Spring

The last few days have embodied everything that is “spring”.  Our morning weather routine has evolved from listening then scrambling and scouring over the charts for the next place to hide from the bad weather to listening then scrambling and scouring over the charts for the best places to dive in the good weather. A very welcome change in routine.  Instead of sweatshirts, the tank tops are out.  A couple of boats even broke out the sun shade awnings. The winds have abated and we even think the water even feels warmer, though there is still plenty of room for improvement here.  

I’ll have to say I think we made the most of the new, nice weather.  We are back  at Lee Stocking (the place with the abandoned research lab).  Within minutes of anchoring we were out in the dinghy and diving with our friend Craig who was already here and had a few prime lobster hunting spots scoped out. With the calm winds we were able to hit some of the outside coral heads in the more “ocean-y” parts. That was only the beginning, the next several days we dove until we couldn’t feel our fingertips or barley sling ourselves into the dinghy. It was everything we were craving. We saw some of the healthiest reefs of our trip including several patches of large Elkhorn coral that were a beautiful apricot color.  I can’t tell you how many times we exclaimed “gorgeous!”.  Then our friends Ben and Lisa surprised us by pulling into the anchorage too after their quick little jaunt down to kiss the very tip of the Jumento cays.  With three dinghies we were able to cover even more territory and found even more beautiful spots. To be honest the fishing isn’t easy here, you have to put in a good search, but there is still dinner to be found; conch, lobster, fish, and even crab! Remember the big spider crab we found several weeks ago?  Well, Keith found another one way up inside a coral head when he was getting a lobster.  He brought it out and we cooked it up in my largest pot.  Just like we read, it tasted exactly like Alaskan King Crab! I have a new favorite seafood.  While the days were filled with playing, the nights were filled with one spectacular sunset dinner and drinks get-together after another rotating through each others boats. 

The grand finale to our week of spring was Keith’s Birthday. The day was warm and we had mirror calm, crystal clear seas and we shared the day with our friends exploring and collecting dinner.  The sea even gift-wrapped up a fish for him; he found a Mutton Snapper caught inside an old trap, pretty easy picking.  Grouper season just reopened, so grouper it was for dinner though.  And lobster.  And homemade chocolate cake.  Keith received a cedar plug lure and a bottle of wasabi soy marinade so the challenge to catch a tuna is on!  We thought we were going to be celebrating his birthday in the islands for the past two years now, it finally happened.  It was definitely one to remember.  Tomorrow we will probably all head our separate ways, at least for a little while.  It was a fun few days to share together. Or, maybe it was fun because we shared them together.

Pinch-me-perfect

Each type of fish has its own unique “I don’t wanna be your dinner” survival technique.  For hogfish, the poor things, they have a very ineffective technique.  They stop, turn sidewise to you, flash different colors, and think they look like a sea fan.  They don’t.  Except for the really really big ones, they bolt.  I guess that’s why they got big.  Groupers have a much better technique, they swim up into the closest deepest hole and take their time coming back out, if at all.  Mutton snappers, though, they’ve got it figured out.  They swim slowly always just out of spearing range so that you follow them half way across the reef believing that you can get closer to them and once they have sufficiently teased you they take off so fast they are out of sight in a second.  These muttons have been giving Keith the challenge, I knew he’d get one though…. and it was a biggie! Probably 20 lb. Woohoo, it fed the entire anchorage! It’s a fun way to meet the other cruisers (and try all their tasty side dishes).  

Over the mutton snapper and conch dinner plans came together for a wreck dive the next day led by a couple Keith had met  at Manjack.  It was a 300′, 1907 wreck. I don’t know the name of it, I’ll be googling it when I get some wifi.  The day was perfect for it, the glassy flat calm day made looking at it from the dinghy as clear as underwater.  It helped that it was in really shallow water as well.  We were able to find two boilers, two anchors, two propellers, the shaft, rudder…it was an absolutely amazing dive.

 

^^ check out the shade for our little dinghy excursion.

 

^^ we followed “Teamwork” out to the site, you can see the wreck below the water

 

^^boiler

 

^^one of the props

 

^^other boiler

 

 

 

 

^^one of the anchors

A pinch-me-perfect couple of days 🙂

 

Dirty Little Secret

Man-O-War is a tidy manicured settlement.  There is no broken-down rusted equipment lying around that is so commonplace here…..but we found Man-O-Wars’ dirty little secret.  They may look all pretty and perfect on the surface, but a dive down below reveals they have made themselves quite an impressive artificial reef with all their garbage.  (And you thought I might talk about their family tree again, huh?)

We were doing a little float dive with the current plucking up a conch or two for dinner when we first came across a sunken car.  From there Keith added a grouper to the dinghy and the dinner menu.  Then we came across two more golf carts.  Then a fork lift.  It may be garbage but they make great diving!  Several more cars, boats, grills, and engines later I was startled by a wall of fish swimming by.  A large drive-on ferry was on the bottom and just swarming with large schools of fish. It was getting very late and visibility was waning so we didn’t have much time to check it out and thought we would come back the next day.  Unfortunately, priorities had to be taken care of, I was down to my very last can of Diet Coke and Keith had two cans of beer left.  An urgent sail to Marsh Harbor was in order.  It’s only five-ish miles so no biggie, we’d just come back after sailing to the grocery store.

A case of American beer runs between $50.00-$80.00 a case.  Ooof.  Keith decided to sample some of the slightly cheaper Bahamian beer.

 

 

The loser was High Rock.  Sands Light was described as club soda with a splash of beer.  Bush Crack, well, the name just cracked us up, but Keith finished the can.  We bought two cases of club soda Sands Light, two cases of Diet Coke and six ginger-ales for a startling $125.00.  A case of Bush Crack also made aboard. Carrying that stack of cans in the rain through the pitted streets and back to the dinghy on our tiny folding handcart was fun.  We were too cheap for the $10.00 taxi.

The next several days we ping-ponged back and forth between Man-O-War (MOW) and Marsh Harbour trying to get in another garbage reef dive and dodge some crappy weather.  We were miserably unsuccessful with either for a few days.  Marsh Harbour is a fabulously protected anchorage while MOW was completely wide open to the wind and waves. The forecast was a bit off and we spent a super squally day and night at MOW that we should have spent at Marsh and one mildly drizzly day at Marsh we should have spent at MOW. Oh well.  We finally got a chance to get in one last dive at MOW and filled up on some veggies from Marsh.  We even bought some Bahama chicken legs, the first meat we have bought since leaving the states.  The chicken legs are the size of turkey legs! And tasty too 🙂

See the boat in the photo below…. One night a freighter, yes, a full-on ship came through the anchorage and passed between us and that boat.  I tried to take a photo but it didn’t come out in the dark.  Scared the crap out of us. Thankfully we had our anchor light on!

^^that is our boat at anchor way out there 🙂 I love this life! 

Manjack Cay

It’s been about the snorkeling lately.  Manjack Cay has a reef all along the Atlantic side close to the cay.  The depths are only about 20-30 feet and the reefs extend up to the surface, most too shallow to even swim over.  Each little section is so different from the last.  One section had huge elk horn corals all the way to the surface other sections are more dense with fans.  They are all spectacular and we haven’t gotten tired of them yet.  I have had problems with my underwater camera and wasn’t able to salvage any photos from the first few days of snorkling here, but finally got the other go-pro camera up and running, unfortunately it was very overcast and so not so many photos still.  Working on it.

Manjack seems to have a bit of a reputation with sharks, everyone we know, including us, seems to have a “shark story” from here.  It’s been pretty tame so far.  We did have one reef shark that was quite curious.  Keith and I both had our spears pointed at him and he still came up to get a close-up look at Keith as we swam back to the dinghy.  I got into the dinghy first.  Keith said I splashed too much doing so.  My exit from the water into the dinghy is less than graceful to begin with, however the gracefulness factor goes down exponentially depending on the proximity of sharks.  Our only other encounter was with three nurse sharks which normally we don’t mind too much.  Keith was checking out a hole when three big sharks swam out of a crack one at a time.  He saw a grouper in that hole that he wanted to go for it still.  I saw one of the sharks circle back (the photo) and told him that I was in the mood for Italian sausage and pasta for dinner 🙂

On the days that the weather was too cloudy to do a lot of diving we took the time to get a few housekeeping type of chores done.  We finally scrubbed the green beard of growth off the waterline, scrubbed the hull (underwater), and changed a zinc.  We have to have picked up at least half a knot of speed now.  I did several bucket loads of laundry.  (Note: if you are ever lonely in your anchorage try hanging every piece of underwear that you own out on the lifelines.  You might just go from the only boat there to having a whole bay of neighbors.  It worked for me!)  Keith also spent some time tweaking our battery-state monitor installation.  It now tells us what we already knew, we use too much power each day.  It has been decided that my array of computer, iPad and camera batteries draw a noticeable amount of power-especially on those cloudy days.  We need the sun for those solar panels to work! The cloudy days, at least a few in a row, require the Honda generator to keep up.

 

 

A Totally Twisted Time

Keith is home from his boys-trip fishing-trip and back hard at work so I will do my best to capture his vacation the best I can from piecing together the excited, fragmented stories (you know how fishing stories go) and the photos.

First let me address the photos. Out of four days in one of the most beautiful places on earth, he brought back fifteen photos. Fifteen. Not one of him, not one of the pretty water, not one of the beaches, not one of a fish. At first I was disappointed; now I find it amusing so I am posting all fifteen-no editing.

Second, for a little background on the trip. Keith went with JJ and James, two of the guys from behind the Totally Twisted brand. Both sailors who have done plenty of cruising in the Bahamas. The boat is a 31ft Jupiter; an open center-console powerboat with a Diesel engine and out drive. Keith may be a sailor, but there is no denying that part of him is most definitely a power-boater. He is always commenting to me about how fast that “power boat there” could be in the Bahamas and he has always wanted to go fishing on one. If he wrote a “bucket list” this trip would have been on it.

So here is the trip as I have pieced it:

Friday-successfully fished while crossing–dolphin I think. But of course I don’t have photo proof of that ;). They cleared in at Grand Cay (instead of Walkers Cay now) and secured a cute little efficiency that included a dock with water. Which seems much nicer than their plan B which was to sleep on the deck of the boat. I do have photos of the efficiency and dock. After clearing in, they ran out to the reefs and spent some time spearfishing.

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Oh, and those bananas on the counter-I packed those. I’m not big into superstitions, but apparently bananas on boats are bad. I may/may not be to be being blamed for the later events. Sorry!

Saturday -apparently the goal was to be in the water as much as possible, and it sounds like they did a good job of it. (Again, no photo proof, though) Lots of diving off of double breasted, and If you have ever talked to Keith for more than fifteen minutes then you know it is his most favorite place in the world so it was a good day. They caught themselves dinner and had the bar cook it up for them.

At some point in the evening Keith discovered that his wallet was missing. Along with every last cent of cash he had on him. I got a very quick phone call Saturday night asking me to cancel all his cards. He believed that it must have fallen out of his pocket while sitting on the edge of the boat. Bummer!

I’m not sure, maybe this photo was taken in the scramble of looking for the lost wallet? I have no idea what it is of. 20140910-191122.jpg

Sunday-they did some diving off Walkers Cay. Keith has always wanted to dive there, but we never make that far out by dinghy. The guys did good tag-teaming and working together, which is good since the sharks seemed to be very “alert” to the spearfishing.

From the stories, another fun filled day.

From the photos, it must have been so fun that they just forgot to take any pictures!

Keith was surprised and maybe saddened by the changes in quiet little Grand. It is exploding with new big houses and motels. The fishing scene that once was Walkers has taken root in Grand. Maybe it’s a good thing for the locals, but Keith said the effects were easy to see on the reefs in just two years. Almost every coral head had boats with hooka rigs on them all day- just harvesting. Keith took a few photos of Grand so I could see the changes. The people were the same happy people though.
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Monday- was head home and offshore fishing day. Until it wasn’t. About sixty some odd miles ENE from Stuart, forty some odd miles WNW of Walkers Cay, and forty some odd miles N of Freeport, things went wrong. The short story is the out drive was, in the most definitive way, broken. They were well north of the usual boat traffic routes to and from Florida and not far enough east to get the traffic up and down the coast. It really was just about the worst spot to break down. (Just to note, VHF range is about 25-30 miles). An open (and damaged) powerboat, with no ability to even keep the boat pointed into the seas on the far side of the Gulfstream is not really a great position to be in.

It took several hours, but through broken and relayed communications between the Coast Guard, Tow Boat US, and another vessel in the area, a tow was arranged. A seventy-four mile tow. Crazy. I didn’t even know they would tow you that far. Crazier, when Keith asked the tow-boat captain how fast they would be going back he thought the captain was joking when he said 18-20 knots. He wasn’t. At times they were going 22 knots. Of course he got pictures of that!.

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The nice captain of the other boat that had assisted in communications for the guys gave me a call when he made into cell phone range of Florida to let me know Keith and they boys were going to be home a bit late.

Late but safe.

JJ had some type of super platinum, unlimited, ultra deluxe towing coverage and there was no charge for the tow and hopefully the boat repairs will be covered by insurance. With that in mind, Keith had a great time. He even brought back two hogfish filets and a few conch to share with me. 🙂

And by the way, guess what I found amongst all the dirty laundry he brought back? A wallet.

A couple of guys “just living life” and enjoying a “totally twisted” trip.

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Update: Thanks JJ for the additional photos!!

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