Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Mal de Mer: The Monster from The Deep

Keith came over to the canal for an evenings jawing and fishing last weekend. We had a few hours after ruffe, in which time Keith had three good hand sized perch, I had one about the size of my thumb. The canal is that zonal. The ruffe were elsewhere, of course, though I have caught the baby grand total of three from the stretch in the past, and then we went a'zandering, which I find, for some unfathomable reason, an exciting prospect. We failed with them as well, though.

He now thinks that I'm 'not right in the head,' after regaling him with my salty doggerel about the recent charter trip after tope, in which I visibly and audibly enjoyed the fruits of triumphing over the monster from the deep, the horror that is sea sickness. I was a little out of order I suppose, what with my cheerful whistling of Mozart's finest whilst others suffered terribly. But there was a point, as I will explain.

He also likened my picture in the post about that tope trip, to that of my spaniel - all wild eyed and dripping wet. I know what exactly what he means, and thinking back upon it, also how a spaniel feels after a swim in the canal...!

You see I was ecstatic that day. It took me a week to come down off the high. Surviving that horrible sea proved beyond all doubt that I could always now go out on a fishing boat, not have to worry unduly about the wind kicking up a bit, and come back without a decorated beard.

I used to have terrible sea sickness attacks despite many attempts to fathom it out and beat it for good. I noticed that some people never seem to be affected, and I wanted to be like them because fishing out at sea was always really very good fun so long as the conditions were near flat calm.

One day I was invited out for a days fishing on my old mate Sheddy's new boat, out of Mersea Island, Essex. These are seas I know really well from having stayed on that island since boyhood and the place is sheltered so that it has to be a big blow for the sea to get really rough. Nevertheless as soon as we got out into deep water the chop started to bring me down.

I knew that within half an hour I would be vomiting.

Sheddy could see that I was well on the way so he casually mentioned that the horizon was the key to the whole thing.

It hit me like a ton of London Stocks. He didn't have to say another word. I got it, all at once.

I fixed on the horizon and moved my head as the boat rocked from side to side and stern to prow in order to stay level with it. Playing at being a gimbaled compass was tiring, but the sickness vanished, until that is I had to rebait, where due to having lost my bearings looking down at the hook and bait and away from the horizon, the sickness suddenly reared back up again. I also began whistling a tune because I found that when I was feeling fine that I could, and when I felt even slightly sick, that I just couldn't manage a peep. Whistling was my miner's canary.

I then became fascinated by the fact that I could control the sickness but then lose control so easily and had the brainwave of not actually moving my head at all but moving my conscious mind instead. Unbelievably, this was to be everything in the one neat nutshell. Now, with a little practice I managed to achieve what all those other sea dogs took for granted, and was suddenly able to not only rebait a hook but also safely traverse a moving deck, watch a rod tip and unhook fish, all without losing track of where I was in the universe. I even got to understand the great pleasure to be had from actually predicting the movements of the boat rather than being conditioned by them, and finally after years of being terrified of what was coming next, actually rather enjoying not knowing!

Last year I went out on another charted trip off Lyme Regis. The wind picked up as we got out the five miles to the reefs and the sea responded with a bit of a chop. This was far heavier sea than that experienced at Mersea but after a little acclimatisation I got the hang of it once again. It was like riding a bike; once learned, never forgotten, it seemed.

On the tope trip out of Ilfracombe I was all right from the outset. As soon as I embarked I knew I'd be fine, come what may, because my transition from firm hard land to moving boat was so sure footed. It was truly a blessed moment steaming out into open sea without a care in the world beside the most important care of all, that of trusting the skipper implicitly, which I did. I still don't like it in the cabin or the toilet though, it must be said, and I don't know if I could sleep easily at sea, as yet, but I am sure that the same trick of keeping the horizon firmly fixed in the minds eye would apply there too.

So, Keith, now that I have tried to give the key to everyone for free and gratis in penance for being so unbearable, can I now be forgiven for whistling my way through hell and back?

And will you come out mackerel fishing?

1 comment:

  1. Anyone who can move their 'conscious mind' as an alternative to moving their actual head has my utmost admiration.

    But I'm with B.A Baracus on this one, "I still aint gettin' on no boat".


    Keith .J