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Old 04-28-2010
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Double Breasted, Maycock and Loggerhead Cays, Jumentos Bahamas 4-6&7-10

Double Breasted, Maycock and Loggerhead Cays, Jumentos Bahamas 4-6&7-10

When we left you, we were comfortably anchored in 8-10' of water off Double
Breasted Cay, in the Southern Jumentos, a long chain of uninhabited islands,
after a very nice motor trip over from Raccon Cay and an initial exploration
of the area near our anchorage. The wind was still up, and still out of the
northeast, but the area south of us, which would have been very nice
protection, being further toward the middle of the island, was extremely
shallow, including some areas which were dry at low water.

Promising for conch hunting, but not very useful to us, with a 7' draft! As
it turned out, the swell from the Atlantic caused what's called surge, which
is the swell wrapping around the top of the island. That surge continued
through our next day, Wednesday April 6th, but it still wasn't enough to
worry about, so we rocked ourselves to sleep.

Morning dawned, but we didn't, sleeping in a bit, just because we can :**))
Chris Parker was very faint, but could be heard, and the winds were forecast
to start with 20 knots, clocking very slowly toward the south, and, over the
next few days, diminishing by a few knots each day.

We found that to be accurate, so far, as Tuesday night and Wednesday were a
steady 20 knots, moving from 70-80 degrees through 90 degrees, exactly east,
and as he'd forecast. We set out to explore some of the island we were in
front of, and a bit of the one south of here.

Friends of ours have had good luck in trolling from their dinghy, so we
decided to give that a try while we were under way. Fortunately, the
PortaBote is well set up for that, with the handles stuck under the seat
brace in the center, and sticking out from the sides. We used the same lures
we'd trolled on the way over, albeit with no luck, hoping for a change. As
it turned out, trolling both ways, we got not so much as a nibble.

However, the exploration was great. On the way in, we saw a small ray,
about 2' across, and turned to get a closer look. Very shy here, not having
become accustomed to handouts such as the ones in George Town, as soon as we
got close, he vigorously flapped his wings and was off. As we were close to
our first landing, we just continued onward.

We passed the remains of the wrecked airplane I'd forgotten to mention last
time, and a notable factor was that the engine, with its three-bladed,
looking-like-adjustable-pitch, prop, was now completely out of the water.
Our first dinghy landing yesterday had required we dodge the remains of the
tail section, but we only found a few more small pieces of the airplane
other than the engine. Presumably it's been here a great long while, and
thoroughly broken up and the parts distributed by the waves and winds.

The first landing was a sand spit, and, we'd timed it to arrive at about low
tide. A couple of birds were standing on a small hump offshore, indicating
that section dried out at low tide. At that, near mid-cycle in the moon, the
tides are relatively small at the moment; likely there's a great long spit
at a spring tide's low.

We found several keepers, as I call them, conch shells worth dressing up a
bit. They'd died a natural death, which meant that they didn't have the
characteristic slot in the top where you push your knife to free the animal
from its shell prior to preparation for eating. Unfortunately, not having
anything suitable to carry them with, one of the best is somewhere on top of
a rock; I didn't see it on the way back!

While Lydia went sea-bean hunting, I was hunting conch, and wasn't
disappointed. We'd seen many immature conch (conch are not legal to harvest
without a pronounced lip to their outer shell, one which flares out to
flat) at our landing area, suggesting that there were other, more mature
conch nearby.

Sure enough, I found one, and put it close to shore where it couldn't make
it very far before I came back to find it. I also found a very mature empty
shell. He'd died a normal death, as there wasn't a hole in it, either, so I
kept it. Unfortunately, it was bleached entirely white (not as pretty as
the ones which are recently vacated), but it would make a great conch horn.
I put it on top of a rock to pick up on my way back.

While I was wandering around in the shallows, I saw a small shark, probably
not even 3 feet, just cruising, not in any hurry, and not alarmed at my
presence, though he wandered off rather than coming closer.. Based on
other's reports, we'll see more, and larger ones. What beautiful animals
they are..

I also saw a clutch of 4 immature barracuda. Initially, I thought they were
needlefish, because they were probably 18" long, but very skinny. A closer
look revealed their characteristic jaw; they'll apparently fill out as they
mature, because the length-to-height/girth ratio was considerably more than
a mature barracuda's.

Shortly after that, again in the shallows, I saw a very large ray. He, too,
was very shy, but of the same sort as found in George Town. He wandered
off, but came back a while later. As I tried to get closer to him, he
evidently felth threatened, because he put on a burst of speed, stirring up
the sand with his wings, and hovered a few hundred feet away while I
continued to look.

Meanwhile, Lydia had gone out of sight, and, aside from fish-watching, I'd
been pretty much out of luck, so I went to hunt her up. She'd found some
nice shells and some more sea-beans, but was about tapped out as well, so we
got back in the dinghy after collecting the single conch I'd found.
Unfortunately, I'd missed the large white conch shell; I'll have to find
some other way of making my drop-off spots more notable!

Going off to the very end of Double Breasted Cay, we saw a promising beach,
so put in there. That was opposite a great path to the ocean side, just the
place for Lydia to do some shell hunting. On the way, there was a small
impoundment, on the edge of which (recall that it's low water at the moment)
there were many conch.

I waded the impoundment, and found somel mature conch. Fetching them out and
putting them on the "beach" area (some sand on the lee side) but still in
the water, I then went looking around the perimeter and off on the ocean
side.

This reminded me a lot of the shallow area we found in Norman's Cay last
year, so I was hopeful to find more. I wasn't disappointed, as I eventually
had a couple more mature conch to add to my single one from the north end of
the island. As many were high and dry, and, just to keep from picking them
up again, I tossed all the immature conch into the deepest part of the
impoundment, to help keep them from the fate of one I picked up, dead from
having been exposed.

Meanwhile, this hunting was so successful to Lydia that she was glad to find
a plastic container to hold them all. I, too, found an empty 5-gallon
bucket, with a lid which had a hole in it. That's the way many cruisers
carry spare chain, and the fracture hole and a couple of other cracks in the
bucket suggested perhaps that was its prior use, but it would suffice for
carrying my conch.

Thus laden, we set out across the very small cut to Maycock Cay. While I
hunted, again, Lydia went off into the woods. Wandering the beach is great
exercise, especially since the water had come up, and there were some trees
(mangoes, I'd suppose) at the water's edge. Walking around them as the tide
came up was a nice workout for my thighs, as my legs pushed through the
water. It's also a great pedicure, as the sand scoured my now-very-brown
feet.

I again found a couple of conch, but this time, smarter, I put them right in
front of a couple of abandoned lobster traps. As I'd walked the entire
length of the island, I went looking for Lydia. Sure enough, there was one
of what I've now come to expect, a clear marker of a couple of bouys on a
stick, at the foot of a path to the ocean side.

It was a short trip over, as it was at the very narrowest waist of the
island. As has been the case nearly every time lately, it was a great
hunting trip for Lydia. She's becoming laden with sea beans and shells, and
may be passing off others to those not so fortunate as we've been in finding
them!

Thus encumbered, I put the now-6 conch into the bucket I'd found, and, as it
didn't have have a handle, I hung on to it with my fingertips under the lip
on which the lid latched. I'll tell you for sure, 6 mature conch weigh a
lot. Two days later, my fingertips are still sore!

Once back at the boat, again struck out with our trolling efforts, since
Lydia had already planned a chicken dinner, I ran a line through the
fracture hole in the bucket, preparing to hang it under the platform at the
stern. As I've seen the strength in conch's feet (the little horn with which
they propel themselves), I squashed the bucket a bit to wedge the top two
tightly, keeping the rest down, and, presumably, those two immobile, before
lowering it into the ocean to keep them alive for tomorrow's harvesting.

By this time, the wind had come a little south, to due east, and the surge,
despite the still-brisk winds, was less pronounced. As I put it to my
contact in the Maritime Mobile Service Net, nothing beats a stunning sunset
after a dinner in a rocking chair that you don't even have to rock yourself!

Thursday dawned just like the rest lately, which is to say, slightly
overcast. We'd slept in, again, but got up in time to tune in for Chris'
forecast. Unfortunately, the propagation was just awful, and nothing was
heard on any of the frequencies he uses at the various time over the
morning. However, nothing much was expected in the way of change, and we
looked forward to another great day of exploring.

First, however, I had to harvest those conch. Despite my reassurance when I
checked shortly before we retired, I was surprised and annoyed to discover
that we'd had a breakout, and two-thirds of our inmates had escaped. As the
wind had clocked around, just as forecast, to 110, a quick calculation
suggested that they, with our 100' of chain, were likely within an arc of
about 30 degrees at best, and, perhaps, at worst, a length of 100' from the
stern of the boat.

Never yet testing the ease of departure and entry from the PortaBote, I
pulled it in and put on my snorkeling gear. As I'd have the bucket for
weight, I didn't bother with the weight belt, but just put the line I'd
suspended it with in my hand as I slipped over the side. No biggie, though
not at all the same as from the inflatable. The real test would be on my
re-entry.

Thus sightly less than normal bouyancy, though not much, as two conch don't
weigh all that much in the water, I set to exploring. I found the first one
relatively quickly, but at the same time, a medium sized barracuda was also
looking me over. I certainly didn't look like lunch to him, so I wasn't
concerned, but, instead, interested to see if he'd go check out the shiny
clip which secured the line to the bucket. He didn't, and also didn't seem
interested in my ring or watch, the crystal to which reflected the sun.

Keeping an occasional eye on him, I eventually found another, and put that
one in the bucket as well. By now, I was curious to see what the barracuda
would do if I swam after him, but under water. He'd paid no attention to me
as I wandered in his area at the surface.

Once underwater, having left the bucket (very easy to spot!) sitting on the
sand, I swam quickly toward him. Unlike his cruising, which was with mouth
closed, he swam off, keeping me at about 10', but, for the entire time I
chased him, both this time and another, he had his mouth gaping. I wonder
if that was a fear response? Certainly, he clearly wanted no part of me...

Using the 25' line attached to the bucket as a marker, I swam in circles
around the bucket, but to no avail - both this and another location failed
to produce any more conch. Disappointed, I headed back to the boat. I now
know that getting into the PortaBote is actually much easier than into the
inflatable. I positioned myself near the bow, just forward of the front
seat. A thrust with my flippers, while holding the seat, and I was in,
without a drop of water that didn't arrive with me. I LIKE this!

So, I pulled the dinghy to the boat with its line still attached to the
cleat, and hoisted the bucket. OY! An escape, while in transit. There
were only 3 in the bucket. Oh, well, that's plenty to eat... I set to
cleaning/harvesting.

The way you get a conch out of its shell is to punch a hole in the top of
the shell 3 rows of points from the end. I use a small rock hammer, but the
pros usually use a drywall hammer (I used to own a very good one, having
hung drywall at one point in my between-semesters work experiences), ax-end
to the shell. You then stick a thin knife (I use a fish fileting knife)
down the hole in line with the shell curve inside, which cuts the inner
attachment flesh from the bone. It's then a matter of pulling on the foot,
and the animal comes out.

The removal of unwanted flesh and cartilage is relatively straightforward,
and since our travels today would take us to an area where trolling had
produced snapper for another cruiser, I kept the small bits. Unfortunately,
perhaps the one I picked up out of the water in the little impoundment area,
one of them was already dead, quite obviously from the smell. Oh, well, two
big conch is still a nice accompaniment to a meal...

Once finished with that, I thought that perhaps my visitor might be hungry
also, so I took the rod with the skirted hook and cast it off in the general
direction of where I'd been snorkeling. He must have been ready for lunch,
because he struck it immediately. With the line streaming out of the reel,
I tightened the drag and started the fight.

What a great fighter. Many leaps out of the water, and much running, he put
on a great show. Eventually, on one of his leaps, he threw the hook. Many
more casts produced no other bites, so I switched poles, using a silver
flashing diamond lure which has been successful for us in the past. Still
no luck. I guess he figured he'd better wait until dinner!

Disappointed, but yet exhilarated by his performance, we looked forward to
conch for dinner. Using the leftovers from the cleaning of the two good
ones, I baited both of the rods' lures hooks and let them out over the side.
I also fetched a couple of hand lines and baited them the same way. We
shortly saw some fish which might have been a small grouper investigating
one of the hand lines, but didn't bite at it. On the other hand, I
discovered that the bait on the silver lure was gone, so rebaited it.

I'd run the generator for a bit this morning, having washed my head in fresh
water (unlike our usual sponge-bath salt wipedown when we get in) last
night, in order to give myself a haircut and beard trim. By the time I was
finished, this had taken long enough that before leaving we had our lunch.

I also noticed, since I'd gone for my escapee hunt, and gave myself my
haircut/trim in the altogether, that the sun had come up enough to pink up
my otherwise not-usually-exposed parts. Sure enough, the clouds had burned
off, and with our short generator time, our batteries were well on their way
to full. It will be interesting
to see what happens to our total amp-hours by the time we return. I was also
sure to wear my bathing suit, and a hat to protect my now near-bald head!

By the time we got in the dinghy, however, neither the lures nor handlines
had surrendered their bait nor caught a fish, so we took the poles and set
off north. Today's excursion would be to Loggerhead Cay, across which
channel our snapper-taking friends had their success. With the wind more
south than before, the waves were not breaking as notably on the north end
of Double Breasted Cay, so we also thought we might be able to get in some
time on the top of the island.

No luck, again, with the trolling, either coming or going, but we found a
great beach on which to land the dinghy on the east end of Loggerhead. This
was the lee side of the Atlantic, nominally (not fully exposed due to Double
Breasted getting in the way), so perhaps a good place for bean hunting.

It turned out to be mediocre for beans, but we did get lucky in that I found
a container looking a bit like a milk crate in construction, but with a lid.
Just the thing for corralling conch and leaving in the water! I gave the
bucket back to the landfill. I also found a life jacket with intact and
flexible clips, so I cut those off, salvaging as much of the nylon web tape
as possible, and we got in the dinghy for a ride around to the other side
for exploration...

Once on the other side, after threading our way through a reef area, it was
like a conch graveyard. There was one section of one of the beaches (there
were many small ones, interspersed with rock projections) which was totally
piled with all sorts of shells, including many intact, natural-death conch
shells. Unfortunately, they were all very weathered and discolored, and,
worse, for potential musical use, not mature.

However, I also found part of a commercial pod which must have gone adrift.
5 mature conch shells, held together with a length of poly line through
small holes at the feet of each shell, all empty. All bleached, but
otherwise in great shape, I brought those back to the dinghy.

Since the area we were in had so many conch shells, it stood to reason that
we might find other, live, ones in the shallows. I went wading and, did,
indeed find several, but they were immature. While I was wading, though, I
also found a barracuda wandering around right at the edge of the rocks,
about 50 feet out. Off I went to the dinghy to get the pole, and, wouldn't
you know it, on the first cast, it fouled.

While I cleared the foul, Lydia went looking and found a very sizeable
mature conch. Several casts later, in the vicinity of the barracuda, with no
strike, we set out for home. The new conch was pretty stressed out from the
ride on top of the 5 empties which I'd cleaned from all the sand they'd
accumulated, so I put him in the new container to relax on the sea bottom
for a while.

While I was getting my tools out for the conch cleaning, I checked the
ammeter in the walkthrough, where my workbench is located. WOW! Totally
full, with only a single amp down (meter read -1.02). My log composition
(computer and screen amps), Maritime Mobile checkin and, with the
propagation being as bad as it is resulting in very long conmnect times to
send this log (SSB and Ham radio have a very high amperage draw on
transmission), we'll have a deficit before going to bed, of course. Once
our KISS wind generator is back in operation, it will easily, in these
winds, keep up with the overnight load, but for now, we occasionally still
run the Honda...

We had our salt-water wipe-offs and I brought our new holding pen back up.
Sure enough, you could once more see the conch's foot, so I'd not have to go
digging for it oncee I had it ready for extraction. Very shortly, a very
substantial conch was on the platform, trimmed and then pounded (cracked, in
Bahamian parlance) flat, to make it tender.

A quick slice-up later, and he joined the other two. Mixed with penne,
tossed with sauteed garlic and onion, Zatarain's fish spice and some
parmesan cheese, it made a huge dinner. What a treat to be able to eat from
the sea...

Thus sated, I happily wrote my log and Lydia wrote to her grandson, both to
be sent overy our Ham email link. My son-the-sysop David's monitoring my
regular mail for any emergency or business traffic and so posts this log
from my address after I've sent it to him over the Ham mail. Thanks, David!

Of course, if you're reading this any notable time after the date in the
subject, it's because I've gotten back into internet range and am able to
put it to other than the subscribers to my log. If you'd like to be on that
list, just click the yahoo link below and sign up. If you'd like Lydia's
log, what I characterize as the "sunsets and animals" list, check the google
line below.

As usual, I've run on (and on) so, we'll leave you here, stuffed, tanned,
happy (well, delerious wouldn't be far off) with our location and situation,
with a slightly diminishing wind and much diminished swell.

Until next time, Stay Tuned!

L8R

Skip and crew, still lying in the same location as last time, anchor swing
due to wind shift excepted :**))


Morgan 461 #2
SV Flying Pig KI4MPC
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