The slices of shark ready for boiling.
The gimballed stove was swinging with the boat's rolling motion.
With the skin and bone removed, I had enough tasty morsels for three full helpings.
Day of the shark...
October 8, 2007 - Day 91 11.0392N,150.2219W
Catching that small variety of shark was a surprise. A dorado, a tuna was fine, but a shark? I wasn't expecting that. When I pulled the shark alongside, it appeared listless, not putting up a fight like the dorados. I had read before that sharks move water through their gills by their forward motion. Could it be that by being on the hook for a long time, it was already weaker?
As I lifted the shark out of the water, it rubbed on the boat's side, arriving on my deck with a dusting of yellow paint, so abrasive was its skin. This tough skin on the shark had no scales, and felt like sandpaper to touch; handling this fish was so much easier... The roughness of the shark's skin reduces the surface drag, helping it move with less effort through the water. Similar principle of fluid mechanics is employed on the pitted golf ball surface to give it the range.
Heavy downpours of rain were passing over me in regular intervals, with favorable winds carrying my boat in the direction that I wanted. I had wanted to slow down my westward pace to better time my entry into the southern hemisphere and rowing would have added more miles. I left the shark on deck, to be cleaned between downpours, and spent my time in the cabin listening to recorded books on my MP3 player.
I have printed books, too. I had lately been reading "The Happy Isles of Oceania" by Paul Theroux, whose writing I have found repulsive and have not gone back to his book for a while after reading it half way. He includes a great deal of detail about the Pacific islands, which provide context and history, yet anytime he writes about people, he comes across as judgemental. With a writing style I would have expected from a tabloid gossip columnist, this know-it-all arrogant individual is an equal opportunity dirt shoveler on all those who happened to cross his path on his travels. Those who touched his life and became a part of his journey, were no more than lab rats to this writer picking their droppings with prejudice, forgetting he is the outsider and a guest, which gets tiring after a while. Paul should stick to describing landscapes.
Fortunately I have other printed books. Before the Oceania book, I was inspired after reading "Three Cups of Tea" by Greg Mortenson, which I could not put down and which may prove worthy of a second read before landing at Australia. I will especially write about the story of Mr. Mortenson, a former climber and the driving force behind the Central Asia Institute, in a later dispatch and I highly recommend his book. If you purchase this book online at www.threecupsoftea.com, seven percent of the funds will go towards a girls' education scholarship fund in Pakistan and Afghanistan. That website also has book reviews, events and ideas.
When I eventually had my break from the rain, I focused on preparing the shark. Its innards were more sophisticated than those of a tuna, and more substantial than those of a dorado. It had five slits for its gills on either side which reached back a quarter of its length. Its tail fin was about 10-12 inches long, colored dark grey as were its topside and dorsal fin. The grey coloring faded on the sides, displaying blue hues before the white underneath began.
I was able to hold the fish very easily by one hand, and sliced it like bread leaving the tough grippy skin on. Once I boiled these pieces, it was very easy to separate the skin and the little bit of bone from the meat. The distinct smell of the shark was different compared to that of the flying fish and the dorado. Boiling reduced that sharp ammonia like smell, but not entirely. I ate the tasty morsels of white meat while another batch boiled. I kept boiling even after I had had my fill, until the entire fish was cooked, skin and bone removed. I then cleaned the pot and tucked away the gimballed stove as it would surely rain again that day.
When it was dinner time, I used my small handheld stove to boil some water for a miso soup mix from a packet. This was the perfect accompaniment in which to dip the shark morsels, both for flavor and for warming them. I had a third cold serving before going to sleep, with some still left for breakfast. However it was a sweltering rain soaked night, making me doubt the safety of eating the last helping which I returned to the sea in the morning. Drying some of that fish had not been an option because of the incessant rain. Needless to say, I do not like wasting any of my catch.