For Blind Cruisers, Catching the Fish Was the Easy Part

After reeling in a skipjack tuna, legally blind circumnavigators Pam and Scott Duncan tried to avoid smearing fish guts throughout their boat. "Cruising Post" from our March 27, 2007, CW Reckonings.

March 27, 2007


Proudly displaying his first catch, blind circumnavigator Scott Duncan wonders, “Now what?” Pam Duncan

Like so many liveaboards, Scott and Pam Duncan left their home port and never looked back. Of course, for these legally blind 40-somethings, looking back was never an option. They set sail from San Francisco in the fall of 2004 and within a year became the first legally blind people to cross the Pacific Ocean. Their circumnavigation attempt has lead them to Mexico, French Polynesia, and now, New Zealand, and through it all the Duncans have exhibited amazing self-sufficiency. They sail without the assistance of a sighted crew, and only rely on pilot boats when approaching unfamiliar ports. For all their capability, however, the Duncans still confront daily challenges, such as what to do when you’ve finally caught a fish.

Pam describes the messy episode:

“During the past year one of the frequently asked questions was, do you fish? We have only been able to answer we are absolutely terrible at fishing. At the conclusion of our first year of sailing the score was fish 13, Tournesol 0. Well, on her second sailing day, [our new boat] Starship is in the running. Once we were underway, Scott put the line out [and]…in about fifteen minutes and there was a strike.


“Scott was so excited and of course he was sure it was a big one. Ok, now what? I ran down below, got some gin, a bucket, and his fish knife. All of my visions of the cleaning chaos came crashing to mind. The fish weighed about five pounds and fortunately didn’t put up a big fight. Scott got it in the bucket, gave it a drink of gin in its gills, and…started the bleeding process. I was torn between being excited we finally caught a fish and panicked that blood and fish parts were going to be from one end of the boat to the other.

“Once the fish was subdued (that sounds better) Scott called Aspect of Arran to report his catch. Jeff was congratulatory, but admitted he was not going to throw a line in today. At the conclusion of their conversation Aaron from Mawingo gave Scott a call and announced they were jumping up and down on Mawingo. Aaron’s enthusiasm came through the radio loud and clear. He then wanted a description of the fish, because of course Scott and I had no idea what it was. It had long, thin fins, and according to Aaron, it was a skipjack, a member of the tuna family.

“Next Scott needed a piece of rope to tie through the fish’s mouth so he could be put over the side to finish bleeding. Sitting in the cockpit doorway he threaded the rope and tied the fish to the boat so it was hanging over the side. Five minutes later Scott went to retrieve his catch only to find we had provided lunch to a hungry predator (probably a shark). There was nothing left at the end of the rope but the head and some innards. We both just stared at it and each other. Honestly, we were both a little relieved. We do still need to work out some of the fishy details.”


To visit the Duncan’s website, click here.


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