Wednesday April 10, 2013
Who says you can’t race in a skirt?
(Photo courtesy of Jackie Skelton)
After our very short stay in Water Cay, the four of us continued slightly south to the next big island along the way, Flamingo Cay. I won’t lie, I originally wanted to come here because I thought they had a BTC tower that would give us an Internet signal on our iPhone, but it turns out it was just a radio tower. That was fine though because the beauty of this island completely made up for it. The ride over was fairly easy, although the winds were still continuing strong at 20-25 knots on the banks side, throwing us back over to our 15-20 degree heel and keeping us at a minimum of six knots. We passed over some electric blue water that reminded me of a giant swimming pool and made me want to jump in take a dip, five foot waves and all. It was some time around here I realized how largely perspective about anything can affect you. I had seen these same waves back in the North Atlantic, gray and looming, and they used to scare the hell out of me (ok, maybe they were still a little larger back there as well). But this Kool-aid blue water looked fun and inviting, and should a wave have swept me over I think I would have spent a few minutes frollicking in the water before any real panic set in. ‘Wow, a really big wave pool, too cool!‘
It was only a 10 mile journey and the winds were on our side so we made it in just over two hours and still had a good portion of the afternoon for some fun activities. Since the island had two separate bays next to each other, each of us took one for a little seclusion so at times we could each pretend we had the whole place to ourselves. This would be our first time in the Bahamas without at After anchors were dropped though we quickly joined back up so Matt could drag me to do something that I had been wiggling my way out of since we got to the Bahamas. He wanted me to share in his fish spearing joys, and it’s not that I didn’t want to, but while he was gone it was the only alone time I’d been getting on the boat so I passed it up each time he asked. Every time he’d beg I’d reply “When we get to the Jumentos”, and now he was holding me to my word. Although I’m the kind of girl that will look for the first opportunity to wiggle into a dress, do something with my hair, and get a little make-up on my face, I also always want to be out doing what the boys do. It’s just always so much more fun and interesting than what I’m normally stuck behind doing like cooking or working on sewing projects. Want to leap of a 30 ft bluff into a blue hole? Sure. Jump into some known shark infested waters to do a little fishing? Why not? I never wanted to get back from this trip just to say I tended to the boat, walked a few beaches, and enjoyed way to many sunsets from the cockpit. Although this life is adventurous enough in itself, it can always use a little more sometimes. So with the four of us piled into t/t Rode Trip, we checked out the shores of Flamingo Cay until the guys found a place suitable for dropping anchor and scouting out. Since Brian had both a Hawaiian sling and a pole spear (what we have), he lent me his pole spear so that all three of us could be sent out to catch dinner. With all of my gear on I flipped back off the dinghy and into a coral maze below me.
I had been given a quick lesson on the pole spear and set off to catch something. Anything really. I don’t think they were expecting too much from me with it being my first time out and I was just told not to shoot something I wasn’t willing to eat. I think they meant not to kill something too small just so I could practice, but hell, I’d eat a minnow if it ended up on the pointy end of my spear. Surrounding me were patches of sand with coral heads sticking out in stark contrast, each one teaming with multiple species of fish. There were so many that I didn’t even know which one to choose. So I went for the slowest moving one. I found a fish that was beautiful in colors, purplish with neon blue lines streaming back from it’s large dopey eyes.* I prepared myself by stretching the elastic band of the spear as far up the pole as I could get it, took a deep breath, and dove under the surface. I thought I had myself lined up pretty well and the fish hadn’t swam off in shock yet so I took a shot. I swore the pole went in a straight line to the fish, yet it appeared to bounce right off. I know my strength isn’t the same as the guys, but come on, it was a perfect shot! The fish still looked dopily at me, now just five feet further away. I loaded my gun once more, took another shot, and once more it bounced off. WTF?! Now determined, I followed this fish around the area, taking constant shots at it but now so worked up that both the fish and I knew that the attempts were no closer than they had been the first time. Time to find something new.
Joining Matt and Brian once again at one of the larger coral heads I was ready to take a shot at anything I could, I didn’t care what it was. I was not getting back on that dinghy without a catch, damn it! Hovering at the surface I’d stretch the band back, take a deep breath, dive under, find some kind of fish, and shoot at it. Many were misses of course, but there was one time that my spear came up with a scale from a fish on the end. Getting closer! Thinking I’d have better luck in a new location we moved the dinghy down the shore to an old shipwreck where multiple fish were hiding below and I’d have a better chance of catching something. Time after time I’d dive under the water, let the spear go, and come up empty handed. A big part of the issue was that my wetsuit was too buoyant and I’d keep floating to the surface before I’d spot a good catch. When Matt gave me the tip to dive down and hold onto a bar hanging out from the ship to keep myself down, I tried that but then couldn’t hold my breath long enough for the fish to come back after I’d initially scared them away. It looked as if this was not to be my lucky spot either.
Making one last attempt at an area since I was getting a little tired and also a little cold, I let Matt be my guide, finding a suitable fish that he’d point out to me and then I’d prepare and then shoot at it. Five to ten attempts later my wrist was getting sore from holding the stretched elastic band and I had enough. I was getting ready to call it a night when I spotted something silver floating close to me. Not even looking to see what it was I stretched the elastic back and let the spear go. Another quick flash and the fish was on the end of my spear. I was still underwater and a little speechless, but I knew the fist thing I needed to do was make sure the fish was secure on the spear. Trying to jam the points into the sand below me I suddenly got nervous there may be a shark around, and with one quick poke into the ground I then quickly brought the spear up and out of the water. Except when I looked up, the fish was no longer on it. My first catch and I had just lost it. Matt saw all of this happening and was in quick persuit of the escape artist. Even with two (or three?) puncture wounds in it’s side this fish was too fast to catch and soon out of our sight. Knowing that a shark might also be in persuit of it we made our way back to the dinghy to change locations.
I was done for the day, now resting in the dinghy with Stephanie while the guys worked on catching dinner. In the end we wound up with about 7 conch (Two thanks to me. Yay, I contributed!), a hog fish from Brian, and a pretty good sized grouper from Matt. Since the fishing was a group effort we decided to clean and cook our catches, and also enjoy their tastiness as a group. After we had been dropped off to quickly shower and clean up we gathered back on Rode Trip where Matt and I learned how to clean and prepare a conch. The guys went to work busting the shells and cutting off the skin, where the meat was then passed to Stephanie and I as we took wooden dowels and beat the crap out of it to tenderize for cracked conch. After we had snuck a few bites of the fresh meat for ourselves we handed the remains over to Brain who fried it up in a nice tempura and served it with a delicious soy/ginger dipping sauce. Seriously heaven on earth. We also fried up the hogfish and a little bit of grouper while the remainder of the huge fish was sent home with us in Ziploc bags. It was stunning night with a perfect sunset and then a million stars coming out at night with nothing surrounding us to dim their shine. After making the way back to Serendipity in the pitch blackness, we sat up on deck and enjoyed the beauty around us, lucky to experience a place so few people ever visit.
*I found out later it was a trigger fish, and they have very tough skin that’s hard to penetrate. Probably why it wasn’t too scared of me and my spear, it knew I couldn’t do anything to it.
(Above photos courtesy of Rode Trip)