Thursday, June 05, 2008

June 5, 2008 - Ranon, Ambrym Island, Vanuatu


With a scream, the reel on the rod trolling the giant marlin lure paid out miles of monofilament. Both of our heads swung around in time to see the silver glint of a monster fish thrashing below the surface. Then it was gone, diving to the deep as the reel screamed again. Sten rushed to the back deck to grab the rod, shouting out orders to slow down the boat. I eased off the throttle and joined him on the back deck to reel in the other two lines, so we didn't catch anything else while he worked on landing the big fish. As Sten fought to land him, the fish kept diving under the boat. "Get the gaff," he grunted. I went to untie the gaff. "Take us out of gear. He's going for the prop. The prop is more important than the gaff right now." He didn't have to explain that if the line crossed the prop, the best case scenario would be losing the fish and the pricey pastel lure that had hooked him. A worse result would be getting the fishing line wrapped in the prop. I scrambled back into the cockpit and took the boat out of gear. Then I rushed back to the stern to untie the gaff.

While the rod dug into Sten's gut (he'd had no time to put on the fighting belt) and he struggled to keep the fish at the transom, I flailed around with the gaff, trying to jab it into the fish's jaw. First I hooked him in his flank. But it wasn't a deep enough wound to hold him. I twisted out the gaff and I tried again. This time I got his jaw, but this fish was way too big for me to get up on deck. I traded Sten the gaff for the rod and opened the transom gate. Sten hauled the still very much alive fish on deck warning me to stay away from the fish's mouth, "wahoo are known for their razor sharp teeth." Finally, a wahoo. We've never caught one before. This pompom of a lure has now brought us two nice big eating fish - maybe the Cubs do have a chance at winning the series.

While we made our last few miles towards Ranon, our anchorage for the night, Sten cleaned the fish, gutting it and trimming off its head, tail and fins. Once we were anchored, it was only a matter of minutes before an outrigger pulled alongside. A local man introduced himself as Barry. We offered the fish, as a gift to the village, explaining that it was way more than we could eat. Even after we cut a few steaks off the tail end for ourselves, there was still at least thirty pounds of slippery fish to maneuver into the outrigger. "Where is the head?" Barry asked. "I threw it overboard," Sten explained. "That is too bad. Head very good for island people," Barry responded. "Next time, keep the head."

The next morning, we took a walk around the village. These are a few of the things we saw.

Rom mask, sand drawing patterns and stone sculptures

Tree fern sculptures
Tamtams, also known as slit gongs or slit drums -
go to the Field Museum in Chicago to try one out

Waiting for the copra to dry

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