My boyfriend loves offshore fishing. I love the water. I like to eat fish. Naturally this will be yet another activity we like to do together.
We depart for Charleston Friday afternoon with the fishing boat in tow.
Troy glances down at my Walmart bag and sees a bunch of bananas. "Bananas?! You got bananas!?" He calls Greg and shares in an alarmed tone, "Amber got BANANAS!!" Apparently bananas are bad luck on a fishing trip. I try to discretely tuck them away back in the bag and hug my food bag protectively to my body. Now all I want to do is eat a banana.
Phil joins as at the marina and we head out to catch some bait. I quickly realize I am the low woman on the totem pole with no fishing skills like a Staff 1 Auditor trying to make it to Manager. I was in charge of picking up the bait from the boat floor and putting it into a bucket. I was needed and part of the team. After a few initial shrieks, I proudly got the squirming, floppy mullet into the bucket. You really have to very firmly hold the head (get your mind out of the gutter!). I learned how to spot bait balls and feel better and better about my life survival skills. I gently suggest to the men that perhaps we could have a more efficient operation if they unleashed the bait net over top of the bucket....just a suggestion. I gazed longingly at the cast net thrower and the Captain driving the boat performing their superior jobs as I squatted and clamored to wrangle another unpredictable mullet. After an hour or so of this process, Phil grabs a miniature net and scoops up one of the mullet from the floor. There was a net. This whole time. I stare down at my hands and politely ask for the net.
When everyone is satisfied we have sufficient bait for tomorrow, we head back to Phil and Anna's house. I walk in with my bag of food always in site and plop down on a bar stool. Greg begins regaling me with the history of the bad luck of bananas while everyone stares at me like I'm Typhoid Mary. Greg catches me eyeing the bananas longingly and shares,"You can't even eat one, because then you will be a carrier and technically a banana will be on the boat tomorrow." Never have I wanted a banana so badly in my entire life. At this point saying the word banana has the same effect as saying Voldemort in Harry Potter. Fishermen, also known as "The Infected," view it as their Kryptonite. Greg shares, "I get off work at four tomorrow. I'll join you guys after that." With one last backward glance at the bananas, I head to bed.
Saturday morning at breakfast Troy describes the offshore fishing spot we will be heading to. Everyone exclaims how they have never been out that far. Red flag number two.
As they are preparing the boat and car to head out, we come to discover the aerator batteries were dead and all the that bait I extracted off the boat floor one by one with my own hands was dead.
Troy takes me to a bait shop and buys me a long sleeve fishing shirt and a scarf contraption. "What do I need that for?" I question him. Troy replies, "You wear it over your head to block the sun. We fish all day. We don't come back in, even if someone gets sick." I laugh lightheartedly thinking he's joking. Red flag number three.
We make our way to the Marina and start the bait catching exercise.
I swiftly grab the mini net before my fellow bait scooper, Grayson, takes it. I only feel mildly guilty. While I am pleased to have a partner in this endeavor, I really don't want to share the mini net. After the bait supply has been restored, we start the voyage to the offshore spot, the one no one has ever been to.
Another half an hour later we arrive at our destination. I continue my downward spiral into seasickness. I can't describe much more to you as I curled as best as I could my 6'3'' self into a ball on a chair clutching my head. "Look at the horizon" they repeat over and over. This doesn't seem a possibility as my migraine aura is in full effect with spots everywhere. I nod bleakly and return my head to its cocoon in my arms. I distantly hear the excitement of The Infected as they catch two sharks. After what seems like a very extended period of time Phil, my savior, suggests we head to the jetties. The jetties! We passed those on the way out I register in my head. This is very close to the marina. Marina. Land. I muster up the energy to life my head and proclaim, "can you take me to an island?" Troy, "Morris island?" I reply, "I don't care. Any island." Gilligan's island would have worked.
As we pick up speed I am uncontrollably sobbing in alignment with the throbbing of my head and the steady rocking of the boat and start to hyperventilate. So this is what it feels like to hyperventilate. Interesting. Occasionally a huge spray of salt water would whack me in the face, adding in-salt (get it!) to injury.
Troy and the others don't come over right away. I think their survival instincts kicked in and they knew I viewed them as my captors. I tentatively sit up and grab a beanito and watermelon spear. I feel like Arial in The Little Mermaid when she wakes up and joyously realizes she's on land. I also want to be where the people are Arial. I send a few mayday and SOS texts to my best friends, envisioning them sending me some Dramamine in a parachute pouch like in The Hunger Games. Or even better helicopter me home. Ed used to fly planes right? Angie has connections... Troy slowly approaches me. I am still only capable of head nods and accusing eyes. He tells me something about nerve endings and water helping my sea sickness and to drag my feet in the sand so I don't get attacked by a sting ray. All I can think of is we are walking back to the boat. After about 30 seconds in the water I have an irresistible urge to return to the land. We walk a stretch of the beach and I observe all of the happy people floating and laughing in the surf. The common factor is everyone is within 25 feet of the land.
I stifle panic as Troy suggests I learn how to throw the bait net. He quickly counters I can do it by standing in the sand and not off the back of the boat. Everyone is really trying to build me up and exclaiming, "You're a natural!" as I pull in two mullets and release the net over the bucket so they drop and plop right in. I am pleased I now have a life skill should a zombie apocalypse occur. What I didn't think about at the time was that I was catching more bait for more fishing by The Infected.
Art "Smalls" comes over to chat with other beach goers. I do my best to pull it together and resemble a normal human being capable of holding a conversation. Art talks about how he just buys fish. He then goes on to share his theory that all violence in the world would stop if everyone just hung out at the sand bar. Yes Art, yes.
I return to my group, the haters of the land. I hear them conspiring again about returning to the jetties. They try to reassure me the water is calm there like Lake Norman. I think about how we will be picking up Greg soon at the marina and I can execute my exit strategy. The jetties is that much closer to the marina. I warily return to the boat and hoist myself in. I look back at the happy island goers and stable sand as we start to pick up speed.
The ride to the jetties wasn't terrible. I am feeling more human. I sit at the Captain's seat and observe The Infected start to enter the frenzy as I think through my next move. I may have imagined this, but I'm pretty sure they were frothing at the mouth. I think to myself, perhaps now that I am capable of staying upright I can try fishing. I look at the rod, unsure of how to use it. Maybe someone can give me a refresher on how it works. I look from person to person contemplating the best teacher. They all had the same look in their eyes as our Great Dane Max does when he sees a rabbit or squirrel and he blacks out with a one track mind. Troy says to me, "Baby, do you think you'd feel better if you stayed up moving around and had a job?" "What kind of job" I respond reluctantly and suspiciously. "You could cut up the dead fish for bait!" Troy proclaims as if this job is a great privilege. Reverse psychology from The Infected. I stare at him blankly as I envision the aroma of dead fish and see my skin turning green again. I abruptly leave the Captain's seat and go to the front of the boat as far away from The Infected as possible. I curl into a fetal position clutching my throbbing head.
I was just starting to drift off to a protective sleep when I hear, "Baby look! We caught a sheep's head!" Sheep? Land? No. I open my eyes and a large striped fish is inches from my face. Troy continues, "We need to put it in the fish locker, can you move over a little bit." I trudge to the Beanitos bag and check my phone. Surely we'll be heading to pick up Greg soon. 4:30. 4:30?! Why aren't we heading back. My heart rate picks up. I innocently ask, "Hey, shouldn't we go back in to get Greg soon?" Troy replies, "He doesn't get off work until 4:00, he probably won't be ready to come out until after 5:00." My heart sinks as I see my exit strategy crumble. I muffle my sob as I reach for my head scarf and resume my fetal position. I think back to our conversation from that morning, "We don't come back in, even if someone gets sick."
I hear talks of bait running low and heading back in. I look up hopefully. The frenzy is dying down. Why didn't I think of that! I could have discretely deposited bait from the boat to speed up this process. I clamor to my return seat in the back of the boat. Everyone is making jokes and trying to cheer me up. They exclaim about how I haven't complained at all. I just nod at The Infected and stare at them through my sun scarf as I fire off another SOS text to my best friends.
They begin talking about me as if I'm not there. Troy says, "I can't tell if she's mad or just tired." Phil replies, "I think she's just here, enduring." That about sums it up.
We get to the Marina and I calmly walk to the car and sit down. Troy asks, "Do you hate me right now?" I ask him, "Why did we have to stay at the jetties for so long when I was sick?" He replies, "I'm sorry, I didn't know you were still so sick. I thought you were just napping. It was a fluid situation." It was fluid alright. Troy shares he broke a toe. A small part of me feels better. I regret this now, but at the time seasick Amber was pleased. Troy says, "Next time we'll stick to the jetties with you." Next time?! The car continues to spin in my sober state.
Troy takes me to dinner later that evening and I happily and perhaps revengefully (hey, at least I'm self aware) order the most expensive thing on the menu. I think about how we spent all day on a boat and caught one sheep's head as I stare down at my crab legs. I look around the table cautiously for signs of The Frenzy. I think The Infection has passed.... for now.
Offshore Fishing Lessons Learned:
1a. Have an exit strategy.
2a. Validate your exit strategy with The Infected.
3. Don't ever leave a party island.
4. Footwear is important in all walks of life (you see what I did there?). See broken toe above.
5. Sometimes it is ok to say yes to drugs...in particular Dramamine.
6. Start small when doing new activities. Perhaps going twelve miles offshore on your first fishing trip is a tad aggressive. Ease your way in.
7. Don't ignore red flags. I always thought I was good at reading people and picking up on things. I was wrong.