December 14th 2010: Bear hugging the beast (the craziest day on board)

Enigma's Transatlantic Voyage
Manuel Ribeiro
Wed 15 Dec 2010 13:04

13:31.30N 55:45.00W


Ready for the craziest blog edition of the trip? Here it goes….


As mentioned in the previous blog entry, we were within arms’ reach of catching our first big fish. Unfortunately, we were ill prepared to catch this 80 cm Dorado, as we only had equipment and experience suitable for catching fish a fraction of its size. So when it was reeled in to the transom, the fish cleverly hit its head against the boat and got loose, escaping our net that could barely fit around its head. What made it worse was that we couldn’t prove it had happened; not a single snap from the camera was taken.


Though we were disappointed, we told ourselves that we would learn from our mistakes. We discussed what equipment and strategy could be implemented so that we would be better prepared next time.


Well, that was put to the test the next day.


It came right after eating breakfast. Everyone was having a chat when something caught Pena’s eye. “FISH!,” he yelped. Everyone’s heads immediately turned and, sure enough, something big was violently tugging at the line. The fishing rod was dangling from the safety harness we attached to one of the lifelines. Next thing you know, everyone was on their feet. Manuel Sr. ran over to the rod. Pena jumped to the helm to slow down the boat. Ze and Manel got their cameras and Boyan fetched his gloves. It felt very familiar, but we hoped to have a different result.


Things slowed down after that. We learned from last time that, it is one thing to reel in the fish, it is a whole other dilemma to bring it in from the water on to the boat. Though we had a rough strategy set in place (piercing it with a large hook, and throwing as far into the cockpit as possible), we were unsure how successful we would be. Knowing this, Manuel Sr. wanted to get the fish as tired as possible. That way, it wouldn’t put up as much of a fight once we tried to bring it on board. Reeling it in slowly, while intermittently giving some slack to the line, it took about 20 minutes to finally see the fish.


When we saw it, we realised what we had gotten ourselves into.


The Dorado was easily a metre long -- closer to the size of a dolphin than the fish we previously have caught. Nothing had prepared us for this, so we waited a little longer to make sure it was completely exhausted. In the meantime, Ze was taking photographs; Pena was controlling the direction and speed of the boat (with Manel shouting, “Slow Down!” and “A bit faster now!”); Manuel Sr. had the line grasped in his hands while Boyan waited by his side with the large hook; and, of course, Manel was filming the whole thing.


Finally, the fish was submissively letting itself be dragged by the line with little struggle. Manuel pulled it within centimetres of the stern while Boyan raised his hook in giddy anticipation. The moment of truth had arrived.


Suddenly, just when the fish seemed to have gained a newfound strength, a large wave splashed the fish onto the transom. Boyan started jabbing at it with the hook, but it just bounced off its body. All it did was get the fish more excited. It started flipping and flapping wildly. The hook could come loose any second. Boyan kept jabbing. Manuel started screaming, “Stop hitting it!”. Boyan kept jabbing anyway, missing the fish more often then not. It was not going as planned.


Just as things seemed hopeless. Boyan tried grabbing the slippery, elusive beast. Though it didn’t seem possible, he got his left hand on it. With his right, he released the hook, letting it go overboard and tried to grasp it while bringing it in. He got his second hand on it and brought it into his chest.


Boyan was bear hugging a strong, slippery, metre long Dorado. He looked like a Forcado (a Portuguese bullfighter).


The fish started fiercely flapping its tail at his face while Boyan was holding on to it for dear life. Manuel Sr. came to his aid and got a hold of its tail. Boyan fell back towards Manuel Sr., who got his second hand on the tail. It seemed as though things were going our way. But the fish did not become the only enemy. The hook in its mouth joined in on the fight and pierced Boyan’s shorts in a compromising location. Boyan would not let go of the fish. So Manuel Sr. had to act -- with one hand on the hook, the other on the fish’s tail.


Much to everyone’s (especially Boyan’s) relief, the hook did not pierce flesh. With some effort, Manuel managed to pry loose the hook from his shorts. By then, the fish had stopped his violent struggle, and its movement was reduced to its gasping gills. Like a good Forcado, Boyan refused to let go. “Not until it stops moving completely,” he said.


But we had won the battle between man and beast! Ernest Hemingway (as well as Enigma’s fishing advisors, Manu and Joao Carlos) would have been proud.


As you can imagine, the meal was the best thing we have had during the trip: a barbeque grilled Dorado with potatoes. For some of us, it was the best fish we have ever had in our lives. The beast, which was exactly 1 metre long, was too large for one meal; so we put ¾’s of its remains in the freezer to enjoy it another day.


And yes, unlike last time, we filmed the whole thing. So you will all be able to see this extravaganza for yourselves…in HD.


As this adventure comes to a close, bear hugging the raging Dorado was an incredible way to conclude our time on board.


Stay tuned for our arrival in St. Lucia,


The Enigma Crew.



P.S. Now for some logistics, a quick detail about the blog needs to be cleared up. Yesterday, one of our readers asked about a certain discrepancy in information, as he noticed that we reported being 420 miles away from destination, while the coordinates provided showed 590 miles instead. The reason for this is that, since the blog is written in the morning, each entry is dedicated to the events of the previous day, so we cover everything that has happened from the time we wake up to the last night shift. Our reported position is 1PM of the previous day, so as we write we are almost 1 day closer to destination. Today (Tuesday) we are actually just over 100 miles from destination!


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