It was early spring when a friend of mine gave me a call, asking if I was interested in attending an August conference about Electoral College reform in Aruba.
Given the continued winter weather and grey skies in D.C. and the incentive of an all-expenses paid trip, I was totally in. After a few months of anticipation, I hopped on a plane and headed south to the tiny island settled in 1636 by the Dutch.
The slogan for the place is “One Happy Island,” which fits well with the atmosphere of island music playing at the airport upon landing. A ring of beautiful turquoise water that fades to dark blue surrounds the white sand beaches on all sides. To my surprise, the environment isn’t a tropical one, but instead desert, although all of the resorts have plenty of palm trees to make it feel like the former.
After a day of interesting discussion, debate and new perspective at the conference, we had 2 days for some fun. Deep sea fishing seemed like a popular choice for visitors, so a few husbands on the trip scouted a boat and were all set to go.
When we woke up the next day for a 6 a.m. departure, it was pouring rain. I checked the weather and it looked like it was going to be a long, wet day out on the water. The upside was it would be warm.
When we got into a cab from the hotel to head for the marina, I asked the driver if it was going to rain all day.
“The weather report is never right here, ever,” he said with an accent. We all laughed, hoping for the best.
After grabbing some breakfast and coffee at the marina Starbucks, we hopped aboard and were off. Our goal for the day was to catch some tuna, whether it be yellowfin or mahi-mahi. No sharks or barracudas, please.
Once we got out into the open water, our 19-year-old fishing guide, whose father was captaining the boat, got the lines going. He set up impressive gear I had never used before and based on the size of our rods, it was clear we weren’t fishing for trout in a stream.
My previous experience fishing in the ocean had been years ago in Mexico. We were on an open boat and drove out to a particular spot to drop our lines, where we waited for bites. This was different. We boated around the island for 4 hours without stopping, passing massive oil rigs and tankers along the way. It was mind blowing to see ships weighing 2,000 tons sitting afloat. Given that Aruba is a short 16 miles from Venezuela, there were times when I felt a bit uneasy about our location.
The first couple hours of the morning were slow, which led to me taking a short nap in the cabin. Shortly after 9 a.m., the rain stopped and the fish started to bite on the live bait we were using.
I was the second person in our group to get something on the line and given my typically terrible luck on the water, I was surprised when I reeled in the biggest fish of my life. It was a mahi-mahi, also known to locals and fisherman around the world as “Dolphin.” It’s yellow-green and slightly blue coloring was beautiful.
There were 6 of us on the boat and all of us successfully reeled in a catch for the day. The grand total included mahi-mahi, 2 yellow fins and 2 mackerels. Unfortunately we came unprepared and without tools to clean or cook our catch – we also had caught a lot – so, we ended up giving everything to our guide and captain to sell at the market.
On my way back to the states, an Immigration and Customs Enforcement officer checked my passport and asked how long I had been in the country.
“Three days,” I said.
He was surprised my trip was so short, but I let him know that I may be back soon for some more fishing.