The Stowaway

No one ever thinks it can happen to them.  You take off for a long passage—a three week one to be exact—and one day in, a hundred miles offshore and in thousands of feet of water, you find out you have a stowaway onboard.  Shocking since this stowaway has been living in your engine filter—and is still alive.  Our stowaway was a small, Galapagoan-Ecuadorian, goby or blenny fish.  Dan discovered him on Day 2.  He must have got sucked up in the intake when we were leaving Ecuador.  What to do?  If we put a little reef-living guy like that in the deep ocean, it was the kiss of death for him.  We had heard that sailing kids often like to keep a fish for a day or two while in port and then release it prior to departure.  Well, luckily, I had bought a little mini Beta fish aquarium in St. Lucia for the kids and it came with a small packet of Beta food.  Surprised that our stowaway was still alive, we quickly got out the tank, scooped up some ocean water and prepared his new home.  When Dan tried to catch him in a cup, he swam back up into the engine outtake.  A turn on of the engine forced him back out and we were able to capture him unharmed.  Our little guy (“Lucky”) has been living with us since, eating Beta food, one miniscule litter critter we inadvertently scooped up when we changed his water underway (we did that about every two days), and most recently, a bit of dried cat food.  (Try finding fish food in these islands!  Ha!)   We will have had Lucky about six weeks when we release him in Fakarava (Tuamotus) when we arrive there in about five days.

Ecologically, we were a bit concerned about putting a Galapagos fish in waters over 3,600 miles away.  What if he were unique to the Galapagos?  Well, we reasoned that if Lucky were female, she would have laid eggs by now if she had some.  So, Lucky may have to make “new friends” who speak Fish French rather than Fish Spanish, but there is no chance of breeding unless these little guys already live here, which wouldn’t be a problem.

Lucky provided morale to our crew on our three week passage.  Whenever we tapped on the top and opened it up to feed him, he would do “the butterfly” as Ariana coined it, swimming back and forth and wiggling his little fins.  As soon as we dropped a pellet of food, he would race to the top to grab it and swim back down to his little fake tree or the miniature-sized Leaning Tower of Pisa that Ryan added to his tank from his own souvenir collection.  It is nice to have a pet on board!

The kids and I really miss having a pet, actually.  We pretty much scope out all stray cats and dogs everywhere we go to pet them and sometimes feed them.  There have been some cute strays!



How we secure Lucky when we’re sailing…