Joan Alum, a Captain from Costa Brava That Mixes Fishing with Design

Wild, that’s probably one way to describe him. Quite appropriate as well since he lived most of his life in the Spanish “wild coast”, literally translated as Costa Brava – a 160 km coastline from the town of Blanes (sixty minutes north of Barcelona) to the French border. This is rugged land, rocky hills and green mountains rising from golden beaches – yet another reason why we oh so love the Mediterranean.

Capt. Joan (yes he’s a guy, and yes you pronounced it right, according to him it’s Jo as in Janis JO-plin, and yes he listens to Janis Joplin) is a Costa Brava native with a firecracker of a personality that rivals the annual Fireworks Festival of his hometown Blanes. A graphic designer by profession, his day job includes running a small design company in his hometown.
But like so many others who grew up with the smell of salt in air, he couldn’t resist the call of the sea. Blanes, after all, was a fishing village before tourists knew of its beaches. He has the passion and enthusiasm for fishing that rubs off you even if you’re time zones apart. We had the privilege of hearing how he came to love fishing and how he goes by doing the thing he loves most.

Fishfishme: Where were you born?
Capt. Joan: In Blanes, the first town of Costa Brava.

Fishfishme: Where is home for you?
Capt. Joan: Blanes. I was living in Girona while I’m in University and in Olot when I was at Graphic Design School. Both places don’t have a sea! You can feel this… it’s like you don’t have any reference, I feel lost. I can’t smell any salt in the wind!

Fishfishme: What is it about home that you’re most proud of?
Capt. Joan: In Blanes you have the sea and the mountains in five minutes. The landscape is unique and amazing, the gastronomy, the art, traditions and history, all of it! And we have one of the most important Botanical Gardens of the world. Obviously it’s my home so I’m probably biased, but I think that it’s a great place to be.09-nordkapp_sol2


Fishfishme: Tell us a bit about your background and why you became a fisherman?
Capt. Joan: I don’t remember when I became a fisherman. My father went fishing, so did my grandpa. When I was young I thought that everybody was doing this. I’ve owned 8 boats in my life, I had the first one when I was 16. It was a small dinghy with a 4 HP outboard.

Fishfishme: As a child, what are your best memories about fishing?
Capt. Joan: I think my earliest memories were always about fishing. I remember fishing with friends at the harbor maybe when I was 6 or 7 years old. My father died when I was very young and he left a huge garage with plenty of fishing equipment. I was more than curious and started investigating what all of those things were!

Fishfishme: What’s the best fishing advice you’ve learned from your dad or grandpa?
Capt. Joan: My grandpa died when I was 5, and my dad when I was 6. So the advice came from my mom and grandma, and it’s always about security. They were always worried when I would go fishing. I always hear them saying “When the sea says ‘go home’, just go home. Respect the sea, don’t ever be afraid, only be prudent.”


Fishfishme: What’s the worst fishing experience you’ve had?
Capt. Joan: I’ve never had a bad experience. I suppose the years were kind to me, and the advice from my mom and grandma also helped. Just some little storms that made you arrive late at home. One of my friends had a triple hook nailed unto his two fingers when he tried to take off a Rapala from a tuna. That day was still great though, and it doesn’t affect you as much when the fingers aren’t yours. Nothing serious, of course, but he learned a couple of things!tuna
The worst experience that I remember was a rescue from a big sea storm back in 2006. It was a sunny day without wind, but ironically the waves were very high, and a lot of people want to see the waves from the port’s wall. Suddenly a huge wave took three people down the wall. I was with my wife and my daughter watching the waves and we saw the people falling. Then I saw a friend going out alone to rescue the people with his inflatable and I went to help him. We were the first to go out to them. Unfortunately they all died, it was tragic. When we were smothered by the wave, the sun disappeared! It was unbelievable.

Fishfishme: Best customer you’ve had?
Capt. Joan: I can’t say just one. For me the best is the one that comes to have a great day talking, fishing, sharing things with you, asking about the zone and fish.

Fishfishme: Worst customer you’ve had?
Capt. Joan: The one that only wants to kill a fish. Unfortunately, there are plenty of people with this obsession. I like fishing a lot, but in a charter you can do so many other things you can enjoy.24-trolling3


Fishfishme: What is your favorite fish and why?
Capt. Joan: Of course the tuna! Just thinking about how it fights then catching it, it’s very exciting and feels more rewarding than catching a thousand other smaller fish!13-tonyina05


Fishfishme: There are people who genuinely love the sea. Would you consider yourself as one of them?
Capt. Joan: Absolutely! For me the sea is a reference, a place of peace. Being near the sea, hearing the waves, looking at a storm… I feel at home. I can’t stand being away far from the sea!

Fishfishme: Was the sea always kind to you? Or did she ever become difficult?
Capt. Joan: The sea is always the sea. You can’t think that you are bigger than she (by the way, here when we talk about the sea, it’s always “she”). You must adapt. If you can’t understand this, you will have a lot of problems.11-dofins011


Fishfishme: How badly were you affected by the storm that hit your town in December 2008? It was reported to be the strongest in decades.
Capt. Joan: Bufff. I remember the day exactly! It was the birthday of my wife. December 26th. She’s from Tossa de Mar, a small town 18 km at the north of Blanes. Every year we go to her parent’s home to celebrate it. On the road with my mother we saw a big container ship very close to the coast, and I thought to myself, there must be a very big storm in the high seas, but the sea near the coast was calm. The travel was around 30 minutes from Blanes to Tossa, and when we arrived it seems like the end of the world. There’s a little bay in Tossa covered by a small cape with an ancient castle on the top. The waves jumped up the castle, and destroy all the wooden boats of the old fishermen laying on the sand. The ancient boat of my wife’s family was completely destroyed. They are fishermen from long time ago, her grandmother was 92 years old and she can’t remember a storm like that! I suppose it’s a reminder that the water gives us so much pleasure, especially fishing, but she is also a force to be reckoned with, so we must respect her.

Fishfishme: Would you consider fishing as a form of art? If not, what do you think makes it so addictive to men?
Capt. Joan: Fishing is just fishing! You can learn a lot by fishing but not only technical things like knots or spots. Sometimes I think that people like fishing for a lot of reasons: just for fun, to show that your fish is bigger than mine, to escape, as a challenge to him. I don’t know exactly why I am fishing nowadays… I always think that is like breathing. I can do it forever!

Fishfishme: What is it about fishing that you love so much?
Capt. Joan: I think that is a challenge. From my point of view fishing should not just be for the sake of fishing. It should be go when and where the fish is. You must adapt depending on the season. And the feeling of freedom when you are on high seas, it’s amazing.

Fishfishme: Why Nordkapp? It’s Finnish isn’t it? What does it mean?
Capt. Joan: It’s the name of the vessel. We need a name for the company and why not this? And we like it, it means North Cape. It’s a tribute, we try to give love to our boat so he will be good with us!cover 2


Fishfishme: So far, how’s your experience with Fishfishme?
Capt. Joan: We are just starting, but I feel that it could be nice. I love people who work with enthusiasm and I think that we share this point of view.

Fishfishme: Given the chance, regardless of anything, what is your biggest dream?
Capt. Joan: My dream is to have a bigger boat, more knowledge, friends to share them, and that my son would like the sea just like me. And now I’m living my dream!
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Fishfishme: Anything you’d like your children to learn about fishing? What advise can you give the next generation about taking care of the sea?
Capt. Joan: As somebody said, “Nothing is forever.” We can’t think that the sea is something infinite. When I see old pictures of fish during my father’s time, my grandpa, and my wife’s family, it’s obvious that we can’t wait any more, we need to stop overfishing and using the sea as the biggest dump in the world. There used to be sea turtles, seals, red coral, giant groupers in these waters. Nowadays we don’t have these. And I’m not talking about 100 years ago! In the last 40-50 years we’ve wiped much them. My grandma says “The sea, sooner or later, returns all.” So give some love to the sea, and she, in return, will give us satisfaction and happiness.
profile Camera shy, Capt. Joan prefers to be on the back of the camera.
Join him aboard his 9-meter “Nordkapp” and spend your day fishing for Yellowfin and Bluefin tuna, Dorado, Albacore, Bonito and other game fish found in Costa Brava. You can find out more about Nordkapp by visiting Fishfishme.com

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