“Ahoy, Cap’n Grampy! Don’t forget to pack your sextant,” I emailed to my friend Johnny, two days before our group of five high school buddies was to reunite at the Jersey shore for a weekend of beer drinking, coincident with a fishing trip.
Johnny’s nickname has been “Grampy” since high school, due partially to his lifelong love of golf, but primarily due to the sheer number of times he’s fallen asleep on the couch two hours before the end of the party. What else do you need to be a grandpa, really, besides two generations of offspring and a bowl of Werther’s Originals?
Inspired by too many episodes of “Deadliest Catch” on Discovery Channel, the show in which the toughest and facial-hairiest of fishermen pit themselves against the Arctic seas to try to haul in the bounty destined to supply the next Red Lobster ‘Fest, Grampy decided to organize a trip to let us test our own mettle on the open seas, generating responses such as: “Dude, I can get fish cheaper at Pathmark,” and, “Am I going to have to touch worms?”
Grampy then fired off the email that would launch a thousand dollars out of our collective pockets. The email began like this: “I guess you guys didn’t realize that this trip is really about hanging out with your friends and doing a guys’ trip, and was not meant to start a cost benefit analysis on the price per pound of fish.” It ended with this inspiring note: “If not us, who? If not now, when?”
We realized that he was right. If not us, who would overpay to charter a boat to catch fish that none of us have ever even bothered to order in a restaurant, preferring chicken parmesan instead? If not now, in late fall in the Northeast, when would we get a chance to go, besides in the spring or early summer when the weather might actually be amenable?
In the end, the spirit of adventure and Grampy’s electronic eloquence got the better of us, and we found ourselves at the Belmar Marina last Sunday morning, where I witnessed the first post-sleep sunrise I’ve seen since my family went to the Grand Canyon twenty-five years ago.
Never having been on a chartered fishing boat before, I didn’t realize that the main expense of a charter doesn’t go towards the Strategic-Petroleum-Reserve-dwarfing amount of gas that a large boat goes through in a day, but for the services of the Boat Dad who does all of the undesirable and gross stuff for you, just like a dad might do on a trip to the local pond with his five-year-old.
Wes, our Boat Dad, wore rubber overalls and performed nearly every act of what one might refer to as “fishing” for us, except for the reeling-in part, which was just fine by us. We turned out to be pretty good reeler-inners for the first couple of hours, until our hands got tired and our backs started acting up.
“Fish on!” Wes would yell, holding onto the wildly bending rod and looking for a volunteer to come to reel it in.
“Dude, I just cracked a beer. It’s your turn,” one of us would say.
“What? I just started eating my hoagie. Why don’t you go do it?”
By this point, Wes would be shaking his head, wondering how any of us had survived into our thirties.
Over the course of the day, we (and by “we” I mean Wes) threw most of the fish back, keeping enough for dinner and a few take-home freezer bags. In the end, you’re paying for the life experience and the camaraderie, not the fish. Which is good, because the fish cost about $63 per pound.
You can throw Mike Todd back at firstname.lastname@example.org.