Tuesday, April 30, 2013

South Andros 2013... My Last Day: Part 1

The original plan was, as on previous Sea Hunter trips, for all of us to go aboard the Sweet Jessie up to Kemp’s Bay. From there we would go to the Congotown Airport, but instead of flying to Nassau from Congotown, I would stay with our taxi driver Shirley who take me to Driggs Hill. From there, I would take the 4:00 PM ferry from South Andros to Lisbon Creek on Mangrove Cay. Then, I would take another taxi to Swain's Cay where I would spend the night and fish with Alvin "Big Al" Green in the Middle Bight the next day. I would go home on Monday, two days after leaving the Sea Hunter.

Solly returns!
After we departed on the Sweet Jessie, our guide Solomon "Solly" Murphy, was planning to run his Maverick Mirage from Jackfish Channel at the southern end of South Andros all the way to his home on Stafford Creek on the North Island. A trip of 7-8 hours depending on the weather and the waves. He would run the entire length of South Andros, cross all three of the bights and run 3/4's of the way up the north island before reaching Stafford Creek. On this journey, Solly would see the better part of the largest island in the Bahamas. He would hopefully make it home before dark. Solly’s motto “I can work with that” is a good philosophy when running up the ocean side of a 100 mile long giant like Andros

As we were packing to leave, it dawned on us that I should go with Solly. If all went well, I could make it to Mangrove Cay in two hours.  I would then avoid waiting for the ferry and the vagaries of finding a taxi on Mangrove Cay. I could shave a few hours off my journey and eliminate a lot of moving parts. As a bonus, if we made it by 1:00 PM, Solly’s cousin, who is a policeman, would pick me up at the Government Dock on Mangrove Cay and deliver me to Swains Cay.

“Great!” I thought, I could get to Swains Cay early and relax a bit before dinner.

Solly and I left the Sea Hunter at 11:00 AM and motored east out of Jackfish Channel. Instead of turning left to go up the east side of Andros, we turned right. I was suddenly very confused! Was I mixed up? Were we really going up the west Side of Andros instead of the East Side? Was I that disoriented?

Solly saw my look of confusion and laughingly said, “I’m going to pick up a few whelks then we’ll turn around and go north.”

As a hitchhiker, I had no room to complain, so I said “No problem.” and meant it. I settled back relieved to know that I at least had my directions straight.

We quickly motored over to the cay Solly had in mind. Behind us, we could hear the big diesels on the Sweet Jessie powering the others up north. Since Solly and I could go in a straighter line through more shallow water, we could collect some whelks and still beat them as they had to go far offshore to reach deeper water before turning north. As we pulled onto the beach, I noticed Solly had a rod under the gunnel cowling. 

“Can I use your rod while you’re gone.” I asked.

“No problem.” He said as he grabbed a plastic bag and quickly waded off towards shore.

I slid his Beulah rod out. It had a well used Okuma reel, but only a weathered and frayed short leader on the fly line. My gear was packed away inside my luggage which was wrapped inside a big garbage bag for our journey north. I knew Solly wouldn’t be gone long, so I looked around the boat and found a 8 foot hank of 30-40 lb. mono that was tied around a bundle of clothes. It would have to do. 

My fly and 40 lb. tippet!
I had no nippers so I tied on the whole hank of mono. Then I plucked a rusty, old Charlie-type fly from the carpeting of Solly's left sidewall. This fly was below an image of a tarpon embroidered in the weathered nap by the boat’s manufacturer. I tied on the Charlie. I was able to get only 3 or 4 twists in the thick mono for an improved clinch knot. With no nippers or knife, I left the tag end of mono hanging from the hook’s eye. I had no wading shoes, they too were packed away, so I stepped out of my Crocs and stepped barefoot onto the flat. The soft sand felt good so I waded off a hundred yards or so only stopping a couple times to pry sharp shell fragments from my feet.

Soon I saw a few large fish coming towards me. I cast my absurd leader at the group and surprisingly, one charged the fly. I stripped and he was on. This was a big fish! He rocketed towards the deep water trench that is the Tongue of the Ocean throwing a massive roostertail across the flat. He made two spectacular runs. After his second run, I was madly reeling in the line when the tension suddenly stopped. I retrieved the fly line until I saw the fly had no hook point. All that was left was a rusted, hook shaft. The point was apparently on its way to Cuba with my fish.

Whelks and curves.
While I would have loved to have seen the fish, it seemed an appropriate way to leave South Andros. It’s good to leave a great trip wanting more. So with a few questions left unanswered, I started gingerly back to the skiff.  As I repeatedly stumbled due to new jabs from sharp objects, Solly made long steady strides towards me... also on a pair of bare feet.  He had a big bag full of what Bahamians call curves and whelks. I call them chitons and turban shells. Whatever their name, take a diced conch, lime juice, some chopped onion and green pepper and a miniscule dice of a searingly hot Bahamian goat pepper and you have a true treat. Solly’s work would make a fine “mixed salad” as he called his take on conch ceviche. Solly stored his treasures under the back deck, while I slid his rod back to its spot under the side deck.

"Ready?" Solly asked.

"Yup!" I said as I pulled on my raincoat.

We fired up the big 90 Yamaha and took off on a heading north under threatening skies and and an ever freshening breeze.

Making a "mixed" salad

NEXT Part II...

1 comment:

  1. Fun to note the goat pepper is so hot, it is used in a recipe with raw rum in various Voodoo rites. Theory being, if a person can drink it without becoming violently ill they must be possessed by a spirit or deity.