Tuesday, March 17, 2009

March 9, 2009.

It’s been a while since I have written and a lot has happened. When I wrote last we were anchored in the lee of Flamingo Cay. The wind had been steady from the east-northeast in the 20 to 28 knot range so we stayed at Flamingo for 5 days.

We really wanted to spearfish the northeast side of the island but the big winds were driving a ferocious sea and the danger was just too great. So Christy and I decided to try a new spot along the northwest tip of the cay. It turned out to be a great decision. The water was dead calm and full of life. I was able to spear a huge Hogfish and another lobster.

Of course, our week spent hiding from the weather was the week that the weather guru, Chris Parker took off on vacation. There was supposed to be a replacement, but nobody was able to hear him on the SSB. So we pooled our weather information with the boats we were traveling with and decided to head out on Sunday for the 35 mile trip down to Raccoon Cay.

The wind was supposed to be in the 16 to 22 knot range which is doable. The point of concern was the sea state. The seas were big and from the east, the tide would be ebbing from the west, the wind was still strong from the east so we were going to be dealing with that whole “tide versus wind” thing again. But instead of going in or out a cut and getting beat up for a few minutes we would be traveling parallel to this sea state for about 20 miles of our trip. Compounding the situation is the fact that 2 miles to the east, the water is over a thousand feet deep while our route of travel will have us in 25 feet of water. So we’ll have big seas running up onto the shallow bank and breaking into the ebbing tide. READ: This could be a recipe for an ass kicking. We did wait an extra day before we finally decided to stick our noses out and check it out. We double reefed the main and put out a slice of jib and headed out. We’d just take a look…….

Hey look, we’re getting our asses kicked. The first 6 miles were fairly protected behind a series of small cays and our course had us broad reaching along, under shortened sails at 7 knots. Things looked pretty good until we reached the waypoint at 6 miles out and turned to a course of 180° which put us abeam to the big seas on a beam reach. Coincidentally, this is about where our island protection ran out. Fortunately, we were only skirting a series of reefs for a mile and a half and our new course would have us close reaching. Unfortunately, we were on this new course through nasty seas for about another hour.

At this point, it had become an official ass kicking. The wind was up over 25 knots and the waves were in the 8 to 10 foot range and very close together. Wave after wave, bash after bash, seawater over the top…we’ve definitely seen much worse, but this wasn’t any fun. Our 3 options were: 1 We could keep going with the worst definitely still in front of us, 2 We could turn around, which wasn’t a very attractive option at all, or 3 We could try to hide until tomorrow at Jamaica Cay.

Pop quiz….who knows the difference between a Cay and an Island? The difference between an island and a cay is that an island has its own source of fresh water, and a cay does not. FYI, Cay is almost always pronounced, “Key” not “Kay”.

Christy called back to My Destiny and Far Niente to propose the stop at Jamaica Cay and they jumped all over it like fleas on a dog.

We sailed right up to the calm in the lee of the spit, started the engine and dropped the sails. We motored into the inner harbor, found a suitable spot and dropped the hook. The wind was still cranking but it was fairly comfortable and we all had hooks down before noon. Welcome to Jamaica, mon!

Jamaica Cay was, at one time, going to be a resort of sorts. To say that it was an ambitious undertaking is an understatement. The area is a series of small cays with the largest being too small for a runway. How guests were to arrive, is anyone’s guess. The nearest runway that I know of is at least 50 miles away. Land there and hop in a fast boat and its still a half day trip by motorboat. That’s “if” the sea state permits the trip at all. Anything like the conditions we had today and the guests could end up sitting at the airstrip for days waiting for an opportunity to get here by boat. I dunno, maybe they were planning to use helicopters or seaplanes, sounds expensive just to get here. So, not so surprisingly, the resort sits there uncompleted and abandoned.

While the crews of Far Niente and My Destiny did a little beach exploring, Christy and I decided to check out the spearfishing.

When the wind is strong it’s too hard to swim and pull the dinghy along. We can’t anchor the dinghy because when you take a fish you have to get the speared fish out of the water as quickly as possible so the blood doesn’t draw sharks. So on very windy days we take turns driving the dinghy while the other one hunts nearby.

Christy was in the water first while I floated, idling, a hundred feet away. I heard her squeal with delight through her snorkel so I was already on my way when she surfaced and signaled that she had speared her very first fish.

Last year we only had one spear and Christy and I always worked as a team and searched together, but I did all the spearing. She decided that this year she wanted a spear of her own. The fish she killed wasn’t in any of our books but had nice white fillets when I cleaned it so we figured we would give it a try. The area turned out to be a spearfisherman’s paradise. We took 3 grouper, 2 huge triggerfish and Christy’s phantom Moo Goo.

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