life events

Fish Outta Water – Legionwriter’s Misadventures Aboard Runnin’ Kine

If conservative outrage over what often appears to be a move of our society toward feminization holds merit, then the seaside town of Westport, Washington is certain to remain one of the few cities to maintain its staunch dedication to undaunted masculinity.

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You’ve seen the charming little Oceanside towns often glorified in films – couples strolling hand-in-hand along romantic boardwalks, rife with cafés and shabby shops that are only shabby in an intentional way. Westport has a shabbiness of its own, but it’s shabby in an unintentional, “We don’t give a shit” sort of way.

Westport is a fisherman’s town. No offense to any fisherwomen out there; I can only report what I’ve seen with my own eyes. I’m sure there are exceptions, but all signs in Westport point to a distinct lack of feminine consideration. Most eateries contain unisex bathrooms, which is Westport’s subtle way of saying that female-only restrooms would see less use than a salad bar at a tiger convention. This is a town with more tackle shops than mirrors, and the prevailing aroma is a potpourri of iced fish carcass, outboard motor exhaust, and face punching B.O. It’s a town where the perpetually dense, sea-salty air collects on building walls and eats away at the text of signs, and rather than replace those signs, business owners simply hand paint over what’s left of them.

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Here is the home of the shanty “Big Catch Café”, where I reside this morning, sipping the shallows of my third cup of coffee and pecking at an undercooked pancake larger than five of my stomachs. I’ve not showered in three days, and I’m wearing jeans that are ripped from crotch to thigh, providing full view of a crusty pair of underwear I’ll sooner burn than wash. Am I embarrassed? Certainly not. I fit in perfectly here. At least, I look like I do. Fact is, if I truly fit in, I’d be on a boat right now – a fishing vessel called “Runnin’ Kine”. I’d be on the ocean with my buddies, chasing a massive run of tuna, reveling in the glory of freshly mined sea-gold. So why am I here, writing?
Now begins the telling of Legionwriter’s misadventures aboard Runnin’ Kine.
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“The wash down pump sounds funny.” says Tom from somewhere upward and behind me – or is he in front and below me, or to my right or my left? My sense of bearing is rendered impotent by the unstoppable bouncing and rolling, shifting, punishing waves.

“No, it’s just Luke puking again.” laughs Jason. I believe this is my fourth bout of regurgitation today, though there’s little left to regurgitate; merely a faint mist of yellowish liquid escapes me, punctuated by a series of torturous dry heaves that hold captive my breath. They’re angry little monsters, those dry heaves; they’ve been strangling me all morning and now it’s as though they are stealing my eyesight by chewing away until half my vision is consumed – swallowed into a black void, specked with disappearing and reappearing sparks of light.

For those who’ve not experienced the thrill of riding aboard a small boat on the open sea, I will describe the experience in visceral tones. It is thirty minutes of bone-jarring, teeth gnashing, tongue swallowing violence as the boat plows through oceanic swells to reach the fishing grounds – this is what some might consider the “fun” part. The less-fun part comes later, when the boat slows to only a few knots, and it becomes subject to the teasing whims of the tempestuous waves, which toss you about in obnoxious, random directions. The sea becomes an apparition, reaching its ghostly tentacles to clutch you by your delicate innards – twisting, squeezing, and turning you inside out, and there is no escape, no land to which you may retreat – you are in that other world. The ocean’s world. Many who visit this world become terrified. Me? I become sick.

A short while into our expedition, I abandon topside, leaving my buddies to fish without me. I spend most of the remaining six hours splayed out in the boat’s cabin, in a state of semi-consciousness, awakening only to the occasional cries of my mates as they celebrate one prized catch after another. Four King Salmon are netted this day. Somehow, through a fog of nausea and disorientation, I try to enjoy myself.

Writer John Eldredge says, “Do that which makes your heart come alive.” There is an uncommon beauty on display when you witness people’s hearts come alive, to see them in their trueness, functioning the way their Creator intended them to. I don’t believe you must become an artist – or even an art lover – to pay homage to a great painter in practice of his craft. You needn’t become a gymnast to feel awestruck at the talent and dedication of an Olympic athlete fulfilling her passion. For me, here in the belly of this boat, I don’t need to be a fisherman to be captivated by the excitement of my friends as they engage in a passion of their hearts, to feel my pulse quicken every time there’s a bite, followed by the chant, “fishfishfishfish!”, or to share in the jubilation of a successful day on the water.
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Like many, I’ve struggled much of my life to find my proper place. Clearly, my ideal place is not on the ocean with the fish. Given this not-so-stunning revelation, you’d think I would be disappointed in this trip, or more directly – in myself. Perhaps I am a bit disappointed, but I’ve exposed myself to something new, learned something, and learning never comes cheap. I recall a scene from the Pixar film, “Ratatouille”, when persnickety food critic Anton Ego, prior to being served a meal, says, “You provide the meal; I’ll provide the perspective.” It’s a big word, that one. And just as learning, perspective does not come cheap. In my case, it now comes at the cost of discomfort, illness, vomiting, and a pair of crotch-torn jeans, smeared with fish guts. Is it worth it? I believe so. It must be worth it, because against all odds, I’ve found my place here. It’s perspective, you see. This is what I can offer – perspective, and I can share it with you; this is my place. This is what I do. My heart comes alive.

I suppose I should have girded my loins and tagged along for today’s tuna expedition, but I don’t think I needed to. In fact, it took some bravery to admit I was better off staying behind. I think I’ve gotten all the perspective I can handle this trip. I want to say thanks from my heart to my friends, Tom and Jason, for bringing me along on this adventure. I’ll never forget it.

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What say you? What makes your heart come alive?

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15 replies »

  1. …perspective does not come cheap. In my case, it now comes at the cost of discomfort, illness, vomiting, and a pair of crotch-torn jeans, smeared with fish guts. Is it worth it? I believe so. It must be worth it, because against all odds, I’ve found my place here. It’s perspective, you see. This is what I can offer – perspective, and I can share it with you; this is my place. This is what I do. My heart comes alive.

    Ohhhh, bravo. Your writing is alive.

  2. Love this. I especially like that you recognize it takes “it took some bravery to admit I was better off staying behind.” That you did it and recognized your limits is admirable. I would be SO sick, too. I remember a whale watching trip on a small boat like that years ago… It was a disaster. And we didn’t see any whales, either!!!

    Love the descriptions of the town and where you were writing this… And in the boat. As unpleasant as it sounded, I was right there. I felt your pain. That is true craftsmanship. Good for you…

    And I think the opportunity for perspective makes my heart come alive, too. Whether that’s killing myself on a fishing boat or riding an elephant in Thailand or just having a really great conversation with a friend. 🙂

    Blessings to you, dear friend.
    jess

    • Thanks, Jess. Practicing that acceptance and humility was a breakthrough for me during this experience. As I guy, I am well practiced in the honored tradition of BS, and thus have managed to BS my way into a lot of miserable behavior. I think I managed to avoid deception this time round.

  3. Love your description of that blessed little town. And the gracious way in which you exit the expedition in preference for coffee and a moment with the written word. Your perspective is a beautiful thing 😉

  4. You bring the fishing (or should I say, “non-fishing”) experience to life, almost too well. Your descriptions made my stomach remember a rather tumultuous snorkeling expedition. Great insights from the whole experience!

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