We were very eager to leave Indiantown. We waited for additional days for our mail that was delayed due to Atlanta being paralyzed by 2 inches of snow. Next day delivery took 6 days. The UPS trucks in Georgia were at the mercy of the "idiots" who could not deal with 2 inches of snow.
Additionally, the secrets of the ancient tombs of Indiantown were slowly revealed to us. It seemed that until our pockets/ bank accounts are empty or near empty we would not leave Indiantown. There is always some work that is needed on the boat that we don't know how to do (seeing as how we don't know how to do anything).
However, the work allowed us the opportunity to stay for the Super Bowl party. A pot-luck dinner was held in the screened in porch area that has a television (with the worst sound system ever!) mounted at the top of the wall. In the tradition of the Midwest I made a pot of chili with all of the trimmings. As we sat in the screened room an elderly man came in and announced he had something for us to eat, which he carried in a brown paper bag. He brought out a piece of fried something and thrust it insistently at Wiley. He said he would not tell us what it was but we should try it. Wiley nibbled lightly with a certain lack of enthusiasm as the colorful old southern gent looked on. In fairness, Wiley later admitted that, "it was the best toad I ever et". I refused to eat it unless he told me what it was. He refused to divulge his recipe.
As we sat in the screened porch area we had an eerie sense that all the old folk (the ancients) were lined up to watch something special in the "dayroom". Most all of the boaters and sailors at Indiantown are 60+ - there wasn't a "young person" in sight! So, using your imagination you can probably envision how all the old faces were turned up to look beyond their bi-focals to watch the football game (sighing at the lopsided game), grimacing at the wild half-time show, and drooping by the end of the game (after all it was well past everyone's bedtime!). Yikes, as kind as the elder hostel group was we were eager to find some young people.
We celebrated our arrival in Stuart, Florida with the docking help of 4-5 kind boaters. No crash course this time! With strong winds, the current pushing us, and the cement wall of D dock we were more than delighted to have help. We had read on Active Captain reports of boats smashing into boats and/or D dock because of strong currents. As always, Wiley thanked them all for Boat US, our boat insurers.
While in Stuart at Sunset Bay we once again found a way to spend more money on the boat. Yes, it is a hole in the water into which we pour $$$$. We had a new winch installed that we use to raise the mainsail and also hoist the dinghy on deck. Our old winch had a prong broken inside and since they no longer make that winch we had to buy a lovely new one. John from Mack Sails came out to the boat and installed it. It turns out that John and Wiley are both Trekies, so they had a great time discussing Kirk, Bones Klingons etc, and exchanged the Vulcan "live long and prosper" salutation when John left. Since we name everything on the boat - our winch is now called BIG JOHN! It works wonderfully and Wiley is absolutely thrilled to have a new toy.
We timed our departure so that the current and wind would allow us to ease off the dock and since this was early in the morning we spent some time waiting around for bridges to open to begin our journey to West Palm Beach. We had an uneventful trip through the many bridges on our way to Old Port Cove at West Palm Beach.
This is probably our favorite marina. It is full of million dollar boats and even though we arrive in our little vessel looking a bit like a "Chinese honey barge" they make us feel like we have a multi- million dollar yacht.. They greet you at the dock, take your lines, give you a free bottle of wine, and offer lovely facilities as well as a fabulous restaurant - Sandpiper Cove.
We managed to eat our way through West Palm with 2 terrific dinners there as well as a stop at the French bistro down the road. We staged our departure from West Palm Beach and once again anchored near the inlet prior to "going outside" - sailing on the ocean rather than taking the ICW. This is where we have previously left to go to West End, Bahamas. However, this time we would not be leaving at 2:00 am but wait till after sunrise to begin our sail to Fort Lauderdale.
After a lovely motor sail we arrived at Los Olas Municipal Marina in downtown Fort Lauderdale. We were delighted to meet up with a sailor and friend, Dick of Dick and Margaret, whom we sailed with down the ICW in Virginia and North Carolina in 2011, and saw again in Marsh Harbor, Bahamas in 2013. It is so much fun to reconnect.
Los Olas Marina is 2 blocks from the beach. Ah, we have finally reached the wild celebrations of the young. Bikinis are pranced in, and Wiley frequently has to be told to close his open mouth. Wild music, flowing liquor, and limited clothing on beautiful (and a few not so beautiful) bodies is the new norm. Wiley managed to drink a "fish bowl" and a half (half of mine) of Margarita. We sat and watched the world go by. As I watched a young man jogging down the beach in an orange thong - a very tan bottom- I knew we were no longer in Indiantown.
Green became the color of our arrival and stay in Indiantown Marina. Twelve days ago we recovered our boat in Indiantown Marina from seven months in the burning heat and torrential rain of the fetid swamp and jungle that is called Florida. Les Miserable had been over-taken by the swamp. The deck was spinach green mixed with a black mildew. The ladder we had locked up had vine grown through and around it. A strong tug on the ladder resulted in a long length of vine following me as I dragged it to our boat. Ah, but how could we complain when everything at home was blinding bright white from all of the snow and deep freeze that lingers in Chicago-land.
The swamp jungle would completely take over in a short amount of time if things were left unattended. It truly is amazing to look around at all of the boats left tied down in the boatyard and see how algae, mold, mildew, plants and frogs have taken over. Yes, frogs! Kermit is right though it is not easy being green - "people tend to pass you over 'cause you're not standing out like flashy sparkles in the water or stars in the sky". However, it was not easy for me to pass over them, as they hopped out of and hid in every nook and cranny on the boat. (Additionally, dead frogs are gray not green - you can only imagine how I know that little fact (x's 6)! These are Florida tree frogs and they are about 2-3 inches in length. They are adorable when they are not on our boat. Southern Florida had an unusually wet summer and fall that resulted in this new adventure for us.
We were delighted to find jobs well done by the marina; our new bulkhead was firmly in place in the V and we now have a fuel gage on our engine panel. The new fuel gage means that we no longer need to completely clean out one of our large lockers in the back of the boat and drop over into the locker upside down with our head hanging in the locker to see the fuel gage. This is a special gift as you can imagine how checking the fuel levels could turn you a lovely yellow-green when you are out in this position in a rolling sea.
We have spent our time scrubbing the boat, cleaning the teak, unloading all of our supplies from the U-Haul truck we drove down, putting on the sails, shopping for and loading groceries, and taking in the Palm trees, green grass, and warmer weather. We continue to wait for a new battery, a new battery charger, new blocks for the main sheet and reefing lines, and a new winch. However, as you can only imagine this brings be back to more green $$$$.
We had a short visit with my father and Pat in Summerfield, Florida on our way down in the truck. Unfortunately, my father had a "kink" in his esophagus and had to have a procedure so that he could eat and keep food down. He is amazing - he was patient and then recovered quickly. He was home the same day as the procedure. Pat, as always, is a wonderful loving caretaker and made us feel so welcome even though they were dealing with this new health issue. Pat had us over for a lovely dinner and of course sent us off with special treats.
Two days ago I decided that I should take our anchor rodes out of the locker. I let out a scream as 30+ little frogs came jumping up! My hero, Wiley, came to my rescue and hosed the little mites down the anchor well drain - off they went swimming in the harbor only to return to the boat and begin to climb their way back up and onto the boat once again! My time was spent hosing them down the side of boat and "encouraging" them to find other homes. However, a couple of them had returned by the next morning to what they know as their home - but cruel woman that I am - they were once again deported (Wiley claims that I denied them due process by not giving them a deportation hearing ).
We have talked with our sons back home in Geneva and Algonquin and we were concerned about the dangerously cold weather they were experiencing. Sub-zero temps with wind chills in the -20 to -40 degree range! We "kindly" sent them a photo of us dining in Stuart by some Palm trees -they are a bit jealous and have requested that we send them no more photos with sunshine and stuff that is green surrounding us! Kermit sings... "When green is all there is to be - it could make you wonder why, but why wonder why. Wonder, I am green, and it'll do fine, it's beautiful and I think it's (where) what (we) I want to be."
Home at last. We were reunited with our son Brad, who had done a great job taking care of our house and the beasts who live within it - Barkley (the mutt) and Marmalade (the cat).
Merry taught her course in the EDU program at AU. She loves teaching fellow educators, and was in a great mood every day when she got home from class.
She waited too long to sign up for the class she wanted to take at the school of the Chicago Art Institute, and when she attempted to sign up the class was full. However, she was able to take an oil pastels class in St. Charles with her friend Nancy. She drew and painted all summer, and in my opinion some of her work was wonderful.
We both got together with friends - I with my few, Merry with her many.
Summer in Chicago is magnificent and we took full advantage. We went to five concerts in Millennium Park, of the Grant Park Symphony Orchestra. The concerts are both world class and free. We always bring bread, cheese, a bottle of Rhone, and because we are now old (we used to sit on a blanket) our lightweight folding chairs.
Chicago is our nation's greatest city for theater. We saw some great plays.The most moving was "The Pianist of Willesden Lane", a one- woman-show by Mona Golabek, a concert pianist with the Seattle Symphony Orchestra. In the play Mona Golabek portrays her mother, Lisa Jura, who grew up in Vienna with dreams of becoming a concert pianist. Her mother was Jewish, and just before World War II began; her parents were able to place Lisa on a kinder transport - part of an effort by British relief organizations to evacuate Jewish children from Germany. Lisa ended up at a home for Jewish refugee children in London. As Mona Golabek tells her mother's story she morphs into her mother - and plays the classical music her mother loved and played. Her mother even played an old upright piano in the basement of the youth home as bombs went off during the blitz. Lisa Jura's parents both died in a death camp, but because they had incredible courage, which enabled them to place their daughter on the train - the kinder transport- knowing they would never see her again, Lisa Jura lived, and I got to meet Lisa's daughter Mona Golabek after the play. I told her about my father, who fought in the U.S. Army infantry, through France and into Germany during the war.
We also saw Big Lake Big City at Looking Glass Theater with our friends Nancy and Terry, The Pullman Porter Blues with our friends Joan and her husband (Russ) my former law-school classmate. We saw Tribes at Steppenwolf - a play about a family's ability to listen and featuring a deaf actor. We went to famous Second City
(a wonderful gift from Sean and Tesia for Merry's birthday) - A Clown Car Named Desire, with both our sons and daughter-in-law. We enjoyed a production of Miss Saigon with our friend Ron. We also went and saw a marvelous production of Raisin In the Sun with Ron and Shira. We actually delayed leaving to go back to the boat in January so that we could see a preview performance of The Seven Guitars at Court Theater, one of the ten "century series" plays by the great August Wilson.
We bought Merry a road bike when we got back - a fast bike with clipless pedals and skinny tires. Merry went for 20 or 30 mile rides a couple times a week, and we rode our bikes together to Sycamore and Glen Ellyn. In the fall, we drove to Wisconsin to ride the Elroy-Sparta Bike Trail, which follows an old railroad right of way, going through three very long and dark railroad tunnels, one of them ¾'s of a mile long!
Merry flew out to Colorado with her friend Joan and spent time at her wonderful home in the mountains. They took daily long hikes in the mountains, relaxed in hot springs, and took in the beauty of the aspen leaves turning. Joana has done an amazing job putting finishing touches on her home - laying floors, making cabinets, and much more.
I completed my tenth Chicago Triathlon this year. I felt that I trained hard all summer, but I did very bad in the actual race. My bike time was a huge disappointment. Well, maybe I will do better in 2014. We both ran the Sycamore Pumpkin run and I did rather well in that race. Our neighbors also ran the race and did well.
We had some work done on Les Miserable over the summer. We also added wood flooring to the master bedroom and hallway of our house. Mark Rawksi, our daughter-in-law- Tesia's uncle, did a fabulous job. I had planned to take another course toward an MA in history at Roosevelt University fall term 2013. However, one of the repairs - replacing a bulkhead under the V-berth - was so expensive ( so were the home improvements) that I didn't feel that we could afford the tuition at R.U. I hope that I can get a semester done in Fall Term 2014.
So, we did a lot of cool things done between when we got home in June, and went back to the boat in January 2014. One of the coolest was going to the Chicago Symphony Ball concert in September, where we heard Ricardo Mutti conduct music by Verdi, including pieces from Nabucco and Othello, which I liked so much that I bought CD, boxed sets of both operas.
For me, the best times of all were Thanksgiving and Christmas at our house with our families. The turkey, the Christmas tree, all of us together like we pretty much are every year - these were the most spectacular hours of our time home.
Indiantown was pure drudgery. We have to pay $50.00 to get a ride to Stuart to pick up a U-Haul truck to drive back to Indiantown. We buy big cardboard boxes, pack all the stuff from our little second home into them, and then load the boxes, (linens, pots and pans, dishes, charts, navigation tools, etc.) our scuba gear (including 4 tanks), and everything else into the truck (sails, dinghy oars, cushions, etc). We are always amazed by how much we manage to squeeze into our little boat.
The travel lift guys - Alex and Jessie - lift Les Miserables out of the water and transport her to the big field, which is their storage yard. We carry Dimples to the fenced area where the dinghies are stored. Merry tapes tin foil inside, over the ports and windows, places screen fabric over the chart plotter, compass, and steering wheel of Les Miserables. Everything inside of the boat is washed down with bleach and water. Bug traps are set inside - (cockroach and ant), all boat openings are filled with copper scrubs to keep wasps out, buckets with dehumidifier stuff are placed in multiple places inside the boat, etc. I buffed out and waxed the hull, and affixed the six "hurricane" straps along each side of the boat.
While working on the boat, I tread upon a nest of fire ants, and got stung on one foot and ankle. The little wounds from the fire ants turned into disgusting white pustules, which would not entirely disappear for two months. All the while, the temperature was in the high 80's with lots of humidity. Needless to say, swarms of mosquitoes the size of small birds ate Merry alive.
We had pizza at the little Italian restaurant in Indiantown. It was typical Florida pizza. Better than chain pizza like Dominos, but not as good as chain pizza at Pizza Hut. The place would last maybe 2 weeks in Chicago.
Why does anyone move down here?
At long last, the boat was as ready as we could make her for the hurricane season, the U-haul was loaded, and we said goodbye to our friends who work at the Indiantown Marina, and drove home - stopping to visit Merry's father on the way.
Okay. You should know at the very outset that this title was Merry's idea. It teases the reader (provided, of course, that the reader is really stupid) with the prospect of an encounter with a deadly, raging tornado that has sucked up a swirl of man-eating sharks and is dumping them into swimming pools filled with bikini-clad girls resulting in fearful, but for some younger male viewers strangely erotic consequences - a remote scientific impossibility depicted in the Sy-Fy channel made-for-cable TV movie which bears this title.
A much more accurate title for this article on our blog would be, "We Make Our Very Slow Way Through the Bahamas on Our Way Home Because Wiley Does Not Really Want to Go Home Yet And Is Engaging In Passive Aggressive Behavior To Keep Us In The Bahamas As Long As Possible Even Though He Knows Merry Needs To Get Home As Soon As Possible To Get Ready To Teach Her June Course at Aurora University".
We sailed from Hopetown to the anchorage at Marsh Harbor, where we bought groceries, had dinner at Mangos, and listened to the conch horns at sunset for the last time in 2013. It was here that Merry asked me what I wanted to do for my birthday, which was in two days. (An instructional note: you should never ask this question if one of the probable answers constitutes a horrifying prospect for you). I, of course, told Merry that I would like to go back to "the Wall," where three (sort of) circling Bull sharks had sent a shiver down her wet-suited spine a few weeks before, causing her to vow never to return to that location. We had discussed this over the weeks since, with me presenting the argument that we could go diving at some site miles from "the Wall" and encounter the exact same three sharks.
After all, I argued its not like the sharks own condos at 'the Wall" that they live in all the time. In the event, my "spadework" must have paid off, coupled with the implicit promise, when she asked me the question, that my birthday wish would be granted. The weather was to be nearly perfect on my birthday, and we would sail to an anchorage off Man-O'War Cay, and then get up early the next morning and sail to the anchorage near the Wall.
We had never anchored in this spot of Man O'War before and it turned out to be a neat spot. With mask, fins, and snorkel, I cleaned the bottom of the boat - an easy and fun task, in clear water and no current - and Merry and I went snorkeling. We found a huge underwater pile of conch shells - probably deposited by the Bahamian fisherman over the years - and a rock pile that was full of reef fish including a nice spotted moray eel. We then swam ashore and discovered that at this point, Man O'War is only about 100 feet across from the Sea of Abaco side to the Atlantic Ocean side. However, the Atlantic side was all sharp rocks, and although I found a spot where I think we could climb into the water even in full SCUBA gear, a pretty good surf was running, so we didn't even try to snorkel there. Of course, I am determined to try it next year, when the seas are calmer.
We had motored into the anchorage at something close to high tide, but when we left the next morning, at something approaching low tide, we barely scraped our way across the bar at the mouth of the anchorage - guess I should have looked a the chart more carefully before we went in!
We made it across, and up Loggerhead Passage to the anchorage off Fowl Key, and dropped the anchor. The anchor rode ran out very rapidly, indicating a strong current, but since it was my birthday, and we would be swimming into the current on the way to the Wall (and thus, would have the current with us on the swim back to the boat), after setting the anchor and making sure that Bruce (our 37 pound "Bruce" anchor) was not dragging we donned our wetsuits and scuba gear and entered the water by noon.
There was a strong current and surge underwater, so the swim to Grouper Pass and out to the Wall was an excellent aerobic and lower body workout. Merry again encountered and her big Grouper friend who seemed glad to see her, and swam up to her right away. When we got to the wall, guess what? It turns out that the Bull Sharks do own condos at that spot, because they were still there! We also saw Blacktip reef sharks. However, they all seemed very uninterested in us, with the exception of a single bull Shark, who followed Merry across the reef for a while. Because of the surge, we had to kick hard for much of the time, but we saw all sorts of nice corals, sponges and reef fish (in addition to the sharks). On the swim back to the boat, we were for some reason unable to locate Grouper Pass, and ended up surfacing and swimming over the reef. This was difficult because the waves were lifting us up and then setting us down on the reef, a bad thing for both the reef and us! We will take steps to make sure this never happens again.
Nonetheless it was a great dive, with 56 minutes of "bottom time" - remarkable because Merry uses a little 63 cubic foot SCUBA tank. On the whole I have to say, what a great birthday!
It wasn't even over yet. Merry had bought Italian sausage at Maxwell's in Marsh Harbor, and told me that she would cook sausage and spaghetti for my "birthday dinner". My favorite! We planned to spend the night anchored in the harbor at Treasure Cay. We could have sailed to Treasure, but we would have had to tack back and forth to get there and that would have taken longer, so I fired up "Tim McGee", our new diesel, and we motored and had the anchor down before sunset.
My birthday ended in the cockpit with a great spaghetti, a nice bottle of Chianti, and a beautiful consort. The harbor grew quiet and night descended on Treasure Cay.
Of course, Merry should treat me in this manner every day, but her unjustified fear of Bull sharks - and the lack of such sharks in Northern Illinois, where we live - keeps her from doing so.
It rained and blew for much of three days and nights while we were at Treasure Cay, but we did have some intervals to enjoy the three mile long beach, and have lunch at the bar on the beach. Merry went snorkeling off the beach in about three feet of water, and collected beautiful little shells that no else (including me) seed to notice. I had been telling myself that I was training for the Chicago Triathlon (which I had signed up for) when I swam in Hopetown, and I swam way out from the beach a Treasure Cay, until the buildings on shore were really small. This felt safe because there were no waves or current, and no boat traffic other than a few dinghys and rented jet skis.
After five nights at anchor, we finally got a clear day and mostly a good weather report, although a possibility of thunderstorms was noted. We always wait for good weather to through "the Whale". I pulled the anchor up and we left Treasure Cay. In spite of the wind and rain, our stay there was much better than on the way down the Abacos, when Merry had gotten sick.
Our passage through Loggerhead Passage and then through the Whale was beautiful and uneventful. The Atlantic was calm and at one point we could see the bottom in 40 feet of water.
We planned to anchor at No Name Cay and go ashore to see the wild pigs that live there. I anchored way out from the cay, because of my paranoia over shallow water, and we boarded Dimples and motored ashore. There was a sand beach, but inland was nothing but sharp pointy - mean limestone rock. The pigs were not in evidence.
We have now reached the tornado part. We saw a dark cloud, like a wall cloud, coming from the west so we hastened back to Dimples and got underway. We saw a funnel cloud begin to form, and reach down - it appeared the tornado was over Great Abaco Island. Just then, the little hard working - 2hp outboard motor on Dimples began to sputter a bit, which was bad, because the tornado was now on the ground. You could see the debris cloud at its base - and we were still maybe 3/4ths of a mile from Les Miserables. It dawned on me to ask Merry, "have we checked the oil on the outboard since we left Indiantown in January?". Neither of us could remember having done so, although we knew that the outboard had plenty of gas. The tornado seemed closer, but to our relief whatever had been annoying Dimples' outboard ceased, and it settled down to its usual purr, and were relieved to reach the boat. We were anchored in poor holding ground with shallows nearby, so we decided to get underway. Merry started the engine, and I concentrated on getting the anchor up. By the time I had the anchor on deck and secured, the tornado had disappeared, but we spotted a second funnel cloud not long after. Both missed us, so our remaining passage was mostly uneventful. It was still only mid-afternoon when we reached White Sound at Green Turtle Cay.
There we observed the forlorn sight of a big Beneteau sailboat hard aground in the middle of the channel. The crew told us that the deepest water was close along their starboard side, so we passed within two feet of their toe-rail and up the channel to our old haunt the Green Turtle Club and Marina.
We stayed at Green Turtle or eight nights. For most of this time, we had high winds and lots of rain. We dined, drank yellowbirds at the Green Turtle Club, rented a golf cart and drove into New Plymouth. When weather and surf allowed we went snorkeling at the Atlantic Beach or Coco bay. We wanted to go out on the dive boat from Brendal's Dive Center, but the seas on the Atlantic were too rough. We consulted the "weather guru" Chris Parker, who told us that it could be as long as two-weeks before we could have a good passage to West End. Merry began making contingency plans to fly home from the Bahamas and leave me there, so that she could teach her June class at AU. How terrible that would be for me, with nothing to do besides dive, snorkel, swim, drink yellow birds and ogle the pretty girls in their bikinis until Merry got back.
Alas, the weather changed and we departed Green Turtle on a windy, but clear day. We encountered several squalls, and had to take down the main sail at one point. At the end of the day, we anchored in the south harbor of uninhabited Great Sale Cay.
The next day we made the (for us) bold decision to attempt the Indian Cay Passage as a short cut to West End, instead of going out and around Memory Rock in deep water as we had the previous two years. The Indian Cay passage goes by Barracuda Shoal, and is narrow, shallow and tricky. We used Merry "reading the bottom" and maybe a dozen GPS waypoints, but we made it! We arrived at West End- our last port in the Bahamas -with plenty of daylight.
My fate was settled. We would be in Indiantown, Florida within a week, unloading the boat, renting a truck, and driving home to what I now perceived as a dull suburban existence.
It's better in the Bahamas.
01/27/2014, Fowl Cay Bahamas
I have been a SCUBA diver since 1969, Merry since 1974. I saw my first shark - a nurse shark - in the Florida Keys in 1970. We both saw a single Lemon Shark in the Bahamas during a "live aboard" dive trip in 1979. In the 1990's we went to the Keys a couple of times, did some snorkeling and SCUBA off Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, and saw an occasional Nurse shark. I saw a Sand Tiger shark (which is both shy and harmless) on a shipwreck off Cape Hatteras 15 years ago on a dive trip with my SCUBA club. Merry saw a Blacktip Reef Shark off of Lauderdale one time, for just a few seconds before it shot off into the murk. I was with her, but didn't see it, and was very upset because I wondered if I would ever get to see any sharks (besides Nurse sharks) again in my life. For our 30th anniversary in 2002 , we spent ten days diving in Bonaire without seeing a shark of any kind! This paragraph is an entire summary of all of our experiences with sharks prior to the arrival of Les Miserables in the Bahamas n 2012.
In 2012, we went out on a dive boat out of Green Turtle Cay, and on that dive we saw numerous Blacktip Reef Sharks and a Bull Shark.
The three most dangerous species of sharks are the Great White, the Tiger, and the Bull. Some experts think that the Bull Shark is the most dangerous of the three. In the last couple of years there have been five serious shark attacks on the coast of Florida between New Smyrna Beach and Stuart. In one incident, a kite- surfer was killed by a shark. Another incident happened at Vero Beach, while we were in the Bahamas n 2012. A 32-year-old woman was attacked near where I would go swimming almost every day while we were in Vero. Many of the local experts attributed all of these attacks to Bull sharks.
This year (2013) we saw lots of Bull sharks. We went out on the dive boat from Froggies, in Hopetown, to a dive site called "The Tombstones", which is in the Fowl Cay Reef Preserves. The "Tombstones" is a large patch reef, which has a cave. Inside the cave are two Tombstones, placed there to memorialize two deceased individuals who loved to dive there. Before the dive, the dive-boat captain told me that there was little chance that we would see a shark ("you could come out here ninety-nine times and never see one!"). We didn't see any when we dove with Froggies. However, a week later we brought Les Miserables to the site - which was tricky, because we had to pick our way through patches of reefs to get there. Not long after we started our underwater swim around the bottom of this reef, we saw a six foot Bull shark doing the same circumnavigation of the reef we were, about ten feet above us! He (or she) had a pilot fish in front of his(or her) nose, and two remoras hitching a ride.
A week later we took our boat as close as we could to another dive site in Fowl Cay Reef Preserve, called "The Wall". This is a difficult site for us to dive because the only sandy bottom suitable for us to anchor in is perhaps 750 feet from the dive site. The Wall is the point where the reef drops off from the Bahama Banks to the Atlantic Ocean. We have to snorkel from our boat to a narrow opening that goes to the Wall called Groupers Passage. We then submerge and make our way to the Wall. Last year when we were at this site, Merry made friends with a big Grouper, who seemed to love being petted by Merry. Merry had cut up some bread and put it in a zip-lock bag, to use to feed fish. The Grouper snatched the zip-lock bag away from Merry before she could even open it, and swallowed it whole. We actually reached down its throat to try to retrieve the bag, but to no avail. I told Merry later that the bag would doubtless lodge in the Grouper's stomach or intestines and kill it. We both felt bad about this, so we were delighted to encounter Merry's Grouper friend at the same spot. Merry knows for sure that it was the same Grouper because of a scar it has . After allowing time for Merry to pet her pal, we continued on, swimming toward the wall. It was there that we encountered three Bull sharks! How big were thy? Well, they were each bigger that we are. Merry claims that they were circling us. I admit that they were kind of swimming in a circle, which by coincidence had us in its middle, but believe that they were really not interested in us. I got a nice photo of each of them. While I was peering through the camera viewfinder at one shark, Merry saw another of the Bulls suddenly dart at and swallow a reef fish whole. Merry says that the shark was so fast, that if it did decide to attack, there would be no possibility whatsoever of being able to react before it was on you. The sharks got quite close to us at times - less than ten feet - and Merry wrote - 'THESE SHARKS ARE FREAKING ME OUT" on her underwater slate and showed it to me. I nodded with great enthusiasm and gave her the "okay" sign as if she had written "WOW! I LOVE SEEING BIG BULL SHARKS THIS CLOSE!" Merry finally made me understand that she wanted to "get the hell out of there" so we swam the rest of the way to the Wall, and the sharks did not follow us. At the Wall, however, we saw another large shark cruising along the Atlantic, outside the reef. As usual, by the time we made it to the Wall, we were getting low on air and had to swim back to the boat.
I took some nice photos of the sharks, and of Merry's pet Grouper, and we will try to post them as soon as we can figure out why we can't get photos on our website.