March 28, 2010.
We went from The Bight on Cat Island and traveled 7 miles up to Fernandez Bay. We ended up going to a happy hour at the Fernandez Bay Village Club and made plans to have lunch there the next day before going on a bit of a dinghy exploration.
So much for plans. The next morning the weather forecast had turned to shit and we were due to have a nasty front come through in a few days. Screw lunch and the tour its time to hit the trail.
We raised anchors early and headed north for Half Moon Bay on Little San Salvador. It was a thirty mile trip and we were forced to motor for the first 20 miles in dead flat conditions. Normally we would have waited for a day with a favorable breeze but we had to get ourselves some westerly protection ASAP.
The Island of Little San Salvador is owned by one of the large cruise ship lines. They pull a cruise ship up and anchor it offshore and then ferry the thousand or more passengers ashore to frolic on the island. As we pulled into the anchorage we were just in time to see the Westerdam load the last of their passengers, pull the hook and leave. Cool.
Since we were crossing large stretches of deep, potentially rough water we had the dinks engine stowed on deck. Since we were only there for the night we decided to skip putting the engine on and going ashore. From the boat we could see the islands caretakers cleaning up and getting ready for the next boatload of tourons. We decided to be up and underway at 0700 so I set my alarm and tucked in after an evening of reading.
The next thing I knew Jay on Far Niente was on the VHF asking if everyone was up and ready. DAMN, the alarm didn’t go off. I stumbled through the dark boat and answered that “Yeah, the Verandas up” as everyone else checked in. I hate being late. I glanced at the weather station/ clock on the wall as I made my way to the head, 7:23, DAMN, how could we have overslept this late……..and why is it still so dark? I was confused but still freaked out when Christy said to me “Its only 06:15”. What? How? The clock on the wall said 7:23…..No she replied….the clock says 0615…the thermometer says that its 72.3 degrees in the cockpit. Shit, my eye was starting to twitch and I think I might have a cerebral aneurism but at least we’re not late.
Since we were up early we got underway. We had 15 to 20 knots straight over the stern for the first eleven miles. We had the full main up and secured with a pair of preventers. We were sailing along in 6 to 8 foot rolling seas when the fishing reel started to scream. I grabbed the rod and gradually was able slow the fish from taking line from the reel. I had the drag clamped all the way down and the line was still creeping off the reel every time the fish made another run. I’d reel in 2 feet and he’d take a few inches back out. We had visions of a huge Mahi Mahi dancing in our heads.
The fish was several hundred feet behind the boat and progress was agonizingly slow as I reeled him in a foot at a time. Because the dinghy was hanging in the davits I was unable to see the fish but Christy had a better vantage point. Finally the fish leapt from the water and Christy dejectedly said “I don’t think it’s a Mahi”. It was just so difficult to tell what it was as she stared straight back into the rising sun. Finally after just over 4 miles I was able to bring our catch alongside. It turned out to be a 6 foot Sailfish. They’re considered to be a game fish so we decided to release him. But there was no way in hell I was giving up my lure. While Christy held the rod I pulled in the last few yards of line until I could grab the fish by his beak. Once I was able to grab him I yanked him up until I could twist our hook out. He was still full of fight when we released him back into the sea. Hemingway would have been proud. I needed a nap.
Shortly after releasing the Sailfish we turned 30 degrees to starboard and unfurled the genoa. The next 15 miles may have been the finest sailing of my life. We had big wind as we sailed northwest in the lee of Eleuthera. We ranged from 7.4 to 9.4 knots as we blasted along chasing the other boats.
Savage Son outran us by a few hundred yards but we were both able to make up more than a mile as we caught up with the rest of the fleet before turning onto the banks at Powell Point. The last 12 miles of the day was a splashfest as we motor sailed into 30 knots of apparent breeze.
Downwind with big wind and a big fish….Great. Beam reach with flat water and big wind…….Perfect. Upwind into big wind……..Crap. But it was still a fantastic day.