Monday, January 23, 2012

January 22, 2012.

It's funny how quickly solitude can disappear. Yesterday morning we arrived and were the only boat here and by late afternoon there were 8 boats here along the western side of the cay. This is a huge cay with close to 3 miles of shoreline offering appropriate anchoring opportunities. Four of us are spread out fairly well in House Bay which is over a half mile long. When Sapphire arrived they settled themselves perfectly into the middle of the confines of tiny Spanish Well Bay.

When you're inside Spanish Well Bay there is an ironshore peninsula to your north and south, with a small sandy beach inside the bay where you can have your own private slice of paradise even with other boats sharing the cay. Unless a complete stranger shows up and decides that it looks as if you might be lonely and decides to wedge themselves into the small cove with you.

We were anchored immediately to the south of Spanish Well Bay. So we had front row seats to watch as a late arriving trimaran pulled into the tight confines of SWB. I'll admit that I laughed out loud as I watched above the ironshore as the new masthead settled in right in front of Sapphire as the new guy set his hook. Evidently Mike was able to convey the disappointment they were feeling with the interlopers anchoring directly in front of them in the miniscule cove because an hour later the new guy pulled his hook and moved a mile north.

It hasn't been all anchoring hijinks though. There’s been a lot of catching up with sailors we haven't seen for quite a while at the evening garbage burn/ cocktail hour. Be there or be talked about is all I can say about that. There's been some fishing and even a few welcome fresh water rinses as late afternoon showers have come through.

I know I always spend too much time writing about the hunting gathering that we partake in. (We ate number 84 tonight) One thing that I've been remiss in reporting is the gathering of coconuts. I for one was shocked to find out that coconut didn't actually come from Mounds bars. It grows on trees! Crazy, right? The best part is that when they're ripe they fall from the tree, so no climbing involved.

Of course getting em' open is a whole different story. Sure, I walk upright, I could take the machete and whack the coconut a few times to get rid of the husk but that would be too easy. I prefer the more natural, complete experience. We're hunter gathering, we don't need no stinking tools unless you count large heavy rocks as tools.

After successfully stalking and capturing the coconut you place it on a large stable rock. Then you find the largest rock that you're capable of wielding as a weapon. You kneel down and raise the rock as high over your head as you can and smash it down on the unsuspecting coconut. After the first solid crushing blow you'll note that the coconut didn't even flinch and now your wrists and elbows hurt. WTF? After a frenzy of anywhere from 6 to 26 maniacal blows with the B.F. rock the coconuts outer husk hopefully will develop some minor cracks. At this point you cast aside the rock and you attempt to squeeze your fingertips into the minute cracks and tear the little oblong bastard apart. After a moment of futility you consider going back to the rock until you realize that your arms already hurt too much to try the rock again.

At this point you ask yourself the question “Do I really even like coconut and why can't I feel my forearms?”. But in the Homo Sapien spirit you carry on pulling, wedging and ripping until you tear off one small section of husk. Its about at this time that you realize you've evolved to the point where opening a coconut is a chore. If you were still a Neanderthal, opening the coconut would be as easy as tearing open the packaging on a Mounds bar.

But unfortunately nature has removed from us the ability to bite through a coconut husk. But with a little pain and perseverance you will make progress as sections of the husk begin to peel away. As the last of the husk is torn away you will experience a type of euphoria that has been lost to us through thousands of years of evolution. You will proudly present the small round, freshly peeled coconut to your mate.

She will then take your good ball peen hammer and lightly whack it like a soft boiled egg splitting the inner coconut neatly in half.
She will then pry the sweet white meat out of the coconuts inner shell. The coconut can be eaten as a snack or grated and used to encrust fish, it can be mixed into fudge or used in various baking endevours. Heck, we can even make Mounds bars....
January 20, 2012.

We still miss you Molly, its hard to believe that a year has already passed.

Its been a pretty good week here in the Jumentos. We've only been able to go hunting for a few hours every third day or so because we can only eat or give away so much. We took our 80th bug of the season the other day so we decided to start paying more attention to fish. Nassau Grouper is out of season until March 1st so of course I'm seeing those left and right.
But I did manage to take 3 Hogfish yesterday including 2 very nice sized ones.

One of our 3 propane tanks ran dry a couple of weeks ago so we decided to send it north on the mailboat for a refill. The Captain C is the small inter-island freighter that serves as this areas “mailboat”. Produce, freight, people and hopefully our propane tank all travel between the cays and islands on the mailboat. The mailboat is bigger than it appears and I had to stand on the dinks tube to reach up and pass off our propane tank to a deckhand. That, along with 20 bucks was the complete transaction. No paperwork, no receipt, nothing. Our tank will now slowly make its way up to Nassau where it will be refilled and then head back to us after visiting Staniel Cay, Black Point and Little Farmers Cay before showing up next week here at Duncan Town on Ragged Island. Lets hope.

At the moment we're one of about 16 cruising boats down here. We woke to 13 knots out of the east so we raised sail and headed 11 miles north to Raccoon Cay. A perfect sail ended with us being the only boat anchored behind the cay. Thats right naked time. We headed in to shore where I burned some garbage and walked the beach while Christy snorkeled the shallows looking for shells and sand dollars.
Its nice to have the place to ourselves and we were working on our “all over” tans when a sail appeared on the horizon. So after about 2 hours of having the cay to ourselves I had to put my “all over” away.

On the bright side it turned out to be our friends on Puddlejumper. Bill & Mara have never been here before so it'll be fun to watch them explore this tropical paradise. Best of all though is that they have a huge freezer so we can kill some shit too....

Thursday, January 19, 2012

January 16, 2012.

The noon weather here today is and sunny with 22 knots of breeze out of the northeast.

A blog reader wrote in with the question “What is a hamburger bean?”. That's pretty much what I said the first time I heard the term “hamburger bean”.

The hamburger is one of several different types of tropical seed. True sea beans are from the family Fabaceae. Some ride the equatorial currents all the way from Africa while others hitch a ride in the Gulfstream from South America and various islands of the West Indies. They are commonly found throughout the Bahamas and even the coast of Florida. It is said that a floating Heart Bean in the Eastern Atlantic led Columbus to believe that there was land yet to be discovered to his west.

The most common of the collectable beans is the Heart Bean. They are usually a brown/burgundy color and shaped like an idealized heart.
They're kinda cool but common enough down here that you could easily pick up hundreds a day so most people who bother only take an unusual or really pretty example.

The Hamburgers are on the next level of desirability. The most common are the browns and the reds.
They wash ashore at the whim of the tide and breeze. Sometimes they're buried in the seaweed and flotsam above the high water mark while other times they're laying right on top out in the open. Its rare, but occasionally a bean will wash ashore as you pass by. They physically resemble the hamburger of Wimpys dreams with a generous meat patty bulging out from between a fresh bun.

A lot of people collect them because it gets them off the boat and forces them to do a bit more walking than they might otherwise. A few of the more artistically talented of our peers turn them into jewelry.
The Hamburgers surface is thin but very hard. When polished with proceedingly finer sand paper the finish is furniture quality and very pretty.

Next up would be the Purse Beans. The purses come in various hues.
They have a fine seam around the circumference and the surface often looks like a fine piece of burled wood. Hamburgers on the beach probably outnumber the Purses 20 to 1.

Even more rare are the Mary's Beans and Monkey Faces.
The Mary's Bean are usually very dark in color and have a cross shaped depression across the top.
They resemble a tiny, burned hot cross bun.

The Monkey Faces take some imagination. They're a small elongated bean that has three holes in it that if looked at optimistically resemble a face.

The Cathy's Bean is among the rarest of the beans to be found down here.
We've walked countless miles of beach and have found only 1 Cathy's Bean. It resembles the purse bean with the biggest difference being the sharp red color of the Cathy's Bean.

Friday, January 13, 2012

The goats here have it tough....seriously

January 11, 2012.

It's been a bizarre week as far as the local goats are concerned. Most of these southern cays are overrun with wild goats. Once in a while the locals will drop off a guy with a shotgun while they go out fishing. The guy will hunt and then meet them back on the beach at the end of the day with a harvested goat or two.

A week ago one of our friends was out walking with his wife and they came across a goat in trouble. It had one of its back legs caught in the crook of some thick brush. It was lying on its side bleating repeatedly. Only after creeping close enough to try and help did they realize that the goats leg had a compound fracture. It had been trapped for so long that the leg was rotted and had completely fallen apart. After freeing the animal it became apparent that there was no hope for recovery so he used a large rock to dispatch the animal as humanely as possible. He did the right thing but that doesn't really make it any easier.

It's the first time I've heard of something like that taking place down here so imagine my surprise when Christy had a similar experience yesterday. She and Leta were out walking and they were drawn to the small voice of a tiny goat. They found him similarly wedged but with both his back legs caught in the crook of a small bush. Christy said he was only half the size of our miniature Schnauzer, Tucker. She was able to work him out of his predicament and held him while he continued to cry. He seemed fine and once she put him down he headed back off into the undergrowth.

Then today, bizarrely enough we were walking down a path we had taken only yesterday when we were overwhelmed by a stench. It turned out to be a dead goat's entrails, that were completely covered by hermit crabs. The locals must have killed and gutted the goat right there.....

We were still kinda creeped out and when we reached the ocean side beach. One of the first things we saw was a dead baby goat rolling in the surf. I think tomorrow we'll stick to swimming.....

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

January 10, 2012.

To recap the last few days. We sailed down to Southside Bay on Ragged Island for a few nights. Our first day there was spent walking the beaches of Little Ragged Island. We found a few desirable sea beans here and there but nothing really stood out until I picked up “the find of the day”.

The Bahamanian Defense Force was probably doing some training here on the island and inexplicably somebody left behind one of their assault rifles.
Its chambered for the widely used NATO standard Hamburger Bean so ammo won't be a problem. Some days I just can't believe my good luck.

The second day at Southside was devoted to hunting. In the morning I took 5 lobster and our first Tiger Grouper ever.
He weighed in at a bit over 6 pounds and turned out to be damn fine eatin'. After lunch we headed down to some out of the way heads that rarely get done. The water was fairly deep but there were so many lobster that I just took the easy ones. If they were tucked in at all I just skipped em' and moved on to the next.
The afternoon in the water was just as short as the morning session and we soon headed home with 6 more bugs and our first Hogfish of the season.

After 2 nights in the fairly rolly anchorage it was time to sail back up to Hog Cay. After the short sail we set the hook and headed in to do a little hiking. While we were gone we had more friends show up in the anchorage so we had a really nice bonfire/ garbage burn/ cocktail hour in the evening.

Plans were made to go hunting today so of course we had to go as well. I can't help it, its a sickness. We've got some friends in the anchorage that don't go in the water anymore so we'll give away most of what we take. And take we did.

I plopped into the water and when the bubbles cleared there was a 3 ½ pounder in a crevice right between my feet. I went down, shot him and handed him to Christy in no time. The quickest lobster record now stands at about 12 seconds. It was that kind of day. A 3 mile round trip in the dink and home in less than 2 hours with 8 more lobsters in tow. I even saw a few more good sized Hogfish but I decided to pass on them.

Our friends are fed, the anchorage is dead calm, tomorrows a new day and I'm still feeling pretty lucky.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

January 7, 2012.

We were anchored in the lee of Hog Cay with one other boat in the next cove north of us. The headland between us hid them from view so it was almost as nice as having our own island. The problem was that I wanted to hunt that cove. With so much island available to either of us I didn't want to encroach on them in their cove.

Its just that the spot they chose to drop the hook is next to one of my favorite lobster holes. Every year I get a bug or two and maybe even three out from under this one small rock. There’s a long vertical wall with very little cover so any lobster in the area seem to hide under MY rock. Imagine my surprise when they upped anchor and moved. Honey, lets go swimmin'.

My rock sits in 4 feet of water and is shaped like a large coffee table. One end provides excellent shelter but you can see under it from side to side for 75 % of the rock. As I approached I could see several antenna and a multitude of legs against the backdrop of light coming under from the other side of the rock. There was a nice 3 pounder right in the opening with more bugs behind him. I lined it up like a pool shark and took what turned out to be a pair of 3 pounders with the first shot. After that it was like shooting fish in a barrel. I had to wait for the sand from the previous bugs struggle to settle but once I could see again it was one lobster after another.

It turned out that there were 7 lobster under my rock. I took 5 and let a small one run away. That left one more stuck way up inside in the back. I could see both of his antlers completely but had no shot at his body. He was definitely the biggest of the bunch. I tried teasing him out to no avail. We left and swam the rest of the wall and came back 30 minutes later with no change. He thinks hes patient, I'll show him patience.

Okay okay, I'll admit it it, I have no patience. I found that if I wedged my arm and head into the hole I could almost, sorta keep the snorkel tip above water. This enabled me to grab him by both of his antlers. I figured I'd just whip him outta the hole and it would be “game over”. It turned into a stalemate as he was rock solid as he wedged himself into place. He wanted no part of the whole being whipped out into the open thing. I had to take slow shallow breaths as sometimes the snorkel pulled air while as often as not it pulled water. Finally one of antennas broke off. I needed the antenna to keep track of where he was beneath the rock so I grudgingly let go before I broke the second one off.

When I went to pull back from the hole I found that my mask or snorkel was stuck in the opening. I couldn't free myself until I stripped off my mask. I thought I heard him snickering from under the rock when I pulled free and when I surfaced Christy was definitely laughing. Round one to the crustacean.
I regrouped and used a small bent stick to reach around him and poke him in the butt. Its a little known fact that lobsters are raging homophobes. He instantly stepped forward and spun around to see who had snuck up behind him. Mistake. And now hes dead.

All in all we saw 10 lobsters. We let 3 wee ones go, I missed one and we took 6 for the one way ride to the pressure cooker.

Who asked about sharks....

January 6, 2012,

Its been an interesting couple of days. We've done a lot of hiking in the pursuit of sea beans, sea glass and shells. We've also been in the water a bit and had two interesting shark encounters.

The other day when we were at Raccoon Cay a 7 foot Reef Shark swam into view. Visibility was excellent at probably better than 100 feet. I was working a coral head looking for lobster while keeping one eye on him as he lazily meandered my way. At 20 feet he had my full attention as I floated up and bobbed at the surface. I take each shark encounter individually and this guy was just cruising through the hood so I wasn't worried. His body language was mellow but my concern did grow as he continued to come straight at me and finally passed directly under me in 9 feet of water. My first thought was “Wow, that was SO cool” and then he turned and did it again. The second time it had lost some of its luster. Fortunately Christy was in the dink by now and roared over and chased him away.

Then yesterday I wanted to swim an area I've never done before. I had a pretty brisk breeze opposing a decent amount of current and as a result the water was really stirred up. The area is pretty shallow and the visibility sucked. There was a ridiculous amount of sand suspended in the water. I could vaguely make out the shape of coral heads at 8 feet away. Trying to find either fish or lobster was waste of time so after 20 minutes of swimming through this shit I was just about to get out of the water when I practically ran head on into a 10 foot shark. I was looking down to my left when I looked up and he was right there, 4 or 5 feet in front of me. Evidently I startled him and he definitely scared the shit outta me because both of us had a mini stroke. I had no inkling that he was there until his sudden movement as he exploded away from me.

He turned 90ยบ to me and darted away before turning again doing a frenetic half circle around me. I jumped straight from the water into the dink without ever touching the tube on my way over the side. Its amazing what terror can do for your ability to defy gravity. Needless to say, my day in the water was over. We went home and Christy thawed some ground turkey for Mexican while I cleaned the shit stains out of my wetsuit.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

January 5, 2012.

Happy Birthday Christopher.

We survived the front. The predictions were spot on and we had quite a bit o' wind for a day and a bit. Right after listening to Chris Parker in the morning we decided to get up and underway for a short hop to Hog Cay. Its only 9 miles and with good breeze we covered the distance in no time.

Hog Cay is the island where one of our Miniature Schnauzers, Molly, passed away last year. We carried her body to a very remote ledge on a prominent ridge line that overlooks most of the cay. There’s not much in the way of topsoil here on the islands so instead of burying her below ground we built a large rock cairn on top of her remains. Next to her cairn we left a small solar powered light like you'd have along the sidewalk by your home. It was kind of like her own eternal flame just like JFK. I'm sure when the people that run Arlington National Cemetery read this and calculate what they've paid for natural gas for JFK's eternal flame over the last fifty years they'll be switching to a solar garden path light as well. Anyway....

This past year Hog Cay took a big hit from hurricane Irene with sustained winds above 100 miles an hour. I expected the “eternal” flame to have been blown away and even though the rocks we used for the cairn were pretty big I figured I'd be doing some rebuilding. There’s no path to the the ledge so the climb is a bit challenging. When I finally reached the summit this year I almost fell right back off the hill. Everything was exactly as we had left it.
Everything, even the 4 dollar Walmart garden light. The entire fuel dock on Long island was destroyed by Irene and here at the top of the hill our monument to our wee dog survived. Go figure.

Of course this leaves me with only one option. Another business opportunity. The Veranda Heights Internment System. A family member passes away, you bring em' to the Bahamas, I cover them up with a pile o' stones, you pay me some money (4 bucks extra if you want the garden light) and your loved one rests in eternity in a hand built, hilltop monument. I still have to work out some of the details but the concept is solid.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

January 4, 2012.

Since we're due to have excessive wind for a full day this would be one of those days where the wind generator really earns its keep. So of course last night it started to act up. Crap.

I was up and had the wind generator sitting on deck first thing in the morning. The wind was still light but I could actually see the front bearing down on us. I disassembled the wind generator and found that the slip rings were filthy causing intermittent connection problems. I lightly sanded the rings and slapped everything back together as quickly as possible.

Removing or replacing the wind generator on its mounting pole is a bit of a pain in the ass. I have to stand on the top of the stern pulpit with my chest barely leaning into the radar arch. I can't lean into it enough to be real steady. So in calm conditions its a delicate balancing act. The wind was starting to build when it was time to reinstall the genny in its place atop the pole. The boat was just slightly beginning to rock but it was enough to keep me from being able to stay in place so Christy had to stand behind me and lean into me to keep me pressed into place while I maneuvered the generator back on top of its pole. Its all about the teamwork. Kinda like the Giants beating the shit out of the Cowboys when it mattered.

Its now late afternoon. The wind generator is working fine, the wind is blowing about 28 knots and there’s a turkey breast baking in the oven. Life is good, hell, it even smells good.
January 3, 2012.

We left Flamingo Cay at 0700 on a perfect 15 knot beam each. Sailing a little slower by putting in a double reef allowed us to time our crossing of the infamous Nurse Cay Cut. The Cut is a stretch of 15 miles of water that you definitely want to cross with the wind and tide in agreement. The wind veered a bit turning our beam reach into a close reach but it was still a spectacular sail over agreeable seas.

Even though we were arriving on Sunday we were already planning ahead for Tuesday. On Tuesday there’s a front scheduled to blast through with 24 hours of wind between 20 and 30 knots pretty much straight out of the north. We planned to weather the front in Man O' War bay on the southeastern side of Raccoon Cay. So since we were picking tonights anchorage for basically one night we decided to try a new one.

We anchored in a small bay on Raccoon to the south of Pimlico Cay. The bay is full of fairly shallow coral heads so we carefully wove our way in through the heads and close to shore. Since we were anchored before 1400 hours we decided to hit the water and see what we could come up with for dinner. We had given away the remaining lobster we had onboard before we left Georgetown so we decided see if we couldn't find more. An hour later we were back aboard with 6 lobster without ever moving more than a hundred yards from the boat. Its good to be back.

On Monday after an extremely long hike that yielded 40 Hamburger Beans we pulled the hook to move over to Man O' War bay. Its a trip of just over a mile and color us surprised when we came around the corner and found a trio of boats already there. Night Hawk, Sam The Skull and Countess Cosel had all just arrived with the same plan.

We said our hellos and decided to hit the water for a little swim around the anchorage.
After another 6 bugs the freezer is now full, we're settled in nicely and awaiting tomorrows weather.
December 31, 2011.

Happy New Year everyone. We hope the new year brings health and happiness to everyone unless you're a racist, a Muslim extremist or a televangelist.

We pulled the hook in Georgetown at 0630 and motored slowly south through Elizabeth harbor. Our destination is the Jumentos and there are a few options when leaving Georgetown. If you have the tide in your favor, a shallow draft vessel, calm conditions and a bit of nerve you can take the shortcut through the Hog Cay Cut. Or you can take the traditional 35 mile trip to Long Island and wait for a favorable breeze to send you off to the Jumentos or......

You can just kinda cram it all into one long day. The catch is that you don't want to burn a whole lot of diesel heading to the Jumentos. We burned about 4 gallons of fuel before a light but favorable breeze filled in. So 2/3 of the way to Long Island we turned towards the Comer Channel and the gateway to the Jumentos. With only 6 knots of wind we were sailing between 2 and 3 knots as we gently moved along on dead flat seas. We opted to drop the hook shortly after completing the Comer Channel about a half mile off the channel. We were in 9 feet of water in the middle of the banks with the nearest land about 3 miles to the north. It was a calm night at anchor but we were both surprised by the number of local fishing boats passing by in the dark.

On Saturday we had a bit more wind so we easily covered the 35 miles to Flamingo Cay. The nice thing about being anchored in the middle of nowhere was that we were able to sail off the hook and didn't have to start the engine until we anchored for the evening.

In a weird twist of fate, Flamingo Cay is the place Christy & I spent last New Years Eve. Last year we spent Christmas in Pipe Creek on the fabulous First Edition, then we waited out a front before running down to Black Point and doing an overnighter down the west side of Great Exuma to Flamingo.

This year we had to go to Georgetown so we dragged our feet in the Exumas, spending at least 10 more days there than needed. Sapphire had friends flying in on December 28th and they were willing to bring small items that anyone might need. So since we had to be in Georgetown for Christmas anyway we had them bring us an unlocked air card for the computer. We ordered it and had it shipped to their home and they brought it with them. We spent an hour at the Batelco office getting it hooked up and now we can get online almost any place in the Bahamas where we have a phone signal.

The point I was trying to make was that last year we pretty much roared down here. This year we've been static more than we've been moving and still, we have the same tiny anchorage at Flamingo Cay all to ourselves on New Years Eve.