Double Takedown as the Whales Surface

Well, I’ve spent the last week trying to figure out how on earth I was ever going to write a blog post that could follow the words Jenna shared with all of you last week. I am feeling much better, our boat life is back to normal, and Max and Becca have safely returned to their lives in the U.S. I don’t think (and certainly hope) that anything I write or do can ever match the passion and excitement and terror she captured on these pages last week. I will do my best to be much more boring from now on.

But today was kind of cool.


We had our third double takedown of our journey this afternoon. If you recall, a double takedown is when you land two fish at the same time. That’s a photo of me this afternoon with my new yellowfin tuna tattoo on my right arm, my new yellowfin tuna in my right hand, and a bluejack tuna in my left. And this time we caught them with a twist.

Our day started in Moorea at 5:00 AM with the goal of making the 80 mile passage to Huahine, the closest of the Leeward islands in the Society Archipelago. Given last week’s excitement, we wanted to do the passage in daylight so it made sense for us to get an early start.

The weather forecast called for 20 knot winds and 2-3 meter seas, and that’s exactly what we got when we left Cook’s Bay. Fortunately it was all directly behind us, but unfortunately the wind and waves were too squirrelly for us to sail at the speed we needed in order to make Huahine by nightfall. Since we had completely full fuel tanks, we decided to motor, and motoring means trolling with the 2 meat lines along with the tuna pole.

Now other than a 1 pound bonito that Becca caught and whacked last week, we hadn’t caught a fish trolling on Sophie in over a month. I was beginning to experience some serious feelings of (fishing) inadequacy, and they didn’t go away during our first 7 hours of trolling today. We saw tons of birds on the water, and flying fish were a constant companion. But nothing went after our lines.

Please don’t misunderstand me, though, we were having a lovely passage. The seas were a little rough but we are all used to that by now. The kids were downstairs watching movies and weren’t getting sick. At one point they even had a dance party. Jenna and I were up top in the sun reading. There wasn’t much chatter on the radio, and we only saw one other boat. We were making good time. Sophie was working well and seemed to be happy.

Then around 2:00 PM it all changed when a fish hit the lure on the tuna pole. I had just re-lubed the reel yesterday, and it made a nice loud “WIZZZZZZZZZZZ” noise as the fish ran with the lure. I ran down to grab the pole while yelling for Jenna to stop the boat. I could tell it was a smallish tuna, and as I pulled the pole from the rod holder I saw that a yellowfin tuna had grabbed the lure on the port meat line. Two hits at once! Opportunity for a double takedown! I yelled for Jenna to see if she could pull in that meatline fish while I dealt with the fish on the pole.

And then I saw the whale.  It looked like a big yellowish orca less than 100 feet from the port side of the boat. “Jenna, forget the meatline. Get your camera. THERE’S A WHALE!!!!”

So she ran off to do that, and I had two fish to land. Leo ran out to the aft cockpit, put on his lifejacket, and assumed the invaluable role of wingman. Fortunately, the fish on the pole was a small bluejack — in the 5 pound category — and could be reeled up to the boat pretty easily. I didn’t even bother netting him and simply yanked him out of the water onto the deck. Leo handed me the bat and I whacked him, getting blood all over my brand new white shirt. (Becca, you left 2 days too early). This fish was still flopping all over the deck, so I threw him into the net and asked Leo to hold him down.

Meanwhile, while all of this is taking place, we are getting a color commentary from Jenna: “Jamie, there are two …. no three whales, and they are really close to the boat … they are bigger than dolphins…. they are not sharks because they are breathing from blow holes …. there is one 40 feet right behind the boat RIGHT NOW”.

But I had another fish to catch so I really couldn’t look up. And I was a little scared that the whale would try to eat my tuna. So while Leo was holding down the bluejack, I grabbed the gaff and went to the port meat line. I started pulling it in with my hands but then the line got wrapped around my fingers just as the fish went on a run. Not good. So I let go of the line to put on a pair of gloves. I thought I had lost the fish but after a few pulls it was clear he was still on the line. I got him to the boat, saw that he was a small yellowfin, and figured I wouldn’t bother with the gaff and simply pulled him up onto the deck. It worked. Whack. Two fish in the box. Dry spell over. 5 meals in the freezer plus dinner tonight. All while these exotic Tahitian whales were hanging out right next to us.

How cool is all of that?

We have to look up what kind of whales they were because we don’t know. Jenna needs to see if she captured any with her camera. Dan Rogers: my Reverse Albright held beautifully with no snags as I reeled the leader in.

Most importantly, as you can all hopefully tell from today’s narrative, I am feeling great! I seem to have recovered from last week’s unpleasantness. I am on some special meds for the next month, and they have no apparent side effects so far. I will even renew my quest to do 100 pushups tomorrow after a week’s hiatus.

So a double takedown with whales surfacing all around us means back to boring. Thank you, all of you, for your prayers and warm thoughts last week. It meant a lot to me and to my family. I will do my best to make sure nothing lie that ever happens again.

On with the trip.

8 thoughts on “Double Takedown as the Whales Surface

  1. What a fabulous story! Great to see all is going great. Thanks for sharing. I enjoy reading about your experiences! It feels like a long action-movie.

  2. Dear Jenna and Jamie,

    Thank you so much for sharing your journey with us. We love hearing every detail of your amazing trip, reading your blog as soon as it appears in our mailbox. Naturally we were alarmed with “Jamie’s event” last week, how frightening that must have been for you all, but how fortunate that Max and Becca were on board. We are really impressed with Jenna’s sailing skills to say nothing of her quick thinking during a medical emergency.
    Sending lots of love and prayers to you all.
    Can hardly wait for more pictures.
    Carl and Carol Miller

  3. Dear Jamie and Jenna – Awesome! And so glad, Jamie, that you’re feeling well! All the best, Daphne

  4. Instead of whacking the tuna, you could pour a tot of cheap vodka into his gills 🙂 Much less bloody! (I am a friend of your neighbors the Chapins) We enjoy following your travels and so wish we could have done so with our kids. 🙂

  5. Hi Jenna and James! I had the privilege of joining you on Sophie for a few of the Seattle Downtown Sailing Series Thursday nights the summer before last (with Mike K). So great to meet you both then. I was wondering if you ever made it on your RTW adventure, so I was SO excited for you when I found your blog!! So fun to find this and get caught up on your journey – sounds like the experience of a lifetime. Thank you for sharing your adventure – and for being the kind of people to have this kind of dream to begin with. You’re awesome! 🙂 Wishing you safe and happy travels.

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