"Reel it in," yelled my husband, enthusiastically. "You can do it! Use your muscles."
The fish on the other end of the line jerked me forward. I was unsure that I was ready for this battle. The heat from the sun bore down on me. I could feel the back of my neck and shoulders smolder under the blazing inferno.
Someone in the boat grabbed a leather belt and fastened it around my waist. "Put the end of the pole into that anchor on the belt to keep it steady," I was told. Concerned that I was going to either end up in the Gulf of Mexico myself or lose the entire rod to the sea, I complied. At this moment I was not concerned about how I looked. Besides, the added support of the belt helped to ease the pinching that I felt on my hands.
The humidity in the air and the smell and taste of salt made it difficult to breathe. The sensation of my flesh burning under the unrelenting sun was beyond uncomfortable. The sound of the waves crashing against the offshore oil platforms was a constant reminder of the fact that we had been on the water for the last three hours, drinking Gatorade, far far away from the nearest lavatory. Yet, I was not about to give up. Being the only woman on that fishing trip, I had to reel in this fish. I had to prove that I was "one of the boys". Steel entered my soul and I strengthened by resolve to win this battle.
Fifteen more minutes playing tug of war, and I had a shark in my hands. The previous day, I had boasted to my husband that I was going to catch a shark on my first deep sea fishing adventure. Holding the shark though, I felt sorry for him. He had so much potential. At nearly three feet in length, it was clear that he was no where near full grown.* I held the shark while my husband's uncle removed the hook from his mouth. Deciding that he was best to live out the rest of his days in the Gulf, we held the shark under water until he figured out his bearing and swam away.
After few more catches, we decided that it was best to head back to shore. The wind and the ocean spray felt so refreshing against our roasted flesh. We pulled into the marina and walked the short distance to my husband's family's vacation home, nicking the soles of our feet on the sea shells that comprised the road.
That evening, we cleaned and fried our day's harvest from the sea. It was the first time that I had ever eaten fresh shrimp, which we had purchased directly off of one of the local shrimp boats. The shrimp had been rubbed in a mysterious black powder that packed a delicious punch. Nobody remembered what the powder was called, just that it had lived in an unlabeled bucket in the storage space beneath the stilted house for at least the last seven years. Always the gentleman, my husband ensured that I was properly schooled in the fine art of shrimp shelling
. When it became clear that my Canadian roots put me at a severe disadvantage against the more experienced shellers, he shelled some additional shrimp and added them to my plate.
This morning at 6:10 am CDT, the eye of hurricane Katrina hit near Grand Isle
. I don't suppose that much is left of the stilted house, the marina, or the island itself. We have not heard word from our relatives, but are certain that the evacuated the island.
* Like all great fishing stories, the shark is bigger today than he was when I caught him. My family may remember that he used to be two and a half feet long. ;)Update:
A satelite picture of the small island.Click the image to enlarge.August 30th Update:
We finally got in contact with the in laws. They had evacuated the island and are fine. They heard word that at least 75% of the island has been severely damaged, as is the only bridge to get there. At least they are safe. Property can always be replaced; people can't.