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No Man Left Behind

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This past weekend, after a long and mostly fruitless day of shark fishing onboard Capt. Art DellaSalla’s Andiamo 20 miles off Manasquan Inlet, we eventually had to admit that the day was not ours, and threw our last baits overboard, and turned towards home.

Capt. Art DellaSalla

We had kept a local bar open late the night before watching the New York Rangers lose the Stanley Cup in heartbreaking fashion, and when we shoved off from the docks around 4 a.m., most everyone onboard was working with about two hours worth of sleep. So DellaSalla could be forgiven if, on the ride home, he handed over the wheel to his well rested mate, Mike Mahieu, and tipped his head back for a nap.

 Some of the other guys onboard took DellaSalla’s queue and laid down in the saloon, while the rest smoked cigars and cracked open Budweiser American flag cans in the cockpit, fully enjoying what—besides the lack of bites—was a fantastic day on the water. Meanwhile, I climbed up to the flying bridge to keep Mahieu company.

Just a few miles off the inlet, Mahieu nodded at me, and then pointed at something about a half mile to starboard. There was something floating in the water. Something relatively big, about 5 or 6 feet long, and a pinkish, fleshy color. It bobbed there aimlessly as we struggled to make out what it was in the glare. It looked like a raft? But if it was in fact a raft, there was something, or someone, in it. The binoculars were down below, hanging around a sleeping fisherman’s neck. Mahieu glanced over at DellaSalla, whose head bobbled placidly underneath his tipped-forward hat.

“Let’s go check it out,” Mahieu said decisively, cranking the wheel hard over. As we raced towards the floating mass, I strained to see what it was, and soon enough, to my disbelief, I made out a head. And then a shoulder. And then a butt. We were about to be heroes.

That is until we pulled within a 100 yards or so and realized our lucky castaway was actually a mesh bag full of pink balloons. “Balloons!” someone yelled up from the cockpit. “You drove us a mile in the wrong direction to save some balloons?!” Mahieu’s eyesight, or lack thereof, was the hot topic of onboard conversation for the next 10 minutes or so. And all Mahieu could do was turn to me, shrug, and quietly say this: “It was worth a shot.”

And I had to agree that it was.