Friday, January 31, 2014

January 28, 2014.

After spending 6 nights in Southside Bay it was time to get going. We had a pleasant breeze behind us as we broad reached out of the anchorage along with Blue Wing and Alibi II.
Blue Wing
The trip was only about 10 miles so we opted to add a few miles and tack our way into the anchorage at Hog Cay.
Alibi II storming along under Jib & Jigger

We spent a few days at Hog Cay visiting with friends, hunting, hiking and fighting with refrigeration issues. I did manage to get the fridge going again but it was not without some swearing and a loss of sleep.

The hunting went well though. We went north to the cut below Maycock Cay and I had 4 lobster and a smallish Hogfish in the bucket when I spied El Grande. If you've ever been fishing (with a pole) you know that fish put up a good fight while you try to reel them in. If you're in the water with a spear the fight becomes a lot more challenging. You're leverage is gone and hes in his element. Hogfish are extremely powerful fish so shooting a big one is not to be taken lightly unless getting totally manhandled by a fish is something you enjoy.

I saw El Grande from pretty far away and started to stalk him. He noticed me and coyly moved into some cover. As I maneuvered for a shot he countered by changing direction and moving a short distance. I was trying to close the distance without moving directly towards him. We did this dance for a while before a shot presented itself. I caught him coming out from behind a coral head. I had him dead to rights, his full flank exposed and in range. And I practically missed him.

I hit him low on the body just as he darted away. I don't understand it. The biggest one I've seen this year and I barely hit him. He bent my fiberglass spear around the coral head. As I swam forward to straighten it, he swam ahead and kept it wrapped firmly around the rock. One of us was running out of air. I let go of the spear and surfaced figuring “how far could he go with a 6 foot spear hanging out of his chest”.

It turned out that he didn't have to swim away as he did some crazy Houdini like crap and spun the spear free of his body before I could get back down to him. Shit. He dove under a rock to hide.   Bastard.  I floated on the surface so I could watch all sides of the rock lest he try to leave via a secret backdoor.

I carefully surveyed the rock and there was no secondary way out for him. There were small fish darting in and out of the hole probably eating at his wound. I knew he would have to come out sooner or later so I began a series of dives where I would just lay on the bottom next to the hole with my spear cocked and waiting. Finally on the fourth such dive he burst out of the hole and flared his dorsal fin at me. And then I shot him dead....
A moment of silence for El Grande

He turned out to be 5 1/2 pounds.  He was large enough that I could easily put my fist in his mouth.

Friday, January 24, 2014

The Lobster of London

January 23, 2014.

How's the weather? Chilly? Yeah, here too. The Polar Vortex thats blasted the continental United States has pushed an unusually prolonged period of Northerlies our way. Just like back in the states, North wind means lower temperatures. We had 5 consecutive days of overcast. Hell it even drizzled for 2 days as the temps here swooped down to 73°. Drizzle, overcast, no dazzling sunshine for 5 was like being in London. Since we were in “London” I decided to do what I imagine the Brits must do during times like this. We went looking for some bloody lobster.
Not much wind but God damn dreary

We were hiding from the wind down on the South side of Ragged Island. We had 4 boatloads of friends hunt this area a week ago.
Looking south, across the runway towards the anchorage
There had been a Dominican fishing boat working these waters and our disappointed friends pronounced these waters “fished out”. After a few days of dreariness I had to get into the water and do a little recon.

Since it was raining I wasn't surprised that nobody else wanted to join me. I clipped the dinghy to my weight belt and towed it behind me as I swam a few obscure coral heads in the anchorage. I found 7 bugs and took 3 home satisfied that the lobster were still here in numbers.

The next day was marginally shitty so Steve and I took 2 new guys out looking for their first lobster. It was cold, gray and visibility wasn't the best but both guys went home with 2 lobster apiece in about an hour.

On Wednesday we were walking around town and contemplating having lunch when out on the horizon we saw something odd. The sun. We headed back to the boats and after a quick bite Steve & Kim along with Christy & I headed out to some heads that have treated me very well in the past.
Evidently, placing a wet finger on the lens has a negative affect on the clarity of the picture....but you get the idea.

Pickins' were a little slow to start with as the lobster we saw were just too small to kill. But then things started to “flow”. At more than one point I could see 5 bugs at a time. Often while swimming one back to the dink I would see another and try to note exactly where he was so I could come back to get him. In 2 hours the 4 of us were headed home with 24 good sized bugs. Everyone in the anchorage had lobster for dinner as we went from boat to boat distributing them.

The sun is out and the lobster are still here. What more could a bloke want?

Friday, January 17, 2014

Hide and seek

January 16, 2014.

The water here is crystal clear and consistently around 79°. The air temperature is 82° during the day and 78° at night. But even here in paradise Mother Nature can be a bit of a cantankerous bitch.

We gather our weather information from 4 main sources. There’s OCEANS Weather, Spot Weather, weather forecasts through our Skymate system and we listen to weather guru Chris Parker on the SSB every morning.

We knew there was a pretty nasty cold front headed our way. We've had 3 days of 15ish knots out of the south southeast so we've been hiding in Double Breasted Cay.
When the cold front arrived the wind was basically going to flip from the south southeast to the northwest and intensify. Double Breasted Cay wouldn't be much fun in 20 knots out of the northwest. But “when” is the big question. It was supposed to reach Georgetown at dawn and we're 90 miles further south so we should get the wind flip a few hours later. You don't know how adorable it is that I still believe crap like that.

So we went to bed with plans of pulling the hook at dawn and getting some protection from the north before the front arrived. Sailors making plans just makes me shake my head and laugh.

At 0200 the wind generator stopped spinning. It's a very subtle difference but the lack of spin woke me and had me bolt upright immediately. I went topside and sat for a bit as we slowly clocked to the southwest and finally west with 10 knots of breeze filling in. I was hoping this calm would happen a little later but it is what it is and I went back to bed.

It was now 0430 and look who's here, The Cold Front. Damn it. I was back in the cockpit as the wind built to 25 knots out of the northwest. There were 3 of us anchored there and we're all facing the opening to the northwest riding 2 to 3 footers driving through the anchorage. Christy & I debated whether we should pull the hook then or wait until dawn. There was a full moon and we're familiar enough with the surrounding water to get underway towards better protection. The wind was now between 25 and 30 knots with higher gusts. The leading edge of these fronts is usually the nastiest and since we were riding at anchor comfortably we opted to wait for dawn and hopefully less wind.

But there had to be a little drama first. Fine Lion and Veranda were sitting like the 7 & 10 pins and Starfish 9 has become the bowling ball and is now dragging down on us. Crap. I hailed them on the VHF and she answered me back right away. They were aware that they were dragging, they're getting it together and they'll be underway shortly. Fortunately, they're shitty bowlers and failed to hit either pin as they slid right between us. They retrieved their hook and moved away into the darkness to anchor again.

The wind stayed upwards of 25 knots until 0930 when we had 5 minutes of 19 to 22 knots. We all pulled the hooks and set sail for Southside Bay on Ragged Island.
It's a 15 mile trip moving from broad reach to run, then a jibe and beam reach into the anchorage. With so much wind behind us and such a short trip we opted to put out just a slice of the genoa. Fine Lion was next to us and had chosen a similarly sized headsail.

We were discussing this on the VHF when they shared with us their Shipboard Headsail Size Classification System with us. They were currently flying the “Anorexic Thong” while it looked like we were flying the “Full Thong”. The next size up in their system would be the “Plus Size Thong” followed by “Training Panties, Hospital Panties, Granny Panties” with the full genoa being “Longjohns”. French Cut Panties are probably some kind of staysail, I dunno. The headsail nomenclature alone was enough for me to absorb in one day.

I urge all the sailors out there to memorize these various headsail sizes. Because if you get caught with too much sail up in a freshening breeze you could be sporting a pair of crotchless panties before you know it.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

January 14, 2014.

Happy Birthday to my brother Mike. Before I get into tonight's topic let me touch upon something I just realized. When a woman says “We'll see” it doesn't mean that the matter in question is either pending or up for review. “We'll see” pretty much means NO. I know I should have realized this sooner but lets just say that I’ve had an epiphany.

The rest of this post will be fairly blunt and if you're easily offended “What the hell are you doing here to begin with?”

We were at a wallow this afternoon when one of the basic liveaboard topics came up. Head issues. Somehow the conversation morphed into more of a head habits chat. There are two distinct camps when it comes to what constitutes legal flushins'.

One side of the coin argues that if you didn't eat it, don't flush it. I can understand that but I never really gave it a lot of thought. You see, I never realized that toilet paper was still on the table so far as the debate goes. I've had friends in the past say that they don't flush their toilet paper. I had always pictured that little piece of tissue that women use to clean up after taking a pee. Now it's sitting in a little basket reeking faintly of urine, kinda like pee pee potpourri. I always thought....quirky, hygienically disturbing, a basket of urine soaked tissue lying about. But it's their boat, whatever makes them happy. With enough Glade sprayed about you can hardly tell....

Today it was explained to me that this non flushing of paper also includes the tissue used to wipe ones ass. Excuse me? It had never dawned on me. Who in their right mind would keep shit covered Scotts for a moment longer than they had too. I LOVE my wife and not having to look at her “shit tickets” is just one more reason I love her. The plus side would be her not being able to claim that the foul smell in the head was me missing the bowl while there was a pile of shit covered Cottonelle in the corner of the 9 square foot room.

Christ, from now on whenever someone throws their garbage on the fire I'll be running a mental checklist as to whether or not I know if they're flushers or savers. You won't flush it down your own head but you'll bring it to the beach and share it with everyone at the firepit.  What is it with this irrational fear these people have. Calcium buildup brutalizes head hoses and clogs everything. Toilet paper dissolves into nothing, it's not an issue.

A good portion of these sailors were doctors, lawyers and Indian chiefs but they've still been duped into saving shitty TP. I doubt that they feel the same compulsion to save their toenails, boogers and earwax, because THAT would be irrational. But that stack of shit tickets in the corner....thats just savvy seamanship?

And while I'm at it lets talk about the toilet paper itself. For a about a week we used that “special” TP designed for marine use. The 4 pack at West Marine was over 6 bucks so Christy devised a little experiment. She took 4 Solo cups and filled them with salt water. 2 sheets of Scott went into one while the other 3 cups got Cottonelle, the West Marine marine friendly type and some Charmin.

She let the paper soak overnight and every 20 minutes during the evening she gave each cup a quick stir. The next morning the Scotts had dissolved into nothing. The other 3 cups all contained globs of mush that any marine head would make short work of. So its Scotts for us here on the boat and with our devil may care attitude, when we're done with the job, we flush the paperwork too.....

Saturday, January 11, 2014

January 11, 2014.

One of the beaches here at Hog Cay has an amazing amount of seaglass. Its a very small beach that I'd be willing to bet has yielded more than 100 pounds of glass to various boats over the last couple of years.

It was blowing stink yesterday, all the trails have been walked, there’s no room onboard for fish or lobster so we decided to do some farming. I'm a neophyte to farming but I know that before you can harvest a crop you have to plant one. To ensure future generations the ability to find some seaglass we decided to do some seeding.

So we headed out to one of the oceanside beaches and collected every glass bottle we could find. We brought 2 large canvas bags and in 5 minutes they were full of bottles of every size and shape.
We found what we hope will be a good portion of the beach for “glassing” in the future. After smashing the first load of glass we refilled the bags several times and pretty much removed ALL the bottles from this beach.

We probably broke about 200 bottles all in the same small area.
Even at my age....breaking glass is still fun
It'll be interesting to check the section out in years to come just to see if the glass remains in the area at all. Hell, I'm hopeful that it'll still be there tomorrow. Christy tells me she thinks that it takes at least 3 years of tumbling before seaglass is ripe for picking. We'll see....

Monday, January 6, 2014

January 6, 2014.

Yesterday we woke with plans to travel a bit north. There was supposed to be 2 days of light Southeasterlies that would enable us to bop up to Double Breasted Cay for a few nights. I'm not sure but somehow the plan changed....

Instead of leaving Hog Cay we decided to move North along the West side of the cay into unfamiliar territory. The charts show the area we were considering to have no water. We've swam the entire area and know that not the case.
Also, every year a catamaran or two will drop the hook in this anchorage so we decided to give it a go.

So we pulled the hook 2 hours before high tide and cautiously motored north along the cay. After rounding the point we crept in as close to the cay as possible. We're now anchored behind the highest ground in all the Jumentos at 24 meters.
Flat water in spite of 18 knots
We have a shear limestone wall from 0º all the way through the east to 180º. Protection is so complete there’s not even a phone signal. To talk to my Mom last night involved getting in the dink and floating a quarter of a mile to the West so I could use the phone.

We climbed the wall as best we could in an effort to try and capture the scene in pictures.
Veranda in the lee of the hills

Beautiful beaches just to the north
At the masthead we were registering 18 knots of breeze while below there was barely a ripple on the water.

The water along the back of the cay here is shallow and a natural nursery for all kinds of indigenous fish. We decided to take a photo swim and just poke around a bit.
Schools of tiny fish in the shallows
A wee lobster

Typical reef with fish
I always carry a spear when we get in the water in case the family of some dead fish wants revenge. Its a good thing too because as soon as we got into the water a pair of Lemon Sharks appeared and showed an interest in the new kids to the neighborhood.
Lemon Shark

They were harmless enough and ran off when confronted. But it was a little disconcerting as to how quickly they could reappear out of the shadows to make another curious pass. We saw juvenile fish of every kind and a pair of tiny lobsters in the shallow water.

After dinner on the boat we watched the depth sounder while trying to decide what kind of job we had down when we dropped the hook. Whenever we drop the hook we always decide how much the water will recede when the tide ebbs. This enables us to drop the hook as close as we can to the shoreline.
The chartplotters "Log Function" is pretty cool
I was pretty sure we had done a good job as we watched the water below our keel fall to less than half a foot as we swung through low tide. Six inches or six feet, as long as we're floating......
The Sunsets not too shabby either

Sunday, January 5, 2014

The fish are fighting back....

January 3, 2014.

Every once in a while a good fish story comes along. Just 2 weeks ago we had the dying Hogfish practically climb into the Big Red Bucket O'Doom. Well our friend Steve had himself a fish day. Thats right 2 pretty good fish stories in the same day.

We had a benign weather day so it was a great opportunity to go into town. There are 2 boats here that had never been to town before so we decided to take them for a tour of the town. Steve & Kim blasted off ahead while we went over and collected the crews from Pura Vida & Purrfect Two.

Kim & Steve were a quarter of a mile ahead of us. Standing in the dink provides a smoother, drier ride and they were skimming along at 15 knots. Just as they were about to make the hard turn to port to enter Duncantown's channel they had “an encounter”.

Kim saw a small fish jumping and skimming the surface as they often do while being chased by a larger, hungry fish. Fortunately she was paying attention as a 3 foot long Barracuda leapt 7 feet out of the water directly in front of them. Since she was looking at the spot when it happened it gave her time to double over and duck the flying Barracuda. Steve, not so much. The Barracuda hit him on the front of the shoulder and because of cat like reflexes he was able to block it from hitting him in the face as it arced back towards the water.

When we all pulled into town Kim shared the story of their encounter. At first I thought they were pulling my leg until I saw that the upper chest and shoulder of Steve's shirt was impregnated with fish scales. I was glad that Steve was alright as this allowed me to laugh.

After returning to the boats and having lunch we decided to do a little hunting in the cut. Steve hit a nice Hogfish. His shot was a little high on the body and the fish was able to rip himself free of the spear. As Steve gave chase the Hogfish dove for the protection of the reef. Adjacent to the reef was a locals fish trap. They are large cages with a funnel shaped doorway that allows fish to enter but not get out. Steve's Hogfish decided that the best place to hide was to dive straight into the fish trap. It was a little shortsighted on his part but he did get the best of Steve.....

Saturday, January 4, 2014

January 2, 2014. Thats right 14.

If you've been a reader for a while you know I'm a big fan of the “wallow”. Sitting in 80º water up to your nipples seems to me to be a great way to spend a few hours.
Traditionally our wallows have started around 1600 hours. By the time sunset rolls around it starts to get a little chilly when you stand up. So in the interest of my fellow mans comfort we've decided to make wallowing a matinee event. Wallows are now starting at 1400 or so.

This is where we walk a fine line, not to be confused with a Fine Lion. For wallowing to be properly enjoyed adult beverages are encouraged. Some people (my wife) believe that drinking so early in the afternoon might lead to problems. Its not like I'm gonna get shit faced, trip and fall on the switch and accidentally shut gravity off fer Christs sake, relax.

With a few boats in the anchorage that are new to wallowing I decided to up the allure. Thats right, wallowing toys.
A few of the more experienced wallowing women brought their own inflatable floats.
I decided to up the ante and build some drinker friendly flotation devices. There’s plenty of materials available that wash ashore on the eastern shore of the cay.

First I built a pair of individual floating chairs. A couple of lobster pot floats, some fishnet and viola, pure floating reclining splendor. The only issue is that you have to pay attention or you'll float away. It would suck to float away and wake up with an empty glass in Andros Island.

I decided that I needed a self anchoring platform for adult beverage enjoyment.
I decided to combine the best features of a Spud Barge with a recliner couch. Thats right, nipple deep, drinking nirvanna. I ended up with a 4 person “couch” that has a trio of curb feelers to hold position on the bottom. This is still the Beta edition but testing is going swimmingly.