Thursday, October 18, 2012

A Fish Story

Twelve days and a quick hop over the International Date Line behind us, we made it to Tonga.  Thank.  Goodness.  Of course, the boat was so strangely still in the anchorage last night that neither girl could sleep, and we were packed like lemmings in the V-berth.  It was, shall we say, somewhat warmish and squishy.

Nevertheless, we must have slept at some point, because around dawn there was an earthquake (Richter 5.5) about 40 km away, and none of us felt a thing.  Another boat reported that, about fifteen seconds before the quake, all of the fish started to jump out of the water.  At least they were paying attention.

I've always liked fish, both to look and and to eat.  And, really, one of the best parts of passage is fishing.  Not for me, personally - Erik is the fisherman in the family.  But I am an enthusiastic consumer of fishy goodness, and the excitement of a catch provides some much-needed entertainment.  The girls especially like to watch Erik clean the fish.

I was spoiled on fish at an early age.  My grandfather was a diehard fisherman, and supplied the family at large with trout on a steady basis.  On the domestic front, Grandpa held sole responsibility for all things fish-related.  In this, he was the Little Red Hen: he caught, cleaned and smoked his fish himself.  (I figure my grandmother had more than enough to do already without adding in fish and I think he liked the job.)  This led to small case of culture clash when Erik caught his first tuna.  He caught it, killed it, and turned in my direction.  I raised my hands and backed away.  It had never occurred to me that I might have to do anything but eat the fish. 

Because I am pathetic at deboning a fish.  This brings me back to my Grandpa.  In all the years I ate his trout, I never found a bone.  Never.  Not ever.  The man was an artist.  But what this meant was that I grew up fully lacking any training in the teasing-fish-from-a-skeleton department.  The closest I came was doing dissections in university, but that was another matter.  Many years ago, Erik and I visited his grandmother in northern Germany.  She took us out for lunch, and, being northern Germany, we went to a fish restaurant.  I ordered a Maischolle – pan-fried sole – which, unknown to me, is one of the boniest fish in creation.  I suspect someone actually inserted a couple of extra skeletons in there during preparation.  It was a boneyard.  A bone puzzle.  And I decimated that fish.  The parts I was able to encourage away from the bones were delicious.  But, let’s face it – my plate was a warzone.  It was mortifying.

But here we are, eating fresh fish all the time, and I can't cling to my old excuses forever.  So, I've learned.  The girls and I, all amateurs in the art, can now figure out where bones will be, and which way they will point, and we slowly drag the flesh along the fish and eat it without getting a mouthful of prickles.

Day 10 of our crossing, Erik got a hit on his line in the late afternoon.  The familiar Zzzzzzz! rang out, and all of us in the cockpit started shouting, "Fish! Fish!"  The team swung into action.  Erik pulled on his lifejacket.  I grabbed his belt and chest harness (which, no joke, you need, even for the little guys.)  As he clipped in and started to reel in our supper, I prepared the spray bottle of vodka (spray it in the gills and stun the fish - insert your own joke here), the gaff, and the killin' knife.  And we all waited, with varying degrees of impatience, for Erik to reel in the fish.

Normally, we are travelling a ridiculous 9 knots when we catch something, and have to slow down, or Erik will never get it aboard.  This time, we were travelling a leisurely 4.5 knots, so we thought he'd have no trouble.

"This feels heavy," said Erik.

This caused some excitement.  The girls had visions of 200 lb swordfish flashing alongside the boat.  I heartily wished for none of the same.  Slowly, slowly Erik brought it in.  And there it was, a beautiful bonito.  The lure in the photo below is about 8 inches long, so we guessed the fish was about 20-25 pounds.  Hooray!  We are started chattering happily about making sashimi in coconut milk for dinner.  Erik brought it alongside, and started to lift it out of the water.

I am so delicious!  And not at all unhappy to be your dinner!
Then, plip!  A moment after this photo was taken, the boat shifted, the fish wiggled, and it fell off the hook.


There were a few moments of silence as we all mourned the loss of dinner.  Recriminations were few, although Erik is kicking himself for not just using the gaff.  Ah, well.  Next time.

Alas, we had no further luck on the way to Tonga.  But we'll certainly have the hook out on the way to New Zealand.  And the gaff will be ready.


Anonymous said...

Love love loved this blog. I will print it out for Grandma. She will be delighted.Fish, yummy. Your picture says it all. What a beauty!
Soon you will hook another.

An earthquake that did not wake any of you up? That must be a first. Perhaps you will feel some of the after wakes.
Love Mom/ Grannie

Kate said...

It is a good picture. I would have enjoyed that fish myself.

Love Kate