05/07/2009, Chicago, Illinois
We've been home about six weeks. By "we" I mean the kids and I. Bill is just back from sailing from Ponce to Florida aboard Wanderlust. He and his crew of three left Ponce, Puerto Rico on the 20th of April. They made a brief stop in Luperon, and have now returned to mainland USA. We have been settling in. It feels remarkably normal.
Today I went to work. I went back to the office that had been mine for the last 10 years. I have keys again for the first time in 18 months. I ran errands on the way home (bank, library, post office), and it all felt so familiar. It's really hard to believe that it's really me that sailed on that boat to Venezuela and most of the way back. It's surreal that the voyage is in my past, and no longer in my future. It almost feels like I never left, or was just on a rather long vacation.
But some things are really different. I can deal with uncertainty and change far better than I used to. There's a lot that's still really "up in the air" about our future, and the logistics of settling back in. My two mottos are "embrace uncertainty", and "one decision at a time". I was always the one with a plan (dinner with friends was sometimes scheduled six weeks in advance). Little frustrations just don't bother me anymore. I got used to really big ones while cruising (how long until the next weather window!!?!). I notice how quick shore-side folks are to complain about how hard it is to get things done, or the incompetence of those who are supposed to help. I just thing of checking into the Dominican Republic, or checking out of Trinidad, and the systems here seem like well-oiled machines. Besides, it's easy to go on the internet or pick up a phone and take care of . . .whatever it is.
Dishes and laundry are incredibly easy, so the kids never complain about their chores any more. I guess laundry and dishes, done at home with an easy-access washing machine, and a dishwasher, are nothing compared hand washing the dishes every night in a tiny sink with cold water, or lugging the laundry bags by dinghy to a mystery laundry that may or may not be open/be busy/be working/be clean. And they don't miss varnishing the bright work and painting the anchor chain. They're happy to be back with their friends. Benjamin is in school, Noah is finishing up the home schooling year, and Alice continues at her high school. They help me, and they help each other. They get along better than they ever did, and they complain less, too.
It's taken me until now to figure out what I've learned, and how this voyage changed me. So far, I like what I see.
There are a bunch of new photos in the gallery. They include photos of the 4 buddied on the boat. We go motorcycling in Luperon, see the oldest church in the New World, founded by Columbus in 1494, and catch a bunch of fish.
05/05/2009, Marathon, Florida
Fishing in the Open Water
We tow fishing lures pretty much all the time we are underway. One of the famous pelagic (deep water) fish is called Dorado. Sometimes it is called Dolphin, and sometimes Mahi-Mahi. It is the same fish. They can get up to about 90 lbs. and are known for their fighting ability. I have hooked them in the past, but haveonly gotten a few smaller ones onto the boat. Like most pelagics they are migratory and this time we were in the migration path. They travel and feed in schools sometimes, but always in pairs.
We started hooking up dorado after we left Hogsty reef in the southern Bahamas. The first one I got on the line was a real big one and took about 45 minutes to get to the boat. When we saw it we were very excited at the prospect of landing such a big fish. It was just beautiful and large. Eric got the gaff ready and took the leader in my hand and pulled the fish alongside the still moving boat. I shouted to Eric, "Just get the hook in it anywhere! There are no points for style!" Eric took me at my word and swung from over his head and got the hook firmly into the fish's belly. When he and I lifted it with some effort to the deck I realized that the fish was going to flap its way off the boat if we simply put it on the aft deck so I said "get it into the cockpit." Eric dragged it there and got it off the hook. Now the large, bleeding, dying, and wildly flapping fish started thrashing around in the cockpit and everyone jumped to the benches and started yelling "Don't fall down into the cabin".
It fell down into the cabin.
I shouted "someone go down there and sit on its head!" Of course that someone had to be me. I leaped down, Mike took a few photos,. I got an old towel and wrapped the fish's head to quiet it down and sat on it so it couldn't flap around any more. Finally it got still, but not before there was blood and guts on the sails that are below, and all over the interior.
I dragged the fish above onto deck for the task of preparing it for us to eat. I cut long fillets from the sides, and head. I tossed the bones, tail and head over for a meal for the next fish. Then I packaged the fish for the fridge for us to eat later. Of course we all took a few bites of it raw and fresh. Delicious!
It took us days to eat the fish and we never finished it all. We had dorado tacos, dorado spaghetti, fried dorado in pancake and beer batter, dorado and eggs, dorado au gratin, dorado sandwiches. We were even tempted to try dorado smoothies, but Wanderlust doesn't carry a blender.
Then we kept hooking dorado. Some were quite large again, some were smaller. We released them which meant that we had to got the hooks out of them. Since out net is not large enough to lift them, and the gaff hook will likely kill them we had to lift them on the leaders. Usually when we lifted the fish into the air it could shake the hook free. Sometimes we had to get them onto the deck and work it out. Some of the lures were lost to the fish. We caught so many dorado that we stopped even trolling lines for sport because we were all tired and sore from reeling in fish. We kept one other when the fish we had was getting low, but I ended giving it whole to another cruising boat when we arrived in port.
Just so you believe this 'fish story' I am including some photos.