Three years ago, my dad decided he needed a hobby that would get him out of the house on his days off from work. After seeing some ads in the local newspaper for open party fishing boats (i.e., boats where you pay a fee to go aboard and out fishing with a bunch of strangers), he decided to give fishing a try. He showed up to a boat one day, asked the mates what to do, and became instantly obsessed with catching fish (“hooked,” some might say).
My dad’s always looking for a fishing buddy and has often proposed that I join him on one of his excursions. I have never obliged, however, as I am not terribly outdoorsy, I do not love the smell of fish, and I do not find the prospect of getting up before dawn to be particularly appealing. Nevertheless, my dad thinks fishing is the best thing ever and I’ve been in the market for a hobby, so I finally agreed to give it a shot.
My dad and I settled on Friday, April 17, as the day for our high seas adventure. I spent Thursday night at my parents’ house in the Bronx, so that we could head out to the dock together bright and early Friday morning. After about 5 hours of tossing and turning in my little sister’s old bed, I awoke at 4:15 am to the sound of rain pitter-pattering outside the window. For the first of many times that day, I questioned my sanity.
My dad and I left the house around 5:20 am, and pulled up to a boat called the Captain Al at about 6:15. My dad has often pitched the idea of going fishing to me by talking about the nice, spacious, modern boats he goes out on, boats that have comfortable, indoor seating, warm food for sale, and Wi-Fi. The Captain Al is not one of those boats. It’s a small fishing boat from the 1960s, and its amenities consist of a rusty Pepsi machine that only dispenses orange soda, a small indoor area with some wooden benches, and a toilet that’s a very minor step up from a port-a-potty.
There was only one other person on the boat when we arrived. My dad heard that the captain would not take the boat out unless there were at least five paying customers, so we waited anxiously to see if others would arrive. By 7 am, the time the boat was scheduled to depart, I was wet, cold, and tired. About 60% of me was hoping more people would appear, but the other 40% was hoping the captain would give up and I could go home. Ultimately, three other very nice men around my dad’s age showed up, and out to the ocean, we went.
After traveling for a half hour or so, the boat dropped anchor, and we all headed to the railings to start fishing. Although my dad and the other men on board kept making very sincere comments about how calm the waters were that day, I could barely manage to stand in one place without toppling over. I watched in horror and awe as my dad kept his balance while baiting our super-sharp hooks with some slimy clam belly. He proceeded to hand me a surprisingly heavy pole and show me how to cast out the line and reel it back in. As I wobbled back and forth, I prayed that a fish would not get caught on my hook. I could not conceive of how I was supposed to maintain my balance, hold onto the pole, and turn the reel, all while something was fighting against me from below.
Then, I saw my dad reel in a fish. I suddenly developed an inexplicable desire to catch one of my own. Unfortunately, my body didn’t care about my newfound ambition. The cold, the rain, and the bobbing of the ocean waves started to take its toll, and I spent a lot of the late morning and early afternoon sitting inside on a bench trying to figure out how to calm my stomach and stay warm. I never did catch my fish.
Although the trip was unbearable at points and I was thrilled when the captain decided to head back early, I could see the potential for fishing to be an enjoyable activity. I told my dad that I would give fishing at least one more shot, provided that we go out on a nicer boat on a more pleasant day and stay in a calmer body of water. My dad has assured me that I’ll have a much better experience on a boat called the Klondike, which limits its trips to the sheltered waters of the Long Island Sound. We are currently planning a trip for a warm, sunny day in May.
Cheryl Espinoza is an attorney and aspiring puppy-owner. She is a lover of coffee, Christmas, and all things Disney, and is in constant search of the best food and fancy cocktails in Manhattan. You can generally find her struggling to figure out how to decorate her apartment, watching bad reality TV, or playing board games far too competitively. She was born and raised in the Bronx, and currently lives with her husband in midtown Manhattan.