A great philosopher once said, "Let's get one thing straight. I'm a land-based mammal. You're a land-based mammal. We're all land-based mammals. Let's not kid ourselves into thinking otherwise. We walk on two feet. We don't have fins, flippers or gills. None of us lives like a fish."
Yes, that philosopher was me. It was shortly after Sherill and I had gone deep sea fishing on our honeymoon about a year ago. My experience on the water wasn't so great that time (“Go fish”). Some changes were made, and I gave it another shot, though. That one worked out much better (“Back on the horse again”).
Sherill loves to fish, so another trip to Florida was made this winter. Another fishing expedition was also made. Multiple seasickness bracelets were worn by yours truly to keep me gastronomically stable.
Guess what. Wearing two seasickness bracelets on each wrist did almost nothing for me. We made our way from the dock to the open water and I felt fine. The weather was outstanding this time. The water wasn't too rough, but it wasn't completely placid, either. I had hoped to have an experience similar to my second one last year, what with my bountiful supply of seasickness jewelry.
But within about two minutes after the anchor was dropped, I had pretty much hit Rewind all the way back to my first deep sea fishing trip. The boat was going up and down at a steady pace. My stomach was sloshing right along with it . . . against the grain. This time, I didn't even kid myself into holding onto a fishing pole. I just gave up and sat on the bench outside the cabin. Something told me I'd have to find my way to the side rail at some point, so why bother sitting inside the cabin? If they'd had a maître d' on the boat when we boarded, I'd have asked for a seat in the "hurling express" section. Cuts down on the commute to the side of the boat.
About an hour into our trip, the rest of the group was having a ton of fun. The fishing was pretty good. Sherill stepped over at one point to show me a grouper she had caught. They were out of season, so she had to toss it back. Even so, it was a pretty decent-looking catch, I thought, for the few seconds I was able to keep my eyes opened and focused.
By the time our four-hour tour was over, everyone had caught quite a few fish. We got back to dry land, and the crew filleted the fish. My stomach was still not doing very well, so I chose not to document any of that part of the trip. I wanted the day to be over, with no memories physically preserved.
Sherill, on the other hand, was having a blast. She and the guy running the place were having a discussion about the other charter boat option for the next day. It was a smaller craft than the “party boat” we’d gone on for our trip. The rather sizeable guy in charge (I'll call him Captain Tiny) likes to have six to eight paying customers on board to send it out for the day. They don't mess around with a little four-hour jaunt, though. For big fish and big fun, they go for a full day, typically eight to 10 hours. They also go for bigger and more playful fish than the party boats do—the kind you put on your wall instead of on your plate.
Captain Tiny told Sherill that the next day was going to be outstanding weather. The fishing would be awesome. Even though it was going to be a Saturday, he had a grand total of ZERO people lined up for the charter. This would be like me with a hundred acres of candy-quality second-crop hay ready to bale on some sunny day in July with a 10-mile-per-hour breeze and 12% humidity with no one around willing to bale it or help me collect the bales. You just don't get conditions that good very often. It's almost criminal to pass it up.
Captain Tiny was driving himself nuts waiting for people to call. Perfect fishing conditions. Perfect weather for boat travel. Zero crowd.
Then he had an idea. There's a guy named Chuck who fished with Captain Tiny on several occasions and told Tiny that he'd be willing to help him fill out a boat if he got strapped for passengers. Tiny would call Chuck and see if he'd be willing to go the next day. If he would, Tiny would cut us a deal of sizeable proportions. We could go at a reasonable rate without a full boat.
I quickly pointed out that the "we" portion of that equation would be one person. That person would be Sherill. I would find some other way to keep myself busy for the day, and none of it would be on the water. Yeah, I had four sets of seasickness bracelets with me, but I wasn't willing to double down and try that experiment again. Boats are now past tense for me. Ancient history. Been there. Done that. No change.
A quick call was made to Chuck, and he said he'd be willing to go along on the trip.
Well, win-win-win! Sherill gets to fish; Tiny gets to send the boat out in ideal conditions; I get to goof off for a day on my own one-man agenda.
That took a lot of the sting out of paying for the charter fee. Of course, for me, it was worth several hundred dollars more than that NOT to have to go on a boat again, but I chose not to share that fact with Cap'n Tiny.
Sherill drove us back to our hotel about an hour away. We had to stop once or twice along the way for me to rid myself of my lasting sea memories. It's easier to do that from the passenger side of the car on a two-lane road that's an hour or two long before you reach real land again.
Morning arrived and both Sherill and I were in fine shape. We made our way to the marina and found the boat and its crew ready to go. Chuck seemed like a really nice guy, as did the crew members who were in charge for the trip. I took some static for my non-participation, but we all agreed it would be better for everyone if I stayed on land. At 7:00 a.m., I said my goodbyes and headed back to the car once the souls of a fishy nature were on their way. My stomach was incredibly calm.
The way I did the math, I had 77.5 miles to cover between the marina and the southernmost point of the United States. I also had some decent batteries for my camera, so a few pictures might be in order. Seeing as how I would have no one along to advise on when, where and how often we should stop, I decided it would be a completely whim-driven trip. See a photogenic spot? Stop, point and click. Maximum memories. Zero hurling. My kinda math.
According to the time stamp on my photos, it took me less than 12 minutes to discover that this was how our trip was supposed to be. Driving past an office a few miles down the highway, I saw something that told me I was in the right place, in the right frame of mind, and someone else had similar taste. There was a dune buggy almost exactly like my GuyNo2Mobile! It was like I was home.
More photogenic spots kept popping up as I drove. A potential upgrade to The GuyNo2Mobile appeared just a couple miles further down the road. He only wanted $22,000 for it! In John Deere green, maybe, but bright red? I don't know.
Then, at 7:43, I got a text from Sherill: "Just caught about a 3 to 4 foot shark. OMG. It almost pulled me over! They threw it back in before I could get a picture."
Well, less than an hour into it and Sherill’s reeling in A SHARK! I felt much better about our job assignment separation for the day.
Over the course of the next hour or two, I received several texts from Sherill. She was catching fish left and right, and having a ball. One of the fish was a Wahoo, which I'd never heard of before. Sherill hadn't either, and asked the crew about them. Their reply was priceless: "When it bites, the first thing you think is 'WAHOO! I got a whopper on here!’”
Sherill felt the fish was appropriately named. They apparently have access to Red Bull in their part of the sea.
By the time the boat got back, Sherill and Chuck had a pretty decent haul. One of the crew members grabbed a couple of the bigger fish and posed with one in each hand for pictures. The crew got their fillet knives out and went to work. We brought home a pile of fish from the trip. It was so significant that we went to the outlet mall and bought some more luggage to store the dry ice and the fish in for transport home.
I made sure to tip Cap'n Tiny's crew well for their work. Heck, I figured it was sort of a preventive ransom payment to keep me from being kidnapped and held hostage at sea for several hours.
Worth every penny.
Guy No. 2