Yesterday we made the 60 nautical mile trip from Lynyard Cay, Abacos to
Royal Island, Eleuthera. We’ve noticed when sailing across any open body of
water, some crossings are good, some are bad, but they never seem to be
boring (unless you’re motoring.)
The day started on a bad note, for the last week both Sabrina and I had been
waking up without an alarm between 6 and 6:15. So of course, the day we
planned to leave we didn’t wake up until 6:45. I rushed to download a new
weather forecast (still looked good) and we raised anchor about a half hour
later than we planned.
We motored out of the Little Harbour Channel, charging the batteries in the
morning because it was overcast and we knew the autopilot was going to have
to work hard in the following sea. We unfurled the genoa around 8 o’clock
when we turned downwind for Eleuthera. We wanted to fish, and it’s easier to
reef just the genoa when we catch a fish than worrying about the genoa and
the mainsail. So as long as we could reach Eleuthera before dark, we decided
not to raise the main.
We caught the Abacos Cruiser’s Net once we turned off the engine, hearing it
one last time. The sea state was rougher than we expected, we knew there
would be 4-6 foot waves, but I didn’t expect to see as many 8 foot waves
(and definitely not the occasional 10 footers.) We had to cross the
Northeast Providence Channel, and the currents in the channel seem to shift
and eddy based on the fluctuations of the Gulf Stream. We were sailing
downwind, so we would notice a current would push against us and slow down
the boat while the waves would build behind us.
The wind would lull and increase every 10 to 15 minutes, making it maddening
to watch our speed, we’d dip to 5.5 knots for 15 minutes, then 7.3 for 5
minutes, then 6.2 for 10 minutes, etc. We gave up watching our instantaneous
speed, and just made sure we ticked off 6 nm to our waypoint every hour.
This worked, and for the first 5 hours we averaged exactly 6 nautical miles
every hour, meaning we’d make our landfall well before dark.
It was just after lunch that the fun began, so far we had 5 hours of
“boring” sailing, I should have known that was all going to change. We were
sitting in the cockpit, still holding our dishes from lunch, when suddenly
the whisker pole came loose from its vertical mast mount and fell to the
port side, bouncing on the life lines. (We remarked later that if it had
fallen to starboard, it had a good chance of ripping the genoa, or denting
itself on the scuba tanks, we were lucky.) I sprung out of the cockpit to
grab it before it was swept overboard, the jaw was barely holding on to the
lower mount. Once I grabbed the pole, Sabrina followed behind me and I
directed her to the loose parts that were somehow still on deck. She grabbed
the expensive parts off the deck while I fought the pole. With loose parts
in pocket, she then helped me to carry the pole back the deck so we could
lash the whisker pole to the portside stanchions.
I was midship on the port beam with my hands full lashing the pole when I
heard a familiar *click*…uh oh…. I looked back at Sabrina holding the
other end of the pole outside the cockpit, then my head snapped to the
stern of the boat where I saw 8-10 mahi break the surface of the water. In
addition to the hand line that I already heard *click* the two poles started
screaming drag…uh oh…. Sabrina laid the pole down, increased the drag on
the reels, and I hurriedly finished lashing the pole to the stanchions.
Now, I joke about the best way to double your luck when fishing is just to
throw out a second line. In my case, we usually tow four lines behind the
boat (four should be better than two, right?.) It was a little rough to fish
yesterday, but we REALLY wanted fish for dinner. There are advantages to
fishing four lines, I had a mixture of colors and patterns to try to entice
a bite. There are also disadvantages, because when you come across a hungry
school of mahi, they will eat WHATEVER you’re trailing. And now we had three
fish to fight.
We quickly reefed the genoa to slow our progress to 4 knots and then I
grabbed the first rod, unfortunately the two fish had wrapped themselves
together and I lost the first fish, lure and all. The second rod and the
handline were successful and I gaffed both fish behind the boat and hoisted
them into the cockpit.
[Side note: We bought a gaff last summer when we got back from the Bahamas,
it was everything I dreamed of and more, it’s not particularly long, but
it’s just enough for me to snag a fish and pull it from the swim platform
into the cockpit. I shudder to think of all the fish we lost at the boat
before we got the gaff. Also, not to brag, but I gaffed the first two fish
of my life like a pro, snagging them just below the backbone so I didn’t
damage the fillets. I guess all those mornings watching my buddies gaff fish
on my friend Larry’s boat finally paid off!]
We were ecstatic to have these fish in the boat. The mahis were both 30″
long, the perfect size to provide good fillets, but also keep them
manageable. We watched them slide back and forth in the cockpit in the
following seas, and eventually decided that we should just go ahead and
fillet and trim them. Now most people would have opted to wait until they
reached port, but we wanted to eat as soon as we arrived so we broke out
fillet knives in the pitching seas and set to work. I filleted the fish in
the cockpit while Sabrina kept watch, then she headed below to skin and trim
the fillets for the freezer while I kept watch and washed the cockpit.
Not to go off on a tangent, but if we in the habit of listing everything we
ate on every passage, you could probably tell how we were feeling at the
time and what the sea state was like. Sometimes I just want toast or
crackers, sometimes we have spaghetti and meatballs. That morning for
breakfast I had heuvos rancheros – cornbread, two over-easy eggs, topped
with leftover chili from the night before. For lunch, Sabrina had a bowl of
leftover chili, and both of us regretted our decisions later in the day.
Neither one of us got sick, but we did have to take a few “time-outs” to
stare at the horizon. It wouldn’t have been a problem without filleting the
fish, but the combination of looking down and the sights and smells of
freshly filleted fish didn’t make my breakfast rest easy.
We had reeled in the lines after catching the fish (our freezer was now
full) and after we were done filleting we unfurled the main and reefed the
genoa. Now we were making up for lost time from fishing and we surfed into
Eleuthera, frequently seeing 8+ knots over the ground.
We dropped the hook in Royal Island Harbour just before sunset, enjoyed hot
showers and then a wonderful dinner of the freshest mahi available. Nermal
howled until we gave him his piece of fish. Today I’ll try to reassemble the
whisker pole, (I hope we found all the parts,) I’ll explain what happened in
a separate post so folks know what to watch out for.
All in all we had a good crossing. But it definitely wasn’t boring!