21 March, 2016
Well…….Conception Island was a well-worth-it stop. While we shared the anchorage with 6 other boats on Friday, we were all by our lonesome all day on Saturday. The island is completely uninhabited, save for the flocks of birds that live here, and we enjoyed a real sense of isolation. On Saturday morning, we took the dinghy to the south end of the bay, and anchored in 12’ of water, over sand and right next to a coral reef. We snorkeled the reef, trying to hone our lobster and fish-finding skills. This island is part of the Land and Sea Park, so it is a “no-take” area. I figured that since this was the case, we’d find tons of lobster. Nope. I’m thinkin’ that we really need to get with a pro so we can learn the ropes, ‘cause I’m sure that there are plenty of bugs in these hidey holes. I was just starting to feel a little chilly when I caught some movement out of the corner of my left eye. Suz was on my right, so it got my attention. I turned my head to see a 6’ Reef Shark swimming toward us. He stopped, and swam a couple of tight circles about 15 feet from us. Then, he swam past us at a distance of about 10 feet, and looped back before swimming toward shore over the coral. Now Suz and I have swum around sharks plenty, most of the time with SCUBA, and they usually pay you no attention, nor are we bothered by their presence. This guy just didn’t feel right. We decided that it was time to get out of the water, and we literally swam the 50 yards to the dinghy back-to-back. We saw no more of our pal. After a late breakfast on “Alizann”, we headed to shore, and anchored “White Star” 10’ off the beach. We crossed over to the windward side of the island, and were treated to a mile long, coarse sand beach. We walked it in total solitude, with the sun high overhead, marveling at the myriad colors of the ocean over the sand and offshore reefs. Back on our, the leeward side of the island, the sand was finer, and a lighter color. We walked the shore of our bay from north to south. The late afternoon was spent reading on deck. Towards sunset, a sailboat arrived and anchored about a quarter mile away. Our tender was already stowed on the boat deck, so we didn’t go over to say “Hi”.
By Sunday morning, the swells that had started to roll into the anchorage the day before were becoming quite pronounced. No matter, we were up early for an 07h00 departure to Cat Island. We fished for 4 ½ hours before one of the reels started screaming out. We hooked up, and had a good fight for about 30 seconds, then, not much. I could still feel a fish on, and I knew this was bad news. Barracudas hit hard, and go fast, but have no endurance. They’re totally passive until you get them out of the water to unhook ‘em, then they’re all muscle and teeth. Yep, Barracuda. What a pain in the butt. And………in 1500’ of water. He musta been lost or something. After I dehooked him, he was back to the races, and I was ready to call it a day. The Bight at Cat Island was just around the point, and shallow water was a half hour away. The seas were predicted to be running out of the East, making the West-facing Bight a perfect anchorage. Instead, the 3’ waves were coming out of the Southwest, rolling into the Bight, which ran several miles from north to South. We quickly scrapped Plan A, which was to anchor in New Bight, and motored over the shallow sand to the beach which ran along the southern edge of the Bight. There, we found that it was still windy, but 100 yards off shore, the swell was negligible. We spent a quiet afternoon on the boat, the day made almost perfect by spaghetti and meatballs. The wind died nearly completely, and we had a totally calm night. Just before dawn, the waves started lapping, and we heard the wind generators start to wind up. All of a sudden, the motion detector (burglar) alarm went off. I went to the salon to check things out. Nobody around, but the flag on the stern was drooping down, and, I believe, set off the alarm (note to self). Well…..within 10 minutes (literally), the wind was blowing 22, clocking from West to Northwest. This usually indicates the beginning of a frontal passage here, and a Cold Front had been moving through the Southeast states the day before. The black clouds to the Northwest, and the light horizon below them told us the Front was here. We could expect the wind to go to east within 12-18 hours. We got the anchor up, and headed North to New Bight. By the time that we arrived an hour later, the wind had subsided to 5 out of the Northnorthwest, so we tucked in tight to the beach and had some breakfast.
Time to explore. We dropped the dink and headed to shore. Ha! No place to tie up. Just a long beach and no docks. I beach the dinghy and drop off the Admiral, then anchor just outside the break, and wade in. I miscalculated the depth by about 6”. Man, I hate starting a walk with a wet crotch! I know, T.M.I. First stop is the police station/post office/island administrator/driver’s license/BaTelco building. We get the lowdown from a very pleasant officer, and find that the post office has an open internet network. Yay! I might be able to shoot some of these blogs up. We walk the shore road up to the North, and spy a bunch of gaily colored shacks on the beach. None are more than 150 square feet in size. The signs on them indicate that they’re bars and restaurants. Most are closed. It is a full party during Island Regatta week in August. We stop at “Hidden Treasure”, which is open, and is reported by the Cruisers Net to have great seafood. After checking with the kitchen, we agree to go in for grub before we leave the island, depending on the weather. Further down the road, we wander into an open door and meet Darlene, the local “bread lady”. She’s gonna bake us loaves of coconut, cinnamon, and wheat bread that we can pick up in the morning. A half mile down, we visit Holy Redeemer, the last Catholic church designed and built by Father Jerome before his death (more on F. J. later). Gilbert’s Grocery (and rent-a-car) is our turning point about a mile-and-a-half down the road. The mail boat (supplies) comes in on Thursday, but not this Thursday, so we grab a couple of $4 Mangoes, lettuce, eggs, red pepper, and celery-$40. Yeow! Suzanne reminds me that this Thursday is Holy Thursday, and that most business (in our experience) will be conducted on restricted hours, or not at all, during Holy Week here in the islands. The Front arrived before we got home, but it actually felt kinda good walking in the pouring rain, just as my shorts were beginning to dry out.
17h00. Time for an iced coffee with rum.