was nuts, a kindred soul I guess. Anyway, I caught fish all morning. When I got back to the dock and finished tying up the boat, I looked over my shoulder and there he was watching me, still laughing his ass off. I handed him back his rod and he sat down on the piling and started to talk.
That was the first time I met him. We became instant friends. Buddy proceeded to teach me everything he could about striped bass fishing. He only gave me ranges for a few of his fishing spots, because I didn’t have anything but a compass on my boat. “Ranges” are objects that line up when you’re in the right spot. You use them to tell someone how to position their boat over rock piles, deep holes and other areas that hold the fish. For example, the chimney on a house ashore lines up with a specific rock on the shore. It’s the oldest method of giving someone a spot, and it was already obsolete when we did it. But I had no GPS or fish finder on that boat. It was my first fishing boat ,and I didn’t know about buying fish finding equipment at that point. I’d never discussed it with anyone. Buddy told me I might as well wait and get “electronics” on my next boat. I guess he knew before I did that I’d want a bigger boat.
My mom came up for a visit later that month. I decided to charter Buddy for a trip so she could have a really great day. When we got aboard, he asked me if I’d registered for the Martha’s Vineyard Striped Bass and Bluefish Derby. I told him I had. He asked what I’d weighed in, and I told him mostly bluefish, bonito and false albacore. He wanted to know why I hadn’t weighed in any striped bass, and I told him they hadn’t been really big. He roughly figured out my combined weight for what I’d caught and told me we just needed to catch a big bass (over 30 pounds) that day and I could win the “Grand Slam” for the Derby. That was the highest combined weight of all four species of fish in the tournament. It carried almost as much prestige as catching the biggest bass. “Okay,” I said, “Let’s try.” He looked at me and said, “We’re not out here to try, we’re out here to win!”
It was rougher then hell that day, too, and it was the first of many times Buddy would tell me, “Big bass love big water.” An hour later, we had my Grand Slam winning bass aboard. In typical style, my mother had released what would have been the Derby winning bass in the fly fishing division (a move Buddy still bemoans), and I was begging Buddy to stay out just a little longer. He thought we should head in because it was getting too big and he explained that when the tide turned on us it would be un-fishable. As it was we were in for a very long, rugged ride home. So we headed back to the harbor with the waves on our side. I remember thinking they were as big as houses and we were just sliding and surfing through them. Buddy definitely had his eyes focused, I could see that. But there was no fear with him at the helm. There never would be. He was the best.
That was the first tournament win for me: The Martha’s Vineyard Striped Bass and Bluefish Derby’s Grand Slam in 1997. I later found out that a woman had never won it. I won it again in 1999, along with the Derby itself, after catching the biggest striper of the tournament. I called Buddy on the radio and he met me down at the dock the day I brought that winning fish in to congratulate me and share in the moment. In the end, I couldn’t believe I won. He said he was sure I would. I was so grateful for everything he’d taken the time to teach me. It would take me farther than I could ever imagine in the years to come.
Singer-songwriter Jennifer Clarke will release the first single from the album Trinkets in Rubble on March 20.
Jennifer Clarke is part poet, part pirate of the Eastern seaboard and part drifter. A full-time commercial fishing Captain, she has also been writing songs for as many winters as she can remember. “I used to fish throughout the winters,” she says, “but I finally indulged my lifelong dream of making records, and now I split my time between the two.” She has just released her third album, Trinkets in Rubble, while preparing for a move to Los Angeles from her home on Martha’s Vineyard. Jennifer casts a wide net to arrive at a musicianship whose compositions and arrangements are steeped in fervent imagination, whose lyrics are searingly intimate and whose style is unequivocally unique and deeply resonant.
Trinkets in Rubble is lyrically adept and beautifully arranged. Produced by Steve Catizone (Wyclef Jean, Earth Wind & Fire, Sully Erna, Jojo), the record features an all-star line-up of musicians: Charles Haynes (Raphael Saadiq, Meshell Ndegeocello, Kanye West) on drums, Baron Browne (Jean Luc-Ponty, Billy Cobham, Andrea Bocelli) on bass, Duke Levine on guitars and Steve Catizone and Jennifer on keys.
I started fishing very young, probably around age four. My father taught me with old bamboo fly rods on the rivers, streams and ponds in Virginia where we lived on a large farm. He wasn’t big on teaching “technique,” but I was big on watching and mimicking the same way he had learned from his father. That’s probably why it was so much fun. He taught me a lot about “catching.” After all that was dinner, and that was largely the point. We started with topwater “poppers” so I could get the rush of seeing the fish hit. My Dad knew that’s what every kid wanted to see. It was as exciting as anything and I wanted to be really good at it like him. He was incredible.
When I was 12, my Uncle Richard rented a house in Montana for the month of July and invited us out to this new area he had found where he said the fishing was spectacular! Paradise Valley was unheard of back then (it was later to be the site of the film “A River Runs Through It,” which would change things dramatically) and our house looked down from the hills across the O’hare Ranch valley to Armstrong’s Spring Creek and the Yellowstone River beyond. The Absorkee Mountains rose up on the far side like a snow-topped wall as high as you could see. The view took my breath away every morning as I sat down to breakfast and watched the sunrise over what looked like a giant patchwork quilt of carefully planted crops showered with small rainbows from the huge automatic irrigation systems that crawled like snakes all day across the ground to give the valley its vibrant colors of crops. We drove an old camper down past the ranch house every morning, through several gates, cattle guards and then across a death-defying narrow bridge with no railings stop you from driving right off if you weren’t paying close attention. Then we’d suit up in waders and set about filling our vests with what would hopefully “match the hatch” that morning. This was where I got my fishing education.
Jim Francis was a rancher that had married one of the O’hare daughters, Bonnie. He was one of only two guides there at that time. He was a magnetic man and a terrific instructor: funny, encouraging and patient beyond words. Spring Creek flyfishing is as challenging as it gets. The fish are extremely tricky because the water is so shallow. They are very exposed and constantly fished over. The flies you need to use can be the size of a mosquito and when dry fly fishing (on the surface) you need to watch them travel over the water and your presentation must be perfect. It takes a painful amount of practice. Jim quickly nicknamed me “Miss Miss” because I “missed” hooking the trout constantly, but before long, I was catching the largest fish he had ever seen. If I hadn’t wanted to earn Jim’s respect so badly, I would have been in tears every time we waded out in that stream.
Before long, I was catching and releasing the largest trout that Armstrong’s Spring Creek had ever produced, both browns and rainbows. Jim would pull his ball cap down, bow his head and patiently follow me downstream as I waded though everyone else’s water below me unable to get the upper hand on my latest “monster.” Most everyone cheered me on instead of getting furious with me because I was so young and maybe because I was the only girl. Flyfishing was in its infancy then, and people were pretty down to earth about it. They didn’t take themselves or the sport as seriously as they do now. I was lucky: any kid doing that today would be crucified!
At that time, my father bought and sold old Pratt and Whitney aircraft parts out of a run down building that was the old train depot in Front Royal, Virginia. He opened up another old warehouse in Hialeah, Florida as an adjunct office. I think he did it solely so he could fish with his brother, my Uncle Duncan, down in Key Largo. I went with him my first school vacation I could and nearly every one thereafter. To this day, I am the only family member that ever went to Key Largo with him. I went every single chance I got.
Fishing the Florida flats for bonefish, permit and tarpon with my dad was like visiting another planet. Those fishing trips hold some of the best memories of my life. Dad would pole uncle Dunc’s flats boat, “Peggy,” through mere inches of water toward huge schools of tailing bonefish. They looked like tiny translucent sails slowly tacking across the horizon and they sent me into an utter frenzy. I’d beg him to keep poling toward them. This was when he tried to explain tides and the dangers of not being mindful of them. The outgoing tide made for very shallow water and that’s why you could cast to fish that “showed” by tailing. He’d try hard to explain that we’d end up “aground” for the night if we did what I wanted. Unfazed, I would beg and beg to get just a little closer so I could cast to them. Sometimes exasperated, he’d give in, and we’d poll until we got stuck. Then he’d make me jump overboard into the mud, which could sink you up to your waist in most places, and push the boat off while he maneuvered expertly with the pole. Sometimes we got lucky and hooked into fish that were just barely in a safe depth of water and I’d be ecstatic. Sometimes we’d just sit, stuck, drink beer and laugh. It was more fun than you can imagine.
The boat rides hooked me as much as the fishing did. Coming and going to the ocean flats outside or the bay flats in back through narrow mangrove lined creeks at breakneck speed was probably my favorite thing on earth. It’s the reason that I decided I was going to take out a loan and buy myself a boat as a graduation present when I got my first job working at WGBH, Boston’s flagship PBS television station. My folks thought I was nuts.
My first boat was a little “cigarette” boat, a Donzi Z 21. It was stoplight red and white with shotgun exhaust. It was really loud and fast and was not a fishing boat. I was at Boston University and had never thought of fishing up there. I kept it on Lake Sunapee and waterskied on weekends. I was still going to Montana and Florida for my fishing fix. But that all changed in 1994 when Lenny (my future husband) and I decided to rent a house on Martha’s Vineyard for the summer and have a “Clarke” family reunion. By then I’d moved to LA, where we were working and living. Lenny had sadly lost touch with his huge family, and I had never met them, so we thought it would be fun to rent a 30-acre farm for the summer and invite everyone over for two weeks. There were 32 of them. “Almost an acre apiece,” Len said. We had the best summer in ages.
I brought my Donzi down from Lake Sunapee where it had been collecting dust. We used to use it for waterskiing during the summers at Maciel Marine in Vineyard Haven in the middle of the island of Martha’s Vineyard. I planned to use it to waterski through that summer on the Vineyard with his family, but when I took DIpper (Lenny’s brother-in-law) out on it, he went nuts when he saw “breaking” fish everywhere. Without any fishing gear, all we could do was watch them feed and crash the surface. Still, the seed was planted, and before long I was looking into the fishing scene on the island in earnest.
My dad came up in September after the reunion ended and Labor Day rolled by. He didn’t want to deal with the crowds and knew the fishing would be good. Sure enough, we started doing some light tackle trolling for striped bass and bluefish. He laughed every time we got on that boat to fish! There was nothing about it that was designed for fishing. He hated it. But it got us where we wanted to go very quickly. He mostly hung on for dear life.
In 1996, Lenny and I got married and bought a house “up island” in Menemsha, a beautiful old fishing village on the west end of the island. My dad and I bought an old 22 Boston Whaler Outrage from a fishing guide down in Edgartown. It had twin 115 Yamaha outboards and they probably had over 5,000 hours on them. That boat broke down almost every day. I quickly learned the importance of having two motors, something that would unfortunately slip my mind in the future. A mistake that should have, and nearly did, cost me my life.
Now I was ready to really fish the Vineyard waters, and that’s just what I did–with a vengeance. Old timers called me a “fishing fool.” They thought I was crazy. I went out in any kind of weather and struggled to get the hang of striper fishing. But my life would change forever after one particularly stormy fall day during the Martha’s Vineyard Striped Bass and Bluefish Derby. I was out in 15 foot seas with a huge fish on, a broken rod and was about to meet the legendary Wampanoag Indian fishing guide Captain Buddy Vanderhoop. He would mold me into the striped bass fisherman I am today and more. We would share some outrageous times from huge tournament wins to death-defying Coast Guard rescues. The greatest adventure of my life was about to begin.
TO BE CONTINUED