I thought the next post in this blog was going to be Part 2 of my Victorinox Swiss Army Knife two-parter, but I am interrupting my normally scheduled programming to bring you this post. I was invited by a friend at work to join a fishing party on a Thursday morning, and I was only too happy to accept. Fishing for salmon in Lake Michigan is simply too much fun to remain unremarked, and of course I have some thoughts about the watch I wore for this particular adventure, the Sinn EZM 3.
If you are unfamiliar with Great Lakes history, it's useful to recall how Pacific salmon ended up in the lakes in the first place. Through the 1950s, the native lake trout was the sport fish species in the Lakes. But overfishing and an invasive parasitic eel-like creature called the sea lamprey combined to drastically reduce their numbers. Worse, another invasive species, a herring called the alewife, then found its way into the lakes through man-made shipping channels such as the St. Lawrence Seaway. The Alewife population exploded without any natural predators, and beach-ruining die-offs became an annual event in Michigan. Tourism in the Great Lakes State declined as our beaches became spoiled with the rotting Alewife carcasses.
Faced with a declining (and entrenched) professional fishing industry, declining tourism, and an imbalanced ecosystem, Michigan made the bold decision to stock the lakes with coho and chinook salmon. The idea was to take care of the alewife population and transform its fisheries economy into a sport fishing industry at the same time. This bold and risky plan worked, and Michigan's sport fishing industry remains a multi-billion-dollar one to this day.
I had been wearing my EZM 3 a lot, so didn't really need to consider what watch would make a good companion for this particular adventure. It's difficult to find a watch that more easily fills that One Watch lifestyle than the EZM 3. Regular readers will know I have a set of somewhat fluid criteria against which to evaluate One Watch candidates. The EZM 3 has been around for a long time, and you can still buy one brand new today. It's been reviewed countless times, so I won't attempt to add anything new in the way of a review of it here. If you aren't familiar with the EZM 3, here 's a quick review of how it stacks up against the Rover Haven One Watch Criteria:
- Reasonable size. For me this is about 40-42 mm, although I'm flexible since one number never tells a watch's whole story. The EZM 3 is a very comfortable 40 mm in diameter, and it's somewhat slim (for a dive watch) at about 12 mm tall. It's very comfortable and wears great on the wrist.
- Good water resistance. A One Watch watch needs to have at least 100 m of water resistance since my life involves a lot of water-based opportunities. The EZM 3 has a somewhat ridiculous WR of 500 m. What I think is so interesting about this is that the case doesn't appear to be anything special. It's not huge, or tall, or chunky. It's just an engineering masterpiece, apparently.
- Strap flexibility. I'm not much of a bracelet guy and I'm not really a rubber strap guy either, so for me a watch has to wear well on nylon straps and leather straps. If a watch isn't strap-friendly, this is a deal killer for consideration as a One Watch watch. Happily, the EZM 3 wears very nicely on Rover Haven Arts & Crafts straps and nylon NATO straps.
- Better than average lume. The ability to read my watch upon waking up in the middle of the night to leave for a fishing trip (4:30 AM in this case) is a key characteristic for me. The EZM 3 glows like the proverbial torch.
- Strong legibility. I've had some really cool watches, but I've learned that if a watch isn't easily read at a glance, it just won't last with me. The EZM 3 was designed with legibility in mind, so it should go without saying that it possesses this key characteristic in spades.
- Rotating bezel. A good One Watch watch will have some means of quickly and easily measuring short intervals of time. For me, this is a count-up or count-down bezel, and the EZM 3's dive bezel has a very nice action.
- Date. A good watch must have a date indicator to be considered for admission into the One Watch Club. I don't really care where it is, as long as it isn't Sore Thumb Ugly. The EZM 3's red date wheel at 3:30 is extremely subtle. There when you need it, unobtrusive when you don't.
- Drilled lugs. Since this has become so rare on new watches these days, it's bonus point territory only. Sadly, the Sinn EZM 3 lacks drilled lugs.
My friend and I agreed to meet at 5:30 that morning and carpool to the dock, where our charter captain planned a 6 AM departure. In our barely-caffeinated state we loaded ourselves and our belongings onboard the Tiara'em Up in Holland, Michigan, and shoved off to putter through Lake Macatawa at dawn. About 15 or 20 minutes later, we were past the pier and in the open waters of Lake Michigan.
The skipper took us out to a water depth of about 180 feet, which is about 7 miles offshore. The mate had readied multiple lines, down riggers, and lures and the fishing began in earnest. With the sun just barely up, it was still a chilly experience even with the boat trawling along at low speed. My buddy had brought some chocolate chip cookies that his thoughtful and generous wife had baked, but no one had a thermos of coffee, so I gave up any thoughts of ever being properly caffeinated that day and went for the other beverage that goes so well with chocolate chip cookies, beer.
About 15-20 minutes in, one of the lines popped and the mate shouted "Fish on!" My buddy hollered "Put your beer down!" while the mate thrust a pole into my hand and just that fast I was reeling against a fish as it battled to escape. The fish had taken a lure on a relatively close-in line, so after only about 5-10 minutes, I landed a beautiful chinook salmon.
My second opportunity came a short time later, but this fish had taken a lure on one of the farther-out lines. The counter on the reel started at 280 feet, and I quickly set the bezel on the EZM 3 to measure my elapsed time-to-success. After about 20 minutes the fish broke the surface with about 180 feet left to reel. My left arm was aching and burning, as it bears the load of the effort while you reel with your right hand. At 25 minutes and with 110 feet remaining, I felt a giant shake and tug and then suddenly, nothing. The beast had shaken itself free, and my EZM 3 captured the elapsed time-to-disappointment instead. By this time I was happy to sit down and have another Lager of the Lakes. Meanwhile, my friends took their turns and the sun rose higher in the sky. Fish after fish was landed and placed in the cooler.
And so it went all morning. My next opportunity came only about 25 minutes later, and was also on one of the farther-out lines. The reel's counter read 330 feet and the fish felt like a Volkswagen-sized Moby Dick. Still, I was determined to land this fish. My left arm ached and burned, and long-forgotten passages from The Old Man and the Sea, a book I hated in high school, came back to me with new meaning.
After what felt like an eternity, but was in fact about 56 minutes, I brought a beautiful 20-lb chinook onboard. Let me tell you, Lager of the Lakes never tasted so good!
As noon approached, our charter was up and the mate pulled and stowed gear while the skipper headed us back into port. All told, our party of four had landed 10 chinook salmon and 2 lake trout. Once the boat was tied up, the mate took the fish to the cleaning station for processing. Using a razor sharp machete-sized fillet knife, he skillfully filleted each fish, and slid the carcass into a disposal chute where it was instantly macerated and sent to the City of Holland's sanitary sewer. The whole process was amazingly efficient and nuisance-free.
Next to us, another boat's mate was processing his patron's catch, and I noticed that he'd found and discarded a couple sea lamprey. It's a reminder of the peril that the Great Lakes face if not managed responsibly. These creatures look like something out of a Ridley Scott movie. I picked it up off the floor and dropped it into the disposer where it was instantly liquefied. Take that, alien invader.
Back home that evening, the EZM 3 comes in handy timing our first of many grilled salmon dinners to come. Sometimes, when you least expect it, life is just really good.
And that concludes this post on a slice of life with the brilliant Sinn EZM 3. Check back next time for the second of my two-part post on Victorinox SAKs, and please feel free to leave your comments below. Thanks for reading my blog!