Volume XVII, Issue 19 # MAY 7 - May 13, 2009

I knew an angler so seasick he offered to buy the boat if the captain would head for shore.

My Doctor’s Excuse

Why I missed last week’s column

The butcher, the baker,
the candlestick maker …

The roster on my fishing junkets has included no butchers, bakers or candlestick makers. Instead there were doctors, lawyers, undertakers, accountants and sometimes the veterinarian for my cats, Zelda Zoo Zoo and Karla Koo Koo.

Acquaintances chided me that I was covering all my bases in the event of a disaster aboard the boat. Maybe there was a tad of verity in their view. I must admit it’s comforting to hobnob with the professionals, building relationships with those who can give sound advice or assistance when something goes awry. As happened aboard Capt. Buddy Harrison’s charterboat Capt. Buddy out of Tilghman Island the last Saturday in April.

I was embarrassed. Never before in my 83 years had I even experienced a queasy stomach on a boat under the worst of weather and seas.

And the boat was on Bay waters as smooth as a mill pond. Yet there I was making up for all those years in an hour and a half in the bow compartment of a 65-foot boat.

I laid the blame on chemotherapy infusions I am undergoing. The other 11 aboard accepted my apologies and went on with their fishing.

While I languished in the bow compartment, my mind searched for a reason for my predicament. Who had done what to turn things sour on the Capt. Buddy?

Sure to Sour a Boat Trip

At the top of the long list of fishermen’s superstitions is bananas. Bring so much as one aboard, and there will be no fish that day; only bad will happen. I was sure none of that fruit was on the boat, for all fishermen had been provided box lunches. Moreover, most knew skippers wanted no bananas on their boats.

Why bananas? The best explanation I’ve been able to come up with dates back to the early days of banana boat traffic. Not infrequently among the cargo were spiders: even worse, tarantulas.

Something else the superstitious skipper would rather not have aboard is a whistler. Whistling brings on the wind. So deeply imbedded is the myth that those wearing corduroy trousers are not welcome on fishing craft, as when the wearer walks, one pants leg rubs against the other, creating a whistle. The whistle brings on the wind, and the wind means no fish.

I looked down. Heaven forbid, I was wearing corduroy trousers.

My Serious Case of Seasickness

Those on deck were reeling in fish, including a 39-inch striper caught by Carol Benner. The fishing gods obviously decided that since this day I was the only one to violate the rules of the sea, I would be the only one to pay the consequences.

And pay them I did. Few times in my life had I ever felt so miserable. I promised myself and the Lord, never again would I heckle a fellow angler for turning green at the gills. I had learned the misery of seasickness.

Once off Ocean City, an angler aboard our charterboat became so sick he offered to buy the boat if the captain would head for shore. Had I been able to afford it, the Capt. Buddy would now be docked on Stoney Creek behind the Burton residence.

But I probably wouldn’t be around to take the wheel.

Two doctors were on my boat, Larry Safford, my cardiologist, and Stanley Minken, who had treated me for vascular problems. They poked their heads in every so often but accepted my excuse of chemo backlash. They suggested we head back to the docks where things were more comfortable — they’d come back for more fishing — but I declined. I didn’t want my companions to lose trolling time. I’d never hear the end of it.

Finally, Dr. Stafford ordered me to scrub the trip. Before I could refuse, he told Capt. Harrison to bring in the lines and head back to the fishing center — pronto. At the end of a 20-minute ride, I was being carted off the boat, strapped in some kind of folding stretcher handled by paramedics, to an ambulance with lights flashing for the trip to Easton Memorial Hospital.

“You treat seasickness pretty seriously around here,” I joked to the paramedic who was inserting a needle into my arm for intravenous fluid. He nodded, and I became concerned about the intensity of his doctoring. Once in the emergency room, I learned why.

I was in the midst of a minor heart attack brought on by a loss of blood via internal bleeding. In all, five units of blood and a barrel of other fluids soon had me more comfortable and on the road to recovery and, five days later, on the road to my Riviera Beach home.

Lesson Learned

There are lessons to be learned here. Don’t treat seasickness lightly, especially among the elderly. If the sickness is bad enough that you’d be willing to buy the boat to get ashore, scrub the trip. Hospital doctors told me that had not Dr. Stafford intervened when he did, in a couple of hours my writing, fishing and even breathing days would probably have been over.

Say what you’re a mind to about fraternizing with docs when fishing, but it will fall on the deaf ears of this old codger, who found them more useful than the latest hot lure, best rod and reel, even the boat. All are welcome, but please no corduroy trousers. Enough said.