On the second day of his marathon battle with the big fish, the old man realizes that he must provide sustenance for his body if he is to continue the fight. He eats half of a fillet of a dolphin he has caught, and a flying fish, "gutted and with its head cut off". He reflects, "What an excellent fish dolphin is to eat cooked...and what a miserable fish raw". Ruefully imagining how much better his meal would taste with just a little seasoning, he declares, "I will never go in a boat again without salt or limes".
Santiago realizes that, even on this trip out, he might have made his own salt by splashing water on the bow all day and letting it dry; the seawater would have evaporated, leaving the salt behind for him to use. Unfortunately, due to a lack of foresight and preparation, he had neglected to do this. Still, he is thankful that he had had the dolphin and the flying fish to eat, had been able to chew it all well, and had not become nauseated.
Santiago had had reason to regret not having brought salt and limes into the boat a day earlier as well. The great fish had cut his hand with "one quick pull" on the line, and the old man could have used the salt to keep his hand from being infected. Also, on that first day, Santiago had eaten raw bonito to give himself strength and to keep his hand from cramping. Although the bonito was "not unpleasant", it would have been much tastier "with a little lime or with lemon or with salt".