Monday, December 30, 2013

December 30, 2013.

We've been enjoying the new underwater camera that Santa brought us. The larder was full so we spent a few days in the water stalking fish and lobster and taking their pictures rather than their lives.
Queen Triggers taste great but are just too pretty to kill
It was kinda weird but fun. I'm sure the lobster enjoyed it more.
Spiny Lobster

The Fine Lions moved into the neighborhood so when they went fishing I tagged along to take some action shots.
Steve pokes a lobster
It was fun but watching someone else kill shit was wearing on me.
Hide and seek, lobster style

Tomorrows New Years Eve and there will be a gathering on the beach and Christy wants to bring her Lobster Salad.
An Octopus chillin' under a coral head
The problem is that we've been eating lobster but not hunting them. You can't eat photos.
Moray eel
So this morning I got the green light to go out and actually kill something.

I like to methodically hunt a section of the cay at a time. We've done several sections but hadn't touched my personal favorite yet.
Its hard to be lady like while getting lobster off the spear
Steve and I were in the water by 0900 and Christy & Kim manned the dinks as we swam along checking coral heads and ledges.

We covered a lot of ground and were back at the boat by 1100 hours. Steve took 9 bugs and a Hogfish while I grabbed 8 bugs and 3 Hogs.
Obviously, after sharing my favorite spot with the Fine Lions I'm going to have to swim over tonight and kill them.  This saddens me but Hey, we all had a great day.
I've decided to kill 1 Lionfish for every lobster I take....
December 28, 2013.

The wind dropped to less than 20 outta the east so we pulled the hook early and sailed the 10 miles north to Raccoon Cay. There was 1 other boat behind the cay when we arrived and we dropped the hook about 1200 yards to their south. Within 20 minutes they pulled their hook and motored away leaving us with the west side of the cay to ourselves. Cool, buh-bye.

When we pulled in I hadn't recognized the other boat. I looked for a national flag for a clue but none was displayed.  Then I realized that there was neither a courtesy flag or a quarantine burgee hanging in the rigging.  Hmmmm.  That's when we realized it was Northern Goose. We've seen them down here several times through the years but have never met them. I actually don't know anyone down here who's them.

I can be fairly antisocial and we enjoy the privacy that our lifestyle affords us. But in comparison these folks make me look desperate for companionship. A couple of years ago we were going hunting in the dink and as we turned a corner we came across their boat. They were in the cockpit and as we skimmed past we both waved and ….nothing. They stared us down and made no acknowledgment of our passing. Ohhkay then.

I thought it was a bit weird but as the years have passed we've found that our experience seems to be fairly common. Several other boats have shared similar stories with us. I don't know anyone who claims to have met them in the flesh or even spoken to them on the VHF. We even heard stories that they've been suspected of removing markers on the trails that crisscross the various cays in the area to confuse newcomers. True or not, I dunno, its just weird. I'm sure there could be a valid reason for the standoffishness. Perhaps they're on a sailing sabbatical from a leper colony. Perhaps they're large flesh covered lobsters and they're afraid I'm going to kill and eat their children. Maybe hes got a voice like Mike Tyson and hes stays off the radio as a public service to us all. I dunno.

Of course after I post this I realize that I'm doomed to meet them somewhere. They might turn out to be lovely people that just enjoy their time alone. But just in case I'm still gonna have Christy whip up a gallon of tartar sauce.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Would someone please remove my fork from my hand....

December 25, 2013.

As always Christmas here on the Veranda was perfect. A fifth boat, Scotch Mist, showed up here during the night and we were all scheduled to get together on the beach at 1500 hours for a feast. Part of our contribution was to be Lobster Risotto. So after exchanging presents Christy and I went out to grab a couple of fresh lobster for the risotto.

The wind is not due to drop off until tomorrow so the conditions were still a bit sporting. We did succeed in grabbing three nice bugs and a Ocean Trigger that weighed in at almost nine pounds. I was after lobster but when I saw the trigger swim into a crevice in the coral I snuck to the other end and waited in the hopes he was traveling straight through. Just before I turned blue he popped out right in front of me and I sent my spear ripping through his body. On the plus side for him is now hes not going to have to wear that Christmas sweater his Grandmother knitted for him. Color me an optimist.

The afternoons meal was unbelievable. Perfectly grilled Bison steaks, turkey, stuffing, coleslaw, lobster risotto,
Steve slices up the Bison
Bahamanian Mac-n-Cheese, grilled lobster bites wrapped in bacon, cranberries, corn and peas. For dessert there were homemade sticky buns and Christy turned out a perfect rendition of Letas condensed milk and cherry pie.
Everybody wants one of Susan's sticky buns

Leta would be proud of Christy's "Leta Pie"
There were nine people in attendance but we could have fed twenty.

Christy & I hope everyone of you had a wonderful Christmas as well. Onward to New Years.....

Sunday, December 22, 2013

If I had anymore I'd need a wheelbarrow....

December 22, 2013.

The other day Christy accused me of not having enough Christmas spirit. Actually, she said I had none. I said “Why, because I haven't stood in an angry line at Sears and punched somebody recently?” Evidently I had confused Christmas Spirit and Holiday Rage.

It seems that she was riding me because I failed to help decorate the boat. It's not that I didn't want to help, it's just that she LOVES doing it. To put up our decorations only takes 15 minutes so I didn't want to steal half her joy. One strand of colored lights, 2 stockings, a Santa picture and our tiny tree. Pffft, done.

She said I could have at least put some of the ornaments on the tree. There are over a hundred ornaments on our 2 foot tall tree. Last year when I helped I was informed that I was doing it wrong. Evidently you don't put all the soldiers and bad ass ornaments in the front while hiding the girly ones in the back. The ballerinas, fairies and tiny birdhouses are important too. Who knew.

So finding myself condemned as persona non xmas espiritous I decided to take action. The boat decorations were finished so I headed in to shore determined to dress up the cay. Hog Cay is huge so spreading a thin layer of Christmas cheer over the whole cay seemed unrealistic. So I decided to concentrate my efforts.

I went to a section of the shoreline that borders the anchorage that has a large limestone formation. I ended up building a five and a half foot tall limestone Christmas tree.
During the day it has the appearance of a large but simple rock cairn. But at night when the strands of solar lights kick on its just Christmas throwing up all over the place. That is one fine stack o' Christmas spirit.
Yes, it is dark as hell out here.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Turtle head

December 17, 2013.

There’s still only 4 boats down here in the Ragged Islands. We all spent the last few nights together in the anchorage at Double Breasted Cay. Everyone has grabbed a few lobster and nice sized Hogfish are becoming a daily occurrence.

Last night Christy & I were sitting in the cockpit under a full moon when there was a huge gasp of air right next to the boat. We were startled out of our reverie and climbed out onto the side deck. We've never seen a dolphin down in these parts so I wasn't sure what to expect when we peered over the side.

We were anchored in 9 feet of crystal clear water and could easily see the white sandy bottom glowing in the moonlight. It turned out to be the biggest sea turtle either one of us had ever seen. He was every bit of 6 feet in length with a head bigger than mine. He was awesome. He spent 5 minutes meandering back and forth next to the boat much to our enjoyment.

I have no idea how quickly turtles grow. I know a tortoise that size would be a hundred years old or more. Is it the same with turtles, I dunno. It was kind of nice to imagine that an old man like him had stopped by for a brief visit. We watched him swim away and climbed back into the cockpit to settle in and imagine the things hes seen and the times hes lived through as we sat and enjoyed our moonlit anchorage.

Experimental random photos.....

Fine Lion at sunset
Rare blue lobster shell fragment found while beach combing
Fine lion and Veranda riding at anchor at Double Breasted Cay
Snowstorm in the anchorage
Bugs between 1 and 4 pounds and a 4 pound Hogfish
The new creepy baby head figurehead on the dink 

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Trapped with my own thoughts.....

December 14, 2013.

I was walking the beach today and I realized that Puddlejumper and Seabiscuit inadvertently ruined beach combing for me.

Everybody knows what crab or lobster pot floats look like. Balls, wedges or cones made out of styrofoam that are strategically placed to be right in the deepest part of the usable navigational channel by some closely bred ninny. In days gone bye the floats were balls of blown glass. In some parts of the Caribbean that is still the case. Nature often rips these floats free from their tethers and the glass balls start a trip of their own.

According to the admiral these glass balls are the Holy Grail of beach combing and I need to find one. Last year Bill on Puddlejumper found a few of these floats by combing the tall grass that borders the high end of the beaches. His success made him the defacto glass ball gathering expert in these parts and he shared his technique with Mike from Seabiscuit. Mike unknowingly compounded my problem by going out and finding a damn glass ball himself.

So now a year later I found myself thrashing through the tall grass at the edge of the beach while Christy and our friends walk the beach finding pretty shells, beach glass and beans. Being alone in the tall grass with no glass balls in sight does give me a lot of time to think. And I started thinking about the visors that fisherdudes wear. I dunno why, its just how I'm wired I guess.

You know the visors I'm talking about. The visors cover a completely untanned forehead and have a thatch of hair sticking straight up. Flip flops, board shorts, a long sleeve T-shirt, a visor and a Corona and you have the whole fisherdude uniform. Stop in at any waterfront pub along the eastern seaboard and you're guaranteed to run into a covey of these slaves to fishing fashion. If its late enough and the fisherdude is into his cups he'll be wearing the visor backwards because the fisherdude is OFF Duty. If you're in doubt sidle up close and listen to their speech patterns. The typical fisherdude sounds like Spicoli form Fast Times at Ridgemont High had a child with a Valley Girl. Its as if they've all gone to California and spent a semester at the Fisherdude Linguistics Academy. Stupid yet inquisitive. It doesn't matter if they're 40 years old, they still sound like an adolescent struggling with tenth grade English.

I understand the visor is useful in protecting your eyes from the glare of the sun. I can also understand that the wind across the top of your head is cooler than wearing a ball cap or tilley hat. But did they really all come to that conclusion or are they just all dressing the part, wearing the uniform. Nobody wants to be the odd fisherdude out.

I've met bald fisherdudes. The sun is beating down on their unprotected pate yet the visor is still the chapeau of choice. Heck, I've seen visors for sale that already have the hair sewn in.

What this all boils down to is that I've got to much time on my hands to think while combing the upper limits of the beaches. God forbid I find a glass ball, I'll never be allowed back down near the surfline....

Sunday, December 15, 2013

December 13, 2013.

We're at Double Breasted Cay in the Ragged Islands. Internet here is sketchy so pictures will have to come later.

Christy and I were out doing a little spearfishing today and we had a first. We had a fish and a pair of bugs in the bucket and I wanted to hit one more spot before heading back to the boat. I dropped into the water while Christy stood by in the dink.

I spotted a big lobster right away and was about to go get him when I saw a good sized Hogfish lurking nearby. I quickly realized that the lobster had made a huge tactical error. He was hiding under an overhang with no back door, he had no way out of his lair but to come towards me. I decided to leave him for now and to take the Hogfish first.

The Hogfish saw me coming and tried to weave away between some sea fans. I nailed him with a solid shot and started swimming him to the surface when he spun, flipped and freed himself from my spear. Crap. I gave chase and he swam away from me trailing huge plumes of blood. He dove like a dime into a coin slot under a rock the size of an automobile. I went round and round the rock and had no way of retrieving him.

It was definitely a mortal shot and I was bummed at not being able to harvest him after killing him. I swam back to the lobster and grabbed him. I swam him up to the dink and told Christy about failing to grab the soon to be dead Hogfish. I swam the rest of the reef and found nothing else worth taking. I even checked the rock twice more trying to find the Hogfish. Nothing.

I had had enough so I hopped in the dink and we started the ¾ mile long trip back to the Veranda. We were idling along towards home and I was lamenting the fact that I felt so bad about killing this Hogfish without getting it. Christy listened to me for a few minutes before she moved some lobsters in the bucket and reached down inside. Then she yanked my Hogfish out and asked “Did it look like this one?”.

I almost fell over the side. It was my Hogfish, massive spear wound, dead in the bucket and the last time I saw him he was under a rock 15 feet down. WTH? She said that she saw a flash of orange on the surface 80 feet away and headed over to investigate. She said he was lying on his side swimming along in his death throes when she pulled up alongside. She had time to put on her gloves, reached over, grabbed him and dropped him into the bucket. So all is well here and we've got a pretty cool fish story to tell.....

Thursday, December 12, 2013

December 11, 2013.

While we've been hiding form the 20 – 25 knots outta the east for the last few days something strange happened. We ran out of food. Not really but we were completely out of lobster. Christy had frozen half of the Ocean Trigger so there was no fresh fish either.

We woke to a little less wind this morning so we loaded our spearfishing crap into the dink and headed north. It was just past low tide and we had a shallow stretch to cross to get to the deep cut between the cays. The seas were still running even though the breeze was down to 17 knots or so. One wave after another was crashing onto the shallow section as we headed towards deeper water. My copilot was a little less than thrilled as a series of close set waves crashed over the top of the dinghy as we plodded into the surf.

We did make it through and once into the area I wanted to hunt things looked to be doable. Its not really bad for me in the water but if the surface is rough enough the waves can make handling the dink a real challenge. Since it was just past low tide and the surface was so rough there was once again a lot of sand suspended in the water.

The reef here is actually a series of closely spaced reefs that run in a straight line. Swimming is easy as the current pushes you along. There were long stretches where peering into the nooks and crannies was impossible due to the suspended sand. Every once and a while the water would perfectly clear and lobster hunting was possible.

It took 2 hours but we ended up surfing the waves home with the Red Bucket O'Doom overflowing with 9 bugs and a nice Tiger Grouper. We've got enough fresh seafood to last for days so “Let it blow, let it blow, let it blow”.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

December 3, 2013.

Never again will I take an Ocean Trigger (Editors note: Yes he will, they're very tasty). Filleting him turned into a full time job. Nothing as heinous as working for John Norton but still, it was not easy. His skin was tough as hell. It was like filleting a combat boot. But he was very good.

So of course during the night the wind built directly out of the north and into our private wide open anchorage. It was only a paltry 12 knots but we were swung stern to shore and listening to the wavelets beating against the shore was less than relaxing. I wasn't worried about dragging but my imagination was running wild and I couldn't sleep. So at 0530 I got up and plotted a course to our next destination and got the boat ready to go.

We were underway by 0630 and headed for Hog Cay. We once again found ourselves as the only boat around and had the cay to ourselves. We hiked a bit and explored “The Structure” and noted various reminders of several of our friends passing through.

The only settlement in the Jumentos is Duncantown and is just over a mile and a half away on Ragged Island. There are only about 60 people in the very small community. Maxine who runs the local grocery store hosts an annual Valentines Day party that is not to be missed. She hosts it here on Hog Cay and the lack of shade has always been an issue.

The cruisers gathered hundreds of pieces of bamboo driftwood and built “The Structure” to provide some shade. This past year Maxine gathered some building materials and had some of the locals come over and build a more permanent structure to help house the party.
They did a fantastic job.

We're hiding from 20 – 25 knots out of the east with at least another 4 days of the same in the forecast. One day the wind dropped down to 15 – 20 knots so we rounded the southern tip of the cay to try a little spearfishing. The seas were still up and conditions were less than optimal with a lot of sand suspended in the water due to the roughness.

I didn't dare go around to the windward side of the reefs as the waves would pick me up and unceremoniously deposit me on top of the reef. Which would be bad unless you're into extreme exfoliation. I did find 2 parallel reefs. The waves were breaking on the outermost reef which allowed me to hunt the backside of the inside reef with decent visibility. I grabbed 3 bugs in a half an hour while Christy handled the dinghy in the rough conditions. Thirty minutes was all I could ask of her as the wind pushed her one way while the current sent her in another direction, all while surrounded by coral.

On the way home we did stop at a cove with the only coconut palms on the cay. We grabbed a half dozen newly fallen coconuts to add to the larder before heading back to the boat.

On an unrelated front, someone asked about Hamburger Beans.  Heres a link to a story I wrote about them a while ago.....Click Here

You'll have to scroll down to January 16th to read about the beans.... 

Thursday, December 5, 2013

December 2, 2013.

Got off the boat early to hike the eastern side of Raccoon Cay. These recent squalls filled the usually dry salt flats so crossing the cay had an added “swamp” obstacle.
Swamp Woman
We combed the ironshore and a few small beaches which yielded 26 Hamburger Beans.

After returning to the boat we decided to try someplace new. Johnson Cay. Johnson Cay is a small cay with a U-shaped anchorage that is completely exposed to the north.
The weather has to be pretty docile to consider an overnighter there. We're expecting clocking winds at less than 9 knots.We never brought Veranda in there before the re-power because if the boat didn't start once we were there we were truly screwed. There is room for a few boats but there seems to be an unspoken understanding that if there’s a vessel already anchored there, you find some place else to drop the hook. Since there’s only 3 “tourist” boats down here at the moment it wasn't going to be an issue.

It was a quick motor from Raccoon to Johnson and the hook was down in less than 45 minutes. After lunch we walked the beach and went for a swim. Christy found 3 spectacular Helmet shells while I grabbed 3 more lobsters. We were swimming one of the coral heads together when Christy spotted an Ocean Triggerfish.

Queen Triggers are very good eating but just too pretty to kill. Ocean Triggers are much larger and usually curious to a point. They hang around for a bit but until today they stay just out of spear range. He was swimming a semicircular route and because I'm better at geometry than he was I took a course that would bisect his path.
The spear tip ripped through his spine and he was instantly qualified for a special parking space. A 12 pound fish usually puts up a hellacious fight but my lucky shot had broken his spine and crippled him. Nice.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

November 30, 2013.

We've been waiting for a week long series of viscous squalls to run their course through the area. On Friday we had had enough and made the 7 mile trip down to Black Point. We did the laundry, walked the beach, bought some peppers and onions and even scored a loaf of Lorraine’s mothers coconut bread.

The forecast called for light base winds with squalls thrown into the mix so at 0930 on Saturday we headed out for the Jumentos.
Fine Lion was waiting for parts to be flown in so we bade them farewell and headed out a few hours after Barry & Susan on Nighthawk XX.

Its a 120 mile trip and diesel is precious down there as you can't really get any. So we spent the day sailing, alternating between 2 and 7 knots as the breeze varied widely. Sometimes a squall would overtake us with 30 knots of breeze while the next one would be only rain.

Nighthawk XX opted to stop at Flamingo Cay so at 0200 we slipped past them in the dark. We did have to motor for 3 of the 23 hours to time our crossing of the Nurse Cay Cut with the incoming tide. There’s an 18 mile stretch there that is very similar to crossing the Gulfstream. You definitely don't want big wind opposing the tide. Unless getting your ass kicked is something you enjoy.

We sailed into the anchorage at Raccoon Cay and dropped the hook shortly after 0800. A passing rain shower rinsed off the boat and welcomed us back with a series of spectacular rainbows.

Its good to be back in the area we enjoy so much after a 1420 nautical mile journey. We got over the jitters of making the trip in an untried boat. Nobody yelled at me at an ICW bridge. We weren't run down from behind by a blind “sailor” motoring behind his limp genoa. Serenity 5 didn't try to barrel though us as he did his “Ray Charles drives a boat impression”. Alpha Mike had no issues. There was no white trash spectacle on the docks in Nassau. Customs and Immigration were spectacular. And in an hour this afternoon 6 lobster jumped into the Big Red Bucket O'Doom.

Veranda truly has “Done reach”.