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Old 21-03-2009, 15:18   #1
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Join Date: Mar 2003
Location: Currently on the boat, somewhere on the ocean, living the dream
Boat: Morgan 461 S/Y Flying Pig
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Cat Island March 16-19, 2009

Cat Island – March 16-19, 2009

When we left you, Regatta was over in Stocking Island. Shortly after that, I succeeded in restoring my computer, other than some charts which need reloading, and we prepared to depart to Cat Island.

Based on prior weather forecasts, we expected our only really good weather window to be either Sunday or Monday. Because I’d not quite finished up with the computer, and there were a few minor boat chores Lydia had yet to accomplish, we didn’t go out until Monday morning. Sunday we cleaned and put up our main dinghy (the engine still needs a new starter recoil repair), raised the second anchor, still out since the last big blow, and otherwise made shipshape for our departure.

Monday we slept a bit later than intended, both of us having been up later than expected, finishing Internet stuff, so we didn’t get to Chris Parker’s 6:30 broadcast. I was faintly able to raise him on the frequency he uses at 7, though, and he confirmed that this was our best opportunity to leave if we didn’t want to drive (motor) all the way. We said our good-byes on the Community section of the net, having our dear friends we’d met while working on boat in St. Petersburg (they bought a boat from the broker in the same yard), coming over for one last hug and taking our trash from us, and many other last minute good-byes from friends we’d made there, who came over or shouted out to us on the VHF or waved madly as we passed.

We had the anchor up and under way by 9:30. We set our sails for a nearly downwind run, following the waypoints we’d used in the round-the-island race a few weeks before, and turned NNE for Cat Island, heading 026. It was a marvelous sail on a close reach or small beat, with about 30-50* apparent wind at 13-17 knots in 3-4’ seas with ~6’ swells. We took a fair amount of water over the bow, which also had the benefit of cleaning the anchor of the small amount of grass it had accumulated in the several weeks it had been set. We were also able, therefore, to confirm that Lydia’s Creeping Crack Cure applications were holding, as no water got in the boat.

Halfway there, we hooked what appeared to be a very large fish, as it nearly spooled our line before I got to the pole and tightened down on the drag.

The pole was bent hard over, and it was a bit of work just to hang on to it, let alone retrieve the line. There was absolutely no way I’d be able to crank it, so I let the fish tire out for a while before attempting anything of the sort. Occasionally I’d see it planing behind the boat, so I figured we had a dolphin (Mahi-Mahi, not Flipper, who’s a porpoise). It turned out to be a 39” bull, and he put up a very valiant fight.

I turned the handle turn at a time, not cranking, as there was no way I could manage that. Eventually he tired enough that I tried it, and by playing it aggressively, was able to reel in perhaps 100 yards of line. However, one time, when he was about parallel with the back of the Porta-Bote, which we were towing, as I cranked, the handle broke off the spindle.

Hm… What to do?? Well, I grabbed the bail section of the reel, and proceeded, one half turn at a time, to bring in the last of the line. Eventually, we gaffed him and had him aboard. The weather was far too rough for me to fillet him on the platform, so I put the point protector back on the gaff, laid him on the aft deck, lashed the gaff pole to the rail, and continued on sailing.

While we were sailing, I went below, into Dad’s Hardware Store (what I call all the bins and tools we keep in the workbench) to effect a repair. Fortunately, we were on a starboard tack, which kept the bins outboard, allowing me to rummage for repair parts (“Cruising is….”). I was able to drive out the remains of the pin previously holding the handle, from the handle, and managed to wrestle the remainder, stuck in the spindle, out with a 12” pair of channel lock pliers. I replaced that with a stainless steel cotter pin of about the same size, having a bit of a wrestling match to make it go through the spindle’s hole, being very tight, but eventually I’d effected the repair, and put out the line again.

No further luck with fishing, we arrived at our anchorage at about 5 and had the 200’ of chain out by 5:30, whereupon immediately I set to filleting our catch. Mahi for dinner – YUUUUMMM.

From the crowded environment at Stocking Island, we were nearly isolated. There were a total of 4 boats which anchored, none close enough to shout to, overnight, and by 8 when we got up, two were gone. Tuesday through Thursday was forecast to be light and variable, and at this writing, Tuesday afternoon, so far that’s correct.

When we had the hook down, and I was waiting for the grill to preheat, I checked, and, sure enough, there was a marginal but usable wifi signal available. We downloaded all our mail, Lydia did her Facebook thing with all her kids and her kids’ friends, and we were out cold by 10 PM, very late by cruiser standards.

Tuesday morning, I pulled down the new mails in dead calm winds and gently rocking water. Because Lydia’s an inveterate beach walker, and we didn’t want to mess with getting out the engine for the dink, combined with the hope that if we were to move closer to shore and down the line a bit, where there were clusters of homes, we might improve our wifi reception, we moved a bit, to 24*10’ north/75*30’W. No such luck, our site we’d been using was invisible now, but our move gave Lydia the opportunity to row the Porta-Bote ashore and go walking while I finished up my long-overdue logs. There is another site here, very strong, but with no Internet throughput. We’re hoping it’s someone who doesn’t connect to the Internet until returning from the day’s activities. If it is, and our connection comes alive, I’ll post my various delinquent reports :{)) Otherwise, we’ll just have to enjoy the quiet, crystal clear water, gentle sun and breezes, and remind ourselves that it doesn’t get much better than this!!

Ah, well, it wasn’t to be – there’s still no internet - so we’re incommunicado, at least by normal means (we could put these up over SailMail, the SSB HF radio mail program, but they’re already so delayed that it’s not worth hurrying for)…

Wednesday dawned with a lovely breeze. Hmmm. Maybe if we moved up to New Bight, the location recommended for relief from the expected heavy winds on Saturday and Sunday, we’d find additional reception from the many houses and business shown on the chart. Plus, we had nothing else better to do, and with the wind nearly on our nose for the direction we were headed, it would mean a day of tacking, perhaps more than once – but the conditions looked nearly ideal.

Sure enough, we started on a close reach in 10-13 knots of wind at 60* apparent in 1-2’ seas, much more benign than our trip to the southern end of the island, sailing off our anchor by 11AM. Over the course of the day, the wind built gradually, eventually reaching 16-20 on our course of sail. Because we’d been sailing so relatively relaxed, our first tack brought us not far from where we’d left – but the day was brilliant, the boat was happy, and so were we. We could have taken another hour or so on the first run (north) and still have cleared the shallows off New Bight, but we didn’t care, as the sailing was marvelous, and we had plenty of time, so we tacked earlier than needed.

However, after the first tack, we hardened up in order to make it in another set of tacks, beating instead of a close reach. At the same time, the wind built a bit, so we were in rather more sporty conditions at the end. After a 4-tack sail, we sailed on to our anchorage right in front of the Batelco building in New Bight. As seems to be our modus, however, just before we were about to drop the sails, we hooked another big fish. So, we slowed the boat down in order not to have to deal with both things at once, and commenced to land it.

This one didn’t put up quite the fight the Mahi did, but he was a bit more exciting to bring aboard. Not quite as long, but easily as heavy, and lots of BIG teeth. Barry, as we named him, a 32” Barracuda, got the same treatment as the Mahi, with the gaff secured with the guard, the pole lashed to the rail, and him laid on the rear deck while we anchored.

It was only about 8’ deep as I confirmed after jumping overboard for my bath after cleaning him. (We do salt water baths, which we’ve found, if you immediately towel off afterwards, with a towel reserved for that purpose, leave us comfortably clean, with no salt residue.) We put out about 125’ of chain, doing our usual set-add-set-add, putting out initially about 10’ of loose chain after the anchor settles (easily seen in these waters) for the first several set-jerks, then about 25’ at a time, letting the boat get more way on, sideways to the wind, providing a harder set each time. We finished with another 25’ of slack, but this time put the engine into hard reverse. We were rewarded with a quick swing in line, short stop, and Flying Pig doing the curtsey demanded by the pull of the anchor chain on her nose. We were settled in by 4 PM after probably the best sailing day we’ve ever had. Plenty of wind, which our new sails handled very comfortably, our beating, curiously, being the best-balanced point of sail we’ve found, with next to no slide from COG (course over ground) to heading, even with the slightly-more than normal 20* of heel. (Normally, we’d shorten sail to keep her more on her feet, with a maximum of 15* of heel, but she was making more than 6 knots, and we knew it wouldn’t be very long before we anchored, so we didn’t bother).

So, once settled in, we set to checking out whether Barry would be safe to eat. Generally speaking, the larger the barracuda, the more risk of ciguatera, a nasty illness resulting from eating fish which have a main diet of reef fish (the coral stuff, we understand, being the culprit in the prey). However, 30” is about the generally regarded safe size, and, further, as barracuda will eat nearly anything, and are territorial, given that there are no reefs anywhere within many miles (none likely in his travels), we felt doubly safe in enjoying what all we’d read said would be a fabulous meal(s). Our comfort was enhanced by the locals’ saying that any fish caught on this side was safe to eat, but that barracuda on the ocean side (with the reefs – but 30 miles away without going over the island) was pretty iffy.

So, once satisfied of the safety, I set to filleting him on the back platform. He was easily the easiest fish I’ve ever cleaned, yielding two massive filets, which came off in very firm single pieces. We marinated him in Mojo, a Cuban mix of orange, lime, salt, pepper, garlic and fruit juices, and proceeded to cook up the first pieces for dinner.

YUMMM!!! This may work out to be our favorite fish. His tough skin and scales cooked off on the barbeque, readily separating after the first side was cooked skin side down, and the skins/scales also easily were separated from the grill, thence to be returned to the sea. Awesome eating, sort of firm, but still flaky.

So, I’ll leave you here, with all aboard overstuffed with all the blessings of this cruising life, until our next adventures.


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