Southwards to Eleuthera...and a fishy tale

Phil & Nikki Hoskins
Wed 29 Jan 2014 20:37
Royale Island 25:30.90N, 076:50.75W
It's always hard to slip the mooring at Little Harbour. But moving on to new places is exciting too, although Royal Island, Eleuthera is not new to us. For most it's a brief stopover on the way to somewhere else usually further along this incredible island and on to Cat Island or the Exumas. Hopefully, we won't incur trouble in posting the picture below but as our onboard recognisance drone has broken we thought this space view of Eleuthera and surrounding area would be interesting! To the left is New Providence Island (Nassau) but sweeping southwards down the right hand side for over 100 miles is Eleuthera. The white grooved areas just right of centre are the extensive sandbars which have been formed over years of tidal flow on and off the banks. That area is a no-go for us with our four foot draft. Our exit from Eleuthera will eventually be between those sandbars and the piece of island shaped like a catapult towards the bottom of the image. The dark blue is deep ocean - lighter blue are the banks over which we transit varying in depth but averaging around 20-30 feet. The chain of islands to the left lying northeast to southwest are the northern Exumas.
Leaving Little Harbour cut just after sunrise we were anticipating a good down wind sail with fifteen to twenty knots of wind predicted. We would soon eat up the fifty-four miles or so to Royal and hopefully catch a fish on the way.
Initially the sailing was quite good but us sailors are a fussy lot and the wind for us needs to be between 100 &120 degrees either side of our stern. Less and we start being clobbered by a beam sea although the sailing is fast.  Beyond 120 degrees things become frustrating as the boat slows and the large Genoa becomes shadowed by the smaller main meaning we have to play around with poles and safety lines or preventers. Any other direction at fifteen to twenty knots and it's better to turn round and try another day.
Taking fussiness to an extreme we like our fish to arrive when it's relatively calm and we're not busy doing other things like preparing breakfast. The trouble is fish have their favourite time to eat as well which often coincides with ours. Such was the case on this occasion when 'Skip' was below adorning slices of toast with various spreads in the boisterous conditions. "Fish On!" came the cry, or something like that, from the 'Admiral' so the toast was forsaken for more luxurious possibilities.  We began winding in the two lines that didn't have a fish on the end. Then came the fun as the handline sporting the recently purchased black squid-like lure was pulled in inch by inch whilst fish bucket, gaff, gloves etc were readied and the decks cleared for action.
If the fish had worn itself out trying to swim in a different direction than we were heading then it showed few signs of fatigue when we brought it to the back steps. It went absolutely mad and we feared losing our biggest looking one yet. Dispensing with the gaff 'Skip' took the decision that the hook was well enough set that a quick heave-ho would be better than any further heroics on the transom and onboard came a four foot long Mahi Mahi (female) which was rapidly tossed into the grossly inadequate fish trug. When the head was in, the tail was out, flapping into 'Skip's' face, but that was the best we could do. That fish had a lot of fight left.  A comical situation followed as all sense left the big game fish hunter as he preceded to try and hold the fish down until it had expired. Fish blood flew everywhere, the back deck resembled a killing zone but he was NOT going to loose this one!.
Fifteen minutes later the struggle was still ongoing. What is amazing is the pure strength a fish of this size possesses. Mahi, like other ocean predators have to have immense power to catch not only their own food but also to be able to outrun those fish that see them as food. It's the food chain at work. Eventually human strength prevailed and our fish was quietly 'sleeping'. It measured four foot long and weighed over 20 pounds, so quite how we would cope with an eighty pounder we dread to imagine. Yes we could have poured rum into it's gills but it still seems such a waste somehow! Maybe a rubber hammer applied judiciously to the head next time?
The wind gradually died away to a point where we would be arriving later than desired. It was on with an engine and we motored the remaining miles in a lumpy sea to Royal Island for an overnight stay with 'Skip' clinging onto a slippery fish on the aft deck dealing with the 'innards' feeling slightly ever so slightly nauseous.
The one that didn't get away ...................................