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An Uninvited Guest and Two Moral Quandries

June 26, 2012

Day 5

Local Noon Position (12:55pm Hawaii Standard Time):
By GPS: 33.28.629W by 163.35.640W
By Sextant: 32.22N by 163.36W

Course: 350 to 0 degrees true
Speed: 3 to 4.5 knots most of day
Wind: 7 ESE
Sea: 1 – 5 feet ESE (Bigger swell coming in from elsewhere)
Sky: 80 to 100% occluded. Mid level cumulus.
Bar: 1033 Stable
Air Temp (in the cabin): 72 degrees
Water Temp: 72.1 degrees
Sails: All plain sail. Wind abeam.

Since last noon: 138
Total for passage: 710
Daily average: 142

Debris: Below.

Ships and other piloted vessels: None. But I could have sworn that at 4pm I heard an airplane engine in the east, similar to that a C131 would make. Lasted about five minutes.

Birds: Many Black Footed Albatross throughout day. One Layson’s Albatross at noon. Two White Tailed Tropic Birds, one around 9am and another at about 2pm. Two Gadfly Petrals. Several Black Storm Petrals, one sitting water top.


I have done my best to show respect, to give the North Pacific HIGH room to maneuver in private and unencumbered by the thought that a little sailboat is slipping quietly by. I didn’t want any trouble–I’m just passing through. And each day that I have averted my eyes and born away to the northwest the HIGH has dropped down from its typical haunts into the southwest as if we two have an appointment for lunch. If this is so, I have yet to receive the invitation. I would have declined.

I woke to full cloud cover and diminishing wind, sometimes none. This is the gift to be found at the center of the HIGH.

So, with not much else to do, I have today become a trash farmer.

Debris sightings have been much the same as yesterday. Actually, at times there seems to have been less debris, but then our speed over the water has been cut in half thanks to you-know-who.

Here’s a selection of observed items from the early morning:

0648 (Hawaii Standard Time): Orange fish float, anchored, 12 inches diameter, 100 feet to starboard. 0707 Plastic lid and 3 inch by 5 inch piece of plastic, white.
0712 Orange fish float, anchored, 12 inches diameter, also roughly 100 feet to starboard.
0717 One foot by one foot sheet of white plastic. Then a whole (i.e not broken, which is rare) white, plastic bottle, half gallon, just under surface.
0721 What appeared to be an upside down boot floating at the surface, 60 feet to port. 0722 Roughly triangular piece of white plastic, three inches to a side.
0732 Commercial fishing line, nylon, a small tangle of. I snagged it with the boat hook! Loaded with crabs and other life. Took pictures. Tossed back.
0735 Way to port, an orange rectangle at water-top, maybe three feet by four feet. Box lid or cushion? 0801 Piece of a white plastic box, one foot by two feet.

I rigged a six foot long piece of PVC pipe to the only dipping net I have on board. It’s small, but with it I suddenly had a reach into the water of eight feet, and more if I leaned way out.

With this long wand I stood amidships, poised, and saw not one thing pass by between 0810 and 0840.

0910 First catch with the net…a tiny knot of commercial fishing line with one crab of one inch carapace, mottled, maroon. Took photos. Tossed back.

1037 Had been fishing for some time and had a collection: three tiny pieces of white plastic half the size of a postage stamp and one tooth brush. A TOOTH BRUSH! No markings. White. Bristles gone. Warped.

1120 While shooting the sun, a Layson’s Albatross flew in front of the sextant view finder.

1127 Hauled in the “Mystery Item”. A clump of … something … like paper mache and wrapper with printed designs … not Asian. No idea. A crab crawled out. I helped him over the side. Same mottled carapace, but perfectly white.

Lunch, then to chores that mattered. I caulked the leaking Samson posts. Raised the main full and saw it get stuck up in the air again. Figured out it’s the track, which is not continuous. Lowered the main and removed the sticking car. Now we have one less, but hopefully the sail will come down when it should.

Dropped a lure over the side and let it run out 100 yards. Almost instantly a small Dorado arced astern. Missed the lure. Went on. But that was promising. I could see two fillets neatly nestled in the pan.

In the afternoon I resumed bobbing for plastic. My success rate was about ten percent, but I now have a collection five more white pieces, some with character, some without. None with writing or other specifying characteristics.

Each time I collect a piece, it comes aboard with a crab or two. Always they look the same, the same intricately designed carapace in maroon or white or a pale, powdery blue, and always they evince the same sense of shock at being discovered. On deck they run with obvious panic as I nudge them toward the scuppers. In the water they swim one way and then the other. Lost.

This is the first moral dilemma: is it worth collecting this trash if it displaces other lives, however small?

I took a break from writing this report for a breather on deck. I felt the fishing line, over the side since noon. Though I could see the pink lure on the crest of waves, the line was taught. Hooked a knot of fishing net, I thought.

I pulled.

The I pulled hard.

What ever it was it was heavy.

Then the dorsal fin. A shark?

Close to the boat it resolved to be a Marlin, and only close to the boat did it fight. It took all my might to hold its head out of the water at the transom while it beat and beat and slowly suffocated. Blood poured from its gills, splattered over the wind vane and on the stern rail. Such fighting was intensely beautiful, but I wished that the line would break. Take the line, the lure. I don’t want you. I don’t need this much fish.

On deck it was a full six feet, sleek and shivering after death. The large hook shot clean through its beak. My gaff had ripped a six inch gash in its head as it fought. I stared as it shimmered, but it had about it a growing grey before I could bring myself to fetch the knife.

I cut away only half its flesh and dumped the carcass over. I could not eat so much fish in a month.

This the second moral dilemma.

Two hours after dark. No wind. I’ve dropped sails. We drift.


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