Sunday, 3/29/09                                                                                Day 421

We have just finished a wonderfully rich dinner, provided for by the best snorkeling/hunting trip on this whole cruise!  It consisted of a salad, rice, lobster, and fish (grouper).  But, do you think that we could have gotten these goodies in the Brigantine Cays?  NO!  We had to travel down to the Hawksbill Rocks to get that sweet stuff.  The snorkeling looked great, and that it was!  This was the best snorkeling in the whole Exumas!  And hunting too!  We got 13 lobsters of varying sizes and one Nassau grouper.  I personally got two of the bugs!  And, we let at least three lobsters go, so there are more around make more baby lobsters.

We snorkeled in three places for about 3 ½ hours.  I hunted most of the time.  At the first place, there was a large head of coral with lots of gorgonians and little fish, including tons of small grunts, snappers, and even hogfish.  There were also French angelfish and queen angelfish and triggerfish.  It was very pretty.  For the first time ever, we found a hole with more than one lobster in it.  There were three!  We only speared one though.  Dad and I actually chased a big across the reef, but we couldn't get a spear into him.  In an instance somewhat similar, I spent a half hour playing hide & go seek with a big hogfish.  I saw it swimming and said to myself, "Oh my gosh!  That's a big hogfish!"  I was kind of stunned.  I missed a shot because I was wary of his size.  He went into a coral head with a large cavity inside, but only one hole that he could fit through.  I couldn't see him by looking into that hole.  Every so often, he'd poke his head out, but as soon as he saw me, he'd swim back in.  That happened about a dozen times before I gave up.  Another cool thing that showed up was a remora.  And this guy wasn't just a little sharksucker, but a 3ft. gray remora!  Mom, already scared that it would stick to her, as one did in Belize, got back in the dink, wondering where the 12ft. shark it came from was.  To tell the truth, it kind of spooked me too!  Once, I missed a shot at my hogfish friend (or is it fiend!) because I thought I saw a shark cruising by.  It was just the big remora.  The only other big game I hunted (other than lobster) were some big saucereye porgies.  They are so skittish that I couldn't get any shots.

The second spot was just for lobster.  We speared three, giving us a count of six bugs.  I got one of these.  It was hiding under a gorgonian and in a crevice, after running out when Dad got another one.  I saw it, took my time, and nailed it!  There were a lot in one hole, and we got three.

At the last spot, it was just magnificent.  There were lots of little coral heads with tons of vibrant colors, including bright orange sponges and the purple variation of thin finger coral.  I loved the bright purple coral I've never seen before.  In the way of fish, there were hundreds of baby grunts, snappers, angelfish, and hogfish.  With a bit of searching, Dad found holes with up to half a dozen lobsters in each, and we wound up with seven more crawfish (that's what some Bahamians call them) and a Nassau grouper of decent size.  As creatures go, we saw more Christmas tree worms than ever before, and saw lots of masses of painted tunicates covering segments of the many gorgonians.  Though I know that tunicates are very common, I've never noticed them.  This uncommon abundance of the particular species made them impossible to miss.  Also covering the gorgonians were many Atlantic wing oysters.  At the time, I didn't realize what they were, or else we would have had oysters with dinner.  I can't believe I missed them!!
L  One of the coolest things we saw in that spot was the largest cushion sea star I've ever seen in my entire life!!  The diameter was as big as my fin is long, which measures about 16".  Our Reef Creatures book says that the maximum diameter is 14" across.  But this one was definitely larger!  Amazing! J

Something that we saw not a single one of was lionfish.  They have been plaguing the Bahamas, eating all the juvenile fish.  There were none here, and lots of juvenile fish.  I'm sooooo glad that we've found an untouched spot (literally nobody, maybe a local or two, comes out here) with everything perfect.  Just perfect!

So, there's not much to tell about the rest of the day.  We left Jimmy Cay this morning and had a nice sail over here to the Hawksbill Rocks.  By 2:00pm we had the anchor down in a somewhat swelly anchorage.  Bro & I did school while sailing.  As I said, we were snorkeling for approx. 3 ½ hours, until 6:45pm.  We had a late-ish supper of a little lobster tail each and some grouper.  Dad & I are going fishing mañana early.  We want to be out of here by 8:00am tomorrow.  It's too bad that we'll probably never come back here.
L  But our time here has just been sweet! J J J

Monday, 3/30/09                                                                                Day 422

Finally!  Where we could not go before, now we are.  The Jumentos!! It took some time, but we are here!  And now we get to stay for, like, two weeks!!

We left Hawksbill Rocks, Exumas at 7:45am.  Surprisingly, Bro slept until 8:30 or so.  That's not like him to get up so late.  He's usually up by 6:30.  We sailed and motor-sailed all day long.  Bro and I did school for as long as we sailed, which was, like, all day.  We got in to Water Cay, Jumentos at 4:30.

We fished all day long.  At 5:30am, my alarm clock went off.  Dad was already awake and told me it was too dark to go fishing.  He got me at 6:00, and we got our stuff and went out.  We first went to the reef we first dove at yesterday.  When the anchor wouldn't hold, we drift-fished that reef.  After two drifts and no luck, we moved to the place we dove at 3rd yesterday.  There we anchored and fished, but also with no luck.  Underway, we trolled a little pink squid/jighead lure (our bluefish killer of the US Northeast) all day.  After we crossed a reef, we got our one and only hit.  It was a big barracuda that broke the wire leader as Dad tried to de-hook it.  They've got big teeth and don't make it easy!  That was it, though - one measly barracuda.

Water Cay is really nice.  There are lots of long beaches with cliffy bluffs.  The island is not at all wide.  We walked the width in 30 seconds.  We anchored next to our dear friends Tauá in front of an odd little cut.  This cut makes Water Cay two separate cays at high tide and one at low tide.  We were at low tide when we explored with Tauá, who had just come down from George Town, Exumas.  There was a dry, algae covered bar and a little ford which we took.  On one side of the ford was a bluff.  I climbed it for a better view.  I saw a nice reef on the other side of the cut, the Crooked Island Passage side (the Jumento's equivalent of the Exumas' Exuma Sound side).  On high tide, you can take a dink through the cut and dive on the reef.  On the ford's other side was an array of tide pools.  We found lots of hermit crabs.  Somehow, Josh finally convinced Mom to let him keep some as pets.  He got seven, all of which he named after Jedi Masters.  To tell you the truth, I think that's way too many, but we'll deal with that later.  I, who was indifferent to having pet "hermies," actually found four, who I named after some characters in my book, King Solomon's Mines.  I've got Mr. Allan Quartermain, Sir Curtis Henry, Captain Good, and Foulata.  I also have Spike, a little guy in an odd, broken, spiky shell.  Mom even got five who she wants to make transfer so she can have their beautiful shells.  We now have over a dozen crabs and only a little (4" x 8") habitat and food and water.  Tomorrow, when everyone else is less tired, we'll work out the situation.

Another cool little thing was the tide pools that had cried up, leaving salt crystals.  I scraped up a little container full of the 100% pure Crooked Island Passage sea salt.  I will dry it out and cool with it.  It is a truly exotic seasoning.

We have now just finished a late dinner and are settled in for the night.  Tomorrow, Dad will go out with some other men to get the last lobster of the season.  We still have the eight largest tails from yesterday, but tomorrow is the last day of lobster season. (Note:  only Caribbean and spotted spiny lobster are out of season on April 1st.  Spanish lobster is never out of season.)  There are some blue holes in the area which we want to fish and snorkel.  We will be the great Gohlke Explorers.  Onward!  Onward, I say!! J

Tuesday, 3/31/09                                                                                Day 423

We have now returned from a day of fun and a late night of fun.  Everybody was happy all day long.  Mom was happy because Bro & I got a full day of school in and were 100% done by 12:30.  Dad was very happy because he got to hunt a lot and get a lot of fish.  I was very happy because everyone else was happy and 'cause I got to do some nice diving and play with Bro.  Josh was happy too.

As I said, Bro & I got a good school day in.  Dad went hunting with Mr. Peter while we did school.  He was gone until 1:30 and came back with a big Nassau grouper, a nice red hind, a good mahogany snapper, and a good schoolmaster.  That is one nice catch!

After school, while waiting for Dad, we refurbished the Hermit Crab Habitat, formally named Hermit Crab City.  We got a big container with sand and water for the water hermies (there are two types of hermies - land & water).  We also gave them a dead gorgonian and sea biscuit to climb on and replacement shells to switch into.  Surprisingly, two have already swapped shells.  We decided to name the shells, not the crabs because it's easier to keep track of.

When Dad got back, we went with Tauá to find a calm diving spot.  Ms. Monika and Claudia forgot their gear, so they just went to the beach.  Mom went with them because she didn't want to dive on a wreck that Dad, Josh and I wanted to dive on.  This was the wreck of The Lady Una.  The Lady Una was an old steel motor vessel, but we cannot tell what it did.  It looks like either a commercial fishing boat, or a Haitian/Cuban refugee boat.  Anyway, underneath the boat, which was wrecked on a rock off Water Cay, were tons of the largest snapper and grunts I've ever seen!  There was no coral or gorgonians to tell of, was we were only in 4 ½ ft. of water, but there were lots & lots of fish!  There were also small fish, but tons of big ones.  Dad had his Hawaiian sling, but didn't want to shoot a $50 bill (the shaft) under that wreck.  I want to come back with pole spears.  I love wreck diving!  It's so cool!!  I don't know if I said this before, but somewhere between the Lee Stocking Island area and the Hawksbill Rocks, Josh's pole spear got lost.  Now he has to share mine.

We joined Tauá and Mom on the beach.  Dad, not liking to just sit in the hot sun, went hunting right in the anchorage.  He came back with two nice coneys.  He said he lost a big hogfish and missed two groupers.  He said he also saw some giant mutton snappers.  Bro & I played on the bluffs most of the afternoon.  For the last while, we played in the cut and on the beach with Claudia.

There was a neat little transition period between afternoon and evening.  We went back to Liberty before heading to Tauá.  Two things happened.  First, one of the bottom fishing rigs we always hang out over the side was trailing way out.  I gave it a tug, and it tugged back.  I told Dad and then brought in a 2 ½ft. remora!!
J  They are not edible, so we untangled him and threw him back all well.  As Dad unhooked him, guess what?  He suckered right onto the deck, like they do to sharks!!  That was cool! J  Second, while looking at Mom's shells, we saw a giant (2in. or so) hermit crab, without a shell, crawling in her bucket.  We named it Godzilla and put it in Hermit Crab City with some shells for it to go into.  Then we left for Tauá.

While the sun was still up, Mr. Peter and Dad went hunting for some last lobster.  Today is the last day of lobster season!  Bro & I played with Claudia on her Nintendo DS all evening.  When the men got back, unsuccessful, we had a snack dinner.  We all hung out all evening.  Now we're home and the day is - over.
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