Passage to the Islands of Ayu

Tropical fisherman
Artisanal fisherman

The next morning, after filling our water reserves in the Bay of Grey and playing with dolphins, we set a course heading straight north towards the islands of Ayu. This tiny patches of land are rarely visited by cruisers. The available records date the last visit of a private yacht two years back and shows no entry for eight years before that. We would be the second visiting boat in ten years. And we were about to find out why.

The sunset of Ayu island

Boredom aboard

The passage started in the early morning hours and was lengthy. It gave us a good taste of what it is like to sit on a steaming hot deck in the middle of a sunny ocean. Sweating, tearing and nothing to do. The only distraction being the left and right – up and down of boat and horizon. All around us an endless desert of blue; from blue sea to blue sky and back. At least and to pass the time a little more efficiently, we laid out a trawling line to attract fast oceanic hunters. But they appeared to be just as lame as us.

I spent most of my day in the gentle breeze on deck, in the shade of the foresail, reading Alexander Kent’s Richard Bolitho; great stories of the days of adventure on sea with the British Royal Navy. Thinking I was safe under the sail and sheltered from the sun, I sat there without a t-shirt for the better half of the day. It couldn’t have been any worse. Already in the afternoon, I was glowing like a freshly cooked Canadian lobster. The bed this night turned into sandpaper.

High seas fishing

In the afternoon, when the islands of Ayu were climbing over the horizon, Claudia, holding the fishing line in her hands, would ask: How do you know, if we caught a fish? Anticipating a gigantic blue marlin leaping out between the wave crests, fighting for its life, I rushed to the stern. Eyes piercing the spot where the line hit the water, but nothing… nothing but gentle waves. But why had she asked?

Dave was more practical and told her to bring in the line. And while Claudia was pulling the trawl, we saw a golden-green shimmer appearing and vanishing from under the surface. In fact, we had caught a fish without even noticing. And what a fish it was, a 1,3 metre dolphin fish, also known as Mahi. It provided a solid and healthy dinner. And because it was so fresh, Claudia decided to create her version of a South American cèviche. Plain awesome, my day was just made perfect.

Taking the pictures of David gutting the fish, through me back into memories of my childhood in Greece; back to the times when my father returned from fishing and showed me his catch. The exotic colours and shapes would keep me affixed to his side and mesmerized for until he was finished. Fish were filled with the most marvellous wonders, guts and intestines, brightly coloured gonads and above all, the obscure and shiny fish bladders.
There endless reasons why people study marine biology, but I took my decision in plain view of shimmering intestines, pink foam and hermit crabs.

Coryphaena hippurus (eng. Mahi Mahi)

A sunset to remember

We anchored in the protected lagoon of Ayu Island when the sun started to stain the sky. Taken from the satellite images of the islands, which we had studied before our arrival, we were excited to snorkel the area. Unfortunately, our dreams were destroyed by visibilities of less than 4 metres. According to David and Sherry it’s a fairly common phenomenon inside of small coral atolls. They frequently observed it during their travels in the central pacific.

Celebrating the sunset

A fisherman passed by in his boat, chewing beetle nut and because his catch looked rather poor, we gave him the rest of our large Mahi, which would make for an amazing soup. Conversation was rather limited and hence short. We simply decided to visit the island on the next day.

For the moment, something else began to attract our attention far more, the sunset. We installed ourselves in the usual manner on deck, a fresh beer in hand and were soon submerged in an intense yellow-orange light. I don’t know whether the sky had just spilled some harmless orange juice or was sick with a strange disease. In any case, light and silence spread over deck that filled my camera with pictures and our hearts with awe. Pure magic.

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