Seasoned Rookies

Pilar - June 8, 2022

Pilar Martinelli’s annual lingcod fishing stories are here! This is her fourth year fishing with a toddler on board, alongside her husband Bruce, and the rest of his crew on their 50′ troller, Tantrum No. 1. The challenges of being a mom aboard a fishing vessel never seem to hinder Pilar’s creativity and sense of adventure! 

After five seasons of fishing with Rex, you might think that we would have the hang of life on board with a little one. The problem with that idea is that a year between fishing trips is an eternity for a small human. A four-month-old strapped to Mama’s back can in no way compare to a rambunctious, curious four-year-old. Back then I worried about how to get him to take naps. Now my worries fall more in the lines of keeping him from falling overboard. I’d say the stress level has grown at the same rate as Rex.

I reminisce on those baby days and it seems like I had it easy. Nap, feed, repeat. How hard was that? Surely, there is some amnesia at play on my part.  It’s very easy to gloss over the challenges from the past. While I was living my years as a new and sleep-deprived mama, I knew life was far from easy, especially on a working fish boat off the wild west coast, but at least caring for the infant Rex was predictable. These days, he’s emphatically his own person; we never know what he’s going to do or say.  The good news is that we do have sleep on our side now. God knows where we would be without good sleep. A rested mind and body is far better equipped to deal with panicky visions of a boy overboard.  Thank goodness for sleep and thank goodness for healthy four-year-olds.

So how does one spend their days on a relatively small, 50-foot working commercial fishing boat, entertaining a very active little boy who normally spends most days outside, climbing rocks and trees, biking and running all over the island? Come prepared. Come very, very prepared. The guys roll their eyes when they see me coming with my boxes and boxes of food and Rex-related supplies, but seriously, how many times can one read the same children’s book in a day without passing out from boredom? A mom who is out at sea for weeks on end needs options, baby! Even the large box library books that I snuck aboard, guiltily aware that I was depriving scores of good little land-lubbing children of quality literature, failed to satisfy our book-reading needs.  Next year, the boys can roll their eyes all they want, but I’m upping my game.

And speaking of games and being prepared for life at sea with Rex, games were definitely part of the equation. There were board games and card games and made up games that included a float-on-a-rope and baseball bat (yay beach treasure finds!). We had arts and crafts moments. Train and truck hours. And even a toy workshop one afternoon making bath toys with upcycled net floats washed up on the beach. Days could be long, but also very sweet. There’s little room for distraction outside of a captivating novel when you are on board with your little boy. I am grateful for these weeks every year when it’s all about days with Rex, my family, and no other distractions from home and life.

Pilar - June 8, 2022


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Seasoned Rookies

Pilar - June 8, 2022

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