The Boatist

Sailboat Ownership, Translation Work and Tales of Minor Adventure

Retire early, be passionate, don't worry, die poor

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Me and My Seagull

"When the seagulls follow the trawler, it is because they think sardines will be thrown into the sea." ~ Author: Eric Cantona

This year I splurged on a 50-euro fishing licence. My largest catch so far was a seagull.
Catching seagulls
It's looking at the lure as if to say, "how did I get fooled by this plastic piece of trash?"
I finally hooked a fish in the Algarve (a type of mackerel), which I ate the next day. My plan to live on fish and sprouts fell through for two very simple reasons: I haven't learned how to fish properly and sprouting takes time. Everything boils down to free time.

Catching mackerel
The 50-euro fish.
Anyway, I caught this mackerel while motorsailing from Culatra to Alvor trailing a lure from a cheap fishing rod. Where there's one fish there's got to be more, so I plunked the lure back in the water, let out plenty of line, and caught a seagull.

It began circling about 60 m behind the boat and, sure enough, it swooped down and hit the water wings wide open. Suddenly I had a seagull on the lure. I was convinced the lure was at least a couple of meters deep like it's suppose to be, and not on the surface. 

Another punch in the gut feeling. Shit, now I'd have to get it on the boat and kill it. What choice did I have? I'd never be able to extract those nasty hooks from its throat without torturing and mutilating it beyond repair. Then I'd surely shoot myself with a hand flare out of remorse. Looking at the panic in its eyes as I reeled it in closer almost made me sick.

I put the engine in neutral, which slowed the boat to 2.5 knots in the light breeze and slowly reeled it in. The poor bird was literally walking on the water, flapping its wings, being pulled by its head held high out of the water. 

But after I had it alongside and raised it onto the deck, it stood on its feet, shook its head and the lure fell to the deck. The hook had merely caught the inner tip of its beak and had been held in place solely by the pressure of the taut line. 

It stood there for a minute or two looking bewildered and then flew away as gracefully as any other gull. As for me, I swore never to fish again. 

But after some experimenting I learned that the lure has to be closer to the boat for its nose paddle to bite and dive. Either that or you need to put a lead on the line. So maybe I will fish again.

I gutted the mackerel and, lacking a fridge, stored it in the cool bilge. The next day in Alvor I cooked a delicious caldeirada and made a toast to the unharmed seagull and wondered whether it would overcome the trauma and ever go fishing again or take to eating discarded fish and garbage like most seagulls do.

How did I feel about the fish, you may ask? A bit sorry at first, but it's not very different from buying a dead fish.


  1. Great story, poor dumbass bird, happy ending!
    Everyone asks me if I fish and the answer is always no. Went solo sailing, it;s just an extra thing to deal with. Then you have to deal with a caught fish, or worse.... the emptiness not catching anything. But then again, I haven't even got a line and lure!
    Ah, the leisure....

    1. I always put off fishing because I thought gutting fish aboard would make a stinky mess. But not really, and you can throw the waste back into the ocean where it will be eaten by other fish.
      So maybe I'll sell Jakatar and buy a fishing boat...when I'm 75!!!

  2. A caldeirada with a single mackerel? That's a simple one LOL.
    Nice blog!

    1. Paulo,
      It was a minimalist caldeirada...besides, I'm trying to lose a few kilos for climbing the mast!!

  3. Fun stories about someone rediscovering his hunter gatherer instincts. Im not a big fan of trolling a lure while under sea, the only kind of fish going for it (besides the occasional seagull) are predatory fish, because they are fast enough to catch the lure. Lots of work to get them inside with the boat under sail. If you really insist in trolling, invest some money in a small paravane, this will actively pull your lure under water and raise the lure and the line when some fish invited himself for your caldeirada. p.s. I'm in town right now and will check out once in a while if you're on board.

    1. Hello, I was at the marina today to check if all this wind had blown the boat away. The boats on the outside were rocking like rodeo bulls, but everything was OK. I'll probably be there Wednesday afternoon or Thursday (which is supposed to be my boat day). If you see my jeep, I'll be there.
      Are you saying that your boat is so fast that only speedy fish can bite the lure? Did you buy a new sailboat? :-).