Wednesday, February 29, 2012

February 27, 2012.

We're enduring 4 days of winds anywhere from 20 to 35 knots outta the east. We knew we had this week of big breeze coming so we opted to tuck behind Hog Cay once again.

Hog Cay offers a lot to do even on days that you can't get out into the cuts to do some hunting. The cay is a couple of square miles with several trails for hiking. We're also within range of the Batelco tower on Ragged Island so our air card works. There’s also about 20 boats here spread out over a mile along the protected shoreline. So if you need em', there’s people around.

Christy & I headed out to hunt some new area the last day before the wind hit. We needed 7 lobster to break last years record for season total. After a wonderful morning we headed home with another Tiger Grouper and the big red lobster bucket of doom was full.
Three of the bugs were in the 5 pound range so it was a good day. We now stand tied with last years record. Oh well, maybe the record will fall next time.

Our friends Bill & Mara on the catamaran Puddlejumper are first timers to the area. After a few cocktail hour/ garbage burns Bill realized that there was a lack of shade up at the “area” on the beach. And he had a plan....

Bill decided he was gonna bring shade to Hog Cay. He and his wife walked to the east side of the cay and brought back more than a dozen large bamboo poles. He soon had a work party of likewise sunstroked individuals all gathering and building.
Everyone enjoyed the difference that a bit of shade brought so much that we've already started an addition.

Puddlejumper is large enough that they also carry a huge, 4 person floating recreational toy.
Build a little, wallow a bit and then recline in the giant floating chair of luxury. This place is getting dangerously close to resort-like.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

February 21, 2012.

Do you know what “no wind” means for a sailor in the Jumentos. Thats right, it means you get to take the dinghy around to the east side of the cays to kill stuff.

The crews of Synergy & Veranda headed out around the north end of Hog Cay to try our luck on the east side of the cay. Last year Christy & I had walked across the cay carrying all our crap and had some pretty good luck.(Last years walk across) So I figured that dinghying around would be easier and hopefully even more productive.

Evidently it was a pretty good plan because we arrived just as the locals did. Crap, the locals. The locals are fish gathering machines. Everything edible with any type of size is fair game. You can actually hear the sucking sound as conch, lobster and any fish in the area get tossed into their boat.

Christy said that at one point she watched one of the locals walking in knee deep water across the top of a reef shooting fish and bugs. He was just walking along tossing them into his small boat as his buddy idled nearby. Chris of Synergy and I held our own and retired from the bay with 4 lobster apiece.

Before heading back to the big boat we decided to stop off at a patch of Elkhorn reef. I was able to add a nice Hogfish, our second Tiger Grouper and my first Porgy ever. Porgies are pretty skittish and tough to spear. Most of them are caught while trolling the cuts in your dinghy. I had my spear cocked because I was diving to look under a deep ledge when the porgy came out from under the ledge as soon as I arrived. We saw each other at the same time. He spun around and I shot, landing a solid center mass hit.

So with 4 lobster and 3 good sized fish we headed home. The day wasn't as productive as I had envisioned but it was still pretty good.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

February 19, 2012.

Happy Birthday Randall.

After a few therapeutic days of hiking and hunting we decided to once again change cays. We sailed the 4 miles from Spanish Well Bay north to the anchorage at Buena Vista Cay. The wind is supposed to be mild so I wanted to hunt the wonderful coral on the eastern side of the cay.

As a bonus we would be going out with some people that we really just met this year down at the Valentines Day party. Greg and Maggie are the husband and wife team of doctors that lent a hand when Doctor Bob sewed up Lynn from First Editions face when she fell on ironshore last year.(Cockpit surgery) They expressed a desire to do a little hunting with us as they felt they weren't having the success they ought to. I LOVE the whole mentoring thing. Somebody took the time to teach me and it made a huge difference so whenever the opportunity arises I try to pay it forward.

Fortunately Greg is in good shape and is comfortable in the water. Hes got the right equipment, we just had to get into the water. We chose a stretch of water with large coral and some ledges on the east side of the cay. We swam together, searching the holes and crevices. Each time I found a bug tucked away I had Greg come over discover it himself so he could get used to seeing the tip of the antenna, the contrast of the legs or whatever gave the bugs position away.

Then I let him take the shot and just like its written in the script, he missed. In fact, he missed the first few shots but his frustration ebbed when he soon nailed his first bug of the day. While we tread water in the sloppy chop I explained how to tease a lobster out of his hole.

If you can only see the tip of an antler you can take your spear or finger and lightly touch / stroke the antler. 70% of the time the bug will shrink back further into his hole. You didn't have a shot anyway so its worth the try. 25% of the time the bug will be curious enough to step forward possibly giving you the shot. The other 5% will come storming out of their hole screaming “Who doth dare to touch me?” Greg was understandably happy about teasing a 30 percenter into his bucket.

Just like with Keith and Jamie (Keiths turn to be the new guy) last year after a short while the hits were far outnumbering the misses and we both headed home with 4 bugs in our buckets.
I can't really take any credit for his "new found" skills. Greg was another perfect example of a guy already having all the tools to be successful. He just needed to pick up a few pointers in an area with enough bugs to hone his abilities.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

February 18, 2012.

We met a guy at a garbage burn/ cocktail hour the other evening. He had bandages on his fingers on both hands so of course, I had to ask him what happened. It turned out that he was trying to get his fish hook out of a barracudas mouth and things didn't go quite as he had envisioned. I laughed. I'm sorry, but unless you've got some Starfish in your family tree your fingers will NOT grow back, let the barracuda have the 40 cent hook.

At a recent cocktail party in someones cockpit a woman seated near me said “I've heard that you're a beast in the water”. She named her source and he's a very skilled hunter so it was high praise indeed. In the past I've been referred to as the “vacuum”, no, not because I suck, but because the area is pretty clean after I've worked it. "Beast" rolls off the tongue, I think I like the upgrade. I might have to get my wetsuit monogrammed.

While in Spanish Well Bay we perfected “Messin' With Sharks”.
30 feet of line tied to a stern cleat with a lobster trap float used to suspend the bait. We had 2 hours of shark fun with the carcass of an 8 pound Margate. It was one hit after another until only the face of the Margate was left.

The other day I had a lobster on my spear and was trying to work him out of his hole when something caught my attention out of the corner of my eye. I had to look twice as it was something I had never seen before. Twenty feet away, a foot below the surface, a lobster was swimming past. I didn't spook him, he was just out for a swim. Talk about bad timing. I left my spear in the hole and swam over and snatched him in mid stroke.

Maybe he heard I'm a beast and decided resistance was futile and just gave up. THAT would be a cool new trend.....

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Happy Valentines Day

February 17, 2012.

Alright, I’ll admit it, I've been a negligent blogger. Its not like we haven't been doing anything; its just that I've been a bit lazy.

We hid from our first serious front of the season. We tucked in down between Hog Cay and Ragged Island and even though the wind blew stink for 24 hours we had a comfortable time of it. We read a lot and even got into the water and killed a few lobsters in the lee of the cay.

Our good friend Maxine runs the local (tiny) grocery store. Maxine hosts an annual Valentines Day party for everyone here at Hog Cay. Eleven months ago Maxine's adult daughter had a stroke. So Maxine has spent the better part of the last year in Nassau taking care of her daughter and her family. The woman spent 6 months in a coma and and after awaking, spoke her first word at the beginning of February.

Even with all this going on Maxine still made the effort to once again hold the Valentines Day party. She arrived on the mailboat from Nassau a few days before the holiday to an outpouring of love from her friends. She once again coordinated a hell of a party.

The cruisers at Hog Cay rebuilt both fire pits to keep the food warm.
We also built a pair of large serving tables from some wood that Maxine sent out to us. We also rigged a huge tarp that provided welcomed shade for many of those who would be attending.

The event was attended by the crews of 30 cruising boats. Add in the 50 locals from Ragged Island and it was a heck of a party. AND...we even had dignitaries. The island administrator, the head of schools and the head of the police for all of the Bahamas including the Exumas and south were all in attendance. Yes, they sat in the shade.

Part of the event is the cruisers charity auction with the proceeds going to the local “all age” school. The school attendance is at an all time high of 17 students. Last year the kids were all taken to Disney, this year they're going to Cuba. I hear the log flumes in Cuba are spectacular. Anyway, everyone donated something to be auctioned off. Once again, Steve from Fine Lion proved to be a hell of an auctioneer. So it pretty much boils down to the cruisers buying each others crap for charity. The locals buy some of the things as well. Items ran the gambit from wetsuits to DVDs. The final tally was over $1100 to help the kids get to Cuba. I'm not sure how Fidel’s going to stack up against Mickey Mouse but I'm sure they'll have a great time.

Maxine was heading back to Nassau to resume her daughters care a few days after the party. But some of the generosity of the cruisers went with her. Everyone was asked to contribute anything they could in an effort to ease the financial burden of Maxine’s daughters care. The money was raised quietly and a card with over $1400 was slipped to our friend Maxine. Its really great to be part of this community.

The day after the party we decided it was time to get outta Dodge for a while. We sailed off the hook and spent a few nights at Raccoon Cay. We wormed ourselves way into Spanish Well Bay for some solitude.
After a week at Hog Cay and then the party, some alone time was just what the doctor ordered.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

February 8, 2012.

After recently playing Beach Bocce', watching the Superbowl and random evenings of Dominoes I've realized that I’m still pretty competitive. So we decided to create a game of our own.

We call it “Messin' with sharks”. For some reason the anchorage here at Double Breasted Cay is shark central. They showed up as soon as we dropped the anchor.
At any given moment during the day we can spot at least one shark meandering through the anchorage. Whenever a dinghy motor is started up they start to show up in numbers.

When we got back from hunting today we had a half dozen sharks circling the boat before we were even out of the dink. Usually as I clean the lobsters I snap their tail from their torso. If they're 3 pounds or smaller I toss the heads overboard. In every other anchorage it might be an hour before a Nurse shark
or big ray will come through and devour the lobster “heads”. Here at Double Breasted Cay the sinking heads barely get the chance to hit the bottom before being scooped up.

Since we grabbed a very nice Hogfish today we decided develop our new game. As I cleaned the Hog his blood was being washed down the scuppers into the water.
The sharks were circling frenetically looking for the source of the blood. After the fillets were removed I put a line through his mouth and gill and attached the bitter end to a deck cleat.
I tossed him into the water fully expecting one of the 5 or 6 foot long Sandbar Sharks to jump the Hog as quickly as they could.

Instead a 9 foot Nurse Shark came up from below and sucked the Hog entirely into its mouth. And swam off, or at least attempted to. The line went tight and the shark went a little bit nuts. I expected the 3/8ths line to be bitten off but it wasn't as the shark immediately
got tangled around our anchor chain. Ooops. We hadn't envisioned this when we planned the game.

The photo ops we were hoping for were there but the game turned out to be a lot more exciting than we had expected. Its hard to snap pictures when you're screaming. The shark ripped the fish free from the line and swam away to digest her prize. We'll refine the game and give it another whirl in the future.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

February 7, 2012.

I rarely get to watch football anymore but when the Superbowl (for you cowboy & eagle fans out there, the Superbowl is the championship game normally held at the end of the NFL season) rolls around we make an effort to catch the game. When I say we make an effort its nothing like the effort that our friend Phichael undertakes.

Phichael owns the Bonefish Lodge in the Duncan Town settlement. Its probably the nicest place for a hundred miles in any direction. Its very rarely open as there is just nobody around to enjoy the place. But its open every year for the Superbowl. The protected anchorage at Hog Cay is a 3 ½ mile dinghy ride away from the Bonefish Lodge. The ride home in the dark after a few beers can be an adventure that most cruisers are not willing to risk.(Superbowl dinghy ride) So not only does Phichael host the event, he brings a large center console speedboat out to the anchorage to pick people up.

This year the wind was up so the dinghy wasn't really an option. There were 18 people that were needing a ride into town. Phichael wasn't sure if he could squeeze 18 folks into his boat but if 2 trips were needed then he'd do that. Imagine our surprise when he came blasting around the corner and into the anchorage with 3 others locals already onboard. 18 might not fit so lets try 22. I'll try Bahamian Mathematics for $400 Alex.

We had all gathered on 3 boats so he wouldn't have to make 9 different stops. After successfully loading everybody onboard the next thing I knew....we were f'ing flyin'. Everyone onboard exchanged grins as we
rocketed across a 2 foot chop at better than 30 knots. Once we reached the protection of the shallow, mile long channel the ride got flatter and faster.

After a 2 block walk we were at the Bonefish lodge. There was only 1 case of beer so we were told in advance to bring our own drinks and some snacks to start off the evening. There was internet available so everyone checked email during the pregame show. Phichael feared that the lone flatscreen TV might not offer enough viewing opportunities so he brought his own television
from home and set it up on the corner of the bar so everyone had great seats. The 24 beers were soon gone so we poured our own libations and ate snacks as plate after plate of conch fritters came from the kitchen. Phichaels wife Erica timed everything perfectly so that everyone in attendance got a plate with chicken wings, cracked conch and half a lobster tail just in time for halftime.

Once again the locals in attendance added to the fun of the evening for the 35 or so people there. Great venue, great food, terrific close fought game and a boat ride. What an evening, now all we had to do was get safely home.

After the game we packed up our crap and once again piled into Phichaels powerful little boat. The moon was practically full and directly overhead. Visiblity was amazing. You could see plain as day for several hundred yards and the bottom was clearly visible as we ran dark and blasted across the surface.

Monday, February 6, 2012

February 3, 2012.

Lets talk customer service. Specifically Batelco's (Bahamas Telephone Company) customer service. We've had a Bahamanian cell phone for a couple of years now. Its a simple, no frills phone. We purchase a few $20 dollar phone cards so that we can get in touch with our people back in the states whenever we have cell service. We spend the majority of our time down in the Jumentos so our cell service is rather limited. But it works.

This year we decided to add an “air card” to our communication arsenal. The air card plugs into the USB port on our laptop and will let us connect to the internet wherever we have cell service. The air card has its own internal “SIM” card that once the account has been set up, allows the air card to connect. So while in Georgetown we strolled down to the Batelco office and had them set up our air card with our laptop. The service is $30 per month for unlimited data with no contract. So we'll pay monthly for the few months that we're here and store it away until next year.

Since our first month was expiring shortly, Christy & I walked into the Batelco facility here in Duncan Town to pay for February (This involves a 3 ½ mile dinghy ride to the next island). The “facility” is actually a small, one person operation at the bottom of the cell phone tower. We went in, paid our $30, he worked some computer magic and we headed home confident that we were good for the next month.

So imagine our surprise when on February 1st the air card was dead. Crap. Christy called Batelco and explained the problem. He remembered us coming in and checked our account balance. The money is there but he hasn't a clue about how to get the air card reactivated. He's never had to do it before. He called the main office in Nassau and called us back to tell us that the guy up there will be out of the office until 1400 hours.

At 1515 he called us back and told us that hes having the procedure faxed down to him and he'll call us at 1700 to walk us through it. He never called so when we went to bed I was pretty sure I was gonna have to take the long dinghy ride over to town the next day. Both of us can't go because the wind and seas are up and its pretty much gonna suck.

The next morning at 0800 a fishing boat pulled up alongside us. Once in a while a local fisherman will putt through the anchorage seeing if anyone wants to purchase some of his catch. He was ankle deep in conch and I was gonna tell him “no thanks” when I looked at his face. It was the brother of the freaking Batelco guy swinging by to hand deliver the faxed instructions. THATS customer service.

The air card is up and running and we're back online. AT&T, Verizon and Sprint should all send customer service reps down here for a little training.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

February 2, 2012.

After 2 near perfect nights at Raccoon Cay we once again raised sail and headed back down to Hog Cay. We have several days of excessive winds out of the east in the forecast. I want to head into Duncan Town to watch the Superbowl this weekend so we chose to do our traveling before the wind event starts.

The anchorage at Hog Cay provides terrific protection and the cay has
several great trails to keep you busy on days that might be too rough to get into the water. There’s about 15 other
boats all gathered here for the weekends football game so there’s
plenty of opportunity for socializing.

So the winds been honkin' and we've split our time doing boat chores, reading and relaxing. Sometimes I even combine the reading and relaxing.
To satisfy some of our competitive urges we've been playing some Beach Bocce'. We've collected 8 washed up lobster pot floats to use as Bocce' balls. Its more like horse shoes than traditional bocce' but either way its a fun way to kill an hour or two in the middle of the day.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

January 29, 2012.

To recap. We spent several days enjoying Hog Cay. We dinghied into town where we were able to purchase 5 gallons of gasoline and to confirm that there will in fact be a Superbowl party. We also successfully picked up our globe trotting propane tank from the mailboat.
Our freezer was full so we spent the balance of our time hiking, reading and working on other peoples boats. There might have been some drinking as well.

On Saturday morning we sailed off the hook and headed north to Raccoon Cay. We just needed to get out and blow the stink off. We were treated to 2 hours of perfect sailing and we soon had the hook down at one of the southern anchorages. We haven't been hunting for close to a week so we hit the coral heads nearest the boat and were soon home with 4 lobsters.

Sunday morning we got a call for help from one of our friends. They ran hard aground in a shallow bay just over a mile to our north. Mike from Sapphire and I showed up and Synergy was soon once again afloat will no ill effects. After going home and having breakfast we decided to apply ourselves and go out and do a little hunting.

We headed over to one of my favorite haunts and it was just one of those days. Christy dropped me into the water in the middle of “my” spot and everything just lined up. Visibility was practically unlimited, the lobster were abundant, large fish were common, no sharks in the neighborhood and my ears were cooperative giving me unlimited depth.
Within 2 hours we were headed home with 3 Hogfish and a dozen lobsters. We never even got to 2 of the 3 places I wanted to hit. Next time.