Day 64

20th December 2001

Martello and the 3rd engineer came to fix the brackets to my desk to hold my laptop down. In Cornwall we say we’ll do something ‘dretley’ which means that it will be done sometime in the future – most likely. I think the Portguese must have a similar philosophy because it’s taken almost two months for them to get around to making my bracket! I’m grateful though, and it is a feat of engineering of cut steel and welded plates bolted into the desktop. If this ship goes down and a terrible and violent storm, I can be assured that my laptop will not budge an inch from it place on the desk. And there lies the problem. The engineers bolted it down towards the back of my desk, and since my spinny chair is fixed to the floor at arms length from the edge of the desk, writing this and using my laptop is torturous on my back. Oh well.

The third engineer had a good root around my cabin while he was in there, and later said that he would buy my radio from me when we get back to land. I’ll be going home much lighter than I arrived, both because I’ve lost a lot of weight with the horrible food, and because the crew have bagsied my wet weather gear. One chap said to me the other day “I wanna buy your willies.” As you can imagine I was somewhat taken back, but he clarified his intention by pointing a missing digit towards my welly boots. I was  so relieved that I said he could have them for free once we reach land. Another one of the crew wants my oilskin trousers and coat, and another wanted my Guinness hat – but I drew the line there as it’s my favourite hat and I bought it from St James’s Gate itself.

Since my new outlook on the trip things have been better, I’ve been a lot more cheery over the last couple of days even though I have no particular reason. Indeed I’m cheerful despite the fact that Mum and Dad had a mini Christmas tonight with everyone there as Vik and Tim are going away for Christmas, despite the fact that I couldn’t phone home tonight because Reykjavik weren’t listening, despite the fact that I can’t send the letters I was up all night writing and despite of the fact that we still haven’t serviced with the Santa Christina and I haven’t got my parcels. Oh, and despite the fact that my fax to Dave to put my name down for a diving trip to the Red Sea wouldn’t send!!!

I spent all evening gabbing with Miguel on the bridge. We had a good haul so he decided to steam two hours north to check out one of his favourite marks while the crew were busy processing. His mark turned out to be very close to the 200 mile limit of Canadian waters, so I decided to stick around to see exactly what was going on. As we approached the position the Chief Engineer joined us on the bridge to study the echo-sounder for the tell-tale shadows of fish. Lo and behold the bottom was thick with fish. The Chief Engineer looked at me shiftily.

“These are plaice.” he said.

I immediately knew this was not true. I might be green to commercial fishing, but I do have a Zoology degree, and I know that plaice are benthic and don’t have swim bladders meaning that they would have been on or very close to the seabed. These echoes were near the seabed and extending up into the water column 10-20 metres, and the echoes were strong enough to signify to my untrained eye that these fish had swim bladders. Had he of said redfish, I might have believed him.

I found this on the internet. It’s a more modern sounder than we had on the Santa Maria, but shows what fish looks like on the seabed. The seabed is the red line, the red ‘cloud’ above it is fish, and the faint green line above that could be plankton.

I’ve also spent many hours on dive boats ‘trawling’ for shipwrecks with the echo-sounder, watching for the hard bounce of a ship’s boiler or superstructure sticking up proud of the seabed. Wrecks always have a lot of fish around them, and so I also have a good idea of what different fish look like on a echosounder. My bet was that this mark was cod – lots and lots of cod.

“Looks like cod to me.” I said breezily, with more confidence than I felt.

The Chief and Captain exchanged surprised glances which confirmed my suspicions. I can’t stop them targeting cod, but I thought it’s best to be straight and not play silly games. If they choose to fish for it that’s up to them, but no point in us all beating around the bush. There is a small part of me that hopes they do – and I feel bad for even letting it cross my mind that the sooner they fill up with fish, the sooner I get to go home – what a terrible and selfish thing to think.

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