Friday, June 12, 2009

South of the Whale - Good Friends and Fresh Fish!

The singing of the drag on my fish killer rod an reel was pure music to our ears. The combination of an ocean rated reel, a 12 in lure with massive four razor sharp hooks on it and 100 lb test made it no contest for whatever took a hit. We weren’t sure what was on the end of the line, but Pat and I had whatever it was, filleted and grilled before we even saw our catch. We developed a real appreciation for fresh fish during our crossing from Florida when I nicked my first Tuna, so naturally when the opportunity presented itself we went looking for more.

The Sea of Abaco is divided into two portions, with Whale Cay acting as the dividing line. The Whale as it is known locally is a source of wonder awe and fear for boaters in these parts because it forces any boat drawing more than 3 feet ot head out into the open Atlantic in order to transit from the Northern Half of the Sea of Abaco to the South. For this reason many boaters, even the locals tend to stay in their half of the “Sea” and not cross into the other side of town.

Because of the separation, the two halves are similar in geography but very different in character. When we left Green Turtle Cay, we crossed the Whale and wondered what the fuss was all about? Apparently during the winter months, NE winds can whip the shallows along the ocean side of the reefs into a boiling surf known as a rage. While I have seen some pretty impressive photos of rages, this time of year the only activity is caused by left over surge from storms at sea. The 4- 5 foot swells with the occasional 6 footer was no worse than the passage out of the bay of Quinte back home on a typical day.

Most of the development in the Abaco is concentrated in the Southern part. Marsh Harbour is the largest size town in the Abacos, and it provides cruisers with a convenient place to reprovision before heading back out. The town itself is rather non-descript, but it is large enough to support a well stocked supermarket and a hardware store that would rival any in the Florida Keys. The myth that the Bahamas are undeveloped and scarcity is common has its orgins in days gone by, but is no longer the caset.

It’s true that some items such as ice cream and beef are more expensive, (try $12 for a quart of ice cream) but not prohibitively so as they are also plentiful and seem to be consumed in large quantities by the locals. There are pleasant surprises like fresh snow peas at lower prices than in Florida. For anybody coming over here, it is always prudent to stock up, but the provisioning should not be viewed as a mission to Mars! The only thing I would suggest stocking up on in larger than normal quantities is Beer.

Boating supplies are readily available and for those who need parts shipped in, the Bahamian Govt. has reversed a ruling requiring duty to be charged on all boat parts. As of June 1, vessels traveling under a Bahamian cruising permit can have power train and safety items shipped in duty free, providing the shipper indicates the cruising permit number on the manifest. Of course as luck with have it, Threepenny Opera required a set of windlass parts and we received them two days before the new rulings came into play. When we tried to “negotiate” a rebate, the very pleasant Bahamian customs officer smiled and said, you win some you lose some. Thanks!

As one moves away from the center of the universe in Marsh Harbour, the level of development starts to decrease but it is very obvious that the wilderness of old is gone forever. The cruising sites have developed to suit the market which at this time of year is largely bare boat charters from the Moorings/Sunsail base out of Marsh Harbour. For a boater that comes down for a week, the anchorages are nicely spaced so that one can stay up late, sleep in, and still make it to a new destination for some water based activities, before heading ashore for the sundowner. On the subject of the sundowner, beware of the concoctions known as the Frozen Nipper or the Frozen Grabbers served from their respective establishments on Guana Cay. One of these drinks will leave you numb and two can bring on incipient Amnesia….now what was I talking about???

A visit to the Bahamas is not complete without spending some time snorkeling or diving on the multitudes of reefs. We were extremely fortunate on this trip to befriend Bob and MaryAnn from the sail boat Queen Angel. They are both fish people and are as comfortable in the water as out. Bob is a natural diver and he can hold his breath for an incredibly long period of time. He scared the heck out of me, because I was spotting him from the dinghy as he hunted a reef off of Lynard Cay, and disappeared for what seemed to be several minutes. I had visions of him bonking his head on a rock and laying unconscious underwater. I was about to muster enough nerve to go in after him, when he triumphantly surfaced with a very strange shovel nosed crustacean on the end of his Hawaiian spear. Dinner that night was freshly grilled shovel nosed crustacean. We hesitate to call it a lobster, because those crustaceans are not in season at the moment.

Time has passed incredibly quickly and our time in the Abacos is almost up. Despite a little grousing about the number of boats around and the level of development, the anchorages are still pretty nice and the gentle rocking on the hook with a cool evening breeze is still spectacular. As is often the case when we are getting ready to leave a place we like, the weather is improving and we have forgotten the two weeks of incessant rain. As we turned around and headed north from Little Harbour, we decided it was a great opportunity to score some fresh fish, so we headed outside of the reef and try our hand again at fishing. Certainly there were tons of fish in the marine parks so how difficult can it be to hook something in the open ocean?? It took most of the day to get a hit, but what a hit it was.

Pat and I worked like a well oiled machine and while I reeled, she brought the boat into a gentle turn to make it easier to bring the fish in. When I got the beast alongside, Pat fired a stream of cheap vodka into his gills and he was still alive, but at least he stopped trying to tail walk away from the boat. The fight took about 20 minutes, and within 30 minutes a 38” Cero Mackerel was posing of pictures, just before being filleted. We were to meet up with our friends Bob and MaryAnn who had elected to stay on the inside for the trip back north, so finally we were able to make a contribution for dinner.

Today we head north of the Whale. We expect to be back into Florida within the next 4-5 days and we will head up towards Punta Gorda to tie up the boat while we get ready for our trip to China. Who said retirement was slow and boring?? Stay tuned. Although we are back in travel mode, we still expect to see some interesting sites between here and the West Coast of Florida so we try and post again before we head for Toronto and the Orient.

Have a great week. I know I will.
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Anonymous said...

Thanks for visiting Guana Cay. Learn more about the fight against Baker's Bay at

Carol & Helmut said...

Hi Pat and Addison. As usual, your photos are fantastic, especially the underwater ones.
When will you be in Toronto and more importantly, when will you be at the club? It would be great to see you in person!
Carol & Helmut