Wednesday, March 17, 2010

March 16, 2010 - Mid-Atlantic Ridge

These past four days of sailing north from St. Helena towards Ascension have been some of the most pleasant of our entire trip. The weather is fine. The sun is shining. White puffy clouds skit across a bright blue sky. The sea is gentle. And most of the time we have enough wind to keep us moving comfortably along. If we start rolling too much, we just head Mata'irea up enough to bring the wind forward and keep the sails full. The days are beautiful. And the nights serene.

It is easy to become complacent in conditions like these. The other night Sten came on watch at 2:30am and found me napping in the salon. Which would have been fine, except I'd been asleep for three hours. The following afternoon I woke up after a nap to discover Sten snoring away on the couch. Which would have been fine, except he was supposed to be on watch, and those were not the sounds of a man in the midst of a catnap.

There was so little shipping traffic on the run from South Africa to St. Helena that we stopped worrying about it. And with the boat sailing herself under stable weather conditions, there isn't a lot that needs watching. But these past few days we've seen a few blips on the radar and last night we spotted the glow a ship's lights on the horizon, so we're trying to do a better job of keeping our eyes open.

The only downside of this passage is that we have not been able to catch any fish. Actually, we caught two, but at 6 and 8 inches respectively Sten let these Mahi-Mahi live to fight another day. And our first day out, about 12 miles off of St. Helena, we watched as a marlin batted at our lure four times, its long body a clearly visible dark mass darting back and forth across our sparkling white wake.

This morning we sailed over a portion of the Mid Atlantic Ridge that rises up from the depths of the ocean to within 100ft of the water's surface. It should have been a fish playground, but we didn't even get a strike. Then this afternoon a huge fish hooked up on the marlin lure, which is rigged on our heaviest rod and reel. This exact same set up stopped a large marlin way back in Vanuatu, a fish Sten eventually released after fighting it for ages. After that marathon event we went to much smaller hooks to hopefully allow oversized fish to straighten out the hooks rather than lose the lure to a monster. Until today, that strategy had worked for us.

Sten heard the reel go off when the fish hooked up. He grabbed the rod and cranked the drag of the big reel to max to either turn the fish or to get the hooks to straighten but the line just kept ripping off the reel at an alarming rate. He turned to me as I came up the companionway with the camera and said, "a little help please." I looked up at the mainsail prevented out to leeward, the jib poled out to windward, and the staysail rigged to leeward, and with an eyebrow arched at the back of his head, I responded that there wasn't a whole lot I could do to slow this freight train down. And then the line parted. We lost the fish and the marlin lure just before the bottom of the spool became visible. We'll miss that lure. It has caught us a lot of big fish.

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