Fish Stories and Screw Ups

Barracuda we released

Barracuda we released

We left “BarackObama” Bay (my nickname for Baramahamay Bay) the next morning at the crack of dawn. Our objective was only 35 miles away, we motored out the river (no wind here anyway) and then got out the river mouth and had some breeze. So we raised sail and were making our way southwest again. The winds were light, and by the time we arrived the final 5 miles we motored. Along the way though, we noticed as we approached a big bay with lots of rivers leading to it, the water first turned green then brownish. Yuck…we had been spoiled by lots of clear blue waters except for the river we had gone to the day before.

Great catch!

Great catch!

Along the way, we did some fishing. We caught a barracuda (see above), and released it back. Then, when we hit the river water we caught something else, it didn’t put up much of a fight though – it was a stick! We put the line back in the water hoping for a better catch.

I was a bit worried about the anchorage area we had selected. It was up a narrow passage between lots of reef. We had good Google Earth imagery and chart data though. But, I was extra careful on the approach. Especially after we went across some shallow area that showed our charts were offset some. We got way up into this narrow area and found the anchorage to be well sheltered and spacious with the right depth. We dropped our anchor and noticed LOTS of jelly fish in the water. No swimming here. As we set the hook and cleaned up, Karen pointed at our other fishing line. I forgot to pull the fishing line in! I tried to retrieve the line, but it was caught, possibly on the prop. But, I wasn’t going to jump in and retrieve it with all those jellyfish!

The next morning we were going to attempt a further trip down to Moramba. Solace was going to leave before the crack of dawn, and we were going to leave a bit later. But, I woke up and realized there was some breeze blowing again. Since I had promised Karen she could sleep in, I just raised the anchor myself and headed us out after s/v Solace who had already left. Once out of the narrow reef area I pointed us into the 15 knots of breeze and raised the mainsail by myself. But, I forgot to check something and didn’t realize it until later.

We had a delightful early morning sail for a couple of hours, first to the west to get around an island, and then started south-south-west. I planned to sail us to an island called Nosy Saba to stop and retrieve the snagged fishing line from the port side. Along the way, the winds started dropping. The patterns at this point were early morning land breeze, and then a sea breeze. When the winds basically stopped, I went to drop the mainsail. But, it didn’t come down! I looked up and realized what I had forgotten. That new block we bought in Reunion was turned sideways. We have always known that if you don’t properly pull up the main halyard so the block is vertical, it can become jammed sideways. For seven years, this never happened. Usually, we both do the raising of the sail, but I tried to do it solo. I had raised the sail with the block turned sideways and the enormous force had jammed the halyard into the side of the pulley. This is probably how the last one broke, and I had done that one solo as well. Needless to say we will go back to being very careful and using both of us to raise the sail as much as possible.

Since the seas were pretty flat, I asked Karen to get up and help me go up the mast so I could free the block. As we were preparing, I saw some whales ahead of us, but was too preoccupied to look. I went up the mast, but even with mostly flat seas I was getting tossed around up there a lot! I had to hold on with both hands and feet usually to keep from getting banged. I got up and realized the halyard was SOLIDLY jammed, and the block was busted as well. Great…that was a lot of money wasted. Now I was going to have to cut the main halyard off. But, to get the sail down I would need to use the topping lift which was what I used to bring my bosun’s chair up. So, I had to pull up a spinnaker halyard from the other side and tie myself to it before freeing the topping lift.

While I was trying to do all this, while getting tossed around, I looked behind the boat and saw something shiny in the water. And, it was staying with us. Guess what? We had caught a fish with the line and lure I had left in the water which was jammed! Hilarious!

Our ruined new block

Our ruined new block

I got the lines sorted, then had to cut. The problem was I really needed two hands, but every few seconds I would get thrown against the mast by the movement. I finally managed to cut the block off, but because of the situation, the other end of the halyard broke out of my hand and went down the mast! Ugh. Now I just had Karen lower me back down. I thankfully only had a few bruises on my legs and arms after all this. But, my pride of good sailor skills took a major dent, and we now had some jobs to do.

We dropped our sail and started motoring with the other engine. Solace suggested I use a boat hook to grab the fishing line, and I caught it first time. Pulled up the fishing line and we had a nice tuna! This is my most unique fishing success yet! This time we kept the other end of the fishing line on board. Sorry, no pictures – I was too preoccupied with the crisis.

I was really bummed about my stupid mistake ruining our new block. We motored towards Nosy Saba now about 4 miles away. We looked at the anchorage, but the winds had now kicked up again and the anchorage wasn’t suitable for the planned quick stop to free the fishing line. So, we continued on and used the topping lift to hoist the mainsail with one reef in it. This worked fine and we had a nice sail the rest of the day all the way to Moramba – sometimes making 9-10 knots. In fact, almost making up for my earlier mistakes, we managed to sail very well (with just a little upwind motoring in a tight part of the bay) all the way around two corners and up to the anchorage. It made me feel better to have such a good day of sailing in the aftermath.

Moramba is a special place, but we’ll talk more about that later. I did jump into the water right after arriving and discovered the fishing line wasn’t even in the prop. It was just around the rudder once, and was easy to pull out. I had cleaned the fish along the way, and we invited Solace, who arrived right at sunset, to come over and have fresh tuna with us. Karen marinated the fish and I grilled it up. The fish was really good and we all had a laugh at how it was caught!

Northwest Madagascar

Northwest Madagascar

You can see from the map we made good progress getting to Moramba Bay from Nosy Be in just a few days. But, still a long way to go to Mahajanga.

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