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More from Ben about his fishing adventures


As commented before, the fishing gods sometimes reward good deeds.  Sunday, September 10th may be one of those days.


Capt. Ben and his wife Jaye returned Friday evening from an event in New Orleans that was mandated by time and circumstance and proved to be extra special. The American School of Manila, where Jaye spent her high school years, staged a reunion for her Class of 1957 and several other Classes running through 1970.  The experience for both of us was enjoyable and rewarding, fully justifying a week away from the DeBordieu beach just as the mullet run was swinging into gear.


After a day of unpacking, grocery shopping etc., Jaye sent me on my way around noon with a warm hug that said thanks for joining me on my special trip and your good deed is noted.  The fishing gods must have been witnesses.


On my way to The Bait Shop (The Debordieu Colony creek where I catch my live bait), clouds suddenly darkened the bright day and my radar app showed a small set of rain clouds heading from the south towards DeBordieu.  This was not enough to stop me from “giving it a go” after that week’s absence from the beach.  But I did call Jaye to say she should hold up leaving home to join me until and if the weather cleared.  


A memory from the day before I left for New Orleans that had stayed in the front of my mind over the past week.   A Dad with some kids was casting his net into the deep pool at The Bait Shop.  Every cast had produced  a perfect mix of all sized live mullet. His kids were delighted to throw these treasures back and beg him to make another cast. 


Today the water in The Bait Shop was murky.  No bait action to be seen.  I normally do not throw my net unless I can see a target. But my memory pushed me to do otherwise.  And Bingo, three casts into the deep pool produced a perfect balance of the best bait there is for the surf:  

  • Two dozen 3 inch to 5 inch finger mullet that are well matched for Mama Bear (my Medium Surf Rig) to send flying in search of blue fish, trout, ladyfish, redfish or flounder   
  • Two 8 inchers that Papa Bear (my Heavy Surf Rig) could heave beyond the breaking waves and lure shark and bull reds  
  • Finally, two 12 inch mullet for cut bait that no feeding predator could resist.


So filled with the confidence only such a bait bucket of mullet can give, I headed to Beach Access #12.  The thought of a little rain was no deterrence!


Upon arrival and looking east, a beautiful, calm surf at full low tide showed itself.  The beach was almost deserted.  Vacation time was over and the locals must have been looking west at the oncoming rain.  No choice for Capt. Ben but to rig up and start casting with the hope that the rain would slide north and stay off his beach.


Papa Bear was the first to be deployed with one of 8 inch mullet flipping and shining on its hook.  I was not finished rigging Mama Bear, when Papa Bear began jerking and blending in his sand spike.  Line was pealing off the reel when I grabbed the rod and went to work.  The strong pull interspersed big jerks told me that my great bait had likely enticed a nice-sized finetooth shark and the typical fight was on.  At the five minute point, light rain started and not too distant thunder clapped.  No beach goers to help with landing and release this time, I thought.  This fighter proved to be a finetooth a little shy of five feet and around eighty pounds.  No match for Papa Bear but a worthy combatant.   I was able to accomplish a single-handed and successful release with total elapsed time of about ten minutes. The strength of this shark, his streamlined beauty and my success in winning the fight followed by a singlehanded release “made my day”.


The thunder claps were becoming louder and closer.  I had already had more fun than the average surf fisherman has in a season.  So I grabbed my lunch and headed for the sand dunes.  My decision was vindicated. In about twenty minutes, the storm slipped north without becoming very violent on the beach, the light rain stopped and sunny skies returned.


So back to fishing.


The second 8 inch mullet flew well off the beach and I continued to rig Mama Bear for action.  Again I was interrupted by a big jerk on my deployed rig.  This time no hook up; the big boy must have enjoyed devouring my mullet without the effort of dealing with its presenter. 


Now was the time to move on to cut bait.  One of the 12” mullet was quickly prepared.  First I scaled the fish, then sliced off the tail and finally cut the body vertically into five pieces.  My favorite piece is the one at the tail end; this one is compact and great to cast.  Papa Bear showed his approval of my choice with a long cast of my favorite piece well beyond the surf line.  


Again I went back to the job of rigging and again an immediate interruption by action on Papa Bear.  This time things seemed more wild.  A huge spray of water were my bait had been cast was the first exciting indication that this hookup was something special.  Then my rod was bending deeper that I had ever seem.  My new sand spike was being tested to its limit by great pressure on my line.  As I removed my rig from the spike, I realized that a very big fish was on.  No choice but to watch line fly off my reel and resist the temptation to increase drag until that first wild run was over.


With about half my line gone, the run was over.  Now the slugging toe to toe kind of fight began.  I knew this guy was a heavy weight with a warrior’s spirit. Papa Bear’s backbone and 40 pound braid line made the contest one where Capt. Ben had a chance of victory.  


The technique to use is when my adversary paused I increased pressure by palming the skirt of my spinning reel while raising my rod to vertical.  Then lower the rod and reel simultaneously recovering lost line.  Early in the fight, I would accomplish a couple of “pumps” recovering maybe five yards of line before this battler would make a run.  I would have to stop palming and let the reel’s drag drag continue to pressure the fish while he took back my hard earned line and then some.  


After about ten minutes the fight began to turn in my favor.  I could make four or five pumps to every short run and on balance I was beginning to see line accumulating on my reel.  But every gain was only grudgingly conceded.  At the fifteen minute point, more line was coming in than going out and I began to wonder what would happen if I continued to succeed.  The beach was completely deserted and the thought of handling  this big boy for a singlehanded release was daunting.  



Then the fishing gods sent an angel.  


A DeBordieu resident named Kurt Moore had been watching my fight from his beachfront porch since the beginning and decided I might need some help.  He was right.  Now I had I had a fellow fisherman to talk to as I continued to work my fish slowly nearer the beach.  Soon we both were treated to the sight of a big shark highlighted by the afternoon sun in the clear water of the near surf.  He continued to put up a strong fight and Capt. Ben and Papa Bear were tested to the max.  Finally a dorsal fin and sickle tail showed in the shallow water and the strength of the fighter was revealed - a blacktip shark.


The incoming tide helped to bring this big guy into the wash. Kurt deployed my tail lasso and heaved him onto the dry sand.  Uncle Sam’s Truth Stick measured the length at 5 foot 3 inches and we both agreed a good guess at the weight was 150 pounds.  I was able to use my de-hooker to free him. Then I dragged him into water deep enough for him to swim.  Off he went!  During the process, Kurt shot some great pictures.


From hookup to release was 35 minutes.  My normal shark fight using Papa Bear seldom exceeds 10 minutes.  This blacktip was the biggest shark I have landed since moving to Pawleys Island.


Jaye showed up shortly after the release to enjoy the late afternoon.  As I packed up my gear to head home, Kurt gave her a full rendering of the fight and assurances that I would sleep well that night.


The fishing gods did indeed reward me with a sublime afternoon.


The vista that greeted me upon arrival on the beach was both serene and exciting.  From long experience, Capt. Ben knew that beneath those tranquil waters the annual struggle of life and death lay within easy casting range, giving him an opportunity to be part of one of natures big events.


Posted 9/21/23


Now it's Mr. and Mrs. George Brakeley!
He and Tamara secretly sneaked off to Iceland on a 17-day trip where they tied the knot on May 5, 2017.

Our wheels.....

Posted 5/17/17

Pre-rade - September 12, 2015 to welcome Class of 2019.

Alumni are invited to picnic with the class immediately following the Pre-rade. Finish the day by joining members of the Alumni Council's Princetoniana Committee for a sing-along at the Blair Arch Step Sing, where the Class of 2019 learns traditional Tiger songs and cheers. The Class of ’61 and our guests will meet prior to the Pre-rade at Cannon Club for a lunch cookout on the back patio.

L - R, Joe Prather, Jon Hlafter, Jim Kellogg, Patrick & Diane Davidson, Spence Reynolds, Ev Prather, Gail Kellogg, Carol Wojciechowicz,
Kayla Lawrence '15 - our newest Class Fellow, who is teaching 1st and 2nd grades in Jersey City with Teach For America

Attendees in addition to those named in the caption &ndash Howie Harrison, Esther Clovis ’12, Tony Prather *98, his son &ndash and my grandson &ndash Nicholas Prather (hopefully ’27)

Chris Peeler, Jim & Gail Kellogg's grandson

Lindsay Anne Martinez '19, Jim & Joni Lane's granddaughter

Lunch at Cannon Club before Pre-rade
l-r: Diane Davidson, Ev Prather, Gail Kellogg, Carol Woji


I am gearing up for what will be my 4th (and likely my last) trip to Guatemalain February 2014. This mission is sponsored by HELPS, International, a well-knownnon-profit organization providing enduring programs of practical, social and spiritual value to people in the developing world (time for some younger men and women to fill out the team). Last year, our 16-person team installed 100vented stoves ( and water filtration systems in rural Mayan huts in the central highlands of that country. In the rural areas of Guatemala, respiratory illnesses and lung diseases are significant, especially in children, caused in large part by the smoke from unvented open cooking/heating fires on the dirt floors of huts and houses. Water purity-related maladies are also very pronounced due to inaccessibility of potable water. 20% of the children die before age five due to these conditions, and providing a smoke-free environment and clean drinking water has provided a much healthier home environment with measurable positive results. As a result, there are a growing number of Guatemalan families requesting stoves and filters.

The work is accomplished by volunteers who pay their own expenses to serve in this new and different way. The cost of the stoves, other materials/supplies and in-country services/transportation is paid by donations from people wishing to support this wonderful mission. You can send a check, made out to HELPS, International to: Dr. Jim Weeks, 1378 Vermeer Drive, Nokomis, FL 34275. You will also receive an acknowledgement and thank you for your tax-deductible contribution from HELPS, International.

Dick Edmunds - 12/11/13

Dick leveling the cement block foundation of the stove (Note the open fire the stove will replace)

Top of hill above Santa Avelina to complete an installation

Onil Plancha stove installed in Mayan home with white water-filtration unit

Team members moving on dirt paths between installations

Onil Nextamal stove installed outside for use in boiling in large pots

Typical Mayan house

Webb Stevens wrote to Jim Adams (11/14/11): I am writing you now just to ask for your prayers for the safety and success of the mission/adventure I plan to undertake in November. I am inserting below the letter I sent to a few family and friends that more clearly describes our work.  Please be sure to visit the two web pages. They do a fairly good job of explaining the need and of the unique process we will be using.
I will be going to Sierra Leone, West Africa as part of seven-man team from Williamsburg Mennonite Church to spend 10 days building a 36' by 52' women's and under five all purpose clinic to serve orphaned babies and destitute mothers around Bo District in the Southern Province. Sierra Leone has the highest maternal mortality rate in the world.
We will be using 18-pound blocks (30,000+) made from the surrounding earth with a small amount of Portland Cement as a binder and formed using a mechanical press to mold each block under high pressure. Because the blocks need to be cured in the sun for about two weeks, these already will be made when we arrive. No mortar is required because these blocks are interlocking. The block machine and design were developed by a Williamsburg contractor with the assistance of a mechanical engineer in his church  (go to for more details).
The host agency, Fresh Hope Ministries International of Bangor, Northern Ireland (, has planned this clinic as the first stage of an 11-acre complex for an orphanage with school, some women's housing, and training and outreach facilities. So far this block system has been used for small houses in Kenya, Ghana, Haiti and some other countries. Fresh Hope Ministries does not have the resources to finance the project, and so our team members must provide the estimated $3000 each to cover air and ground transportation, room and board, visa and other fees, and other miscellaneous costs as required. I also need to obtain my passport and receive every imaginable inoculation required.
Specifically pray for: safety and health of our team and others involved (there will be nationals assisting us.), success in laying the blocks, designing and building and installing the roof trusses required for such a large span (only 14-foot lumber is available).
These very poor and needy women and children will have their basic needs met, their lives enhanced, and their spirits lifted as a result of the project. I also ask that you consider sending some financial support for my participation in this exciting project. If you are moved to contribute, please send your check payable to: Williamsburg Mennonite Church &ndash Sierra Leone Project and mail to me:
Webb Stevens
4158 Rose Lane
Williamsburg, VA 23188
Please feel to free to call me at 757-566-4292 or send me an email at
Thank you for your prayers and support. God bless you.


Thanks to Phil Shambaugh for submitting these old photos, which he scanned from some old files he found.  Additional names for captions welcome (click here) - 12/22/10

Bill Radebaugh and Phil Shambaugh carrying class flag - 1968 or 69?

Freshman Engineering (Mike Harris, Art Smith, Tom Donnelly)

Canespree tug of war

Headshave Donnelly-Bond 1962

Betsy and I spent a fun-filled 4 days at Yellowstone National Park in mid-February. We snowmobiled about 150 miles in 2 days, saw wolves, bison, elk, coyotes, and so forth. The only difficulty was that all the snow Yellowstone gets in December and January came to the east coast in February! The roads at Yellowstone normally have 5 to 7 feet of packed snow (packed down by snow-cats, snowmobiles, etc.). They had about 12 inches! The roads were bare in spots, and that makes for interesting snow-mobiling! We left Baltimore after the 42 inch snowstorm!

We were based at Yellowstone's northern end, Mammoth Hot Springs Lodge, and snowmobiled to Old Faithful, stayed overnight, and then continued around past Yellowstone Lake to the "Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone" to see the huge waterfalls. We continued around and back to Mammoth. 90 miles in one day..

Photos show bison, a couple of us and other sights. Quite an adventure --first time I've ever driven a snowmobile. The snowmobiles are "environmentally sane", in that they have 4 cycle engines, are well muffled, and one is not allowed go off the road in the park. As a result, the animals just ignore the snowmobiles; one group of bison were on the road as we went by (slowly). Our guide said that if anyone was tempted to pat a bison on the butt, don't!!! [grin!]

Best regards, Art Smith  (4/5/10)

PS: Betsy and I are doing the Midnight Sun Half and Full Marathon in Alaska in June to raise funds for blood cancer research. To learn more about it, and make a donation, go to

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