As I was wrapping up a few extra days of workover here in Louisiana I found out that I was going to be down here during the world famous Tarpon Rodeo fishing derby that takes place every year. Though I was not able to go and actually participate (and party) because I was on duty – I did get a chance to check out the scene.
Today is our last day at sea before arriving in Tarawa and I now get why everyone has been in such a good mood today. Just like when flying into another country you aren’t allowed to bring in most fruits and vegetables and meat products, definitely not meat products. So began the purge, and it didn’t just mean food items.
Men who I would occasionally spot smoking a cigarette here or there, were going through an entire pack at a time, not wanting to pay taxes on their duty free smokes from Fiji, and all the alcohol that was purchased at sea from the resupply ship, that had to go too.
Today was an interesting day, for me at least. At some point last night we wound up meeting up with 3 other ships from Don Wong tuna company for a little bit a fleet fishing activities. 2 other helicopters from Tropic were out there too. It’s a novelty item for me since for the last week and a half it has been just us and the ocean, but I guess this sort of thing is common place, the fishing grounds are only so big and these guys are all kind of working together for the same company. They are also competing with each other for the money that comes from filling the holds with tuna.
I also got to see the second type of setting that we do, and that is the kind where we don’t set on a “payow” but instead we find, track and then set around a school of tuna. Considerably more challenging it looks like, and a lot of it comes down to the captain and his experience. There is a lot of watching, waiting for the tuna to come up to the surface to feed. When they do they form what is called a “foamer” where the water gets really frothy and white as they splash against the surface. The bigger the foamer, the bigger the school – common sense. Or so I thought, because we were tracking one that looked particularly like a large school but the captain would not set, he kept waiting and turning the boat and looking for another one.
Today I was told to be ready for pickup from my hotel by 7am. I was downstairs, checked out and sitting waiting patiently like a good on time soldier in the army. 15 minutes early. That was a mistake. For two reasons, one – I’m on Fiji and nothing here runs on anything other than Island Time, and two – the communication between the company, the boat, and the port agent up until now has not been exactly stellar. By the time 8am rolled around I had begun to realize this and asked the front desk if I could take my breakfast (which was included with the room) in the lobby. They were happy to bring me a plate with scrambled eggs, sausage, fruit, and toast. And one glass of delicious island juice. I have no idea what kind of juice it was, but it was sweet. I can rule out mango since I know the taste of mango like nobodies business (thank you Davao!).
Then 9am rolled by. Ok, I’m starting to worry at this point. What kind of time am I going to have getting to the boat, on the boat and settled before we weigh anchor and set sail on our voyage. Yesterday I was told that we were leaving at 10am. It was getting close. I think my regular check ins with the company were starting to drive poor Karen crazy. She kept echoing “just wait, just wait” to me, as if I was gonna take off and go on a pirate gold seeking adventure or something. At this point I didn’t know anything other than sitting and waiting. I was getting really good at it too.