Friday, July 18, 2014

Underway Day 23 LightSpeed Sailing from Marshall Islands to North America

July 18 (again as we just crossed the dateline), 2014 @ Noon local or (UTC July 18 @ 0000)

Day 23 LightSpeed Sailing from Marshall Islands to North America

Day 10 at sea since our last anchorage at Bikar atoll, Marshall Islands.

Underway position: 28 28N 179 50W

159nm day/1694nm trip total

Course 047
Speed 7.3

Wind 17 @ 195T
20 % Cloud cover
1015 mbar
Air temp 85F
Sea temp 83F

Crossed the dateline at 28 20N 180W today at 10:40AM local, that's about 140 west of Midway island, 1300nm west of Honolulu, 3000nm west of San Francisco. Ten days into our voyage from Bikar atoll, we're still in the middle of nowhere, but almost exactly halfway to Dutch Harbor. Dutch is now looking like the preferred landfall as it's closest at only 2 weeks away!

Despite confused seas which made things a little extra lumpy and bumpy, we can't complain as we've had a spinnaker flying for the last 48 hours. Yesterday, I binged on weather downloads eating up lots of Iridium sat phone minutes, feasting on 6 gribs, a text forecast, blog update, position report and returning a few emails. Downloading 6 gribs throughout the day would be excessive if not for the fact that we need all that data to skirt the edge of the convergence zone to our west. If we get too close, it's squalls and way too much wind and confused seas and if we get too far away the wind shifts E and goes too light. So far so good as we've had zero squalls in the last 48 hours and mostly clear skies.

Yesterday, just before sunset (7:30PM local) I spotted a dozen sea birds ahead, it took some cajoling and a pretty please with sugar on top, but finally I convinced Kathy that we should try to catch a fish. Since it's a team effort to land and clean and process a fish, it's definitely something we agree on before putting a line in the water. Within 10 minutes the reel was really screaming, I was hoping I could just brute force the fish to the boat without taking down the spinnaker, but after tightening the drag three times to the point something would surely break, I called for help dousing the spinnaker.

Since the small spinnaker doesn't have a dousing sock and since we didn't have a mainsail up to 'cover' or block the wind for a typical spinnaker take down we employed another simple method. Just unfurl the jib, adjust the course dead downwind to cover and depower the spinnaker and then haul it in. We're pretty fast, but the fish was still taking line at a rapid rate. Once the spinnaker was down I furled the jib, started the engines and powered astern to stop the boat, then I put the helm hard over, so we'd lie a hull or beam to the wind to fight the fish.

By the time I picked up the rod and reel the line was nearly exhausted indicating that we had a big fish on the line. I was dreaming of a frigde full of Yellow fin tuna as I used the cadence and lifting of the ocean swells to work the line back on the reel. Since the sun had now set, it was time to get the fish in quickly. I pushed hard reeling and reeling and reeling until both my arms were about to explode. However, I was getting closer with only 50 yards of line remaining when I felt a few tugs on the line that telegraphed the message that this definitely was not a Tuna or if it was it was currently being eaten by a shark.

Each type has a signature type of line feel when you fight it. Some jump and run, others go deep, some have quick jerks of the line like a marlin wagging it's head in fury. We'll I had no idea for another minute, until the fish broke the surface and tail walked by the stern of the boat. Definitely a marlin and by the looks of it around 100+ pounds. At this point I went into overdrive retrieving the line and battling the fish as line came in and line went back out. When the fish got close I called for Kathy to cut the line. And with a zing we short distance released the Marlin. It would have been delicious to eat, but there's no way we could store 80 pounds of processed fish. Bringing the fish closer to the boat to unhook it would have been dangerous for both me and the fish and better that the fish endure the hook for a while until it falls out than be so thoroughly exhausted to the point that I could handle the fish and try to remove the hook. I have little experience handling marlin close to the boat and usually just slack the line and hope they throw the hook. That technique didn't work and I had no interest in getting the fish close enough to grab the sharp bill and pull the hook, just too much risk of getting hurt.

The night watch was uneventful and I tried to sneak in one last look at the southern cross, but think we're already too far north and it's dipped beneath the horizon.

Today lots of sea birds including a Albatross!

That's it for now.

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