The Tuna Hunter Ch.7 "Enter the Little Guys"

Posted on December 27, 2008


The rotor blades slapped hard as the helicopter banked, and he studied the Breezer with a critical eye. They were down there all right. He could see their shapes flitting about just underneath the surface. A hundred tons’ worth at least. He pressed the transmit button to alert the mother ship, passed on range and bearing, received an acknowledging grunt, and went back to studying the breezer.
A whale arrived. Usually a good sign. It meant there was a good chance of anchovy about. These little fish formed almost the staple diet of tuna and whales. When threatened, they had this touching habit of bunching together in a big brown gravy colored ball, clearly visible from the air. ‘Safety in numbers’ had been variously explained by different zoologists. It was widely thought that the anchovy logic went along the lines of thinking that with so many thousands of them bunched together, the individual’s chance of becoming somebody’s snack was exceedingly remote. A helicopter pilot could see the anchovy ball form quickly when a threat materialized. This would draw his attention, and he would look for larger shapes underneath.
Bob eyed the whale carefully. It was barely moving. A big lad, a Humpback, some twenty meters long; he could see it clearly, ten feet below the surface. Its dark color stood out clearly against the bright blue-green sun saturated water. Suddenly, it vented through the breathing blow-hole on top, and started to slide smoothly forward. Circling 600 feet overhead, Bob saw two more whales quietly approaching. Were the whales playing a joint strategy, and communicating the moves to each other? There had to be anchovy about. Then the first eruption took place, and white water foamed suddenly as maybe a hundred tuna surfaced simultaneously, having rocketed vertically up through the shoal of anchovy, gorging themselves on the way. Then they would dive back down for more, instantly transforming the smooth surface of the sea into a boiling white cauldron. The life and death struggle attracted the first whale, who approached at whale warp speed, rolled lazily on his side, and then punched right through the tuna to get to the anchovy. Bob watched in fascination as the huge maul opened slowly, filled, and closed, all in one smooth rolling movement. Then the whale rolled back right side up, and circled around for a repeat. They often did that, Bob had noticed. The strange way they rolled onto their sides before striking, giving a helicopter pilot the view of a huge scissors closing over the anchovy. The tuna never seemed to take much notice of a whale, and it always ended up as a straightforward mutual fishing contest with the loser going hungry.

He radioed the mother ship again, confirming anchovy, but was informed that the ship had just made a set. They were busy trying to let the nets down around a school that had popped up conveniently beside the vessel, and this information at a stroke rendered Bob’s
discovery, thirty-one miles away, far less relevant. The ship would be tied up for two hours at least, and with a two and half hour transit time, that added up to a time interval too long for further interest. Bob grinned, not in the slightest bit upset, acknowledged the order to return to ship, and gazed down amusedly at the tuna romping about below. He knew this school was safe for another day, and might not even be sighted by anybody for many weeks more. He could loiter for five minutes, enjoy the view, and then skedaddle back home.
Another whale joined the fray – had his friends called him? – and celebrated by punching straight into a small brown ball of anchovy. The little guys disappeared in a whoosh of foam, and then a gang of tuna moved in as well. Bob grinned sympathetically to himself, reflecting on how tough it was to be a small fish in a big sea.
…a small fish in a big, wild,hungry sea…

It was the way he had felt sometimes, in the past, trying to run a business, trying to get ahead, and feeling the predators closing in. The predators… they didn’t dive out of the water, or
blow off through small blow holes, or swallow anchovy by the shovel full, but… they were hungry nonetheless, and infinitely more insatiable than any denizen of these beautiful blue-green seas. The human predators Bob had known did not eat merely to survive.
They had plenty, but devoured voraciously everything they could grasp, not as a means to live, but for the pleasure of denying others that same right.
He sighed, and reluctantly turned away. No matter how many times he watched the spectacle of the seas, he never tired of it. It made him feel part of it, a bird, orbiting, watching, waiting. He added some power by raising the collective lever slightly, accelerated to 65 knots, and settled down for the thirty-one mile return journey. With the doors off, the wind buffeted the perspex bubble, and a cool draft helped keep him comfortable despite the equatorial heat.
It was funny the way, with the doors off, rattling along in the little three seater Bell, he enjoyed more of a sensation of speed than he had done in much faster, enclosed, aircraft he had flown. He liked this flying… except perhaps the seat. Even with a small cushion, there was little comfort, and now, after a five hour flying day, all there was left to do was suffer his increasingly numb posterior, and chop-chop his way back to tea…

It was a nice change when he spotted the white sail. It broke the routine. The occasional pleasure yacht was always interesting to investigate. A low pass usually brought everybody up on deck, and more often than not some delightful suntanned females in swimsuits would wave enthusiastically. It would make him feel good. The daring bird man, at your service, and he would wave cheerfully back. Occasionally, if it was close to port, he would get a call on the marine radio inviting him on board. That was always good for a pleasant evening, good food and wine, and stimulating company. Unlike one or two other pilots though, he never made a pass at one of the beauties. If somebody started to express an interest in him, his natural shyness would take over. He had a reserve born of two unhappy relationships, and whether the motivation was insecurity and self protection, or just plain upbringing, he always drew back and politely excused himself if the party got too rowdy…
He drew closer to the white sail, in a dive now, accelerating to the never exceed speed on a float equipped Bell 47. The airspeed indicator hovered just under 90 nautical miles per hour, and he closed the distance rapidly, losing height quickly. He could see the yacht quite well now, and she looked a beauty. Her sleek hull blazed white in the sun, the sails were tall and elegant, and it was easy to see that she was built for speed. He could see four or five people on deck. He realised he was coming out of the sun, and with a stiff breeze blowing, it was likely that they had neither seen nor heard him yet. He drew very close now, aiming to pass down her port side, at a height of fifty feet and one hundred feet distance. Seated on the left, he would get the best view. Then he could pull up into a climb, bank steeply, and pass down her starboard side coming back the other way. He would travel slower that time, and wave. Perhaps they would call him on channel 16. He punched the numbers one and six into his Ross radio, and pressed the ‘Enter’ key, as always quietly resenting the loud, high pitched painful whistle that some deaf designer had deemed necessary to advise the pilot the electronics were functioning.
He watched the figures on the deck, still unaware of his rapid approach. Now he could see heads beginning to turn, registering something unusual, searching. They seemed to be all men. He sighed to himself. Pity…
With a beating roar he swept alongside, grinning with boyish misschief. He could see clearly now, and his initial impression of an outstandingly fine ship was reinforced. Everything was gleaming, and the sun played off the many polished brass fittings. Some builder had taken a professional pride in his creation, and the craftsmanship stood out a mile. Even at a rapid ninety miles-per-hour, a cursory glance was enough to stir the admiration. He transferred his scrutiny to the three people on deck, and it turned out to be two men and a girl, all sitting with their legs dangling gaily over the side. The girl was holding hands with a bare chested young man.
He noticed their heads swinging around, and the alarmed expressions.
Wait… who’s that behind the helm…?
His eyes had spotted a girl, almost hidden in the aft wheel well. She was wearing a white T- shirt and shorts, and stared up at the helicopter. He could see her white upturned face turn to follow the helicopter.
No bikini… but she looks nice…
Well past the ship now, he pulled up into a steep turning climb, allowing the blades to slap the air hard, making that distinctive and somewhat anti-social helicopter ‘here I come’ noise. Returning along the starboard side of the ship, in the opposite direction, he was traveling much slower now. This traditionally was where he would stabilize in steady level flight, and then cautiously remove his left hand from the collective lever. Then he would wave cheerfully, and smile his typical mischievous grin. The response invariably consisted of much enthusiastic return greetings. He had not yet encountered a rejection, although he knew if he sensed disapproval or annoyance, he would beat a hasty retreat. Once again he found himself admiring the ship, noticing the name emblazoned on the stern. He noticed that the three figures on deck were now all waving. The girl was laughing, and jumping up and down.
Helloooo there… you happy lot…
He transferred his interest to the pretty thing behind the helm. She was nice. Very nice. A blackhead, with a good figure. Even on his moderately swift pass, he could see her ample breasts, and her figure hugging white shorts. She waved cheerfully, and his heart missed a beat.
Come on, love, blow us a kiss…
Wolf whistling loudly to himself, he swept up into the sky, simultaneously grabbing the microphone of the Marine VHF.
Two guys and two girls… on a boat like that… talk about a party… nice boat … "Lady Annabelle"… good name…
To his delight, a woman’s voice answered him immediately, and when he asked her if she was the lovely thing doing the driving, the laugh that tripped back easily made him grin like a devil.
What a cookie…
She told him she was, and they proceeded to chat until he was almost out of range. He learned that they were on a pleasure trip, that she was the captain, and the three figures he had seen on the front were her boss and his two friends, a couple from Montana. His heart had skipped
another beat at that – it had sounded as if she was unencumbered. She also told him they were heading for Wewak harbor, in Papua New Guinea. He had replied enthusiastically that his ship would be heading there the moment they had caught another hundred tons. Perhaps…
they might even meet up there. The warmth in her voice had been unmistakable…
"That would be nice… perhaps I could con you into a ride in that noisy contraption of yours…"
He had laughed, reminding her that his noisy contraption was a lot faster than her floating palace. To which the repartee had come instantly, to the effect that she would like to see him cooking sausages in his overgrown bubble. He had replied that she had won there,
and could he come and sample her sausages if they met in Wewak? To which there had been more laughter, and a firm agreement that if his boat made it, then his supper was assured on board the "Lady Annabelle".

He had signed off reluctantly, as he had been disappearing over the horizon, and the static crackle had been slowly growing in strength. Replacing the microphone, he yawned suddenly, punched in an electronic request for an updated position of the mother ship, and watched the new position appear on the Ross screen within seconds, accompanied by the usual musical electronic jangle. The GPS quickly responded by updating range and bearing, and he swung onto the new heading, mentally cross checking his fuel state. Then his thoughts turned to the happy picture of a hot steaming cup of coffee, and a chocolate biscuit.
All thoughts of the "Lady Annabelle" paled in comparison, and were unceremoniously colored over by the new and more stimulating imagery…


Last edited by Francis Meyrick on December 27, 2008, 2:49 pm

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2 responses to The Tuna Hunter Ch.7 "Enter the Little Guys"

  1. Great stories Francis! I’m about to start a 12 month contract with Tropics any day now and your stories aren’t making the wait any easier! Somehow I think I’ll be out there alot longer than 12 months though, sounds like it will be such an amazing adventure. Keep them coming! Mark from New Zealand.

  2. Thanks!

    I’ll try…

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