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.