It’s hard to look at the bright side of a fishing trip where you spend a majority of the time contemplating the texture of your vomit.
I’ll let that soak in for a second.
The day started out bright and beautiful with a drive through Costa Rican countryside. I heard the tales told by my Greek ex-pat guide who happily lived now in Puerto Viejo and he told stories that ranged from why the roads were so bad, the local dogs, the fishing in the area, all the drugs in Puerto Viejo (crack mostly) and sloths. They were all over the place and super interesting, and at the time I wasn’t thinking “Hours from now I’ll be wishing I was drinking a lot more water, to make all that vomiting go easier”… you NEVER think that.
El Cubano (I don’t think I ever caught his real name, and “The Cuban” is badass enough sounding of a nickname anyways) lives in a small house in Limon. When I was told we were going out on a fisherman’s boat I have no idea what I was expecting, but what I got very much wasn’t it. This was to fishing boats what I imagine the inside of a truck driver’s cab was like. This thing was well used. It wasn’t parked at a dock, it was tied off and we had to walk across chainlinked fence to jump onto the deck of the ship. For all I knew we were stealing the fucking boat. And there certainly was no sailing involved. This thing ran on diesel fumes and we had to go get some gas before we went out and we slid along some pretty horrific gasoline covered water to get to the place where the gas was.
Once there, there were a handful of ‘Pier Toughs’ that were essentially old black guys talking spanish and smoking cigarettes like it was their job, while someone burned a big pile of trash nearby. There were a ton of mostly cleaned out crab traps, and when the fuel came it was in a giant tank that El Cubano got going by just straightup sucking on the tube he shoved into the gas can. This whole time I just kept thinking if one of those guys flicked his cigarette into the grease coated ‘ocean’ the boats were sitting in, we’d all go up like marshmallows.
Smoking Cigarillos like Woah
When we finally set out to see I was dubious, but this was a man who clearly belonged at the ocean. This was the modern rendition of the Old Man in the Sea. He also didn’t speak a lick of English. As he baited fishing lines, chummed the water, and opened packs of new hooks, he carelessly threw plastic wrappers and bags into the ocean. This was not Green Peace. We were not tearing apart god damn coke can wrappers to prevent fish from eating them. We were MEN AND WE WERE GOING TO MAKE THE OCEAN WEEP AND BEG US TO STOP STEALING ALL HER FUCKING FISH.
I mean I was that pumped up. And as we started out The Cuban picked up something that looked like a flat piece of metal. Like something a carpenter would use to smooth out drywall. He unfurled some thick fishing line from around it and threw it into the ocean. I looked in confusion at the old greek man who was my guide and translator and after a short exchange he replied with a smile “For Catching Fish”
Except what it's scraping away is a fish's desire to live.
Well yeah… no shit.
And yet, like the Horse Whisperer of fish. It fucking worked. We hadn’t been sailing out of the port for more than 30 minutes. We were ON THE WAY to where the fishing was. And we caught a giant fucking baracuda. I’ll upload pictures later as proof that I’m not full of shit that this was a big fish, but it was big enough that after I reeled it in by basically just, pulling in this random device the guy had thrown into the water, he then took over and grabbed a baseball bat and pulled it out of the water and smashed it in the fucking head over and over again.
Also worth noting that while they say barracuda have teeth, what you should know about them is they have TEETH. They look like giant fucking shark teeth, and they look like if one decided it wanted to fuck you up… it would.
I can't even begin to tell you how not fucking around this fish is.
So here I am with The Greek and The Cuban and I’m so fucking stoked that we’re going to make the sea our BITCH, and during all this Karma is sneaking up on me and I totally miss it.
Well before I know it, I’m puking for what feels like hours, sea sick out of my mind, we aren’t catching any fish and it’s raining like a motherfucker and the ship is pitching all over the place. My world is fucked and I’m just laying down suffering and no longer enjoying this “amazing fishing adventure” that I signed up for. Eventually I begin to plead with The Cuban who thinks the sea and the puke and the rain is sort-of par for the course and looks at me in much the same way that any action movie hero would look at a sidekick who said ‘Rather that shoot the bad guys, can we just go home and nap? I missed my pilates class and I’m feeling gassy” Which is to say he called me a pussy with his eyes.
(I debated googling for an image for ‘eye pussy’ here but decided the Japanese would fuck me on that one if I did).
So begrudgingly the Cuban took us home. I literally counted every second of the trip back. I started a game with myself to try to stop barfing where I just counted… I counted out 5 minute blocks of time and then began again. The boat that seemed so wonderful before was now just a diesel fume generating puke machine.
When we got back I had a mug full of fish-head soup and squeezed some lime into it and stirred it. We were all standing around a metal table that was used to clean fish. The small walkway also had room for two deep freezers but that was it. There was a small concrete wall, maybe a foot or two tall and from there chain link fence rose to meet a corrugated steel sheating that the rain banged down on. I was standing in mud caked flip flops, and had mud on my legs. I wore soaking wet board shorts and sweatshirt and my stomach was just back on the sane side of Queasy Street. The metal flour-de-li’s on the windows acted as grates but also held rubber bands and twist ties. From a corner hook in the ceiling hung a local bushels of bananas. That timing. That moment will be stuck in my head, hopefully forever. Because it was so clear and so perfect. It was time to eat fish head soup. And the soup was perfect, and so was life