Thursday, January 6, 2011

Hunting Lobster

From French Cay to the Ambergris Cays was a pleasant sail across the shallow waters of the Caicos Bank.  With our chartplotter so inaccurate, we had to rely on navigating the old fashioned way.  No, not Mark's sextant skills.  Every half hour I'd triangulate our position using small islands dotting the horizon to take bearings from.  Then I'd plot our calculated position and GPS positions on the paper chart.  The GPS seemed to be working fine.  It was all good practice for rusty skills.

Most importantly, we kept a continuous bow watch all day to look out for the ominous, black outlines of coral heads spotting the ocean bottom.  Mark fashioned a seat at the bow by running ropes back and forth between the bars of the bow pulpit.  It was surprisingly comfortable, an excellent place to read or nap or take in the sun.  We took our turns at the bow, but soon the actual responsibility of keeping a lookout fell to the helmsman.

We spent the night in the protected waters between the Ambergris Cays.  I was the first in the water.  Fifteen feet deep.  White, sandy bottom.  To my right I could see the low mound covered in dark coral, brightly colored little reef fish flitting about.  In front of me the bright white of the sand and the pale turquoise of the water stretching away into a hazy blue.  There was something moving out there.  

I stayed close to the boat, staring intently into the gloom.  I saw it again, a shadow, too erratic in movement to be anything but alive.  It was coming closer, slowly shimmering into a soft outline.  Now I was sure.  Shark! 

Steadily I watched the gray shape grow, the edges harden.  Methodically, in unvaried cadence, it swam towards me, head and tail sweeping slowly from side to side.   Now, its beedy, black eyes were clearly visible.  Its black shadow slid smoothly over the rippled white sand.  I gripped my little fishing spear tightly in my hands.

When a mere fifteen feet away it turned, smooth and silent, never changing its speed or rhythm, and slipped gracefully back into the dark blue gloom.   I immediately evacuated my bowels and climbed back aboard.

No, not really.  I remained in the water which remained clean and clear around me.  The great fish was a nurse shark.  Harmless.  The telltale catfish whiskers on either side of its mouth made that much obvious. Big, at least twelve feet long, it had swum straight for me until it was close enough for its weak little eyes to tell what I was.  I excitedly called Nate into the water.  The shark returned several more times over the course of the afternoon we we spent enthusiastically hunting rock lobster in the little caves of the coral head.  We caught four, two each for Nate and I.  I also got a large crab and Mark a jumbo conch.  

(It should be noted that Mark's only contribution to dinner was an animal with a top speed of four feet an hour and a survival strategy, when threatened, of remaining motionless)

I parboiled and then sauteed the lobsters in garlic and butter.  Mark smashed his conch with a hammer to tenderize it and then breaded and fried it.  All were delicious.

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