Tuesday, February 25, 2014

February 24, 2014.

When your a kid you're supposed to learn something new everyday. As you get older you're fortunate if that trend continues. At this point in my life I'm pretty satisfied to learn something new every once in a while. I'm talking about valuable knowledge rather than some superfluous bullshit like Justin Bieber and Miley Cyrus actually being the same person. Another issue as we advance in age is the fact that we forget shit. I might have learned something new yesterday but I just forgot. So I've made a conscious effort to listen more than speak and I've even taken a few notes. Of course I immediately forgot where I put the notes so to the best of my recollection here's what I learned in the last 2 weeks....

Two weeks ago I was speaking to a local named Edward. Edward owns Buena Vista Cay. I've heard him described as a hermit by random uniformed tourists. (The locals call the cruising boaters tourists) Edward is as social as his solitary lifestyle allows him to be. If you anchor at Buena Vista Cay you're practically assured of some quality Edward time. His home is a work in progress, he has chickens, a garden and a cay full of goats. He's done prison time in three different countries during the Bahamas wild west style drug running days in the seventies and eighties so his stories are entertaining to say the least.

We talked at the Valentines Day party on Hog Cay. He's 74 years old but appears much younger. He has still got a skip in his step, a twinkle in his eye and wrinkles are few and far between. I was asking him if he had the fountain of youth out on his cay and he replied “ No, I just use a different calendar than the rest of you”. I asked him to explain and this was his reply. “I've only got 3 days in my week. Yesterday. You can't do anything about yesterday, so forget about it. Today. With a little grind of his hips he said, today I'm at a party, dancing and having a great time. Tomorrow. Well, I'll worry about that tomorrow”. Maybe the fountain of youth is just an attitude.

A couple of days ago a Frenadian sailing vessel wound up on a reef on Cuba's north coast. A couple of the boaters here in the Jumentos were trying to get them some help via the SSB. There were various calls made to the US Coast Guard (who in essence replied “we don't DO Cuba”). Other calls were made to international boaters in Cuba, the Cuban authorities and there was an attempt to contact the Canadian Embassy in Cuba. During this episode propagation was evidently pretty shitty. One of the local SSB guys asked on the VHF if everyone in the anchorage would shut down their refrigeration and wind generators to eliminate some of the RF interference.

I assume that all the fridges were shut down for a couple of hours as ours was, and wind generators throughout the anchorage stopped spinning as one. The Cubans finally showed up and the emergency was over. The next morning the same guy asked that we shut down again because propagation was still bad and he couldn't hear the Cruisheimers Net. I was about to comply when somebody said “No, I'm not gonna do that”. The original guy said “but I can't hear the net”. The second guy replied “Yesterday was an emergency, of course everyone did what they could to make it easier. I've got a fridge full of food, Cruisheimers is just social media and I'm not shutting the fridge off for that”. So today I learned that Cruisheimers is just Facebook for Cruisers. I guess I knew it all along, I just never really thought about it.

The mailboat arrived yesterday and I was up sitting in town waiting for one of our propane tanks to get back from Nassau. A woman was making small talk with the ships representative when she said “Isn't today a beautiful day?” He looked at her a long while and replied. “Every day is beautiful. Just because the weather doesn't fit into what you had planned for the day, doesn't make it any less beautiful a day” I think he nailed it. Remember that the next time you're shoveling snow.

I learned that Flamingo Cay has been sold to Americans. Its a beautiful place to visit and it'll be a shame if it too goes “private”. I hope the have a shit ton of money or the place will end up being another financial albatross. I just hope they don't fuck the place up while they lose their shirts....

I happened to be looking out the porthole last night as a dinghy zoomed past. The woman was sitting on the dinks port tube while the man stood with the extended throttle in his hand. Skipping along at 15 knots on flat water just before sunset on yet another beautiful day. And then it kinda all went to shit. His hat blew off and he had the same reaction most people would. He immediately tried to snatch it before it blew off. Unfortunately he used both hands. As soon as his left hand came off the tiller the dink immediately turned HARD to starboard. The wife and their dog ended up in the water when the dink swerved out from under them. The husband took a crazy spin and tumble but stayed in the dink. He soon had them both back aboard and were once again headed home although at a more sedate pace. One minute you're skimming homeward and the next thing you're thanking your lucky stars that you weren't chopped by the prop. A crazy accident, an attempt at making murder look like an accident, bad luck or Karma, I dunno. After I wrote that I thought “Wow, what if he is really tired of her shit and the whole thing was an attempt to get rid of her”. I might be reading too much fiction lately. I did learn to take the dink a little more seriously because you really can get hurt.

The last thing I learned this week was from weather guru, Chris Parker. A boater got a forecast for a short trip from one cay to another. The winds were going to be marginal today but maybe a little better tomorrow. He asked CP if he should wait until tomorrow to go instead. CP came back with “ today is doable, tomorrow might be better, but its just a forecast. If it isn't as good as today, well, you can't leave yesterday” You can't leave yesterday. Hmm.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

February 18, 2014.

We're big fans of spearfishing
but in general I'm pretty inept with a rod and reel. Whenever we're sailing in deep water we always drag a line. We usually catch a Mahi and one time we even caught a sailfish. So you know there’s plenty of game fish around if I can even catch one.

Some of my friends are actually good fishermen. So turn them loose in a target rich environment like this and good things are bound to happen. A couple of years ago Mike from Sapphire caught this beautiful Mahi.
Nice catch

I had forgotten about it until Barry from Nighthawk caught this spectacular specimen. What makes this fish even more special is the fact that he took it on a handline.
Barry is actually a life sized guy.  Thats a HUGE Mahi

Monday, February 17, 2014

February 17, 2014.

We just attended the social highlight of the Ragged Island year, the Valentines Day party.  Thirty three boat crews and forty locals (theres less than 50 locals within 70 miles) once again made it an event. 

I was going to write a post about the party but my friend Steve beat me to the punch and did a nice job of it.  I'm not really being lazy.  I consider my actions as being opportunistic which allows me more time for boat chores.  Enjoy the read here...Fine Lions Blog

Sunday, February 9, 2014

February 9, 2014.

The other day somebody asked me if we ever get bored. I decided to describe how we spent our time today.

We rolled outta bed at 0700 and had breakfast. Last night we had made plans to take a new couple fishing with us this morning. The wind was way down so at 0930 we were accompanied by the dinghies from two other boats as we made our way out to the cut.

The new guy got two good sized fish, a Schoolmaster and a Hog Fish. He missed a chance at a lobster but went away pretty enchanted with the expedition. The Fine Lions grabbed another 4 bugs, as did we. We also grabbed a pair of Hogs, an Ocean Trigger and a good sized Strawberry Grouper.
That cutting board is 2 feet long, those are some lovely fish

When I brought our fourth lobster to the surface Christy gave me the international signal for “something's wrong with the dinghy”. Crap. After swimming over, I got it restarted but could barely manage to get the dink to idle while in gear. Shit. We had a two mile slog back to the big boat at barely more than an idle. We did make it though, so that was a bonus.

After cleaning the fish and lobster, I changed the plugs and cleaned the fuel filter to no avail. Crap.
The definition of cruising is fixing your boat in exotic yada, yada yada
The dink would start but wanted to stall as soon as you put it in gear. Shit. Earlier, I had made plans to go to the masthead on a friends boat for a quick repair since the wind was so benign. After a quick lunch of Strawberry Grouper Christy and I were on our way. We barely made it over to Lucky Touch with the engine running like crap.

Once there I was whisked to the top of the mast to remove their annometer. After belaying it down to deck level for service I had the opportunity to snap a few pictures while I waited at the masthead.
The anchorage looking south

Us, off to the north

The Lucky Touch, a Shannon 43, 30 years old, original owners, pristine.

The cruiser built pavilion

Alibi II, mizzen boom kicked to port to gather a bit more sun for the panels.
After it was cleaned and lubed I hauled it back up and reinstalled it. Once installed, it worked like it oughta so there was great joy in the village.

Back at our boat I had to delve a little further into the outboard engine. The Fine Lions picked Christy up to do a little wallowing before an evening garbage burn. So as they motored away I tore into the carburetor in an effort to clean it. I was a little apprehensive since I didn't have a rebuild kit or a service manual on board. I found an exploded diagram on the net and I just had to be mondo careful with the gaskets and seals as I disassembled the carb. It looked great but I cleaned it up with WD40 anyway.

After putting the whole shebang back together the wee motor once again ran like a runaway train. Lovely. I put my tools away and headed in to the beach to join my friends. We wallowed for an hour, burned garbage and chatted with other people from the anchorage for a bit before heading home to the Veranda.

Christy whipped up a coconut curry Strawberry Grouper served over a bed of rice with a side of broccoli for dinner. In the cockpit we talked about what we took from the day and then Christy did the dishes, while I wrote to some friends. Next, I expect we'll listen to some music while reading before retiring for the evening, exhausted from a very busy day.....
February 7, 2014.

The other day, right I slipped into the water I heard this distinct “clicking” sound as I swam through the water. Much to my dismay it turned out to be an equipment issue. At some point in time I had broken a fin. My left fin was cracked across the width of it. 35% of it was completely broken and it was barely holding together.

I have a back up set of fins but these are my full tilt go fast fins. I finished up the day wearing my spare fins but was pretty distraught. Hunting can be a pretty solitary endeavor which gave me time to think up a possible repair.

A couple of putty and resin spreaders, a few pop rivets and the Frankenfin was all ready to sea trial.

So far so good. I've taken another dozen lobster after the repair and a huge Ocean Trigger.

I shot the Ocean Trigger in the face through a gap in some rocks and couldn't pull him through the rocks. I had to get another spear from the dink so I could shoot him a second time to use two spears to work him out of the rocks. Unfortunately it took a bit of time and a very excited Black Tip shark showed up. Fortunately Steve was nearby and he kept the shark at bay while I successfully worked the Trigger out of the rocks.
Christy also did her part chasing the shark with the dinghy as it darted back and forth.

Teamwork and the Frankenfin led to yet another culinary delight, Mexican Trigger.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Superbowl possible death ride

February 6, 2014.

We once again attended the Superbowl in Duncantown. The wind was blowing 20 out of the east and to take the dinghies across the cut and into town wasn't in the cards. In circumstances like this Fichael usually picks us all up in his huge center console. Unfortunately his boat is broken so that left us getting a ride into town on one of the small local fishing skiffs.

All the cruisers gathered on 2 of the anchored boats while awaiting the pick up. Raphael and a crewman showed up in his 18ish foot open skiff powered by a 110 horse Yamaha. All 10 of us on the Lucky Touch clambered aboard the small skiff. Raphael firewalled the throttle and was unable to get us all up on plane. We pulled up alongside Discovery and dropped off 3 of our passengers leaving them with 14 people waiting for the ride to town.

With a total of 9 souls aboard the skiff we were able to get up on plane. This wasn't without some redistribution of the weight. All the guys sat on the foredeck facing aft with their legs dangling into the cockpit. While the women packed themselves onto the one small bench seat.

I found myself facing aft while roaring along across the calm waters in the lee of Hog Cay. We had to round 2 points of land before heading out into the unprotected rough water of the cut. Since I was facing backwards I didn't realize just how close Raphael was going to cut it when he rounded the points of land. The maniacal look in his eyes should have been a clue. Imagine my surprise when I looked over and the shear razor sharp wall of ironshore was whizzing past at 25 knots and only a foot away.

Once we rounded the second point we bounded straight into close set 3 footers. The little boat stayed on plane and the ride wasn't too bad until we neared the breakwater at the government dock. The seas were a little more “piled up” and we twice found ourselves airborne as we launched off rolling 5 footers. Having survived the trip to the dock I had to chuckle to myself over the knowledge of what the trip over was going to be like for the others back in the anchorage who were patiently awaiting pick up. The next leg of the trip involved a 2 mile ride in the back of an open pick up truck. I felt like a Haitian day laborer being smuggled in by small boat and then carted off to the fields.

Once everyone arrived there were 21 cruisers present and at least 20 locals.
The locals are usually fashionably late
As always the rooting was random but loud. The mailboat happened to be in town and the skipper decided to hang around so he and the crew could watch the game with us. As always the food, drink and boisterous crowd was loads of fun but we still had to get back to the boats.

The Mailboat was leaving as soon as the game ended and the Captain graciously offered to bring us all out to the anchorage where we could be ferried back to our boats. Sounded like a plan. We jumped in the first pick up truck back to the dock and decided to tour the mailboat while awaiting the others arrival.
The M/V Captain C

The mailboat is the source of everything the people down here need. Food, gasoline, building materials, parts, anything. They also take passengers. There are 6 “staterooms” each containing 6 bunk beds.
6 bunks per stateroom
For the measly fee of 70 dollars you can board the mailboat in Nassau and visit several islands as they make their way south.
The bridge
The trip to Duncantown takes 2 days and stops at various ports such as Staniel Cay, Black Point and Little Farmers Cay.

Once everyone arrived at the mailboat it became apparent that the crew still had to load a pick up truck onto the boat. (The alternator was bad so they were sending the entire truck up to Nassau to be repaired. I dunno, don't ask)
Yes, its starting to rain
All Aboard!!
Rather than wait for the mailboat to load the truck we decided to once again hop aboard the small fishing skiff for the ride home. On the plus side we would have the wind and waves behind us, the ride should be smoother and we would probably be in bed before the mailboat left the dock. The negatives that we considered.....Raphael, the captain of the fishing skiff just spent 4 hours “Superbowling” and was lightly toasted, the moon had already set and there was an overcast that covered every star. So its absolutely pitch black and the boat has no instruments.  Local knowledge and luck, do you really need anything more?

So we barreled off into the darkness like Helen Keller running full tilt through a strange room. Raphael proved to be as skilled a waterman as you could find anywhere. We never slowed, never veered and there, 20 yards of our starboard side was the first point of land. I don't know how he did it. You couldn't see anything, he just knew. 20 minutes later we were safely tucked in our bunk with visions of the Superbowl dancing in our heads. (credit for all the mailboat pics goes to Steve from Fine Lion whose blog you can read here Fine Lions Blog)

Monday, February 3, 2014

Fear Factor

February 1, 2014.

My friend Steve seems to be a good guy. Intelligent, well spoken and successful in life. Yet sometimes when I watch him clean fish I begin to wonder about him.

When I clean fish I do it on the foredeck so I can use the anchor washdown pump to clean up afterwards. It sometimes makes a huge mess and I have to spend a bit of time washing blood and fish scales down the side decks and out the scuppers.

Steves boat has a great sugar scoop stern. He puts his cutting board on the lowest level of the sugar scoop and fillets away. Clean up is much easier this way but in an effort to save wear and tear on his back he does something that gives me the shivers.

He stands on the swim ladder in knee deep water as he works on the fish near waist level. In most anchorages this isn't an issue but when we drop the hook in Double Breasted Cay there is cause for concern.

When you get back to the big boat after a day of fishing the sharks are already there milling about. Its really the only anchorage down here that this phenomenon is so prevalent. The sharks at Double Breasted know the dinghy means fish scraps and when they hear the dinghy its like somebodies ringing the dinner bell. Boom, they're there.

So while Steve stands in knee deep water with blood running off the transom the sharks are darting back and forth right below him. He says he pays attention to them and they don't really bother him even though once in a while they'll bump the ladder hes balanced on. I'd fillet my own thumb off if I had to keep one eye on the sharks while I was cleaning a fish. These aren't some trained, hand fed Nurse Sharks like up at Compass Cay.  But it works for him....

We prefer to make the sharks work for their handouts. After we clean a good sized fish we'll tie it to a line with a float on it and toss it overboard.
I cleat off the other end of the line and sit back to enjoy watching the sharks grabbing the fish head and trying to dart away with it. After a bit I pull the fish head in and remove the line before rewarding the most deserving shark.
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I know its a crazy concept, working for your reward. But it works for me....