The world’s freshest sushi

When I think of fishing, I think old men sitting by a lake, holding their fishing rods, calmly waiting for fish. Knowing that fishing could be a possibility on our trip, especially the aspect of waiting seemed rather bizarre to me, since there is never a lot of spare time on board. Days are always filled with either classes or watches, galley duty and internships. But when I heard the stories about the fish that got caught in other years during the Atlantic crossing, I also got excited.

During the preparations in Santa Cruz de Tenerife, a red plastic box with different fishing lines and all kinds of rubber baits, which were partly donated by Lena’s family, suddenly appeared on deck. At first, we did not really know what to do. Which knots work on slippery and wet plastic lines? Which hook and which size is fitting? And what works best as a bait? In the end, we carried out some trials, found a way to install the spool and its mounting and attached some rubber baits, four in a row, each of them with their own hook, onto a long fishing line.

On the first day, we did not catch anything, but on the second, I got surprised when I checked the line. There was something on it! It was a small, semi-see-through plastic bag, one of those you would find in a supermarket next to all the fruits and vegetables. What a disappointment! Ocean Scientists calculated that there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean by the year 2050, but to me, it seems like this is already the case.

The following days, some kind of routine began to form, always bringing out and hauling in the fishing line at sunrise and sunset. This was mainly done by Lena, Jaron or me.  But why would we not want to fish during the night? Well, imagine the following situation: It is 2 a.m., there are four people on deck, and all of a sudden, the wind gets stronger, the waves get higher, and a storm begins to form. The strong winds, without warning coming from another direction, begin to push us backwards, and the engine is needed to stay on course. There is one person steering the ship and the three others are taking down the sails. Who would have the time to pull in the fishing line to stop it from potentially getting tangled in our ship’s propeller? A blocked screw would leave us only with our sails to manoeuvre the ship, which would work for the Atlantic crossing, but gets dangerous in bad weather or in the case of an emergency. To minimize these risks, we only fish during the day, when there are always enough people on deck who can quickly support the current watch.

Eventually, we began to see more and more flying fish, which was a good sign since they usually work as indicators for bigger fish, when they jump out of the water to escape predators. Sometimes, those small, big eyed, grey fish that have fins that are basically a mixture of wings and fins, also jump on Deck. Amelie S. for example, who was peacefully sleeping in her hammock on deck, got hit by a flying fish in the early morning. Totally unprepared, she gripped the stinky fish and threw it out of her hammock. Woken up by Amelie’s scream, Torge picked it up again and threw it back into sea. In the hope of catching a bigger fish, we also tried using these little flying fish as baits or combined them with other plastic baits or even fished with two lines at the same time, but nothing seemed to really work.

But then, when no one was expecting it, during a lesson of astronomical navigation, we suddenly saw something at the end of the line. A trashing fish tail jumping out and back into the water, about 70cm long shining beautifully in shades of green and gold. It was a golden mackerel, one of those predatory fishes that we had been hoping to catch for 5 days. As you can imagine, the excitement was huge as everyone wanted to have a look at the beautiful fish. Slowly and carefully, the line was taken in, and the fish was gripped by a net and heaved on deck. Quickly, a crowd started to form around Lena and Jaron, who took over the job of killing the fish by hitting it on its head with one of the heavy metal belaying pins. After the fish was gutted, Detlef, our captain himself took turns and prepared sushi for dinner. This was truly the best tasting and freshest fish I have ever eaten!

We had one more catch after that, which unfortunately was too small so that we had to release it, but I am hoping to catch at least one more big fish before we arrive in Dominica.

Greetings from the middle of the Atlantic Ocean!