You know how it is when a baby is born; everyone has to say something about how he has Aunt Priscilla's eyes, or Great Uncle Jimmy's chin, or daddy's smile . . . or mommy's knack for losing her lunch under certain sea conditions. Okay, maybe most parents don't worry about that last one. But right from the get-go, I, the Chum Queen, feared the worst about my son's genetic baggage.
If he took after his dad, he'd be able to bleed a fuel line, heat up a can of Dinty Moore and plot a position, all in the middle of a Gulf Stream blow. If he took after me, under the same conditions he'd quickly become intimate with the side of the boat.
For me it all started with a trip from the Sassafras River to Rock Hall when I was about 10 years old. It was gray and blowing right up our snoots, yet Dad was determined to get us down the Bay. Nobody else seemed the worse for it, but I started feeling a little weird, and by the time my siblings pointed out that I was a mysterious shade of green, it was all over but the barfing. Dad tried to get me on the wheel, figuring that keeping the boat on her feet would keep my mind off my stomach. What he couldn't possibly understand-that old sea dog who had weathered many a North Sea gale during World War II-was that at this point in my misery, I would have happily opted for sliding overboard and swimming for it. Or drowning. Either one.
That, plus a few subsequent gastric incidents, led my ever-loving brothers to give me that nickname, "Chum Queen" which is pretty funny as long as I'm not wishing I were dead instead of on a boat in a rotten sea. Over time, I have learned my limits-you'll never catch me fishing offshore with a bunch of guys who chew Red Man while they cut up squid parts, for instance-and with the help of a wide range of pharmaceuticals, crackers and mind games, I can handle my little flaw. Most of the time.
When our son Kaeo was born, I hoped if we got him out on the water early enough it might make him immune; you know, build up some sort of chumming antibody. And I was encouraged to see that whenever we took him out in our runabout, the rougher it was and the faster we went, the more contented he seemed. When we got the sailboat, we plowed through a couple of boisterous blows with him snug in his bunk, and I started to relax. Maybe he was off the hook.
Then last summer, sailing back from Eastern Bay to Annapolis, we got into one of those oily quartering swells that make me immediately reach for the saltines and ginger ale. Kaeo was playing down below when he grew ominously quiet. Then he said his stomach hurt, and it wasn't long before the inevitable. "Maybe he's coming down with something," Johnny said, hopefully. But I knew better. My son may have gotten his grandfather's eyes and his daddy's long legs. But when it comes to his landlubber's stomach, that sailor boy is all me.