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The Young Boy and the Sea

Yesterday we went deep sea fishing in skiffs, in honor of our family finishing the book The Old Man and The Sea by Ernest Hemingway. This book takes place in the 1930's, in Havana, Cuba. Santiago (the old man) is a fisherman on an 84-day no-catch streak and needs a big win, so he goes out further than usual and is able to get a 1,500 pound marlin to bite. He then battles it for two days and two nights before defeating it.

Luke and I at 6:30 leaving the docks

Unfortunately, by the time he gets back home it is only a skeleton due to relentless shark attacks.

Our goal was to connect with the novel and to experience what it would have been like for Santiago. Overall, there were more differences between our experiences, but there were some similarities. The old man and other fishermen all wake up very early in the book just like us. We got up at 5:30 and arrived at the dock at 6:00, where bunches of fishermen had already gathered. The gear that we used was different from the old man's gear. He had a wooden skiff with a sail and we had a fiberglass boat with a motor. He had no fishing rod, just line that was "... as thick around as a big pencil..." and connected to a small flexible stick on the side of his boat, so that if a fish were to bite the stick, it would dip and alert him (p 11). We had fishing poles and clear line that was thinner than pencil lead.

Santiago's wooden skiff Our fiberglass skiff

The old man was all alone on his boat and had to find and catch the fish without help and limited bait. We on the other hand, had guides on walkie-talkie's telling each other where the good fish were, and helping us with pretty much everything else. That included hooking the live bait, throwing live bait into the water to attract more fish (which wasn't a problem because we bought close to 100 live sardines), and driving us around. The old man was a fisherman all his life and could tell the fish by the tug on the line. We couldn't guess the name of the fish, even after seeing it flop on the deck of the boat.

Our very helpful guide putting the weight on our lines

The old man caught an 18 foot marlin after battling it for two days and two nights. The heaviest fish that we caught didn't weigh more than ten pounds and took five minutes to reel in. I think that what I relate most with, is that the old man was on an 84 day no catch streak. In the seven hours I was out on the water I got to experience part of that by not catching a single fish, while my sisters on another boat caught nine fish, and my brother on the same boat as me brought in the biggest catch of the day for us.

A marlin about the size of the one Santiago Luke with our biggest catch would have caught

My sisters and Fabienne with some of their many catches

Sitting there with a pole in your hands is not exactly fun, and not feeling anything tug on the bait is just boring. It is also disheartening when nearly everyone is catching fish. The old man must have been very patient to go out on the water for 84 days straight and not catch anything and still continue to try. So obviously we wouldn't exactly understand what the old man's experience was, but I know that at least I got a glimpse of what happened to him when he was out on the sea, and some of the emotions that he might have felt.

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