Now that Easter Island is astern our focus shifts to gear, radio reports, water temperature, and weather reports. It is always a thrill for me to begin the season with a clean slate so to speak. We had sport fished on the way to Easter Island, but now the real thing began and every fish counted. Our life took a new turn as we disciplined ourselves to fish from before the crack of dawn until after sunset.
We shot down to the 35 line to begin our survey across the South Pacific Ocean. The 35 line is slang for 35 degrees South Latitude, an invisible band laterally around the earth. Tuna fishermen envision the ocean divided into squares or sections, each one degree by one degree. When we worked the 35 line we reported to the fleet our latitude and longitude exactly, and then modified it with “we’re going to work this section today” or we’re going to run down the 35 10 line and fish the breaks. One eye was on the ocean temperature. We looked for discrepancies in temperature, anomalies indicating a larger variant in temperature than normal. A gradient of 1 or 2 degrees could mean the edge of an upwelling or a surface current. Oftentimes, bait hung on one side or the other of these temperature breaks. Albacore lurked underneath, swimming around in the thermocline area 30 to 40 fathoms under us. Their excellent eyesight searches for glimmers and flashes from bait fish like sauries and needlefish. Albacore dart to the surface at thirty miles an hour and snatch a quick meal.
We search for bait schools in two ways. The first is to keep an eye peeled for birds. Often birds indicate bait on the surface, and that in itself indicates bait schools underneath. Bait will congregate under flotsam. We have found albacore under bait which is under a floating log or flattened cardboard boxes. The sonar is our underwater eyeball and it indicates bait schools nicely. In the typical choppy southern pacific however, it sometimes was hampered by the energetic gyrations of the hull in rough seas.
The southern latitudes remind readers of Tahiti and Polynesia. Our reality was the hundreds of square miles of open ocean with weather fronts barreling from west to east bringing mostly adverse wind and copious waves. The swells underneath waxed and waned as they rolled under, originating in the deep southern latitudes below 50 degrees or from a typhoon above us and to the west. The surface chop of wind waves added to the discomfort of riding in and on a gyrating steel boat. At one point, a wave caught us funny and the boat lurched over, up, and sideways. The coffee grounds flew off Mr. Coffee and broadcast themselves like grass seed all over the galley floor. As I sat on the floor, under the galley table, wiping it up with wet paper towels. I prayed for the boat to stop moving just for five minutes. It was nearly intolerable to the point of tears. There is no quitting 1000 miles from the nearest port. But you suck it up and clean it up and get back to work without any fanfare. After two incidents of flying coffee grounds I made a thin bungee cord to hold them in. Everything that could fly around on the boat was bungeed or bolted down….the microwave, the toaster, the rice cooker, etc. Dishes left in the sink would rattle annoyingly or Frisbee themselves airborne in a big sea.
Labels: LA to Seattle, Our route from Golden Meadow, WA