Saturday, April 3, 2010

The fish that got away

Day 5: April 2, 2010

As of 0200 utc we were at N16 57 W109 49 with a 24 hour run of 108 nM.
IO has had her sails up and been on the starboard tack for over 5 days now and it feels like she is just beginning to stretch her wings. We have been on the same heading of around 240 degrees true for 3 days now. When daylight gives way to darkness, the familiar sight of the constellation, Orion the Hunter has been positioned just so that his belt is sitting on the starboard spreader which is a pleasant daily reminder that we are still on course. We can now also see the Southern Cross, which along with all the other reminders (like the fact that I'm sitting out in the cockpit at 2 am with no shirt on or that is has been too hot to wear underwear for over 2 months now) means that we have sailed a long long way from where we started.
A rather uneventful day unfolded. The left over 3 meter swell and chop sent down by a northerly storm has smoothed out and the wind has become more consistent at 12-15 knots.
A couple of hours before dark I noticed a float bobbing along, then another. Looking around I saw we were passing a large fish boat to starboard, a tuna purse seiner to be exact. We kept our eyes peeled until we were satisfied that we had missed all of its nets and watched as the boat sank back into the horizon from which it came. Out of the corner of my eye I saw that we were trailing something from behind the boat. My first thought was that we had picked up a bit of kelp, net or rope on the rudder. When I leaned over the back rail I immediately realized that the object was not attached to the boat but in fact following us. The largest Yellowfin Tuna (Thunnus albacares) that I have ever seen was drafting in the wake of IO. Given its girth, which easily exceeds my own, this fish must be in the 200 lbs range. When I say drafting, I meant that its head was at times within 2 feet of the windvane rudder as it glided effortlessly along with IO. I quickly grabbed the camera, snapped a few shots from above, then leaned over the stern, submerged the camera and got some cool face to face video footage of this great fish swimming alongside us. It was awesome and really made my day.
For those of you who are wondering why I did not get my speargun out, for it would have been a point-blank shot, the interaction with this beast was to beautiful, to intimate for such an action. Besides, we have no capacity to deal with 200 lbs of fish.

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