Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Voices from the Past: The Final Request of William C. Boschen (1919)

The following article was published in the December 1919 The American Angler chronicling the final request of the famed angler and tackle inventor William C. Boschen. Since I had not seen this before, I thought I'd share it with anyone as it gives a lot of history to Boschen and the "B-Ocean" reel which he invented, with its incredibly influential Star Drag which is still in use today.

It was the last request of William C. Boschen—the famous angler whose chief sport was sea fishing for big game fish—that within a reasonable time after his death, his ashes should be cast upon the ocean, on the course which he usually followed when enjoying the superb pastime to be found off the coast of Catalina Island, California. Mr. Boschen died on November 15, 1918, and in compliance with his final wishes the well known Captain George C. Farnsworth, of the launch Mabel F., fishing friend of the late New York sea angler, proceeded to carry out the directions as set forth. We quote the popular "Catalina Islander" of November 11, 1919, giving a graphic description of the faithful manner in which Captain Farnsworth fulfilled his promise to his departed friend.—Editor.

November 1, 1919.

Mr. Ernest Windle,

Avalon, Cal.

Dear Mr. Windle:

The late Mr. W.C. Boschen left the following definite instructions as to the disposal of his ashes:

That George C. Farnsworth, with the launch Mabel F., was to go to the Tuna Club float at 8:30 A. M., and the ashes were to be delivered to him there. He was then to proceed alone, following a certain course and to a certain point, which he and Mr. Boschen alone knew, and after reaching such point was to put the ashes overside.

It was Mr. Boschen's expressed desire that no ceremony of any kind should take place in connection with the carrying out of his wishes.

In accordance with the above instructions, at 8:30 o'clock this morning I delivered the ashes to Mr. Farnsworth at the Tuna Club float, and he in turn has carried out Mr. Boschen's instructions. I am writing you this and request that you publish this letter in full in an early edition of The Catalina Islander, in order that Mr. Boschen's friends may know in what manner his ashes were disposed of and the reasons for the procedure adopted.

Thanking you for your attention,

Faithfully yours,

Ralph Bandini.


William C. Boschen, Of New York, Who Passed Away On November 15, 1918

When The Catalina Islander received the above communication from Mr. Ralph Bandini, the launch Mabel F., with Captain George C. Farnsworth alone in the boat, was disappearing rapidly toward San Juan Capistrano on the mainland, the course usually taken by William C. Boschen on his fishing trips. Some ten miles from Avalon the course was changed to describe a circle toward the northwest. Then the craft and the lone boatman was lost to view. The Mabel F. entered Avalon Bay at 2:30 in the afternoon, after completing its mission. The day had been calm--the sky cloudless--the sea as blue as any day during the summer season. It is denied that the ashes of Mr. Boschen were placed were placed on the Pacific near the scene of conflict between the great swordfish (463-pound Xiphias gladius) and Mr. Boschen during the summer of 1917.

After his return, Captain Farnsworth said:

"At the regular trolling speed, I left Avalon, and when about a mile from the Tuna Club I opened the container and placed it on the chair on which he used to sit. Everything was done exactly as though he were in the boat. A flying fish rose from the water, and I said, 'There goes the first one.'

"I kept the first ten miles of the course toward the hills of Santa Ana, then turned northwest to cross the steamer course. It was 11:25 when I passed this point, indicated when 'Razor Back' of Santa Catalina shows half way between the third and fourth steps, with 'Black Jack' mountain to the left. It was a place where tuna and swordfish usually appeared at that hour, in the fishing season.

"It was where the boys of the steamer used to signal to us if they had seen swordfish and tuna after leaving the Breakwater. Occasionally, Harry Allen, on board the steamer, threw us a morning paper; and if bait had been scarce in Avalon, we would have them drop bait from the steamer—barracuda, mackerel, etc.

"After the steamer had passed, I shut off the engine and put up the American flag, and the Tuna Club swordfish and tuna flags. Just then a species of gull, which used to follow us for miles while we fed them, hovered above the launch and finally dropped on the water near by me.

"Then I put out the lunch, as I had done each day for the past six years when he fished from my boat. I placed the knife and spoon, glass and food, just as he had used them in life.

"In silence I ate my lunch; then smoked a cigar, fed the bird, and watched four whales that were close to me, two of them circling the boat within a hundred feet, while a school of tuna rose astern, about two hundred feet away. Truly, it was one of 'Boschen's days.'

"Aloud I said, 'I don't see a better time to carry out your wishes than the present moment.'

"Then I took the container from the chair and gently emptied the ashes on the blue surface. They floated off as I dropped the container and the food into the water.

"When I had complied with his last wish, I sat thinking over the past days for almost an hour.

"All the time when traveling over the course—about forty miles—we had so often gone together, I called attention to the various species of fish as we passed them. At these times, when I saw a swordfish, I would say to him, 'Our friend, the enemy, is in sight;' and when I saw tuna or a whale, etc., I used to say, 'Our friends are in sight.' And it is a coincidence, that only 'our friends' were in sight while I carried out his last wish.

"I pictured Mr. Boschen in his quiet way, standing in the stern of my launch putting on his belt and getting ready for the particular kind of fish he wanted to catch.

"He did not talk very much, but the first day we went fishing in the season of 1918—July 1, I think it was—we went over the same course I took today, and he then asked me to carry out his request. That day he told me about the operation he expected to have performed in November, and said that his doctors told him he could have one more year to fish. So he took the last few months, and let his chance for life wait until the angling season closed.

"His great ambition was to land the record tuna, and he worked very hard during the season of 1918 to do so. We arrived at Avalon last year with 102 tuna in three months, the largest one weighing 145 3/4 pounds. We hooked over 300 tuna that season. He never complained when a fish got off his hook or beat him in the fight; just quietly rebaited his hooks or put on new leaders. And no matter how many fish we had lost during the day, his last words as he left me for the night were, 'Never mind; we'll give them ___ tomorrow!'

"He told me to go over the same course alone, and asked that I spend the day just as if he were in the boat. His rod was near the fishing seat all the time. He passed away five days after the operation was performed—November 15, 1918."

Mr. Boschen loved the sea. To him it was more than "water and big fish"; more than strife and conflict. About Santa Catalina Island he found peace and quiet that charmed him beyond words. The sea to him was all that rural life is to the Nature lover; and it had for him beauties not to be found on land. Of those beauties, Mr. Boschen once wrote to these columns: "But the spirit is there—the love of blue water, sky, cloud effect, and the glorious hills of Catalina, with their changing colors and sometimes weird outlines. There never was such a place! . . .

"Oh, Catalina! Beloved Isle! ..."

For the season of 1915 Mr. Boschen took the largest tuna (138 pounds) and the largest marlin swordfish (285 pounds). In 1913 he captured the largest Xiphias gladius, 355 pounds, and in 1917 one weighing 463 pounds, which still stands as the world's record for that variety of fish. The Tuna Club "Boschen Swordfish Trophy" for exceeding the record is probably the dream of many enthusiastic rodmen.

Few men who visit Catalina waters have the endurance to combat these vicious swordfish for the time usually necessary to conquer them. For ninety consecutive days Mr. Boschen and his boatman covered the forty-mile course in search of tuna and swordfish. In the Mabel F. the two men would leave Avalon and return after a day spent on the ocean, sometimes with great catches of fish, fatigued and soaking wet, and at other times the fish had escaped.

Mr. Boschen was the inventor of the B-Ocean tuna and swordfish reel. He was a physical giant, over six feet in height, a great admirer of Izaak Walton, and a close observer of the wonderful beauties that Nature reveals to those who appreciate and protect her.

The surge of the sea his requiem,

The Pacific a lasting tomb.

-- Dr. Todd

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