As for the speed: Speed is what we need! But far more important than speed is our course and that is off course what you would understand a bit of an issue for us rowing rudderless backwards! Last week we got the weather update about a huge strong eddie (circular current) before Cayenne. The advice was to go south of it or straight through it to Cayenne. Yesterday we got the message and advise that the eddie is in the same place and strength about 1 knot and that we absolutely have to go west to pass it to the north. So far we’re going already too far south what means that we can never reach Cayenne. Well that’s confusing! So, we have to choose between not arriving and fighting hard to maybe arrive. Let’s do the last. Somehow we manage to set the course more west aside of the waves and wind from the north-east and row in a line of 270 degrees. Sometimes even 280. So far it looks like we are doing good!
Progress is really good again and at late afternoon finishing day 46 we are down to 460 miles from Cayenne meaning that we have rowed so far a bit more than 400 miles backwards and still on a pretty well course to Cayenne! It is going so well with excellent conditions that we just set a new ocean rowing world record. Yes, we rowed an amazing 81 miles backwards. We still have 450 miles in front of us to beat that but otherwise I am convinced that this record will stay for years. Maybe forever. I have already a lot of ocean rowing world records but this one is one of another categories. From today on my bucket list went down from two to one!
As I said before Livar was busy for hours yesterday constructing a fishhook out of a split pen and yes it looked close to perfection but are the fish feel the same about that? Yesterday and tonight not! Livar has also a bucket list and just with one last single thing on it: catching a fish on an ocean rowing boat! Would that be so difficult especially for a Faroese professional fisherman for at least 15 years. Catching 10 meter basket sharks in a tiny rowing boat with a harpoon. Killing whales bare handed but till now on his fifth ocean row did not land a single fish on deck. On other ocean rows he hooked some but couldn’t land them on deck and that was with pro gear this is McGyver style! Well why not so he tried it again today attaching a dead flying fish to his hook and throwing it a few meters overboard. Within seconds he got the attention of a huge mahi mahi that came quickly in. Livar fairly convinced that his bucket list would always remain at one got shocked when it bit and immediately start to pull in. The mahi mahi was even more in shock to find out the enormous strength of the flying fish he just swallowed. Before he came in action Livar pulled him with all of his strength out of the water on deck. At that moment I was sleeping with the hatch closed and woke up because I heard Livar screaming while a hard rumbling sound was vibrating through the hull. I jumped up half a sleep and confused. What was wrong? Is the boat capsizing or sinking I seriously thought? I opened the hatch and saw on deck Livar fighting with a really huge slimy mahi mahi that he couldn’t get under control jumping all over deck after each other. Still half a sleep I was impressed by the colossal size. It went so quick. There was no time enough to jump on deck and then the most terrible thing happened. In no way Livar could control it how hard he tried he lost the battle and the beast flipped overboard back into the ocean. Livar collapsed. He screamed like an child and I felt for him. Later on, Livar said he was really crying inside. He had him. I had the same a couple of times before but I caught hundreds of fish on the oceans but this was Livar’s first and we are running out of food! Screaming every fucking thing is going wrong on this boat. Rose is cursed! I tried to cheer him a bit up but I doubt if I was successful: “Livar at least we know that your hook is working”, “they have a three second memory, he’ll be back”. No. As expected he didn’t cheer up and both our bucket lists stay at one!
The next day we made another wonderful distance of 74 miles and day 48 we ended up with 56 miles cause of a larger part of the day we had the currents against us but in our situation all distances above 50 miles are absolutely ok and that just leaves the last 327 miles to Cayenne. Yes, we are really closing in!
Because of our difficult backwards rowing situation without a rudder it is about impossible to row into Cayenne ourselves and it will be very dangerous because of the shallows with breaking waves and strong currents so I contacted my local friend Pascal Vaude for help like every year but this year more urgent cause we need a support boat to escort us in. All looks fine and he is ready to come out with his 33ft Boston whaler with 700 horsepower but as so often in our trip the corona virus is in our way. All ships are banned from going in or out so he first has to get the permission from the authorities in Martinique. Yes, that island 1000 miles from here. Fingers crossed. If that’s ok we’re safe! If not it will become out hardest challenge so far. Rowing north to south for miles into a 30 meter wide dredged channel with 2 meter high waves, 15 knots wind and strong currents all from the east rowing rudderless backwards! Well shoot me if that’s not a challenge but I prefer Pascal’s 700 horsepower option!
Meanwhile Livar recovered from his big loss and gave his hook another try. Within seconds a tuna grabbed his flying fish. Quickly he pulled his line in and landed a beautiful yellow fin tuna on deck and jumped onto it. Immediately I stucked a knife in his brain to stop his suffering and our fear of another escape. Yeah baby we have fresh tuna. And there he was. Livar as glad as a little child with tears in his eyes hugging and kissing his beloved fish. Finally finishing his bucket list. He has done it. The job is done! Livar’s life is complete and what did we enjoy the yellow fin for breakfast!
The next day round sunset he landed an even bigger yellow fin on deck. I told him my story of the Pacific when I was rowing for a few months with hundreds of large mahi mahi round me catching a few of them every day till that horrible day that a terrible group of pilot whales arrived for the massacre of the Pacific. Slaughtering them all within minutes. The good times never came back. It was like asking for it. Early next morning a group of pilot whales arrived and stayed for hours with us. Now late afternoon since then we haven’t seen any tuna anymore.
But after catching that tuna round sunset Predragh and I went into our first night shift for another incredible ocean experience. In two days, I will reach the day that I will have spent 800 days on oceans in an ocean rowing boat seeing thousands and thousands of flying fish. What happened this week with flying fish by far I never saw before but what happened this night was beyond my imagination! What’s happening? Is it because the corona virus that all sea going vessels including fishing boats are grounded that sea life is restoring so quickly? That would be amazing and why not. Nature is a lot stronger than we are. Like in India cause of the corona virus there was hardly any traffic anymore. The air became so clear that people in Punjab could see the Himalaya for the first time again in 40 years.
But what happened now was a “Life of Pi” experience of Predragh and me. The famous book and movie from probably 2013. Pi and a bunch of animals got shipwrecked on the ocean drifting in a lifeboat while suddenly they got hit by hundreds of flying fish while thousands of them jump out of the water. By the time I saw that I had pretty some ocean going experience and I thought by myself what an enormous bullshit scene. Totally impossible and out of proportions! Till the beginning of this night. What the hell was happening. It was if we were acting in “Life of Pi” and “Sharknado” at the same time! The thousands of tunas around us went crazy causing thousands of flying fish getting airborne. There where so many flying fish in the air; all air space was full. So full that flying fish hit each other regularly in the air. Probably not as much as we were hit. The air was filled around us. We could smash them from the air. In minutes about hundreds of them landed on deck. The guys inside woke up because it sounded like a drum band was playing on the cabins. I told Livar to quickly jump out on deck and throw a line out. So, he did and immediately he got another tuna. After 10 minutes it was over but what an incredible experience.
The rest of the night past pretty silently and what I said before the pilot whales arrived in the morning and spoilt our party. The next night we didn’t spot a single tuna anymore, the flying fish became rare and the birds are gone. The fun is over. At the end of day 49 we are still going pretty well in the right direction with a good speed with 57 miles in the last 24 hours leaving us with 270 miles to Cayenne. If our daily distances keep stable then we could arrive somewhere on Monday morning. Off course also depending on the local authorities.