May 3rd

S 09o 31’ / W 135 o 41’

Hello everyone,

The following is a supplemental journal entry for April 27th:

Tuesday, April 27, 2004:

(Day 15 at sea:  Late entry)

Our fishing fortune change dramatically after dinner on my sister Amy’s birthday, April 27th, the same days as my having written about the apparent barrenness of the sea. For dinner, Dick had curried some canned chicken, accompanied by green beans and a loaf of bread he’d baked earlier in the day. Cocktails before dinner had included the rare commodity of a few shards of ice, carefully coaxed into existence in a Ziplock bag placed judiciously next to the heat sink in the freezer. (Thereby justifying the time and money invested in my education in thermodynamics.)

As usual, dinner was timed for near sunset. As is also typical, we were trailing a fishing line behind the boat. Originally this line was 30 lb test, streaming back from an expensive offshore fishing pole that I’d bought in Florida, just before we departed. The salesman who recommended it either overestimated my skill or else did not appreciated the pure brute strength of pelagic fish. The strikes we got on that rig ended in lures striped from the ends of heavy duty leaders or the loss of the entire spool of fishing line. We countered with 100 pound test line but got similar results. We even tried towing one of our Panama Canal 7/8 inch ropes, but the fish were literally not biting, and, besides, it was slowing Lillian down. By the time we had reached the Galapagos, Peter had decided to buy the strongest monofilament line he could find. That is how our fishing system has evolved into towing 40 meters of 200 pound test strength monofilament line with a metal leader and lure on the end. At the boat end, the line is attached to a hefty cleat via one inch rope. A kink in the rope, held by a rubber band, is used as a tension indicator to let us know if something has struck. In the philosophy of Dave, owner of the catamaran, “Good News” back in Panama: We didn’t want to go fishing, we wanted to catch something.”

On the night of the 27th, we had just finished eating when the line snapped taut. Given the weeks of anticipation, one might have expected an outburst of excitement, but all I remember is that either Dick or Peter said, “f i s h” with a quiet determination, implying that this one was not getting away. We all jumped up and Peter began pulling the line in hand over hand. We didn’t bother to slow the boat down, which would have been difficult to do in any case, since we were running with the spinnaker up and the wind directly behind us. Peter steadily brought the fish closer, trying to estimate the size. “Looks like a Barracuda,” Dick and Peter speculated. “Great, just what we need on deck” I thought. Meanwhile, unlike the Mahi Mahi we’d caught weeks before, this one appeared either tired or resigned to its fate. None-the-less, Peter was having to work hard to reel in the line. Dick got the gaffing hook out of the locker. In the fading light we saw a beautiful sleek fish nearly four feet in length being dragged toward the stern of the boat. Peter stretched out, hooked it with the gaff and muscled it up over the lifelines and onto the deck where it thrashed only once or twice before laying still. As best we can determine, it was a king mackeral or wahoo. I estimated its weight as 35 pounds while Peter estimated 40 to 50 pounds. Peter’s estimate is probably more accurate, since he is the one who struggled to hold it up for the picture. For the next two hours, as Dick manned the helm, Peter and I processed dozens of fish steaks up on the foredeck.   At intervals, I would return to the cockpit with loads of steaks to be placed in our freezer. When there was nothing left except the head, Peter lowered it overboard with a word of thanks, and for the next five days, we have had fresh ocean fish, whenever we wanted it, for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

South Pacific Wahoo