Bill and I left Georgetown with Sunday’s Child the morning of January 29th. The wind was favorable but the seas were fairly rolly. I picked up Bill a few days prior at the airport in Georgetown and Arcturus was finally (and unfortunately!) heading back north. This was Bill’s first sail on board and luckily he took some Dramamine that morning just in case it got rough.
Ted from Sunday’s Child had helped me pick out a few things at the tackle shop and rig up our fishing gear. The fishing on the sound side of the Exumas is better than the shallower bank side, so we were excited to try and catch dinner. I had a monster fishing lure that Greg gave me at Norman’s Cay that I had on the fishing pole and an orange squid lure on the Cuban yo-yo.
We threw out the lines and waited. The monster lure had a large spoon on the end and our fishing rod could barely handle it. It was bent over double right away when we threw it in the water. We kept sailing for a while and watching the lines. After about 45 minutes, we looked back and noticed something dragging behind the fishing rod line. We figured we must have caught a plastic bag or some seaweed and started the slow process of reeling it in. The reel for fishing rod could not handle the lure so one of us would pull in the slack on the line while the other would reel. About half way in we realized it was a fish on the line and not trash! We finally got the fish all the way in and it turned out to be a large barracuda! Apparently barracuda will strike just about any lure but you cannot eat them. They accumulate a toxin called ciguatera which is much like mercury poison in fish. Bill wrestled the fish into the boat and removed the hooks before throwing it back in. It didn’t put up much of a fight because I think we accidently drug it for a couple of miles! We threw the line back in and ended up catching another small barracuda right after that but nothing worth eating.
We continued to sail and keep in contact with Sunday’s Child. They were not having any luck fishing either. We sailed for the rest of the day and entered into Galliot Cut in the late afternoon. Sunday’s Child is faster than us so Ted was already checking his anchor when we pulled in. As we passed by he popped his head out of the water and held up two huge conchs! They had not been anchored for more five minutes and Ted already found dinner! Incredible! We dropped our anchor and I hopped in the water to check it. I quickly discovered Ted’s secret. Conchs covered the bottom of the entire anchorage! They were everywhere! I swam over to his boat and we formed a strategy. We searched for the largest we could find and Ted served as the filter to determine which ones made the cut. We ended up with ten nice sized conchs and went to the beach to clean them.
Bill ended up being a natural at extracting the conchs from their shells (which is convenient because I am terrible at it!). He extracted most of the conch while Ted and I cleaned them. The sun was beginning to set as we finished up and the bugs started coming out on the beach. That motivated us to quickly finish up and we went back to the boat to “crack” the conch (tenderize it with a hammer). We prepared a delicious dinner of conch burgers and went to bed happy.
We woke up the next day and decided to go out and search for something besides conch for dinner. There was a nice reef on the northern side of Galliot Cay so we went over there to try our luck with the fishing poles. We trolled back and forth in Ted’s dinghy for awhile but did not have any success. We went over and anchored near the drop off and hopped in the water with our spears. There were a few fish but most were too deep for us to go after. All of a sudden the wind picked up and it started pouring down rain. Ted and I both popped our heads out of the water to check it out. I looked over at him and he just shrugged with a “We’re not going to get any wetter” kind of look. We kept searching but could not find any fish. As I am looking around I notice that the dinghy is not where we left it! It had started a slow drift away from us as the wind and waves kept pushing it backwards! I signaled to Ted and we started chasing after the dinghy. The rain was really coming down and I was short of breath by the time we made it back to the runaway dinghy. We were both a little cold so we decided to head back to home base to warm up.
Too much conch and no fish, so after the rain died down a little bit we went off to a nearby island to search for lobster. We had some success there in the past so Ted figured it was as good a place to start as any. Bill came out with us this time so we had three sets of eyes on the lookout. I purchased my own spear inGeorgetownand was excited to try it out for the first time. We looked for a while but had little success. We found a few lobster but they were too small to take. We left that area and went around to the southern side of Galliot Cay towards the inlet. We hopped in a few times and worked our way clockwise around the island back towards the boats. We speared a few lion fish near the inlet and decided to put some distance between us and the blood in case any sharks were around. After about an hour of searching Ted swims over with a medium size lobster. Nice work! It wasn’t enough to feed four people for dinner so we continued to search.
I had not shot a lobster yet so Ted told me if he saw one he would signal for me to take the first shot. We were all spread out and Ted was leading the way. I was focusing on the bottom edge of the reef when I suddenly swam up on Ted. There were tons of bubbles coming from his snorkel and he was pointing wildly at something behind me. SHARK! I was ready to flee! I looked all around and couldn’t see anything. We popped our heads up and I asked him what was wrong! He told me to follow his spear and we dove down. I searched where he was pointing and saw what he had found. I turned towards him and bubbles started streaming from my snorkel this time as I screamed “That’s the biggest lobster in the world!” He was not on the floor like most lobsters but was in a cave in the side of the rock. It was completely exposed broadside in the cave. It was a monster! Ted told me to take the first shot so I took a deep breath and dove down. The cave was deep so I did not want to miss and scare it into the back of the cave. The ideal spot to hit a lobster is through the head because they have a powerful tail that can shake a spear loose if you hit it there. I approached slowly from its backside and aimed for its head (quite a large target actually!). I shot and hit my mark! Ted came up immediately behind me and shot it through the tail. Great shot! Ted grabbed both spears and wrestled it out of the cave. We both surfaced and started swimming back to the dinghy. We quickly declared that this was the biggest lobster any of us had ever seen! We called it a day and made our way back to Sunday’s Child.
Once we arrived at the boat we presented our find to Maggie and Chessie (their dog). Ted removed and cleaned the tails. This lobster was so large that we decided to try and use some of the meat from the legs and antenna as well. Maggie boiled the legs and antenna and we spent the rest of the afternoon picking the meat. The leg meat was much richer than the tail and tasted more like Maine lobster than Spiny lobster. Maggie made a lobster curry from the leg meat that was delicious! Ted grilled the tails and we had another amazing dinner!
The next day was our last at Galliot Cay so we set out to see if we could find any fish. Bill’s skin was still in US winter mode so he took the day off from snorkeling in the sun. The rest of us piled in the dinghy and set off to the reef near the north side of the island. It was a warm sunny day and the reef looked beautiful! The water near shore was about 10 feet deep and quickly dropped off a ledge to about 30 or 40 feet deep.
As we were swimming over the deeper part we noticed a large nurse shark hanging out on the bottom and a group of six Manta rays were circling around as we swam over top. Wonderful! As we were getting ready to leave a nice size amberjack swam right over to Ted and just stopped! A fish at last! He cocked back his spear and was ready to shoot. Ted hovered there for a minute and then swam away. When we surfaced, I asked what was wrong. He made a wise decision and decided not to potentially attract any sharks since we were so far away from our dinghy. Oh well, no fish from Galliot Cay!
The next day we set off to Farmer’s Cay to attend the Five F’s (Farmer’s Festival First Friday in February). There was promise of live music, a Bahamian C Class race and lots of good food and drinks. We planned on meeting up with several friends there and were looking forward to a fun time! That story to follow soon!