Friday, November 11, 2016

Flash Fiction: Hope

My friend Lori—it's all your fault—suggested I write for the Plotto contest, put on by Tin House Publishing. Since my stories are big fat losers, I thought I'd publish them on my blog rather than let them moulder in my Google Drive.

The parameters: An original story, 500 words or less, based on the writing prompt.
Here was week one prompt:

And the loser story:


He stepped on to the bridge railing. The breeze felt fresh on his face. He dug his into his pocket and pulled out everything he owned. He opened his fingers and watched the detritus of street life disappear into puffs of mist as it sunk into the water--except for the rock; it was warm in his other hand.

He climbed down, and an anxious crowd parted. A police officer touched his elbow.

“Sir, can I get a ride? I need a haircut and these clothes...well they don’t smell too good.”

“Sure; get in. I know a place.”

Scratching a freshly shaved chin, he glanced at his reflection in a mirrored window. It smiled at him; good to see you man.

He pulled open the door and smelled the wood of the instruments mixed with the must of old building and dog. He picked up a guitar that looked a lot like the one he remembered, but older. He fingers made forgotten chord shapes as he squeezed his eyes shut and sang.
“Wow man, that was something.”

“Thanks. I’m Eugene. You got a job I can do?”

“For someone who plays like that, you bet your ass I do.”

"I need a place to sleep too.”

“There’s a room upstairs. You clean?”



Her morning was hectic. Her girls wouldn’t get up. They wouldn’t get dressed. They didn’t want to eat. They didn’t want to get on the bus.

Her littlest cried, “Mama, I just want to stay home with you.”

“Me too, baby.” She hugged her daughter and breathed in her buttery-flower scent.

The bus swallowed them up and left her hollow.

She weaved around people waiting for the train and bumped into a man who was rummaging in a garbage can. The blow knocked him back, sending his cans skittering over the sidewalk. She helped him gather them. She fished twenty dollars from her purse; hesitated, then wrapped a rock inside the money. She took his hand and pressed the tiny package into it.

Eugene unwrapped it. The word, hope, stared up at him.


Her feet ached. Her back hurt. She smiled down at the boy with a tube running from his nose.

“Sponge Bob? Boy, that show is going to rot your brain.”

The boy laughed, then winced in pain.

She picked up a remote and said, “I hear they have puppies coming in today. You want one or five?”

“Twelve.” “Hey, Harriet? Can you get my mom?”

“Sure thing, baby. You OK doll? You need something?”

“Just my mom. Please.”

His face had the shadow. She kissed his forehead and whispered, “I’ll go get her, baby.”

Harriet dialed the phone. She glanced up and noticed Luke’s mother walking down the hallway. She took her hands, “Amy, Luke was asking for you...” Harriet fished a rock from a pocket and pressed it into Amy’s palm.

Amy opened her fingers and the word, hope, stared up at her.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

The Dark Side of Exercise

Everything hurts and I'm dying...
Oh look, a camera!
I watched a cute little video regarding the benefits of exercise, you can see it here:

Bright Side: How Sport Changes our Bodies

Cute right?

As I watched this video I felt all warm and fuzzy, like when I see my unicorn pooping rainbow sherbert. Then a shadow passed before my eyes. As in all things with reality, the bright side is just the flip of the dark side.

Over this past summer, I sat on the grass next to my sister-in-law, who had just finished a 10-mile run. I tried not to hate the fact that her morning run doubled the farthest distance I’ve ever done. It was probably cake for her too—she has earned enough marathon medals to pave a road. I tried to strike up a conversation. She said, “Sorry, if I’m quiet; I’m just trying not to vomit.”

When the dark side is hidden and I discover it on my own, I assume something is wrong with me—that I just don't possess the talent. In reality, my athletic sister is not over there riding the runner’s high in the fragrant grass overlooking the river, she’s trying to find a place to discreetly puke. Yep, the dark side is there for everyone else too. So to prepare you, who may be disheartened by past perceived failures, or who may be getting revved up to get started, here are some of the things I’ve learned about the dark side of regular exercise...

I learned…

...I’ll never be done until they spread my ashes.

I always started a fitness regimen to get in shape, like “shape” was a mountain I could climb, plant a flag in, then retire to my life of ease. So I would take-off on a new fitness regime with enthusiasm and vigor, make a lot of progress, then lose interest and quit. Dumb right? Airplanes burn the most energy during take-off, it’s dangerous and exhausting, and I was taking-off all the time, going too hard too fast then quitting once I was no longer seeing big gains. Now I know that I want to live in that awesome cruising altitude for the rest of my life. to start effectively.

What do you mean, I just put shoes on and run right?

Sure, go for it. Then when you feel like quitting, come back and read the rest of this paragraph.

Since I was going to do this for the rest of my life, I did some homework and found out that I needed to start slow, adding time and distance slowly, and extra workout days slowly. It’s not as exciting, but slow, incremental lifestyle changes stick better than sudden changes.

…that I needed to go the duration, not the distance.

I found a route that I could run/walk in about a half hour. I ran until I couldn’t catch my breath, walked briskly until I could, then ran again. Gradually, I was able to decrease my walking periods until they disappeared. By then, my route was no longer taking me a half hour, so I extended it and repeated the run/walk process until I could run the whole thing. This gave me more time out exercising, which improved my overall fitness, yet gave my ligaments and tendons time to become strong and flexible again before adding intensity. Only when I have an upcoming race do I shift my focus to distance.
Runners World: How to Start Running

...workouts have to become a priority.

But I don’t have the time.

Sure you do, but you’re using that time for other important things.

In the book, Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey states, “The key is not to prioritize what's on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.” Like most people, I am a busy person and if it's not scheduled, it's not going to happen. I've had to make exercise a priority above this that and the other important thing. Since I've done that, I rarely miss a run day. I do get behind on laundry though...

...running requires proper training and technique.

I always thought myself an expert at running, after all, I’ve been doing it since I was two. Turns out there was so much I didn’t know. Minor tweaks to my form, stride, shoes, clothes, have made all the difference. Learn all you can about whatever fitness routine you choose, read articles, watch youTube videos, attend workshops at fitness stores, and talk to other people. Rarely is there a wrong or right, but there is certainly better or worse—and there is a lot to know about injury prevention, nutrition, and recovery.

Runner's World: Proper Running Form
I wasn't even breathing right. Runner's World: Breathing Tips

...running is not a fair weather activity.

Good running weather for me is cloudy, cool, and dry. Since this weather constitutes about 2% of my runs, I learned to tolerate all weather, hot, raining, freezing, even when I’m getting a cold or getting over one. If you give yourself a pass even once, you’ll do it all the time. Although, I do draw the line on 100 degree days—that’s just not nice.

...running is not enough.

Running works the same specific muscle groups, and I need to exercise all my muscle groups to be healthy and injury free. Mixing up my running routine with biking has helped by working my other leg muscles, and it keeps me from getting too bored. I also strength train my core, upper body, and glutes to keep my muscle development balanced. A strong core and upper body helps me maintain good posture, which helps me breathe better during longer runs; a bit of yoga helps me stay flexible.
Runner's World: Cross Training

...running is not a cheap sport.

When I started running, I was shocked and appalled at the expense of everything I couldn’t do without. (I resisted until it was either quit or cave and spend the money.)

Here’s a list of crap I can't live without while running:
  • Good shoes. There is a recommended schedule for buying replacements, but I only replace them when I can feel small pebbles through the soles. 
  • Running tights. I tried many kinds of shorts before admitting to myself that running tights are the most comfortable. I was horribly self-conscious at first, then I remembered I don’t give a rip.
  • Good bra. 
  • Well behaved underpants. 
  • Good socks. Yep, those too. Long runs mean blisters in crappy socks. 
  • Compression socks or calf sleeves. They muffle the cry of my calves as I run. 
  • iPod. Music pushes me forward and bonus: I don’t have to hear my panting.
  • Tank tops and shirts. Yep, I need “running” shirts because they don’t pull, rub, itch, ride up, blister, or otherwise make running more miserable.
  • GPS watch. My husband talked me into this one. Now I can’t do without it. It tracks my progress and tells me if I’m hitting my goals. It also keeps me honest. I know when I need to give myself a kick in the tights when my pace dips too much, or when I’m being stupid and taking off too fast at the starting line.
  • Races. Get ready to shell out cash and gas money for these. 

...running hurts, even when you’re doing it right.

I have more daily pain as a fit person approaching middle age than ever before. It’s a low-grade annoying pain, but it’s always there. There are exhaustive articles written about how runners have a higher pain threshold than people who don’t run. It’s just the way of it. Runners are so conditioned to being in pain, that they actually tend to go too far and ignore pain that should be treated.
Running World: The Big 7 Body Breakdowns

...that sleep is really important.

The video mentions how exercise cures insomnia. I’ve been exhausted from exercise, and still found my mind whirling on anxious thoughts for hours. Also, exercise requires that I get my normal sleep plus some, and when I’ve been sleep deprived, running sometimes exacerbated the effects. In general, I sleep more soundly on run days, but wouldn’t make a claim that it cures insomnia.
Competitor: Sleep Better (And Longer) To Run Better takes so much time!

To get in a half-hour run, I spend a little over an hour: Ten minutes to get changed into my running clothes, hair tied, deodorant applied, iPod clipped, GPS watch strapped on and activated, pre-run tinkle, shoes, a few push-ups to get my blood going, a couple quick stretches, kissed for my kids, one last tinkle then I’m off. A half-hour later, I’m back and dripping with sweat. So it’s the process in reverse plus a shower and a hair dry. Also, I need extra sleep—more time! make diet a noun, not a verb.

The word diet usually conjures up ideas about calorie restriction. A diet is something I have, not something I do. My diet is something I will continually fine tune for the rest of my life, to get what I need and cut out what I don’t, but it is not something I start and can one day stop.  Since this is for the rest of my life, I include meals I love, like tacos.

...exercise and weight loss are two separate things.

I used to hate hearing, “Why do you run? You’re not fat.” People generally don’t recognize that lean people can be just as out-of-shape as overweight people. And, as much as I’d like to shed that last 10 pounds of mom-chub, exercising a lot makes me ravenous, and when I’m ramping up training, I have to be careful to stave off weight gain. It’s a real thing.

To people who want exercise to be part of a healthy weight loss plan, that’s awesome, but be careful not to go too far with calorie restriction. Your body might interpret a prolonged calorie deficit as a famine period, something that was common during our evolution, and will try to increase your chances of surviving it by shifting your metabolism into emergency-conservation-mode. It’s better to create a smallish calorie deficit and spread the weight loss over longer period. If it took a decade to become overweight, it might take a few years to return to a stable weight. If you’re not losing weight, keep exercising anyway, you’re infinitely better off fit than not, regardless of your BMI.
Very Well: Plus Size Exercise
Runner's World: Ultra Read this one, this lady is inspiring. can still be in a fitness upswing during middle age.

Every time I participate a race, whether it be an obstacle, triathlon, 5k whatever, there are always women older than me that completely smoke my time—showing me I can’t use my lack of youth as an excuse to suck. So I keep pushing myself, and I’m a better runner now at 39 than I have ever been—and I’m still improving.

...slows down the aging process?

While it may slow the overall aging process, as the video claims, I never look and feel so old as just after a hard run. The sun, cold, rain, wind, can all take a toll on your skin too. I'm going to leave this one on the shelf, I don't think I'm buying.

...someone is always faster than me.

I’m over it. This is my journey; I’m competing against myself, to please myself. I’ve been smoked by short-limbed, overweight, sixy-something women in nearly every race. I’ve been surpassed by people that started their fitness journey years after me. I temper myself from feeling good about passing others, so I don’t feel bad about being passed. Go you! And go me!

...runners are slightly obsessed with BMs.

With good reason. There are hundreds of articles on the topic.
Competitor: Why Do I Have To Poop When I Run?

So what’s the point? Running sucks right, I get it.

It does suck, but like the video shows, there are a lot of real benefits. These are the reasons I run:
  • It kills my bad mood. Running transforms me from uber-bitch to Maria von Trapp. 
  • It burns off my stress. That fight or flight energy needs to go somewhere, so I take it for a run.
  • I’m convinced it kills colds. If I feel a run-of-the-mill cold settling in, I make sure I fit in a run before it strikes and usually it goes away before settling in. 
  • I feel better about my appearance. I don’t look any different, but I perceive myself differently.
  • I get a sense of accomplishment. On days when I don’t feel like I’ve done anything more important than matching socks and sweeping up dog hair, a run feels like a grand achievement.
  • It gets me outside, even when I don’t feel like it.
  • I love being fit. I can go on a long hike or bike ride anytime anywhere, play sports on a whim, and I have energy to play with my kids. 
  • It makes me conscientious about my health. I’m more inclined to eat healthfully and pay attention to cues from my body that something is off.
  • My kids are watching me. 

Now that you’ve read all that, know that your experience with dark side and light side of exercise will be different. You may not even like to run, maybe your thing is a naked Tae-Bo in a forest clearing by moonlight. That’s great. Find it, do it, persevere.

If you get mired in the dark side—it's not just you. However, there are great pubs on the dark side. Pop into one some time and I’ll buy you a pint and we can discuss how much our runs today sucked, compare our ugly feet, and discuss our BM
schedules. But just one...we got stuff to do today.

For further inspiration:
The Oatmeal: The Terrible and Wonderful Reasons I Run Long Distances

Friday, October 7, 2016

Summer Tuna Fishing Trip

Something has shifted for Charley and me. Perhaps it’s our kids getting older, perhaps it’s just us getting older, but we are seizing opportunities to pull some rocks out of our Bucket Lists, no longer leaving them to “someday” or “maybe when”. When Charley's brother-in-law, Dave, called and asked if we wanted to join him and his buddies on a chartered fishing trip, we jumped at the opportunity, “Hmmm, I don’t know...” Which was followed by a definitive, “Um sure, I guess so,” when he called a couple weeks later.

Go, us!

Our fishing trip turned out to be a tuna fishing trip.

Ok, cool.

Tuna shoals are typically 20-50 miles off shore.

Whoa, so that’s like out-to-sea. I’ve never really been out-to-sea before.

The usual trip takes about 12 hours.

Twelve? As in 1-2 hours?

Neither of us knew how we’d do seasickness wise. The reports from my sister-in-law, Lina, is that it sucks, like really, really, just-shoot-me-and-make-it-stop sucks—Dramamine, notwithstanding.

Gosh, hope that doesn’t happen to us.

I have been on a boat in rough seas before, but only for a couple hours and always within sight of land. Using only pressure bands and ginger capsules, I felt fine. I thought I’d be OK. But I was also worried about being out that far, for so long…shit happens out there and there’s not much you can do if it does, just hope you can roll and swirl like a tenacious poo-nugget if the ocean decides to flush you down.

Charley was really tense. He and his sister share DNA of course, and he was worried he’d be trapped for twelve hours in his own personal puke fest.

His nerves zinged my nerves, and my nerves zinged his nerves. We got going on some research, and decided to get prescriptions for the Transderm Scop® patch. I also planned to wear my lucky pressure bands.

I didn’t sleep much the night before the trip; which was fine by me, because I hate getting up early, and when 4:30 rolled around after tossing and turning all night I was relieved—finally!—rather than bleary. We dressed, ate—cautiously, and packed our gear and food. After coffee, we headed out with our crew.

On the road, my nerves settled. By the time we got to the SeaBreeze Charter office my mood had improved considerably. I almost always feel better when things are in motion. We checked in and we were told that our deckhand overslept and we would need to wait a bit.

I had a good appetite, so I had some of their office coffee and an amazing oatmeal cookie Lina had made for our trip, and tucked in to wait. I had a hard time sitting still. Three tinkle trips later, I admitted to myself that maybe I was still a tad nervous. The others sat and rested their eyes, lifting a lid now and again to survey the office.

The deckhand arrived and we made our way down to the yellow Salty Dog and were welcomed aboard by Captain Jeremy. Captain Jeremy wore tattered cargo shorts, flip flops, an oversized hoodie, and a mop of unruly hair. He looked legit.

The deckhand James was a compact young man with an easy, affable manner. He wore bib overalls, a hoodie and a hat with a short brim. He has an easy smile and although he had overslept and held up the boat, he did not look stressed or anxious, just ready.

Captain made introductions, gave us his spiel as well as brief instructions on how their rod and rigs worked, and how the day was likely to play out. He mentioned that other boats reported finding tuna about 25 miles out. Charley and I shared a that's-good-news look.

Gear was stowed, Deckhand James was weaving the deck deftly untying and tying ropes and stowing stuff, checking stuff…doing stuff, unhurried and efficient. The guys, Dave, Clay, Kevin, Chris, and one other guy who was not in our broup, all packed into the cabin and sat down. With heads laid back and eyes closed, they were ready to doze through the next couple hours of driving and catch a few of the zs lost by the early rise. The little yellow boat rumbled to life. I stayed on the back deck taking in the lights of the Ilwaco Port and watching the sky turn from black to blue.

Getting cold, I poked my head in the cabin wondering if I wanted to sit inside, and the steamy, compactness, as the boat pitched and rolled filled my body with a sense of NOPE. I pulled back out and looked for a comfortable spot to ride outside, there wasn’t one, so I leaned up against a huge ice cooler near the cabin that was somewhat sheltered by Plexi windows. Charley was worried about getting sick, so he stayed out too.

It was glorious.

I was having fun. The engine roared as I turned on my GPS runner’s watch. My watch reported that we were moving at 18 mph. I was looking forward to seeing the GPS map of our route when we returned, I would find out later that in “other activity” mode, maps aren’t saved. Darn.

As we motored by the jetty, humpback whales blew and breached. The black and white striped Cape Disappointment Lighthouse blinked her light in the morning gloom. I realized that this was a first; it took me half of my life to see a lighthouse from the sea.

Charley and I watched the sea looking for blowing whales, and other wildlife. We saw a pod of small dolphins that looked black, sea lions hanging out on a buoy, many more whales, and a pod of pelicans soared by our boat.

The engine roar died and Captain Jeremy and Deckhand James appeared. DH James got busy doing stuff and Cap explained that James was setting out rigs for trolling for tuna. He told us what the rods would look like if there was a fish on, bent and thrashing, and that we were to shout over the roar, “FISH ON!” at which time he would stop the boat, and one of us was to grab the writhing rod and start reeling ‘em in. The rest of us would grab a rod from the twenty or so in the middle of the aft deck, and bring it over to Cap or Deckhand, who would bait our hooks with a live anchovy. We were all to stand on the same side of the boat, facing the wind, pitch our little fish in, flip the bail, and feed out line. They would also pitch in some anchovies for chum to keep the tuna near our boat. When a strike happens we were to count to ten before flipping the bail to set the hook. Later, DH James told Charley and I that nobody ever waits that long, they’re just hoping that by saying, ten, fishermen will wait for five. It was good he told us, because we’re both very literal and would have waited the ten seconds, and seeing how hard they run, we would be reeling in our fish from Japan by then.

Jumping fish and diving birds would tell us we were close to a shoal of tuna.

Got it. We’re ready Cap.

The boat roared back to life, somewhat slower. The two trolling rods bent and jumped as the water pulled on their rigs.

Some minutes later, one of the rods was flopping, I elbowed Charley, “Do you think that’s what he meant?” Charley looked startled, “I’m not sure, should we yell, ‘Fish on?’ I think we’re supposed to.” Then from somewhere behind us shouts Dave bellows, “FISH ON!” making us jump, and there is a dash to the rod. Dave is breathing down my neck, “Get it! Reel it in! Grab it!” I obeyed.

This was no trout. Holy smokes these things are strong!

I pinned the heel of the rod into my hip for leverage and reeled. It ran, I let it, and then I reeled some more. My whole body was activated, and my heart pumped furiously as I worked. I was vaguely aware of the other fish being reeled in and the slightly frantic, but orderly activity as the guys got their rods ready and in the water. There were several other shouts of, “Fish on!” We were definitely in a tuna shoal.

I reeled, and it ran again, I reeled some more then…nothing.


I reeled in the jig and it flopped on the surface of the water and I felt like crap. Dave gave me the fish to land when he could have taken it for himself, and I let it get off. Damn. My line was always tight; I was at a loss for what I had done wrong.

Cap came by to check on my progress and I told him it got off, just as I finished reeling it in. Without hesitation, he put a different rod in my hand, baited an anchovy and told me to toss it in over the port side. The line of bodies on the left side of the boat revealed to me which was port.

I flipped the bail, tossed in my anchovy and watched it swim away with my line. I fed out line and watched others reel in their fish. Shouts of “color!” sent the deckhand dashing for a net. DH James then hung perilously over the railing to net the fish. After he netted the fish, he dumped it on the deck and dashed off to the next fisherman. A trout will fold itself in half to get back into the water, tuna however, mostly just vibrate. They look like steely torpedos with a wind-up tail. Brrrrrrr. If DH wasn’t called by another shout of “color!” he would pick up the fish by the base of the tail and carry them over to a blue barrel. Then he’d produce a knife cut the fish where the gills connected to the jaw (throat?) and let the blood drain into the barrel, thereby killing and bleeding the fish, rather than leaving it to suffocate.

My anchovy swam, so close yet so far from freedom. My line fed out. After a while, I reeled in checked to make sure my anchovy was still looking perky and tossed it back in. Soon the fervor of activity died down and we were instructed to reel in so we could find the fish again. I reeled in my little anchovy, unhooked it and tossed it in the sea. “Whoop, wait, save those for chum,” Dave corrected me. “Oh yeah, whoops.” Secretly, I hoped my little anchovy would enjoy a few moments of freedom before becoming an unkippered snack for something else.

Wide awake, everyone was asking who caught what, and I retold my, I-had-one-but-lost-it story.

We trolled. The rods flopped and jumped, someone shouted “FISH ON!” and the boat rocked to a stop. I steered clear of the trolling rods, as they were clearly cursed, and grabbed an unbaited one. DH James grabbed my hook, netted an anchovy, bent it at the gills and hooked him under the gill plate to catch the collarbone, popping the hook back out of the shoulder.

I took my rod over to the port side and dropped in my swimmer and started to feed line. Wham! I waited, 1...2...3...4...5, took a breath, then flipped the bail and gave a tug to set the hook. The tuna ran and I watched 30 lb test peel off my reel. The run slowed, and I planted my rod in my hip, ouch, and began to reel. Pull back, reel down, pull back, reel down, this process went on for about 12 years, with a few runs in between, then I saw my fish! It was so small! It wasn’t anywhere near the size of the VW bug I’d anticipated. It saw the boat and dove. I watched my efforts peel off my reel and as soon as it slowed I started pulling and reeling again. My rod arm bicep burned as I reeled, Cap came by and adjusted my drag and gave me some pointers. I reeled down and pulled up, reeled down and pulled up. “COLOR!” is how I wanted to say it but I think it came out more like “gasp—color—gasp”. I held my fish there while DH helped land a different fish.  Then he leaned over, I pulled up and he scooped, and plop! my fish was vibrating on the deck of the boat. DH James pulled the hook and dropped it into the barrel.

As a person who had only seen whole tuna lying dead in ice, it was remarkable how beautiful they are. They iridescent blue on the top, brilliant sides and yellow pectoral fins, silvery undersides. Viewed from the top the blue must blend with the sea, and viewed from the bottom the silver must blend with the sky, the yellow must be there for the eye to blend with blue for shades of green. They have neat little triangular fins towards the back of the tail that open and retract.  When open, they look like something you could cut yourself on, until they retract and reveal themselves to be soft. Once dead and packed in ice they looked like every other tuna, gray and dull.

Soon the activity died down again and we were off to chase another shoal. DH James, bled the fish and left them in the barrel. Then he shoveled ice from the big coolers, working around Charley and me, into smaller coolers under the bench seats. He laid the dead fish in the cooler and shoveled in more ice handling the thirty-pound fish with ease. Then he took a hose and washed down the blood from the deck and otherwise prepared for the next stop.

I poked my head in the cabin for food, water, coffee, and to rib the guys a little and noticed Chris was missing. I wandered inside and found him driving the boat. As a long time sailor and all around eager for experiences, of course he was driving. I visited with him a bit until Cap popped out of the tiny bathroom. Cap told me I could stay, I declined. He jumped in the other seat and let Chris drive as they chatted about nautical stuff.

We made another stop. I hooked into a fish immediately. I counted, 1..2..3..4...5...took a breath and flipped the bail. I was fishing portside on a narrow, two-foot wide walkway between the fore and aft decks. Tuna tend to swim in circles, and a crossed line could mean lost fish, so we had to follow our fish, making it necessary to pass under, or otherwise maneuver around other fishermen. Did I mention the walkway was super narrow? The ocean heaved and rolled, our fish pulled and there was a few times that I thought if the boat rocked just right, I would be in the drink. You’d think that would be a bad feeling, but it was actually really, really, fun. Was I going to drown? Nope. Would it be a great story to tell? Yep. But alas, I did not.

“Color!” send Cap for a net and my fish was vibrating on the walkway. I carried it towards the barrel, and James took out the hook and dropped it in.

Having caught a couple fish at this point, I was feeling OK. I walked over to the anchovy tank and fished one out and was going to try my hand at baiting. I grabbed it and flip! it was on the deck. I chased it around the deck and got it. Flip, it was on the loose again. I grabbed it again and managed to hook it as I’d seem Cap and DH James do. I tossed it in. Wham! Another fish! I counted and the process repeated. Cap squeezed by and said, “Come on woman—reel in that fish!” I suppressed a groin kicking reflex and channeled that energy to my rod and reel. Another 12 years later and another beefy tuna was vibrating on the deck. My rod arm was quivering, my reeling hand was tired, and my hip was sore. But I baited another anchovy, after losing it a few times back into the tank, slippery little bastards, and tossed it in the water. I had only let out a little line when Cap asked if any of us was hooked into a fish. We all said, “No,” and he told us to reel in. Sweet relief! I looked over to Dave and told him, “I was a little afraid to toss in my anchovy—I might hook into another one.” Dave said, “Ha!” and gave me a look that told me he kinda sorta wanted to pitch me into the water.

The next stop, Charley and I fished together on the port-side bow. Captain came over to check on us and as he retreated he tripped over a fixture on the deck and went flip-flops over tea kettle and I noticed he had pink toenails. He mentioned earlier that he had a kid, and I concluded that he must have a daughter. We asked if he was OK, and he laughed and said nothing was hurt but his pride and made a hasty retreat. I caught another one and lost one. While I was reeling, Chris laughed at me. Mistaking it for making fun of my fumbling and struggling, I said “Hey, no laughing!” He said, that it’s just that every time he looked over I was into another fish. Probably seemed that way because of the 12 years it took me to land the buggers.

The next one I lost and it took my hook too, so I rooted around to find another. Cap said it was probably a blue shark and made a motion to do it for me and I said, “You’re using a cinch knot right?”

“Yep,” he replied as he stayed to watch me tie my hook on.

I’ve tied hundreds of cinch knots in my life, but never has it taken me the three hours it took me that day; the thirty pound test and the captain’s watchful eye conspired to make me all thumbs. But, I got it done and went over to bait another anchovy. Captain’s voice followed me, “You know, the next person to lose a tuna will be because you tied that knot.”

Rigging my own rod, did wonders for making me feel more like a fisherman and less like a tourist. I walked over to the railing and pitched in my anchovy. I hooked a fish right away. I waited, then flipped the bail and started to reel. It was much easier this time, and felt kinda weird. Before long I could see a blue back, then the triangular pectoral and dorsal fins of a shark. How cool! I caught a shark. Cap was right, it was a shark shearing off our anchovies. It was hooked it where the pectoral fin connected to the body, right in the armpit. Again, I was stunned at how beautiful it was; its back was a rich blue and had a white belly, about two to three feet long.

Cap and DH James netted him as I fumbled to get my camera out. They unhooked it and tossed it back in the ocean. I shrugged and put my camera away. Captain realized his error and apologized. He asked if I wanted a picture with a tuna. I said sure and grabbed a random smallish one from the barrel. Having my hands full of fish, I propped my hip against the railing to keep my balance. Later, I looked at the picture and wondered at my swanky pose, then remembered I was trying to keep my feet.

We reeled in and headed off again. DH James was busy as usual, the guys rested and talked over the catch, Charley and I stayed on the back deck in James’s way, as usual. Dave handed us a Coors Light, which sounded wonderful! I took a sip and instead of the usual refreshing taste it tasted like metal. I concluded that it must be the patch I was wearing to prevent seasickness, which had also given me wicked cottonmouth. I drank my beer anyway sat on the big cooler and relished the moment. Charley and I were both tired, but decidedly happy. No nausea, we’d both caught fish, and had had a great day. We were ready to head back in, but it was only early afternoon, and there were more fish to catch.

The rods started hopping again and the boat died as we surged into action. Dave and his friend Kevin headed for the trolling rods, I waited, stretched a bit, took my time selecting a rod and baited it, picked a spot then casually tossed it in. Wham! Fish on. Chris laughed at me, I sighed. 1...2...3...4...5… While I fought my fish, following it up and down the railing, boat heaving, moving for other fishermen, I could hear Captain's voice shouting to Kevin, “Come on MAN, reel in that fish!” To which Kevin’s strangled voice replied, in excellent Scottish burr, “I’m giving her all she’s got Cap’n!” Why didn’t I think of that?!

 I landed my fish as did the guys, and Captain said we had a great haul and would troll as we headed back in. Everyone agreed. Charley and I were still out back and were tired enough to hope we wouldn’t run across another shoal, and we didn’t.

The drive back in was lovely. The day had warmed, the wildlife soared and splashed, and daily life for the people of the port churned in a way we don’t normally see. There was a huge dredging machine working, boats were coming and going. Then we were back.

Deckhand and Captain got busy unloading our fish and carting them up the ramp to the landing. DH James hung a dozen or so on a Sea Breeze Charters’ rack for photos and we had fun lining up.

Photo courtesy of Clay.

Photo courtesy of Clay.
Then the one person not in our group took his share of five fish and headed over to have it processed. Of the 33 fish, that left us with 28, 30-ish pound tuna to deal with. Twenty-eight! The two large coolers Dave brought were wildly inadequate, each held about five fish with their tails jutting out in all directions. We toyed with having them processed at the port, but ultimately decided to simply load them up and go. I ran back down to the boat to get fish bags with the Captain. He found about eight or so and loaded them up with bloody, watery ice, and we trucked them back up the ramp. The guys grabbed the bags and loaded all the fish and we were off!

Hungry and tired, we trekked back to Oysterville. We cleaned up quickly and went over to say hi to our girls who had spent the night and all of the day with their Oma and Opa.

Then the real work began. We bought all the ice on the peninsula, knives were sharpened, and fish heads rolled. Dave, Lina, and the rest of the crew chopped and filleted well into the night. Removed of their bones and heads, the 28 fish now fit comfortably into four coolers and spent the night packed in ice.

The next three days would be dedicated to processing. Two fillets per fisherman were vacuum packed and frozen, the rest was canned. Four pressure cookers steamed away as we chopped, packed, salted, cooked, and cooled.

Charley and I worked for only one day and had to leave for home. Lina and Dave, and their dwindling crew labored for another two.

For about a week my arms smelled of rancid tuna oil.

It was awesome.

What an experience.