Day 672: Fishy tales

The crew of Egret is sea-borne and it looks like their angling luck is finally on the up

S14.20.40 W159 42.45 (199.9nm from our Suvorov Atoll waypoint)

Scott (YT) and Mary Flanders (MS) left Gibraltar on 16 September 2006, and we’ll be following their journey every step of the way, thanks to this unique online “blog”. For a complete list of all the couple’s blog entries click here 

The crew ofEgretis sea-borne and it looks like their angling luck is finally on the up

Tuesday 22 July
Well, mis amigos, we are at sea once again. We left Bora Bora harbour yesterday morning running in gentle swells and just a bit of wind. We were hoping to spend a couple of days in an offshore island but large surf was breaking across the entrance so we decided to pass.

Discussing this with the swabs I figured we had a 50% chance of making it or not. Even 5% chance of misfortune is too much for Mary and I. On we went and here we are at 4.29am with our first waypoint 6.08nm away. We are turning slightly more north of west since rounding this small atoll, Motu One S15 48.57 W154 31.30 for Google Map fans.

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Last night we spent a pleasant night at sea with well spaced swells no more than two metres high and less than 10 knots of wind from behind the beam. Sunset was a special treat. We got our first green flash in the Pacific. The flash was the longest lasting and highest flash we have ever seen and through polarized glasses it looked blue. If you haven’t seen a green flash I’ll describe it. Imagine the bright orange sun being dropped into thick, light lime green syrup on the horizon. The green flash is the splash from the sun being dropped, lasting just a second or two. To see a flash at sea conditions need to be calm with no clouds.

Afterwards the sky was full of stars and the swabs got an eyeful as well, as phosphorescence in the water streamed off the bow wake, a first for both. The swabs stood their first watch (together) from 8pm to midnight. Both Mary and I went over their watch duties along with instructions to get us up in case anything has changed. We also have a watch sheet that is filled out each hour, to encourage discipline and to note any trends of changes in temperatures, barometer and so on.

The watch sheet includes details on: time, crew, latitude, longitude, course, speed, RPM, engineroom check, net Amps (draw), alternator (amps out), wind direction, wind speed and barometer. This logbook is a leftover form the Nordhavn Atlantic Rally. We made a second logbook for ourselves that also includes engine water temperature and oil pressure, plus in addition to course we also added heading (for set and drift).

The watch sheet improves safety, for instance by giving
an immediate reference to course/heading, should your GPS fail, you can maintain your course by compass until you get things back in order.

So far on the trip our course and heading have been within a couple of degrees. We are flying at up to 7 knots, (middle sixes mostly) since leaving Bora Bora running at 1350 RPM. We did have one slow period at 5.8 knots.

We are running with the South Sub-Tropical Current (0.5 knots) and have no opposing wind. This is as good as it gets…almost. After witnessing the outflow from the last atoll and the birds working the current rip we thought there would be sure to be fish around but the swabs are living in a fishing desert so far.

We are making such good time that we are overrunning this atoll and a chance to fish its outflow. Sorry, guys. What will today bring? Who knows, we’ll see in an hour and a bit when the sun makes its appearance behind us.

Well, well, well, if you are patient things do change. The swabs were on daytime watch around noon when one spotted their first radar target…ever. It was a radar reflector on a pole set over a long line of small buoys disappearing underwater. It appeared to be a purpose set FAD (fish attractant device – yes, this is real – not made up). It did its duty and held tons of fish up and down the food chain.

In a watery desert there needs to be a reason for fish to hang out; a current edge, sea mount with water welling from depths bringing the food chain near the surface, or something natural or artificial floating on the surface holding bait. The first time we passed we saw four dolphins around the device. We caught several large fish, including a fat yellowfin tuna. One of the swabs is an excellent fisherman taught by his dad, the other is a rookie. Both were thrilled. After catching two of the biggest fish of his life RF (rookie fisherman) was already telling fish stories and his fish were growing minutes after being filleted. Like the little two-year-old girl on Robinson Crusoe Island off the coast of Chile, who turned on the charm and received a candy bar from a passer-by, RF was a natural at telling fish stories after catching his first real fish. I guess some things are in our genes.

So we had a great day fishing with calm seas and following wind. We also saw our second green flash at sunset in two days (with an accompanying green blink before the flash – the first time we have ever seen this), and to top it all off my Yellowfin Islamorada for dinner. A very special day.

However, there was one thing that was even more special for Mary and I. The swabs have been with us without their parents, for just a few days. At first they were a little lost and getting withdrawal symptoms from TV and computer games. Now, one swab has just finished reading a book required for school that was purely in his bag to satisfy the parents and yesterday we all had a conversation about the simple pleasures in life. Last night they were both out at sunset taking pictures of the setting sun and the changing light on the clouds. They were actually seeing the beauty in the sunset. The entire reason for them to join us on this trip.

Wednesday 23 July
It is well before daybreak. The seas are oily calm with a bit of swell and the radar is picking up birds sitting on the surface two miles away. When I come on watch I switch the radar through its ranges up to 48nm, looking ahead for targets although this is not likely. For the first time we picked up a strong target at 24nm, probably a ship, and a second slightly weaker return at 22nm. Normally it is only high land we pick up at those distances. In calm weather we normally run with the radar set at 12nm but after seeing the FAD we have the radar set at 6nm in case a long distance fishing boat has dropped a number of FADs in this area. Running over one of those wouldn’t be fun.

We have boosted our RPM to 1450 in order to reach Suvorov Atoll with as much light as possible on Friday. Early last night we were running at 7.3-7.6 knots but this morning with the lack of breeze to help push us along our speed has dropped to the 6.6-6.8 range.

Most trawlers have a lot of windage andEgretis no exception. Wind aft of the beam gives us a big push and likewise, forward of the beam slows us considerably. It is not often at sea that we wish for more wind but yesterday’s 6-9 knots from behind would be nice. What will today bring? Who knows but we had a talk with the swabs about fishing and we have agreed that we can only fish when there is room in the freezer or fridge.

Today we’ll use the two big rods spooled with 80lb test and two-speed reels to keep time fighting fish down to a minimum should one hit. Tomorrow we’ll be within a day of Suvorov so we can pack the fridge (if the fish decide to snap) and give fish away to other cruisers when we arrive, but again we’ll only fish the two big rods. To miss a safe entrance at Suvorov would mean another night at sea jogging off the entrance waiting for daylight, or in reality, late morning in order to read the bottom on the way to the anchorage.

Thursday 24 July
The days pass quickly at sea. We had shrieking wind last night at just under 10 knots from a little W of S. The seas ramped up to at least a metre. Tough duty but we survived and now the anemometer is reading 1.9 knots and the seas have subsided to less than a metre. Oh yes, we had another green flash last night, three in a row. And oh yes, again we had fresh fish for dinner. The swabs have settled into their night-time watch (8pm til midnight) together and are standing an individual two-hour watch during the day. They also do their fair sharing of washing dishes and neither swab has any feelings of nausea. Life is good and we all are looking forward to landfall on Friday morning. Our speed has been above what it needs to be for a midday landfall so we’ll fish the pass before we enter the atoll if we maintain this speed. From what other cruisers that have visited the atoll have said, we should be able to catch enough fish for an anchorage fish fry. We’ll see.

Note: We had a typo on OMNI Bob’s email address. It should be Ciao.

Picture 1. Two happy swabs
Picture 2. Mary on watch



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