Skipjack, seiners, and the sea – Week 2: A painted ship

... and all the boards did shrink

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Ahoy there.  Apologies, but I don’t have much to report.

For the last week, the Esperanza has been steaming through the Doldrums, a notorious latitudinal band of weak currents and unpredictable weather that straddles the Equator, reaching from about 5°N to 5°S.  Historically, sailing ships dreaded entering this nefarious swath of ocean for fear that they would be becalmed – that the wind would suddenly die, leaving the crew to languish in the unrepentant equatorial sun, baking in their bunks and making no progress.  Ships would roast in the Doldrums for weeks at a time, where the heat and hopelessness would incite disease, madness, and mutiny.

So all hail the modern age, where internal combustion assures that such a fate shall no longer befall an intrepid group of seafarers daring to traverse the Equator.  Still, the presence of an engine changes neither the terrain nor the weather.  Indeed, we may be moving, but for all intents and purposes, we are not.  Each morning brings a sunrise that is a carbon-copy of the one previous, the tiny yellow eye of the tropical sky burning with fever, floating up from waves that are indistinguishable from those which we have watched glide by again and again, day after day.

Same as it ever was

Water, water everywhere

Although we keep a constant watch both to port and starboard, not one FAD has been located over the past week.  Not a ship has been glimpsed on the horizon, nor has a single flicker of life and movement cast its green-lit ghost upon our radar screen.  The Esperanza trudges resolutely along, utterly alone, hunting its phantom quarry in the untellable vastness of the Pacific.

Still, we do not lose hope, and morale remains high.  All of our information suggests that we are moving into the thick of the seining grounds.  Indeed, as each day passes, it becomes more likely that we will encounter our target.

Born free

We also take heart in knowing that our inability to locate a fishing fleet is not for lack of prey.  There are shoals of flying fish constantly taking to wing along the bow, and we’ve even seen skipjack tuna – the very fish whose dilemma has brought us here in the first place – launching skyward from the waves in an effort to snag their winged meals from the air.  Pilot whales, too, have graced us with their presence on more than one occasion.  It’s nice to be noticed.

In truth, everything is proceeding apace, minus the fact that we really haven’t yet had the chance to do much in terms of accomplishing our mission and documenting the actions of these seiners.  That will change, however — and soon.

Rest assured that I will report when I have something to report.  Until then, please remember to enjoy all those things that land-based life has to offer — for the lot of us.

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