Youth and Ambition Part 3 (Chub Cay Bahamas to Rose Island Bahamas)
Youth and Ambition Part 3 (Chub Cay Bahamas to Rose Island Bahamas)
February 16, 2010
After checking in at Chub Cay James, Jake and I hung out for a while on the dock and fueled up. Some Bahamians pulled up and said they were conch fisherman and their days catch totaled one hundred and fifty conchs. James arrived back at the boat upon completion of the check in process clearing customs at the airport.
We exited the harbor and pulled around the south side of the Chub Cay and cruised up the channel to Berry Island Club. Gaining my bearings after a much-needed nap I walk over to the clubhouse where I discover Jake and James drinking some rum with giant smiles on their faces. At the bar we put in our dinner order of cracked conch with a side of French fries. Ordering your dinner at five is recommended for it to be prepared by seven for eating.
On the walk down the dock I spotted silver flashes through crystal clear water. This is all too familiar to me — quality bait in a tightly grouped school is a good sign. I rushed over to the boat and scooped up the cast net. I waded out over the crunchy live bottom careful not to crush anything. You never want to chase a school of bait, trust me, they can swim faster than you can run or cast. With this method, estimate their direction and speed, move upstream of them and like an egret stay completely still until the moment is just right. A surprise attack will yield the best results, sending the bait into confusion. Chest high in water I watched them flipping the surface and flashing beneath. I waited patiently and when they were in range I swung the 10-foot net through the water and unleashed it into the air, then letting it sink in the shallow waters. I collected a dozen and a half prime sardine baits — nice! The school stuck around for a few hours filling two-gallon Ziploc bags with fresh dead baits. I ended up giving a handful to one of the locals who joined me in my pursuit and who also loved to eat them.
The dock master came out to our boat and asked if we wanted to tie up to the dock or anchor. Comfortable at the dock but unwilling to pay the thirty dollar fee, we decided to go set anchor. Then he informed us that it was going to be a very busy night because two 65- foot “Blackbeard Boats” Dive charters were arriving within the hour. So the race was on for us to assemble the dinghy while still at the dock. Rushing into action we consolidate all the pieces onto the dock and worked the hand pump like crazy. Jake and I slide the floors into place, while James organized the boat in anticipation to pull away from the dock. Just as the two 65- foot sailboats rounded the corner we slide our dinghy into the water and mounted the motor. We picked a nice spot at the end of the line and tossed our anchor with plenty of scope.
We pulled back up to the dock in our “military issued” dingy that dwarfs all others. Its appearance instantly becomes a main attraction at the dock. We took a walk over to the monster dive boats and exchanged some conversation with their guest. We entered the bar and grabbed some drinks. We waited patiently for the food while we rejoiced for finally being in the Bahamas. Our food broke through the double doors and all we saw were piles of conch and mass amounts of French fries. It took two servers to carry the hefty plates. The portions were absolutely monstrous. It smelled so good. We drizzled fresh lemons and a spoonful of tartar sauce over the conch. Halfway through the meal, it became an optical illusion, eating more the plate still didn’t show any significant damage. Was it an endless plate of food? It became a chore to finish but our pride was on the line. With all the enjoyment taken out of the dinner we became nauseated by every bite until our plates were fully cleared.
February 17, 2010
Early morning on Wednesday the sun provided a bright wakeup call. We loaded the dinghy full of diving and fishing equipment and departed to the reefs. We decided to make our first entry on the rocky point that lied at the edge of the island. This spot had been picked over by locals and drew little attention from us after a quick stop.
The next spot we attempted was further from land and less accessible to locals. It was a 2-mile run out to the rock while Jake zoomed through the waves surfing the front and cruising the backs. Jake manned the dinghy while James and I slide over the side with spears in hand. The view was mesmerizing and breathless as I swam across the giant three-foot stag horn corals. It was totally amazing, seeing all the giant fan corals, brain corals, and fish. Thousands of fish circled the reef and their bright colors glowed in the clear water.
Instantly we spotted grouper and the hunt began. Swimming along gracefully we tried not to make any sudden movements that might spook away our dinner. As I followed close behind them, my adrenaline was pounding as I waited for a window to take my shot. James and I swam up on a 10-pound gag. Amazing right before James took the shot, a giant moray eel came out of the same hole to protect his grouper companion. James and I watched in awe as the two sat side-by-side keeping us mesmerized from getting a shot off.
We gave up on that particular grouper as James swam off quickly, pursuing something. When I saw him break the surface, he was holding a nice eight-pound mangrove snapper. Jake and I let out a large hoot to congratulate James on his kill.
Wanting to share such an amazing view with everyone I swam back to the dinghy and grabbed the camera. While doing so I spotted another grouper cruising along the bottom weaving in and out of the coral. Hovering over top, I had the spear fully drawn back as my muscles twitched and hold for the proper shot. I released the elastic band and the spear sliced through the fish, his vibrations shook up the pole into my hands. I got him, yes! It’s the first grouper I had speared!
The ride back was joyous as we celebrated over our delightful catches; and happy we harvested dinner. The night before we met friends aboard Talisman and guaranteed to them we’d have a fish dinner the next night. It felt good sharing our gatherings with others.
“Our Grocery Store”
The trip down the Florida coast provided us with direct access to food sources and grocery stores the entire way. The two weeks waiting for the weather to change were spent at marinas and harbors just blocks away from Winn-Dixie’s and Publix’s. Everyday like clockwork around lunchtime discussions began of the dinner course. Ideas flew back and forth as we all fantasized of all the delicious choices. Cheeseburgers, steak, barbecued chicken, pizza, or Chinese food — nothing was out of the question.
Now in the Bahamas our grocery store was open 24 hours a day and seven days a week. This first week blessed us with mahi mahi, mangrove snapper and grouper. We spent the day scouring the reefs taking only what we needed for dinner. Sure enough around 7:30 p.m. we zoomed up in our dinghy with two full plates of fried grouper and snapper, along with steamed vegetables and rice. For Roger and Kathy this was a pleasant surprise; and they were excited to combine our meal with their fresh coleslaw. Roger was astounded by our waterman skills and our ability to harvest from the sea. He acknowledged the fact that we knew the “real value” of food and where it was derived.
Roger made a great point. No matter where you are in the world, you must understand your surroundings and the opportunities it provides. Whether it’s farming, hunting or gathering there are different methods taught to achieve positive results. Fishing daily brought us back to our root – the survival instinct born in each one of us. People can adapt anywhere, and we were lucky enough to be in one of the oceans richest habitats, and taking full advantage of it, everyday! We had a fun night with Roger and Kathy talking about our different life experiences and journeys. Roger praised us for our motivation and entrepreneurial ambitions, becoming good friends. We hope to see them again in the future.
Friday- February 18, 2010 The Tongue
The day started out early and cold. I wanted to make a quick run to shore to see if we could nab some more fresh pilchards for the trip across the Tongue of the Atlantic Ocean. While Jake and James finished strapping everything down and unloading the dink I raced to shore with my cast net and bucket in hand. The bait wasn’t as plentiful as the past days and this morning presented a trying experience. James and Jake yelled from the boat urging me to hurry up as I crept up and down the dock waiting to explode on the tightly circled school of pilchards. I ended up getting about six live pilchards and returned to the boat to get ready to leave.
As we sailed, we trolled the bait slowly off the drop off into thousands of feet of water, with no luck. The trolling lures were not working. I decided to rig a dead pilchard on a steel leader with copper wire then covering it with a red and black skirt — definitely the cheapest rig we had used since departing Florida. Still no bites!
As we all know fish always hit when you are not paying attention, so I lied back and shut my eyes. A couple hours later Nassau was in sight and after hours of trolling I was frustrated with our luck. Then like a voice in a dream, Jake shouted and I snapped out my slumber jumping and running to the stern. The drag was screaming off the thirty wide and I adjusted the drag just as a nice mahi mahi jumped into the air doing his best to shake the hook.
The fish took so much line on his initial run that I had to gain back at least 200 yards of line. The fish showed little action on the way in and I knew he was rested for a drag out battle next to the boat. Jake jumped back into the dinghy positioning himself with the gaff. James was juggling the camera and steering the boat at the same time. After a twenty-minute fight around the boat the fish was tired and Jake stuck him with the gaff slinging him into the dinghy. The fish went wild trying to break our dinghy apart and Jake took him out with the wooden beater. After all the excitement settled, exhausted, we set a new course for Rose Island to avoid the bustle of Nassau.