Captain's Log, Stardate:

12/02/2001

The ARC Crossing Part 3

1609 miles to go! After repairing the spinnaker and getting it flying again, we blew it out in a 28 kt gust! So it's toast until St. Lucia where we won't need it quite so much as now.

Early this morning, I put the line out and 35 minutes later, we hooked a monster! We were doing 8 kts at the time and he threatened to take all 800 yds of our 80-pound-test line out. We had to get the boat slowed. Being wing on wing, while I fought the fish, our one-man crew furled in the jib only to have it get twisted around the forestay. So we woke up the other two guys; this was the second time of the trip "all hands on deck" was sounded. I tried to weave the boat back and forth but that only seemed to make it go faster. In desperation, I back-winded the main which quickly dropped us to 2 kts. That allowed Ron to recover some of the line taken out by the fish and we all breathed a temporary sigh of relief. But at 2 kts, the boat was essentially out of control in those seas (6-8'). We needed speed so I jibed the main once again. Jibing is when you turn the boat so as to cause the wind to come from the opposite side of the sail while going downwind. We continued this process for the 1 hour and 27 minutes it took to get the fish up to the boat. Sometime during this time, the top batten broke. Battens help maintain the best shape for the sail. At that point, we wanted the fish so badly, we didn't much care what else broke! It was a scene out of a book someone should write called, The Old Men and the Sea." This fish was huge and appeared to confirm our suspicions that it was a tuna! Up close to the boat, even 15 feet down, it looked big.

How could we ever land such a big fish? Normally, with big fish (10-30 lbs), I would use a gaff hook but what would we do with an angry 100 lb fish at the end of a stiff pole? So we came up with Plan B: I hung some sinkers around the edge of a large noose. My intent was for the crew to get the thing up close to the boat whereupon I would slip the noose around its forked tail and snug it up. Then we would release the line from the fishing pole and proceed to drag it through the water backwards until it drowned. Also, since it was now on a rope instead of a fish line, we could attach it to one of the winches. But it was still pretty rough out so I donned a safety harness, clipped it on to the stern rail and proceeded down to the last step of the swim platform. Falling overboard is no longer such a threat since, as we have proceeded SW, the water has gotten warmer and was now at 79 degrees. Meanwhile, the crew, who had been taking turns, began to reel in the last 20 yards of line. Amazingly, just at that point, some kind of gull made an attack run on whatever was at the end of the line! I thought to myself, "That must be some gutsy gull!" But a split second later, Ron yelled out, "It's gone!" The fish got off a second or two before the gull made a pass on what it left behind . . . our lure! And for this, we lost an hour and a half towards the transatlantic race to St. Lucia? Was it worth it? You bet!

BTW , if there is anyone out there who knows about birds, what kind of bird searches for food over 400 miles from the nearest land?

Hope all is well with you and your family.

Lee and the crew of Escape Cay (pronounced "Escape Key").