Brian and I were puttering around the boat deciding what to do with ourselves. The weather report told us we wouldn’t be leaving White Cay until possibly Thursday. For some of you I’m sure having at least three, possibly five, days with no schedule would be glorious! You’re probably jealously reading along right now thinking, “those lucky, ungrateful, little devils!” Well we weren’t being ungrateful so much as we just weren’t sure how to approach a day without scheduled events. For us staying put in an area that seemed to offer few opportunities for exploring was a challenge! We did our usual breakfast, wash the dishes, shake rugs, sweep floors, tidy the boat things. Yup, Brian even helped since his boat projects are few at present. I went about cleaning out cupboards to ensure that things were staying dry. Then, a pleasant interruption. Our neighbors whom had introduced themselves the day before stopped by to invite us to a beach party later today. We were to meet at 4:00pm at the beach near the Blue Hole trail, bring something to share and bring any burnable garbage. Great!
The afternoon came and went. Brian did some fishing which is quickly becoming the ‘ol standby of pastimes, and I got started on Spanish lessons to prepare for our possible Western Caribbean venture. I also prepared a pasta salad and packed our drinks, plates, and utensils ready for the beach party.
At 4:00pm dinghies were on the move from the five neighboring boats. We headed ashore and were looking forward to meeting other cruisers. All the dinghies anchored at the beach and out came coolers and buckets be be used as tabletops. Brian helped to find scrap wood for building a fire. I discovered I’d brought the wrong dish as nobody had brought their own plates and utensils. The sharable things were brownies, cheese and crackers, and chips and salsa. Doh! I apologized and was told, “it’s not a pot luck, sweetie.” Beach party and bonfire at dinner time translated into picnic to me. I envisioned spread out blankets, roaring fire, swapping stories and maybe someone would have a game of bocce…fun times. At our next grocery opportunity I’ll have to find some sharable finger foods to keep in my back pocket.
Some of the guys started a fire, which wasn’t really for admiring but was truly for burning garbage. Brian and I sipped our drinks and chatted wherever we could find common interest. Everyone was very nice but we felt we didn’t have much to add to conversation, this being our first visit to the Bahamas. The others had been coming here for years. At sunset a conch shell was blown. This tradition was introduced to us in New England by The Great Catsby, also a yearly Bahamas cruiser. Shortly thereafter the no-see-ums came out in full force. It was time to go, I was being eaten alive by bugs and was also quite hungry myself. We gathered our non-sharable things and politely excused ourselves from the party. Back at the boat we had left-over porgy to eat along with a delicious pasta salad!
During the afternoon following our Blue Hole expedition, we took the dinghy ’round neighboring islands where Brian scouted the coral lined shorelines for fish. He lucked out when he found a group of conch on a sandy patch below the water. What do you call a group of conch anyway…a heard, a gathering, a flock? He pulled up six! “That should keep us busy for the rest of the day,” I said. Brian continued snorkeling for a bit while I sat, cornered in the dinghy on the opposite end of the conch. They were making gurgling noises and starting to turn themselves right side up. I backed as far us as I could now sitting next to the outboard on the wooden support. Then, one spatted out little fish! EWE!! I screeched and called Brian, “um, can we get these back to the boat!? This is NOT fun anymore.”
Back at the boat I was able to distance myself from the gurgling, squirming conch. I fired up the computer to review the directions for getting the conch out of their shells from our electronic copy of A Cruiser’s Handbook of Fishing (thanks, Scott & Kim). Then I directed Brian through the process of breaking the shell, cutting away the conch, pulling out the conch, cutting off the eyes, and peeling away the skin. Sounds gross, eh? It was. It took approximately 30-minutes to process the first conch. It was a slimy mess.
Mid-processing we had some visitors from a neighboring boat. They were also Seven Seas Cruising Association (SSCA) members and came by for introductions. Not a great time for visiting as we were covered in slime, but they encouraged us and gave us some conch cooking tips.
After the second conch was ready we’d decided that two were plenty and threw the other four back into the ocean. I took the meat below, chopped it, and added lime juice and spices for a makeshift conch salad. We didn’t have any fresh produce but typically a conch salad has tomato, onion, and pepper. Brian stayed on deck fishing with his newly acquired bait, conch bits.
Success! Out of the water Brian pulled a porgy. Hopefully this fish would be delicious as it was plenty for both of us for supper. Living on the outskirts may not be so difficult after all with all this good food just swimming around.
We’re now on the eastern side of the Berry Islands after a beautiful sailing day to get here. Brian expertly navigated the coral laden inlet to get us behind White Cay, between Hoffman Cay and Devil’s Cay. When we arrived, we learned all too quickly how to scout out shallow water…by running aground. We had to use the dinghy and the anchor to get us off the sand. But afterwards we were anchored in 12-feet of water with plenty of swing room. An uninviting wind forecast meant we’d likely be here for several days.
On Monday we set out to find the Blue Hole on a tip our friends at Great Harbor Cay gave us. We took the dinghy to Hoffman Cay where we found a small white sand beach and could spot a trail leading into the brush.
We paused to watch a fish before hitting the trail. He didn’t seem bothered at all to have an audience. “Fishing here should be easy,” Brian hoped out loud.
The trail led us directly to the Blue Hole; a nearly perfect circular, very deep pool of water. What we thought would be an all day expedition, hiking the trail, took a mere five minutes. So we sat for a while observing the pool and then scurried to the bottom to investigate the cavern.
Fortunately, the trail continued onward beyond the Blue Hole. Off we go to see what we find!
It brought us to another small and equally beautiful white sand beach. (In another whopping five minutes. We were starting to hope there were enough small islands around to keep us busy for the next few days.)
We did stay at the beach for quite a while watching the fish. There were tiny minnows lining the shoreline and every few minutes a school of fish would come swarming in to eat them. Amidst this activity were two small schools of hound fish that would leap into the air now and then to gobble a minnow. On the beach near the tree line was a fire ring and some beach chairs that were in need of repair. We added a bonfire to our future agenda.
After exploring Hoffman Cay we headed back to the boat still with half the day to spare. These 6:30am mornings really make the day last! (We wake each morning to listen to Chris Parker’s weather forecast on our SSB receiver, channel 4045.) No sandy feet aboard! I’ll remember to rinse my feet from the dinghy next time.