Frankly, I thought my days of pre-dawn rising were gone with my ballooning days. When Steven first suggested salmon fishing, I guess I’d pictured, well, I guess I hadn’t really pictured anything other than a nice, fat fillet on the grill. But as the actual day on the ocean approached, I had to look at the details of the adventure. Let’s see, that would include: love to eat salmon, check – referenced above; um, jeans (?), maybe a hat (?). Turns out there was some prep. I know you’re thinking duh. You’re right.
Waterproof boots are a must. I suppose sneakers would be OK as long as you don’t mind cold, wet feet. So get the waterproof boots. I found my super cool, blue ones at WalMart on clearance for about $12. Along with some nifty waterproof pants to go over the jeans.
Layers. It was chilly and overcast in Westport, WA for several days before our adventure. It rained the night before. Fortunately, I have brought all kinds of layers of clothes on our great LHoDy (I’ve already told you about Little House on the Driveway, right?) trek. So it was just a matter of digging it all out. Turtleneck, sweater, polar fleece, windbreaker, slicker. Six layers should be enough, I thought. Yep, I couldn’t put my arms down, just like the kid in The Christmas Story.
I was right about jeans.
And the hat.
The alarm went off at 4:05 AM. Yes, AM as in wee hours of the morning. Long before roosters. Or sane people. About the time balloonists get up this time of year. And apparently fisherfolk. I don’t know how they get up at that hour every day, every day, all week. Yikes! We had not slept well due to the country-western-bellowing campers across the way who ignored the 10:00 PM quiet hour guideline in the RV park and partied on until 1:00 AM. The joys of campground life on weekends in the summer. Sigh.
Fortunately, we’d made sandwiches the night before. Whew!
We boarded our boat, Predator, by 5:30 AM, made some friends, drank some coffee, received a briefing from the captain, and headed out to sea!! Now, one of the question marks about ocean voyages is seasickness. Since none of us have ever experienced any in the past, we assumed it wouldn’t be an issue this time. And we were mostly right! We all felt “weird,” for awhile, but not nauseous or queasy. I can’t really pin it down now thinking back. A slight headache, dry mouth, just kind of “off.” After nibbling on part of a PBJ and sipping some water, things improved quite a bit.
Salmon fishing is a highly repetitive task. Weave and lunge your way on the wildly rocking boat to a pre-positioned fishing pole around the rail of the boatdeck. Wedge yourself in somehow so you don’t go overboard and start fishing. Let the line out however many “pulls” they tell you, then reel it back in. Repeat for the next eight hours. Boredom sets in after ten minutes. Once in awhile, the captain moves the boat, so you get to go inside for a bit. Maybe use the head – an experience unto itself. (Remember fishing is a predominantly male undertaking. The head reeked of old, stale, male urine. And this boat is really pretty clean. So there’s the toilet, an undulating, smelly target as the first hurdle. Necessary pants unfastening and refastening another. Hitting the target another. Exhausting.)
But after more food and a couple of sandwich nibbles later, something changed. The odd, off feeling disappeared. I could look down into the water without feeling weird. And the immensity of the ocean was all around. The surface of the ocean is moving mounds of changing angles. It reflects light in complex patterns, always different. Yet there is pattern to the lines of waves among the irregularity. I mastered the line in/line out routine and just gorged on the view of the surrounding water. Overcast sky rendered a green/brown sea; sun turned it a brilliant, deep blue.
The objective is to catch salmon, of course. However, when have we done anything the usual way? Steven had a flounder after his bait at one point. Tori and I each hooked a shark. But Tori had a first – she caught a seagull! During a frenzied battle by a fellow fisherman with yet another, even larger shark, Tori had reeled her bait in close to the surface. An opportunistic and very determined seagull was on the bait faster than Tori could let her line out to sink it. Seagull got a bite and a hook in its beak. So while the crew was dealing with the big shark, Tori had a panicked seagull flapping around at the end of her fishing pole. We were no help at all. I had no clue what to do. Nothing in my many years of life on shore had prepared me for this one. After a couple of minutes of calls for help, the captain dashed to her side and with some seriously impressive needle-nosed pliers managed to disengage the hook from the seagull’s beak. The bird plopped into the water and after a period of shaking its head and dunking its beak, it flew away.
Bottom line re catch for the day: two sharks, one seagull, no salmon.
But we had a great time being on a boat way out in the ocean. Wonderful adventure! Maybe we’ll catch a salmon next time.
Last note. Ground doesn’t feel so solid after being out on the ocean all day. Even the bed swayed and floated that night.
Even though I know commercial fishing operations have more efficient techniques, I have a new appreciation for the effort it takes to provide us with those beautiful fillets in the seafood case at the market.