top of page

The Dirge of the Trash Fish: Written by Joey Rovinsky

The Seasonals have always wanted a sailboat to call our own. Our dream of the Trash Fish has finally become a reality, and what a nightmare it is. Among the encounters from our first weeks in the Virgin Islands, Ryan met a vile character that I will call Chris. I could tell there was something about Chris I didn't like but I couldn't pin it down. Maybe it was the way he talked at us, or how I'd never seen his eyes, they were always covered in sunglasses. It could have been the awful way he treated his beautiful and friendly girlfriend. Maybe it was that I saw him try to steal a pair of his "friend's" sunglasses within thirty minutes of meeting him. Whatever it was, I knew from a mile away Chris was a dickbag. This story isn't about Chris, though, its about the glorious sailboat named Trash Fish. Ryan told me that Chris had a sailboat he would rent us super cheap and a kayak we could use for a nominal monthly fee. I was full of excitement. I couldn't make it when Ryan went out to look the boat over on account of work obligations but I told him whatever he decided would be fine with me. This story is also not about a failing of Ryan's. We were both all-in on the sailboat and ready to take on the world. Nothing could have stopped us from living this fateful experience. Our story begins moments after Chris dropped us off on the Trash Fish for the first time... Night One: The shadiest person I've met on the island just sold us a month of rent for $200 which doubles as the down payment on this $1,200 floating piece of shit. This boat is one hull fire away from raising the surrounding boats' market price by a grand each. The first thing I noticed as we pulled up to our beloved Trash Fish was that we were not going to be alone on the boat. Cockroaches patrolled every inch of the outside and I've never been inside to see what house of horrors awaits those brave enough to enter. Ryan surgically sprayed two bottles of the toughest Raid the store near the docks can legally sell all over the inside. It was a mortar shot at the moon. The dead were immediately covered by the busy movement of the living. Ryan tells me the engine room is filled with trash. I can only hope that he's right. Because if its half full of trash, that only means its half empty of cockroaches. These aren't the big city roaches. These island jackals are built for speed and reproduction. Ryan took the kayak back into harbor to get more Raid. There will probably be more insects when he gets back than when he started spraying the Raid earlier. The creatures now have our clothes to munch on and our books to lay eggs in. By trying to solve the problem, we have become part of the problem. Barreling over the north side of the island came dark clouds that promised rain. My only shelter was inside Trash Fish. I grabbed our bags, books, and loose clothes and threw them inside and shut the hatch. I would brave the storm before I would set foot inside Trash Fish. The island rain came down in sheets for a full hour. I was soaked to the bone but still a spark of excitement for Trash Fish burned inside my heart. Ryan came back and threw a bag on deck containing Raid and a heavy duty tarp. Then he hoisted himself over and set down a six pack of Coors Light. "We're going to need this." I think I knew what he meant. The tarp has the thickness of notebook paper and is about as heavy duty as a Fisher Price screwdriver set. We put up the tarp he bought and an actual, useful tarp that he found below deck using the boom as the peak of a tarp-tent. Using his superior knot knowledge and a backwoods ingenuity, Ryan built a bad ass shelter on the boat that would turn out to be invaluable. We laid, sat, and crouched on top of Trash Fish all night. The roaches have surrendered that much to us. Surrender isn't the right word, they continued to pour out the top of the hatch at us but we stomped and sprayed until our limbs were sore. Finally, as we heard gunshots coming from the downtown area, the onslaught subsided for the night and we were left to enjoy our hard fiberglass bed and the Trash Fish's thrashing movements in the churning harbor water. Morning One: I think I finally fell asleep at about seven in the morning. At eight, after a full sixty minutes of fitful half-consciousness, I awoke to find Ryan and the kayak (our only mode of transportation back to the dock) were gone.This wouldn't have been a problem if I didn't have to shit. Immediately. I walked it off a bit using the three feet of deck space afforded to us by our insect hosts. Quickly, up from my depths came the orders...POOP NOW. Frantically typing away in a text message to Ryan, I sent: "You have to come back immediately or I'm going to shit in a bag." Waiting, pacing, squeezing, another five minutes went by. It felt like three hours. No kayak, no text. That's it. We're past the point of no return. I slid open the hatch, grabbed a plastic KMart bag and entered the Trash Fish for the first time. If I was going to hit rock bottom, I would be surrounded by my new brothers. I took my shoes and shorts off, crouched a bit, and put the bag where I hoped it needed to be. For never having shit in a plastic bag in a cockroach infested sailboat, I did pretty damn well. I tied the bag and put it in another bag. I put that bag in a Tostitos bag. That went into another plastic bag, which went into another plastic bag. Safety first. After coming to terms emotionally with the act that I had just committed, I put my clothes on and went topside, leaving the bag. In an existential daze, I waited another half hour for Ryan to return. I tried to contain my fury as I recounted the gory tale. Ryan had brought 10 bug bombs, two cans of raid, a roll of duct tape, and checked his mercy for insects back at shore. There was a look in his eye that I've only ever seen in movies that spend most of their budget on fake blood. I quickly put on my work uniform, (white tee shirt, black shorts, and black Chuck Taylors) we paddled the two person kayak to shore and as he turned to head back to Trash Fish, I wished him luck. The kayak ride into work had covered my crotch in saltwater. Walking around at work all day made the chaffing feel like a third degree burn. At least how I imagine it might feel. No bueno. Night Two: After sealing every hole, crack, and opening in Trash Fish, Ryan set off nine (yes, nine) bug bombs in the interior of the boat, earlier in the day before he left for work. I beam with pride, the death toll has to be in the thousands. Each individual bomb is directed to be used in a room of up to 625 square feet. The complete inside of the Trash Fish couldn't have been more than 125 square feet. I kayaked back to the Trash Fish after work, (Ryan had bought a new kayak from a work friend) stripped naked and read for a good three hours. I saw only one cockroach. Fantastic. Ryan brought home meatballs from work. We ate like kings. Maybe more like pirates. I could get used to this. If by 'this' I mean somewhere with an air mattress to sleep on or anything more comfortable than a fiberglass hull. My hip is bruised from laying on my side the night before. I put my North Face hoodie under my hip and use a roll of paper towels as a pillow. It rained a lot. We heard an automatic weapon go off downtown. Thank you for your safety, Trash Fish. There were still plenty of cockroaches but they seem lethargic and slow. There is yet hope. Maybe we're winning this war. Morning Two: I used our new small kayak to paddle to the dock today. It took forever. Half an hour. The other kayak takes 10-15 minutes. We need a dinghy with a motor. I'm not sure if I can get away with wearing the same shirt to work. Its been 4 days and I'm not sure what sort of cockroach business has been done in it. The shorts are passable. I'm glad I'm not a smelly person. I stop at KMart for a pack of white t-shirts. I get to work an hour early. Things need to get better...and soon. Night Three: Walking out of work, I see Ryan across the way at a drink kiosk and head over to him. He looks gloomy. I wonder what the roaches have done to him, "I'm out, man. No more boat. I can't do it." He says. I knew he had given it his all. The magnificent tarp-tent, the onslaught he leveled against the roach swarm, Ryan had taken charge and played the role of Robert E. Lee in the battle for the Trash Fish. But he truly had accepted defeat. "What happened, buddy?" "Man, I lifted up one of the cushions to throw it out and tons of live cockroaches were under it. There's so much trash down there, food and gross shit. Chris must have been throwing his trash in there for years so he didn't have to take it all the way back to shore." "Ok, what are we going to do?" "I talked to Denny, the guy with the studio apartment. We're meeting him at Big Kahuna bar whenever we can get there." "Alright, let's do it." We hurried to Big Kahuna just in time before another torrent of island rain came down. We made accommodation plans with Denny, who told us the apartment was ready and unlocked, and headed out at the next lull in the storm. The apartment is small, it was stinky at the time, but roach free, with a soft (ish) bunk bed for us, and a shower. It was heaven. After taking showers, we plopped down on our respective beds and fell fast asleep. Epilogue: A few days later, I told Ryan how much I wanted my stuff from the Trash Fish. I had cut away so much from my usual traveling gear to come down here, everything I did bring was very important to me. We talked about kayaking out to get it after I got out of work that night. When I finally did get out of work, Ryan had our bags and a big plastic tote waiting outside. He had gone over himself and picked it all up. He had taken all our laundry to the drop off laundromat and we would be picking it up the next day. I gave him a big hug and smiled from ear to ear. My hero! As we walked to the bus stop, a sly grin came over his face and I asked him what he was smiling about. "Well, when I went back there, I realized a certain plastic bag of yours was still in the boat. So I put it in a spot where Chris will never find it." "Oh shit...THAT bag?"

bottom of page