Imagine spending an afternoon on the water, just past the heads of Sydney Harbour in a small charter vessel courtesy of Deep Sea Charters.
A beautiful, clear Summer’s day. The wide blue yonder stretches out before you as far as the eye can see. Moderate temperates with a cool sea breeze, carrying the fresh scent of the sea. The pleasant company of friends. Lines over the side of the boat waiting for a sizable catch to take back home for dinner. The gentle rocking of the boat. The more vigorous rocking of the boat. Fending off waves of nausea brought on by sea sickness. Succumbing to the nausea of sea sickness. The cramped toilet cubicle with a toilet so small that you have to make the difficult choice between going No.1 or No.2, as the seat was only big enough to accommodate the motion one or the other and not both.
Believe it or not, it was a great day in hindsight.
At 2pm sharp one Saturday afternoon, twelve friend and acquaintances boarded the Deep Sea Charters fishing vessel Kingfisher (rather aptly named), docked at Balmain’s Thames St Ferry Wharf. We brought along a variety of snack foods, dips & beverages to keep our hunger and thirst at bay, as the fishing tour was not officially catered.
Unofficially however, there was a large platter of cold cuts that was left behind by the previous tour group that was offered to us by Adrian, our Captain, as it was unlikely that the previous group would come back for it.
Little did we know at the time that there was a reason why the platter was left behind, virtually untouched…
We made our way through the harbour from Balmain, passing the Opera House and the Harbour bridge on our journey out past the heads. A single red buoy stands at attention; a solitary gate keeper and our last sign of civilisation as we travel out to the deep blue sea.
Once we’re a few kilometers past the heads, we make anchor, supposedly over a reef where there is an abundance of large fish feeding along the sea bed.
This far out, where the only sounds are that of the boat and her passengers, the sounds and sights of city life, the ebb & flow of crowds of workers & tourists alike, the din of the traffic and the occasional enraged motorist, all seem a distant memory. A silhouette off the distant horizon. Mere shadows of a mind unwinding, as it adjusts to a slower, more relaxed pace.
Adrian and his First Mate Tony make the round, baiting out fishing hooks with hunks of fish and squid.
There’s more than enough fishing gear for all on board. Once our bait is set, we cast our lines and our hopes into the sea, optimistic of a large catch to feast on later that evening.
Fishing is a game of observation and patience. Watching the line jiggle from a bite of a potential catch. Being mindful of the jiggles that naturally occur with the pull of the current or the rocking of the boat. Keeping your line as close to the sea bed as possible in order to have the best possible chance of landing a prime catch. It may look like not much is going on but there is plenty happening under the surface.
It didn’t take long before we had our first catch. A deep sea bream that was around 30-40cm long. Soon after, wave after wave of fish were brought on board, mostly of the same variety.
However, one catch that stood out was of this pig fish. The only one of its kind that was caught on the day. Cpt. Adrian had remarked that this was a particularly tasty fish.
It was around this time that I stopped taking photos. There is a bit of a story to this. Depending on who you talk to, the story plays out quite differently. However, what I’ll present you with is the true version of events.
Having been past the heads quite a number of years back and remembering that I’ve never been sea sick prior, I figured that I would be fine without sea sickness medication. Whilst we traveled out to the heads I was feeling fine. However, once the boat had stopped and was rocking to the movement of the sea, circumstances changed. For a while I fought off waves of nausea with little effort, taking the occasional photo here, doing a spot of fishing there. I heeded natures call and struggled with my No. 1/No. 2 dilemma. That tipped me over the edge. From there onwards, well, let’s just say that I wasn’t bend over the low railing off the side of the boat just to watch the water lap up against the hull. During this state it was suggested to me that I take some of the sea sickness medication. As much as I’d felt it wise to do so, not moving from my current position and thereby potentially unsettling what little remained within my stomach seemed a more prudent move at the time.
I wasn’t the only one that had felt the same way. Everyone had felt nausea to some degree, even with the medication. However, only three of us actually went all the way, so to speak, one of whom was the person who had organised this trip. Ironic, in that Alanis Morissette sort of way.
We left our prime fishing spot for the sheltered waters of the harbour. To calmer waters and calmer stomachs alike. However, there were few bites and those that we did manage to hook weren’t of sufficient size to keep. Soon after, we made our way back to Balmain, arriving at the wharf around 6pm. With nausea setting in quite early on in the trip, we disembarked with the majority of the food we’d brought on board. We now knew why there was a virtually untouched platter of cold cuts left on board and why there would likely be a virtually untouched platter of cold cuts for the next tour group to pass up.
All in all, around ten fish were caught, all of which were reeled in at the reef within a span of around an hour. Tony, the First Mate, was kind enough to scale, gut and clean the fish for us. All we had to do was take it home and prepare it to our hearts content.
Speaking of which…
Dinner that night was a very simple affair. Feeling somewhat exhausted from the physical and mental trials earlier that day, we made do with whatever ingredients were available at my friend’s house.
Deep sea bream, simply coated in flour and pan fried in butter.
A frittata, essentially an omelette, containing slices of pan fried potato, red onion & green capsicum finished off with a generous dusting of paprika.
Lastly, I guess what I’d call a roasted garlic pilaf for lack of a better term, as it’s technically not a pilaf. Slivers of garlic were gently fried in melted butter turning a nice golden brown whilst flavouring the butter with a roasted, nutty flavour & aroma. The garlic chips and butter were stirred into steamed jasmin rice, and seasoned with salt and pepper.
Looking back, it was a great day, all things considered. I’ll just have to make sure that the next time around, I come with a little more sea sickness medication and a little less bravado.
Deep Sea Charters
02 97586252 or 0400 173 717
Cost: $100 per person with a minimum of 12 people.
Pick up from Thames St Wharf, Balmain.
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