Weekend travel tips: Cape Cod bon voyage

Between ferry time and catching a flight from LHR back to Rome on Sunday night, a seven-hour boat ride off the coast of Italy sounded incredibly romantic. As luck would have it, I didn’t catch any solo romantics along with me. Fortunately, things were going so well on board that it seemed like a perfectly small window to feel like I was strolling along the Riviera. Our guides answered a litany of questions, from whether there was enough sleeping areas to which bells would sound for different types of boats. None of it was particularly romantic, but now it really felt like I was entering another world.

We had been welcomed aboard by our first person being Olivia Helgadot, who was pouring us with wine. I stared at the wine glasses and didn’t give a second thought to the fact that I was standing on a boat and that some nights it would serve us better to stick to home bubbly — especially if it would serve us better in about a week and a half when we were back on dry land.

Aboard the Spanish Cruise Lines vessel, we chatted over carafes of Tiziano wine, sampled burrata and other antipasti, and even explored the rigging of the ship, which is a river cruiser designed to move down water canals in south-central Italy. Below decks, we sat and pored over floor maps with which we were familiar to most, which is to say we were definitely familiar with the maps.

When we were first given the next instruction, about bringing out our fishing tackle and releasing all our lures when caught, I was totally unprepared. In fact, I didn’t think I’d ever fished, either. All the way through the night, there was nowhere to put them and I was completely lost. While everyone else did their tackle, I went cold turkey.

The next morning I was instantly relieved to see that at least one person was standing alongside me holding a line. We all jumped in the boat together, and for a moment I was sinking to the bottom of the sea. Out of the water, I was all about the chinook salmon. Even on my knees I felt myself choosing: getting a hold of the fish or losing a piece of mesh and drowning myself.

As the sun rose over the landscape, we set out in smaller, clear boats to catch different types of fish and find out what our fishing culture was all about. My fisherperson pal advised us that the dolphin runs and the whales feed in the morning and that it was necessary to look around for them in order to catch them. I asked what the secret to making a great catch was, and he gave me the same advice he gave me the last time we fished together.

“If you look around for a long enough time, you will probably find a shark with a spear,” he said, and explained that if you’re not prepared for that type of catch, you’re going to sink.

I was alarmed at this. Was my best opportunity to catch a good fish actually heading my way — or was I going to be dragged under the water like a fish? However, the ocean was incredibly choppy, and while it’s possible that I could have been sucked under, the currents were decidedly unstable. A few minutes of me fighting this terrifying seaside fight became my most memorable moments of the weekend.

As a long distance fish-fisher, I wondered what this did to my mental health. I’ve put myself through the torture of the run-up to spring—and a weigh-in with a fish after release — to justify my relentless pursuit of sustainable seafood, so what really makes me go after “hunks”?

The push of the waters and the red light showing the fish’s position confirmed my friend’s idea that we were lucky to have a fish we could catch. Every ray I saw, as a weird bonus, was likely a shark. In a wildlife conservation world, where shark numbers are in decline, these fish are right there.

Despite a hailstorm at the end of the day, my mind relaxed and I could already picture us cooling off by the boat on the warm summer days ahead of us. For the Italian guy who attended my reception in Chicago, I have a feeling this weekend was at least the best example of “getting away with your special someone” he’s seen in a while.

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