The Great Cooling

05:30 local, 21 July 2019
Lat: 41° 05.7’ N
Lon: 69° 10.5 W
Weather: Dense fog, wind 16kt, SW
Water temperature: 57°F/Air temperature: 52°F
Course: 055M
Speed: 4.5kts
Distance from Delaware Bay Entrance: 301NM
Distance from Halifax Harbor Entrance: 321NM

We spent the day yesterday sailing or motoring downwind. It was hot, and humid. The ocean appeared almost empty. We saw no birds. For most of the day we traveled across a flat ocean bottom 200 feet deep, only rarely marking a fish on sonar. We sailed. We sweated. Did I say it was hot?

As we approached Nantucket, we saw a disturbance on the water surface a good distance away. Spray, foam, splashing. Thinking we were seeing feeding fish, I started to turn the boat that way. It quickly became obvious that what ever it was was coming toward us. Directly toward us. Fast. Soon we could make out the individuals in a school of 100 or more common dolphin. A school of dolphin who obviously wanted to be somewhere very special, as quickly as possible.

Harmonie was directly in their path. For a few seconds we had dolphin in front, behind, and under us. They were on a mission. Without slowing down, they continued as if we weren’t there, and a few minutes later disappeared off to the Southeast, never varying from a straight course to—somewhere.

Shortly after, we came across a large group of birds. More than we had seen the whole trip so far. Mostly just sitting on the water surface. A group of them started to follow us and show an unhealthy interest in one of our trolled lures. Even diving at it. This is unusual, birds are usually smart enough to avoid a artificial lure (not always!). When I brought the lure in to avoid hooking a bird, we discovered the source of the attraction. About a freshly hooked 2 pound mahi-mahi, too small to pull out any drag or even bend the rod.

A few minutes later, we noticed the water temperature gauge had dropped from about 76° to 66°. As the sun set, the water temperature dropped again, down to 60°. Now fish are everywhere on the sonar. It’s a very different ocean than we were in two hours ago!

As that hot, humid air blows northward and encounters the suddenly cold water, it cools quickly. All that humidity can no longer stay as water vapor, so now it is water droplets, I.e., fog. Our visibility is down to about 50 yards. Our foghorn and a close watch on the radar are suddenly very important.

We just crossed the last major shipping lane until we approach Halifax. As intimidating as the large ships are in the near zero visibility, the smaller fishing vessels are more difficult to deal with. Because of their work, their movements are much less predictable, and—sometimes—they are much less professionally run.

The last leg of this voyage is now a straight shot to Halifax, or as straight as wind allows. Hopefully we have weather that will allow us a fishing stop on Georges Bank. Cod, haddock, and pollack seasons are open out here, and if we are incredibly lucky we might tie into an Atlantic halibut.

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