I Smell Dead Fish

My liquid silvery water under a full moon.

I inhale. The smell is still there. I open my eyes. Put my glasses on. Remove them to rub out the sleep and put them back on. I get up and go stare at our radar screen. Unblinking. For one minute. I close my eyes. Other than the blinding glare, I know there is absolutely nothing around us for a full 12-mile radius.

I inhale. The smell is still there. I go back to my bedroom, put on my long johns, my wool socks and my hoodie. I climb up the 6 steps to the deck. We have a combo ladder/staircase above the motor. It’s a steep climb – takes time getting used to – but I manage it without slipping. It’s 5:30 and it’s still dark outside. Plus it’s cold. Just a tad below 70.

I inhale. The smell is still there. I look around. Nothing. Silver water. Full moon behind a mixture of clouds and fog. I sit by the combo ladder/staircase and look ahead. Slow swells keep us in a constant up and down motion. Up… And down… And up… And down… Over and over again, taunting me, lulling me back to sleep.

I inhale. The smell is still there. Dead fish. Silver water. Long swells. I need to find the source of that smell. Sometimes in a long crossing we find treasures on deck. One morning I woke up to a mass suicide of squids. A good baker’s dozen of them. Must have been some weird squid cult movement – you may have heard about it in the news… Just the other day, when Leo woke up from a nap behind the wheel there was a dead fish at his feet. “Can I come over for supper?” the fish offered itself. We didn’t eat it.

I inhale. The smell is still there. I climb back down our combo ladder/staircase and get a flashlight. If you ever plan on living on a boat, the rechargeable light that comes with most power tool kits is the best kind to have. Trust me. I wouldn’t lie to you. Also a good dive light is pretty awesome. It’s brighter than a 4th of July fireworks display, plus if you drop it in the water it’ll still work and keep on working until you find it. If you find it.

I inhale. The smell is still there. I walk around the deck. Searching for the source of that smell. It’s nasty. I look around our boards, everywhere in the cockpit, even in the dinghy. Funny the words people used to label things in boating. Cockpit. Dinghy. Head (that’s the toilet – yeah, I still giggle over the notion of sitting on a head to poop – but that’s me – forever oh-so-mature.)

I inhale. The smell is still there. Winds are at 7 knots. Our speed is 5.8. If we come to a complete dead stop, a truly difficult challenge on water, the wind would drop to 1.2 knots. Barely noticeable. One could almost say it’s windless. Slow moving waves, so slow they’re called swells. No wind. The smell. What I am searching for is all around me. There is no dead fish – just the smell of calm windless waters.

I inhale. The smell is still there. But at least from this long crossing I can now check off 2 hours. What will I do now?


16 thoughts on “I Smell Dead Fish”

  1. I wonder why squid cult suicide pack would decide your boat to die one ok not important but made me wonder anyway, maybe there where dead fish floating under your boat because they thought it would be cool to make you search for them or maybe the fish were playing hide and seek and one of them got stuck under the boat and didn’t get found and died and then started to smell and yes I know I am now rambling about dribble but really I am wondering where the dear fish were hiding………


  2. Ok as I hit post I realised I said dear fish instead of dead fish which make me think you may think I am was thinking the smell of the fish was a nice thing which I don’t and I didn’t say dear as a term of endearment………..it was just a typo of………..lol


  3. I am pretty sure I would have stayed in bed with a clothes pin on my nose instead of braving the night. But, then again, I don’t live on a boat.


  4. I’m sure you get used to it, and all of those things become mundane after a while, but I’d be like a kid on Christmas. I’d never be able to sleep. Always afraid I might miss exciting things. Like squid cult suicides. Or sacrificial fish. Or liquid silver melting under a full moon.


  5. Does someone’s socks need a wash? We had a smell like that in the house and it turned out to be my son’s hiking boots and socks


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