Cermele: Coffee with the Monster Man

If you haven't heard, legendary shark-fishing pioneer Frank Mundus passed away last Wednesday at 82 years old. He became known as the "Monster Man" in the 1950s and 60s marketing charters out of Montauk, NY, as "Monster Fishing," routinely bringing giant great white and mako sharks back to the dock to throngs of spectators. Mundus was also the inspiration for the Quint character in Jaws_--his boat, the _Cricket II, was the model for Quint's Orca.

Mundus_fightingchair_5

Considering that Jaws is my all-time favorite movie, I'm proud to say that I had the opportunity to fish (kinda, read on) with Mundus a few years ago when he returned to Montauk for a few special charters after being in retirement for over a decade. I thought I'd share a quick story from that trip, as it has stuck out in my mind more than any of his crazy banter about how Jaws was completely innaccurate and his tales of landing a great white over 3,000 pounds.

The Cricket II was then owned by Captain Joe DiBella, who really didn't get along with Mundus, but agreed to run the boat while Mundus worked the deck and entertained the clients below. Well, we broke the inlet and were met by a 30 mph head wind, 8-foot seas, and a driving rain. But, being that this boat was a beast, it cut through the nastiness like butter. Then about ten miles out, DiBella slowed the boat, came down from the bridge and called us all out on deck...Mundus stayed inside.

DiBella was spooked by the seas and explained that conditions would only worsen. He thought we should turn around.

"This is the most stable G--damned boat on the ocean!," Mundus roared from the cabin. "There ain't nothing wrong with these seas. It's fine out here."

"Don't listen to him," DiBella pleaded, clearly showing his disdain for Mundus.

So we stood silently in the downpour, not sure who to believe. I wanted to press on, but two in our party were already sick beyond repair. Then Mundus came outside.

"I'll make you a deal," he said, setting his cup of coffee on the engine box. "If one drop of that coffee spills, I'll refund your whole $2,000 for this trip." Then he went back in the cabin as we stared at the cup. When the boat dipped between the swells, all you saw was water on either side of the gunwales, but the coffee cup never budged. It was a gutsy move, and it proved Mundus knew his vessel well and had full confidence in her abilities. Unfortunately, my party collectively decided to head in anyway, even though Frank and I voted "nay."

So I ask you, do you have that kind of intimate relationship with your boat? Do you know exactly what she's capable of? Or are you like me and constantly nervous that some engine alarm will sound 30 miles offshore or the bilge pump will stop running?

And Frank, I hope there are big makos in the pond in the sky.

JC