Fishing Tales

The following was written for the Killarney newsletter…

As most of you know, we spend the winter months aboard our 40 ft sailboat, Windswept IV, in the Bahamian Islands. Fishing is an integral part of our life aboard and adds greatly to our diet.

Our rods are two five foot tuna sticks, equipped with Penn 113H reels loaded with 40 lb line. The short rods are an effort to keep line and rod from tangling with the bimini, the wind generator, and the rest of the gear on our rear deck. The rods are placed in homemade rod holders and deployed whenever the boat is moving. Lures used are rubber hula skirts over a number six hook or a silver spoon. Because barracuda chew them up, the rubber hula skirts are assembled aboard from components. This makes them less expensive and not quite as painful to lose. We also carry a Cuban or hand reel, which is mostly used in the dinghy. For fun, there is a light-weight, collapsible casting rod that can be used in the dinghy as well. An integral part of our fishing gear is a bottle marked “fish juice”. This contains some rum to be poured into the fish’s mouth or gills and has the same effect as on humans – renders him insensible. We also carry an Hawaiian sling with several spears for use while snorkeling.

So, with all of that equipment aboard, you would think that we would have all the fish we can eat. Not true. We try but do not always have success. That is why it is called fishing and not catching.

While sailing from Little Harbour, Berry Islands, towards Nassau, we caught our first fish of the winter. It was a six lb skipjack tuna and just solid meat. This was the first tuna that we had ever caught and we very much enjoyed it. From the fight to get it aboard to the delicious barbequed fillets, it was a real treat.

In Staniel Cay, Exumas, we snorkeled and spear fished almost daily. As Nassau grouper was protected until Feb 16th, we had numerous sightings of those delicious fish. But, we did shoot many glass-eyed snappers and one lobster. Actually, the lobster Murray speared but I grabbed it by the antenna as it tried to escape. Bahamian lobster are the spiny lobster and do not have claws but do have very long, very picky antennae. Luckily, I was wearing gloves.

Conch were seldom seen this winter but we did manage to pick some up near Rudder Cut Cay, diving in strong current and deep water. On the same occasion, we saw lobster and many fish but, with the strong current, they were very safe from our spear.

We sailed from Cave Cay back north towards Staniel Cay in the deep water of Exuma Sound. The lovely zzzzing sound was heard from one reel and Murray landed a 30 inch Mahi Mahi. A second one had hit the other line at the same time, but it spit the hook. Blackened Mahi mahi for dinner – mmmmm. We panfry the fillets in a cast iron pan with blackening spices on both sides. Very tasty and spicy.

Another skipjack tuna took our hook while we were in deep water making a passage from Cave Cay, south to George Town, Great Exuma. It was an eight pounder and we froze it to be enjoyed later with our expected guests.

Our son, Jeremy, his wife Cynthia and 2 year old son Matthew joined us for 10 days in George Town. For entertainment, while dinner was cooking, Jeremy got out the casting rod and caught many pan fish using some chicken giblet pieces as bait. Later in the week, Murray and Jeremy went out in the dinghy and trolled with the Cuban reel, catching a 24 inch cero mackerel.

But, one of the strangest fish stories happened one evening after a full day of high winds and rain. Everyone was showing signs of cabin fever, none more so than our grandson, Matthew. So, into the dinghy Murray, Jeremy and Matthew jumped and headed out for a little break from the boat. Exploring the nearby dredged area, Murray spotting something in the shallows. They went closer and saw that it was a fish. It was injured and swimming mostly on the surface. Murray called for Jeremy to use the bucket to catch the fish. It was much more lively as they approached and escaped many times before they finally got it into the bucket. It was a nine pound mutton snapper, one of the best tasting fish around.

Also while in George Town and snorkeling nearby, Murray and Jeremy spotted a slipper lobster. They look more like a bug than a lobster and have no antenna or claws. The body is almost square and the flesh is extremely sweet.

From George Town, Exuma, all of the way north to Little Harbour,Abaco, a distance of 200 plus miles in deep water, we trailed lines astern. They stayed very quiet. Finally, on the way to Little Harbour, we hooked into 3 Mahi Mahi. One was almost to the back of the boat when he spit the hook. None of them graced our table that night, as we didn’t manage to land a one.

All of the way through the Abacos, our lines were silent. No zzzing. Not until the very last night, as we were closing in our our last anchorage in the islands. Just outside of Great Sale Cay, Murray thought that he had hooked onto the bottom, as the reel spun out. Finally, he braked it down and started to reel in, fighting all of the way. I saw a glimpse of red fins and we knew it was a mutton snapper. When it was finally aboard and weighed, it was the biggest one yet, weighing in at 10 lbs of solid fish.

In the morning, we hauled anchor and sailed towards the edge of the banks, headed for Florida once again. Before we left the shallow banks, the line sang out once more and Murray landed an eight pound cero mackerel. With our freezer full and night falling, he washed the rods and reels in fresh water and put them away. Until next winter when the Bahamian Islands and their turquoise waters call to us.

For more information on the adventures of Windswept IV, check out our website: www.Windsept-IV.ca .

Crossings and Weather

Hello everyone,

I realized something the other day. Every time that I sit down to write to you all, the wind is howling in the rigging. It isn’t that the wind has been howling all of the time here, but that when it DOES howl, that is when I have time to write! Otherwise, we are off the boat on some type of adventure – laundry, shopping, shelling, snorkeling, walking, visiting with other cruisers etc. But today, the wind is howling. So, here I sit and write.

We did go to Marsh Harbour, did laundry and replenished our larder. As we were headed out soon, some friends stopped by for sundowners and snacks. It was a great time and we all went to bed very late that night. Even so, we headed out in good time the next day, sailing with a super wind towards Bakers Bay. We have commissioned a painting of the boat and the artist wanted some shots of the boat, sailing to windward and heeled over. Today was a perfect day for that. We contacted him by radio, tacked many miles upwind and made several passes in front of his camera. The radio call afterwards said ” great shots!!” and we tacked away, headed back for our original destination.

The anchor dropped into the sand at Bakers Bay and a dinghy putted in our direction. Party ashore tonight, in a half hour. A potluck, with a bonfire and new friends to meet. It was a great evening. Spoils Island beckoned us the next day. It is an island that was formed by the dredging of the deep channel into Bakers Bay and is one of my favourite shelling places. The trip back from the island was terrible, with big cold waves crashing into and over us. Even in our new, awesome dinghy it was a memorable trip. I certainly wouldn’t have done it in our other dinghy.

Back at the boat, we hauled anchor and headed through Whale Cay Channel and on to Green Turtle Cay. It was a lumpy trip, but we made it with no problems. We anchored again near New Plymouth and waited for the tide to rise and to allow us to enter White Sound. There was another front expected in the next few days, with high winds, so we wanted to be tucked into the protection offered by White Sound.

There, we reconnected with longtime friends, Larry & Phyllis aboard Jazzbrek. They were house-sitting and invited us for dinner. The home owners also raise birds and there was a toucan, and many parrots. Two of the macaws fly free during the day and return to their cage at night. Gorgeous sight and I forgot my camera!

The expected cold front barrelled in during the early daylight hours. Two vessels anchored nearby dragged but our anchor held tight. We played cards, read and baked to put in the hours. By the next morning, everyone had cabin fever and looked forward to getting off of the boat. The weather was to improve enough tomorrow for us to travel onward, so time to re-stock once again. We braved the rough seas between White Sound and New Plymouth and headed into town. New Plymouth is a lovely village with many grocery stores, 2 hardware stores, a bank and many restaurants. The community was holding a school fair and we headed there for lunch. So much food, we shared one meal of chicken, peas and rice, macaroni, coleslaw and potato salad. They were also selling some desserts, so we had to support that endeavor as well.

We sailed on to Great Sale Cay the next day. And, I actually mean we turned the motor off. Once there, we readied the boat for sea. Murray strung the webbed jacklines which run down both side decks. To these, we can attach our harnesses if we need to go forward during the crossing. We hauled the dinghy and secured it on the foredeck. I made some squares and prepared hand food for the trip. Weather bulletins were collected and analyzed. Charts and waypoints were examined. All deck cargo lines were checked and tightened. The engine had already been checked in Green Turtle. We were ready.

It is a fifty mile trip across the banks to the deep water. Murray ran two fishing lines the whole way and caught a large cero mackerel. It was added to the freezer along with the 10 pound mutton snapper caught off of Great Sale Cay. The smile on Murray’s face was impossible to erase.

The crossing was a bit lumpy in the Gulf Stream but otherwise uneventful. The moon was only a sliver in the sky, so that the stars had a chance to show their brilliance. The night was very cool and I wore my survival suit for warmth. The waves tossed us too much to allow for much sleep but we took turns trying to rest. Just after dawn, we entered Port Canaveral. Once customs and immigration forms had been completed, we continued into the Banana River and dropped the hook for some rest.

Now we are in Titusville and, as I said, the wind is howling once more. It will die down tomorrow sometime but we don’t travel on the weekends. A lesson learned many years ago. By the end of next week, we will be in our marina and start taking the boat apart once more. The job list lengthens. Spring has arrived and the north country calls us home. Expect to see us around by early May.

Until then, hugs, Heather & Murray

April Update

Hello everyone,

Has spring arrived where you are yet? The days should be getting noticeably longer and warmer with maybe even sightings of greenery peeking through the ground. My favourite time of year.

Here things have been pretty much as usual. Our last letter was written as we left George Town. We sailed north to Cave Cay, met friends there and enjoyed a lovely evening with lobster on the grill. In the morning, we went shelling and snorkeling around the area before we hauled anchors. We sailed north and they turned south. Perhaps we will meet again later in the season. Once in the deep water again, we put out both fishing lines and motorsailed to Black Point. Just before sunset, we dropped our hook in the sand there. After putting the motor on the dinghy, we headed ashore to the new laundry. What a lovely and much needed facility here in the Exumas. I do not mind the bucket laundry but it is difficult to do sheets and towels!

Dawn the next day found us pulling anchor again and heading to our old haunt near Staniel Cay, called Oz. Again friends awaited us and we caroused until the late evening, sharing stories and rum drinks. We had a plane to meet, so again we hauled anchor and headed for the deep water of Exuma Sound. Fishing lines again deployed and we waited in vain for the zzing that never came. We entered Norman’s Cay from the sound side and anchored there with only six other vessels around. Good protection from the expected frontal passage that night.

As we were only one day from Nassau now, we had some time to relax. A little beach walking, snorkeling and a visit to McDuff’s Beach Bar for hamburgers seemed in order. McDuff’s has been sold and will be closing down shortly, so it was likely our last hamburger in this piece of paradise. Paradise is changing as there is another resort being started on that end of Norman’s Cay.

We arrived in Nassau and tucked into a little cove we use, across from Nassau Harbour Club. The traffic, noise and wakes from large vessels soon reminded us why we avoid this part of the Bahamas. In the morning, we re-stocked our larder and prepared for a guest. Gary arrived by mid-afternoon, with a full cooler bag! Steaks, hamburger, peameal bacon, cold meats, cheeses and even fresh mushrooms. Man, was our frig full.

In the morning, we sailed off to Royal Island, Eleuthera. It was a fourty mile passage and quite lumpy. Again fishing lines were deployed but no zzing. We entered the shallow banks again at SouthWest Reef and proceeded to Royal Island. Another front was expected soon and we hunkered down for a few days of reading and card games. When the weather improved, we went ashore to explore the ruins there. The last few hurricanes have really advanced the destruction of these buildings.

In the next days, we visited Spanish Wells a couple of times. We anchored outside town and dinghyed in to explore this lovely village. The people take pride in the appearance of their homes and gardens here and it certainly makes it attractive to the eye. The Pinders Grocery Store made arrangements for Gary to fly back to Nassau on Southern Air. We arrived in town the day before his departure and hooked up to one of the moorings.

After Gary departed, we invited our friend Wayne Perry ( Little Woody )his wife, Phyllis and daughter Brigit aboard for dinner. We try to get together with them each year and catch up on each other’s lives. Woody had lost his mother this winter as well, so we were able to support each other.

The next day, we headed to Meeks Patch and anchored all by ourselves off of a lovely sand beach. A snorkel nearby added some fish to the larder as Heather spotted the grouper and Murray speared it. In the morning at dawn, we headed north to Abaco. Again, two fishing lines deployed. This trip was a sixty mile day, with a current against us. The seas were relatively calm and winds light. This time the fishing lines did zzing. Twice or three times. But, no fish into the boat. Murray did have a long fight with a mahi-mahi that spit the hook just behind the boat. Oh well, another day.

Five pm found us dropping our hook for the night, in Abaco. It was a beautiful sunset and a long day. We slept like logs. Another front was expected, so on we sail in the morning. For the frontal passage, we romped northwest toward Treasure Cay. With high winds expected, we look for protection from the winds, good holding and few boats to drag into us. We dropped our hook outside of Treasure Cay and kept a lookout. Mid-afternoon the sky looked ominous. I had been watching out the forward hatch and saw evidence of a tornado or waterspout forming as the water nearby churned upward. Murray started the motor and we hung on as the wind howled through the rigging and the windgenerator distorted from the force of the wind. Everything on the boat shook but our anchor held. Rain washed the salt off our decks and the wind howled most of the night.

Today, all is bright a shiny albeit a trifle chilly with the north wind blowing. By chilly, I mean 20C. In the next day or so, the winds will die again and we will go to Marsh Harbour, do laundry and re-stock the larder. Then we ill work our way further north and start watching for the weather to cross over to the US again. Spring has come and all the birds are heading north again, even us boat-dwelling snowbirds.

That is life aboard, exciting moments and days of boredom or routine. Not much different than life ashore.

Hugs to all, Heather & Murray