“No Thank You, I Never Get Seasick.”
Updated: Feb 1
Laura texted me, “The trip is booked. Just you and me and a full day of fishing on the bay. It’ll be a Halibut Potluck.” I was excited but confused, “A potluck? I thought we were going to catch fish, not bring fish.” Laura quickly texted back, “No, you dork. It’s a potluck in terms of we will catch different kinds of fish.” Then she added, “It can get cold on the Bay so wear layers. Also, wear non-slip shoes.” I asked her, “Does this mean I have to wear long pants?”
“Yes, you need to wear long pants.”
When I met Laura near the docks at 5:15am, she looked amazing as always. She has shoulder length, perfectly wavy brown hair, deep brown eyes and a contagious smile. She had on adorable, baby blue, form fitting pants and a pair of slate blue rubber boots. Both the pants and the boots were made specifically for fishing. This woman knew how to fish. I’d also bet all my money on her if she joined Fight Club for Parents. I wore the one pair of pants I own and a hoodie.
Laura and I walked down wooden docks to the boat. Lining both sides of the dock, a bunch of other similar boats were crowded together with their flood lights on. Deck hands and captains were opening and closing compartments, putting away side bumpers, coiling rope and all the other stuff needed to head out on the bay for a day of fishing. You could hear one ice chest after another being opened and closed. I climbed onto the fifty-foot fiberglass, California Dawn. Laura had already staked out her spot on the boat she was going to fish from. “I got here early to get this space in the back I like. Sometimes people will fight over spots.” I tossed my backpack in the pile of personal belongings from the other fourteen fisher people on the boat for the day. “Is my stuff going to smell like fish at the end of the day?” I asked no one in particular. The deck hand, Gary, helped me get set up with a fishing pole. I picked the spot right next to Laura. I couple of Seagulls picked their own spots on the boat.
Laura asked, “Do you need any Dramamine?”
“No thank you. I never get seasick. In fact, I’ve never been car sick or air sick either.” Laura tossed a bag of candied ginger onto the table inside the cabin and said, “Okay. I brought this if you need it.”
When I climbed on the boat, Gary wore regular street clothes, a pair of dark tan jeans and a hoodie. Once we arrived at our first fishing spot, he looked like a fisherman from TV. There was another guy who worked on the boat, Mike. Mike wore jeans that hung a little too low, making his black leather belt with three rows of metal studs a fashion choice rather than a functional one. I am pretty sure even though his appearance would make one think he has been asleep for several days, he hasn’t sleep much at all in the past few days. He was our cook.
The fishing group was made up of Laura and me, two sixty something year old men decked out in camouflaged sweatshirts and hats, and their wives. The remaining seven wore proper fishing attire and brought ice chests full of beer. They obviously knew what they were doing.
The California Dawn motored out of the Berkeley harbor and headed towards San Francisco. “We will stop in San Francisco to pick up bait,” Laura informed me.
“What kind of bait?” I asked.
“Live bait. Little smelt.”
“I have to put a live fish on a hook?”
“Yep. I can bait your hook if you want.”
“No way, I will bait my own hook. That just seems a little mean.”
“That’s just the price of doing business.” Laura explained.
Just like she said, we stopped in SF and got our fill of cute little smelt. Then we motored out under the Golden Gate Bridge. The further we went out, the foggier and colder the weather was. I spend a lot of time in the bay, so I didn’t need to freeze my butt off outside to take in the sights. I came inside the cabin and I sat at the table with Laura. As we began to chit chat, something funny began to stir in my belly. Hmmmm…what is that? My stomach started to roil and churn. Omg is this what seasickness feels like? Laura kept talking, my stomach kept churning. I interrupted Laura’s story, “Excuse me, but I think I need to go get sick.” I got up and hurriedly made my way out of the cabin to the outside railing. And sure as shit, I threw up. I finished, wiped my face, and rinsed my mouth out with water and went back into the cabin and sat down. Laura and I kept talking. I looked to the right at the table next to use where the two hunting couples sat. The men’s faces were pale and drooped. One kept his eyes closed, as if he were concentrating on the answer to a million-dollar question. They looked horribly seasick, but never did they once run to the railing.
The boat slowed to a steady idle and the captain announced over the PA, “Alright everyone, let’s fish!” This was perfect timing as I felt the need to throw up again. I rapidly walked to my fishing spot, leaned over the railing, and threw up again. When I was done, I grabbed my fishing pole set it up to fish. I grabbed one of those little, tiny fish and rammed a hook through its jaw and tossed my line over the side. Gary came over to make sure I was set up correctly. As soon as he stood next to me, I threw up, again. He exclaimed, “Your mama didn’t raise no quitter!” I heard someone say, “Hey!” a few feet to my right. One of the real fishermen had a beer in his hand stretched out towards me and said, “You want one? It always helps me.” The temptation was real. But drinking a beer right then was the last thing my stomach wanted. I reeled my line in and tossed it out again. Then I tossed my cookies, again. The guy with the beer said, “Are you sure you don’t want one? It really will help.” “Thank you so much but, I am sure.”
Finally, I stopped throwing up. About the same time the captain announced over the PA it was time to pull out our lines as we were going to move to another spot. We pulled in our lines and Laura and I went back inside the cabin.
“Hey, can I have one of those ginger things?”
“Of course, you can. That’s why they I brought them.”
I ate a few candied pieces of ginger. And wouldn’t you know it, my stomach started to feel better. The nausea began to dissipate. The boat slowed to an idle and Captain James let us know it was time to fish.
I stabbed one of those poor smelt in the head again and tossed my line over the side. I waited a few minutes, and I felt a tug on the line. I started reeling and OH YA! I have a fish on! Mmmm I can’t wait to eat that super fresh fish!! I kept reeling and Gary came running over with a giant net. I reel the fish to the surface and holy fuck what is that? I just caught a miniature dragon. It was blue and green and had a big mouth. I couldn’t see but I was sure it had giant teeth and it would start breathing fire any minute. Gary pulled it out of the net, cut the hook out and tossed my hard caught dragon fish back into the water. “What the hell Gary? Why did you throw back my fish??!” “It’s too small. Catch a bigger one next time.”
The boat moved again to another spot and finally I caught a couple of Rockcod that were big enough to keep, but sadly, no dragons. We spent about forty minutes fishing and the captain announced we were going to move again about thirty minutes away. I headed back into the cabin and hunger pangs began to dart around my stomach. I thought, why not, I’ll try something from the food menu. “Heya Mike, “Could I please get a plate of bacon and eggs?” He answered, “Sure thing.” Five minutes later he handed me a paper plate full of bacon and scrambled eggs. They were some of the best I’ve ever eaten. I quietly said to Laura, “This guy can actually cook.” She answered, “He’s actually a 5-star chef.” Much later in the day he whipped up a batch of Ceviche with some Halibut that was just caught. It was ridiculously good.
Everyone else on the boat started catching fish. They caught Halibut and Striped Bass and a few more Rockcod. One of the beer guys caught a huge colorful dragon. Gary ran around that boat darting from person to person, helping them bring in their catch. I caught Laura’s line, the beer man’s line, and the step on the back of the boat. The third time I caught something other than a fish, he gave me an overly dramatic look and said, “I can’t leave you for more than thirty seconds.”
“I am so sorry. I don’t know why this keeps happening.”
I decided to put my fishing pole down for a short nap, so Gary could take a break from unsnagging my line. As I looked around, I noticed (I’m not sure how I didn’t notice this before) that a full-on gang of seagulls were following us. They knew exactly what went on in that boat. I looked in the smelt container thingy and there were a few little fish that looked pretty tired and worn out most likely from being sloshed around in a small amount of water. Either that or someone dropped some LSD in the container. I picked up one of those little guys and threw it up into the gang of birds and one of them caught it out of mid-air. I let out a rather embarrassing cry of joy, something like “FUCK YA! DID YOU ALL SEE THAT?” Everyone looked at me like, “Really, you are just noticing that now?” I tossed some more tired little fish and those were some skilled birds.
We continued to move from spot to spot and fish. My experience with fishing has been nothing more than, well, meager. My brother, ten years younger than me liked to fish when he was a young kid. One time when we were fishing on a river, I caught a Trout. I felt one second of exhilaration and then felt horrified. First of all, back then I thought eating fish was disgusting. Second, I love animals and have a tremendous amount of empathy for them. SPCA commercials make me cry. Spiders and other bugs I find in my house, I carry outside of my house instead of killing them. I’ll even try and put them in a tree or bush or somewhere they can build a web. The meat I eat comes from the grocery store, not sweet, cute, lovable animals. Of course, this is preposterous, but I like to pretend. My brother screamed, “Yahoo!” when I started reeling that fish in. He dropped his pole on the ground and came running towards me. I wanted to throw it back. He wanted to keep it. We began fighting over it, like physically fighting over it. I was bigger than him, so I won. He stayed mad at me for a few hours. So, I never really got into fishing because I felt so bad for the fish.
But then I grew up and developed a taste for fish. Especially fish tacos (I actually like pretty much everything and anything you can put into a corn tortilla and smother with taco fixin’s). So while out on the California Dawn the thought of catching some incredibly fresh fish and making tacos out of them thrilled me. When the fishing was over and we pulled into the dock, we all stood in line for Gary to clean our fish. I am sure every single seagull in the Bay Area had flocked around us. Gary sliced those fish so fast and threw fish skin and guts everywhere and the seagulls went bananas. When it was my turn, I felt like a little kid handing him my treasure. I gave him my whole fish and in a matter of a very few minutes he handed me back beautiful fish meat.
The next night I made fish tacos and invited the neighbors over to share in the feast. There was something diferrent about catching my own food. I know that Laura booked the trip, and some fancy boat took me out into the ocean and some great guy named Gary put my fishing pole together– several times, and that same guy cleaned my fish for me, but it was knowing exactly where my food came from and exactly what it went through to eventually land on my plate and nourish my body. It felt honest and right, like I was a part of the Earth instead of just taking from it.
*I promise you I am not preaching anything. I am just describing an experience I had and hope to have again, several times.