Saturday, March 19, 2011

Exumas part 1

We awoke on the 8th of March to motionless boat which meant the winds were calm. Today was Dirk’s Birthday and we were really hoping that today would be the day to catch a nice tuna or Mahi Mahi for a well deserved present. At 7:02 we were under way putting the mainsail up in hopes to get a little push from that. As soon as we hit the deeper waters of the Atlantic Dirk put the lines out and we sat back for the waiting game to begin. The winds were light and the seas were so calm in fact that I was able to go below and make a key lime birthday pie for Dirk. Afterward I sat back in the cockpit and read a book which in even moderate conditions I can’t do, due to feeling ill while my eyes are glued to the pages. I got through several chapters with no problems, served lunch and cleaned up the boat some. All the while Dirk sat in the cockpit waiting for the elusive fish. As we were nearing the Exuma Banks the winds and sea conditions started to deteriorate as predicted by Chris Parker, the weather guru. It wasn’t bad but it was beginning to pick up. As Dirk wanted to get the most fishing out of the drop off area we had aimed north of the Highborne cut channel where we would then turn south and ride the ridge down. Basically the banks are very shallow and they drop off very quickly to well over 1000 feet. It seems the best luck we have had is to travel right along the drop off so we did but then that put the winds and waves onto our beam. (Hitting us from the side) This makes for an uncomfortable ride if the waves are of any size. Of course this is the time that buuuuuuuuuuuuzzzzzzzzzzzzzz the reel on the left side of the boat starts screaming so I pull back on the rpms and just coast in forward gear and start pulling in the hand line on that side so as not to get the reel and that line tangled as Dirk gets the fish in. Next thing we hear is snap. That would be the clothes pin popping indicating there was a fish on the hand line on the other side of the boat. I’m racing around trying to get one line up and then run to the other side pulling in the other line hoping that another fish doesn’t decide to hit the reel we have on that side. Too many fish, not enough hands. As we pull them in, the one Dirk had on leaped out of the water and boy was he good size, unfortunately he decided it wasn’t a good day to die and shook the hook out and got away. To say the least Dirk was upset, but we still did have the one I was reeling in. We got him next to the boat and he was alive with neon blues and yellows, beautiful… Anyone who has never seen a Mahi Mahi in the water while it is excited and flashing is missing out. It’s amazing the intense colors and soon after landing them they turn very drab so photos have to be taken quickly. Unfortunately for us we were not to have any photo ops this day. When we got the fish alongside the boat Dirk was waiting to gaff it and couldn’t get low enough to do so as the fish was fighting for his life. One too many times of head shaking and the lure popped out and off he went. After a string of words I will choose not to write, the boat was silent, it was time to get to the cut and get anchored. We knew that Ruth & Dan from s/v Evensong would be in the anchorage as we had heard from them earlier in the day. We had not seen them since Spanish Wells and were planning on meeting up with them tonight. We made it through the cut and turned right into the north anchorage pulling behind Evensong and dropping the hook in sand so soft it swallowed it up. We settled the boat in and got cleaned up then headed over to Evensong for cocktails. I brought the birthday pie as I thought the more the merrier to celebrate and once they found out it was Dirk’s Birthday Ruth was kind enough to pull some Mahi steaks out of the freezer to throw on the grill. While catching up with them over drinks and conch salad we traded stories and related today's fishing mis adventure. Dinner was served with yellow rice and was outstanding, thanks goes to Ruth and Dan for being so kind. We broke the key lime pie out and Ruth decided that it should be served with some of their fine sipping rum. Uuuummmmm. The winds were out of the east and the the waves and surge made for a very rolly evening for everyone. Well everyone with the exception of the boat, well 95 foot yacht s/v Windcrest that anchored next to us. It made the 45 foot s/v The Abby look like a dinghy. Must be nice to have the crew sail your vessel, maintain it, and your chef preparing meals but would I want to cruise like that all the time? I don’t think so, as most of what cruising is all about is the hands on kinda stuff. All the mishaps one makes. Try changing oil in a rolly anchorage without making a mess, hell for that matter try rolling out of bed on a rolly evening without binging off every bulkhead on the way to the head. Then when you get there, bracing yourself on the wall in front of you as not to fall off the toilet. Who would give that up? Who would want to……The next day Evensong headed back south to Warderwick Wells and we were going to stay put so that we could dinghy up to Allens Cay and see the iguanas. It was a wet and hard ride up to Allens as one must cross over the cut and are subject to the full force of Mother Nature but as soon as we tucked in behind the island and into the cove, the winds died and the water flat. We beached the dingy and by the time we had our feet on the beach the iguanas were headed out to greet us. The iguanas in Allens are the only ones left like them and they remind me of little dinosaurs running amuck.

I laid my bag down on the beach and they ran over to it to see if I had any tasty treasures for them tucked insideHere is the dinghy in the cove at Allens
After visiting with them a bit we headed off from reef to reef with the looky bucket to see what we could see. A looky bucket to us and many others is a must have while cruising as it makes one’s life so much easier. It’s basically a five gallon bucket with the bottom cut out and replaced with plexi glass. It’s great for checking your anchor to make sure your set or to look for conch if you don’t want to jump in. If you’re just puttering around looking at reefs it’s a good way to stay dry yet see the wildlife. We did stop on the way back to the boat at a promising reef and Dirk did manage to snag a small black grouper. After a very bumpy wet ride back we made it back to the boat and called it a day. The following morning we were planning on heading to Normans Cay but first we needed to hit the Highborne Cay marina for water as it would be the last place we could get it for a while and while we were there we topped off fuel even though we really didn’t need it but we have been hearing of places out of fuel so we better get it when we can. Diesel was $4.88 which I didn’t think was bad at all considering, and water has gone up to .50 cents a gallon. When Dirk went inside to pay he checked out the prices of some food items and spotted individually wrapped red bell peppers for $10.90 per pepper, greens ones $5 .80 per pepper. Yes folks you read that right, $10.90 per red bell pepper. I told him at least it ought to have a bow on it. Geeeze, I think we will just have to run out and do without. Our plan was to run down the outside to Normans cut and anchor inside the cut as the winds were due to be coming from the north and this was pretty much the only protected place there to go. We left the marina and headed toward the Atlantic, fishing lines and poles at the ready and once we got to deeper water Dirk put them in for what we were hoping would be the day to catch a fish. We weren’t far from the cut when Dirk was just getting the words “I don’t guess we’re going to get any fish today” out of his mouth when snap, the hand line on the starboard side went off. Dirk ran to start pulling it in as I put the boat in idle and this time grabbed the gaff and the net, this one wasn’t getting away if we had anything to do with it. Dirk got it up to the boat as I was attempting to get the Mahi Mahi into the net, he wasn’t cooperating. Each time I would try to work the net around him he would thrash. Finally after many attempts I got the net over him and had him hauled over the side where at that point it was Dirk’s job to keep him still. I ran for the spray bottle of brandy we keep in the cockpit for this reason. It’s used to spray in the fishes gills and it sedates them and sends them onto bluer waters quickly. Dangit, it had been so long since we had trolled that I had forgotten to refill the bottle and it had evaporated, next line of defense was to grab the fish club and I handed it to Dirk as I quickly left the scene. This is the part I don’t like to see or hear so I walked back to the cockpit with fingers in ears and all I’m hearing is whack, whack, whack, the damn fish will not stop thrashing, so I run downstairs grab the bottle of Brandy hand it to Dirk and tell him just to pour it in his mouth, I don’t care, just do it. He takes a big mouthful and spits it into the gills, I have never seen a fish fight so much but finally he succumbed and we could continue on.
It took a while for Dirk to get the mess of hand lines untangled and back out but not too much fuss later and the lines were set. Dirk than set about the task of cleaning the fish, as we do not have the ability to throw it in an ice chest full of ice and deal with it later. We still had a bit to go and we couldn’t let the fish sit in the sun till then. He measured the fish at 40 inches long, not too shabby if I have to say and it was a bit too long for the cleaning station on the rail so he began to deal with it on the side deck. We were just outside of our way point, the point at which we were to turn and go into the cut, when snap, snap, both hand lines popped at the same time. Dirk began the task of pulling in his side and I mine. I didn’t have any gloves on and pulling in this fish on a hand line was a bit unnerving. All he needed to do was take off running and I was going to have some nasty cuts on my hand. There were the bloody ones that Dirk had on with the last fish but I couldn’t be picky, I threw one on and continued on. I got the Mahi close to the boat and waited on Dirk to get his in so that he might help me with mine. As his got close to the boat a few thrashings and it was gone, I still had mine though and as I held him close Dirk was able to gaff him and get him on board. After the first fish I had decided to refill the brandy bottle and good thing. We sprayed him in the gills and he settled into his final sleep without much of a fight. Dirk measured him and he was 41 inches long, yeah us….
So now we had one fish on the cleaning station with his cleaning just begun and we had another on the starboard deck, we were at our way point in which it was time to turn into Normans Cay. There is a maze of coral heads one much be watchful of so we pulled in the rest of the lines in, put the fish under sheets in the shade of the cockpit to get them out of the heat and sun and headed in. As soon as we got in the channel we pulled to the side inside the cut and threw the anchor out. We would find a final anchor spot as soon as we got the fish taken care of. We hated the thought of them sitting out for too long, so while Dirk set about the task of cleaning fish I set about the task of cleaning the decks from what looked like a murder had taken place. It took me about an hour to get the dried, congealed blood scrubbed from the deck and cabin top. I’m sure there are spots I missed but hopefully come the next rain it will wash it off, if it ever rains. It’s been a very dry cruising season thus far for us. After the fish were filleted, vacuum sealed and put into the freezer we decided to move further to the west and re anchor in a bit deeper water. The anchorage was filling up quickly as there was to be some northern winds blowing through and this was one of the few places close by to go. Once the boat was settled we decided it was early enough to snorkel the plane submerged there. The history of Normans Cay is interesting and the plane was apparently a drug plane that went down there. It has since become a great place to snorkel as the fish are very thick. Last year I had ruined my digital camera in Spanish Wells when our dinghy almost capsized as we were approaching a beach, I learned and purchased a shockproof and waterproof camera. I have really enjoyed the camera and it took beautiful photos above and below water. I jumped into the water to begin snorkeling when the camera flashed twice. I thought I might have accidentally hit something and tried turning it on again, it flashed twice again and went off. Hummmmm, Dirk took it back to the dinghy and opened it up, it had water in the battery compartment…..Long story, my digital camera has given up the ghost and it is less than a year old. Now the fun is to begin of trying to get the old camera back to Panasonic and order in a new camera all when there are no post offices around. Stay tuned for how that all worked out as well as our continued travels. One must post the blog when you get the chance and my chance is now. Till later….

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