Shake and Break Part 12 - June 8, 2015
We left you - perhaps drooling over our description of the conch salad we'd
been given by one of the local eatery proprietors in Cooperstown - as we
were pulling up the anchor
following our tour. Right now, there's not a lot
of suspense, other than what other marvels might be in store for us in our
travels to Vero Beach.
Three hours after we'd arrived in Cooperstown, it was off to Manjack Cay,
where we anchored in 10' of water
off the northwestern tip of the island at
about 2:15. The afternoon was young, so we hustled into our dinghy
across to the Atlantic beach.
This has been such an amazing trip, being presented with the wonders of the
, time after time. We'd been here before, so knew that the little
right over the small sand dune at the north end of the island was
home to many interesting creatures. In the past, we'd seen several nurse
sharks and some sting rays. This time, as we headed to the actual Atlantic,
along this immense, curving, unoccupied beach, we saw only a couple of
As we reached the end of that beach, we crossed a section of the classic
'moon rock' which results when rain hits the limestone and the varying
acidity of what sits there when it's been rained upon; very sharp spines
surround round depressions of various size and depth
. It's extremely
dangerous if you were to fall on them, and painful to walk in other than
When we reached that part, we were dive-bombed by plovers. We assumed there
must have been some nests there, so after we'd walked the beach, we slowed
down as we returned to that area. Sure enough, there was again a flurry of
dive bombers - bombers because they also timed their descent as to when
they'd release their bomb. My hat took a direct hit from one of them!
After a bit of that, and recalling that we'd seen some of them land on a
relatively flat spot on the rock, we went up to have a look. Without
searching, really, we found three nests of 2 eggs each, just sitting on the
sand. Watching later, we concluded that there were several more nests up
there as well. No wonder they were anxious!
Moving off onto the beach, we watched for a while. The birds looked like
they were lining up on an aircraft carrier to bomb it. Off in a circle, and
down he comes, again, flying within inches of my head
. It's very cool to
see the underside of a bird in flight right in front of your eyes!
We continued up the crescent beach, seeing that a boat had arrived since
we'd been there earlier. An entire family
were in the shallows, enjoying
themselves. When we arrived, it turned out, in conversation, that they had
heard me on the Net in the mornings, as they had rented a home in Marsh
Harbour. So, we talked about all the time that they'd been coming to Abaco
and the changes they'd seen.
Meanwhile, the rays had multiplied. There were more than a half-dozen,
ranging in size from 2-3' across. Also there were two or three lemon
sharks, about 4' each, all swimming in among the family
. It occurred to me
that perhaps these rays had been socialized such that humans were a positive
In George Town, much further south, one of the beach joints serving Conch
Salad would toss cutoffs into the water
. Several very large rays would sit
and wait for their treats. In the meantime, however, they seemed to enjoy
being petted and skritched by the folks waiting for their conch salad. So,
it wasn't entirely surprising to see the same thing, in motion, this time,
happening at Manjack (aka Nunjack) Cay.
Apparently I represented something special to these rays, because, while
they also circulated among the others there, they seemed to line up,
sometimes stacking one on another, to get to me. Perhaps it was because I
displayed no nervousness, or had bigger hands, thus being able to to cover
more areas as I stroked and scratched them.
They behaved about like cats. They'd rub their incredibly soft wings on my
shin as they passed. They'd make contact with my hand, and butt their heads
up as I stroked them between the eyes. They'd head-butt my shins. I expect
that the number of you who have had their hands on a stingray are probably
very few, so I'll tell you what it's like...
It's the softest, smoothest texture you could imagine. There's the least
bit of sheen-type of covering due to marine
growth, but it, too, is very
soft. However, if you rake your fingernails along it, you'll make a small
mark where it comes off. There's a spiny area that starts behind their
eyes, and eventually converges at the tail; they seem to especially like
being skritched down the sides (I can do that in a hand-span) of that ridge.
Anyway, it was thrilling to be up close and personal with those beautiful
, including the lemon sharks. They were big enough to incur some
damage had they mistaken you for lunch, but as they were very much smaller
than we, they merely cruised. Those we didn't attempt to pet!
The next day was the heavy rain we'd been promised; as you saw, we nearly
filled our 120 gallon tank. However, the day was a wash, if you'll pardon
the expression, as it was very occluded; you couldn’t' see more than about a
mile, and there was no wind
, either. We took the opportunity to run our
to charge up the batteries, a relatively infrequent event of
late. However, with a very marginal wind generator
(on the project
Vero Beach) and no sun, generating our green power was challenging. Soon,
all was well with our electrons and we celebrated our calm air by barbequing
burgers on the grill
By the 4th of June, we were ready to head
to a previous pair of islands
which were joined in a hurricane
"in living memory" - though nobody has
mentioned when it was - and became Allens-Pensacola Cay. We have three
different sources of info about the Abacos. First is Abaco
Guide, by a
Facebook friend, Steve Pavlidas. The second is the The Yachtsman's Guide to
. The third is the Explorer Charts
book for the area. All raved
about the island.
So, of course, we headed off to go see. First, however, we had to take the
2"-over-the-floorboards water out of the dinghy
. We'd forgotten about the
rain, and the dinghy was wallowing on its tow, stern way down. Pulling
back to an idle, Lydia let me off into the dinghy, and then continued on.
I, on the other hand, was doing the classic outboard
motorboat trick of
getting well under way and pulling the drain plug
in the transom. That took
all of 10 minutes or less to empty the dinghy which I then accelerated up to
the stern platform, stepped aboard and secured the dinghy. Off we went to
But first we had to go check out the wrecked sailboat we'd seen on the way
in a couple of months ago, on the rocks at the south end of Alec Cay. As
we'd gotten very good at it, anchoring
took all of 5 minutes, and soon we
were looking up at a well and truly lost
boat. Its mast
had snapped a foot
or so over the deck
, and the sea-side view (based on how our boat looked
after OUR wreck - from which we were salvaged and did the repairs!), with it
leaning the other way, suggested that this boat had been rocking around on
the rocks for quite some time. There were no holes, but most of the lower
was down to bare fiberglass
A tour around the island revealed nothing of much interest in the water, so
we picked up the anchor
again and headed out to Allens-Pensacola's south
end, a very short hop. Throwing out the anchor, again, we set out to check
out both the beach and the advertised (well, prominently featured in the
guides and charts) harbor. Immediately we came to the entrance and
wandered up this very long inlet surrounded by mangroves. That would be the
perfect place to tie up in the event of a hurricane
- if you had about 2'
Moving inward, we came to the anchorage. At some time in the past, this had
been an active site, as there were the remains of a dock
, and a cleared area
behind it, but there didn't appear to be a path to anything we might be
interested in, so we went out again.
This time we passed all the way around, and went to the beaches.
Essentially all of the Eastern side of the islands is a beach, with only the
occasional interrupting rock. It's also VERY shallow there.
We wound up walking our dinghy for a goodly piece of it, as the tide
continued to fall, in grass.
These beaches were chock-a-block full of sea biscuits - but these were
ashore, buried in the wet sand, and so didn't have the various sea life
inhabiting a new home; we'd had to return half of our previous haul to the
sea, but these were all pristinely empty of anything other than sand. In
the end we nearly filled a 5-gallon bucket with them; they too got the
concentrated bleach rinsing. Also found were some additional conch shells,
including a very nice horse conch. We'll have plenty of mementos to give to
family and friends when we get back.
Also of note were the barracudas, ranging from 10" to perhaps 3' - all very
stand-offish, and of no threat, but beautiful to see in the crystal water,
nonetheless. I came across a large angelfish swimming on its side,
obviously somehow distressed. I held him vertically, moving him through the
water in case he wasn't getting sufficient oxygen through his gills, but to
However, further down the beach, we saw perhaps another half-dozen, all
apparently feeding near the surface, as they splashed around but left when
they saw me coming. I have no idea why these should have been in this area,
as they are reef fish
, and there were no reefs
As we left, we were aground as much as not, so we walked for quite a way,
including in front of a camp which had been erected on a very small island
of the eastern edge of Allens-Pensacola Cay. Someone had, in the
past, had a large 2-engine motor
boat gently and firmly set on the sand in
front of the camp. It was accompanied by a smaller boat with another
, also very firmly aground, feet from the water's edge.
hung from lines, a stainless steel
barbeque that you'd see on a boat
was mounted on a pole, and many other signs of life were present, but no
humans. We speculate that someone built this array of stuff for
convenience, and would bring a tent, or perhaps a larger boat (but it would
have to be nearly flat to make it over the shallows), and camp out there
from time to time. Just a little corner of Paradise!
Off we go with our haul, to the top end of the island, where there's a nice
anchorage. We had thought of this as being a remote
island. Well, it is,
There were already a half-dozen boats in the anchorage, and three more
showed up before dark! As it turned out, the next day (June 5th, if
anyone's counting) we discovered that this was the same bunch (well, 3 of
them) as had gathered on an impromptu discovery of several boats from South
. Yes, that one. All had sailed across the Atlantic to get their
boats to the Bahamas, usually after many other stops along the way. That's a
serious group of cruisers!
We met up with a pair of couples on the way in to the path to the Atlantic.
It seems that nearly every island has paths which have been created in the
past by cruisers, and others have maintained them - whether just from
trafficking it, or actually taking cutting tools like a machete and perhaps
a bow saw, to clear the growth.
They'd said that they were going to the 'sign tree' - which we took to mean
that folks somehow signed the tree. Technically, that would be correct,
except that the reality was (usually) boards of all descriptions which had
been decorated with boat names
and dates, and hung like, well, signs. Some
of them had repetitive (and progressively less faded) years' entries, and
many were either woodcarved or woodburning-tooled very artistically.
The path in had a distinct corner marker aiming you to the Atlantic, formed
with conch shells making the curve at an intersection. So, on the way back,
we took that road less traveled...
Not far into the jungle, we came upon the stout foundation and concrete
steps leading to it of a prior residence. It now had a sign saying "Allens
Cay Hilton" nearby, and was occupied by a mound of broken liquor bottles.
We thought of renaming the Hilton to Allens Cay Recycling.
On which subject, there is no recycling in the Bahamas. Batteries pile up,
and nearly anything else is burned in the dump. Those burnings happen on
windless days, for obvious reasons, but it's not uncommon to see a great
black cloud rising from on an island - yet, structure fires are nearly
unheard of. Nearly certainly, it's the dump burning, probably fueled by
, which similarly has no place to go.
June 6th saw us going off again, motoring in the no-wind - there wouldn't be
until Friday - to Great Sale
Cay. As seen on our way over, this is
a common way station for folks coming and going via what is known as the
crossing. That usually terminates (you've crossed the Gulf
Stream) on the Little Bahamas Banks. Great Sale
is roughly midway in the
Banks, just a bit south of the first islands in the chain, Walkers Cay and
Grand Cay. Along the way, we saw that the speed indication on the fish
finder stopped. That's a presumed impeller foul (the speed through the
water is measured by a paddlewheel with a magnetic sensor for the magnets in
the 4 blades). Another item on the Shake and Break list...
We tried to anchor on the northwest side, where there was a notation on the
of a dinghy landing, but when we went ashore, we didn't see anywhere
we'd want to pull up the dinghy and go exploring. Reluctantly, we went
around to essentially the same spot as we'd been in on the way into the
We'd never gotten to look at what appeared to be someplace we could land the
dinghy on the southwest corner (the anchorage tails off to the SE for
several miles of diminishing rocky shore), so we resolved to go have a look.
We found what looked like it must have previously been a concrete dock
Tying up to one of the two posts still in the water, we clambered up to the
platform. Attached to it was what had previously been a road. As it was
substantially elevated from the mangrove marsh, it was man-made - at what
must have been enormous cost and effort (consider what's needed to do that
sort of thing, and how you'd get it there, and so on).
On down the road, however, on the other side, we found the ruins of what we
presume must have been some form of government
building, based on remnants
of linoleum squares; if it were a private home, as much as it would have
cost to build, there would have been tile. It was huge, and some of the
sand under the concrete slab floor had been undercut, allowing it to fall -
but not break, as it was iron-reinforced.
Further north, the remains of dozens of what must have been supports for
massive barrels were found. One of them had June 1962 marked on it,
presumed by a worker personalizing it during the construction. No remnants
were there, but the number of tanks
represented suggested some form
of supply - like, perhaps, at one point, there had been a marina or the
like. Just getting whatever liquid would have been in those to them is a
challenge. Another mystery of the Bahamas.
Somewhere in the course of our time getting to and back, as well as swimming
in the beach out front, I got some skin irritant. It spread, turning up in
places where there had been nothing seen previously, oozing and itching
terribly. I got the best of the itch with some prescription steroid cream,
and the oozing/spread of it with Neem Oil
, a locally produced wonder
not-drug. Whatever that stuff is, it's amazing in its healing power, as
that previously spreading stuff went away in a couple of days from starting
treatment with the oil.
Like Stugeron, the hands-down winner for seasickness prevention readily
available in the Bahamas, when we return, we'll stock up on Neem Oil.
We noticed, on one of our dinghy rides, that the usual stream of water
coming out of the hole at the waterline (our refrigeration cooling
wasn't happening. Shake and Break continues; the pump isn't pumping. The
sometimes fouled line to the pump is pristine; we're in the Bahamas - it
fouls in less than a week in Vero Beach! Reluctantly (I'll save you the
details) I do some minor destructive testing, and determine that it appears
the pump isn't getting power. When I get back to Vero Beach, that will be
on the to-do list, as well. Resolution of that issue will require getting
into the guts of the compressor
housing, and I don't know what I'll find
All along, we've been in contact with our weather
advisor. It appeared that
a suitable window would arrive tomorrow. So, June 7th saw us up-anchor at
7:30, to get an early start to our anticipated anchorage just inside the
banks. Oops. Our chartplotter's cursor buttons have a failure in the west
component. That means, since we're traveling west, if we want to look
ahead, we have to do a Columbus, which is to go around the world the wrong
way, to arrive at our intended location for the cursor. That is immensely
tiresome, but we manage. In addition, there are several other keys which
don't work, but none of them provide any difficulty to our task ahead.
However, as we've just received the unit back under a warranty repair, it's
both alarming, and another tick on the list for Shake and Break. This one
will be a deal-breaker; we'd not go again without some form of
chartplotting. Repair should, we hope, be straightforward, albeit lengthy
due to travel and queue at Raymarine's service
desk, but it could also be
possible, as this is a couple of generations old, that parts
would no longer
be available. Not a comforting thought...
With main and genoa
up, we motor
sail with all of 3 knots at 85 degrees
apparent wind. An ideal point of sail, if there's enough wind! However,
motor sailing, with a small tide-induced offset, we make 6.9 knots SOG, and
8.1 knots STW. We also put out two poles, one with a simple tuna plug
the other with a custom lure made for us by a professional fisherman. At
11:20, we got a fish strike. It was a keeper barracuda (under 30"). We got
it ALL the way to the platform, about to gaff, and he was off.
It turned out to be the wire leader; the collar which made the loop into
which the swivel and lure were hooked had let go the end. DANG! That is
the end of THOSE leaders (commercial, packaged, woven wire - should have
been very sufficient) - we already contribute too much to Davey Jones!
By noon, the wind had picked up a bit, to 7 knots, moving to 70 degrees
apparent wind. That little wind, and the flats of the banks, made the seas
all of 1-2' - a comfortable ride at 6.0 knots SOG to the 7.75 knots STW we
had settled to with the wind shifting forward. The banks is good fishing
if you know where to go. We didn't, but we just hoped that somebody hungry
would be in our path. By 1:35, we'd found another. Based on its feel and
strength (this time we remembered to slow the boat!), it was a big one. We
saw it jumping, and eventually it spat the lure, which I was glad to see was
still on the end of the line when I retrieved it.
But we were in the right neighborhood, as we soon caught another, this time
a keeper barracuda. As usual, I donned my harness, hooked in, and went to
the stern platform to clean him. Our process with any fish we catch may
leave some meat behind, but doesn't involve gutting. I fillet from the head
to the tail, moving my knife down the bones, to the bottom. Very rarely does
the abdominal cavity get breached, and the head, tail, and insides go over
the stern in one piece. The fillets, as they come off, go in a bucket with
seawater, to rinse.
Using my platform as the cutting board, I easily skin the fillets, and wash
them again. Downstairs to marinate, we'll have barracuda for supper. Those
reading for a while know what we think, but for the newer folk, you may not
Barracuda and other reef fish have the potential for ciguatera, a bacteria
borne by predator fish which eat smaller fish which typically survive on
nibblings. They are hardly the only species like this; some groupers,
amberjack, sharks and other restaurant delicacies can carry it too.
However, it's cumulative, and the bigger the fish, the bigger the risk.
Of course, locals have been dealing with this for eons; when we caught our
first barracuda many years ago, we sought out local knowledge. In this
case, it was as we were coming into Cat Cay, typical of the area in the
- a narrow, long island
. Locals said that they would eat any sized
barracuda from the western side - no reefs
- but, conversely, would NOT eat
any from the Atlantic side, home to all the reefs.
The general wisdom is to not eat any barracuda (despite the Cat Cay folks'
encouragement about the sand side) over 30" - so that's what we do, despite
our finding our barracuda in sand-only spaces. And it's the best fish we've
ever put in our mouths. It's firm enough to grill
, but flaky enough to
separate with a light twist of your fork. White, sweet, and free nutrition.
You can fry it, boil it, or prepare it however you would other fish, and any
leftover, or intentionally set aside for the purpose, mashes wonderfully for
a barracuda salad (think tuna salad). YUM!
By 4PM the wind was gone, perfect for grilling, but not so much for getting
back. After dinner, we continued, and found the weather
so appealing as to
a crossing, that instead of anchoring
, we continued onward. The light winds
were in the right direction for us to allow the boat to find Ft. Pierce with
the Gulf Stream's northward push, and we might not even be crabbed (pointing
south at all) in the process. By 8PM, we were in it.
We put Otto (our autopilot) to work, and headed 276°T for a 300°T course. By
9:30, we'd prevented (tied off to make it so it could not swing) the boom
and tightened the genoa
to try to reduce the rock-and-roll in our 2 knots of
apparent wind at a varying 120-120 degrees port and starboard as we rolled.
By 1:15AM, the rock-and-roll had increased sufficiently that we were now
showing apparent wind swinging from 90-90 degrees, port to starboard and
Thus it continued until we had our anchor down in front of the USCG station
in Ft. Pierce at 4:20AM. As Gulf Stream
crossings go, it was pretty
uneventful. More wind would have been better, as it was in the right
direction, but any which doesn’t involve something breaking (well, we had
several things break, but not related to being in the Gulf Stream) is a good
crossing. Up again at first light, after a brief nap, we headed upriver,
regaining our former mooring
, nearly alone among the tiny scattering of
boats in the harbor.
So, we leave you, as usual, on tenterhooks. Will we be here for the rest of
our lives? Will we succeed in getting a working chartplotter
? Will all of
the rest of the broken stuff be resolved?
Well, until next time, Stay Tuned!
SV Flying Pig KI4MPC
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When a man comes to like a sea life, he is not
fit to live on land.
- Dr. Samuel Johnson