Calm seas all night, nil wind meant motoring and low speeds: what a contrast to the last leg. Morning found Gratis surrounded by ships in the busiest shipping route encountered to date.
Fishing boats were doing their thing just south of us, whilst a myriad of birds soared across skies and waves.
Bob made the decision to attempt fishing once more and out rolled the line. Mid-morning the whirring of the line had us heading out in excitement at the thought of a fresh succulent morsel adorning our platters that night. What horror washed across our faces as we discovered not a fish, but a large black and white sea bird attached instead. Cutters, knife, net and sheet at the ready, the reeling in process commenced. Rock, roll, flip, flap, somersault – puff, puff from Bob – through the swells he slowly came. Thankfully showing no signs of tiring, with each dunking up he bobbed, appearing to rest upon the lure.
What a size that fella was! With a wingspan easily one metre plus in width and an evil looking beak to boot – easily the length of my hand.
To Bob’s relief, it wasn’t long before the bird was brought alongside Gratis. Although not large enough, the net did assist by enabling him to rest upon it, whilst Bob lifted him to an area where greater leverage was possible.
For a moment in time, he dangled in mid – air, attached only by wing and foot. Cooperation – what was that? Flapping and squawking, he was no assistance to Bob, who at that time was attempting to haul him over the rail and on board.
What felt like hours later, but in reality was minutes, between the lifeline he came. What a beauty that bird was, pristine white belly, black wings, alert bright, black beady eyes and a beak that could cause a bit of damage.
Sheet encapsulating him, our ‘captive’ lay peacefully until he felt the first of the cutters upon one of the hooks. Squawking, he flipped and flapped: even with the sheet aiding us, one still experienced the incredible strength and power of this bird.
Vibrant red blood drizzled along his foot, soon encasing our arms as we worked at disengaging the grasp that lure had upon him: fragment by fragment each segment of hook was cut and free.
Operation completed, over the side went the bird and how clumsily he fell! A somersault performed, upon up righting himself the gull realised he was unencumbered once more and rapidly found his bearing. With a squawk, wings a flapping, across the water’s surface he raced in what he believed was a bid for escape.
Some distance away, a short break for a battery recharge was the name of the game, then with a slight jump and thrust of the wings he rose gracefully into the ether.
What surprised us most was the strength and power of this beauty. Reeled in against the pressure of the water, he still had plenty of fight in reserve.
Another surprise this afternoon: Bob espied a lone seal lazily surfing the swells. Every so often, as if taking a peek in curiosity, up popped his head: a twist here, a turn there, all well and below he submerged once more.
Meanwhile, in the wind Department it was a matter of, “what’s that?”
Time for a snap shot.