AVILA BEACH -- Life is all about new experiences. Even the ones that make you feel wretched.
The day started pleasantly enough though it was still dark at 5 a.m. when I arrived in Port San Luis to meet Mark "Sully" Sullivan, the beverage manager at China Peak.
An avid offshore fisherman who once spent 10 days on a boat chasing mahi-mahi and yellowfin tuna, Sully encouraged me to join him on a rock cod trip with Patriot Sportfishing. It didn't take much. I'd done similar trips out of Morro Bay, Monterey and Half Moon Bay and always had a great time. The fat sack of fillets you bring home when it's over is just a bonus.
Rather than the heavy duty saltwater tackle favored by most aboard the 55-foot Patriot, Sully brought three light-action set-ups normally used by bass anglers. He doesn't just want to catch fish. He wants to enjoy catching them.
"Might as well fish with a broom handle," Sully said during the 90-minute boat trip to Point Sal. "Light tackle, big fish. That's what it's all about."
And that's about the last clear thing I remember. Because after about 10 minutes of fishing, as the sizable swells caused the boat to roll from side to side, an uneasy queasy feeling began to spread from the pit of my stomach.
Now I may not be Captain Cook, but I've been on my share of boats and never felt sick. Heck, just last month in Alaska I was halibut fishing from a 14-foot inflatable on the Cook Inlet -- not exactly a placid pond -- and my innards were cast iron.
But none of that provided any comfort as I found myself clutching the rails and puking over the side. Then it happened again. And again and again. Never mind that the meager contents of my stomach had long since been emptied into the Pacific Ocean.
Fishing was out of the question. This was a matter of survival. I tried intuitive remedies like fixating on the horizon and sitting in the middle of the boat. The waves of nausea never stopped.
What I learned the next day, on the website of motion-sickness expert Dr. Timothy Hain, is that my brain was receiving conflicting signals from my eyes and inner ears. So while my eyes were telling my brain things were situation normal, the equilibrium sensors in my inner ear vehemently disagreed. When that happens, the body sounds a general distress signal that messes with all your bodily functions, most of all the digestive system.
I must've been a pretty pitiful sight because Sully kept checking to see whether I was OK. And one of the young deckhands confided that he too got seasick once and now takes a pill each morning before leaving the house.
Had I known how things would turn out, I also would've taken Dramamine, Bonine or another of the over-the-counter medications available for motion sickness. A couple fellow anglers aboard the Patriot wore small patches behind their ears containing a drug called scopolamine.
There are drug-free remedies as well, including wrist bands that rely on acupressure or magnet therapy. Doctors aren't absolutely certain how these work -- there is some evidence they interrupt the nervous system signals that bring about nausea -- but some (including Hain) contend they are little more than placebos.
It may sound like an old wives' tail, but ginger is said to settle the stomach and can be ingested in any number of forms.
As soon as I got off the boat, the nausea went away. And after drinking a bottle of water and eating the food I had intended to eat on the boat, things were back to normal.
Even though the trip didn't quite go as planned, I still went home with a nice sack of cod fillets thanks to Sully's generosity -- and the fact that his freezer is already stuffed with fish.
So at least I didn't come away empty-handed. Only empty-stomached.