SAILING ADVENTURES 2007 (part 4)

GOOD BYE CAT ISLAND….it was awesome. THANK YOU for wonderful memories!!!!

One week since we left home and we are underway again.

Seas are 15 kts at 060 degrees east northeast, smooth sailing out of the harbor. Eileen and I moved to the bow with our books for over an hour as we passed the south end of Cat Island. It was wonderful! Eileen said,” This is what sailing is truly like.” The warm breeze was gentle on our faces and the main sail flapped happily near by. I could not concentrate on my book; the view took my breath away; the boat moving up and down with blue, rolling, lapping waves: a rhythm that could have put me to sleep. I thought there were seagulls diving into the water disappearing and when they did not re-surface, I realized they were flying fish. Over 20 of them flew over the port side. The guys had put out a line….we dreamed of the promised Mau Mau.

Soon we passed the end of the island out into open water. The waves began to swell and we had to hold on. Within minutes, a small splash came up over the deck, so we decided to move to the cockpit. Just as I knelt down on the cushion inside the cockpit, a huge wave came up the side of the boat, barely missed soaking me. I sat on deck for as long as I could but it was too much activity again, so I made my way below and fell into my berth. I read and then snoozed, eager to pass the next 4 hours quickly!

I am not sure how much later, but all of a sudden there was a lot of action on deck. I had my instructions to get topside quickly, throw the helm cushion down to the saloon below, and move the rugs out of the way so we would have room to bring the fish aboard without getting everything bloody and ruined. As I made my way topside I heard, “It got away!” Whatever they had hooked was so big it took Ed’s pole and all. John said the line went “zip” for a quick second, then they saw his fishing pole fly past them 30 ft. high and 125 ft. out into the water!!!!!! It was quickest $1000 Ed has ever spent. Both guys were very, very sad. They speculated it was  a 200 lb. yellow fin tuna- that was what they were fishing for in the 6000 ft. water. WOW! I wasn’t sure if I wanted that in the boat with me anyway!

Afterward, we found the weather god had lied again. Our winds were now out of the east 045 degrees at 20 kts. That meant it was “on our nose.” Ed had to start the engine and motor the rest of the day. In addition, the autopilot had quit working so the boat had to be steered. The sails were out full, engine on, but we were not moving ahead fast at all. What was to be a 4-hour trip would now be at least 5-6 hours and the engine running the whole time was like being on a small plane for 5 hours….very annoying!

Even with the rough seas, I maneuvered around much better. I had gotten better with the 15 pumps it took to flush the head while holding on. Eileen and I even made sandwiches for lunch this trip. Things were not flying all around the cabin like last trip! But-OH we were still rocking and rolling! I must have gotten my sea legs finally.

Arriving at Conception Island around four o’clock in West Bay, where we dropped anchor, was a calm, sky blue cove and we were the only boat we could see in any direction. Just a quarter of a mile away stretched a beautiful, long, white sandy beach.

As a nice touch to staying on our own stunning private, secluded island, when we anchored Eileen heard a motor running and realized we were out of fresh water. We had enough for drinking but we would be boiling salt water for dishes and NO BATHING in fresh water……ugh! It would add to the “tropical paradise” of it all and yet another new experience for us!! Survivor and LOST- here we come!

We celebrated sunset with appetizers and relaxed on deck. John was especially tired from helping Ed with the steering. Watching waves, gauges, winds and keeping yourself stationary can be very tiring. I was thankful to be anchored once again. Dinner was pork tenderloin, broccoli, and pasta with garlic…mmmm….

I heard Botany Bay on the VHF radio- Barb Zimmer from Stella Maris, Long Island- and called her. She was incredibly happy to hear from us and surprised to learn where we were. She said everyone was dreadfully worried about us and she would pass the word that we were OK for now!

Thurs.- we woke early to a delightfully warm, tranquil day and we were ready for it. Ed made buckwheat banana pancakes and we were on the beach by 10 am.

Don’t let anyone tell you that sailing is all cocktails and relaxing. Ed had to unhook the dingy from the back of the boat, hold onto to the side of the boat to get forward in it, unhook the dingy motor, swing it around, and place it in the dingy, check on the bilge and other gauges- all before we left for the beach! Sail boaters also have to go ashore in the dingy anytime they need anything, getting everything back in the dingy, bringing provisions back to the boat, get them aboard, and place them into the proper compartments, so they can find them when needed. THEN when something is needed you almost have to stand on your head, holding a cushion, or board with your body somehow, to reach in as far as you can without falling into the compartment!

As John, Eileen and I waited for Ed to finish all his checks we sat topside relaxing. Suddenly, John yelled, “Dolphin.” We watched a dolphin just 15 ft. out from the stern (back of the boat) jump and show off for over 5 minutes. It was fantastic!!

Ed dropped John, Eileen, Muffy (their dog), and I off at the beach while he went fishing. We walked the entire beach, almost a mile one way, looking for shells. The shells were different than we find on Long Island so I picked them up but nothing too astounding UNTIL on my way back…..I was walking in the waves, enjoying the aqua blue waters, blue skies and gentle breeze, my mind clear of any thoughts. I turned for a second towards the shore and just above the tide line, saw a West Indian Murex- perfect!! Eileen was about to dump me into the sea for all my great shells this trip!

Afterward, we snorkeled over a few small reefs. I take pleasure in the smaller, shallower reefs more now, being closer to all below me, seeing every detail, yet, there are not as many huge fish. We did enjoy watching 3 giant parrotfish, a yellowtail damsel, blue chromos, and many smaller ones. The water was clear, tide low, and the sun strong. John and Eileen watched a 5 ft. stingray gently flap his wings beneath them. John mentioned it was overwhelming to be so close to one, able to look into his eyes and various features.

We went back to the boat for a sandwich and Ed cleaned the 3 small fish he caught.  He had a big grouper but before he could get it into the boat, a barracuda came and ate it in half so he threw the head back to him. Eileen said a barracuda chased her out of the water just as Ed came to pick us up, probably the same one checking to see if she had anything to munch!

After lunch, John and I were in the dingy cleaning and I saw something large swimming under us. A 4 ft. nurse shark was enjoying the fish guts Ed had thrown out after cleaning. Eileen noticed a huge triggerfish close. Ed shouted to John to drop the line to try to catch it! The nurse shark instantly grabbed the bait and slowly meandered away with it. They are not aggressive sharks and it barely pulled at the line. John finally got him up, with Ed’s help, took the hook out of his mouth, and set him free. The triggerfish kept swimming around and around the dingy. He was a good-sized one but never even nibbled at the bait! We grew tired of playing with him and were ready to go up the creek for conch.

Conception Island is a protected island and there are no buildings or inhabitants, like a park, 3 miles long and 2 miles wide at the widest point, it is has a triangle shape. The beach we were on that morning we were able to walk across to the north side beach within a minute. Wildlife was abundant and the most unusual was a bird with a long tail that appears to be a seagull at first. Long Tail Tropicbirds flew over the boat showing off their splendid tails.

We were on our way to an area south, a mile from the boat out in deep water, to an inlet, into a creek. It was an incredibly narrow opening over reefs, rocks, and rolling waves….extremely tricky. Deep blue water of the open sea quickly changed to a light green, shallow, sandy bottom creek. There were massive amounts of conched out conch shells strewn all over the beach, old black ones, and many recent pink and orange ones.

John, Eileen, and I snorkeled down smaller creeks and quickly found 11 conchs. The water was murky at first and I freaked out, but as soon as the sun reappeared, I relaxed and enjoyed all the fish and gorgeous green water, which rapidly became shallower as we moved up stream. Small Jacks were everywhere. They are a silver fish and in the clear water, I could not see them right away, then, there they were in my face. It spooked me being so close, but I got used to them and enjoyed swimming with them. I hauled the conch Eileen found back to the boat. This was not an easy task, hands full of 3 conchs, trying to swim against the current in low tide. On the way back up the creek, I found many large clamshells that will be fun for John to paint.

Moving up to an open area, we watched many turtles swim. Neither John nor I realized that turtles swim fast under water, having never been that close to them before. Stopping at a dead end, Ed dropped anchor and Eileen said, “Follow me.”  She is an adventurous woman, having Ed drop her and Muffy off somewhere; she would discover areas like this! We ended up at a beach on the outside of the creek over looking the deep blue water. We had seen this beach from the dingy as we came into the creek and it was amazing to be so far up the creek and come out to the same beach. We could not have gotten to this beach any other way, as there were too many rocks and reefs around it.  It was a beautiful beach with many huge rocky areas, smooth, white sand and had many of the conched out conch shells. We found many tiny olives that we had never seen before. I will place them in one of my clear bottles I collected from the beach on Long Island. While we were walking the beach, Ed had caught nice size snapper.

It was almost 5, tide was getting high enough for us to get out of the cut safely, out into deep water and back to the mother boat. On the way out of the creek, we watched 2-4 ft. stingrays meandering thru the water; we had a grand look at them close up in the shallow water!

The ride back was dreadfully choppy going against the wind. We were out in extremely deep water that appeared black. But we did not get as wet as 2 days before with Passe Port III!!

Ed cleaned the conch and fish, while Eileen and I cut up apples, green peppers, celery, and onions for conch salad. She made coleslaw and got batter ready for Ed to fry the conch and fish. We had worked hard for our dinner and were ready to enjoy!

Having not enough fresh water for showers, we wiped down with dry wash cloths. Another adventure, I had never gone to bed without at least a rinse off with fresh water!

Dinner was scrumptious; ¾ full moon, sparkling on the motionless water…a superb evening.

Friday….We sailed back to Long Island after 10 glorious days. John was at the helm, the autopilot was still not working so Ed said he could steer all day. Winds were “dead down”, behind us, and the sails flapped allot, barely catching the wind, so we motored, but able to do 7 kts. Seas were exceptionally calm and I was able to sit topside all the way to Bains Bluff, even though we were rocking side to side, instead of up and down, which was another new experience for me, a gentle rock that dipped the side of the boat into the water, one side to the other.

The fishing pole was out for the promised Mau Mau but alas, we caught only another barracuda and something that got away. There seemed to be a pattern here, I told Ed!

When the reel would “zip”, everything would fly around the cockpit, cushions being thrown below, engine throttled down, knife out….no fish, but it made for an interesting afternoon!

We sailed past Columbus Point, Cape Santa Maria Beach, Hog Cay and I enjoyed watching the coast of Long Island sail by. In the distance, we at last saw the “pink house.” Our white roof shines quite a ways off. John and I adore seeing our home from that view.

Motionless Fairhaven….here we come!!!!

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