Hopelessly Hooked on Fishing

Phil & Nikki Hoskins
Sun 17 Apr 2016 20:45
In position 27:39.64N, 080:22.28W  Vero Beach – Florida
Our window of acceptable weather to cross back to the USA arrived early last week so we made our way across the Little Bahama Bank. The name suggests that it would not take terribly long to plod across this stretch of water. However the vital statistic is that the last good staging post of Great Sale Cay sitting out in the middle of the bank is still fifty miles away from the deep ocean water of the Florida Straits. It is then another sixty odd miles traversing the Straits to reach Fort Pierce. On this trip it was all motoring as the wind had completely disappeared by the time we departed from Great Sale Cay. We would have preferred some wind for sailing or at least motor sailing but you take what comes. A cold front was due off the USA later in the week and that is definitely not the weather for being in the Gulf stream. So motoring it was.
We had enjoyed a few days at Green Turtle Cay before leaving for Great Sale Cay – that in itself being a fifty mile run. We’d been promised some favourable winds which subsequently died out not long after leaving! Our last night there had also not been without incident as the wind had increased in the late afternoon. The holding is notoriously bad in that anchorage unless you can find a patch of sand to bury the anchor in. The wind had been building during the day and we were holding firm as we settled down to watch some UK TV programs we’d recorded last summer (after a farewell ‘happy-hour’ with friends). It was only when the ‘Admiral’ popped out to check all was well before turning in for the night that she realised we were no longer where we had been. This was apparent as there was a wooden dock with day boats just yards from our stern. They had been located on the far side of the anchorage. Given that a fixed wooden dock with attached boats would be unlikely to have made it’s way two hundred yards to windward it had to be us that had dragged the two hundred yards past the various anchored boats. We’d slowly but surely bobbed across the sound dragging our ground tackle with us just missing a fixed post in the water yards from the dock. Another thirty yards and we would have hit the dock and/or one of the boats attached to it. It was time to start both engines, turn on the radar and rescue the situation, which we did by securing to one of the local mooring buoys that were free. And what had we been watching at the time of our little wander across the anchorage? Well, “Location, Location, Location” of course!!!
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Here comes the sun                                                                                                                                         with miles and miles of flat calm seas to cross
The voyage to Great Sale Cay was without incident except that we managed to hook three Barracudas and some strange little fish with enormous mouths which had latched on to our lures that were almost the same size as the fish themselves. The one edible specimen we caught was a meal’s worth although we’re still struggling to identify the exact species. It was like a small Tunny but as it made a croaking sound in the bucket we then wondered if it was an Atlantic Croaker – yes! we joke not. There are fish that make croaking sounds. Anyway it tasted fine and maybe someone can identify it from the pic and let us know.
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These are game for anything – we threw them back....                                                                                    ....but this one was for the barbecue – but what exactly was it?
A wonderful highlight of the trip across the banks in such calm conditions was a visit from some dolphins that stopped to play as we motored along. Given that they swim at high speeds and can ride the bow wave of fast ships we were honoured that they even bothered with our paltry few knots of boat speed. However, they did linger around us for some minutes before swimming away in search of food and their main pod close-by.
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So enchanting..............                                                                                                           .... and so privileged to be in their company
We came off the Little Bahama Bank at exactly midnight, slowly drifting past a number of anchored boats in the shallow area just to the south of our waypoint. They had arrived earlier and had been waiting until midnight so as to catch the tide on the flood into Fort Pierce on the USA side. That was our plan too except we had just idled our way slowly across from Great Sale. Once off the bank and into deep water it was up to full speed on one engine to maintain five knots across the Straits. A host of navigation lights came on as the anchored craft did like-wise and so a large armada of small craft commenced the passage to Fort Pierce. Some crossed in close company with others with an hourly radio call amongst them to ascertain all was well. The conditions were benign with no wind driven seas, just a lazy swell which was no impedance to us or anyone else.
At daybreak out went the fishing lures of course. One each side of the stern although with such calm conditions artificial lures, especially home-made ones don’t always cut the mustard with our fishy friends. So it must have been a very hungry Mahi Mahi that went for one of ‘Skip’s’ home-made squid things made from a wine cork, a red and black silicone skirt and a large hook . But it was the ‘Admiral’ that wound the fellow all the way to the back steps on the hand line as ‘Skip’ was otherwise engaged talking to friends on the SSB radio.
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And in the (blood) red corner, weighing in at 16 lbs......                                                                                                          ......Champion Mahi Mahi from Gulf Stream, Florida
Given this was a largish fish (for us anyway) ‘Skip’ eventually arrived from below responding to the cries for help, hauled it onboard and straight into the cockpit. We didn’t want to lose it! It was then ‘hog-tied’ to prevent it from flapping around whilst it was ‘dispatched’. This had worked well with the Wahoo we’d recently caught. Unfortunately, ‘Skip’ doesn’t have his hog-tying proficiency badge yet and the gaffing hook and line which he had used slid along the fish’s back end enabling the fish full movement in any direction. At this point it launched itself on an escape mission, thrashing around tangled in three lines – the original fishing line with the hook still secure in it’s jaw, the gaffing line with it’s barb-less hook which was no longer in the fishes jaw but somehow tangled with our mainsheet control line and constituting a danger to us both. So there we were one of us on each side of the cockpit and the fish in the middle with blood everywhere. The small detail of what came next is a blur but somehow in the melee the gaffing hook ended up embedded in ‘Skip’s right leg with the fish and assorted lines still connected. Current score ‘Skip’ 1 Fish 1. Having extricated the hook out of the leg and allowed the ‘Admiral’ to attend to the wound it was time to stop messing around and put this blighter out of it’s misery. Which was what happened next. An hour later the best bits were stashed away in the freezer. Of course there was also the bloody mess to clean up – a cocktail of fish and human blood to scrub and rinse off before we entered Fort Pierce inlet channel.
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After a game contest the champ is down and out, (along with the challenger!!)                    Hurry up with the picture please                                    In the filleting department
Clearance was unproblematic with the Border Protection chaps at St Lucie airport followed by an excellent lunch with our friends who kindly ferried us around for the day. Bless you both. Now we make our way further along the ICW towards Titusville where we will set to work putting the boat to bed for what is predicted to be a more active hurricane season to come. (Gulp).
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Our view from our Harbour Town Fort Pierce Marina dock just after sunrise – with our favourite birds still in residence
Four weeks to go and counting.