Friday, March 1, 2013

Day 2 of the overnighter report

Day 2
Although a decent day of fishing for Day 1, my expectations of the Furuno trip, based on my last overnighter to the reef, were  a little disappointed.   A half dozen sails and a box full of grouper is not a bad day, but it puts into perspective the trip that we had three years ago.  On the way to the reef, we finished off a grand slam with a big black marlin.  The slam included a dozen sails and a sight-cast striped marlin that was cruising on the surface.   That night everyone went to sleep with sore arms from yellow tail snappers and big cuberas.

On this trip, the green water had killed the billfish bite and even pushed the snappers off the reef.   A little deeper there were plenty of groupers…….but man, that’s a lot of cranking and we were looking for a marlin.   Do they even eat at night?   James pointed the Dragin Fly South with a big full moon over our left shoulder.    Maybe we’d get a bite on one of the three marlin lures that Berto had chugging behind us at about 7 knots.   Dinner consisted of the freshest grouper anyone on the planet has ever eaten, superbly cooked under Marcos’ watchful eye in yes, the microwave.   The jumbo shrimp that we brought along for “bait” made a nice addition…..sorry, no vegetables.  With a belly full, James headed below where the customers were already zonked out.   Wade and I kept watch on the bridge.

I had plenty of naps during the day and was wide awake, scanning the horizon for hazards… much as signs of life or bait or feeding fish.  Wade was confident and flattered to be at the wheel,  with much more time  behind the wheel of the Bill Collector than I have steered the Dragin Fly……I’m just fine keeping watch.  Nothing on the radar for 28 miles, a big moon and calm seas made for a long quiet night and nice ride.   Surely, at any moment, the calm would be shattered by the scream of a 50.  It didn’t happen. 

The most significant realization of the night was that in the vastness of the sea, with nothing but water and sky, the moon and the brightest of stars, the most random of paths can cross.    Much further than the naked eye can see, even with lights 100 feet off the water, the radar indicated that a large freighter was more than 25 miles off our starboard bow.     James had set our course and engaged the autopilot…….25 miles away, the cargo freighter’s operator was sitting back and watching gauges with it’s own course and speed plugged into auto.

An hour passes and lights are visible on the horizon, it’s getting closer, but it’s speed and direction are still indeterminable  no worries, still many miles away.   I take a quick cat nap, leaving Wade on his own, he assures me he’s wide awake.  No worries…..and there were no worries from me, but every 10 or 15 minutes Wade would wake me up and ask me to look at the freighter.   The moon was getting low.  As the stars brightened, the sky darkened  and the colors of the freighter’s lights could now be discerned. 

I’m thinking that there is no way that freighter will end up any closer than several miles away from us.   What are the chances?  Impossible.  Hundreds of square miles of ocean, only one other boat within reach of the radar, the odds of displacing water in the same place at the same time are……. "No problem Wade, it looks like it’s getting closer, but we’re still off it’s starboard bow a good ways.” 

The darkness of the night on sea will play tricks with the eyes and the mind, so 10 minutes later I’m awaken again by Wade.  I’m sure that he just needs some reassurance that we are much farther away than the tricks of night make him believe.    The dark outline of the freighter is much closer, now with part of the masthead light visible, meaning that our trajectories not only appeared to be getting precariously close, but that evasive action may need to be taken.   Wide awake now, after studying our courses for several minutes more, both of us agreed that without changing course, that freighter would have run right over us.  

Fortunately, evasive action means taking the controls off of auto pilot and changing course  45 degrees , giving the larger boat plenty of room.   The change in course also changed the angle of waves cut by the the Dragin Fly’s bow, immediately waking James.  Probably the first thing that he saw  was a window full of freighter passing off our beam.    When the captain arrived on the bridge, I’m sure that he was proud that his crew was awake and alert.  
With all clear and the course readjusted, we watched the moon set, the blackest of the night try to settle in, but get chased by the fast approaching dawn.   We were marking bait, but would have no idea of the color of the water until the sun was high in the sky.   Still in the grey of dawn, teasers and swimming ballyhoo replaced the lures that followed the boat untouched through the night.  The sun still more than a half hour from cresting the horizon, we got our first sailfish double header.

Several sunrise flurries of sails and James pointed us towards some underwater seamounts 5 miles away.   It’s waters known to be patrolled by packs of striped marlin and big blues.    Although we did see a marlin on the surface and caught a few more sails, we didn’t get the bite we were looking for.      The sun was higher and the water was super clean and clear….and the radar marking birds over the bait that we had left earlier in the morning.   As they say….”Don’t leave fish to find fish”…..but we were looking for a marlin.  

 OK, Anna just walked in from the beach and I’ve got to run…….new installment of the report, recap of Day 2, the marlin, the phantom swordfish, squids and more to follow.