Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Off the Coast of Nicaragua: Part One

Providencia = unbelievable

Halfway through our trip to Isla Providencia, I was forming a blog post in my head that said, well, nothing much happened. We motored sailed east to the tip of Honduras and then turned right at Cabo Gracias A Dios. The seas were moderate. We had some favorable wind, making a close haul possible with an assist from the motor. We tacked a lot, and I got seasick. Pretty typical of our sailing experience to date. 
But then we turned the corner and found ourselves in the Nicaraguan Banks, a shallow area that extends 50 miles into the Caribbean filled with reefs, small cays and a surprising amount of stuff to hit for offshore sailing. It’s strange to be sailing that far away from land and have your depth finder read 70 feet. That’s still plenty deep but is also a distinct reminder that somewhere nearby it might read seven. The following is the  first installment of our Nicaraguan adventures. 
Watch Out For Squid Thieves and Too Many Fish
We have been diligently tossing over a line or two when sailing, but so far the closest thing to a fish we’ve been able to catch was a clump of seaweed. Something - we’re not sure what - bit through a stainless steel leader once, but we’re pretty certain that whatever that was we had no interest in catching it. Enter the Nicaraguan Banks, one of the most primo fishing grounds in the world that, as far as we could tell, was completely devoid of fishermen. 
Vlad put out a Cuban yo-yo with one of our precious rubber squids. It was promptly stolen (squid thieves!!). He then put out another, slightly larger squid, and he baited another Cuban yo-yo with this eight-inch long flying fish that kamikazied our deck when we got into Roatan. It had been double bagged and marinating in our fridge for about a week, making it perhaps one of the foulest smelling things I’ve ever encountered. 
Vlad heard the squid yo-yo jerk once. Then, it jerked a second time, and he pulled in the line only to see a fish head dangling from it. Evidently, something else - a shark perhaps - thought it deserved our fish more than we did. We had heard about pirates in these waters, but they never tell you about the fish thieves. At this point, we’ve had three fish encounters, if you count the shark, in an afternoon. Not too shabby for two people who haven’t had more than a nibble in three months. 

But that’s when things got really interesting. I was trying to take a nap after my watch when Vlad started sounding all kinds of excitable out in the cockpit. He had snagged a three-foot long tuna on the stinky flying fish line (fish have a different idea of what tastes good), and it was none too pleased about it. Have you ever tried to get a fairly big fish with a mouth full of spiky teeth and a bad attitude onto a boat? Yeah, we hadn’t either. He was shockingly strong with the most incredible coloring I’ve ever seen on a fish -  blue, purple and gun metal grey psychedelic swirls down the length of his body. I was feeling bad about eating him until Vlad reminded me that the fish would have no such reservations. 

After about 10 minutes of ineffectual flailing on our part, we finally hauled him over the side and into the cockpit, and then we were like “holy crap, what do we do now?” I grabbed the book on fishing, which we had both read, and started haphazardly flipping through pages searching for the part on what to do with the fish after you catch it. Finally I find it, and we start following directions. First, stun the fish. Done and done. Second, kill the fish using an icepick to the back of the head. Uh, we don’t have an icepick. We improvise. 
But you see, there was one small detail that we had forgotten. The second yo-yo. While Vlad was trying to figure out exactly how to dispatch our tuna into the brave beyond, the fish starts getting jerked out of the boat. The tuna had crossed the yo-yo lines when we were pulling him and now, in what we can only assume was a daring rescue attempt, there was a second tuna snagged on the second yo-yo pulling the first tuna back into the water. 
At this point, Vlad looks at me with this harried expression that says, “but I don’t even like fish ...” Yet there it was, another tuna. Thankfully, this one was smaller and much more manageable. We hauled it in, and for a few moments we had two tuna fish in the cockpit. Before this, we had only had mild chaos, but now the chaos was near total. Every single line was tangled with all the rest. The fish had tangled the yo-yo lines, and I’m not sure how the jib sheets got involved but involved they were. And keep in mind that we are heeled over 20 degrees, going five and a half to six knots in a slippery, fish filled cockpit. It was executive decision time. We threw the second tuna overboard. 
We're pretty sure this is a tuna.

The other fish was not so lucky, and I had a delicious tuna fillet for dinner. Broiled with salt and pepper.  


  1. All hail the fishermen of Bettie! I don't like fish so I think I am safe from having to kill anything. Except lobsters and crabs, those I will gleefully boil up with no shame whatsoever.

  2. I'm always amazed at how strong tuna are. They feel like a fish twice their size on the line, and they're really kind of scary!

    1. They were terrifying what with the giant teeth and all. And you're right, they are sooo strong! It was a fight for us to get the big one on board.

  3. Haha! Go you! Funny post, but glad you caught a tuna.

    Tell me where did you clean the fish and how did you clean it's "stuff" from everything. I have always imagined a tuna as being very messy...and smelly.

    The place looks amazing. Love the mountainy picture.

    1. We cleaned it in the cockpit floor, after cutting it behind the fins and the gills and letting it bleed out in the water. While keeping a close watch for sharks, of course.

      We kind of cheated though. It was getting dark, so Vlad just filleted it without going through the whole process of gutting it, cleaning it, etc. So there wasn't nearly the mess there could have been. Supposedly, there is a fish cleaning table somewhere on Bettie, but we haven't found it yet.

    2. Cool, Sounds delish! I bet you enticed the appetite of many a shark.