Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The grouper, the shark and yours truly

We had a great time in the Staniel Cay area, where we anchored in the lee of Big Major Cay, great anchorage with good snorkeling and beautiful beaches.
We had all gone snorkeling at the northern tip of Big Major which has small coral heads combined with a coral garden and a sandy deeper trough. I had my pole spear with me. I'd been seeing a lot of small groupers when I spotted one of takable size. He spotted me too and he quickly scampered under a coral head. Seems this is the grouper way, when in doubt go straight into your hole. It took me a while but I did finally manage to spear him in his hole but then couldn't get him out. My spear was laying at the bottom attached to the grouper while I got a breath of air before giving it another go, as I started down I spotted in the distance a shark coming our way, I couldn't tell what type of shark it was and I wasn't going to hang around to find out. I swam back to the dinghy where the kids where already in and Laurel and I got in. We then dinghied over the coral head to see the action.
The shark turned out to be two sharks, both nurse sharks. While they are fairly bening as long as you don't mess with them. I didn't want to get back in the water to compete with food with them. They both had their snouts straight in the grouper hole but couldn't get him, eventually one left, after a beach break, we got the boat hook and went back, to see if we could hook the band on the polespear and pull it out. At this point I was concerned with just getting my spear back. We floated over the reef and actually managed to hook the band, I started pulling and tugging at it with the boat hook, when all of a sudden it all came out, but with no grouper and then I realized no spear tip! I looked down and the shark had the grouper and my spear tip. The tips are expensive and I didn't want to lose it, so I gave the shark a quick jab with the boat hook and it scared him away and he took off. Laurel held the boat at the edge of the shore and after a wary look, I swam in recovered the tip and grouper. He was a bit worse for wear after the shark, but whole, see him in the picture below.

We cleaned him on the beach, and then had this sting ray come by, looking for grouper scraps. The Bahamas are loaded with rays and we've seen many but having this one swim back and forth just a couple of feet from us was really cool. The kids loved it.

We also visited a place called Rachel's bubble bath or Rachel's pool. It is at the top of Compass Cay and is a natural pool that is protected from the ocean by dunes and reef, however at mid to high tide the waves crash over a coral slot and froth into the pool, you can see it in the picture below. If you stand just in front of the break you get immersed in the froth and bubbles, great experience, we did it with our masks and snorkles to really get the full effect.

Below is the northern bank side of Compass Cay where we did some beach combing before pulling our anchor and spending the night at Bell Cay.

We left at first light the next morning and sailed 35 plus miles to Allen's Cay. We managed to get in early so had a great time at a beach, where we did some conching and where I managed to spear another grouper. We walked across to the bank side where someone had erected cairns. I wanted to include the picture below so you could see how jagged and rocky the Cays can be. These are ancient coral and are really jagged, sharp and pointy. The Cays tend to be a combination of this and of course sand beaches.

We are currently in Spanish Wells on Eleuthera where we arrived yesterday, had a nice and and uneventful crossing, although went through a section where we had to slalom our way around the coral heads. We will spend most of today here, then stage for our crossing to the Abacos late this afternoon at Egg Cay. Spanish Wells is a fishing and working community and as I write this fishing boats have been leaving the harbor one after another all morning. Here is Laurel walking along the waterfront yesterday afternoon.

We most likely won't write again until we're somewhere in the Abacos and have internet access.
Best, C.

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