(Day 1, Ft Lauderdale to West End, Grand Bahama Island)
Knowing we were about to depart for the Bahamas, we settled into our last minute rituals. Johnny getting ice and a final Big Gulp at 7-11, Mar, Bruce and I getting a pedicure to get our feet beach ready, long hot showers ashore, calls to family. We sailed under the 17th Street Bridge at 10:30, and headed into the Atlantic.
Weather predicted 15-20knts from the southeast; what we got was a different story. Knowing the Gulf Stream would push us north, we tried to beam reach across and tack south into the NW Providence Channel north of Bimini. After an amazing afternoon fishing (see more about this below), the winds built to 35, gusting to 45 from the east, forcing us to head north and take refuge at the West End of Grand Bahama Island. Windancer performed well, I cannot say the same for me.
The first day off shore always freaks me out. I stuck ½ a sea-sickness patch behind my ear, hoping to stave off the vomiting. But when it gets dark, and it gets really dark at sea, my nerves flared. I pre-occupied myself with guessing the wind; shut your eyes, count to 5, make a mental guess, spy the wind indicator and see how close you are. From 6:30 to 11:30, John and I sat on the bridge in the black. In full foulies but barefoot, we took wave after wave over the bridge. In some ways the darkness was a relief; like riding a roller coaster with your eyes shut, you just roll with it unaware of the next dip or turn. In darkness, you never really knew when the next spray would catch you. There is an upside – away from the city, the stars…oh, the stars waiting upon wishes to come true.
I woke Bruce and Marlene up around 11:30 who sat up top with John and brought us to anchor at 2:00am. Once out of the seas and at anchor, it is as if we were never on the ocean. Put away the food; stow a few things that fell, store the foul weather gear to dry out and off to bed.
This morning we woke to brilliant sunshine. Dropping the tender down, John and I checked into the Bahamas, got our sailing and fishing permit. Bruce made amazing fish tacos from dorado and a tunny with fresh mango, cucumbers, tomatoes and hot sauce. Later in the afternoon, John, Marlene and I went out snorkeling, but not until we checked out the guy swimming with a large white Styrofoam cooler, filled with 20 lobsters he was spearing in the coral. 4 for $20. While the diver stood on the bank, we chose our dinner and were offered a bonus 2 lobsters for being his first ‘take out customers’.
They say the human body cannot remember pain; we know we experience it, but we can’t conjure up the intense pain. The same goes for sailing; I know it wasn’t fun; I know I hit a 9 on the fear scale, but today, as we cook up lobster for a little gourmet lobster mac & cheese, the wind and waves of last night seem like a blurry memory.
The Fish Tales
The beauty of a catamaran is you have a wide beam from which to troll lines. Almost too fast to fish at 7-8 knots, Bruce and I assumed our position on the sugar scoops and watched our 2 rods + one Cuban hand reel rigged with the lucky green lure. About an hour and a half into the trip, the first strike – a little tunny on the Boone green feather. Now, when we get a small fish first, you never know if you will catch another one. Measuring it against our fish ruler, we choose to fillet it. As John worked his magic, Bruce and I tossed the lines back. Within 15 minutes, 4 more strikes – two that got away, a small mahi-mahi and a good size black fin tuna, who destroyed the new lure. We tossed the tuna into our marinade of ginger, soy, garlic and lemon for dinner. Then, about an hour later, a dorado struck the starboard rod giving us a battle royale. Dorado (also known as mahi-mahi) give a great fight – jumping, dragging and eventually, swimming right to you. With Bruce reeling and John with a gaff hook in hand, we landed a beautiful 30lb dorado – the main for our taco lunch.