The Words of the Kovic Family

Ocean Challenge Part 1

James W. Kovic
January 2008

I told you I'd get around to writing about my experience in Ocean Challenge. Did you like how in the last couple of installments in LITUC (Life In The Unification Church) I took the prose and made it into a novelette? That's because my meeting Makiko was a very personal and meaningful experience for me. It was because about one year later I received a letter from her in Japan that she decided to leave the Unification Church and put an end to our marriage.

That upset me greatly and it wasn't until I started writing "Tamara's Journey: The Purging Of A Tyrant" that I really began to understand why she came into my life and left so abruptly. But now, let me continue telling you about what happened to me after leaving MFT in the spring of 1983.

For a brief time I went back to the E-Sun Building, the location of Master Marine in Long Island City, New York. All church members who were coming off of any mission to work with Ocean Challenge for the summer had to get their hands a little itchy and gooey while helping to build the Good Goes. As you can imagine, I was so relieved to get off of MFT and do something different. But it was during my last few days on MFT in Chicago that I received my final letter from Makiko. She made it very clear that she could no longer work in the church any longer and as far as our relationship she saw no other course of action but to terminate that as well.

At the first reading of this letter I was dumbfounded. I don't think it really registered in my mind exactly what was going on here. To my knowledge back then, when a person got married in the Unification Church it was for good, permanent, a solid commitment by two people who had joined this organization to make a change in society. My parents were still together and they stayed together throughout their fifty years of marriage until they both died several years ago. The idea of divorce didn't exist in my mind or my heart. That's why this letter really broke mine. But, again, for some reason I kept this all to myself and buried my feelings. Definitely not my best course of action as I reflect upon it now.

So, I did what a lot of men did when faced with their troubles and in the spirit of the great story told by Herman Melville, the author of "Moby Dick":

"Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp drizzly November in my soul; Whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially when my hypos (Hypos: the lower self, that part of ourselves, possibly our ego, that tends to go against our higher nature.) get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street and methodically knocking people's hats off – then I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can. This is my substitute for pistol and ball."

So, as I think back on that time in my life, it seems quite natural that indeed I "get to sea as soon as I can."

Gloucester, Massachusetts is the epitome of the seaport town. For over three hundred years men have been putting out to sea mostly to fish the abundant waters of Newfoundland and The Grand Banks.

As I mentioned earlier in that six part article, Reverend Moon learned a lot from the guys who would go out on their weekend fishing trips and rod and reel for Blue Fin Tuna. What he learned was not to use a rod and reel. According to Gerhardt Peamuller, Reverend Moon's former bodyguard turned Ocean Challenge professor, Reverend Moon developed a very clever system of hand lines and buoys to catch tuna. He would use a series of five lines using heavy gauge rope that was tied off into successively smaller gauge line until it was tied off to a steel cable with this huge hook attached to the end.

For years, Reverend Moon had studied the behavior of Blue Fin Tuna. Through trial and error he discovered that the tuna don't just swim toward and underneath your boat in a straight line. Blue Fins are a highly intelligent species of fish. What they do is they swim in an upward spiral. So that's the way Reverend Moon designed his system of hand lines.

Most of the line were wound in their own plastic basket that were positioned in the rear of the Good Go boat. But the brilliance of Moon's system wasn't just using hand lines. He'd seen on countless occasions how those weekend fisherman would hook a tuna on their rod and reels only to have it snap their line. He needed strong line to catch the tuna. But there was still another technique that he created.

Each line was successively shorter than the one preceding it. And he also designed it so that the height of the lines below the surface as well as the distance between each line could be adjusted according to sea conditions and water depth. Each line had its own buoy that would mark each line and determine its depth. But enough of the technical stuff. Let's get back to the story, shall we?

After arriving at Gloucester there were about thirty guys beside me who were going to go through the captains training program with Gerhardt Peamuller. There was a reason why Gerhardt was formally one of Reverend Moon's bodyguards. He was a big dude. He was this big German guy with really wide shoulders standing about 6 foot 3. He had been fishing with Reverend Moon for many years.

Gerhardt began teaching us his three day course in boating and safety and then with the aid of some already experienced boat captains we each got some practice driving our own boat. Driving a Good Go is really cool. It's like Reverend Moon invested all of this money to manufacture them at Master Marine and then gave all of us these beautiful 28 foot boats to go fishing in. I mean, how cool is that?

And just to address those people who insist on badmouthing Reverend Moon and The Unification Church; How many spiritual leaders of whom it is their goal in life to brainwash young people to join their organization and slave away to make their money for them, tell me how many of them give their members brand new sport fishing boats and say, "Please go Tuna fishing for the summer out in Gloucester and have fun."

Yea, I'm an ex-Unification Church member but that doesn't mean that I can't express my appreciation of what I experienced and learned. I'm truthful about how I feel about The Unification Church. On one hand my experience there was very important to me but I don't deny that the church has its problems. I insist on being vocal about the problems of the abuse of power that exists in the church but on the other hand there happens to be a lot of good that the church has done.

I think it's important that existing church members recognize this paradox within their organization. And I think it's important that those outside the movement whether they be ex-Moonies or people who have always not liked the church understand that along with the dark side of this organization there is a man named Sun Myung Moon who for over sixty years has felt called by God and Jesus Christ to a very important mission. It's sheer ignorance for people to deny this just as its sheer ignorance for existing members to pretend that the problems don't exist and naively defend their spiritual leader.

Now, Ocean Challenge is the name of this annual summer ocean training program that operates in Gloucester. Reverend Moon began this program to be an opportunity to train young people on fishing boats and be a way for them to learn and incorporate moral teachings in their lives. It started out as something that usually only Unification Church members would do but eventually I began to see more and more people who weren't members joining Ocean Challenge.

My first assignment was on a boat with a Frenchman named Jean Francois Franklin. He seemed like the quintessential Frenchman. Highly independent, clever and funny. After a week we went out to The Northwest Corner. The Northwest Corner is this huge bank, a rise in the ocean floor where the depth of the water was around a hundred feet, ideal for Blue Fin Tuna fishing. So we set our course for the Northwest Corner and anchored up with the rest of the fisherman out there.

The first week was kind of slow. However, on this one particular day, Jean Francois hesitated to go out with the rest of the fleet. The chum (fish used to cut off and throw into the water to attract the bigger fish) had run out and we didn't have nearly enough to see us through the day. So we waited until the delivery truck came. By then it was around eleven o'clock. We got our frozen box of chum and headed out to sea.

When we arrived at the fishing grounds it was very crowded so we anchored up outside of most of the boats. We didn't have a very good spot but soon that would change. After we set out our lines and waited awhile there was a strike. One of our Good Go boats hooked a tuna. Being the clever Frenchman that he was, Jean Francois fired up the engine and slowly motored over to where that boat had gotten off its anchor.

You see, when a boat hooks a fish one of the first things the first mate does is detach the anchor from the boat and let it stay there being marked by one of these big orange buoy balls. Then after getting the fish you can come back for it later. But it is also permissible for any of the other boats in our fleet to come over, as Jean was, and take the anchor and get this guys spot. The reasoning is that if that boat caught a tuna surely another boat could too. So that's what we did.

So, after I pulled up the buoy ball with the boat hook and tied it off to the cleat on the bow of the boat, Jean and I set out our lines again.

Not twenty minutes went by when I saw one of the most awesome things in my youthful 24 years of life. Up above in the sky I saw a rainbow ring around the sun. There was one other time in my life in the church that I saw this and that was on my birthday in 1979 at one of the church's workshop sites in northern California. A rainbow that circles the sun is nothing less than a very spiritual sign from Heaven and in this case an omen.

Ten minutes after this miraculous sight I heard the snap of one of the clips that held one of the hand lines to its basket. The line was running out very quickly as Jean Francois barked orders to let go of the anchor and pull in all of the other lines. I untied the anchor, letting it go but then as our boat was drifting I stepped onto the deck in back of the boat that was littered with line as Jean was working to bring the tuna in. We were bumping into each other and even more line was cluttering up the deck. It was dangerous.

Just imagine, if you will, had I or Jean been unlucky enough to step into a loop from the line that the tuna was on. As Jean was pulling in the line the tuna could make a mad dash to try to get away. If that happened the slack in the line would be taken up, wrapping tightly around the person's ankle and take him overboard. It was pandemonium and utter confusion. At this rate we might just lose the damn fish.

Gerhardt Peamuller, who was on the New Hope, motored over to us to see if he could help. Then when the New Hope got within a few feet of us this big German guy jumped on board and grabbed the line from Jean Francois so that he and I could work to get the rest of the lines in. When we did, Gerhardt seemed to have it under control and so he graciously put it back in our hands and got back on the New Hope.

Jean took the fight to the bow and then after a half hour I took over and it went on and on like that for about two hours. In the end the fish weighed in at 550 lbs. So just imagine a 550 lb fish who just loves to swim at around 50 miles per hour; imagine the torque of such a fish as that as we're trying to pull him in. And then realize that the one we caught is actually small in comparison to the ones that weighed in at over 1000 lbs. To say we were thoroughly exhausted was an understatement.

Well, we finally got it within about a few feet of our boat and then I got out the boat hook so that I could bring him closer. Then we inserted a line through his gills and one around his tail and tied him to the cleats along side of the boat just low enough in the water so to make sure that he stay cool for the trip home.

Fishing for tuna in Ocean Challenge isn't just sports fishing. We were always told that it's a very sacred act that we're involved in. I'm not so sure I understood all of that but a very important protocol that is performed is the bleeding of the tuna and offering a prayer to God for allowing us to catch it. As I think back on it now from wisdom I've learned since then this is all very very interesting actually.

Blood is a very sacred thing. Although this has never been thoroughly or even vaguely explained to us in The Unification Church, human and animal blood is very sacred. And this is why.

Blood gives us and all animals life. Within the blood that runs in our veins is iron. Everybody knows this. You need to have a certain amount of iron in your diet to stay healthy. But why? Iron running in the blood in our veins allows our bodies to maintain it's electromagnetic field without which our energy would be greatly depleted. Our blood connects us with the Earth and through our relationship with Earth we maintain a healthy physical, mental, spiritual and emotional integrity.

The blood of a woman when she menstruates every month is, until this knowledge was suppressed by our modern world, very important and potent. You have to really take a course in Anatomy and Physiology to get a grip about the importance of blood but that's the gist of it. So it is with humans, animals and Blue Fin Tuna.

After tying up the Tuna the captain takes his knife and makes an incision into the belly of the fish and it bleeds. It also allows the fish to cool off from all of that hard swimming around in the ocean especially when trying to fend itself from us, the fishermen. But in the end we offer the catch of this precious animal who exhibited such majesty to it's creator and the spirit of the Tuna releases itself to the heavens.

Combined with our exhaustion and emotions which ran hot and high while fighting the Tuna this was a very meaningful and emotional moment. 

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