It was an irony that he could not board a boat without having to “return” all of his breakfast. Most people thought he was practically a sailor because of his work in the aquarium but the truth was he could barely stand the salty water and the constant movement of the waves. Nate’s job was to classify the fishes, modify their diets and select replacements if one of the individuals died. It was a very simple job really, that required only patience and time to know what to do and when to do it. He had always loved marine life, even if he didn’t particularly like the place where they lived. It was a very strange relationship the one he had with the creatures he worked with, and maybe it was that he liked them better when living in an aquarium.
But the people for whom he worked had decided to send him to an exploration journey in order to bring new specimens to the aquarium. They wanted new species too, which meant travelling a lot and being always on the move, ready to make the next big catch. But Nate wasn’t the type to catch anything, if only the flu. He wasn’t an adventurous guy and he certainly didn’t like to travel for long periods of time. He was so odd he actually only took his vacations to be in his house. He never even visited an all-inclusive hotel or anything like that. So when he was chosen to go on a boat to capture new species, he was not very keen on the idea. Nate even went to his boss’s office and asked him to pull him out from the trip but the boss refused.
He told Nate that it was necessary for all of his employees to be really involved in the world they were working with. He needed people that had experience with the creatures in the wild as well as in captivity. Besides, he insisted to Nate that the trip would be an eye opener for him and that it would gave him access to new knowledge about his craft and it would also be a new way to open himself as a person. Nate didn’t like people meddling in his life and maybe that was why his boss stopped talking and just told him to go and enjoy himself. Nate knew that wasn’t to be so easy so he tried talking to anyone with any power in the aquarium but everyone thought he should go.
Defeated, he was asked to only bring a small bag with him, with only a few clothes and whatever else he needed, especially for his job. He was visited at home by the captain of the vessel who told him their trip would take almost three months around the Caribbean, where they would try to visit as many ecosystems as possible. He also told Nate he needed to learn how to dive so he made him go to some classes in the local swimming pool. Nate felt too much pressure from everyone to be as good as the trip, to be someone else basically, and that made him a bit unstable. He stopped eating regularly and lost several kilos prior to the trip. Besides, he acquired some weird repetitive movements in his hands and eyes.
The day of the departure finally arrived. Captain Jones came to pick him up and he spoke the whole way to the boat. He was visibly very enthusiastic about the journey because, as he said, he loved to work with scientists that really appreciated everything that the ocean had to offer. Nate didn’t say a word. The boat was bigger than he had imagined it but the crew was rather small: two men helped the captain and there were only two other scientists with Nate. One was Angelina Öhm, an Austrian expert in invertebrates and professor Smith, an older man that loved whales and sharks. Both of them were actually pretty famous and worked in more prestigious aquariums than Nate.
The boat set sailed that same afternoon, departing first towards the northern Bahamas where they expected to find a good amount of tropical fish for their respective aquariums. They actually explained to him that the boat was larger than normal because they needed space for all the containers they were going to fill with live specimens. The following day they were already near the island of Great Abaco, where Nate would have to dive. He was really dizzy, having had no sleep the night before. The first day was a total disaster: he hit his head various times against the steel of the boat, he vomited on the feet of one of the captain’s helpers, he wasn’t able to put his diving suit correctly and finally didn’t even swim at all, deciding to remain in his chambers for the day.
That night, the Jones came to see him in his room and talked to him. He asked Nate to tell him what was going on and Nate explained that he didn’t wanted to be there because the ocean made him sick and scared. The truth was that he only wanted to go home and be safe. When he said this, the captain laughed and put an arm around his back. He told Nate he was safer on the boat than anywhere else on Earth, as he was simply one of the best sailors in the world. He told him how many medals he had from the navy and the army and joked about his prowess aboard larger and smaller vessels. After a while, Nate was able to smile and even laugh a little.
The next day, when arriving to Cat Island, Nate decided to be more careful and patient, as he was when making the preparations for every animal’s dinner. He was always very careful and had his head in those matters and not anywhere else. So he did exactly that and he noticed he bumped his head less this time. He apologized to the seaman for the accident the day before and even shared a very small breakfast with the others. After all, his stomach was still very sensitive. He was able to put the suit on but then they only had a few good hours to dive. Rain came and ruined their exploration for the day. They captures some specimens and he remained classifying them the rest of the day.
Days passed and Nate developed a certain new attitude. He realized that he had to be different in the boat than anywhere else. So he decided to approach his colleagues and just talk to them about his interests and his experience, no matter how little it was compared to theirs. It was refreshing to realize that both Öhm and Smith where very nice people that were very willing to share all of their knowledge with younger explorers like himself. Because it was them who told Nate that he now was an explorer, a proper adventure seeker and a potential discoverer of new life on this planet and what could be more exciting than that?
The following two weeks were better for them as they captured many specimens a day. One special day near Haiti’s northern coast, Nate dove without the suit and caught a beautiful colorful slug with only some gloves and a bucket. He even discovered another one but with different colors and caught him too. The water was shallow and beautiful and he finally succumbed to the ocean. Now he saw what they all saw when entering the darkness of the ocean. So much life and so much activity, it was hard not to fall in love with every single species and with everyone that loved this environment back. Angelina and Smith congratulated him for his slugs and he secretly named them Nate 1 and Nate 2. Of course, that would never be on an aquarium but it was his little silly secret.
The nights were great because they rarely dove in those times. They’d rather be in the dining room and just play cards or talk. After the first month, Nate managed to eat a bit more than he had eaten before and now he wasn’t afraid of just eating. There was so much confidence among the crew, which they now joked as if they had all being studying together in college for some time. The truth was that Nate had never felt this level of camaraderie before. He had never being part of a team and wasn’t very good at making friends or anything of the sort, he had always thought of himself as a bit of a clumsy guy, with almost no sense of what to say and when.
But with the captain, his sailors, Angelina and Smith, he felt almost at home. They laughed, had jokes that they would repeat often and besides they would work together better than he would have ever work alone. And the best thing of all was that the boat was getting filled with awesome species that everyone was going to love in the aquarium. They had even caught some jellyfish that did not appear in their records, so it might signify the capture of a new species. Day by day he got better at diving with the suit and they would team up to capture every single creature they were interested in. Some animal they left alone, as turtle that had been hit by a boat’s propeller. He took several pictures and got tan every day more and more.
Nate didn’t know it but the trip would jus change his life. He would return home realizing how much time he had wasted in general and how he could make some changes in life without really changing who he was but rather how he did some things. The trip was an eye opener and Nate, even weeks before it was finished, thanked his boss, fate and everyone involved for putting him on that boat.