Date

Day 31 – Fish on

I awoke feeling stronger and more energised than I had in days, thanks to my saviour, sleep. Sweet, restful, wonderful sleep. It’s almost as good as breathing.

Price, according to my business school professors is a function of “value” and “scarcity”. For example, oxygen is immensely valuable but not scarce, hence its price is zero. Right now, the scarcity of sleep is so great, that I’d be prepared to pay a high price (in dollars that is, not at the expense of safety, which is even more valuable) for even a few hours and am counting the moments till I arrive in Cairns and can sleep, sleep, sleep.

The morning skies are grey, and the forecast is for rain. It’s even a little chilly. What happened to being in the southern hemisphere dry season…? This is definitely not what I was dreaming about a week ago when I was in the northern lats. I even thought I’d have a calm day with wind and seas, but the swell is 1.5m and its blowing 7-9knts TWS, that’s right, dead on the nose. I’m getting fairly good at simply accepting my circumstances though and happily get on with my routine.

My focus is now well and truly on the final leg of the trip across the Coral Sea in a few day’s time. With challenging conditions forecast, it feels a little like the Coral Sea leg will be like the final, strenuous “pitch” to climb before I reach the “summit” of Cairns. As such, I’m completely focussed on getting the boat in the best shape possible as well as my life on board in order so I’m psychologically prepared and feeling strong.

I enjoy organising things and get to work on listing everything required to be done. By mid-morning my “to do” list grows, and I feel confident that with a couple of busy days, Ahyoka and I will be ready. I know that when I enter the Coral Sea from Jomard Passage it will be a heady mix of nerves and excitement, but I put the thought aside as there’s a lot to do between now and then.

In fact, I don’t think I’ve updated you on my revised passage plan dear Reader. Rather than heading SE towards Rossel Island, as you can probable see, I’ve been heading due south towards a series of islands which have a channel that culminates at Jomard Passage. The wind angles forecast to get there are much better (i.e. easier) than Rossel Island in the coming days. It also shaves about 100Nm off the journey, though it does tighten the wind angles when I enter the Coral Sea and the winds pick up. To counter this, I’m planning on heading due South when I enter the Coral Sea (CS) on the first day (if possible) as the wind isn’t too strong until the 24th when the pressure picks up above 30knts. The idea being that I’ll have TWA of >110 degrees for the final 3 days which should make the conditions bearable (albeit rough).

For the sailing nerds amongst you, below is my revised navigation plan:

Jomard Passage Route:     

MarkLatitudeLongitudeBearing (°T)VariationRange (nm)
Madau Island (NW)08 56 00s152 19 00e1987°e289
Lunn Island (E)10 47 00s152 8 00e1867.2°e112
Jomard Passage (N)11 13 80s152 9 70e1767.3°e27
Jomard Passage (S)11 16 70s152 9 90e1767.3°e3
Grafton Passage (NE)16 38 147s146 12 891e2266.5°e473

                 

While it took a few hours, I get my sewing repairs to the sails “stitched up”, dropping both sails in the process and giving them a good look over. With the repairs complete, I’m confident the rest of the sails are robust enough to withstand the coming week as are their halyards with no visible chaff points. Sheets are re-run and retied. Blocks checked and a few replaced (and all silicone sprayed). The preventer was also rerun, and I’ve made new reef ties from my remaining bungy, so the third reef (which is what I’ll use on the CS) is well contained. I’m also really happy with the gooseneck repairs and am feeling far less anxious about this than I have previously.

Mt current ETA for reaching Cairns is sometime late Friday 26th June. With timings now somewhat firm, I get in touch with the good folks at Australian Border Force so they’re aware of my impending arrival as well as Marlin Marina where I’ll be mooring Ahyoka and the Shangri-La Hotel to book a room for me. It feels rather final doing these tasks and highlights that my great adventure is now well and truly on the homeward stretch.

Late in the afternoon I have a little lay down on deck after the day’s work but after only 5 minutes, I hear the buzz of the fishing line take off. I jump up and immediately tighten the drag. It’s clearly a decent size fish as the reel is spinning like mad. I try not to get too excited and work through the “safety protocol” I’ve developed when reeling in fish as my big worry is I get so excited I forget to put my harness on and clip in and in the moment fall out the back of the boat given the lifelines need to be let off to bring in a fish.

Once I’m secure, I start reeling in what is clearly a large, strong fish. He puts up a valiant fight and it takes a good 20 minutes to get him close to the boat after successive runs. When the fish is about 20m away I see the unmistakable silver and blue flash of a tuna, just under a meter in length.

It’s a beautiful animal. Majestic even.

I find myself gripped in an emotional and moral dichotomy. Does it deserve to die? I have enough food on board so it’s not crucial that I take its life. Everything happens so fast though. I need to move quickly and reflexively grab the gaff and haul the fish in.

Tuna need to be bled straight away so I grab the filleting knife and slit its gills. The transom immediately turns scarlet and I push aside my internal uncertainty about taking a life. I robotically fillet the fish and focus on the process of harvesting its meat. It’s a messy job and the boat and I are filthy at the end of it, but we have food. Lots of it. Too much even. I can’t eat all this, even if I try really hard.

Did I just take a life for sport?

I thought I would have felt elated after catching my first fish of the trip, but after being so removed from life of any kind for a month, I’m devastated that I killed the first soul to enter the boat.

I feel ashamed and saddened by my actions.

I have tuna for dinner, but it’s a joyless meal. I’m alone, on deck. The sky is grey. There’s no sunset and the air is chilled.

I put my rod away, downstairs.

In the dark, I reflect on the choices we make and try and reconcile my actions.

Knowing I don’t have any answers, I decide to go to bed early at 7:30pm as this is the last night I’ll get to sleep properly before Cairns. I wonder how tired I’ll be when I arrive?

I also wonder if I’ll have changed. I’ve never felt like this about killing a fish before. Will there be other unexpected changes…?

I guess I’ll find out in time. For now, I focus on the basics, sleep.

Sleep.   

Postscript:

@Donald Hunter

Hey thanks Uncle Donald! I’ll be sure to keep an eye out. Would be very special to see an eclipse out here, though I’ll be sure to keep an eye out for any WW2 mines 

@Gaurav Anand

Thanks so much brother! Wonderful that you’re enjoying the journey.

@Marie-Clare Elder

Well MC… head and shoulders above all else would be sleep. I really, really miss the deep, restful, uninterrupted sleep that comes from laying in a clean, still and quiet bed.

Next up would be having someone to talk to, in particular to laugh with. I really miss laughing as other than listening to 12th Man today, there hasn’t been a lot of humour out here and laughter is such a tonic for the soul, particularly when its shared.

In third place it would be a tie between stability and a shower. The boat is constantly moving, and I’m being thrown about the place, so I really look forward to having a solid, flat world under my feet, so I don’t always have to think about where to hold on to, so I don’t fall over. That and being clean. I feel like I’m constantly covered in sweat and grime out here so that first, warm shower is going to feel like heaven.

@Eileen O’Farrell

Sounds like a terrific use of a muffin tray!

I’ll do my best to get back in time for your zoom but at this stage my ETA in Cairns is late 26th ETA – hopefully in time before the pub closes.

Give my love to the ladies and enjoy the Sun!

Oh, and the toe is healing well and I’m much nimbler than a few days ago which is reassuring.

4 Responses

  1. Rory,
    You are getting close to the final turn to home now, but don’t relax too soon. I understand how tired you are, but that’s exactly my point. I have just had a look at Jomard Passage on Marine Traffic and there’s a lot of commercial vessels passing through there. It’s a real pinch point and you can’t rely on those guys to keep a good lookout. Many of them will be looking at the screen, not out the window.

    I hope you have a “mighty” alarm clock since you will probably have a closing speed with those ahead of 20 knots which gives you a safe window of maybe 15 minutes if they are well lit up. Then there are the ones coming up from astern, and the fishing boats …. In my experience you can’t rely 100% on AIS alarms. They may be faulty, turned off or transmitting a weak signal.

    The next 24 hours are your challenge and you must be on your game as best you are able. Good luck, it’s a wonderful achievement and I wish you safe passage home to the Great Southern land.

    Old Goat

  2. Rory,
    I am delighted to hear you are catching up on your rest when you can, and also that you have dealt with the Gooseneck and stitched the Sails, as well as having checked the lines, blocks, fuel and rigging.

    It’s the 5 P’s or preparedness – Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance! The polite version! The Military version as you will know is: Proper Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance!

    The amended route looks great, and quicker, but as Campbell says above, the challenges of traffic and Islands are ahead. As my Dad told me while teaching me to drive, It’s not your ability I am worried about – but all the others (idiots!) on the road. Always anticipate what they may or may not do, and be ready to take evasive action. Great advice which I still hear him say in my head as I drive today. AIS and Radar can add to your comfort zone and timescale for action.

    It may not be etiquette, but perhaps using your Deck Light in addition to your Navigation Lights at night in busy areas would make you more visible. At least others will look twice and wonder if you are Sailing or Steaming. Seeing the Sails should answer that question for them! Red light in the Saloon can also be seen from behind from quite a distance through the hatch, esp if they are LED.

    I am sure nature (and King Neptune) will forgive you for landing one fish on your epic journey. Do try and enjoy Grilled, Seared, Baked, and the inevitable Tuna Pasta Bake. Great Calories for current and future demands on your body and metabolism.

    You are on the “last leg”, “final furlough” etc, but the winds in the Coral Sea do look brisk and from the SE just now. Nothing you cannot handle, but if on the beam it will give you good speed in the right direction, depending upon the local currents.

    Thanks for sharing your Shore Plans. A flat bed, fresh cotton sheets, air con, laundry service, endless water for baths or showers…. fresh fruit and vegetables….. chilled beer… These niceties of land life, often taken for-granted, do change your perspective. Enjoy them. Relish these moments, amenities, flavours, tastes when they come . No Judgement, on the contrary, they will have been hard earned and well deserved. Yours to savour, relish, embrace, absorb, appreciate and enjoy. 😎⛵️😊

    In the meantime. Stay focussed, stay strong, and enjoy the remainder of your epic voyage. We are all following your progress and cheering you on.

    Mixed Scotland – No Solar Eclipse visible here. New Moon tho’ 🌚

  3. We are all with you Rory!
    Eileen and Campbell are right. Enjoy that beautiful tuna that you caught as humankind has for thousands of years before you. Then luxuriate in all we take for granted when you finally get that initial cold beer down.
    That first proper shower and those crispy clean sheets will be heaven and you’ll deserve every blissful moment.
    Go crazy on the room service and perhaps avoid the news for as long as possible. . .
    Sydney is having a beautiful Winter and her harbour waits patiently in all her sparkling glory.
    Stay safe and alert for the next challenge.
    Marie-Clare

  4. Rory,

    Congratulations you are into the Coral Sea and the final furlong. I have spent the afternoon tracking your progress, plotting each hourly position report on Navionics. For someone who is Rona restricted and would prefer to be deep water passage making its not such a bad alternative.

    Hopefully the elation of exiting the Solomon sea will power you to write a brief blog this evening. I noted the potential for strong currents and over falls in “slot” that you exited through. What was the sea state like? Did you manage to time it for slack water?

    Old Goat

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Rory Hunter
Sailor

Bio

Entrepreneur. Chief Executive Officer, Song Saa Collective. Pioneers of sustainable development in South-East Asia. The collective includes Song Saa Resorts and Song Saa Private Island in Cambodia’s Koh Rong Archipelago. 2006, co-established the Koh Ouen Marine Reserve, Cambodia’s first-ever marine protected area. The reserve has since expanded to 400 square kilometres and has gained the support of Monaco’s Prince Albert II. 2013, founded the Song Saa Foundation, an independent NGO dedicated to preserving Koh Rong’s underwater sanctuaries, providing alternative means of livelihood for its residents and bringing much-needed healthcare and education to the region. Speaker at international conferences, including the G20 Summit in Brisbane in 2014. World Economic Forum Young Global Leader. Member of the prestigious Young Presidents Organisation. Former advertising executive and worked for multinational firms including Saatchi and Saatchi. Graduate, Harvard Business School; studied sustainability and resilience, Stanford University: Global Leadership, Harvard Kennedy School; BEcon, Sydney University. Completed the Coast to Coast in 2015, one of the world’s toughest endurance races, set in New Zealand, in 17 hours; offshore sailor, downhill skier, long-distance runner and proud dad of two boys.