Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Conception Island Disco Dance and The Rare Albino Turtle

We decided to get back out there, and find us a new spot, so we grabbed our local friends Steve and Kathy and sailed to Conception Island, we had heard that it was pristine and magical! It is a bit off the beaten path, and it is deserted, nobody lives there. There are no supplies, no fuel or food or anything. This is why a lot of people skip this place, and it is totally protected too. No fishing, no taking lobster or anything because it is part of the Bahamian Land and Sea Trust. Perfect, we thought, so with our friends along, the four of us were off to Conception Island!

With plenty of supplies, we made an early start of it, and headed North. It was a bit overcast, and cool, so the trip was pretty easy.

We rounded the North end of Long Island, and sailed past the White Cliffs that Columbus first saw in 1492, waves crashing on the outer reef. We turned Northeast and toward Conception, the boat moving gently with a following sea. As we approached the anchorage, the clouds broke and revealed crystal clear water and sandy beaches, rocky cliffs and sandy hills. There were only a handful of boats there, including this gigantic ketch. At night it was lighted up like a bridge, and the main mast was so tall, it had a red light on it instead of a white one.

We grabbed a killer spot a hundred yards from the beach in 12 feet of water and down went the anchor. We hit the beach for a quick exploration, and let the dog run and run.
The next day, we all piled into the dingy and went round the South side of the island and into a long saltwater creek that splits the interior of the island. It is tricky to get in here, we again got lucky and hit it at near high tide, and made the entrance over the rocky cut with an incoming tide and plenty of water. Once inside we let the current carry us along, and killed the motor, paddling along. The beauty was everywhere, fish and grass lined the sandy bottom, along with conch and barracuda. Wading birds greeted us as we glided past, welcoming us to this saltwater wonderland. And there were sea turtles, lots of them, they were everywhere. They didn't seem scared of us, they moved away when we got really close, but not like most turtles that don't get close at all. We followed the creek until we could go no more, it ended in a large round cul-de-sac, filled with turtles! The water was a green color here, and was strikingly different than the main creek. It was here, in the florescent green water, that it happened. We saw something in the water, something huge, something white. It was on our left, and then, on our right! We turned to follow it, paddling along like a duckling blindly following it's mother. What could it be, we thought. Then, it popped up it's massive white head, turning toward us to see what it could be that was following along. It was a huge turtle, its shell was white, as though it had been painted that way. We had never seen anything like it, and we speculated that it was an albino green sea turtle, but perhaps it was the worlds oldest turtle, it's shell turned white from decades of sun and salt.
It's shell was probably six feet long, and it had bright green eyes that looked at us, unafraid and it looked to be smiling. Suddenly, it moved away, and decided to leave us, as we all sat and looked at this strange animal, not quite believing what we had seen. Wait, I thought, I wanted to ask it how it got so old, so big! I swear, I heard it say as it left, "Ya got to Boogie, Mon, dat's all!" Did I hear that for real? Wow!
We moved back out into the main creek, and we all went for a swim, even Guincha enjoyed the cool water!
We went back out the rocky entrance to the creek, and started seeing the elusive Long-Tailed Tropic Sea Bird. These graceful flyers would swoop past us, flying close to the rocky coast, and hover for a second, and then back out over the blue water. They made a barely perceptible squeek, and that was the only sound we ever heard them make.
That night, after a wonderful dinner, we were having drinks in the cockpit, enjoying a great evening. Then I heard it again, the faint voice of the magic turtle! "Ya' know ya' gotta boogie, mon! Whatcha' waitin for?" "Hey," I said, "did anyone hear that voice just now?" Blank stares told me no. No matter, I knew what to do. In a flash, the disco ball was hanging proud in the cockpit, and we were letting it go with KC and The Sunshine Band! We had a blast, and danced like crazy kids for hours. The lights and action attracted a shark, squid and some baitfish to the boat, but since they have no legs to dance on, they had to stay in the water and boogie down there.
The next day, we went for a hike to the windward side of the island. A short trail took us over the dunes and to the other side. The sand was so soft, it was fine like flour, and you would sink in 2 or 3 inches. There we spotted a raft, lashed together bamboo, a sail made from palm leaves, even a water bottle! We tried to imagine who would use a rickety raft like this, a desperate soul no doubt.
We walked the beach, and worked our way the the end, where sharp cliffs rose from the sand to meet the oncoming waves. We were the only people around, and we had the beach to ourselves. It was great.
That night, we danced some more, and had a great time.
Yes, That is the SPRINKLER!

It was a great time, and we all had a lot of fun. It was a magical place, Conception Island, and we all felt it. The water, the wildlife, the music, it all came together for a once in a lifetime trip.

The next morning, we were up early and sailed back to Thompson Bay, Long Island, leaving the magic behind. On the beach, watching us a leave, a magic turtle smiled as we steamed out. "Dem guys, de' be alright ya' know. Cause dem, de' know how to BOOGIE!!!"

Monday, April 27, 2015

Life Can Be A Drag At 4AM

It started out shaping up to be a great night. We anchored in a spot that was close to the dingy dock, important for the Saltrun Taxi Service, catering to dogs only. The dock was only 2 minutes away, across some calm water. This must be better than the 5 minute ride across half the bay, which can be pretty choppy at times. We were a bit close to the rocky shore, but the wind was blowing us away from the dangerous rocks, and it was pretty calm in general. Ahh, this is the life! We hit the sack, gently rocked by calm waves and cooled by the gentle East wind. We were awakened at 4AM by some rather startling changes. The boat was pitching up and down pretty hard, the wind was even whistling loudly through the rigging. Why would we be rocking so much though? Even if the wind had picked up, there wasn't room for waves to get big enough to toss us around like this. So up on deck I went for a look. It is at this point that I want to introduce you to Lee and Rocky Shore. Lee and rocky shore are not the children of Dinah Shore, at least I don't think so. A lee shore is when you are anchored where the wind and waves will push you onto shore if your anchor does not hold. This is a bad thing, especially if the shore is rocky. Now things get bad fast. It is always preferred to anchor where the wind and waves will push the boat into deeper water if the anchor drags, but this is not always possible depending on the location. Well, about 3:30 or 4 in the morning, an abrupt wind change put us in this situation. We had spun around 180 degrees and were about 100 yards from some ugly Shore brothers. Our anchor seemed to be holding for the time being, so we decided that we would watch it until daybreak ( which comes early on a boat, ask Capt Ron ), and move the boat out into the bay away from shore. At this point, I need to introduce the second player in this episode, Stephanie Fisher. She is not the daughter of Carrie and Mel Fisher, she is a big old ugly fishing boat that has been anchored out in the middle of the harbor since we got here. Well, Stephanie decided to go visit the Shore brothers about 4:30 in the morning! She was pitching wildly and dragged anchor a good 1/4 mile and guess where she stopped on her way in? About 35 feet off of our port side, that's where. To make matters worse, Stephanie has two long poles called outriggers, that are used to pull nets. One of these has been extended strait out the side of the boat, and not pointing up in the air like they are supposed to be when not in use. This pole is about 20 feet long and heavy duty, it is made to handle the weight of heavy fishing gear. This outrigger was, of course, pointing right at us, like a giant joust. I watched it go up and down, making a big circle like an Olympic fencing champion, circling has lance around, waiting to take the kill shot. Yikes! This thing was about 15 feet from us! OK, we are leaving now I said, if Miss Fisher and those Shore boys want to meet up, that's one thing. But to point a weapon at us, well, that's the last straw. So, we started up the engines in the dark, and made our plan to leave the party. That's when Mr. Johnson showed up, we could hear him screaming through the wind and waves. He must have been Stephanie's step dad, or something, because he was on her in a flash. Actually, it was a small skiff with an outboard, it's motor winding in the dark and spray, darting around the much larger fishing boat, trying to get control of her. We tried to contact Mr Johnson, but couldn't, we were willing to help with our dingy. Stephanie was pretty determined though, and she pressed on toward shore as we watched this drama unfold in slow motion. She got within a few feet of the jagged coastline before Mr Johnson got control and started to slowly drag her back out and back home. Slowly but surely she got back out, and then, it was like she gave up, and relented, and quickly allowed herself to be towed away. This all took about 45 minutes, and we decided to go ahead and move out to deeper water. At first light, we moved back to our old anchoring spot, a long dingy ride, but a lot safer place, too. Besides, we don't seem to care much for partying with the Shore boys, Miss Fisher, or Mr Johnson. We like our sleep a lot better.