Yep, a mackerel! Which we originally thought was a wahoo, but I’m getting ahead of myself.
Back it up. Rewind. Bzzzwwwhooop.
April 22, 2014:
We woke to a beautiful sunrise on our last morning in Ft. Myers Beach. While we love being on anchor (or on the ball, or at a marina, or however we find ourselves stopped and secure for the time being), what we really love is sailing. Getting that boat going! She loves it too. It’s what she was built for. We brewed our coffee, filled our mugs and tossed our line off of the ball. We were going to do some sailing today kids!
See how we smile? Like Donna Summers at a disco! Just doing what we love!
We expected about a 30-hour passage to Key West. We left Ft. Myers Beach around 8:00 a.m., and we expected to arrive in Key West around mid- to late-morning the following day. While there is a mooring field near Key West, the Captain had booked us a few nights at the A&B Marina in Key West Bight. He figured since it was our first time there by boat, and the expected highlight of the trip, might as well splurge a little, huh? Go big or go home! Isn’t he great? He called the marina that morning to confirm our reservation and learned then that we were going to have to back in to our boat slip. *Gulp* I’ll save that nugget of a story for another day!
For the time being, we were thrilled to find that the motor cranked that morning on the first turn, using the engine battery. After the issues we’d had the night before with the dead starting battery and the engine overheating, we were incredibly pleased to see everything charged and running so well. After we got to thinking about the overheating a bit, we figured it might have been one of those freaky amoeba-like snails we’d seen swimming around in Ft. Myers Beach. Have you guys ever seen these?
They’re hard to capture on film but I kept trying. They look like some strange slimy Darwinian organism that hasn’t quite evolved yet. I imagine it’s what a conch looks like once it’s spilled out of its shell, and they swim by flapping their wing-like … things.
Some riveting “flapping footage” for you:
Some were tan and spotted, others black and splotchy. They were just so weird. Phillip first spotted them when he spent a solid three hours changing the oil of outboard on the dinghy. You remember the day the car wouldn’t start …
Yeah – he got up close and personal with the water that morning and said he saw like fifteen of them swim, or flap, by – whatever it is they do. With so many of them in the water, we started to think perhaps one of them weird snail things got sucked up against our raw water intake through-hole the night before, causing it to clog and the engine to overheat. It was totally possible, likely probable. I have to say I derived a small bit of pleasure imagining the little snail turd, panic-stricken, stuck up against our hull, unable to flap away. Serves him right trying to screw with our boat!
But, we watched the engine temp closely that morning and found she was holding just fine, so whatever had happened, we figured it was a fluke and counted our lucky stars. We made our way out of the mooring field and headed out to sea! (Or the Gulf … same thing … to me, anyway. Whenever we head out to go sailing, anywhere, we go to the SEA!!)
It was nice this time to have a boat buddy along for the passage – our friend Johnny Walker and his son, Jeremy, on Johnny’s 38′ Morgan, s/v Windwalker. They were making the passage as well from Ft. Myers Beach to Key West.
There’s the Walker – coming under the Matanza’s Bridge!
It was a gorgeous morning. Blue waters, a bright sky and big billowing sails.
Yeah … billowing. Unfortunately, the wind was a little lackluster that morning, so we had to motor for a few hours, but we were thankful to see the engine purring right along, running just fine. It was right around noon, though, that the wind kicked in, and we found ourselves on a perfect beam reach for the afternoon.
There’s Johnny up ahead!
All you could see was beautiful blue water to the edge of every horizon.
It felt incredible to be back out in the Gulf! Otto (our auto-pilot) was holding great, we were making good time and the sea state was perfect. We tossed out our fishing line a little after noon and kicked back to enjoy the sail. Around 2:00 p.m. Phillip decided to cook up our “big meal” for the day – broccoli and beef stir-fry – as we figured if you’re going to eat a big meal and get sleepy, better to do it during daylight hours so we would be refreshed and ready to hold our respective shifts that night.
But, of course, right when we decide to cook something we brought, we find food from the sea! (See, again with SEA!). We had a fish on the line!! Who knows how long he’d been on there. The stretchy band we used as our “indicator” had broke clean off and the line had been taut for, likely, quite some time. Phillip was occupied with lunch below so I started to reel him in.
Yes, it took that long …
But we finally got him up to the boat, and MAN, what a beast!
It took a team effort to get him hauled in to the cockpit, but we got him in there. We bagged him up mafia style, but I swear he kept trying to eat his way out and nab Phillip’s toes! Chomp, chomp!
He had some wicked teeth!
That’s actually what helped us identify him. We looked through the fisherman’s guide to try and find some identifying characteristics to determine what he was.
The spotting on his back and body looked kind of like a wahoo, but his teeth and upper dorsal fin gave him away.
We had caught ourselves a king mackerel!
A thirty-seven incher, too!
How’s that for royalty!? But, then the fun began … Guess whose job it is to clean the fish we catch on the boat. Go on. Guess! That’s right … it’s the First Mate’s. I busted out my fileting tools and set to it.
While the Captain …
Well, he was hungry. And, to be fair, he had cooked us up an awesome lunch.
One of our go-tos on the boat. Broccoli and beef stir-fry. Recipe HERE.
To be honest, though, I’m not sure how he could find the scene in the cockpit very appetizing …
It was a bloody mess. (No British accent intended).
But, it seemed I was getting better at it. I carved off some pretty sweet looking filets.
Trying hard to get every last morsel of meat off.
If I had to guess, I’d say we carved off about 9 one-pound filets total. Quite a bit of fish.
But, also quite a bit of work. From the time of the catch-and-bag, then the gut-and-clean to the dreaded wash-and-scrub of the cockpit, the whole fish debacle turned into about a three-hour chore. But, I mean … what else are we doing, right? It seemed our buddies on the Windwalker smelled the blood, sweat and toil and they ventured over to have a look at our spoils.
That Morgan sure looked great glistening in the afternoon sun.
And I sure wish we could share the pictures they took of us while we were underway, but let’s just say I don’t have them yet … (Jeremy – you know who you are, and what you have not yet done!).
In all honesty, though, it was a great day sail. A lot of fun with the big fish catch and nice to have boat buddies sailing along beside us. After the big meal and the boat chores were done, we settled in for a nice evening of leisurely reading as the sun dropped down in the sky.
We were still on a perfect heading easing into the night. Our bellies were full. Our hands were finally clean (albeit still tainted just a bit with that distinct fishy smell). But our hearts were content. We were really out there. Sailing across the Gulf.
When the sun rose again, we would finally be there — the Florida Keys!