With the sun about to dip over the horizon, and an ‘Oh look, there are some birds up ahead’………zing go both lines. Before I even get a look in, my line breaks and Andrew is in a bent over position with a rod that looks bound to snap wondering if he has caught the bottom of the ocean or dragging a dead body. But it’s definitely moving and he’s running out of line. By the end of the 1 hour fight, man against ocean beast, I’m just anxious we won’t get a glimpse of the effort (also of course having had to drop the sails singlehanded!!!). The girls are running in between their movie and checking on Dad with Bowds squealing that shes so excited and scared at the same time and can she have a tooth and Erin who reckons we should just cut the line and move on. But the fight is won by man and rod this time, an iridescent blue shape eventually emerges to the surface, and it’s a huge black fin tuna just over a metre long and I guess about 25kg? All I can think about is that we already have tuna bulging out of our teeny freezers (each 30cm wide x 10cm high) and not to be fussy, but it isn’t my favourite fish unless served as a slither in a California roll. We must have thousands of California rolls on board.
But fortunately we are actually going to meet up with some fellow Salty Dawg boats the next day so we can share the prize. I am not going into the details of getting it on the boat and the look in it’s eye, because it’s hard enough to accept that I will eat it, without going into the details about how it goes from the line into my fridge.
Our initial plan to follow the Old Bahama channel all the way to mainland adjusted as some squally type weather developed along that route. We also hooked up (more like we could see other boats on our navigation screen and have a crackly radio conversation with them – VHF struggles beyond 12nm) with some other Salty Dawg boats heading to Mayaguana for night 5, to anchor and rest and recharge. We decided to join them and of course share the tuna. Sheltered inside a huge reef off the southern side of the island, completely uninhabited, we anchored in 4.5m of water. I thought I had seen clear sea before, but this was like a swimming pool. It was hard to remember that one was under water it was so clear, I even felt like I could take a breath. But then remembered that I had been hallucinating from exhaustion the night before so was probably still a little delirious. The seabed was a treasure trove of pansy shells, starfish and conch shells. Most alive with the big snail in them but so many having lived a full life, maybe even having served a second purpose for a hermit crab and was now slowly returning to the sea whilst housing little fish like their own little palaces. It’s so obvious when you come across places where humans hardly venture. Felt very privileged.
In celebration of 4 nights at sea with most boats short of crew, the 5 boats anchored together, gathered for a sundowner and review of the next tranche of the passage. Such a welcome treat to break the journey which I thought would be a solid 9 days. And of course putting faces and people’s’ names to boat names instead of familiar voices on the VHF radio as well as a solid sleep for a night. We were both going slightly dalooly without enough sleep. Andrew wandered up to me on my one night watch asking me if we were just floating. I gently reminded him that we were still sailing, going a comfortable 5kts. Ok he said and proceeded to try go pee off the back of the boat assuming we were at anchor. Luckily the whole cockpit area is zipped up with canvas so I could redirect him to the loo downstairs before he wandered out. On the other hand I feel I’ve taken the soft route as I was up for the challenge of 9 days at sea! Was looking forward to that accomplishment. But of course, I’d rather see a snippet of the Bahamas as we may well never get to explore it by boat.
Now my new challenge is serving up tuna (going to forget it’s not my favourite) in multiple tantalizing ways. We’ve had sushi, with fresh ginger and soya, pan fried tuna, tuna mayonnaise, tuna and christofina (apple looking vegetable) curry, stir fry tuna, and definitely our favourite, poke bowl ala LodeStar. We don’t have all the right ingredients so it’s been shredded lettuce, rehydrated fresh chickpeas, carrot, onion, celery and of course chunked tuna with a dressing of soya, fresh ginger, crunchy peanut butter, olive oil, sugar and white wine vinegar. Bowds isn’t so keen on too much fish, but the tuna mayo has been ok, and Erin enjoys a pan fried steak which is a hellova lot better than the bowl of weetabix that she suddenly announced was alive before tipping in the milk. I had spotted a single weevil in the last bowl but surreptitiously removed it hoping it was a once off but the hatching had clearly accelerated over the past few days. One bag of ‘not magically moving’ weetabix overboard!
We left the other 5 boats to get a head start this morning (day 6 at sea) as they are all slightly faster than us. ‘If only we had folding props’ is a lot of what I’ve heard for a long time now, then we’d gain at least 1kt/hour! It’s what everyone (I can confirm one source) has said. Folding propellors would make us more streamlined when sailing as opposed to creating drag. Anyway, apparently “I just don’t understand” so we’ve dropped the subject :). And perhaps to prove a point, LodeStar has been a cruising star today, without folding props! With the code zero out (that blue and red poofy sail) and a constant easterly wind, she has been gliding along at about 7kts all day.
We were set to hook up with Alisara tomorrow (they are much faster than us so anchored in another location last night) and sail with them through the Bahamas when things took an about turn. We always take our code zero down at night and lower the main sail by a section (reef it). But once we had furled the code zero, it wraps up into what looks like a swizzle stick, we could not release it from the top of the mast to lower it and wrap it up on the bow. Andrew hung onto it and tried to yank it down, we unfurled and refurled, tightened it up and tried to release it again but to no avail. We are now headed towards Flying Fish Marina on Long Island, we’ll make it in about 8 hours, which will be sunrise, so Andrew can go up the mast and hopefully see what the issue is. It’s been a bit of a blow to a great day. And it needs to be resolved as it is not safe to keep it up rolled up. We had that disaster the first time we used it in Italy when it rolled in on itself and started flapping and unrolling in the wind. We also want to use it of course as it is brilliant for downwind sailing which we are experiencing now.