27 March, 2014

Hunting lobster

 Location: Thompson Bay, Long Island, Bahamas 
Position:  N 22 21.144 W 075 07.793

We're sitting at anchor in Thompson Bay, Long Island, another of our favorite stops. Julie, as usual, is in the water. Yesterday, she went snorkeling with some friends and found a lobster living in a small cave in some rocks.

Our friends ask “Do you have a spear?”

Julie replies “Yes, but I've never used it. We've only had it for 7 years”.

You should try and kill the lobster” they say.

This gets Julie thinking, (always a dangerous proposition).

Hmm how hard could it be? We have friends who hunt lobster all the time. It does seem silly to have the spear and never use it. And some fresh lobster would go down pretty well ...”

That settles it. The next day she dons her snorkel gear and Mark's way-too-big leather work gloves. The spiny lobsters down here in the Bahamas are, well, spiny, and without heavy gloves, it's easy to get poked when you try to handle one. With her trusty pole spear in hand, she sets off toward shore.

The spear has a piece of surgical rubber tubing attached at the non-pointy end, allowing one to pull the spear back, stretching the elastic. When released, the spear springs forward, hopefully hitting and killing the target, in this case Julie's lobster. Unfortunately, the first time she tries, the old elastic gives out and breaks under the stress. This leaves her on the surface with a plain old 5' long spear and a lobster about 8' below on the bottom.
She provides Mark with a running commentary.

I've found it, but the spear elastic broke!”

She dives down 3 more times and shoves the spear into the hole and wiggles it around. The lobster emerges from the hole.

I've got it on the run!”

Mark, watching her shenanigans from aboard Rachel, giggles and cheers her on. She dives down a few more times. He notices her swimming away from the lobster's hole.

It's running around on the bottom and I'm poking at it!”

Rachel's captain nearly falls overboard because he is laughing so hard. When asked if there's a problem, he replies “Nothing, dear. Nothing at all.”

Not having any luck with the spear, she swims dejectedly back to the boat.

Score: lobster 1, Julie 0.

A friend mentions that he's heard you can catch a lobster with a mop. Apparently, one shoves the mop into the lobster's hole, twists it about a bit, and the lobster's spines tangle in the mop, allowing one to pull it out of the hole and take it to the surface to the dinghy. This sounds like a good idea to her, so a few hours later (after more dangerous cogitation) she's once again on the hunt, gloved up, with trusty mop in hand.

She spends about 10 minutes locating the lobster and another several minutes “mopping” it. She calls out a progress report to Mark, still aboard Rachel.

I think I've traumatized it!”

Mark is once again having difficulty staying aboard Rachel due to the effects of his convulsive laughter. Several photo ops are missed because he's finding it difficult to see through the tears.

Julie comes to realize that swimming around traumatizing the lobster isn't going to do the trick and reluctantly gives up, swimming back home with her mop.

Score: lobster 2, Julie still 0

That evening at happy hour she tells friends the story and one of them says “I have a spare elastic if you want it.”

He brings it over and leaves it with her. She installs it on the spear, gives it a good stretch and it breaks! Another dry rotted piece of rubber.

Hmm. (Oh no! More “thinking”!) She decides to cut the ends off the new elastic and retie it with our old string. She whips the elastic onto the string and now she's back in business, after a good test she's ready for attempt number three.

The next day she goes off again. At first she has trouble finding the lobster as the visibility has got pretty bad with lots of sand being stirred up from the high winds. Finally she finds the hole and there's the lobster staring up at her, taunting her. Arrogant beast! She shoots the spear 5 or 6 times to no avail. Finally, the lobster emerges from the hole and, with one last derisive wave of it's antennae, swims, really fast, off into the distance. Wow! She never realized they could move like that!

Score: lobster 3, Julie still 0

Later, we tell other friends the story during yet another happy hour on another boat. After the laughter dies down, Julie says

I've decided that if it wants to live as much as that, I just don't have the heart to kill it, so I'm going to stop trying.”

Final score: lobster for a win with 4, Sweet Julie still 0, but also a winner in our book.

05 March, 2014

Volunteering in the Exuma Cays Land & Sea Park

Location: Cambridge Cay, Exumas, Bahamas
Position: N 24 18.210 W 076 32.375

Wow! It's been over a month since we last wrote. Guess it's true that time flies when you're having fun!

We're just finishing up a month-long stint volunteering for the Exuma Land and Sea Park as mooring hosts at Cambridge Cay, one of our favorite spots in the Bahamas. We did this for three weeks 6 years ago and enjoyed it so much we decided to do it again this year for five weeks.

You can learn more about this exceptional park at their web site: http://www.exumapark.org/) and you can read Khronicles from our last stint here: http://svrachel.blogspot.com/2008_02_01_archive.html

It's a great deal. We go around daily in our dinghy visiting the other boats collecting mooring fees and helping to manage the anchorage. We also organize the occasional happy hour, clear and maintain the trails, and provide info regarding the island and the snorkeling and diving opportunities nearby. We enjoy meeting and chatting with all boaters and their guests who come here to pick up a mooring and support the park. In exchange we are given a free mooring in paradise, occasional rides down to Staniel Cay for shopping, a bit of gasoline to cover what we use doing our rounds, and, very important, trash pickups every few days!

Julie even found time to learn how to collect palm fronds and weave baskets! Her inaugural effort has earned her some well-deserved praise from other veteran basket makers.  We should mention here that she was given the palm fronds she used to make this basket by a friend who picked them outside the park. The entire Exuma Land & Sea Park Park is a "no take" zone.

The snorkeling around here is exceptional, so we've been treated to lovely fish and coral at one of the several snorkel spots here almost every day, often accompanied by other visiting boaters.

Mark, Julie & Maureen after a swim
An old friend of Mark's from Copper Hill, Virginia, came to visit for a week, too. We had a lot of fun with Maureen and enjoyed sharing this special place with her. One boat lost their dinghy the night before we took her to catch her return flight. We were lucky enough to spot it drifting out into open water on the banks on our way to the airport at Staniel Cay, giving her the opportunity to also participate in a dinghy rescue! The dinghy owners were very appreciative as you can see from their blog: http://www.sailingkiawah.com/2014/03/ode-to-rachel.html

Mark helped some other friends who were having trouble with their outboard,.  They wrote about us too. http://sailingsimplelife.blogspot.com/2014/02/friends-to-rescue-in-cambridge-cay.html. Apparently we are really popular this year!!

So, here's a typical day as Cambridge Cay volunteer mooring hosts:

6:30 am – Listen to Chris Parker, our favorite weather guy on the SSB (marine single side band radio), make coffee

7:30 am – Fire up the old Pactor modem and check our radio email, drink coffee.

8:30 am – Listen to the Cruiseheimer's net on the SSB, eat breakfast.

9:00 am – Listen to the park mooring assignment net on the VHF, give a 10 second Cambridge Cay mooring status report, do dishes.

9:30 am – 3:30 pm – go for a walk, work on the trails, snorkel, swim, eat lunch, nap, etc.

Cambridge mooring field
3:30 pm – 4:30 pm – do our “rounds” in the dinghy: collect mooring fees, provide local info, and meet the nice people who have come in to visit us for the night. This sometimes takes 2 hours if a lot of new boats have arrived.

4:30 pm – 6:30 pm – happy hour. Sometimes with friends on another boat, sometimes with everyone in the mooring field and anchorage on the beach, sometimes we do a “dinghy raft-up” where all the dinghies off to each other off Rachel's stern and pass appetizers around, sometimes it's just the two of us for a quiet evening on Rachel.

6:30 pm – 9:30 pm – dinner followed by a game or movie, sometimes both.

9:30 pm – Oops! It's 30 minutes past “cruiser's midnight”! Time for bed!

You can imagine the stress we've been under with this hectic schedule. Just joking – we love doing this and really are enjoying ourselves.

There's one occasional exception, however. Whenever the wind is forecast to come from a westerly direction at more than 10 knots, the moorings fill up early, and people come in to anchor because of the great protection afforded here. Anchoring is allowed at Cambridge Cay, but only to the west or the south of the mooring field – not to the north or the east, and not within the mooring field itself.
From the highest point on the island we could sometimes
 pick up enough phone service to look at email

We make sure to announce these rules on the VHF whenever someone calls in for anchoring info so that everyone else who is listening in can hear them (the VHF is like a big party line – everyone listens in on everyone else's conversations). But invariably a boat comes in and tries to anchor where they're not supposed to. Sometimes they'll reply to our calls on the VHF and will move before they get the anchor down, saving them some time and trouble. Other times they'll ignore our calls and anchor anyway. This means we have to get in our dinghy (and the weather has usually deteriorated by this time so the ride can be bouncy and wet) and go over to the offending boat to ask them to move. This is our least favorite part of the job. Most of the time they move without too much protest, but sometimes it can get a bit painful.
Maureen chillin' at the beach

We've learned there are several distinct types of “bad anchorpersons”:

The Clueless: this person pleads ignorance and moves readily enough, albeit sometimes with a bit of grumbling. We usually give them the benefit of the doubt as to whether they heard us hailing them on the VHF, and generally end up on good terms with them.

The Exception: this person thinks rules are for other people. Certainly not for them. They usually try to browbeat us into letting them stay, and will only move grudgingly.

The Entitled: this person has “been anchoring here for 18 years and it's the first I've ever heard of this restriction.” They will also only move grudgingly, and seldom stay more than one night – “If I can't anchor where I want to, I'm going to take my ball and go home...”.

Maureen feeding the pigs at Big Major's Spot
The Confrontationalist (our least favourite): this person is usually also an Exception and is sometimes also an Entitled. He will go out of his way to create a confrontation. “What regulation is that?” and “Where is it written that I can't anchor here?” and “Why didn't you tell me BEFORE I got the anchor down and set?” (never mind that we tried to hail you repeatedly on your way in and your radio was “off”). Very little, if anything, will make this person happy. Sometimes we drop a hint that the park warden will be coming by soon with the Defence Forces guys – this is usually enough to get them to move. Once, when a boat didn't answer us when we hailed them, we didn't bother going by (our dinghy was up in preparation for some bad weather). We just called the park office on the VHF, asking them to send the warden down to talk w/ them. The offending boat left right away and we canceled our call to the office – so much for not having their radio on, eh?

At any rate, here we are in paradise, having a ball. Our time here is almost up and we'll be moving on to George Town next week to renew our tourist visas.

Until next time, fair winds, be safe, and enjoy!