Wednesday, 30 April 2014

ANGRY FISH WITH BIG TEETH AT MINERVA,   POPPER HEAVEN
Friday 18th April
I should probably just start a section every post entitled ‘Stupid Shit George Say’s and Does That Piss Me Off’!  That same evening I last posted about, he went on to tell me that it was probably a good thing I let that Red Bass go, being so large it must have been too old and wouldn’t have tasted any good?!!  Hmmm, ok mate, I suppose with that theory, a 15kg Red Emperor or a 7kg Baldie wouldn’t taste any good either!
  This guy buys fish from the supermarket in Paris and would never have even tasted much quality fish, let alone know the difference between them.  Which is fair enough, most people are in the same boat and wouldn’t really know the difference as they aren’t lucky enough to be able to eat the range of seafood we do back at home.  But most people wouldn’t sit down, argue and try to impart their infinite wisdom, consisting of a good amount of fuck all, to somebody like me. 
He just cracks me up, don’t get me wrong, I certainly don’t claim to know everything about fish and fishing, but I do have an extremely vast knowledge as it is the one thing I have spent the most time doing, studying and trying to master. I am always reading, practising, progressing, if he could shut the f#@* up, he may actually learn something. 
One last thing, the moon has been absolutely amazing out here, so last night I come inside and say ‘Hey, you guy’s should check out the awesome orange full moon’.  So of course immediately George starts his usual bullshit ‘Ah, well, I don’t think it’s quite a full moon’, pokes his head outside for a second, ‘no, it’s definitely not a complete full moon’!! 
F*@# me, this guy is a cock, it was the brightest roundest moon you are ever likely to see and he still has to disagree!  I could tell him the sky was blue and he’d want to argue the point, ‘Ah, well, no it’s….
Never man enough to come outright and argue the point with me, and say ‘you’re wrong’.  He prefers to just dismisses my point of view and makes his conflicting statement in a matter of fact way, with a pompous air of someone who has just enlightened everybody to the facts, like there could be no other answer and that the topic is now closed.  I don’t even waste my time with a retort, some people are beyond help.
Everybody who knows me will tell you I am not a violent person in the slightest and rarely get angry about too much, I prefer to just go with the flow and lets the cards fall where they may.  Karma is a bitch. But George is bringing it out in me, I wouldn’t even punch him, I’d slap him!  That’s what he deserves, a good old ‘wake up to yourself’ slap! 
In other non-George related news…!!!  Yesterday was another epic day of fishing, out in the RIB for an hour or so, a few awesome fish landed, big strikes, dropped fish, amazing battles in the shallow reef.  The stuff I dream about, Lucas and Stenty would have loved it, I think we may have to try to make it out here one day, with a proper boat and crew geared up for serious fishing.  I am only just barely scraping the surface of the amazing fishing here at Minerva Reef, squeezing in an hour of casting here and there.
Over the short period I got to fish, I landed about 12 fish, with many follows, hits and dropped fish, there is nothing better than throwing poppers around in country like this.  Even George and JP are starting to enjoy the whole visual style of it as they watch my lure, waiting for a big explosion of frothy water as a fish engulfs it.
  Another huge Red Bass was landed, almost as big as my last one, but this time on my smaller outfit and in only a meter of nasty, reefy water, another of those fish I will never forget. (depending on how many I actually catch on this whole voyage!) Once again it was only me in the boat, nobody to witness and appreciate the unbelievable fishing here, I could never get tired of doing this. 
So we are now moving around the inside of the lagoon at Minerva North and then we will be sailing on to Tonga this afternoon, with light winds it is expected to take 3 days.  I am going to miss this place and hope I get to return someday, with Lucas, Stenty and any other of my fish-crazy mates, to do it properly, this has just been a taste.  A damn good one though!
Afternoon update - we are now out of the lagoon and slowly making our way under sail to Tonga.  Another epic afternoon of casting poppers over shallow reef and landing some awesome fish, the battles are intense. 
 As we made our way through the passage to exit the lagoon, I geared up ready with the big outfit, Saltiga Dogfight and PE8 Demon Blood, but made the mistake of using my lighter gear to throw a popper at a ledge on the way out, even knowing there should be some serious fish on it.  Massive hit, my popper angrily inhaled in a powerful explosion of water and, almost as quickly as it had struck, I was busted off!  Hmmm, kiss another lure goodbye!  I was actually going to take a photo of this lure to emphasise how much punishment this thing had taken in only 3 days!  It was nearly destroyed by angry fish with big teeth! 
Oh, and we have 3 good sized crayfish for dinner!



Sunday, 27 April 2014


MAGNIFICENT MINERVA ATOLL
Wednesday 16th April

A pretty awesome day of fishing today, but I will go back to what’s happened since the last entry.  Early afternoon Monday we arrived at South Minerva Reef, a magical coral atoll in the pacific.  After nearly a week of nothing but open ocean and depths of over 2 km, we arrived to a stunning reef and lagoon hundreds of miles from anywhere.  It was almost bittersweet, cruising past all these amazing places to cast a lure at and knowing it probably won’t be happening.   It was akin to taking your kid to Disneyland and then making him stand outside the gate all day!

We sailed into the lagoon to set anchor for the night, a magnificent display of nature and water so crystal clear we could see the bottom easily in over 20 meters of water.  But before entering the passage to the lagoon I was hooked up to a monster on the trolled lure, but due to some dubious driving and zero knowledge fishermen on board, another lure and great fish were lost.  ‘sigh’, my all time favourite go-to lure!

Not much else to report from this first atoll, we spent the afternoon and night there while I stared out like a lost child at all the awesome reefs I could be casting at!  We continued North to the next atoll in the Minerva group, another amazing coral lagoon only 25 miles from the last one.  The water and view were spectacular and we unloaded the RIB and went for a cruise to explore the now dry reef at low tide.

Jean-Paul had a snorkel and found some lobster while I walked along this dry reef somewhere in the vast Pacific Ocean finally getting to have a cast!  It was quite surreal really, standing on that ledge in the middle of nowhere, by myself casting a popper, another moment I’ll never forget in this strange world I call my everyday life now!

It wasn’t long before I hooked up, using fairly light gear considering I was fishing in razor sharp coral bombie infested water only a meter deep.  I landed him and it was the biggest Blue Fin Trevally I have ever seen, I didn’t even know they got that big!

 I was pumped and was soon hooked up to another solid fish, this one even bigger, big enough to straighten out my hook and get free!  Never mind, while retrieving the lure after that one got away, still on the same cast, I was on again, this time a nice Coral Trout!

Finally I was getting to do some real fishing and was basking in the strange yet awesome experience of walking along that dry reef ledge in the middle of the ocean.  But the sun was nearly down and it was time to head back to the boat for a cold beer and dinner.  

Just as I sat down to eat a beautiful lobster dinner, I heard my reel zinging away, I had put a bait out earlier and had forgotten about it, thinking there wouldn’t be anything around that area.  But it was a good sized snapper of some sort and after dinner he was soon cleaned and ready for the next night’s dinner.

Later I went out to the back step for a smoke and looked up to notice there was a lunar eclipse happening! It was very cool and I really couldn’t picture anywhere better to have seen it from.

The next morning, today actually, we went for a cruise in the RIB and I was having a cast over shallow reef while we slowly made our way.  I was soon into a good fish on the popper and loving every minute of it, this is how I could spend the whole trip!  I had 2 fish landed before the George and Jean-Paul had even had their snorkelling gear on and were in the water.

I had another huge hookup but was busted off on that fish, damn, another lure.  No, wait, I could see it from the boat, floating on the surface.  Too easy, I just jumped in, swam over and got my lure back!  The benefit of barbless hooks.  I also landed another good trevally, it smashing my lure only 2 meters from the boat as Jean-Paul looked on in amazement!  I could have done this all day but it was decided we would head over to the passage into the lagoon.

While lunch was being prepared (we take it in turns each day to cook lunch and dinner) I was casting poppers of course, and after a few missed strikes and one little trevally, I had a huge hit and was on.  I thought it looked like a shark when it hit so was a bit casual about it until I felt some serious headshakes, when it got nearer to the boat I saw it.  Monster Red Bass!!  I gave a hoot as it was an absolute thumper, my biggest yet and another personal best, I have been racking them up already. 

A couple of quick photos and I released him, to some strange looks from George & JP, to them fishing is nothing more than getting something to eat.  I have too much respect for a fish as beautiful as this and would much rather see it swim off to be caught again by somebody that appreciates it.  I only caught a couple of sharks after that, but JP came back to the boat with a fish he had speared.  He’s cleaning it now as I type.

We are back inside the lagoon on the anchor after a pretty amazing day of fishing and exploring, think it’s time for a beer! 
Minerva Reef

Fell for the old River to Sea Dumbell, a fave of mine for casting.  That's the biggest size too
Pics don't do him justice, this thing was nearly a meter!
It's a tough life out here...
The water was pristine
Our home on the water
Lighthouse on the reef
Yeah,  the weather was ok....
Mmmmm  dinner
Check out how shallow and nasty that ground is
Minerva Atoll's from the air

Wednesday, 23 April 2014



FISH ON...   BLOODY HELL, IT'S A MAHI MAHI

Monday 14th April
3:30am and I am on watch, a solid wind has us sailing at around 8 knots and should see us hit Minerva reef today around 1-3pm. I shouldn’t say ‘hit’ actually, we should ‘arrive’!  A couple of very eventful days at sea, I can’t really remember what happened Friday night, I think it was another calm one, but Saturday was a wild watch.  Rough seas, constantly changing wind and a bit of rain saw me actually having to do some real work while on watch.
I spent the whole night on deck changing course, adjusting sails, getting wet and freezing my ass off, I did have a tiny little bird hitching a ride with us to keep me company though. He sat all night, buried in his own feathers in a little ball nestled a meter away from the helm.  The seas stayed fairly rough most of the day and I actually got a couple hours of sleep in during the day.
During my afternoon watch the sea was still messy and I was about to bring my lure in, thinking that even if I did hook something, it was gonna be too wild to try land anything anyway.  A mere 2 minutes later my reel was screaming, bent right over with the unmistakable signs of a solid fish and once again, the other 2 were sleeping!
A few bangs on the roof of Jean-Paul’s cabin and he was quickly on deck, followed by George not long after, with conditions like this we had to keep sailing and I just fought the beast while we were still cruising at over 6 knots!  It probably only took me about 10-15 minutes to land but we finally got my first Mahi Mahi on board, a decent one weighing 11kg. 
That is not a heavy fish really by my standards, but these things are thin, sleek and powerful, he was well over a meter.  After getting bashed around on the back steps (my work station) I finally had him filleted and bagged up, we had meat again!  After trying to instruct ME on filleting?! (wtf) George felt it necessary to go and weigh the fillets before once again telling me that ‘it’s not much for a fish that big’.  I just asked him how many fish he has ever filleted…  (yeah, 1)  I’m guessing that at market value it was probably $300 of fillets.
While we’re on the subject of things he does to piss me off… hehe.  After my long, cold, wet night of no food or barely a drink, he gets up in the morning, tips my cordial out and makes himself a coffee in the mug I hadn’t finished with?!  Plus only boils enough water for 1 cup and I have to burn precious gas again to make a hot drink for myself.  He’s been in a warm bed all night and HE needs the hot drink?!  Just totally self absorbed and inconsiderate. 
Once again, to the reader, yes these are small things, but living together like this and after a shift like that, it’s just not cool, you have to be more socially aware than that.  I’m the type of person that would make somebody else the hot drink, knowing that they had had a shitty night and would really appreciate it.
I had to laugh though later in the day, he wound his handline in and the hook was gone, I quickly asked him if that was the same hook I had warned him not to use!  Haha.   Sorry I will try and keep to the story and not just pay out on George, but he brings it on himself, plus, hell, there isn’t much else going on out here, it is part of my daily life and my story.
As usual we have had odd jobs to do here and there, plus cooking and basic living really.  On Sunday I had a shower and shave out on the back deck, the sea was beautifully calm, calm enough that I decided to put a lure out.  We didn’t have room for any more fish in the limited fridge space on board, but I figured with conditions like this I could release a fish fairly easily.
I had just changed my lure over and was about to put one out when I looked down and saw what I believe was a small Marlin swimming not more than a meter off the back of the boat, I put my lure right past him but he declined after a quick inspection.  It wouldn’t have looked natural as it was getting fed out, and after a minute or so he swam off, another opportunity missed!
Only a couple of hours later I was working up the front of the boat for a while and when I came back to the cockpit I could see my rod bent over.  I hurried over for a look and every bit of line was gone from the spool!?  F@#*!  Luckily my knot at the spool was good and somehow had stayed connected, though it had caused some minor damage to the reel.  A plug too, for the boys at Tel O Mac Tackle Shop, Nick had just re-spooled my reel and his join knot held up extremely well.  Thanks mate, I would be missing 300 meters of 50lb braid otherwise.
There was so much pressure on the line that it had actually gouged a couple of grooves into the hardened plastic of my level wind. I couldn’t believe the line hadn’t come free.  I wound ALL that line back in and found I had lost another fish and another lure.  Goddammit, I thought somebody was in the cockpit while I was working up front.  I’m just lucky that I didn’t lose all that line or worse, though I do have my rod and reel tied to the boat.
Anyway, I think that is all the news for now, plenty of beautiful night skies, sunsets, sunrises, full moon.  Oh we did pass 2 bouys today which was odd really, this far out in open ocean and we happened to go past 2 of them about a mile apart, maybe some sort of weather beacons?  In true testament to the effectiveness of FAD’s, there were fish around them.
Strange but cool cloud formation


Yee-Ha,  PB Mahi Mahi

Cool rainbow while filleting
My stowaway mate for the night, cute little bugger
SAILING TO TONGA
Thursday 10th April
It is now 4:45am, I’m on watch but as there is basically no wind, we are motoring and there is very little to do obviously.  The sea is wonderfully calm and the starry sky spectacular, I have been able to see Venus out one side and what I believe to be Mars on the other.  We get some great night skies back home while out camping, but out here takes it up a notch with no other lights to contend with.
Later that morning, not long after George had just gotten out of bed, one of the first things he says is ‘oh, I can smell you just had a smoke’.  Once again real casually, like he is simply stating a fact, not whinging about it.  I quickly replied just as matter of factly ‘Well I can smell that you just took a shit, but I didn’t feel it necessary to comment about it’!  I think he got the hint.
Friday 11th April
It is now 4:30pm and I am on watch again, the sea is calm and we have been under motor since around 12am this morning.  The night watch was awesome really, beautifully calm water and the engine running meant I could just sit and watch downloaded media on my laptop!  It is obviously not ideal to be going slower and using the engines, but it is enjoyable and very relaxing.
Extremely bummed out earlier today though, at around 6am this morning I noticed a couple of bumps on my rod I had trolling, so went over to investigate.  As I picked it up I saw a huge hit as my lure was engulfed and I was on to a monster!  But this left me standing on the back deck with a very solid fish on and nobody awake to cut the motors!
This fish was off into the distance at a blistering rate, my reel screaming as I tried to wake the others up to come turn the boat around and chase this bastard down.  Just as Jean-Paul came on deck I was busted off, one of my favourite lures and who knows, possibly one of the best fish I have hooked, gone forever….
I wasted no time in getting another lure out and around an hour later we saw a black fin just behind the boat, only 20 seconds later and my reel was screaming again!  A billfish for sure, but as I picked the rod up and went to set the hook, he dropped it as quick as he had nailed it, no hook-up.  F*#@!  On the plus side, George hasn’t really done anything major to piss me off so far today.  Oh that’s right, I have barely talked to him!
We still have about 409 nm to reach Minerva Reef, where apparently we may spend a couple of nights if time permits.  Woohoo! At this rate we are looking at arriving Monday
TROUBLE BREWING WITH THE CREW...
Now there is George, did I say he was a great guy??!!   Man is this bloke getting on my nerves already!  Now I’m very easy going and not much bothers me (except airports!) but George is about 1 step away from getting an ass whooping.  I have let a lot slide, I’m a peacekeeper, I can put up with a lot of shit if it means getting to Tonga and Fiji etc, but he is really testing me.
I have already been informed by him of my ‘drinking problem’, this guy has NEVER had a drink in his life and thinks me having a beer (1 beer, sometimes 2) most evening’s is a dependency!  I read a book everyday too George, no comment on that?  Not from Mr Negativity!  I surely couldn’t just be having one because I’m a grown man who enjoys a cold beer!
 Unsure how he feels qualified to comment on such matters anyway?! Getting boozing advice from somebody who has never tasted the cold frosty goodness of a well earned beer is like taking acting lessons from Paris Hilton!  I have never plucked an Emu, so I would hardly go around dishing advice out to others on how to go about it!
He was very casual about telling me also, he has turned out to be a negative, condescending tosser who thinks he is above me.  Told me his last skipper was an alcoholic, used to have 3 whiskies a night!!  Oh well, at least I can finally seek the help I need thanks to the intervention of a self absorbed, judgemental prick.
There are many other little things that he casually does or says that irritate the shit out of me, if he is so unwilling to adapt or accept other people and different lifestyles, perhaps he should have stayed on land.  He will ask me for fishing advice and then brush anything I tell him aside, pretty much tells me I don’t know what I’m talking about?! 
That would be like Jean-Paul trying to teach me to sail and me telling him ‘yeah whatever mate, I reckon I know better than you’.  Up to him, there will be no further advice forthcoming.  Oh and for the record, he has caught ZERO fish!!  But he once caught a Mahi Mahi on another yacht and it is all I hear about when I talk fishing!  He thinks because he happened to have a 200lb handline dragging behind a yacht that just happened to run right over the top of a good fish, that he is somehow an expert on them now.
 I will give precise, specific, detailed information on techniques, location, depths, species etc and reasons why we may or not get a strike at certain times or conditions, he always replies with ‘Oh, no, I think we might catch a Mahi Mahi here, I caught one near Galapagos Islands once'!  An expert on them apparently!  Technically yes he’s right there very possibly could be a Mahi Mahi out here or any other pelagic, I just love the fact that catching one has made him a guru! 
George looked at my tuna after I filleted it yesterday, ‘hmmph, that’s not much fish’, then whinged about my tuna pasta, ‘hmmph, I think you cooked too much’.  After 2 excellent meals I prepared yesterday he serves up lunch today consisting of a bowl of lettuce and a bowl of carrot?!  Then wants to tell me how I should do my shashimi!! What a joke!  Always questioning everything I do and disregarding my input, bear in mind, this guy is just another crew member like me.
 While we were doing the shopping he wanted to know which bread will last the longest, so I tell him. (I was a baker for 8 years and he knows this, but no, my word isn’t good enough, he then goes and asks the lady stocking the shelves with canned goods, which one is better?!  FFS this guy is a wanker like that.  Yes small things, but many, many small things add up to big things when you are never more than 8 feet away from each other and it is pretty much constant. 
Normally I would just ignore somebody like this and not let it bother me in the slightest, but we have to live together very closely and depend on each other for the next 3 months.  I can’t just ignore him…  can I??!!
George decided he was going to organize the watch roster, and funnily enough, he gets the 7-11 (am & pm) time slots, giving him the great luxury of getting an uninterrupted night’s sleep from 11pm through til daylight.  How convenient for you George, the centre of your own universe!  Also coincides nicely with meal times too so the first hour of his shift he gets to sit inside and socialize with us.
  Things like this just continue to amaze and amuse me, until I remember that I am stuck with him, and that it’s illegal to throw him overboard, plus I would have to wash more dishes…   hmmmm…  not a bad trade off…?!   Hehe   It’s only out of respect for Jean-Paul that I have not seriously brought George into line yet. Yet.  Will see what transpires between here and Tonga!  Hell, we may even end up as best buddies…..   (not likely!)
These are just a couple of examples of the shit he comes up with, never has a good word to say about me, but does it all with an arrogant smile like he is so much smarter than everybody, yes I know I am whinging now, but writing it is my only outlet.  If and when this comes to the surface, one of us will not be continuing the voyage.  As much I would like to tell him to shut the f#@* up and adjust his attitude, I am too much of an appeaser, the peacekeeper, the cool head..  for now!  It would be funny if I wasn’t stuck on a boat with him for 3 months!!
Ok, rant over! 
Aside from all that which I needed to vent, everything is else is awesome, I love being out on the ocean and this is no exception.  Sure it can get slightly boring, but only briefly, there is always something to do.  I have a good exercise regime already and plenty of books, plus with a lure out constantly, there is always a chance my rod may double over and my reel start zinging at any minute.
On another amazing note, we may be stopping at Minerva Reef along the way, a tiny, isolated coral atoll that lies about 200 miles south of Tonga on our route, a fishing mecca that any serious fisherman would love to have a crack at.  Fingers crossed!  It is now 3pm, time to go start my watch.  George is having his afternoon nap, maybe didn’t get enough sleep last night with his easy shift, meanwhile I have had about an hour’s sleep….   Grrrr! 
 
MARSDEN COVE AND MT MANAIA
 
Wednesday 9th April 2014
To continue on from last post, we ended up at Hen & Chicken Islands and anchored at the entrance to the gap between the two just on dark.  It had all good signs of having fish and I wasted no time in setting a berley up and let it work while I got a few jobs done.  I was soon back to the fishing though and quickly had a pink snapper coming up, but as he got closer to the surface I saw 2 yellowtail kingie’s swimming up behind it! 
I have never caught one and New Zealand is famous for them, these 2 were only small though and try as I might, I couldn’t hook one.  I jigged away with no success until my other rod in the holder with a bait out went off, i quickly grabbed it and started trying to get this fish off the bottom, it was solid.  It fought hard all the way and I was expecting something decent, but once I got it to the surface I saw it was just a bloody big eel!  I couldn’t believe it, oh well, it put up a good fight and was released back into the sea.
I stayed up late that night with good prospects and high hopes, though after landing a number of small pinkies I was ready to pack it in for the night until I hooked, and then lost, something pretty big.  That kept me interested for another half hour before I decided to start cleaning a couple of fish.  A massive squid came in and was lurking just off the back step of the yacht, he kept taking my bait but without a squid jig it was virtually impossible!
I could have sworn I packed squid jigs…   I must own at least 20 of em and didn’t bring a single one!  Bloody hell!  Another case of what might have been, I told Jean-Paul in the morning and he quickly procured a couple of squid jigs that had never been used, where were they last night!  You gotta laugh about these things I guess!
A short trip in the next day and we were at Marsden Cove Marina near Whangerei, where we stayed until Tuesday, finalizing our arrangements to leave the country and get organized.  We worked non-stop but took a few hours off on Monday to hire a car and go hike to the summit of Mt Manaia, a stunning view awaiting us at the top after a very steep climb.
Everything on the boat was scrubbed, stowed, repaired and filled, we did our last big shop for supplies for the journey to Tonga which we are undertaking as I type.  We are roughly 160 nm (nautical miles) from Marsden Marina now after heading off around 11am yesterday.  I got the graveyard shift and have the enviable task of keeping watch during the hours of 3-7, pm and am!  I don’t mind though, I hate trying to get bits of sleep here and there but I love being up late at night, I get to be on watch for the sunrise and sunset.
I landed 2 tuna yesterday and one was only out the water 20 minutes before I turned him into a delicious pasta with tomato and capsicum.  It was very cold and windy during my early am shift, but as with the arvo watch, I just exercised and read, in between checking on things.  We made great progress during the night and were cruising at over 8 knots, the wind stayed strong and I almost had to take a reef. (yep, I’m using sailing lingo already!)
Living with these people is starting to get harder though, the night before sailing Jean-Paul and My had quite a heated argument, hopefully not a sign of things to come, she was starting to get a little bossy and irritable, I told Jean-Paul ‘there is only room for 1 skipper on the boat’.  She isn’t with us now though and will fly to Tonga to meet us there, after living on this yacht for 5 years she still gets seasick?!  It’s nice to have a bit of peace and calm on the boat!    Almost….
 
The mighty Mt Manaia
 
Almost jungle like trail on the way up
 
 
 
View from the top
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Marsden Marina