Thursday, March 29, 2012

A Fishing Tale – Attack of the Sea Grass

Written by, Michael Daubenberger

At some point, luck always has a way of running out and ours has with fishing.  It all started innocently enough when we oiled our reels one day at Crooked Island.  We figured our gear should be in tiptop shape for the monsters we would be catching.  If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.  That’s the mantra we should have stuck with. 

Since we oiled the reels we have caught about 200 wads of sea grass and two 3-foot Barracudas.  Hardly worth writing home about.  We’re not sure if it’s the scent of the oil, the constant sea grass, our aged lures, or just plain bad luck but the fish aren’t biting off the stern of the Tanqueray.  5 passages, a fishing excursion and 340 miles later and still no fish to report.

Sara with Seagrass
However, the fishing has not been without excitement.  We have been traveling under some heavy seas that produce massive quantities of sea grass.  With the sea grass comes bites.  We watch the pole bend, the heart gets pumping and then we realize its just another clump of sea grass adding to our woes.  Time to reel in the lines clean them off and heave them back out.  Not a fun task when your sailing 6 knots in the ocean I may add.

Although we have not been hooking up on the passages, the Tanqueray is far from fish free.  There was the night at French wells on Crooked Island where we casted with light spinning tackle for horse eye jacks.  Our boat was surrounded by jacks hitting baitfish at the surface.  After dinner we figured why not toss a few casts out.  Little did we know we would be fighting them until midnight.  The first two broke the line straight off and the third was a true battle waged against all the anglers on the boat (Sara, Daubie, Max, Laura, and Myself).  The gear was light and the fish would not tire.  The fight ended with the whole crew jumping in the dinghy and chasing the fish until we were able to finally wrangle it in.  A 10 pound jack.  Great fighter, not to be eaten. 
Horseye Jack

Once again our fishing adventures turn to the underwater realm, spearfishing, at Atwood Harbor on Acklins Island.  Our first day in the harbor my pops speared two rock hind, a type of grouper.  The old man still has it.  He is quite proud.  The next day we collected lobsters with JJ.  See my previous story “JJ our Rastafarian host”.  
Daubie's Strawberry Grouper

Daubie's Stone Crab

We have some good spear fishermen in the family but I’m not one of them.  My father is and my brother is, but I instinctually scare fish away, and if I don’t, I don’t see them.  Lobster, I can spear.  Lionfish, I can spear.  Neither move when approached.  My spearfishing abilities were in drastic need of improvement. 

At Samana Cay I got a taste of progress.  Our first day in the water I got a good sized lobster.  Our second day a Permit.  The Permit I was proud of.  Permit are an excellent game fish and get quite big.  They are excellent eating and are not typically speared.  The Permit I found was swimming in a school at the edge of the reef.  I got to within 8 feet and took a shot with my Hawaiian Sling (The Hawaiian Sling is similar to a slingshot but it shoots a stainless steel spear, not a rock or marble).  A hit, but the spear went right through the fish.  I took another shoot and I hit again.  This time I get two fish on the spear at once.  As I race for the spear, one wiggles off.  The other, I am able to collect and proudly yard back to the boat.  Success!! 

I go back to the same spot.  The fish are gone so I take a shot at a snapper.  Right in the head but not enough umph.  The fish gets free and I search for him in the coral heads.  No luck.  Time to head back.  15 seconds later I’m met by a 7-foot reef shark swimming towards me.  I cock my spear back and watch him as he swims by not more than 15 feet away.  Lesson learned.  Hit your prey, get it on the boat, and out of the water quickly in the out islands. 

The weather comes in, bad weather that is, and we do not enter the water for a week.  Back in Clarence Town, Long Island, the fridge is empty, it’s do or starve time. Sara and I head out in hopes of spearing a couple pan fryers for dinner.  At our first stop I spear a grunt.  Grunts are small but tasty if you are willing to clean them.  I was.  We head to the next spot in search of another small snack.  Something easy. 
White Grunt

After 5 minutes we see the fish.  A good-sized Nassau Grouper.  I swim up to him slowly, avoiding eye contact.  He is constantly watching me but is not moving away.  I dive down, he turns sideways, a perfect target.  I pull back the sling and spear him in the guts.  The chase is one.  Even with a 5 foot ¼ inch diameter spear in him he is much faster than me.  He goes into a hole.  I follow.  The spear is sticking out and I give it a yank.  It won’t budge.  I release the barb, retrieve the spear and give him a kill shot.  It’s just a matter of working out the jigsaw puzzle to get him out.  Another 5 minutes and a couple bloody hands later and dinner is ours.  Again improvement has been made. 

Nassau Grouper
The next day we head to the same reef, this time with confidence.  We don’t see any big fish so I take a shoot at a pan fish that we have been curious about.  I’m 15 feet away and want to take some target practice.  I had no expectations of hitting the fish but some times you find the needle in the haystack.  It’s a direct hit, right through the head.  I collect the fish and a couple of conch and we head back to the boat.

However, our most productive fishing came at the most unexpected spot, the fuel dock.  We were filling up on fuel and water and I was chewing the fat with a couple of guys from a sportfishing boat, Tommy and Jason.  They had been out fishing the day before.  Tommy left and came back with a Mahi-Mahi.  He asks if I’ve got room in the dinghy for a fish.  Of course!  A forty-inch Mahi, with none of the work.  Next he comes back with a couple Yellow Tail Snapper and a Red Snapper.  I clean all the fish at the fish cleaning station.  Sure beats the cockpit of a rolling boat.  It would have been more fun to catch them, but it was great to fill the fridge before heading out.

Before this article could go out to post we made a quick trip to the reef outside the anchorage nabbing two big lobsters and a schoolmaster (snapper).  Not bad for an afternoon’s work!!

Sara with a couple Lobster
Mike with snapper and lobsters


Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Pumpkin Soup

I found a similar recipe in the Joy of Cooking, but modified it to work with the ingredients I have on the boat.  Pumpkins are a locally grown produce in the Bahamas, so finding unique, savory ways to eat them is key!  Pumpkin pie is the first thing that always comes to mind, but you can eat that for a meal, at least not on a regular occurance.

1 pumpkin (~2 pounds)
½ cup chopped onion, sautéed
3 cups chicken broth
¾ cup whole milk
2 tbsp. brown sugar
1 teaspoon minced ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Salt & pepper to taste

Bake pumpkin whole in oven at 350F for 30 minutes, until softened.  Remove seeds and skin.  Saute onion in pot using 1 tablespoon of olive oil.  Add chicken broth and pumpkin and other ingredients, heat on medium, 30 or so minutes, until soft enough to mash or blend pumpkin.  Pour broth into blender and puree or mash with fork.  Reheat and serve – Delicious if served with toasted cayenne pecans!

To make pecans:
Lay pecans on cookie sheet.  Toss in the following mixture: 2 tablespoons brown sugar, 3 tablespoons butter, 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper, 1 teaspoon cinnamon.  Bake in the oven for 20 or so minutes at 350F until toasted.  Remove and let cool.  Sprinkle on top of soup or eat as a snack!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

And We’re Back!

Back to Crooked Island that is.  Some of you who know sailing and the islands, may have wondered why we had ventured off north so early!  We traveled 135 miles northeast and in the wrong direction 2 days before the big storm (forecasted wind gusts up to 40 knots) to take shelter at Cat Island.  From there, Daubie departed us, back to cold Port Townsend, WA, and we hunkered down until the storm passed, feeling sorry for ourselves that it was too cold to swim (70F).  Well to be honest, we did dip in a few times, but we didn’t spend the usual hour upon hour of swimming and snorkeling.

 That is neither here nor there; the story I want to tell is our return out to the “Out Islands” – Crooked Island to be exact.

Mike at the helm, leaving Cat Island
The wind was dying down and Mike and I decided to begin the journey south.  The plan was to head to the west side (the protected side from the ocean) of Long Island near Thompson Bay nearly 50 miles south.  The seas were calm and we were having easy sailing by the time we had made it out to the southern most point of Cat Island – Hawk’s Nest.  We started thinking that maybe we could continue sailing further and make it all the way to Clarence Town – the ocean side of Long Island.  Mistake #1.

Sara at the helm on our way to Clarence Town
The trip to Clarence Town was a great sail (meaning we were making good speed – 6+ knots), but the day was long and ruff.  We traveled 80 miles in 16 hours with seas 6-9 feet, the boat rocking and winds up to 20 knots.  To say the least, it picked us up and spit us out, comfort level a 4 on a scale of 1-10.  We arrived at 7pm, in the dark, and set anchor.  No fish to report – Mike will comment on that later.

Mike's Birthday Cake - Upside down banana
The next day was Mike’s birthday (March 12th) and we celebrated in Clarence Town with rainsqualls and clouds.  The winds picked up and we hunkered down again, this time in Clarence Town.  No one wants to leave a comfortable anchorage when seas are approaching to 9 feet.  We explored Clarence Town, this time by foot and dingy.  A grouper, a grunt and 4 conch to report.

Mike with grouper
We relaxed in Clarence Town.  Then five days later, we set sail; this time with plans to leave around noon and head to Little Harbor anchorage, 10 miles south.  Mistake #2.

Relaxing on the beaches near Clarence Town

We re-read the charts and noticed the comment “The Little Harbor entrance will be impassable during windy or large swell conditions“.  Needless to say, the swells were large that day and we didn’t want to risk entering the harbor and not being able to leave, so we took a 180-degree turn and headed 30 miles due east – to Crooked Island.

This sail was much smother than the last and we made it to Crooked in 5 hours traveling an average of 6 knots.  The great part about the sail was that we could actually sail comfortably heading due east (sailing this direction is rare because the prevailing wind is out of the east).  We anchored 30 minutes past dusk, in the dark, again.  Exhausted, we crashed out early; tomorrow would be our 6-month anniversary and 3-month mark in the Bahamas.

And we’re back.  Back to Crooked Island after two long, sporadic travel days.  We had not entirely planned to be here, but we are both glad are. 

Tranquility Bay - out front of restaurant on Crooked Island
The next morning we went for a jog down the road and ran into two of our friends, Nappy and Trevor, who we met last time we were in town.  They asked us what we were up to and if we wanted to go out to lunch with them across the island.  We eagerly accepted and met them at the docks by 1pm.
Restaurant at Tranquility Bay
Nappy even insisted on buying our lunch.  We rolled through several settlements in a small sedan with one bad wheel, meeting nearly half the island. 

Overlooking the sound
The sound - one of our stops on the road trip with Nappy & Trevor
We even made a special stop at the Father’s house, as in the pastor of the island.  He was a very interesting man; raised in north Bahamas, track athlete in college, worked on Wall Street for 20-years in bustling New York city to a pastor of a small Anglican church on Crooked Island with a population of 350 people.  Talk about a complete turn around in life.  It was fun meeting him and getting to talk and here his story.
Anglican Church
Track picture of the Father
Being the track fan, I had to take a photo
When we made it back to the boat, around 5pm, we had invited Nappy and Trevor to go for a sail.  They were not only enthusiastic about going sailing, but said that it made their dreams come true. 

Trevor, Nappy and Mike
Nappy was a natural at the helm.   We cruised out past the lighthouse and back, Nappy at the helm and Trevor trying it for a bit.  We are certain that next time we come back to the Bahamas, Nappy will be on his own boat!
Trevor and Nappy aboard Tanqueray

Friday, March 23, 2012

Nellie Chronicles Part 18

"Sailor Cat For Life"
Transcribed for Nellie by the Old One

Well folks, I just can’t do it.  Last night it blew like hell, the rig was shaking and the anchor rode was as tight as one of the old ones guitar strings.  I realized that Mom & Dad really rely on me to keep watch at night.  I guess you could say I earn my kibbles.  I also spend a lot of my time comforting them when they get scared on those long passages.  It will be better now that the boat doesn’t leak and the engine runs.  That old guy did some good things on his visit.

And you know folks I’m going to miss the old “geezer”.  I really did like listening to his music.  He’s pretty good on the guitar and he loves an audience.  I even sort of purred once when he was petting me, but maybe I should just keep that little secret to myself.

Well, enough about him…. I’ve been having a great time here on Cat Island.  I just had quite a chuckle thinking about the “old one” opening his bag when he gets home and finding my unused getaway stash of kibbles.  Well till next time dear readers, this is Nelly on the “Tanqueray” for the long haul.

The old one

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Mike's Bahamian Coleslaw

Cabbage is one of the staples in the Bahamas along with pumpkin and tomatoes.  No matter which island you are at, you are likely to find this local produce.  I'd say we provisioned our boat extremely well for our first time cruising the Bahamas, but you still have to rely on the local food when you want something fresh.  That's not to say that we haven't been able to buy other produce, but a lot of the stuff is limited and brought in weekly to the islands by mailboat from the US.  Here's Mike's famous coleslaw recipe.  It's delicious served alone as a side or on top of fish!

Mike's Bahamian Coleslaw
1 white cabbage, thinly sliced

1/4 cup yellow raisins
1 carrot, shaved

3/4 cup mayo 
1/4 cup apple cider or rice vinegar
1-2 tbsp. sugar
Yellow Curry powder, to taste

Mix dressing, pour over cabbage, carrots and raisins.  Refrigerate.  Serve.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

25 Hours Later…..Welcome to Cat Island

Tanqueray under sail
Thirty knot sustained winds gusting to 40 knots – that’s what we heard on the weather forecast - we needed to find shelter soon.  The out islands do not provide as many options, so we reviewed the charts and decided our best bet was to head north towards Cat Island.  This was a bit of a disappointment at first because we’d be giving up all the ground we had made getting south.  However, we were pleasantly surprised by Cat Island when we arrived.

We left Samana Cay at 8:30am on a Saturday, following Twilight out the east entrance, dodging the reefs on both sides and crashing into the 8 foot swells rolling into the cut.  Phew…. We made it out and I dropped the fishing lines in the water.  Time to start fishing!  “ZING, ZING” -  something takes the line and runs with it.  I grab the reel and reel in as best as I can, fighting the fish for a good ten minutes.  I’d like to note that we were sailing over 6 knots through huge waves at the time, still wiping the sweat from our brows after making it through the precarious exit. 
Mike relieved to make it through 
Daubie at the bow spotting coral heads
Coral heads at Samana Cay
Mike and Daubie slowed the boat down and rolled in the jib.  We finally got the thing in.  Was it a mahi mahi, a tuna?  No barracuda.  We tossed it back into the deep and continued on our way.  After that, the rest of the trip was sailed (all 25 hours) without a single bite.  Major bummer, not sure what happened to our fishing MoJo.  We hope to get it back soon
Beach at New Bight, Cat Island
We had a ruff sail getting out of Samana, but by afternoon, we were sailing great and the waves had lightened.  We decided to start 2-hour shifts at the helm starting at 6pm and continuing on through the night.  I was first up – 6 to 8 pm.  I took the helm while Mike and Daubie layed down below to rest up for their first shift.  The sun set close to 6pm, so it felt a lot later than it really was, traveling in the dark.  I was exhausted at 8pm and it was easy to take a nap until my next shift starting at midnight.   

Cat Island
By 6am I was on my last shift and the fishing lines were back in the water.  We turned the corner around the south end of Cat Island and anchored at Old Bight for the afternoon and then continued up north for better protection.  We set the anchor right off the town of New Bight and then headed in for a quick stroll and to see if we could grab some food.  Unfortunately, we realized it was Sunday and most places were closed. 
In town at New Bight, Cat Island
In town at New Bight, Cat Island

Daubie in town at Cat Island
In town we met a few locals and everyone was extremely friendly.  The friendliest island yet! If you are walking down the street, cars will pull over and over you a lift to wherever you are heading, even if it’s out of the way for them.
Crystal on the saw
Pompey and the Rake & Scrape Band
The next day we headed into town and met up with our new friend, Pompey.  He plays the accordion and has a Rake & Scrape band with two younger ladies (the traditional Bahamian music consisting of accordion, drum and saw).  They flew to Nassau a month ago to appear on the Today Show. 
He invited us to come watch practice later that afternoon and told Daubie to bring his guitar.  Daubie was in Seventh Heaven, he’s always looking for someone to play with and Mike and I aren’t the most dedicated of musicians or musicians at all!  That evening we sit around the table and listen to the band play.  It was quite the treat to hear local, traditional music and meet everyone.  

We spent the next day exploring Cat Island and walked around town, hitchhiked and talked with the locals.  We hiked up to the highest point in the Bahamas 206 feet to the Hermitage (The Hermitage was constructed by Father Jerome Hawes who was a Catholic priest and a trained architect.  He lived from 1876 to 1956).

Hike to Hermitage on Cat Island (highest point in the Bahamas)

The Hermitage

View from the Hermitage

Mike and Sara at the Hermitage
Mike and I waited out the storm on Cat Island, traveling as far north as Pigeon Cay and from there heading south again to Long Island.

Storm at New Bight, Cat Island

Waiting out the storm on Cat Island