Big Fish, Little Fish

May 8, 2019

Day 215

Noon Position: 18 54N  51 17W

Course(t)/Speed(kts): W 4

Wind(t/tws): E 5

Sea(t/ft): E  2

Sky: Light squalls, then clear

10ths Cloud Cover: 5 then 0

Bar(mb): 1020+

Cabin Temp(f): 86

Water Temp(f): 79

Relative Humidity(%): 59

Sail: Spinnaker and main; running dead downwind.

Noon-to-Noon Miles Made Good (nm): 135

Miles since departure: 29,093

Avg. Miles/Day: 135

Leg North Miles: 6,165

Leg North Days: 49

Avg. Miles/Day: 126

Wind light overnight. None of the squalls I mentioned in the previous post. Some dark skies, but no rain.

Wind went lighter still with the sun, and I’ve been flying the spinnaker since 10am.

It was the right move to haul west. But I should have done so a degree of latitude sooner.

Big Fish. (No Photos. You’ll just have to believe me.)

This morning. Mo is making four knots to the west.

I am standing over the stern deck just above Monte. I’m there to check out the windward horizon for squalls when I notice a shadow in the usually pale blue water immediately aft of the boat. As I watch, the shadow moves in closer, and it is with a shock that I realize we are being tailed by a large Sword Fish.

I can make out the thick, muscular body, the long bill, the sharp, sicle-like fins. He’s a real bull–at least a third Mo’s length. Think Santiago’s big fish for comparison.

Slowly he rides the under side of a wave in toward Mo. He swims in close, all the way up to the stern and there he gives Monte’s water paddle a mighty thwack with his bill. Then he eases back.

I dash below for the camera, and by the time I return he is patrolling from two waves away.

He stays near as long as I watch, sometimes surfing in closer, sometimes off to the side. Then after a particular wave, he is gone.

Little Fish. (Bad Photo.)

This afternoon. Mo is making six and seven knots.

I’m at the bow checking on the draw of the spinnaker when I notice two dark bullets in the water off to port. Two tuna about four feet long. They are running fast in Mo’s shadow, but when they move into sunlight, their backs shimmer the colors of the rainbow.

I run for my lure. I dangle it in front of them. I even thrown it at them. They do me the courtesy of looking at it, but their interest seems to say, “Very nice. Attractive bauble. Doesn’t look much like food. We’re here for food.” And then they continue surfing Mo’s bow wave.

They are hunting in just the way the Dorados were of a week back. From the darkness below Mo’s hull, they cruise in wait of the flush of flying fish. And then they give chase.

Today a rarity: I see a catch. First the flush of fliers, they scatter, maybe ten of them, like pearls being thrown upward by the blue waves.

But one is hobbling. He can’t quite get air born. I suspect a tuna has nipped the under part of his tail fin, which he uses like an outboard motor while flying. His outboard is spluttering. And then there is a splash from below and he is gone.

All of this is observed by both myself and a lone Skua that shows up around this time. Repeatedly, he lands near the bow as if to invite himself to the party. That’s a Skua for you. Always ready to help himself to someone else’s fun. I throw him a cracker, but he only pecks at it. He returns a look of disgust by way of thanks.

3 Comments on “Big Fish, Little Fish

  1. Enjoyed your description of the encounters with the fish and bird. The color of the water is beautiful. You are having such an amazing experience! Sailor on!

  2. Nighttime Rainfall…Randall, I’ve been a sailor since I was a teenager but unfortunately I’m now landlocked – living in the North Carolina mountains. So I eagerly await your Figure 8 daily updates. I am a retired National Weather Service meteorologist. It’s a rainy day here in the mountains so I thought I would tackle your question about the diurnal tropical rainfall.

    A little reading reveals that it’s not an easily described process. One major component of night time tropical convection is the changes in the vertical temperature profile. To put it simply, when it’s warmer than normal in the lower levels or cooler than normal in the upper levels, upward motion or convection will begin. As you well know the daily air temperature fluctuation over tropical oceans is very small even though there can be a lot of daily sunshine. That’s because the ocean absorbs most of the incoming solar energy. So, to produce an unstable atmosphere there must be cooling in the mid to upper levels. This takes place when an upper cloud layer radiates energy into space. This causes the atmosphere at that level to cool and the temperature profile becomes favorable for convection. During the day the same upper region can absorb solar energy and warm and stabilize the atmosphere.

    These are very subtle changes in the atmosphere and can only be observed over the tropical oceans. Over continents or islands the solar heating of the surface overpowers these subtle affects and produces a daytime rainfall maximum, as does the presence of fronts or organize tropical systems or surface convergence.

    Hope this helps.

    Dennis Decker
    Newland, NC

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