The breeze was steady.
It had backed a little further into the north-east and he knew that meant that it would not fall off.
The old man looked ahead of him but he could see no sails nor could he see the hull nor the smoke of any ship.
There were only the flying fish that went up from his bow sailing away to either side and the yellow patches of Gulf weed.
He could not even see a bird.
He had sailed for two hours, resting in the stern and sometimes chewing a bit of the meat from the marlin, trying to rest and to be strong, when he saw the first of the two sharks.
"Ay," he said aloud.
There is no translation for this word and perhaps it is just a noise such as a man might make, involuntarily, feeling the nail go through his hands and into the wood.
"Galanos," he said aloud.
He had seen the second fin now coming up behind the first and had identified them as shovel-nosed sharks by the brown, triangular fin and the sweeping movements of the tail.
They had the scent and were excited and in the stupidity of their great hunger they were losing and finding the scent in their excitement.
But they were closing all the time.
The old man made the sheet fast and jammed the tiller.
Then he took up the oar with the knife lashed to it.
He lifted it as lightly as he could because his hands rebelled at the pain.
Then he opened and closed them on it lightly to loosen them.
He closed them firmly so they would take the pain now and would not flinch and watched the sharks come.
He could see their wide, flattened, shovel-pointed heads now and their white tipped wide pectoral fins.
They were hateful sharks, bad smelling, scavengers as well as killers, and when they were hungry they would bite at an oar or the rudder of a boat.
It was these sharks that would cut the turtles' legs and flippers off when the turtles were asleep on the surface, and they would hit a man in the water, if they were hungry, even if the man had no smell of fish blood nor of fish slime on him.
"Ay," the old man said. "Galanos. Come on galanos."
But they did not come as the Mako had come.
One turned and went out of sight under the skiff and the old man could feel the skiff shake as he jerked and pulled on the fish.
The other watched the old man with his slitted yellow eyes and then came in fast with his half circle of jaws wide to hit the fish where he had already been bitten.
The line showed clearly on the top of his brown head and back where the brain joined the spinal cord and the old man drove the knife on the oar into the juncture, withdrew it, and drove it in again into the shark's yellow cat-like eyes.
The shark let go of the fish and slid down, swallowing what he had taken as he died.