This story starts in the very late 1980s, about 15 years before this photo was taken. I went on a fishing trip with a friend of my dad’s. It was a day trip off the south coast, about 9 miles into the English Channel. I hadn’t at that point in my life been much of a mariner. One trip on a large car ferry across the channel to France was the sum total of my sea faring experience. But I had plans. Big plans. I had my application to join the Royal Navy filled out and ready to post. I can’t remember now what sort of job in the navy I was hoping to get. This trip was to be good practice to test my sea legs.
It turned out that I had no sea legs. None whatsoever. I was fine when we stopped a mile out to fish for some mackerel. Or maybe it was herring. Maybe they’re the same thing, I have no idea. I was fine enough to eat my packed lunch – strawberry jam and peanut butter sandwiches. Then we ventured further out to sea, into some pretty choppy waters. I ceased to be fine. I was anything but fine. What followed was a five hour ordeal of vomiting, then dry heaving. First over the side of the boat. Then just on the deck where I had decided to lay down. Five hours of hell that I’ve only experienced one other time, and that was due to a slight bout of alcohol poisoning.
The only further show of life from me that day was when the boat came back to dock. I didn’t wait for the boat to be safely tied up. I leapt several feet over open water onto dry land with a surprising amount of energy for someone who had lain prostate for several hours. I didn’t feel quite right for two weeks. Even two years later I found that so much as watching a fishing float in the still water of a canal, ever so gently bobbing, made me feel nauseous. The application for the Royal Navy went straight into the bin. It was a while before I rediscovered my taste for jam and peanut butter sandwiches too.
Roll forward to the spring of 2004. I took nearly two months off work to tour Central America. Costa Rica first, then Nicaragua and I finished off in Panama. I found myself in a small Nicaraguan town called Rivas. It was a bit of a trash infested dive, truth be told. But look at the view! The twin volcanic peaks on Ometepe, a small island poking out of the Lake of Nicaragua. I wanted to go there. I really wanted to go there. But did I want to go there enough to get into a boat, especially on slightly rough water? Which was something I had not done since that ill-fated sea fishing trip all those years before.
I manned-up, paid the fare and boarded. Fearing the worst, hoping for the best. The water was rougher than it looks in the photo. Several people ejected their breakfasts overboard. At one stage I felt slightly queasy. But only slightly. It turned out that I did have sea legs after all. Or at least lake legs. They just took a while to grow.