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Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Tonga: Yahoo! Wahoo! “Fish On!”


Wahoo Wayne landed, then gaffed on our passage between Tonga’s Ha’afeva and Kelefesia, both in Tonga’s Ha’apai group of islands.
“We haven’t caught anything since we left the U.S.,” Wayne admitted ruefully to another cruiser. 

“Me neither!  That makes me feel better,” replied the cruiser, whose name will be omitted in case he tells tall tales of his fishing prowess.

We met at a potluck inspired -- as it seems many cruising potlucks are – by a big catch from another cruiser with – horrors (yes – that’s enviously sarcastic) – too much fish to eat or store themselves.  In this case, it was Tocata in Tonga Ha’apai’s Uoleva, before Drew and Shelly of Firefly provided fish a Hiva Oa, Marquesas and a Suwarrow, Cook Islands potluck.  We felt alternately grateful and unworthy.

Still, after hearing many proficient fishing cruisers complain that they weren’t catching anything, it seemed, suddenly, more were.  More important, our passages were getting easier… just the right trolling speed of 4-6 knots with minimal wave action.  We were passing through areas where the fish were pelagic (ocean-going fish rather than reef fish, greatly reducing the odds of ciguatera), yet the waters were still less than 500 feet, shallow enough to concentrate the fish.

“How much fish could we buy on the money we spent on our fishing gear?” Wayne complained.

The fish aren’t going to just jump into the boat on their own (other than flying fish, which by the time we usually find them they’re way too desiccated to eat), I reminded Wayne.  Truth be told, it’s rare we drop our line. We also have handlines, but decided that given our cockpit set-up, especially the way our dinghy is hoisted, if we caught a fish it like would tangle and we didn’t have a good place to bring them up.

As soon as we left our anchorage, I released the line on our one fishing pole with our one remaining “skirt” – a squid-like lure that seems particularly attractive to dolphin fish (also known as mahi-mahi -- not the “Flipper” mammal) and tuna. Wayne doesn’t like fish all that much, but makes an exception for


Wahoo steaked.  Enough for quite a few meals!
Within an hour we got a strike!  Wayne fought the fish for a solid ten minutes.  As he brought it up to the side of our boat, we saw it was a beautiful tuna, probably a 30 pounder. 

I attempted to gaff it, unsuccessfully, several times.  My last attempt was foiled when the tuna decidedly did not want to become our supper, and wriggled away, breaking the fishing line and taking with it our most effective lure.

I talked Wayne into trying another lure, a fish-like lure with a wiggle built in.  Within minutes, we got another strike.  Wayne saw the wahoo leap across the water to bite our lure, which also took our lure with it.

Amazingly, I managed to talk Wayne into trying one more time, this time with a cedar plug.  Again, within the hour, we got a hit.  This time Wayne handed me to pole when the wahoo was aside our boat, and gaffed it up and in.


Wahoo dinner aboard Journey. 
Once properly secured and no longer thrashing, as the galley wench, it was my turn.  After failing miserably attempting to prepare the slippery fish while we were heeled (tilted) after I finally gutted it, I convinced Wayne I needed to use the cockpit to do the rest.  Frankly, prepping fish grosses Wayne out.  He’s even more sensitive to the odor than I am.  Eventually, I got enough of the wahoo steaked Wayne noted it was small enough to fit in the galley to finish.

In the end, the wahoo yielded an impressive quantity of “meat.” ‘Twas enough to generously feed four of us that night, with leftovers and enough steaks for several meals in our freezer (check back on www.GalleyWenchTales for recipes in a future post).


It only took nearly 9,000 miles (plus another 3,700 from our two previous years of cruising) to finally feel like we’re “real cruisers.”


Dinner was followed by this spectacular moonrise
over Kelefesia, Ha’apai, Tonga.
Location Location:
This post was pre-published from Nuku'alofa, TONGA outside Big Mama's Yacht Club (S21 07.134 W175 09.622).  When it posts we will be underway to New Zealand, with a possible stopover in Minerva Reef (S23 37 W178 57).  We expect to arrive in Opua New Zealand (S35.19 E174.07) in mid-November.


Cruising Progress by the Numbers
We started our cruising season December 7th 2014, from Jacksonville FL NAS, USA. 
By the time we arrive in New Zealand in November, less than a year from when we set out, we expect we’ll sail over 10,000 miles this year.  That’s a lot of miles for a boat with a hull speed of 7 knots; we usually sail far slower than that.

 The prior 2 years combined, we sailed 3762 miles.