Monday, June 02, 2008

Life in the Out Islands, Native Style

May 28 – June 2, 2008

Posted on a Little Used Path
Posted on a Little Used Path

The fact that we're still at Manjack Cay, where we last posted from, indicates we have settled into a groove. Once upon a travel time, I would have been whining to move on, see the next island, snorkel a different reef, drop a line at a new coral head, or hike another path. Now we just let the hours pass, do what we want or can, and aren't concerned with having a schedule to adhere to. We've been in these islands often enough to have a good feel for the big picture; now we are focusing more on the little things. I think this is the longest we have ever been in the same spot over here without having been broken down or held up by weather. We haven't even discussed moving somewhere else yet!

I've had several conversations with the island caretakers, and they have kindly answered my questions and shared their local knowledge. The island homestead is so interesting to visit. The house itself is raised off the ground, open on 3 sides to capture the breeze, with a large, wrap around porch to cool the air. Air funneled through the house is sent out the central, windowed cupola at the peak. They catch rain and store it in cisterns. Electricity comes primarily from solar panels, although there is a generator for additional power needs. Composting toilets handle the human wastes. There are compost containers which cruisers are invited to deposit all their fruit and vegetable waste in. Soil is not plentiful on these arid, rocky islands, so anything to add to what little there is can make a difference. There are raised beds, made of native rock, filled with soil in which are grown a variety of different fruit and vegetable crops. Chickens lay eggs. The grounds are planted with numerous species of citrus and topical ornamentals and fruit trees.

Grassquit Snacking
Grassquit Snacking

Native birds flock to the house to feast on seed. They are so tame they eat out of your hand, land on your shoulder, and hop into the house! Their chirps and chatters blend with the rustle of the island breezes through the leaves of the trees. The hanging, cup-shaped nest in the photo belongs to a grassquit; the featherless, newly hatched babies were about the size of a dime the first time I saw them. Even the big curly tailed lizards visit the porch area to “beg” for a squished tomato treat, right out of your hand!

Babies in the Nest
Babies in the Nest

Informative Art
Informative Art

Signs made from palm frond leaf bases point to a well-maintained path to an oceanside beach. The mile walk is pleasant because the path is shaded and well cleared so we don't have to worry about brushing up against the dreaded poisonwood plants that are so plentiful on some of these islands. Somehow I've managed to brush up against one and have a 2” patch of extremely itchy blisters on my leg. Native miniature orchid plants about the size of a half dollar can be spotted on certain species of trees. We have just missed their blooms, but I am happy to see them growing wild. Sandy areas of the near oceanside dunes are pocked with 6” wide holes. Peering deep inside we can see the legs of the giant land crabs. Some islanders capture these crabs, house them in cages, feed them grain and vegetable matter, and then cook them up. I wouldn't dare ask if we could set up a crab pen on the aft deck!

Giant Bromelliads
Giant Bromelliads

Walks to the ocean side beaches always bring thoughts and hopes of finding some interesting flotsam or jetsam and enjoying whatever surprises nature has to offer. A seaside gazebo festooned with treasures washed ashore caught our attention. Eddie is of the mind that we can't have too many lines aboard, so he was all excited when he found a tangled pile of line that look good enough to spend the time (like we have a busy schedule!) to unravel.

Sea Treasures
Sea Treasures

We spotted nests of night hawks, containing one or two mottled eggs, laid out above the high tide line and below the dense growth of dune vegetation, making it easier to defend from predators. We startled Plover chicks who went running with their parents shrieking at us. The tiny chicks look like 4” high miniature ostriches because they have such long legs and necks and fat little round bodies.

You Call This a Home?
You Call This a Home?

We walk along sandy beaches, over rocky shorelines, through lowland areas with mangrove swamps, all the while enjoying the island sights and sounds. Sometimes the path doesn't come out where we expect, and we have to take a detour; I always hope it is low tide because Wayne isn't going to take care of me like he does Ursa!

Seeing Out to Sea
Seeing Out to Sea

When the Path Ends
When the Path Ends

The Continuing Adventures of Lloyd and Jacquelin

You readers also know these two as Eddie and Carol, but they use these monikers in honor of the legendary Bridges and Cousteau when they don their snorkel gear for another great undersea adventure. I keep asking Wayne if we look like a couple of baby Orcas since we are wearing our black skins to help keep warm and provide full body sun protection. He assures me that no graceful Orca would ever mistake us for one of its own kind!

There are 3 shallow wrecks nearby, and I wanted to try snorkeling them as there is usually a lot of fish life amidst the debris. We had snorkeled the site years past when we were here and it was full of eels, so Eddie said he didn't want to go back and deal with them again. I must admit they can be intimidating with their mouths full of teeth poking out of the dark holes in the debris. However, I figured it was worth trying and whined long enough to convince him to go.

The wrecks have broken up a lot more, and we didn't see any eels. Since the structures had opened up we were able to swim through a lot of the debris instead of remaining on the outside just looking in. We were also swimming along a rocky shoreline with overhanging ledges at high tide, so a lot of fish had moved into feed. An overly “friendly” 4' barracuda that seemed to be just as big around kept close tabs on us. He would get to within 2' of me to where I could clearly see little parasites running around on his nose and chin. I knew as long as we didn't try to catch something else he would leave us alone. We saw 2 huge lionfish that had to be adult breeders; they were a deep maroon color, 10-12” across. We floated over a couple of large stingrays laying on the bottom; poor Steve Irwin, now my hero in heart only.

The most exciting find of the day was seeing a Flying Grunard for the first time. When we first came upon it, it was on the bottom with its pectoral fins slightly open, enough for us to see that they looked like they would be able to open up quite a bit. Looking rather a drab brown with blotches of white we wouldn't have given it much other attention, but we wanted to see how the fins would open up. Eddie put his hand toward it, and the fins opened all the way up to reveal a beautiful scalloped fan with rows of iridescent blue lines on this otherwise plain fish. The fish darted off by retracting the big fan and compacting itself into an arrow and darting away from us. I have to catalog it with my Dr. Seuss creatures!

Flying Grunard
Flying Grunard

Not Just Another Fish Story

I had begun to get antsy from not doing any fishing. I was really motivated to get a line in the water after seeing the fish on the wrecks. So, I waited for a rising afternoon tide and headed over in the dinghy to fish by the wreck I thought my underwater snorkel reconnaissance had revealed the debris field that would cause me the least amount of trouble for getting my tackle stuck. I was using bait cut from finger mullet I had caught in my cast net from the dock before we left Vero. I had a lot of bites, mostly small stuff and even managed to catch a couple of grunts to use for bait. I brought in and released this beautiful strawberry grouper. My prize catch was a Nassau grouper. He put up a fun fight and went into a hole, but I was able to pull him out. I sped back to FLUKE and told the guys that we wouldn't be grilling the steaks; fresh fish was now on the menu! Eddie always helps me clean the fish by setting up the fish cleaning table and cleaning the cockpit while I go inside to cook. Ursa and Visitor reap the rewards, too, by getting little tidbits of fresh fillet. Wayne helped by turning on the AC, thinking I would be hot in the galley while I prepared the meal. Such a crew effort, huh?

This One Goes Back
This One Goes Back

Dinner Tonight!
Dinner Tonight!

The next afternoon when I announced I was going fishing again Eddie said he wanted to go. I told him he could only go if he behaved: no whining, no complaining about being bored, no criticizing my driving, no complaining about the flies, and he would have to be extra careful not to loose fishing tackle by errant casting around the wreck. As soon as we arrived and got the anchor set he said he thought he needed to poop! Too bad, he would have to leave it in the compacter until we got back to the boat. Then, he wanted me to cut the bait and put it on his hook, on the line I had already rigged for him! Now you should see why I had to make all those stipulations before we even left FLUKE.

As luck would have it, Eddie caught the first fish. Even though it was a grunt, we needed more bait, so it would be of good use. Things were slow until I got a BIG hit. I tried keeping the line taunt to keep the fish from pulling it toward the wreck, but I failed, and the fish dove into the wreck. I tried to pull it out for a long time, but couldn't. Eddie said “How about if I go in and see if I can see it and pull it out?” Instantly forgetting all those misgivings I had about taking him along in the first place, I readily agreed it would be a great idea.

So, Lloyd stripped down to his underwear, dove in and followed the line to the wreck where he could see the fish wedged in head first into a hole. I stood watch holding the pole hoping that the big barracuda didn't show back up to try to lay claim to his fair share of his neighborhood. Poor Lloyd was in the water with no gloves, no mask or snorkel, and no fins. He came back to the dinghy to put on his sandals (he didn't like having his bare feet touch parts of the wreck) and get a towel to use to grab the leader and fish. 45 minutes later Lloyd was heading back toward the dinghy, swimming on his back, holding the fish out of the water. I didn't even loose my tackle! I declared it his snapper and have awarded him a Bahamian gold star. I may even let him use the big pole next time.

Lloyd's Catch
Lloyd's Catch

As a side note, Eddie is supposed to be learning how to spear fish (just like Lloyd). However, after this episode, if he can just dive down and pull the fish out bare handed, I'm not sure he even needs to learn how to use the spear.

Eddie's Gold Star
Eddie's Gold Star

It's Not All Play and No Work

When we're not being hunters, gatherers, or explorers we have plenty of boat chores to keep us occupied. FLUKE doesn't care for herself, and I don't want you to think we have just become people of leisure.

I've been engaged in cleaning the overheads. While they are a smooth fiberglass finish, they still accumulate grime and mildew in some areas. I've done some laundry in a 5 gal. bucket of rainwater, floor and bathroom cleaning, writing the blog, and meal preparation.
The guys have jointly changed the oil in the generator and done some sewer maintenance.

Fiddle Cay Business Meeting
Fiddle Cay Business Meeting

Eddie has taken breaks from napping and watching satellite TV in his luxury stateroom to scrape the growth off the bottom of the hull. That was a big job; he uses a compressor we have aboard to supply air for him to breath with while underwater. Now FLUKE's underside is nice and clean and if we ever move again, we should get better fuel economy.

Eddie is also in charge of garbage collection and maintenance. He suffered a real set back in his efforts when he discovered some maggots in his garbage storage area, the first time ever. It is odd since we don't put anything “dirty” in the garbage, and Eddie has a real system for segregating and compacting everything. He moped for a couple of days, not being made to feel any better as he was given another moniker, Maggot Man.

Wayne has been busy trying to design a new freezer box that we hope to put in the third stateroom (now called the Cat Room because that is where we keep the litter box) which is slated for a makeover more suited to our cruising lifestyle than to accommodate overnight guests. He is also doing extensive research on how to reduce and improve efficiency of our power consumption. Wayne is the official blogmaster and is the one who formats and posts my updates. He is also trying to improve his bread making skills, and just made 2 loaves of some yummy half and half whole wheat/white bread.

We're Not Moving, but the Scenery Still Changes

The light, or lack of it, makes all the difference in how our world from FLUKE's deck looks each day. The colors of the water range from white to black, with all the shades of blues and greens in between. Some nights are filled with so many stars you never knew could be there. When there is phosphorescence in the water at night it looks like there has been a liquid metal spill, with streaks of gold and silver sliding through the black water. Puffs of clouds float slowly overhead to the mainland of Great Abaco where they may spill out an isolated shower. The shades of green vegetation on the shore are changing as time pushes to summer and trees are getting their new leaves.

Then there are the boats that come and go each day, sailing and motor vessels of all sizes and shapes with interesting names and places of origin: Brave Turtle, Killer Bee, Jonny Wasabi, Toucan Dream, Kea, Chantal Ma Vie, Aye Doc, Desire, and many more.

We know our cruising lifestyle may not be what you would like to do, but there are other ways to be out here having fun. You could travel like our neighbor who pulled in yesterday. This attractive 152', fully crewed yacht is for charter for only $65,000/week. Inviting your family and friends aboard for a little trip would hold you in their favor for a long time. Or, just keep following our travels and we'll tell you how they live.

Our New Neighbor
Our New Neighbor, Chantal Ma Vie

2 comments:

  1. Wayne, Wayne, Wayne,


    It sounds like you've gone soooo deeeep into this lifestyle that we'll never be able to bring you back to the Dilbert Domain!

    I've come up with a list of words that should trigger Dilbert like responses -

    I'll test you now and to try to gauge just how far 'starboard' you've gone...

    Ready?

    Here they come:

    1) Deadline

    No - it's not the pile of line that you and Eddie untangled while swinging from a hammock on the beach!

    2) Debug

    No - that's not when you helped Eddie (a.k.a. Maggot Man) clean-up the garbage storage area!

    3) ECO

    No - (but close) this is a Stand-alone word, not as in: 'Eco-friendly' like when Eddie put his poop in the compacter!

    4) Race Condition

    er NO - not you, Carol and Ursa racing down a path to the shoreline before the tide comes in - so you don't have to carry Ursa all the way to the dinghy!

    Well my friend judging from your responses - it's looking rather bleak!

    You’re tottering very close to the edge - we might have to rescind your right to even own a pocket protector!

    Try, try, and try to remember Wayne -

    There are 10 kinds of people in the world - those who know binary and those who don't!

    To Carol and the whole FLUKE crew - lovin' the Tale's - keep 'em comin' - this may be the only vacation I get this year!

    Jerry

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  2. Al Boor1:08 PM

    Sounds like you're having fun now. Keep the blogs coming. It kind of makes me feel like I'm there... at least for a few minutes. Ahhhh, I'm glad it's Friday afternoon.. what, oh, sure boss, be right there:(

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