A deep sea fishing excursion off the coast of Florida taught me that this farmer should remain firmly planted on terra firma.
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.
The two worlds — land and water — should remain distinctly different, in my book.
While Sherill and I were on our honeymoon in Florida, we decided to do some fishing. None of this wimpy, fish-from-the-dock stuff of Norman Rockwell paintings. It would be more of an Outdoor Channel type of a setting where we'd get on a boat and go out to sea to land some big ones.
The sea was calm, the experts told me. You'll have a good time fishing. It'll be a ton of fun. Lots of fish. Plenty of sun. Very relaxing. A great day all around.
Hook, line and sinker, they had me.
And it turns out that I married a professional fisherman. Sherill is hard-core. What was sort of a passing mention on our initial agenda planning turned into a mission for her. She loves fishing. I like to fish, too, but nearly all of my experience has been with trout up to this point in my life. Trout involve standing next to a stream. No boats are involved. They are what I, a land-based mammal, consider to be land-based fish. This getting in a boat and going out on the water was totally new to me, but I was willing to try it. We'd do some deep sea fishing in Florida. A little sun, some fresh salt air and the thrill of reeling in a big one with a group of yet-to-be-met friends who would join us on a charter boat.
Did I mention my land-based mammal tendencies? I come from a long line of drowners. At least one relative drowned in the past hundred years, maybe two. My actuarial math classifies that as a long line of drowners. My personal ability to get all the genetic downside contained within my pedigree makes me assume I'll join the list of drowners. My record of not drowning thus far had held up pretty well, so why push it?
I thought about that as I got out of the shower one morning in Boca Raton. It was about 6:30. Sherill, the professional fisherman, was already dressed and ready to hit the road. She was really into deep sea fishing. I was pretty sure I was into drowning.
Traffic was heavy, so we arrived at the marina about five minutes past our scheduled departure time. Sadly, the crew was more than willing to wait for us. It didn't appear to be standing room only, so they could afford to wait for the out-of-towners to get there and pony up their $35 for the adventure of a lifetime.
I put a seasickness bracelet on each of my wrists and took a Dramamine as we departed terra firma. Land-based neurotics like me can never have too much personal dizziness protection. We made our way out of the marina near Fort Lauderdale and headed for the open sea. It seemed like a longer trip than I expected. It felt like we were zig-zagging through some elaborate maze, because we seemed to go around one corner and then another and then another without ever really making any progress toward the open sea. At least we were going slowly through a No Wake Zone. Add in a little speed and I'd have more than enough in no time. A four-hour boat trip looked to me like an hour and a half of commute time, an hour of fishing, then an hour and a half of commute time again. Trout were looking better and better all the time. At least the commute time could be spent in the GuyNo.2Mobile with trout!
Finally we got past all of the cruise ships, freighters and yachts at the nearby docks and made our way out to open water. The life aquatic didn't seem so bad. It was a pleasant trip out to the sea for some fishing. Maybe not as smooth a ride as I'm used to in a Buick, or a Deere, but not all that bad.
We reached the point where the captain decided to drop anchor and let us begin to fish. The rules were pretty simple. When we were given the sign, we could release the lever on our reel and pull out an arm's length of line while keeping our thumbs over the reel to prevent the wholesale unreeling of our entire line. The captain's mates would tell us how many arm’s lengths of line we would dispense for optimum fishing. When they'd blow the horn, we were to reel our line back in and pull up stakes before moving to a new spot. If we caught a fish in the meantime, we could let one of the mates know and they'd be over to help us reel it in, get our hooks re-baited and fish again.
The anchor was dropped. The sea was calm, the experts told me. I leaned against the rail and tossed my line into the water, counting away at the number of arm’s lengths of line I was allowed to toss in the water. Strangely enough, the water seemed to be getting closer and closer all the time. Then it seemed to get further and further away. Closer and further didn't seem to take much time getting between one another. The sea surface looked to me like it was ten yards away, then ten inches away a second or two later.
The sea is calm, I told myself. These geniuses said so.
I lasted a grand total of 90 seconds on the deck. As calm as the experts kept telling me it was, all the pitching and rolling was getting to me. My first thought was to have a seat on the bench. “Pick a point on land and focus on it. That will help you keep your balance,” I was told by the experts.
Interesting. The building I picked happened to be thirty stories in the air, then fifty stories below sea level as we pitched.
That pointless exercise lasted for a little while, and then I made my way into the cabin. I put my head down on the table and rested my nose on the back of my hand. As the boat rocked more and more aggressively, my nose moved from my watchband to the last knuckle of my finger and back again.
I started counting how many more minutes we had left on this part of the trip. Then I started counting seconds. That's how soon I wanted it to end.
After an hour or so, and plenty of time for that one carton of not-totally-cold milk from breakfast at the hotel lobby to really get percolating in me, I graduated from mildly seasick person to full-blown hurling dervish. My adventure at sea was good enough to last me a lifetime. It had turned into The Perfect Storm.
Sherill, on the other hand, was having a great time fishing. No balance or dizziness problems whatsoever. Plenty of new friends to chat with on deck. She was in her element.
We eventually made our way back to shore. The 14 members of the boat caught ZERO fish. Not a thing. The captain told us that his crew lives off of tips, so please feel free to tip your crew member accordingly. A five or ten was typical, just so we'd know.
Let me think. While I was sitting in the cabin, sick as a dog, no member of the crew ever so much as looked in the door as he went by. Not quite Midwest friendly. This was no Lutheran church basement, let me tell you!
Perhaps I'll invite them out to the farm sometime for a tour. I'll give them plenty of undercooked chicken and eggs to start their day. Then it will be time to ride a steer near some electric fence.
The steer is calm. Trust me. I wouldn't have it any other way.
Guy No. 2