HOLY MACKERAL - LOOK AT WHAT JUST HAPPENED
Sometimes good things happen when you least expect them.
When we sailed around the world on our 39 foot catamaran, Exit Only, we had more than a few surprises during the eleven year voyage.
It was 6 am in the morning in New Caledonia in the South Pacific. We were sound asleep in our bunks when a massive bang on the hull woke us up. It sounded like someone hit the deck of our catamaran with a hammer.
We were under attack.
We were anchored in a remote corner of Prony Bay with only one other yacht, and we could not imagine what was assaulting our small yacht this early in the morning.
There aren't any pirates in New Caledonia, and vandals are still asleep at 6 am.
I listened to the commotion on deck, and I had no choice but to get out of the bunk and see what was happening. I quickly climbed down the bunk ladder, walked through the galley and up into the salon. I unlocked the companion way door and stepped into the cockpit. I quickly scanned the deck looking for alien invaders, and none were seen.
I left the cockpit and hurried forward to see what had caused all the commotion.
Much to my surprise the only thing I discovered was a Spanish Mackeral lying on the trampline.
Exit Only had been attacked by a mackeral that was nearly a meter long. It had jumped high out of the water chasing some hapless small fish that it intended to have for breakfast, but the mackeral miscalculated its trajectory and landed on our deck just aft of the trampline.
After thumping on deck for a short time, it ended up marooned on our trampoline where it gave up the ghost.
Dinner had now been served to us, and we did not have to do a thing except clean the fish.
But before we ate the fish, we called friends in New Caledonia to make sure it was safe to eat a mackeral this large.
In New Caledonia, Spanish mackerals greater than a meter in length frequenly have ciguatera, and if you eat extremely large ones, they can make you sick. In rare cases you can even die.
Our mackeral was a few centimeters less than a meter, and our friends assured us it was safe to eat this gift from the sea.
So we cleaned the fish, and had our neighbors in the anchorage over for supper.
But that is not the end of the story.
Take a look at those razor sharp teeth.
Those teeth are weapons of mass destruction.
While we were in New Caledonia, a fellow sailor caught a mackeral and left it lying on deck. When the boat pitched in the seas, the mackeral slid across the deck with wide open jaws, and the jaws engaged the sailor's heel severing his Achilles tendon.
I visited the sailor in the hospital after he had surgical repair of the Achilles tendon. His leg was in a cast below the knee to immobilize the tendon, and he was getting daily subcutaneous heparin injections in his abdomen to prevent blood clots from forming in his injured leg. That's a big price to pay for not being situationally aware
How often does that type of injury happen?
More often than you think.
One of my cruising friends told me it happened to a colleague on a fishing expedition in the Marshall Islands. I heard of another case happening in Tonga while I was cruising in the South Pacific.
Situational awareness is paramount when you are sailing around the world.
A Spanish mackeral is a tasty feast, but it can also put you in the hospital with ciguatera or a lacerated Achilles tendon.
Now you know the rest of the story.
PS: Imagine the chaos that would have ensued on board Exit Only if the massive mackeral had come down an open hatch and landed on our bunk. That would have been more than a rude awakening. Words like catastrophe and disaster pop into my mind.
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