Monday, March 23, 2009

Big Fishy Birthday

Hokay, so, we are making our way north again... kind of. We made it as north as Shroud Cay, and then we were invited to partake in birthday celebrations for one of the kids on Priority, which also happened to be my birthday as well (he is exactly 10 years younger than me- March 22 1996, how scary is that, 1996, seems like he should still be a baby), so we came all the way back down to Staniel Cay where we had been 4 days previous. Further south, woe is me, that means more time in the Bahamas, oh bother. We have been having a spectacular time in our journeys, the sailing has been magnificent, the weather has been great, and the fishing, oh the fishing has been outstanding.
Making our way up through the Exuma islands we base much of our decision of where to anchor on what good dive spots are around the area, and we have been finding some really great spots. I know I go on and on about the places we dive, so I wont get into it really, but we have been seeing some breathtaking wildlife. Eight foot stingrays, eagle rays, huge nurse sharks, bull sharks, outstanding coral growth, and through all of it I have been getting some great catches, a lot of which I put up pictures of. One day I was peeking in a hole and saw what I thought was a lobster tail hanging down, I speared it, pulled it out, and there was some cockroach/lobster looking mutant on my spear and I had no idea what I had just killed, take a look at the pictures of it in the Conception album. Turns out it was a spanish lobster and they are a rarely seen species of lobster down here and actually taste really good, better than the spiny lobster I usually get. I also got a couple rock crab, you have to look at the picture, in the Pipe Cay album, of one of them, the thing had claws so massive I kept diving down trying to figure out what species of animal I was looking at and after 3 dives down I realized I was just looking at a claw attached to a big freaking crab, so then we had a delicious crab dinner. Ok, and if you are tired of hearing fish stories, just hang on to your seat for one more, this one is a doozie. Just yesterday I was diving the rocks right here in Staniel Cay where we are anchored, same rocks we dove when we were here 4 days ago, and when we were here before, Mark told me about these gigantic fish he saw that scared the crap out if him when they went swimming by they were so big, and we identified them as greater amberjacks. Then Duane speared a monster snapper, and sharks were on the scene before he even got the thing out of the water, so there is a lot of big life on these rocks. So we are scouting the area, and Mark grabs my fin and points frantically at two huge fish that just swam by, the same two amberjack he saw last time we were here. We both just gawked for a bit, they were some of the biggest fish we had seen, and they were darting around in front of us at incredible speed, and then when we got back to the dinghy after a while we were taking about them and I thought about it and decided that if I got a shot on one, I would take it, hoping for the off chance that it didnt just run off with my spear and I actually bagged the thing. So we move up the reef a bit, get back in the water, I am swimming around, and there it is, one of the amberjack is circling a little coral head in front of me. So I approach it, expecting the thing to take off at any moment, but it just keeps circling, I get closer, it circles again, closer, still circling. So I have already made the decision that I am going to shoot the thing if I get a good shot, and in about 3 seconds he is going to circle right under me, so he comes by, 15 feet below me, I cock back the spear as far as it will go, and I take the shot. Nail him in the head, perfect shot right behind the skull and it penetrates all the way through his gills, and he is not happy. I now have this 4 foot mass of muscle flailing around under me, slamming into the ground trying to get my spear out of his head and he wont let me near him, so I chase and I chase and I chase, never quite getting ahold of the spear and barely keeping up with the fish, all the while trying to scream to Mark through my snorkel because I didnt want to take my eyes off the fish, and I knew I was going to need some help finishing it off. After chasing it for a few minutes I got it cornered against a rock and got the end of the spear, I got a fist on the spear on either end of the fish and led his frantic attempts at escape to shore, practically being dragged the whole way. His flailing is now spilling huge pools of blood into the water as we move along and I remember the sharks that Duane encountered in the same spot. I get to a shallow coral head and climb on top, and standing in waist deep water, I hoist the thing out of the water. It is still flailing on the spear, blood is pouring down my arms, the water is saturated with blood around me, and I am weighing my options, the thought of sharks circling becoming more and more real in my head as the water gets a deeper and deeper red. There is a rocky shore 30 yards one way and the dinghy 50 yards another way, both of which require me to let the fish back into the water where it might wrestle off the spear, or might just take me for a ride. I look around, no sign of Mark, I give a couple shouts, and nothing, so I start heading for shore. I realize quickly thats not happening, I am keeping that thing and its blood out of the water as best as I can, so I get back up on the coral head and just keep shouting for Mark. He finally rounds the corner and I hold the behemoth up above my head to let him see what is going on, and he books it to the dinghy, starts over, and when he gets about 10 feet away, I realize its all good, I got the fish, I havnt been attacked by sharks, so I think about what just happened, and just break up laughing, I must have been quite a sight. I hoisted the thing in the dinghy, clambered in myself, and we both laughed and gawked in disbelief at the size of the fish that was taking up the entire bottom of our dinghy. So we then went on our show off rounds, going to all the other boats we were diving with, all of our friends on sailboats, and then got back to the boat and started on the monumental task of cleaning the thing. When all was said and done, we filled 4 ziplock 1 gallon bags full of meat, the fillets were 4 inches thick and we didnt leave an ounce of meat on the fish, we measured it at 42". After the filleting was done, and we had been tossing skin and scraps over, I actually dove in the water to clean off, Mark and I keeping an eye out for approaching dark spots, and then I saw one coming, I scurried to the boat and out of the water, and an at least 8 foot shark skimmed the surface right where I was just swimming right when I got out. After that we took the carcass and hung it over the side with a line, the resulting pictures of us teasing the sharks with it are pretty awesome, its the same shark that just about got a taste of me. So in the end I am left with something like 20 lbs of meat, a majorly bent spear, and a really good fish story.

Ok, so that last one was worth a read right? We are going to be holed up in Staniel for a couple more days waiting out this cold front before we start north again, and we will be heading up the Exuma chain, to Nassau, and then through the Abacos and from there we will set off for the east coast, probably some time at the end of April, and start up the ICW. But for now, its my birthday, and all the boaters we are with made it great, I was treated to birthday songs from Gottalife and Priority this morning, Bird on a Wire made some bread and cake which are sitting in the galley waiting to be devoured, I got some nice home made bling from the girls on Gottalife and Bird on a Wire, Mark bought me a delicious lunch at the yacht club when we went in to town to talk to mothers and girlfriends, and we had a grown-up (Ya, thats me now, I am old) movie night and all watched Office Space to close the evening. It was a good day, plus that present from Poseidon yesterday, I think I could do a birthday like this every year.

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