Please check out the photo album showing the fish we caught on our passage from Chagos to Mayotte; June 28 - July 14.
26//08/2014, Solomon Atoll, Chagos
Fishing in Chagos
By Liam Buratynsky
There was a lot to do in Chagos. My top three favourite things were camping out on one of the islands, fishing and squidding and going to Boddam Island.
We were in Soloman Atoll at the east side anchored close to Takamaka and Fouquet Islands. At the end of Fouquet Island, there was a sandbar beach and that's where we pitched our tent. I camped out with Ben and Moses, the two boys from S/V Smoke. After our tent was set up, we collected lots of firewood and warmed up dinner. We had brought three cans of beans, one can of creamed corn and popcorn, which we popped over the fire. We sat around the fire for a bit and roasted marshmallows before going to bed.
In the morning, we started the fire and put water on for tea and ate canned peaches. I really enjoyed making a fire on the beach and hanging out. Ben had brought his hunting knife and we were able to cut open coconuts and drink the water inside.
We went fishing many times and we were a bit disappointed by the lack of fish. We had been expecting to throw our lines out and just start reeling them in. We were the most fortunate boat here - there were two other boats also fishing - and they caught very little.
Our first day out we went fishing with our friends on Smoke. We had just gotten out the pass when I yelled 'I got one!' I reeled in a 5 pound grouper (coral trout). There is an album in the Photo Gallery showing a lot of our catches.
I really liked squidding, which I could do right off Gromit or out of our dinghy, Wallace. Dennis and I had really good luck one day and caught about 18. That night we had fish-fry. All I did was lower a line with a couple of tri-hooks and when the curious squid came close, I pulled up and snagged them. Then I lifted the squid to Dennis on deck and he removed them from the hook into a pail. Beware! Squid squirt black ink in self defense. It got all over everything. What a mess!
So, check out the pictures of our fishing days in Chagos, in the Photo Album called: Fishing in Chagos.
Liam with a catch of Mahi Mahi with his home-made tooth paste tube lure.
We are now in Mayotte.
We arrived here after a 16 day passage- 1843 nautical miles - with boisterous winds and bumpy seas......as expected. The Indian Ocean isn't the Pacific.
The wind speeds ranged between 8 and 22 knots apparent and averaged out at about 14 knots. That was good as it had us moving at an average of 6 - 6.5 knots boat speed. The passage would have taken us only 13 days but we hove-to (that's when you stop the forward motion of the boat and slide sideways) for one day to repair the wind-vane. And we spent two days anchored at Les Isles Glorieuses waiting for favourable winds and reinserting our prop shaft that backed out while anchoring.
We had mixed feeling about leaving Chagos. Another month would have been just fine with us. We were however getting really, really low on fresh food. Pretty well all we had left was half a cabbage and a bit of carrot. We made that half cabbage last for 3 meals with the help of the bean sprouts we'd started sprouting. We had two delicious stir-fries - thank you, Maia! And pad-thai - thank you, Zoe! Then, we turned to our canned vegetables which we livened up with curry sauces.
Of course, coming out the pass we had our fishing lines trailing and caught a blue fin travali. Then not long after, we caught a mahi-mahi! The whooping and hollering was very enthusiastic when we landed that one! Mahi is one of our favourite fish and we hadn't had one in a long, long time.
We lost a lot of lures and were getting low so Liam fashioned a lure out of an empty toothpaste tube. Success - we brought in two Mahi!
Michael noticed that one of our reels was moving so he began to reel it in and I grabbed the other and felt it. There was weight on it, so I thought it was mine that had the fish, but Michael kept on insisting that it was on his line. Our line were crossed a ways out from Gromit, so we thought that maybe one line had hooked onto the one with the fish. We continued to insist that we each had the fish and then after about a minute of reeling is we saw that we both had one and each was a Mahi Mahi.
"I've got it!"
"No, I've got it. It's on my line!"
"No, I've got it!!!"
It was pretty funny and we all had a good laugh!
There is a Chagos album in the Photo Gallery
Soon there is be a Chagos fish and passage fish album.
Simanderal - right, and Smoke at anchor in Solomon Atoll, Chagos.
Part of the daily routine of passage making is downloading emails through our SSB radio. The speeds are very, very slow, so, though we love receiving word from friends and family, we have always asked for brevity.
A couple of days out from Chagos, Michael was doing a mail download and noticed a huge file entitled 'The End'. His first reaction was that someone was sending a joke, a very long one, which he wasn't very happy about. It was so big that we couldn't get it to download. The system kept timing out and in the end, it took many tries over two days to download. What we then read affected us more than we could have imagined.
In Chagos, about 3 or 4 days after we arrived, a boat named Simanderal sailed in. In no time, we became fast friends. Michael, Ger and Michele are such great people, so fun and wonderful! We snorkelled, had beach cook-outs, visits on each other's boats. Then came the day for them to leave, which was about a week before us. Over the following days we got emails from them telling us about the first days of their passage to Mayotte, where we were going to see them again.
The email that we had trouble downloading was an account of the sinking of their sailboat Simanderal and of their rescue by a diverted freighter. We were horrified by what they went through. We were relieved that they were safe. It was an incredible shock that stayed with us for days aboard Gromit. Here is the link to the actual account of what happened to them:
Michael harnessed in and standing on the swim ladder and wind-vane.
At just over 800 miles out, during a regular check of the wind vane, I noticed that one of the flanges had a gap between itself and the transom, so I suspected that a bolt had broken. I immediately locked the wind-vane out and put Gromit on autopilot. It could be really bad if our wind-vane were to come loose and drag in the water behind us. Even though it was only one flange of 4 and one bolt of 8, I wasn't taking any chances.
Once Michael got up we decided on a plan to fix it. We hove-to and emptied the lazarette (storage compartment at the aft/back of the boat which is accessed by a large hatch in the deck). Liam, our smallest crew member and engineer-in-the-making, climbed into the lazarette where all the nuts of the 8 bolts are accessible. Michael harnessed in, one foot on the rudder of the wind-vane the other on the swim ladder, leaned over and reached to remove the broken bolt while Liam inside, held the nut.
Being hove-to does reduce the movement of the boat, but it was still a struggle for Michael stretching across the back of Gromit, to reach the head of the bolt and keep the wrench on it while Liam unscrewed the nut from the inside. Gromit was pitching so much, that Michael's foot on the wind-vane, one moment was out of the water and the next moment he was submerged to above his waist. We were concerned that his life-jacket was going to auto-inflate, so he took it off and wore just a harness instead. What made it more difficult was that it was lowest and farthest bolt from where he was balanced. There were rust trails below 5 other bolts implying corrosion, so in the end, he and Liam replaced 6 bolts of the 8.
Since arriving in Mayotte, Michael has sourced high strength bolts in the US to replace the newly installed ones. This failure exposed the latest weakest link in the wind-vane. Once the new stronger bolts are in.....what will be the next??
By the time the wind vane was repaired it was late afternoon, so we had an early dinner and then settled in for a movie. We'd already decided to stay hove-to for the night so that we could get a good night's rest. In the morning, Michael and I agreed that it had been one of the worst night's sleeps we'd had so far on the passage.
Dennis was up numerous times during the night to check that our hove-to situation was still under control. He wasn't familiar with heaving-to and was doubtful about this technique. We had him read about heaving-to and also had him do the wet paper towel test. If a boat is properly hove-to and you throw a wet paper towel into the water on the windward side, that paper towel should move away from the boat in a perpendicular direction. This shows that you are moving sideways. He did the test and we think he is a believer now.
It is difficult to stop all forward motion and Gromit was moving forward between .8 - 2.0 knots per hour. The idea is to slide sideways and create a slick. Heaving-to puts you somewhat at the mercy of the wind and current, so you don't always go in the direction you want to albeit slowly. Lucky for us though, the following day, when I checked our position, we'd made 50 miles towards our destination!
Liam in the lazarette.