First light on Friday morning revealed a tear in the asymmetric sail, the night had been a difficult one with the wind dropping below 8 knots at times causing the sail to flog. As the sun rose the wind filled in and we were sailing comfortably again, so it was rather annoying to have to retire it. The spinnaker cloth is very lightweight and unforgiving especially if snagged on anything sharp. A previously patched area must have caught on something high in the rigging when flogging in the annoying swell and variable breeze. We had no choice but to douse the sail and bring it in, deploying number 2 sail from the light air wardrobe, a high-cut reaching sail which we hoist from the bowsprit on a torsion rope. A heavier cloth than the asymmetric, it’s a little less delicate but is smaller in area and not as powerful, and also as the luff is fixed to the torsion rope it’s not possible to go as deep downwind as with the asymmetric.
On closer inspection the tear was bigger than it looked when hoisted, a rip a couple of feet long in the patch and original cloth with a couple of smaller rips branching off. The ‘sharp’ object had also sliced vertically through the edging tape. After a little hunt through my ever growing stock of sewing bits and bobs, I located a piece of spinnaker fabric left over from a repair I made to a couple of small rope burns in the sail a couple of years ago. It was only just big enough for the job, but beggars cannot be choosers. So with the sewing machine set up on the cabin floor, far too rolly to have the heavy thing on the table, I set about repairing it to the best of my abilities and I also reinforced the edging tape with a remnant of stronger sail cloth I picked up in San Diego. A motto of ours is “I can only do what I can do with what I have got” and coupled with “where there’s a will there’s a way” we got the job done. It was satisfying to get the sail rehoisted and back in action so quickly.
As I was busy sewing, Jez was accepting small gifts from Neptune in the form of a nice chunky tuna and a small Mahi Mahi. With the sail rehoisted and 6 knots of boat speed, we sat in the cockpit gazing at the wind-filled patch-work sail, mooching over what to have with our tuna supper. We discussed the benefits of catching smaller more manageable sized fish. We deliberately target these fish by using small plastic brightly coloured squid with a concealed hook inside, our rod and reel combo is perfect for the size tuna we normally target. Jez had just baked ‘Barbara’s Bread’, a wonderful artisan no-knead recipe passed on to us by our friend Barbara, and as he took it out of the oven the reel screamed at a level we have never heard before.
We both knew that this was not a mid-size fish of any description, as always my imagination ran wild and amongst the OMGs and a few other choice phrases I prayed to god it wasn’t a dolphin (Jez thinks I have an over active imagination, I have to remind him that we once caught a seal in Alaska although he was released unharmed with just a pierced lip!). The rod bent double and the fish ran with many metres of line, this one was going to be our trickiest ever – not at all what we had in mind! After increasing the clutch on the reel, Jez doused the asymmetric sail to slow the boat down before we started the long haul in. With every 5 turns of the reel, the fish took 10 back. It was a long muscle-burning reel in, excitement and anticipation keeping the adrenaline pumping.
As we got him closer to the boat we could see in the clear deep blue ocean a huge wahoo gradually tiring from his ordeal. This fish was far too big for us and our gear, but we had no choice but to bring him on board as he had swallowed most of the squid lure and the hook was deep in his throat, we would never be able to get close enough to remove that and release him alive. As luck would have it I gave a perfect strike with the gaff and struggled to lift him a little out of the water, Jez took over and I managed to get a rope around his tail which we tied to a cleat just in case! He was onboard and we still had all our fishing gear intact.
At 4 feet 5 inches long, this whopper of a Wahoo must have weighed around the 80-90 lb mark, based on Jez’s fishing book – that in Jez’s mind compares with a lamb ready for the butchers! We spent the rest of the day filleting and packaging 43 portions for two of beautiful chunky white fish, and our back-up freezer has been fired up to cope with the unexpected addition to our food stocks.
So it’s been a very productive and enjoyable second week at sea, with 12-18 knots of wind and a few periods down below the 10 mark, the sailing has been great and we finally feel that we are making progress. We have spent hours watching tuna leaping out of the water along side Joy in hot pursuit of flying fish, they seem to be using Joy as cover to creep up and attack the smaller fish (there goes my imagination again!). Also providing entertainment are the numerous sea birds also hunting the flying fish, Boobies are the most common but we have also had Shearwaters, Petrels, Terns and Tropicbirds and today an unknown bird which looks like an immature brown booby with red feet but has a much bigger wing span, and boy is he agile picking off flying fish mid-air.
With 1,100 nautical miles behind us, we have about 1,600 remaining as the booby flies. Today we changed course slightly after deciding to cross the ITCZ further west than originally planned, mainly because it looks as though there is more consistent wind closer to 128W compared with the area from 122W to 126W. In the last day or two we have entered the area of ‘CAPE’ around the ITCZ which stands for Convective Available Potential Energy – basically this means increased moisture and risk of squally showers, thunderstorms and lightening. It’s cloudy, hot and humid and occasionally rainy, we are now on squall alert especially with the asymmetric flying.