How to catch a tuna with a machete
08 January 2017
Jeff and Terry McClellan flew to St. Lucia to sail with us on Uproar and celebrate the new year. As we sailed from Anse Cochon to Marigot, we suggested stopping for lunch at Anse La Raye, a fishing village we consider to be one of the most authentic and unspoiled in the Caribbean. The fact that we were the only cruising boat anchored in their bay may prove us to be somewhat correct about this.
The village did have some stalls to sell trinkets and souvenirs but off the waterfront, things are quite rustic. Old cottages are crowded together on narrow streets, some cute and well maintained and some abandoned without a hint of paint. Everyone is friendly especially the self-proclaimed priest who lead us in the Lord's Prayer as we visited their church. We didn't agree with him that we should pay for the privilege.
We were getting ready to leave when a fishing boat came to the community dock with some small Black Tuna and two huge Yellowfin Tuna. We watched as they unloaded their catch and started to clean the fish right on the dock. The preferred way to hack up the large tuna was with a machete. The fish butcher set it on the dock and it slipped through the planks with a splash. We heard some muffled oaths and a lot of consternation about how to get it back. Seems no one had a mask. I volunteered, “I have a mask and fins.” The butcher asked, “In your dinghy?” I replied, “No but my boat is just there and I'll get them.”
I dinghied Lisa back because our dink won't plane out with four people. I returned with the snorkeling gear and one guy put his hand out to take them from me. I said, “No, I can get it.” I slipped off the rough concrete pier, it was only about 5 or 6 feet deep. One fisherman said, “Be careful of the rough concrete, don't hit your head.” I was. I had to dive under the concrete to the middle of the pier where the machete had landed and back under the concrete to open water.
The first dive made me question my eagerness to volunteer. The water was murky and filled with floating fish guts and gills. I didn't hunt around long but swam back out. Second try wasn't much better but I was getting more comfortable with the task. When I emerged, one local guy said, “I'll try.” I told him I would take one more turn. Now I was motivated. White boy had to show them he could do it.
One deep breath and down I swam. It wasn't really that much of a distance but conditions weren't pleasant. I finally felt the blade and grabbed it. I swam out until I was sure I saw daylight above me. Popping up with the machete, I handed it to the fisherman. He and several others thanked me.
Jeff, Terry and I were eyeing up that Yellowfin Tuna, we guess it went 80 pounds. We asked if we could buy a piece. The fisherman chopped the head off and offered us the next slab, about 8 pounds of fresh meat. I said, “That's way too much.” They pointed to a section near the tail and we agreed that would be the one we wanted. We had no plastic bag so I grabbed the bailing bucket (cut up laundry detergent bottle) out of the dinghy. The piece they cut off for us filled it and they were trying to give us another piece. We took just the one piece and thanked them. There was no discussion of paying. That's how I caught a tuna with a machete. It was delicious!