If you find the school of dolphins at the right moment, they’ll swim along with you, playing with your fiberglass whale. Stand at the bow and look down, six are close enough to touch. These are the happiest of mammals.
After a few minutes, their game is finished and they move on to jump waves and chase other whales. So do we. The other side of the island is calling.
The ferries head to the town on the leeward side in succession delivering hundreds of tourists to Avalon. There is scuba diving, golf carts and an old timey boardwalk. The buffalo roam in the distance. Natalie Wood fell off a boat nearby. Christopher Walken and Richard Wagner were too engaged with themselves to notice, or so the story goes.
Everyone knows such things.
Around a sharp turn and the ocean changes. The water’s rich oiled mars black swishes into a rich dreamlike turquoise. The granite ribbons in strips of gray and white and dips right into the ocean. There are few ships on this side, hints at the land behind us. These boats are small and large, the dingy and the yacht, but they all have the same goal. They are all fishermen on the hunt for tuna and sea bass. The sharks in the cove search similar destinies.
We find our spot. The boat is silent, anchored at fifty feet deep and one hundred from the shore. Squid squirt rich black ink on the deck in protest of their fate. Three go down on a hook. Another rod smacks on the water, a tribal call of ‘whack, whack, whack’ to alert the fish of the squids’ presence.
In the distance, a squid boat drags a net to catch another haul of bait. A guy in a tiny shack with a Bunsen burner, a floating dock and tie-downs is the retailer. He keeps the squid in two large underwater pens. They are served live by the scoop and two scoops are plenty for a day at sea.
A hundred years ago, these waters were rich above and below. They were fished by hundreds of commercial boats from San Pedro. Catch and release was a dream of the poets. Social fishers came home with a tuna and a marlin; professionals ten times that. No one ate the marlin, but they loved the trophy. Now, it is peaceful, but we cannot visualize the true reason why. Things have been erased. Its serene beauty would scare the seafarers of the past.
The calm waters also bring on nausea, the word blends nautical and sea after all. Our crew is one man short; he lays down in agony while we float in place. A couple guitar sharks join us for a moment, but jump back in with pierced lips and a full stomach.
The sun beats down, teasing us from above. The click of the anchor awakens the sick and the remaining squid. They will both survive to see another day.
Excitement soon overcomes. Everyone is awake and smiling in the rough. The boat jumps the waves and churns the waters at its desire. The dolphins know the deal; they are still playing in the chop.
The mainland comes into view after passing a military destroyer.
Erasure is a human tendency. Although sick in the calm, we have no idea why. Is it the subtle rocking or something more complicated? There are no sea bass swarms today. The schools are empty. Can we subconsciously understand the consequences of the situation? Maybe this is the cause of modern day nausea?
Pulling into port, the haul is entirely synthetic. It is my haul, touching the sea and thrown back to the land.
Cole Sternberg, 2017