Commotion on the aft deck

4 April 2016

Boudewijn with the catch of the dayThe Wylde Swan gently moves through the Atlantic Ocean with smooth waves and a wind speed of two Beaufort. On the aft deck of the ship, behind the steering wheel a fishing rod is attached to the rail of the ship. During the day, the line is in the water continuously. We do not fish much, but if we have a catch there is a lot of commotion. The line needs to be taken in and the deck needs to be kept wet so it does not get ‘fishy’ on board. But first the ship needs to reduce speed, otherwise we would lose the catch. With wind and all sails set this is almost impossible: the engine is switch on and put in reverse, the bow steered towards the wind, which makes the sails flap.

Two times we caught a large fish: a Mahi Mahi and a Bigeye Tuna. Part of the Masterskip program is then to dissect the fish and investigate the entrails. The content of the stomach is analyzed to find out what the fish has been eating. And the still beating heart of the tuna is passed round the group. At night the fish is served for dinner. Two days after catching the Bigeye Tuna the fishing rod started moving heavily: commotion on the aft deck. “Get the water hose! Make sure the deck is wet. Start the engine and put it in reverse! Get on the sheets of the sails and take line in!” Trainees hurry to the water hose and second mate Boudewijn Ridder starts to take the fishing line in.

At that time I was still asleep, resting from my night watch from 00:00-04:00, but woke up from the sound of the engine and flapping sails. Put on a shirt, short and boots and rushed to the aft deck where more and more trainees gathered and fishing line was taken in. Chef Jack Breed came out of the galley with a machete and dish ready to kill the fish. I will never forget what happened next: instead of a colorful Mahi Mahi or torpedo shaped tuna we did fish a bunch of tangled blue rope. An indescribable expression on the face of Boudewijn and the laughter of the trainees followed. Catching nylon rope did remind me of a recent newspaper article of the World Wide Fund for Nature reporting the oceans will soon contain more plastic then fish. We could not dissect the plastic neither consume it, but it was a great catch in terms of plastic soup awareness.

By: Jan Joris Midavaine