While we were on our delivery from Charleston, SC to Antigua we had a couple days of winds that varied from very light, to none. Since this is a time for money project, rather than wait for wind, we motored along to keep the boat moving along.
We are several hundred miles off the coast, well out past the eastern edge of the Gulf Stream, in water nearly 2 miles deep, in the Saragasso Sea. It was my watch in the late morning and we are motoring along to the Southeast on a mirrow-calm sea, into the sun. Suddenly, off the port side of the boat, this strange thing slides on by a few yards away:
About 8 feet across, there is a separate small white buoy attached, and several meters of heavy chain hanging down from it. Rather disconcerting to come across and not see in the sun glare until we were practically past it. Running over it with the engine running could have been more than a bit of a problem. But, no harm done–this time.
When ever there is something like this floating on the ocean it attracts life. Lots of life.
Never let an opportunity like this pass by. The thing was the center of a huge collection of fish as far down as we could see, and then further than that. We can see gray triggerfish, almaco jacks, mahi-mahi. Even a few small sharks. Deeper down there are wahoo, and probably tuna.
We stopped and got out the one fishing rod we had, and the small collection of jigs I brought along for just such an eventuality. I tried to target the mahi-mahi I could see swarming around, but the jacks were far more aggressive in attacking the lures, so I can’t connect with the better eating fish. As much fun as they are to catch, we are not fans of jacks on the table, so a change in strategy is called for.
I drop my jib down deeper, 100 to 150 feet down. As soon as I start to retrieve it, WHAM!… Pop! A large wahoo swallows the jig, and slices it off my line with his razor shape teeth. Grumble… Tie on anther jig, and down deep I get bit, again right away. This time I manage to get the small wahoo up to the side of the boat before his teeth cut through the 300 lb test kevlar cord connecting the hook to the lure.
If we were on Harmonie I’d have the supplies I’d need to put a wire trace on the lures, reducing the chances for bite-offs, but here I don’t have what I need. Rather than throw everything I have down this rabbit hole populated by sharp-toothed critters, we decide to more on.
But wait!! What was this thing???
It certainly was functioning as a Fish Attracting Device (FAD). Yes, that is what they are called. It wasn’t immediately obvious exactly what it started life as, or where it came from. Was it hurricane debris? Discarded trash? Some odd kind of mooring buoy?
Turns out, it was born as a FAD. This style of floating fish attractor is used off the west coast of Africa. The small white buoy tied to it is a radio beacon so it can be found by the fisherman who set it out. Once the batteries in the beacon run down, the contraption is lost to its original owner, and it drifts off across the ocean, complete with its collection of fish.
Apparently, they regularly wash up on the coast of Florida.
Hopefully, the next time we come across a FAD like this we’ll be on our own boat with the fishing and photo gear in hand to have more fun with it!