In the last couple of weeks, I’ve been aboard more boats than I have in my entire life: twice. As family and close friends would know, I’m not one to enjoy long exposure to sun and I’m also pretty vocal about it.
Sunbathing and tanning has never been titillating to me. As they say, “the grass is always greener on the other side” and nothing holds more truth than that when it comes to me versus the sun. If the boat has shade, you can find me cowering underneath it.
Aside from that, boats also provoke a more horrific memory.
This is a memory I’d like to call “The Worst Day of My Life”.
So the story begins…
It was a warm Friday night in the middle of August. My husband and I were spread across the couch skimming through the channels trying to catch one of our many favorite television shows. My phone rings and as I lean forward, I notice it’s my mom.
“Hi. Your dad and I are going to be going to Rockport because he wants to go fishing on his friend’s new fishing boat. Would you and Anthony like to come with us? Austin is on the way” she says in her most coaxing voice.
I could practically feel her nudge through my phone.
“I’m not sure mom. Let me ask Anthony.”
I put the phone on mute and looked over at Anthony. After explaining to him what my mom had told me, he said he would be willing to go if he was able to spend time with my parents. I assured him we would because I was always able to when I went growing up.
“Sure mom, we’ll go with you. What time do you think you’ll be leaving Arlington?”
“Saturday after work. We should be there around 8 at night.”
“Okay, good. Call me when you leave.“
After their 3-hour drive South, they arrived that night around 10. What you don’t know about my dad is that he is very resilient. Afterall, he was a POW during the Vietnam war after his B-52 crashed in the jungle. He even has a bullet wound on his head to prove it. With that said, he was already eager to move on towards Rockport.
“Let me just take a quick nap to power up and then we can keep going.” he says.
As my parents bicker back and forth about what time we should leave, Anthony and I laid on the couch watching Food Network attempting to doze off for a little bit. My mom joined us a few moments later and almost instantly, I hear a faint snore coming from our guest bedroom. My dad is already fast asleep.
A few hours had passed and we realized it was already 1 o’clock in the morning. “Crap!”, I thought to myself. We still had to pack some clothes and get Cooper ready for a road trip.
After getting everything together, we woke my dad up from his sleep and hit the road.
Leaving from Austin was a little unfamiliar for my dad since he’s so used to driving straight from Arlington. We drove through windy roads in the darkest of night and spotted deer running along the medians. With the map on my iPhone illuminating my face, it was the only light I could see around me besides the stars. My mom was fast asleep and Anthony was dozing in and out of consciousness. It was just me, my dad, and the noise of the tires gripping the road. Every now and then, I would blurt out directions but even that was few and far between.
The roads in Texas are flat and go on for days.
Hours of staring out of the window, I notice we’re approaching Rockport. I recognize the Walmart and H-E-B from childhood memories. At this point, I was delirious from lack of sleep. I hear my dad talking on the phone to his friend in the front seat.
“You want us to meet you there? Okay, okay. Everything is ready to go? Okay, we’ll be there soon.”
We approach their quaint little bait shop sitting along a row of other similar bait shops. I could see a group of people standing idle around what looks like a speed boat propped up on a trailer behind a white truck.
“Honey, we’re here. How do you feel?”
“Yeah, me too.”
I opened the door and was instantly hit with the smell of gulf water and seafood. Cooper was eager to hop out of the car once he spotted a fire hydrant. I’m pretty sure he was ecstatic to relieve himself, as my dad was so focused on his arrival that we never stopped along the way.
My dad looks back at me after talking with his friends to ask if we had a fishing license. “Of course we don’t”, I was thinking. So after pawning Cooper off on my mom, Anthony and I ventured off to find a gas station selling fishing licenses.
“I am SO tired”, Anthony said in the most fatigued voice. I agreed, picked up my Monster and our fishing licenses, and headed back to the bait shop.
The sun was rising in the distance and as we were parking, I could hear my dad’s friend rushing everyone to hop in his truck. Before feeding into the frenzy, I asked my mom what she was going to do with Cooper while we were all away. With much surprise, she told me she wasn’t going to be joining us. Anthony and I, with disappointment in our eyes, quickly ran and hopped into the truck without discussion.
It was obvious that we were a little surprised by a series of things: my mom not going, the amount of people in the back of the truck, the size of the boat, and how ridiculously tired we were.
30 minutes later…
There were 9 people in a small speedboat that looked like it was made for 4 people, with only one seat for the captain and a makeshift cooler-turned-seat in the bow. Anthony, my dad, and I were situated in the rear facing the captain’s back holding on to the sides of the boat. There were an additional 4 people, 2 on either side of the boat holding on to a metal rod attached to the controls.
“Is this safe, dad?” I asked.
And there we go, catching small waves out into the Gulf of Mexico.
Once we were outside of the barrier islands, the captain sped up into the sunrise. Once we got further out, the waves got much bigger causing the boat to catch air jumping each and every wave. My tailbone was begging for something different. Anything different. Anthony and I began fearing for our lives.
“Are there any life vests on board?”
“No. But it’ll be okay”, my dad assures us.
As Anthony and I were both catching air along with the boat, our bodies slammed back into the sides every time we landed. We had to endure this for what felt like eternity. Needless to say, we were bruised and battered. Also, somewhere along the way, my dad had broken a piece of plastic off of the boat. I assume it’s because he, too, was slamming into the boat with each wave.
We are now 4 hours from the coast with the late morning sun beating down on us. There were no other boats in sight. After stopping to assess the depth and fish density from this gadget sitting on the dashboard, the area we stopped at was deemed “bad for fish” and off we sped. Again.
One hour later, we’ve anchored in the middle of the gulf and everyone is baiting their rods. Anthony and I are mentally and physically exhausted, scared for our lives, and had no interest in anything other than finding an area to lay down in. At this point, it was so hot that Anthony had wet his t-shirt and tied it around his head.
“Dad, how long are we going to be out here?”
“Oh, not that long. Just until we catch a good amount of fish to take home.“
As I watched the clock, I could feel myself fading as the sun drained any ounce of energy I had left. I could no longer hear, my vision was blurry, and my head felt like it was about to implode. By the look on Anthony’s face, he was feeling the same way.
We took turns laying on the floor of the boat in spaces that had less traffic, curled up in a fetal position trying to stay away from the sun and the fishing hooks flying around.
I woke up after what felt like a minute of sleep to the sound of the engine moving again. I could see Anthony out of the corner of my eye trying his best to make light of the situation. My dad was assisting him with baiting his hook. A few moments later, we’re at an oil rig with a piercing beeping sound echoing through it’s speakers. It’s to inform other ships that the oil rig is currently vacant of workers.
After a few hours of catching tons of bass fish, my dad said they were heading back to shore. Yes!
They reeled in their hooks, placed them in the holders, and again, we sped off heading towards the bait shop, my mom, and Cooper.
Bracing ourselves for what could have been a long and terrible ride back to the shore, we hear a loud “splurt!”. The engine went out.
The captain of the boat, my dad’s friend, is looking for the nearest oil rig because he didn’t carry any tools on the boat with him. Being a 2-engine boat, we were lucky we didn’t have to float until someone stumbled across us. With a now crippled one engine boat, we were moving much, much slower than we had going out. This felt like a blessing in disguise, as Anthony and I didn’t know if our bodies were able to take any more beating than it already had.
As we float towards a huge ship docked at the nearest oil rig, some crew members aboard were able to help us by providing us with an industrial-sized screw driver. My dad’s friend jumped into the water to try and dissect what was going on with the engine. The challenge, however, is that the engine couldn’t be lifted so he couldn’t see and had no grip underwater. The attempt was futile so he gave up and decided we would need to head back without the second engine.
This made the trip in twice as long as the trip out. It took us 8 hours to get back to shore.
By the time we made it back, it was already dinner time. My mom was frantic since they didn’t hear from us and our phones, of course, were dead out in the middle of the ocean with no reception.
After a grueling 15 hours on the boat, laying in fish blood, over 24 hours with no sleep, a bruised body and tailbone, and a scar we’ll hold for life, we were on our feet again and walking towards the car.
“I’m never getting on a boat ever again. Ever.”
“Me either, Anthony. Me either.”