Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Manjack and Green Turtle Cays: too hot to handle

June 12-15, 2010

Pretty in Pink
Pretty in Pink

Judging by the title you should wonder why we are still in this area at the dates posted. Well, we might have an addiction to freon, and we didn't want to get too far away from Donnie and his gas. After 5 days of reasonable cooling our hopes were dashed as the refer temp began to creep up. Two more days, and we decided to go find Donnie again and get another fix. The problem is serious enough to generate a conversation about having to return to the states. It has certainly affected our plans to be able to get far from civilization.

We motored back over to Green Turtle and dropped the hook right before midday. Thinking Donnie would be at his house for lunch, we headed in and walked down the street. The school kids were out for lunch, and they were making fun of Ursa, commenting that she really didn't look like any dog they were used to seeing. I asked them if she looked like a pig, and they said yes, and one little girl said she should be called a hog dog.

Donnie wasn't home, so we went back to FLUKE, had lunch, and then went back into town to look for Donnie again. We left a note on his door, and decided to walk around town in hopes of running into him. We spotted him driving his white van and accosted him as he was motoring by on the main road along the waterfront. We told him our predicament, and he agreed to go out to the boat right away.

In addition to the gas and gauges, he also brought his leak detection device. W & E Refer Inc. had already soaped down all the lines and fittings and had been unable to detect a leak, but we figured Donnie may have better luck with his detection device. Our freon pressure wasn't as low as his first visit, but it was still below the norm, so that means we must be leaking from somewhere. Donnie and Wayne checked everything and couldn't find a leak. Wayne told Donnie that we wanted to stay over here, but we couldn't if we had to visit him every week for a freon fix. Donnie suggested that we try to purchase a small can of R134a gas in the Marsh Harbor area, the hub of the Abacos, and its largest “city”, a day's FLUKE ride from GTC. Donnie didn't want to be paid anything for his services that afternoon, pleasing Wayne to no end. However, I yelled to Wayne “that man has to be paid something for his work”, so we gave him $20, and then we were all happy.

Out to sea we headed, and that's where I'm writing this update.

We could have taken an “inside” route, but it has been so hot, we decided to head offshore where we hoped that it would be cooler, and we could get some trolling done and maybe get some decent fish. The inside shallow waters have been in the upper 80's, so we thought that was also putting a strain on the refrigerator system. The cooler ocean waters could give it a break, and ended up dropping the temperature another 3 degrees, down to 40, a number we could be happy with. The question will be how long we will be able to keep it that low.

As far as our fishing luck would have it, we didn't fare well. One hit bit through the leader line, another two came off before we even got them close to the boat, and only 1/3 of the yellow fin tuna we hooked made it back to the boat; something else bit off the other 2/3! That was for 7 hours of fishing. Good thing we weren't depending on getting anything for dinner.

Getting the Weapons Ready
Getting the Weapons Ready

Jacquelyn Cousteau and Lloyd Bridges haven't been doing much better with their spearfishing endeavors. Decent spearable fish are few and far between in the GTC and MJC areas because the near shore reefs are close to human population centers and have been over fished. We have been out hunting a couple of times and did have some fun. I speared a strawberry grouper that made a nice lunch for us. The following day, Eddie speared a 9 pound black margate that merits its own story, and it is just another example of how we certainly don't know everything about this cruising life and that sometimes we ought to be called the Three Sea Stooges.

I saw Eddie stealthily creep up on the loner margate since I had spotted it too and was going to take a shot at it myself. Eddie shot at it, but it wasn't a solid hit, and the fish swam off, going a bit deeper, under a small ledge. Eddie still had his eye on it, and continued on after it. I was already “nervous” about the situation since the fish was wounded, and the neighborhood was beginning to come alive. I knew it wouldn't be long before a shark or barracuda showed up in hopes of getting an easy meal. So, I took a position where I could watch the action and make sure we were all going to be as safe as possible. Eddie shot the fish again, and the spear penetrated solidly enough for Eddie to try to get it up to the surface. Eddie was already struggling with the weight of the fish on the spear, and his flipper started coming off his foot (he likens it to having a broken prop!). He couldn't get the fish out of the water and both of them were flopping around just advertising themselves as being stressed to the whole reef. I yelled for Wayne to give us a pick up and swam over and grabbed the spear and fish away from Eddie so that I could get the fish out of the water. To hold it vertical, to get maximum height, I could not keep my head out of the water because the fish was weighing me down, so I had to just stay below the surface and breathe through my snorkel. At least I could look around for predators approaching, at which point I would have just given up the fish. Wayne came quickly and “saved” the 3 of us.

The trouble with the fish didn't end in the dinghy. Part 2 came when it was time to clean the thing. Its scales were so thick and large Eddie had a difficult time scraping them off so he could get to where he could cut the skin and make a fillet. Scales went flying everywhere, sticking to the cockpit walls and furniture. Most of them were the size of nickels, so they were at least easy to wipe off and pile up to throw overboard (however, it was another two days before we were able to get the rest of them out of the deck drain). Eddie nicked the colon, so fish poop was leaking out during the cleaning process, and boy, did it ever smell bad! I had to give Eddie credit for doing a fine job filleting the fish and just sticking with the whole mess.

Part 3 came when it was time to cook it. The meat certainly looked OK, and I marinated it with some grill spices that we had used on fish before. Eddie, a.k.a., the Grillmaster, put the fillets on the grill. My first thought that something wasn't quite right was when I peeked at the grilling fish and noticed that the fillets were curling up an awful lot. Eddie asked me to check to see if they were done enough, and when I tried to flake open the fish, it was like sticking the knife into a wad of rubber.

OK, so maybe it was going to be a little chewy, we could handle that.

Part 4 began when the grilled fish was served. It looked fine, was definitely chewy, but tasted absolutely wretched. It made me think I had marinated it in iodine. I swallowed a piece and said that it tasted awful and I wasn't eating any more. Eddie and Wayne promptly spit theirs out, because they think if I ever say something tastes bad it could mean that we will die from eating it (I hate to waste food!). Both of them looked at me and asked if we were going to be sick. I said I doubted it, and as time has since passed, we didn't suffer any physical maladies, just bruised egos.

Part 5, the happy ending, was seeing the whole plate of fillets get tossed overboard!! Maybe something got to make a meal of it.


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