I had never thought I could love a fish as much as I did the Tweedles. For those readers new to the blog or who don’t remember who Our Good Friends The Tweedles were, then imagine, if you will a rather comical-looking fish, earnest and affable, loyal and lovely and painted with black and white vertical stripes from fishy nose to fishy tail. Pilot fish, if you will. Having left the fishy escort to the Blues and Yellows when we made ground to the North, I missed the Tweedles for a long while. The Blues and Yellows seemed to get swapped, rather seamlessly, for some buff grey perch-like fish with black edges to their tails, almost without our notice until I realised that the latter really were not at all Blue or Yellow. Still, the name passed on across the species.
Team Happy Socks (Fish Division)
And then, one day a couple of weeks ago, amid the flat white of a misty day out here I noticed a stunning flash of yellow beneath the boat. One flash multiplied and now we have collected (or they have collected us) a striking group of 100 or more Yellowtails. Blue-sided and painted with a yellow stripe from nose to tail, as if denoting an ever-pondered half-full half-empty question, they sport a fantastic yellow tail and fins, which led me to their name. I wonder if they might be a school of young tuna as their shape resembles that of the scombroid family, if my memory of the jaunt through the fishy world as part of my first year stroll through the animal kingdom for my biology degree serves me correctly. I wish I had a Fish ID book out here…
I spend hours watching my fish, while rowing and not, and wish I was brave enough to get in the water and meet them on their terms. For now, I just gaze over the edge, often plunging my Go Pro camera on the boathook down to follow them. They school towards it and follow, as if wanting to see their own reflection. When I pull the sea-anchor up they spiral around it in a fishy tower of blues, yellows and grey, joined by and outnumbering the Blue and Yellows, flashing silver if one of them banks onto their side – either for a different view of life or perhaps for fishcrobatics – who knows. In conditions where I set the rudder to a certain angle when I rest, it is always comforting to see them glide back towards us en mass when we take up the oars again, spreading themselves around the boat on all sides and fore and aft, as though in some major procession.
It has been interesting to see their behaviour around other predators too. When the shark visited, the fish were all sure to stay on the opposite side of the boat and with a dorado the other day, I watched as some of the group led the others off to follow said creature, while the rest just carried on tootling with us. Dolphins are clearly a bigger concern – perhaps because the troupes we have seen over the last few days have been 20 + in number, boisterous, inquisitive and fast-moving. I stood brushing my teeth in the dark last night and heard the puffing, porpoising of a travelling pod – as they approached, all the Yellowtails who weren’t already cruising along beside us exploded back to the boat in a dart of fireworks, bioluminescence trailing behind them and sparkling for a few moments afterwards. It was stunning.
My only regret is that they can’t return the favour of slipstreaming or somehow help us physically eastwards in slow, or contrary, conditions. For now, I shall just be thankful for their companionship, lessons and colour and hope that they stay with us a long while yet. There’s nothing quite like your own personal fishy escort, miles out to sea.
Miles, Mylene & the century
In other news, after a week of slow but steady progress slogging through contrary currents we are now on the first day of a bout of easterly winds, with no west in any forecast until August 2nd. I.e. we are going backwards. I tried rowing for south this morning but to no avail – we are on the anchor and I am trying not to pay too much attention to the miles being pinched.
Next Sunday will be Day 100, our first century at sea this year. Meanwhile, my friend Mylene Paquette is three weeks into her North Atlantic row from Canada to France. We speak weekly, ocean to ocean, so it would be great if some of you say hello via mylenepaquette.com/ @mylenepaquette on Twitter.
Sarah, Happy Socks and all my fishy pals x
Replies to comments:
Edda: No barracuda beneath our boat, no. Will be ID’ing them on land once I am home with access to books etc.
Susie Hewson: Rhubarb crumble…..yum and yum. Send it my way!!
Louise and Ray: Sausasages and mash…. Delicious.
Susan Scott-Ker: Plain custard I can do much more happily than this fruited stuff – it’s just not the same. If it gets desperate I shall sieve out the fruits and replace with Mars! I like your idea of peach crumble. Will call soon!
Roz Savage: Your ‘Ahem?!’ made me chuckle too! Hope all well across the ponds.