Deciding (probably wrongly as the wind strength panned out) to stick with our sailplan and have a safe day tracking downwind, I was fearing that I would not have much to report but how wrong could I be. Mid-afternoon, Bob called to say that the Watt & Sea (hydrogenerator) downhaul had slipped and it had risen so the propeller was thrashing along the surface. This had happened before (needs a better solution) so I knew it was life jacket and safety line, shin down the transom to the bathing platform, disconnect the electrical output to reduce the load, step over the back holding onto the pushpit and step on the head of the unit, transferring weight while someone pulls on the downhaul to win the angle as it is gained. I don’t know whether you can picture the process but it basically involves (safely clipped on) standing right over the back at sea level. As I was about to descend, Bob shouted ‘what the f……. is that’, thankfully I stopped and followed his pointed finger. There, just behind Hejira and making passes was a long, wide, menacing brown/green shape. We thought it was a whale at first but it didn’t surface for air and was darting back and forth, it was then that a fin broke the surface and we knew it was a shark and it was huge!!! It was approaching the stern of the yacht and passing close to the Watt & Sea propeller then retreating and approaching again. Clearly the propeller thrashing the surface had attracted the beast and it was checking whether it was lunch. We actually thought it would make a lunge for the propeller as it passed so close. There is a funny anecdote to this story – as we shouted down to Stephen expecting him to bring up a camera, he emerged with two crusts of bread which he threw into the water and were left bobbing in our wake – even he doesn’t know why he did it!
There is a visceral, presumably hard wired, reaction to seeing a 10 foot long shark shadowing your yacht which is very sobering, it also puts a bit of a dampener on our aspirations for a mid-Atlantic swim. Luckily for the Master Bob did warn him and was rewarded with an extra hard tack biscuit and one less lash. I was rather hoping a foreign body in the water would encourage our shark closer to the surface but obviously they don’t think much of bread and I certainly was not going to use the chicken which I needed for our Tai curry. Once more Hejira went three nil down in the fishing competition and on two occasions we lost the lure, trace and weight as something bit clean through our 80lb. breaking strain line, possibly our shark friend. However today is another day.
I shall restrict my contribution today to things ‘fishy’.
At both ends of the spectrum as far as size is concerned.
The advent of the shark has been described above and is certainly at one end of the size spectrum! In view of the fact that the Doc has to date been pretty spot on with his identification of the various bits of wildlife that we have come across, I am prepared to back him on his throwing of the bread and concede that he had identified arguably the only species of vegetarian shark in the Atlantic!
It should be made clear to the reader that the night watch that the Doc and I share is usually fairly incident free. This leaves many hours for us to be alone with our thoughts, pondering some of life’s real profundities. Topics such as the ‘enormity of the oceans’, ‘the meaning of life’ and ‘what on earth am I doing here?’ range through the grey matter. What I can assure the reader is the fact there is one thing ‘fishy’ that will interrupt one’s train of thought and that is a flying fish seeing fit to leave its normal habitat, leap on to the boat and land right up the leg of your shorts! Whilst this is at the other end of the size spectrum, it actually happened to me last night and try as I might, I could not manage to retrieve it from my nether regions as it thrashed around trying to escape! Much ribald laughter from the Doc as he rather got his own back!
Barry is dumb struck!