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…..so, 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.