Its the first day of March 2012. Latitude N 06 degrees 33 minutes and longitude W 088 degrees 25 minutes - 104 nm from our destination on a course SE @ 3.5 knots.
Just as Skipper had predicted from interpreting updated meteorological reports as soon as we passed the 090 degrees longitude mark the winds shifted slightly, the seas calmed and the winds died down considerably. The day has been beautiful with tropical breezes [not enough to propel the drua at speeds we had yesterday], a hot sun and a crew busy with many activities from cleaning the drua to washing clothes to perfecting their knot tying and shell hobbies. Some read, others wrote in their logs and still others caught up on rest after a late night watch shift.
Fishing has been a disappointing activity. Mausio and Skipper lament the days from Hawaii to San Francisco where they were catching tuna and mahimahi everyday [well almost every day!]. It's our suspicion that this is a popular commercial fisheries area and the bait fish are few and far between. Thus the tuna stocks are searching far and wide for food! We saw our first feeding flock of sea birds and under the typical boiling water caused by tuna feeding at the surface. However tuna being one of the fastest predatory fish species they simply outdistanced the Uto ni Yalo and all we could do was "oo and ah" at the natural spectacle taking place in front of us.
The feeding sea birds have been primarily "boobies" of the Sula genus in mixed flocks of Browns, Redfooted and Masked varieties. The occasional petrel has been seen most likely of the Pterodroma species and yesterday a female frigate visited us during the stronger winds. Like all birds, even the more land bound ones, they possess hollow bones and hugely strong pectoral muscles that enable them to fly with great manouverability. They are aerodynamically sleek with narrow pointed wings and an elongated bifurcate tail [looks like a swallow's tail]. Some people call them "robber" birds as they can swoop down on a flying booby or even the smaller tern and dislodge food from them with a swift rap on the back! Then in a move that would make "Top Gun" candidates green with envy, it catches the dislodged fish or squid in mid air! Many Pacific island cultures revere the frigate and there are legends, dances, chants and even entire ceremonies dedicated to this celebrated sea bird. In Nauru there's an activity that sees captive frigates set out to lure wild ones close enough so that they can be snared. The birds are kept as pets. In Japan cormorants like the ones we saw in Ensinada, are also kept as pets and trained to dive for fish and return them to their keeper. Of course they are tethered the entire time and there's a ring around their necks so that they can't swallow the catch. They are rewarded with a piece of chopped fish for their efforts. You've heard of geese being used as "watch dogs"? Well that's another story!
The women of the Uto ni Yalo are doing fine. They are expected to do the same jobs as the men - no exception. They steer, tend the ropes, answer each watch faithfully and often take the lead in helping Ben. Filo, Iva, Kim, LeeAnn and Salome are proving that there's no place on our drua for gender bias. In addition Kim's learning Fijian; Filo has mastered the uli; Iva already an experienced sailor cuts hair and shaves scraggily beards; LeeAnn is a whiz at buying food, working the uli and is an accomplished videographer and last but not least Salome is the backbone for fitness lessons and cleaning. Without her we will need three to take her place!!!One of these trips it would be interesting to see an all female crew. I have no reason to think that they wouldn't keep right up with the men!
tabu soro...............................we're close to our next island and you'll find out where that is in due time!