Monday, March 29, 2010

March 28, 2010.

We went from The Bight on Cat Island and traveled 7 miles up to Fernandez Bay. We ended up going to a happy hour at the Fernandez Bay Village Club and made plans to have lunch there the next day before going on a bit of a dinghy exploration.

So much for plans. The next morning the weather forecast had turned to shit and we were due to have a nasty front come through in a few days. Screw lunch and the tour its time to hit the trail.

We raised anchors early and headed north for Half Moon Bay on Little San Salvador. It was a thirty mile trip and we were forced to motor for the first 20 miles in dead flat conditions. Normally we would have waited for a day with a favorable breeze but we had to get ourselves some westerly protection ASAP.

The Island of Little San Salvador is owned by one of the large cruise ship lines. They pull a cruise ship up and anchor it offshore and then ferry the thousand or more passengers ashore to frolic on the island. As we pulled into the anchorage we were just in time to see the Westerdam load the last of their passengers, pull the hook and leave. Cool.

Since we were crossing large stretches of deep, potentially rough water we had the dinks engine stowed on deck. Since we were only there for the night we decided to skip putting the engine on and going ashore. From the boat we could see the islands caretakers cleaning up and getting ready for the next boatload of tourons. We decided to be up and underway at 0700 so I set my alarm and tucked in after an evening of reading.

The next thing I knew Jay on Far Niente was on the VHF asking if everyone was up and ready. DAMN, the alarm didn’t go off. I stumbled through the dark boat and answered that “Yeah, the Verandas up” as everyone else checked in. I hate being late. I glanced at the weather station/ clock on the wall as I made my way to the head, 7:23, DAMN, how could we have overslept this late……..and why is it still so dark? I was confused but still freaked out when Christy said to me “Its only 06:15”. What? How? The clock on the wall said 7:23…..No she replied….the clock says 0615…the thermometer says that its 72.3 degrees in the cockpit. Shit, my eye was starting to twitch and I think I might have a cerebral aneurism but at least we’re not late.

Since we were up early we got underway. We had 15 to 20 knots straight over the stern for the first eleven miles. We had the full main up and secured with a pair of preventers. We were sailing along in 6 to 8 foot rolling seas when the fishing reel started to scream. I grabbed the rod and gradually was able slow the fish from taking line from the reel. I had the drag clamped all the way down and the line was still creeping off the reel every time the fish made another run. I’d reel in 2 feet and he’d take a few inches back out. We had visions of a huge Mahi Mahi dancing in our heads.

The fish was several hundred feet behind the boat and progress was agonizingly slow as I reeled him in a foot at a time. Because the dinghy was hanging in the davits I was unable to see the fish but Christy had a better vantage point. Finally the fish leapt from the water and Christy dejectedly said “I don’t think it’s a Mahi”. It was just so difficult to tell what it was as she stared straight back into the rising sun. Finally after just over 4 miles I was able to bring our catch alongside. It turned out to be a 6 foot Sailfish. They’re considered to be a game fish so we decided to release him. But there was no way in hell I was giving up my lure. While Christy held the rod I pulled in the last few yards of line until I could grab the fish by his beak. Once I was able to grab him I yanked him up until I could twist our hook out. He was still full of fight when we released him back into the sea. Hemingway would have been proud. I needed a nap.

Shortly after releasing the Sailfish we turned 30 degrees to starboard and unfurled the genoa. The next 15 miles may have been the finest sailing of my life. We had big wind as we sailed northwest in the lee of Eleuthera. We ranged from 7.4 to 9.4 knots as we blasted along chasing the other boats.
Savage Son outran us by a few hundred yards but we were both able to make up more than a mile as we caught up with the rest of the fleet before turning onto the banks at Powell Point. The last 12 miles of the day was a splashfest as we motor sailed into 30 knots of apparent breeze.

Downwind with big wind and a big fish….Great. Beam reach with flat water and big wind…….Perfect. Upwind into big wind……..Crap. But it was still a fantastic day.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

March 27, 2010.

Okay, lets talk about Cat Island and its biggest point of interest; The Hermitage. Back around the year 1940 this priest named Father Jerome was retiring and decided to build himself a church. Father Jerome had a hand in designing and building several churches in this part of the Bahamas. There are 2 major points that set this one apart; the fact that it stands alone on top of the tallest hill in the Bahamas and the fact that he built the entire thing by himself.

When we pulled in to the anchorage the Hermitage can be seen from miles away. It looks pretty spectacular from sea level so we were excited to start the hike up the hill.

Once you reach the base of the hill the real fun begins. You start up a wooded pathway until you get to the real climbing.
The hill is very steep and Father Jerome has studded the trail with the Stations of the Cross to entice you to keep climbing. There’s a miniature Jesus
interred in his crypt with the stone rolled aside awaiting his resurrection. There’s religious slogans and symbolism everywhere cast in the rocks.

When you finally reach the summit you’re hit in the face with the most astonishing fact of all.
The place is freaking tiny. What looked so big and majestic from below is actually a miniature version of a European Franciscan monastery. The interior of the main chapel was approximately 6 by 8 feet. There was a small altar and room for only one pew which was too small to accommodate me by myself.
Don’t get me started on the doorways. Off to the side of the main building were his personal quarters. The kitchen made the galley in our boat seem roomy. He had an outdoor shower next to what I like to call the Rectory. It was a single room with an ultra tiny desk and a single wooden bed no more than 5 ½ feet long.

So now since we’ve seen the size of the accommodations I have this mental image of the good padre being about 5 feet tall and built like a bull from lugging all these stones. That image lasted until we met a local who filled us in with a physical description of Father “The Madman” Jerome. It was his recollection that the father was about 6 foot 1 and gaunt as hell. He said the tiny ass bed was just another way of Father Jerome dedicating himself to a life of hardship. I mean, poverty is fine but at the end of the day wouldn’t have been nice to stretch out a bit?

About 150 yards down a trail behind the church is the cave where Father Jerome lived until he completed the church. It was bigger than his completed Rectory but pretty damn austere, plus he had to commute.

So his church stands as he left it, cared for by the local community. The whole size thing is a little bizarre but it stands as a mute testament to one mans determination and vision.
March 25, 2010.

There was a bit of a get together on the beach last night for the dozen or so boats anchored in the lee of Conception Island. During the evening the 3 other boats we’ve been traveling with decided that we should all leave this morning at “oh dark thirty”. They were also throwing numbers out like 0730 and 0800. All I know is that I heard oh dark thirty.

So this morning I was up at 0600. I secured the generator, raised the flag, opened the sail bag, opened up the enclosure and attached the halyard. It was about then that I realized that nobody else was stirring. It was at that time that I hatched my diabolical plot. I sat quietly in the cockpit until 0630 when I knew that everyone else would be paying attention below to their SSB’s and tuning in the weather guru, Chris Parker. I figured that since they’ve been motorsailing over the horizon on us everyday, that we would get a bit of a head start today and stand a good chance of arriving about when they do.

So while their attention was elsewhere we quietly raised the mainsail and then the hook and ghosted out of the anchorage in the predawn grayness. About 40 minutes later I heard a faint call on the VHF, Veranda, you bastard… By then we were romping along at better than 6 knots and they were dots behind us in the distance. Christy went back to bed I cranked up the IPOD and enjoyed a perfect morning of sailing.

They all spent various amounts of time motorsailing and we all arrived at Cat Island within 500 yards of each other after a 42 mile day. The Savage Sons caught their first Mahi Mahi of the year on the way over. It really was a splendid day.
March 24, 2010.

Like Dick Vitale would say, its time for March Madness Baby.

Back when we lived with a television I used to love March Madness. Since we now live elsewhere where there is no television I have no idea who’s in the Final Four or is it Great Eight time, is the tournament over? I dunno. I have to admit that I don’t really miss it.

March Madness has taken on new meaning for us. Lobster season ends on March 31st so we’re trying very hard to grab a few before the season ends. Nassau Grouper just opened on March 1st so for the month of March everything we see in the water can legally be put on our plates. After months of having to ignore Nassau Grouper it’s been great to be able to whack a few.

Today, March 24th was a record breaking day. This morning we walked back across the cay with a large group to snorkel the ship wreck we swam the other day. Since we had taken that large lobster over there we once again brought our spears. I was in the water for only a few minutes when I nailed the largest Nassau Grouper of my career. He weighed in at 16 freaking pounds and 9 oz’s. I saw him and ducked behind a coral head and snuck closer.
I came over the top of the coral head and he was directly below me and headed for his hole. My spear was quicker and tonight he was dinner for several of us here in the anchorage.

After lunch Christy and I headed out to explore Southampton Reef. The reef is composed of every type of coral I’ve seen in the Bahamas. There are long clusters and individual heads scattered for miles. There are so many nooks and crannies to examine that its easy to get confused about where you’ve already been. The reef breaks the surface in a lot of places even though some of the coral sits in 25 feet of water. It’s actually difficult to navigate the dinghy through the maze of coral heads. This is the same reef that the 68 foot power yacht with the delivery captain ran aground on.

I was surprised at how few fish there were. It doesn’t seem to make any sense. Beautiful live coral with tons of structure, but very few fish or lobster. I spent 2 hours searching for lobster. I saw only 2 or 3 fish I would have considered, but this mornings grouper was plenty to last us for a few days.

Finally, I spotted a hint of an antenna down inside a coral head. I peeked into the hole and could just make out a bit of a single antenna. I found another hole to look into and was able to see even less of the second antenna. I jerked around teasing the antenna for 15 minutes in an effort to get him curious enough to see what was brushing his antenna. I couldn’t even be sure that he was big enough to warrant all this effort. Finally, I found a third entrance down near the base of the coral head that looked up through the head. From this newer vantage point I could see 2 very large legs. Eureka, El Bug Gigantico.

After giving him a few minutes to sit and ponder I went back to the original hole and stroked his antenna one more time with my spear. Curiosity killed the cat and it’s not so great for lobster either. He stepped forward just enough that I could see most of both antennas and just the tips of 2 legs.
I couldn’t stand it anymore so I slipped my arm into the hole and kinda figured where all these body parts came together and took a shot.

The spear went nuts in my hand so I knew I had nailed him a good one. When I finally worked him free of the hole I almost shit. He was massive. When we got him back to the big boat, he weighed in at 7 ½ pounds. This is the biggest lobster we’ve ever taken and on the same day we grabbed our biggest Grouper ever.

March Madness Baby!
March 22, 2010.

Hey, is that a dead horse? No, no it’s just Bill talking about the weather again.

When Christy and I first left Jersey 4 years ago the weather was one of our biggest worries. The first time we were faced with a front coming through the area we ran to a marina and hid as the winds topped 35 knots.

Now that we’ve become a little more seasoned, things are a little different. I hadn’t really realized it until just recently how much more relaxed we’ve become. Don’t get me wrong, we’re still careful as hell but now we’re a little more reasonable as well.

At the moment we’re traveling with 3 other boats that all have varying degrees of experience. The crew of boat #1 is out for their first year and I can completely identify with them as I listen to their concerns and questions about the weather and tactics. I remember having the same fears and apprehension that they’re experiencing now.

Boat #2 has been cruising for 6 months out of the year for a few years. So they have a little more comfort in dealing with bad weather in the forecast. They seem to be more interested in tactics and different possibilities when it comes to deploying their ground tackle. They seem to be past the “Show me what to do” stage and are now in the “Discuss the theory to me and I’ll do it myself” stage.

The third boat has been out a year or two longer than we have and he’s at the point where he says “We’ll throw another anchor out, we’ll bounce a little and we’ll get over it”.

So here we sit at Conception Island to the east of Long Island. The wind is brisk from the southeast while we hide along the northwest shore. The wind is supposed to clock around with light winds before settling in for about 12 hours of anywhere from 10 to 20 knots of breeze from the northwest.

The question is, do we time the front and scurry around to the southeast side as the wind starts to build from the northwest or do we drop a second hook and put up with a little discomfort until the front finally goes north. The debate had been back and forth as every possible weather forecast had been analyzed. The other side of the island was pretty rough and by the time it settled down it would be time to head back over to the west side so we’d all decided to stay put. So this morning we all spent a little bit of time dropping a second hook off to the northwest of our boats to keep us from swinging to close to the beach. We may have to endure a bit of discomfort but we’ll be safe.

This is a picture of the Aqua Doll being towed away by the salvage vessel the Amazing Grace. A few nights before we got here we heard the story unfold as to how the Aqua Doll had run up on a reef and was taking on water. A delivery captain who is now probably a former delivery captain evidently didn’t read his paper chart thoroughly enough. On the page that shows Conception Cay there’s a note that says Southampton Reef Extends another 3 miles to the north. You see the illustration shows the reef running right to the edge of the page and the note explains that the reef continues on for another 3 miles. On the chart plotter the reef appears the same way but there is no note shown on the chartplotter. So it seemed that the guy was driving by the chart plotter and not paying enough attention to what was actually going on outside the boat and ran hard aground up onto the reef.

The boat spent the night and several tide cycles up on the reef. The next day high powered pumps and divers were helicoptered in and the Amazing Grace showed up on scene. They were able to stem the flooding, pump out enough water and refloat the boat and tow it to the anchorage. They’ve been working on it for several days in an effort to stop the flooding so they could tow it away for permanent repairs. From what we’ve heard the Aqua Doll is a 68 foot Azimith which I understand is a top of the line power yacht costing in excess of a million dollars. We’ve also heard that the insurance company is forking out $20,000 a day for the salvage of the vessel.

While we were waiting for the front to get here, Christy and I decided to carry our shit across the cay and hunt the north side of the cay. There’s a ship wreck visible from the top of a nearby bluff so I thought that at the very least it make for some interesting snorkeling. We were in the water for less than a minute and I was able to spear a 4 pound Grouper. While Christy swam it back to the beach to put it into our bucket I continued on and came across a large Margate. I figured that since fish were obviously so plentiful I would pass on him and look for another Grouper, a Hogfish or a lobster. So of course, after having passed on the Margate we didn’t see another good sized fish. It was cloudy out, rain was headed our way and we decided to cut our day in the water short after one more quick swim through the ship wreck. We were swimming together on our way towards the wreck across an area we’d already searched when a massive lobster came barreling out of his hole directly in front of us. This was one of those dream opportunities. Huge bug, out in the open and apparently suicidal. Just lucky for him that the Kevorkian’s were in the vicinity. After nailing him we headed home where we weighed and cleaned our catch. He ended up weighing in at 6 pounds 9 ounces, our biggest bug of the season.

Friday, March 26, 2010

March 21, 2010.

Hey all. Let me start out my wishing myself a Happy Birthday and yes, we are starting to head north.
Since my birthday was yesterday we had a little get together on the Veranda. Dr. Bob on Savage Son wrote me a prescription for peanut M&M’s while Jay on Far Niente used the opportunity to pass along The Birthday Hat. It was a lovely gesture but I’m looking forward to the next birthday celebration we attend so I can pass it along as well.

We celebrated my birthday anchored in the lee of Rum Cay. How appropriate! The sail down there from Calabash Bay was a long slow sail dead down wind. Everyone else motored over the horizon while Christy and I were content to average just over 4 knots, wing and wing for 25 miles. The last hour of the day the wind built and we had to alter course to the east and we romped along at over 6 knots right into the anchorage.

After a rolly night at anchor we arose, did some boat chores and headed out to do a little hunting. There was mile after mile of reef but very little life about. I felt like a tourist with a spear as I checked one promising ledge after another to no avail. Finally Greg from My Destiny broke the spell by finding and nailing a 5 ½ pound lobster. Greg and Judy just crossed over from the states so this was his first lobster of the year. What a way to start off, it’s gonna be tough to top that.

After Greg broke the ice I took a 4 ½ pounder and a pair of Slipper Lobsters. I’ve seen other guys take Slipper Lobsters before but these 2 were the first of my career. They’re kind of prehistoric looking but supposedly tastier than the regular Spiney Lobsters that we’ve been harvesting. I guess we’ll see.

After hunting we ventured into town. Calling the settlement on Rum Cay a town is a little misleading. It’s more like a spread out village. You walk a bit and find a house. Walk some more and find a grocery store and then a church, etc. We ended up at the marina on Rum Cay. The guy who owns the place spends a lot of time making carvings out of the limestone and brain corals that are so prevalent in the islands. One of the local nurse sharks was scrounging for food scraps below the docks. The entrance into this marina is not for the faint of heart. The channel is a winding affair flanked by shallow coral heads. This wall was topped with a dozen destroyed propellers that didn’t make it into the marina without a coral encounter.

This morning we rose to winds of 20 knots out of the east southeast. We pulled the hooks and sailed the 21 miles northwest to Conception Cay. It was a challenging day as the wind was almost dead behind us once again. It was just off the quarter enough that wing and wing wasn’t an option. But since there was enough wind everybody decided to sail the entire way.

We covered the distance quickly and were pleased to land our first Mahi Mahi……ever. Christy and I make a pretty deadly team when it comes to spearfishing but we’re pretty much inept when the whole fishing rod thing comes into play. It’s the only hit we’ve had in as long as I can remember and Christy reeled him in while I doused the headsail and tightened up the main in an effort to slow the boat down.
March 17, 2010.

Happy Saint Patricks Day everyone♣

Let’s go back in time to when we were all children. Who was it that told you that the 2 biggest mistakes you might ever make were to try and guess a woman’s age or weight. Was it my Mom or maybe I was supposed to learn this in school? Either I was out that day or perhaps somehow I’ve forgotten this very basic, but evidently supremely important lesson.

There were over 40 boats in the huge anchorage in Thompson Bay, Long Island. We decided to have a bonfire/ beach get together. As the evening wore on I was somehow sucked into a conversation I would have been better off avoiding.

There was a circle of women (sometimes called a hen circle, but never to their faces) having a discussion, when one of the women stepped out, stopped me from passing and inquired “Bill, How old am I?”. My first thought was to flee rather than answer but the demon Rum had emboldened me. Now sucked into their evil circle I considered the question for a moment. In the space of about 2 seconds I considered the consequences of guessing too high versus guessing to low. The thought of refusing to guess never even occurred to me. How had such a basic rule evaded me when I needed it most? I considered her husbands age, her hairstyle, my shoe size, her speech patterns, the current state of the tide and finally blurted out the answer…..49.

She considered my answer for a moment and replied that she was only 47. Shit, I’d added 2 years to her true age which thus meant that I must figure she looks WAY older than really is. Crap. All the other women made mocking ut-ohs and similar sophomoric noises while I scrambled to get out of the hole I was digging for myself. I said “Wow really, that would probably make you the youngest person here this evening”. She seemed to be placated until I heard a voice from across the circle say “No, I’m younger than she is”. Damn, I managed to insult another one of the women without even trying. Where’s a lightning strike when you need one?

I thought the original woman took pity on me when she said “2 years was actually pretty close”. I thought shweew, this is still gonna turn out alright. That is until she looked me in the eye and said “How much do I weigh?” to the amused chuckling of her cohorts.

Now what? Do I refuse to answer and appear a coward? The obvious answer would be YES, but not to me. She’s a typical woman. She’s small, they all weigh between 100 to 150 pounds, they’re small, that’s what they weigh, right? To my own limited credit I’m not stupid enough to throw any of those numbers out there so I once again briefly considered my answer and what I knew about the questioner. Since she is an American and probably ignorant (like I am) about the Metric system and all those other nonsensical English systems of weights and measure I figured I could give an answer without getting myself into trouble. I threw out the answer “12 stone, yes, I believe you weigh in at about 12 stone”. 12 is a small number so she seemed satisfied, the other hens in the circle seemed more confused than mocking so I thought I was in the clear. That is until she turned over her shoulder and asked her friend, her bloody English friend, “How much weight is a stone?” Damn. Her reply was “About 14 pounds”. Bollocks. That’s right, do the math, I just told the woman she weighed about 168 pounds. I chose the only option left to me. I exclaimed “Holy shit, is that Tom Cruise?” They looked left while I exited stage right………

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

March 11, 2010.

The wind finally veered enough for us to head 12 miles to the northeast to Water Cay. Christy and I have bypassed Water Cay ever since we got chased out of the water by a very large mondo aggressive shark 2 years ago. A few of our friends are staging for the jump to Long Island so
we figured we might as well join them there. From Water Cay we could make the 43 mile jump to the east to Long Island once the wind clocked around a little more. So we rose early and sailed off the hook for the 12 mile trip to Water Cay. There’s also been a rumor of excellent hunting thereabouts

It was boisterous sailing with the full main up and the headsail reefed. We made great time and had the hook down by 0930. After a few chores and then some lunch we headed out for some hunting. After being in the water for about an hour, we soon had 2 Hogfish, one of which weighed 8 pounds, a 5 pound Grouper and a trio of lovely lobsters. Tomorrow, Long Island.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

March 9, 2010.

We were up and hauled the hook at first light with Kokomo right behind us. The winds were 8 to 15 knots on the beam with pockets of slight drizzle. Christy went back to bed and I fired up the Ipod while Rover steered.

In about 2 hours we reached the Nurse Cay Channel which is the beginning of an open twenty mile stretch of water. To our east the water is 5000 feet deep while to our west on the Bahama Bank the water is 20 feet deep or so. When the tide ebbs, all this water from the banks rushes out to the deeper water. The water is literally falling off the shelf into the 5000 foot depths.

When you get a wind opposing this type of tidal flow in one of the cuts it’s called a rage. It can be flat ass calm on either side of the cut but the cut itself can issue an ass kicking like you wouldn’t believe. Usually it’s only a few minutes while you head in or out of the cut and its over.

Here at the Nurse Channel you are crossing the rage and it’s about 20 miles wide. So when we left I was encouraged by the light winds from the east because I knew the current would be ebbing (going out) when we got to the open stretch and I was hoping for a minimum amount of misery.

Of course, when we got there, so did the wind. It picked up to a solid 20 knots, veered more out of the northeast and had the nerve to gust into the mid to high twenties. We were hitting 4 and 5 foot waves that were only a few seconds apart. We were close hauled to maintain our
point of sail with spray constantly coming over the starboard bow as we crashed from one wave into another. At least it was only for 20 miles. Crap. Oh yeah and needless to say, Christy was up.

We ended up reefing the headsail in an effort to slow the boat a bit while maintaining our ability to point. At the end of the exposed section is Man O War Cay. You have to make a choice when you approach Man O War, you can sail off to the west and go around the hard shallow rocky ledges or you can hit a narrow gap in the reef that is supposed to be at least 6 ½ feet deep at low tide. If we sailed off to the west we were not going to be able to get back to the east without tacking or starting the engine. There’s shoaling and hard stuff all around so the tacking thing wasn’t a real attractive option and when it comes to starting the engine we’ve practically become Amish.

We were under sail and making the best course we could to enable us to hit the gap. God forbid the wind died or veered while you were in the ½ mile long gap. Once through the gap we were able to drop off a bit and regain some speed and stand the boat up. As soon as we were through the gap the seas flattened out, the sun burst through and it became another wonderful day of sailing.

To get to Water Cay it would require another course adjustment to the east. This would have put us motorsailing into the wind for the last 12 miles of the day. No thanks. We tacked into the anchorage at Flamingo Cay where we ended up spending an extra day to do some hiking and hunting.

There are several local fishing boats moving through the area. It’s not unusual for them to collect 300 conch and more than two hundred lobsters in a day. Throw in a couple dozen big grouper and other assorted fish and the pickings start to look a little slim for a solitary old guy with a spear like me.

So after hiking we got in the water and went out to see what was still out there. I looked at dozens of coral heads, ledges and holes and came away with one 4 pound lobster. When we got out near the northern point of the cay I ran into a section of deep water. I soon spotted a decent sized Hogfish and dove 25 feet down to get him.

Usually I’m pretty patient when stalking a Hogfish because they will invariably pause and turn sideways to take a better look at whoever is pursuing them. That’s when the best shot presents itself. Boom dead. In this deeper water I came down right on top of him and I’m not sure if he ever even knew I was there, as he never turned to look. From above I was looking at the narrowest part of his body and since I was turning blue I finally shot; and I missed. Shit. Then he knew I was there and took off. I followed in the direction he fled and soon came across another Hogfish. I was more patient this time, made a more obvious approach and speared him cleanly.

I passed the impaled fish off to Christy and took the other spear below as I had spotted yet another Hog. While deciding if he was big enough I realized that there more than a few Hogfish milling about this particular area. Oh yeah, and one big shark. Crap.

The other day when I had a shark encounter I was in only 3 or 4 feet of water. There’s no up or down just you and the shark sharing the same narrow band of water. That had a big impact on my decision to get out of the water that day. Today was a different story. I was in 30 feet of water with literally dozens of Hogfish milling about below me. The shark was circling me at a distance, sometimes near the surface and sometimes below me. I was keeping one eye on him and was scanning the scattered Hogs for El Grande with the other eye.

I decided to take one more good sized Hog and call it a day. I saw a suitable fish and dove down. I was on my way to the bottom when a larger Hog became apparent. El Grande! I checked on the shark, altered course for El Grande, nailed him and started for the surface with both eyes on the shark. As soon as the spear hit the fish he went into his death throes. The vibration instantly aroused the shark’s curiosity or flicked a primal switch and sent him into hunter killer mode. Whatever. He ended his lazy circles and moved with purpose in my direction. I held the fish out at the end of my spear away from my body as I swam for the surface. I waved Christy and the dink over. The sound of the dinghy racing over drove the shark off for a moment and I handed Christy the spear and hopped out right behind it. Enough silliness for one day.
March 8, 2010.

Its looks as if the weather will be settling down for a bit so we can start to island hop north through the Jumentos. But before we leave we decided to do some spearfishing down at the southern most tip of Little Ragged Island.

5 boats got involved with our planned beach combing/ hunting excursion. We all dinghied down to the southern most beach where we split up. 4 of us partnered up in 2 dinghies while the rest of the adventurers headed across the tip of the island in search of pristine sea bean covered beaches.

I was partnered with Rick from C_Language and we headed out in search of something to kill. We anchored Ricks dink amongst a series of coral heads and rocky ledges. In about an hour Rick had boated 3 lobsters and a nice Spotted Grouper while I brought in 4 Hogfish and a pair of bugs. Then we headed back to the beach to find the beach combing party.

We tromped across the island and found the rest of our friends near this shipwrecked Haitian sailboat. Haitian boat people are a big problem here in the Bahamas. They clamber aboard overcrowded boats and set out in a desperate attempt to find a better life. A big boat like this one would have been crammed with over two hundred people risking everything for a chance.
What became of the passengers or how it came to be up on this isolated beach, I dunno.

A month ago, one such boat arrived at Little Farmers Cay in the Exumas. On board a 40 foot boat, were 61 refugees. Little Farmers Cay boasts a population of less than 100 people. Locals and cruisers in the area donated food and clothing while the government sent a boat down from Nassau. The refugees eagerly boarded the vessel that was destined to take them to Nassau. There were rumors to the effect that another boat would take them from there to the states where they would be granted asylum. From what we’ve heard that’s pretty much the way it happened but with one small difference. They arrived in Nassau where they were put aboard another boat and immediately returned to Haiti. We’ve seen police officers in Georgetown chasing Haitians through the streets after they landed on Great Exuma. I guess that it’s just easier to promise them everything and let them eagerly board another boat than it is to chase them down in the streets.

The Bahamas is in no position to accept refugees. There aren’t enough jobs for the locals, actually there’s barely enough of anything for the locals. Duncan Town on Ragged Island is the only settlement in the entire Jumentos.
This 2 room building is the grocery store that serves the islands 60 inhabitants. That is this weeks supply of goods for 60 people waiting to be stocked on the shelves.

Today we rose at first light and sailed off the hook and through the other anchored boats. The wind was around 15 knots out of the northeast as we headed north to Raccoon Cay.

Once at Raccoon we headed out to do a little hunting. It was a beautiful day and Christy and I speared 3 more Hogfish and a nice pair of lobsters before being chased from the water by a trio of overly curious sharks.

Christy was trying to start the dinghy outboard as I swam towards her with a lobster on my spear when I heard her yelling about 3 sharks circling the dinghy. Usually the sound of the outboard will scare the sharks away; the problem was that she couldn’t start the outboard…, no sound. Visibility was excellent and I could clearly see a 6 footer headed my way. The thing about excellent visibility is that he evidently could also see me. He altered course and approached slowly, but came directly at me. I clicked my heels three times, but didn’t get any closer to Kansas so I positioned myself to make myself appear as big as possible hoping he would see me as a larger predator. He did finally veer off at 15 feet away and swam a lazy half circle around me and continued on his way. Excellent.

I didn’t see either of the other sharks so after dropping the lobster off with Christy in the dink, I took my spear and headed back towards the reef that I had just started to explore. I only got 30 feet when shark number 2 showed up. We saw each other at about the same time although with different reactions. He turned 90 degrees and came straight at me with a slow but exaggerated swimming motion, me…I just about shit myself.

I’ve found that I’ve become pretty comfortable with sharks in the water. They seem to be mostly curious and appear to display their intentions through body language. If they swim slowly with very little body movement I figure they’re chillin’ and just slippin’ through the hood. If they’re swimming quickly I figure they’re either running from something or after something so either way I’m outta the water. If they glide along with their backs arched and their pectoral fins thrust downwards I think they’re trying to intimidate me, hey look it worked, I’m outta the water. What I guess I’m trying to say is that every shark encounter is different. You don’t always have to get out of the water at the first sighting, but you do have to be aware of what’s going on. You have to be extra careful when you are spearfishing and putting blood in the water. Or I could just be stupid and completely freakin’ wrong.