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Monday, June 11, 2007

Deep Sea Fishing

In keeping with this strange desire of mine to one day quit my job, sell everything I own, and sail the world on a yacht, I recently embarked on an excursion quite outside my normal comfort zone. I went deep sea fishing.

Now, first it should be stated just how much I hate fishing. Among the things I dislike most, I would rank it with spectator sports, high-pitched noises, and any form of nut in any oh-so-sweet-and-soft dessert. I’ve been fishing plenty, though mostly as a child. Perhaps it is the pungent aroma of memory of those failed endeavors that evokes such strong emotion now, who knows. Why would I subject myself to something I dislike so vehemently when there are so many other ways to get out on the ocean? God only knows...

I figured that this opportunity would give me the chance to find out if I had any real desire to live a life aboard a boat. True, the comparison is far from accurate, but I had two main objectives.
One, am I prone to overt bouts of sea sickness? And two, do I absolutely hate the actuality of a dream that up until this point was only that, a dream. Enter the New Buchaneer.

We pushed off at 7:30 in the morning, which if you do the math, means that I had to be awake at 5:30. Not cool on Saturday morning, but the early hour was quickly dismissed in the blend of a sunrise in Galveston, the smell of the water, gulls calling, and the excitement that was seeping from all the eager fishermen.

The passage out was great. The seas were only three feet, there was a nice breeze on the top deck, and the day was cool. I was standing in the lee of the cockpit when my father motioned me closer to tell me something. Leaving the shelter of the lee I quickly found the wind was much stronger near the edge. My arm shot into the air, but it was too late. The wind whipped by me and snatched my ridiculous straw hat from my head. In equal parts triumph and embarrassment, I throw both arms in the air and bowed to my friends who were now laughing.

It took four hours to get to the first fishing spot. I will admit that I got a little woozy, but I think it was more psychological than anything. If you expect to get sick then you probably will. I wish I could say everyone was so lucky. A few members of our group did not handle the gentle rocking so well and spent plenty of time with heads hanging over the backend revisiting their breakfast. One lady in particular had real difficulty, though not without her own share in the problem. I was looking at the horizon and noticed that this woman looked terrible. You know how people in cartoons get painted green when they are about to throw up? Well, this poor woman could have given the jolly green giant a run for his money. She had a little Ziploc baggy into which she was withdrawing a recent deposit. There was about an inch of bright orange goo sloshing around in the bag. That was unpleasant… I looked away. When I looked back a few minutes later, the dedication of that little woman was clear; the little baggy was almost full. You know the point at which you fill the baggy and then you close it, but are still worried that it might just pop back open? She had gone to town with that little baggy, though why she wanted to save it…

We hit several offshore oil platforms. The cries of the environmentalists are crazy. Oil platforms create an artificial reef that fish love and every fisherman knows this. The fish were swarming around the boat. You could not even count them. But, let me tell you… these fish were smart! They had perfected the method of removing the bait from your hook without actually hooking themselves. Little thieves! I quickly tired of feeding the fish and let my baited line sink as deep as it would go. Several times I could feel things tugging on the line, and several times the resistance told me I had hooked something. As I eagerly reeled in I caught the glimmer of my baitless hook from the streams of light making their way into the depths. The fish way down under were smart too! One time, by complete chance, I hooked a four foot shark that was feeding near the surface. We played a brief game of tug-o-war before he grew weary of the battle and snapped my line, taking weight, hook and all, leaving me quite sad. Yes, there were plenty of sharks. Notice the fish my friend caught? As he pulled it out of the water he loudly exclaimed, “That shark stole my fish!” The shark had come up beside the hooked red snapper and taken all the good stuff, leaving the head on the hook. I’m telling you… these fish were some kind of genetically engineered super-intelligent fish! Another noteworthy fish were the barracuda. These fish are capable of short bursts of speed up to 27 mph. When combined with their powerful jaws this makes the barracuda the guillotine of the deep blue sea. I cannot recount how many times a barracuda darted into a catch that was helplessly flailing about on the end of a line, making short work of the fisherman’s prize. One guy pulled up what would have been a beautiful fish, only it was missing half of its body that had only moments before been violently separated from the rest. “Glad that wasn’t my leg,” one of them says to laughter.

The greatest sight of the day was when my friend next to me got a big bite. You could tell it was something big by the fight it gave. The rod bent double and tried to run up and down the length of the boat. After five minutes of fighting he finally was able to raise the fish to visibility. One look at its distinctive shape and everyone knew what it was. A shark. The deckhand cries out, “Hammerhead! Get your lines up!” This thing was beautiful. Six feet and powerful. He wanted my friend to have all the chance he needed pull it up unhindered by other fishing lines. He struggled with it for a few more minutes before it snapped his line. Its hunger not yet quenched, he grabbed another friend’s line, but he made short work of it. Then he grabbed mine, but snapped my line before I had a chance to fight him. Having had his fill he returned to the depths with a full stomach, leaving an entire crew dejected. So close…

I didn't end up catching anything, but even the crew said that it was a tough day for fishing. It's all good though, I didn't come for the fish. Rather, it was a pleasant change from the normal life of go, Go, GO. I know it was different from being on a sailboat, but I accomplished both tasks. I did not get sea sick, and I did not hate being out on the water. It was a good day.

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