Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Clarence Town

From Georgetown we made for the northern tip of Long Island, the place we'd failed to reach during our ill-timed prior attempt.  We dropped anchor that night in Calabash Bay, as much for a swim as to get a full night's sleep.  With no shower stall aboard, regular dips in the ocean take on an added importance, especially with four cold weather people on a little boat in the tropics.
Our plan was then to head for Rum Cay.  I liked the name.  Also, we had been strenuously advised in Georgetown that the snorkeling there was fantastic and, with the aid of a net and some gloves, we would eat rock lobster there until we could eat no more.  Sounded good.  I might not know how to fillet a fish, but I know how to cook lobster:  boil until it stops screaming, smother in butter, open with crescent wrench.
The next day, we found that the wind was rounding steadily on us.  Soon, making the twenty miles to Rum Cay before dark was out of the question.  If we couldn't arrive before dark, we couldn't snorkel.  If we couldn't snorkel, we couldn't hunt lobster.  We turned off and headed south for Clarence Town, 35 miles away.  We wouldn't arrive there before dark either but it was the direction we had to go anyway and we could ride out the coming weather front in the safety of its harbor.

Cruising south through the deep ocean waters of Long Island's eastern shore was the time to be trolling a lure.  Out it went.  Within an hour we had a 33 inch Dorado (Dolphin Fish, Mahi Mahi) on the line.  Mark reeled it in and, by doing so, won the right to clean it.  It was our first fish caught with a reel since Nate put us out of commission in the Biminis.  It caused quite a stir on deck.
With much shouting and cheering, Nate and Mark brought it aboard.  Any pretense of steering the boat was abandoned.  All attention was focused on the giant fish thrashing about with a hook flailing from its mouth.  As we watched well out of range, the Dorado (Becca named him Jerry) slowly quieted down.  Nate got back to steering, and we other three remained perched on the cockpit benches in a semi circle, staring down silently, waiting for Jerry to die.  He did, eventually, of natural causes.
Once Jerry was dead, Mark made a few exploratory pokes to be sure.  It was time to fillet.  Becca brought out her cook book with the how-to-fillet pictographs.  I retrieved the fillet knife.  Mark remained outside, practicing controlled breathing, mentally preparing himself for the task ahead.

When all was set, he made the first incision.  The next forty-five minutes were at once wonderful and horrible and terribly bloody.  Mark squatted bare chested on the cockpit floor, bathed in sweat and Dorado blood, perfectly still except for his hands, the very picture of quiet concentration.  Becca and I hovered above him, dancing around the benches, shouting and shrieking and gesturing wildly, competing to offer the loudest encouragement and advice.  It was quite exhausting.  By the time it was over, we were too emotionally drained to help clean up.

Mark did a pretty good job for his first time and we got four big fillets that we bagged and stuffed in the frig until calmer conditions prevailed.  The boat, at that time, was rolling pretty dramatically over the ocean swells.
We didn't arrive in Clarence Town until after 1 a.m.  Becca was asleep so Nate, Mark and I brought the boat in under sail, shooting the cut through its barrier reef in the dark with the aid our chartplotter and a careful lookout at the bow.  The harbor was empty so we found an anchorage quickly.  It was late, the latest we'd stayed up since Nassau, but we were once again in a safe harbor with nowhere to go for a few days.  Out came the wine.  There, in the middle of the night, on the deck of our stout little boat, awash in Bahamian starlight, we sipped our box wine with a sighs of pleasure and relived Mark's great fight with the fish.

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