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Central American
Sea Kayak Expedition 2000

Paddle into the Past with an Eye to the Future!

The thrill of the hunt…

Today, I intend to bring back dinner for four, as we’re sharing the beach with Paul and Sara.  After fifteen minutes, I spear a wrasse.  I put it on my rope stringer and drag it ten feet behind me while looking for more.  I miss a grouper and some yellowtail and after an hour in the water, I start to think that I may have to reduce my standards, go for the slower, easier and, unfortunately, less tasty ones.  Just then a school of large striped mullets swims by.  I choose the largest one, take a big breath, and dive in on the fish.  They scatter in all directions but I get a good shot at the one I was aiming for and I quickly swim over to subdue it.  I add it to my rope stringer and head for shore.  Suddenly a strong pull on the stringer takes me underwater.  Scared and swallowing seawater, I look down and notice that my rope is being pulled into a hole in the rock wall.  My wrasse is still tied to the line higher up, but the bottom two feet with the striped mullet has disappeared into the hole.  I pull strongly to try to break free and regain the surface.  I know that it is most likely a large moray eel.  By pulling hard I hope to sever the rope, but on the first few yanks it doesn’t work.  

I am already out of breath and have swallowed too much seawater.  Throat burning with brine, I’m frantic to reach the surface that lies only a foot above my head.  Before I can break loose, another large moray eel swims right at me.  Frightened, I jerk on the rope, break free and explode through the surface, coughing and hacking.  Already the moray with its razor-sharp teeth is biting the tip of my fins.  I fend it off with my spear, but it keeps coming back at me.  I swim away on my back, trying to keep the eel in sight and at my feet rather than let it get close to any vulnerable part of my body.

My rope and the mullet are gone.  The other eel has swallowed it and cut half of the length off the stringer.  He’s sitting in his cave well fed and satisfied.  This other one is still mad.  The jagged teeth continue to come toward me and I do my best to keep my aggressor at bay by jabbing at it with my spear.  I always thought that moray eels were not aggressive, but this one follows me for nearly a hundred yards as I swim on my back inhaling water through my inverted snorkel.  I am so distressed I even consider spearing it.  It is six feet long and as thick as my leg so I give up on the idea, but I need to move faster.  I rotate onto my stomach and swim away as fast as I can.  After fifty more yards, I turn back and see that I have finally lost my harasser.  Now I understand how pelicans and boobies feel when frigates harass them and steal their food.  Morays are violent opportunists.  

Once the adrenaline rush fades, I’m upset about having lost my fish, but with additional thought and reflection, I realize that I was lucky.  I should be relieved to have escaped unscathed.

Today the morays taught me a lesson.  When we get in the water to feed, we don’t just disrupt the food chain; we can become part of it.

We haven’t even gotten to the sharks yet… get the rest of Dancing With Death, on Amazon!


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