The Salt Life

We live on the water, but we don’t really live in it. Sure, we go swimming and snorkeling. We go to the beach. The older kids surf, Tanya kayaks, and Sam likes to fish. We sail from place to place.

But we rarely take the boat out just for fun. We rarely go fishing. The kids don’t really like to surf. Snorkeling and swimming trips are usually brief, and then only when you can see the bottom in 20 feet. Tanya and I are certified to dive, but haven’t done a recreational dive in 20 years.

It isn’t because we don’t have the gear. Oh, we have the gear. Six fishing poles, three spears, hand lines, and tackle out the wazoo. A hookah with five hoses. Two air tanks. Fins, and masks, and snorkels to outfit a platoon. Two dinghies, two kayaks, two surf boards, and two body boards.

The only reasonable conclusion is that we don’t like the water. Which isn’t true. I’m not really sure what the problem is. We like the water, but we lack a passion for it.

We’ve seen the passion in others. Roy, Pierre, and Camden are boat kids we’ve met (three different boats) with fishing in their blood. With them, it was all-fishing all-the-time. Sam has that gene too, but it needs to be cultivated. Eli doesn’t care about fish, but he’s a natural hunter and could probably feed the whole family. I want that for both of them, but I don’t know how to give it to them.

Ken and Amy live here in Marathon with their three kids. The whole family is absolutely crazy about the water. Okay, Ken is the crazy one and everyone else is happy to go along. He is constantly fishing, spearfishing, crabbing, or lobstering. He spends far more time on the water than I do, and I live there. He has the passion I need.

So while we’re in Marathon for the next couple months, we’re making a concerted effort to become water lovers. And Ken is my mentor. Seven-hour spearfishing marathon? I’m in. All-night bullynetting for lobster? You bet. Offshore trip for Mahi? I’ll buy the fuel. Eli and Sam are my companions in this quest.

There is hope for us yet. Eli and Aaron are getting certified to dive. They’ve done three days of pool work, but then came down with head colds, so have yet to complete the open water part.

Sam is fishing almost constantly here. We have a little aquarium right off the back of our boat with snappers, grunts, parrot fish, lobster, and even a resident moray eel. Sam will sit out there for hours. Tanya buys him bait at the grocery store.

We’ve had the boat out twice in the three weeks that we’ve been here, which is probably a record, especially since it means turning off the air conditioning and backing out a narrow channel. We even braved the craziness and took the boat out on the 4th of July, a first for us.

Summer in Marathon is the right time and place for this kind of transformation. The weather is calm, the water is warm, and the local culture is all about the salt life. It’s not just a bumper sticker down here.