Tidbit #5: The sun should have already been up when we run through the inlet. But it’s foggy. My brother DT is at the helm. He maneuvers the boat at Dad and my directions, trying to stay in the shifty channel. As we get closer to the ocean, the waves build and the bow rises up only to pound down time and time again. Dad and I, standing next to the center console, hold on tightly. Each wave grows a little taller until finally we’re in open water. The seas are still rough. Off to the southwest a shrimp trawl, appearing ghostly in the fog, makes his way toward us. There are no other boats. We set out four lines, hoping to tie into a school of Spanish Mackerel. Out off the sides, running from the T-top, are two rods each trailing a spoon near the water’s surface. Off the stern, another two rods are set deep. Their lines are hooked to quick releasing planes that cause the line to dive deep. We trail two lures at about 15 feet under water. We pound our way up the coast, running parallel to Holden Beach, a couple hundred yards out. There are no birds and we get no strikes. Occasionally a fish shows up on the depth finder, but none take the bait.
After about thirty minutes of running eastward, we turn around and come in a bit closer to land and begin trolling toward the inlet. Running this direction, we surf across the swells and the ride doesn’t seem nearly as rough. We approach the shrimp trawl which has dredged its way across the mouth of the inlet. It’s the Miss Bee. Behind her are the birds, feasting on that which the trawl throws back. Before we get to her, she too makes a turn and begins running the opposite direction, heading back across the mouth of the inlet. We’re inside, between the trawl and the inlet. From the brownish water, we can tell where she’d just dragged. Sometimes fish follow the trawl, feasting on the food its nets have dragged up off the bottom. But that’s not the case today.
We continue on western, running parallel to Ocean Isle Beach several miles. Dad pulls a package of salted in the shell roasted peanuts out and gives us each a handful. We continue trolling, chumming the waters with peanut shells. Afterwards, we pull drinks out of the cooler. Dad wants his Coke with ice, David drinks his Mountain Dew out of the can, and I drink water from a bottle. I can’t handle a soda this early in the morning. When we turn about, the waves once again pound the boat and we hold on for a rough ride. A pod of porpoises appear just off starboard, their speed matches ours. This isn’t good as they’ll chase away the Spanish, which have been non-existent anyway. I watch their graceful arcs through the water as we approach the inlet. The Miss Bee is turning again to make another run back across its mouth. We pull in our lines and pound ourselves though the mouth. At the helm my brother watches the depth gauge as Dad and I observe the waves, directing him back and forth through the channel. It’s now low tide. The bar running across in front of the inlet is only a few feet underwater, but we make it easily. Soon we’re in back in the waterway, making the run for home.
Tidbit 6: “Come on, B,” my Dad commands, smiling. He grabs my mother’s arm and pulls her from her chair. Hand and hand they approached the surf. When they get out to where the water is about mid-calf deep, where the surf swelling around their legs, Mom tries to pull away. Having never learned how to swim, she’s not ever been much for the water. But she adores my Dad and doesn’t want to disappoint him. Dad encourages her to go further and gets her out just beyond the breakers, in water that’s between waist and chest deep. Mom appears both terrified and extremely happy. After a couple of waves, in which she jumps to keep from getting soaked, Dad finally lets her go in. Dad trying to get Mom out in the water is a scene that’s been replayed hundreds of times. I’ve witnessed it many times, but it’s been a while. I haven’t seen them play in the water since I was kid. Yet the ritual remains the same. Mom laughs and acts sly around the water, but you can tell she relishes in my father’s attention. They’ve now been married for 51 years and the magic is still there. My father is so patient with her. It doesn’t matter that she won’t remember any of this, for he too relishes her attention
I’ve mentioned before (breaking my not to talk about family rule), my mother was diagnosed last summer with Alzheimer’s. As sad as it is to consider, it was her illness that got us all committed to having a “family vacation” together this year.