February 14, 2011.
Happy Valentines Day everyone. Before I explain how we spent our day let me say that the fishing has been phenomenal.
We took 15 lobster and a few Hogfish over the course of 2 days down at the southern end of Little Ragged Island.
The brain shot.
We gave some away to friends but kept several as we were heading up to Hog Cay for the big Valentines Day party and I didn’t expect to be able to do much hunting.
Once at Hog we did find ourselves with a 1 afternoon opportunity to hunt one of the cuts before several days of excessive easterlies would be keeping us out of the water. So hunt we did….
There are dozens of boats here congregating for the big party so with the competition I wasn’t expecting much when we went into the water. I found several lobster but something unexpected happened. I turned into all 3 Stooges. That’s right Moe, Larry and Curly. I missed shots, dorked shots, over planned simple shots and pretty much frustrated the hell outta myself for the first 45 minutes. I don’t know what the problem was but after a bit I had myself sorted out and had 4 decent bugs and a nice Slipper Lobster in the dink.
I was swimming in with the last of the flood tide when a big Hogfish crossed my path. We played a quick couple of hands of “around the rock” where he would let me get not quite close enough to take a shot before moving away. Then he decided he was done playing with me and turned away from the chance at concealment and headed out across the cut. He didn’t seem overly concerned when I decided that the game wasn’t over and pursued him.
He was 20 feet in front of me but I was gaining an inch or 2 for every ten feet we covered. After a hundred quickly paced yards my legs were ready to explode and I was breathing hard but I was just about over him. He had never veered left or right but the water was now in excess of 20 feet. I dove down at him but as I descended he kept on truckin’ and I leveled out 6 feet behind him. Just not close enough for a shot and when he matched my quick burst of speed I had to surface without shooting. Scaly bastard.
When using a snorkel you really become conscious of your breathing. So I spent the next hundred yards getting control of my respirations while I did my best to ignore my aching legs. I found myself once again overtaking him and swam hard to actually get ahead of him a bit. He continued on, dead straight, even as I edged ahead of him. My breathing was as good as it was gonna get when I dove down towards him. We arrived at a smattering of sea fans at the same time and he seemed surprised when I matched his quick burst with one of my own. When my spear point ripped through his body I was completely done and headed immediately for the surface dragging him up with me.
Usually I try to finesse the fish above me as I rise so he can’t use the pull of my body rising towards the surface against me. I was spent and finesse wasn’t to be an option. I swam hard for the surface as I felt him fighting to tear himself from my spear below me.
Christy pulled up in the dink just as I broke the surface with him. As I swung him above me to get him into the dink he just flipped free of the spear and into the water. I grabbed a half gulp of air and headed down after him. His wound was mortal and he was moving slowly when I speared him again about 15 feet down. My accent this time was more like Polaris than man. I needed air….NOW.
Evidently during his fight after the first time I speared him he had just about unscrewed my spear point. When he slipped off the spear I had no time to check the tip before I had to go down and shoot him again. As I broke the surface he did one last death spin and it was enough to unscrew the tip and set him free. Crap.
I watched as he swam straight to the bottom and settled among the sea fans to die. At this point I was on the backside of a serious adrenalin rush and I was sucking air like a fat guy running up the down escalator.
I spent at least 2 minutes hanging on the side of the dink staring down at him while I tried to get my breathing back under control. He was 25 feet down lying dead in the open. I just gotta go down, shoot him again and drag him back up here. My best spear tip was still in him, theres blood in the water and if I don’t get this over with its gonna be shark central soon. All these little mounting pressures were doing nothing for my Gandhi-like attempt at relaxing. I took the extra spear from Christy and successfully recovered my fish. Whew. Honey, take me home.
Since I survived my encounter with the demon Hogfish we were able to attend today’s Valentines Day party. Maxine who runs Ragged Islands tiny grocery store hosts this mega event for everyone in the area. She organizes several island women and they cook 2 turkeys and a pair of large hams complimented by all the traditional Bahamanian side dishes. Then they ferry the meal the couple of miles across to Hog Cay where all the cruisers are waiting with even more food of their own to add to the feast.
This years entertainment included some Junkanoo practice including costumes and music. The cruisers donated possessions to be auctioned off with the proceeds benefiting the Ragged Island All Age School.
Steve from Fine Lion acted as auctioneer and added quite a bit to the afternoons entertainment. I challenged Steve to sell the hat he was wearing and he countered by asking me to sell the shorts I was wearing. Several “helpful” people in the crowd offered me options for keeping my modesty sans shorts. A tiny internal voice reminded me that “one doesn’t remove one’s shorts at a charity event for the students of an elementary school”.
The third annual Hog Cay Valentines Day party was a huge success, with the crews from 35 boats in the anchorage attending and at least 40 locals descending on Hog Cay and adding to the well fed crowd. The people here are extraordinary…..and who says I can't work a skirt?