By Michael Sullivan
Some things are just inherently lucky. That or they’re with you so often they just seem lucky.
I hadn’t been seasick in years. I’m not a weary old sea dog, but I thought I’d paid my dues salmon fishing on lake Michigan and fighting sail fish off the east coast. My father-in-law – a man well on his way to putting those old sea dogs to shame – isn’t afraid of much when it comes to the sea. Having circumnavigated the globe on a 44-foot catamaran he’s earned that title. So, when he suggested we take a quick trip from South Florida to Bimini to catch some fish and dive for a few days, who was I to question him?
Blind trust is seldom placed in undeserving hands. Having just returned from solo sailing his new boat from France to Florida the month prior, I figured this was a safe bet. But I probably should’ve checked the forecast before we left the dock. Or at least asked. We set off about 9:00 pm into a somewhat testy 4-foot swell that was standard for the other times we’d been out.
Further and further out the waves started picking up steam and as is habit in rough water. I stared at the shoreline and tried not to move much to avoid getting sick. Things kept progressing and a few hours into the 10 hour sail we hit the gulf stream.
At this point the waves were maybe 6 feet. Encroaching the higher end of lake Michigan high. The night carried on and the moon started to set over a fading Miami skyline. A beautiful neon orange upside-down crescent, it was really a sight to behold, and the only thing keeping my insides inside.
Being the rookie of the family, I wasn’t about to be the one to vomit first. I left that to my two-year-old nephew. He had just finished releasing the entirety of his stomach in bed and was hauled up for some fresh air. The kid was a trooper, but had just a tiny bit left to give and let it out right in front of me. Just that little bit put every trick I’d been using to that point out the window.
I held true for 5 hours, but my fate was at the mercy of Poseidon. I went full green and bolted towards the back of the boat. Ever so gracefully I grabbed for the pole behind the back seating… and missed.
I did a one-legged bow and avoided going ass-over-tea-kettle by narrowly grasping the lone wire blocking off the back of the boat to the abyss that stood in front of me. I’m not sure if my lucky hat or my stomach contents flew farther. Either way, both were gone.
Realizing I almost swam to New York, I sat my ass back down and suffered the next few hours on my back hearing every other person on the boat hurl one by one. I’m no meteorological physicist, but with the wind carrying us from the Northwest, Gulf Stream current ripping from the south and the swell coming head on, we were in for a gnarly rest of the night.
With waves crashing over the bow, I was baptized into the sailing community by fire. Somehow I stumbled to my bed and rode out the last hours getting a very few minutes of shut-eye before we sailed into Bimini. Still half woozy I woke up to the most peaceful bay I’ve ever seen. I would learn over a much-needed cup of coffee that that was the third worst water my salty father-in-law sailed through in 40-plus years.
The rest of the trip was well worth the pain. We snorkeled all over, caught some monster lobsters and a few fish, the prize of which was a giant Cero Mackerel. Luckily, there’s a chef in the family, so we turned that fish into a 5-star meal and a finished bottle of Brazilian Cachaça over a cloudless ocean sunset. It’s easy to see how people fall into this lifestyle. When the two short days were over, it was time for round 2 with Poseidon. Thankfully the way home wasn’t quite as rough, but this time I didn’t take any chances without my lucky hat.
Editor’s Note: The lucky hat referenced in this story is none other than the Field Ethos Pilsner Hat AKA The Cheap Beer Hat. Try your luck with one HERE.