In Memory of Boyd Grant

Ken Jones

Staff member
It's been five years now since we scattered the ashes of our dear friend Boyd Grant into the Pacific from the Goleta Pier. Herein, a few words that I wrote in my autobiography (and be sure to read the poem at the end):


Boyd Grant — January 2019 would see us celebrate the life of one of my best friends Boyd Grant who had passed away in November. He was one of my earliest followers on PFIC ( and we quickly became friends and fellow pier enthusiasts. In time he would be “The Man” for the Goleta Pier. In time, when UPSAC was able to establish an Angler Center on the Goleta Pier, he was also the one who would run the center and pretty much do all the work.

One of the things I most liked about Boyd was his attitude toward life, something that matched his “hippie” nature. His favorite words were: “There is more to fishing than catching... slow down and enjoy the whole of creation. You only go around once.” Those words well described Boyd’s outlook on life and though he was hard working, dedicated to many different causes, and unflinching in his search to improve the environment, he also took the time to sit back and enjoy the world around him.

Most special, I think, was the time he spent at the Goleta Pier and the times he could sit back and simply enjoy the scenes at the pier. The excitement of a large fish, or the mystery involved when an unknown species was pulled up to the pier. The always interesting visits to the pier’s waters by the cetaceans, the dolphins and whales. The funny antics of the sometimes too intrusive pelicans and the not-so-funny sea gulls and cormorants.

Sometimes it was the people, the lovers strolling hand in hand out to the end of the pier, sometimes those who were young and fresh on the journey, sometimes the elderly who had survived the journey. At times it was the joy of watching fellow anglers. A child’s first fish, a friend’s prize catch, or the shared frustration when the “fish just weren’t biting.”

Sometimes it was something as simple as the beautiful sunsets that could provide a spectacular end to a long day at the pier. Santa Barbara, Goleta and the Goleta Pier—it’s not a bad area to spend a few days—or years.

In 1997, I began the Pier Fishing In California website, a site much more simple than that seen today. It didn’t even have a message board but I did try to post monthly pier reports. An early question for those who watched the site was help with the monthly reports and I needed some local reporters.

Then, on July 4, 1997, I received the following Email from Boyd: “Thank you for capturing in words so many of my impressions from almost 50 years of fishing that historical pier. My father first fished the wharf with his father before 1920... By the way—I’m 53—I started fishing the Wharf when I was 5. And yes, I still fish one of the local piers at least once a week. For the past 7-8 years I fished Goleta exclusively trying to recapture the morning when I took 3 10#+ shovelnose sharks off the west side 3/4th of the way out. I was using 20# mono and anchovy cut bait, casting out over the kelp (which follows the outfall line). Apparently they were congregating there (late spring) and for weeks I had been taking 3-4 pounders. I got 13#s of tail meat. Goleta hasn't been too hot this year so I went back to the wharf starting 3 weeks ago—my first day (in search of some action ... ANY action!) resulted in 16 small (9-11”) calico bass, 2 mackerel, 1 small shovelnose, 2 white croakers and a senorita fish. I’ve been there 4-5 more times since and the calico and mackerel action has been consistent. That first weekend a woman tourist snagged a baby whale that took out several hundred yards of line before it surfaced and the line broke—maybe it was 15’ long. By the end of the day it had become (for her) a 30’ blue whale. Guess it just goes to show any fish, no matter how big, can always stand some exaggeration.” Boyd

That Email message was only the first of literally hundreds (if not thousands) of messages over the years. And, it would begin a friendship that lasted more than two decades.

PFIC did eventually get a message board and an early discussion concerned Boyd and his residence on “Pier Street” in Carpinteria. His friend Sinker said, “You gotta love being a pier fisherman and living on Pier Street.” His friend Gordo Grande said, “That's just too cool!!!!!” And everyone seemed to want to live on “Pier Street” (I know I did). Meanwhile Boyd decided to give he and his friend GreenRag the name “Pier Street Irregulars.” It just all seemed right.

Though the messages continued, they evolved into much more than simple fish reports. Adopting the screen name Pierhead, Boyd became one of the most valued and respected members of the Pier Fishing In California family. His reports were accurate, his comments insightful, and his advice generally heeded. They reflected his beliefs on how the pier environment could be improved and how to actually make those improvements.

He was part of the early group that helped shape the ethos of PFIC. It was a group that not only stressed the joy and value of recreational fishing, both for individuals and family, but it also brought into play the ethical approach that anglers should apply to the sport—and Boyd was a leading exponent of that view.

His ideas provided me with insights on his philosophy of life and helped me gain an appreciation for Boyd as a person, one who was willing to “make the walk as well as talk the talk.” Boyd was basically an old hippie and we disagreed on several issues (especially abortion) but that didn’t stop the friendship.

For myself, looking back on our collaboration over the years, I can see that although I often did most of the writing and the talking (he preferred to take a behind the scenes approach), much of the message came from Boyd. I would have an idea, call Boyd, and generally he would offer new, different or additional insights that I hadn’t considered. Early on that collaboration resulted in “The Pier Rats Code” which is still posted on PFIC to this day. The code reflects an ethical approach to angling and though written by me reflects Boyd’s philosophy and outlook toward fishing in every paragraph. I think it also reflects Boyd’s even larger views about life and leading one’s life in an ethical manner.

Without Boyd we may never have started United Pier and Shore Anglers of California (UPSAC) in 2003. His ideas, support, and sometimes prodding were invaluable in moving the organization from a “thought” into reality. And once started, his time on the Board of Directors for over a decade, helped shape the organization given his ideas and direction. He offered up valuable insights time after time.

Without Boyd UPSAC may not have obtained a grant from the Channel Islands Marine Sanctuary Foundation and been able to develop and give the educational classes at Goleta Pier (Goleta Pier—A Learning Platform).

Without Boyd we would never have had the outstanding “Get Togethers” that took place in Goleta in 2003, 2004 and 2005. And, without Boyd, we could never have had the successful Kid’s Fishing Derby that took place at Goleta in 2010.

Perhaps most important, without Boyd we would certainly never have been able to have the UPSAC Angler Center on the Goleta Pier. The center, which opened in 2008, was the direct result of Boyd’s vision and passion for the pier and was the culmination of Boyd’s dream. He became the “Pier Host” and would spend hour after hour on the pier—cleaning it, policing it, answering questions about the pier and fishing, teaching newbie anglers how to fish, and trying to provide a pier environment that everyone could appreciate.

In November 2010, UPSAC received a “Commendation” from the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors. It thanked UPSAC, Boyd, and myself for several things. Among the stated accomplishments:
• WHEREAS, UPSAC volunteers have staffed the Goleta Pier Angler Center... and have provided instructions to over 2,000 children and youth since the Goleta Pier Angler Center was opened and
• WHEREAS, UPSAC and County Parks have also used the Goleta Angler Center as a center for special events such as an annual Goleta Pier Youth Fishing Tournament. Nearly 50 children and youth participated in the UPSAC’s 2010 Goleta Pier Youth Fishing Tournament on Saturday, October 16, 2010; and
• WHEREAS, the Goleta Pier volunteer host, Boyd Grant, in addition to staffing the Angler Center also cleans the handrails and benches of two-thirds of the Goleta Pier; and
• WHEREAS, the efforts of UPSAC’s volunteer board of directors, particularly President Ken Jones, and of volunteer Pier Host Boyd Grant, have contributed to the success and community service of the Goleta Pier Angler Center;
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT HEREBY ORDERED AND RESOLVED that the Board of Supervisors of Santa Barbara County do hereby commend the United Pier and Shore Anglers of California, its Board of Directors, President Ken Jones, and Pier Host Boyd Grant for their services to our community and their efforts to support of the partnership with Santa Barbara County Parks to operate the Goleta Pier Angler Center.”
PASSED AND ADOPTED by the Board of Supervisors of the County of Santa Barbara, State of California this 2nd day of November 2010, by unanimous vote of all members present...

Nevertheless, in just a few years Boyd and UPSAC were forced out of the Angler Center for reasons that still seem both petty and nonsensical. The closure of the Angler Center was, I am sure, a devastating blow to Boyd. Boyd wasn’t good at the charade often needed to put up with county politics and the power struggles among park personnel (which should not even have affected Boyd or the Angler Center). Perhaps the dream was simply too personal and simple for those overseeing the bureaucracy of the county parks.

But life goes on and Boyd would see new venues, meet new people, and eventually meet a new love, Elaine, who helped erase much of the pain he had once felt. Then, in late 2018 he contacted me and let me know he had cancer. He asked if I would help with a couple of his wishes. He wanted to have his ashes strewn from the end of the Goleta Pier and though the pier is 1,450 long, California says ashes must be disposed at least 1,500 feet offshore. I would talk to park personnel that knew Boyd and tacit permission would be gained to quietly scatter his ashes from the pier. Secondly, he wanted a bench to be installed next to the old Angler Center with his name. I would call the park authorities and we arranged the bench to be built with his name as well as its installation per his wishes.

Eventually there was a day to say good-by. A small group would meet at the restaurant near the entrance to the pier, there we would share stories of Boyd’s life, and Elaine would share a poem she had written for Boyd:

Still Life

On the granite countertop
where you so lovingly prepared our food
are three bright yellow lemons,
picked from the tree in the yard,
the kitchen redolent with their scent.
A vase of vibrant magenta bougainvillea flowers
I picked this morning, the thorns stained
with my blood where they pricked me.
A soft pink sea salt urn holding your ashes,
waits to be placed in the ocean.
It will dissolve, leaving your mortal remains
on the ocean floor, to be rocked softly by waves.
Will curious fish stop to greet you?
Will they remember the reluctant angler
who caught, then released them gently back to their home?
The lemons will be used and more will be harvested.
The bougainvillea will wilt and another bouquet will be picked.
But the urn and your ashes will be gone from me forever.
I will be left with memories of you,
the kind and gentle caretaker of the pier,
the lover of nature.
I will return home alone,
learn how to live in a house
where I was once loved.

—Elain Piper-Grant​

We would then walk as a group out to scatter his ashes from the pier. We would say a final Namaste to a dear friend.

Shortly afterward, Elaine sent me two rods and a reel that he most treasured and wanted to go to me. One was an UPSAC rod hand wrapped by UPSAC Board Member James Liu many years before and used by Boyd through the years. One was an old bamboo rod and reel from Boyd’s dad that had been in his family for many years. Both are treasured gifts.
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