We left Provo on February 24th for our longest leg of the trip yet, back to Vero Beach. We brought an extra 20 gallons of diesel as insurance because we have learned, painfully, to never trust the wind, and running out of fuel 20 miles from Cuba seemed somehow like a bad idea. It only took about half an hour for me to discover 2 very important facts that had apparently been discovered in my absence, or had simply been disregarded by whatever part of my brain prefers to live in a fantasy world (it wouldn’t be the first time). I had been previously operating under the delusion that we only had 500 miles to go. This was already a prodigious distance, and it was quite a blow to find out that it would only get us to Miami, roughly 150 miles south of our destination. This news alone would not have been quite so devastating, were it not for its accompanying discovery that the wind, which had been blowing steadily from the East, or some variation thereof, for the last month or two, was going to shift to the Northwest (known more commonly as “where we want to go”) in just under 5 days. As the wind was light and pleasant, it was clear to everyone with a firm grasp on reality (read: everyone except me), that we would be taking significantly longer than five days to get back to Vero Beach. We couldn’t do much about it, however, and we soon settled into our shifts, once again on the 3-hours on, 6-hours off schedule that proved so wonderfully restful on the way up from the DR.
It wasn’t until the afternoon of the second day that we enjoyed any true excitement. We had put our fishing lines out for just about every daylight hour since leaving Provo, and it was a gratifying surprise to see one of them suddenly bend double. John was kind enough to hand the rod over to me, which was a sign of great faith, as I have displayed nothing on this trip so well as my inability to catch a fish. Nevertheless, after a few long minutes of rather eccentric fighting, I managed to land a perfectly acceptable wahoo, which Ellen immediately began filleting on deck. After getting the meat stowed and the deck washed off, it wasn’t long before the other line went taut and John pulled in a dolphin fish. Despite being smaller than our previous catch, it yielded a surprising amount of meat for the freezer (and blood on our deck). Upon cleaning the deck for the second time in as many hours, we began to contemplate bringing the lines in. We had enjoyed a hugely productive day (for us), the sun was heading towards the horizon, but just before I made an executive decision to give in, one of the rods bent double yet again.
John handed me the rod again, a kindness that I appreciated, even if my arms did feel rather like the inside of a punching bag. I had to struggle to bring in every single foot of line, and it was only after about 10 minutes of gasping and painful cranking that I discovered why. I had apparently hooked the Einstein of the dorado world and it had decided, instead of fighting me, to allow me to drag it through the water, expending very little energy itself, but causing me, after 9 months away from almost anything resembling physical activity, to wheeze like an asthmatic chain smoker. This inactivity turned out to be a clever ruse, because as soon as we had him close enough for John to grab the line, he began flapping wildly, making it impossible for anyone who wanted to keep all 10 fingers to drag him into the boat. I therefore let the line play out a bit, hoping to tire him out, but succeeding only in further exhausting my body. Eventually, however, we came up with a plan (like the geniuses we are). Ellen put our spear together and handed it to me as I got the fish in close. Just as John grabbed the line and the fish began its frantic dance, I leaned out over the back and fired the spear straight into him. Now, I generally have the same aiming ability with that spear as your average quadrupedal amphibian so I was shocked as the spear went straight through both its gills and we used the barb to haul it out of the water and on deck. This Dorado was one solidly built fish with the temper of a honey badger, and it made several wild attempts to flap itself out of the boat that were very nearly successful before we managed to subdue it. It will hopefully relieve my parents to know that we had a bottle of Brugal Dominican rum on hand all day to dispatch our catches as humanely as possible. We ended up needing to expend roughly half of it on that final fish alone; no great sacrifice, as that was far preferable to having to drink the toxic stuff. I did the honors of filleting the fish this time, and the only complaint I can really express is that it left little room in our ice-box for anything else.
As you can no doubt imagine, cleaning up after a filleted fish is no easy task, particularly when trying to scrub out any trace of smell from the deck that we were going to be sitting on for the next week. It took a while, but we finally managed to get the deck scrubbed off, only to discover that, in all the excitement of dragging the fish aboard, we had smeared fish blood all over the back of the boat, which left the boat’s name bearing a striking resemblance to a B-horror movie title. Even that was eventually cleared up too, however and I crawled into bed soon after for my sleeping shift, experiencing a sensation that is very similar to what I imagine a baseball feels like.