There's More Than One Way to Catch a Fish
27 March 2010 | Flamingo Cay, Jumentos
Beth / 89 in the shade!
We started to rock and roll and experienced a 10 minute downpour around 6:30 this morning as a minor front passed through. I had started some of "Pat's Bread" the night before, and as we listened to Chris Parker at 6:30, I punched down the dough and shaped it into loaves, and the cabin had that lovely yeasty smell mixed with the aroma of fresh coffee as we thought about what to do next. Jim and I were both loathe to turn around and head back to Salt Pond, Long Island because of our motorless dinghy. We just got here! The swell made staying here unpleasant, and if we weren't going back the only other choice was to go forward. Accordingly, we upanchored at 0940 and set a course for Flamingo Cay.
The main was up but it didn't do us any good and we motored along in 3-4 foot swells for the 3 hour trip. Bracing myself against the companionway steps, I popped the bread in the oven as we travelled and we were able to enjoy slabs of fresh warm bread, creamy butter and homemade rhubarb jam (my last jar) for lunch. Mmmmmmm.
Four boats were already anchored by the two palms so we went to the next beach down - partly for space, and partly because we could get in closer to the beach and the little cave. Being rowers now, proximity is important!
The folks from Kanaloa came by to say hello on their way back from the beach and, after making sure our anchor was well set, we weren't long getting ashore ourselves. We snorkeled over to the little cave and looked up through the breaks in the ceiling to see daylight and drifted over one coral head where there were a few fish, but without a motor on the dinghy we couldn't really go exploring. I was disappointed that there were no shells on the beach, but at least we got exercise, both in the water and climbing the trail to the new light on the hill where we had a terrific view north and south along the cay. Dot's Way came in too, having found that the swell continued to be uncomfortable at Water Cay.
The absolute best part of the day happened next. We were back onboard and about to settle in with our books for a late afternoon read when a fishing skiff with Justin and Dominic on board came cruising toward us. As we waved, they snugged up against us and asked if we wanted some fish. Of course we wanted fish!
Their cooler was filled with good looking, amber coloured hogfish, not-so-pretty but very tasty grouper, snapper, and some big lobsters. We offered beer and settled on a price of $25 for a couple of big hogfish that Dominic proceeded to clean and fillet. As we talked, we learned that these guys are out of Salt Pond, Long Island (Dominic is originally from Dominican Republic), that they fish with spears not lines, diving with a line to an onboard compressor (a hookah), that the fish is frozen on their boats, sold to the packing house in Long Island and then shipped to Nassau. The African market hurts them - flooding the market with lower priced fish. We have also learned that there is some degree of dissension between the Ragged Islanders and the fellows who come over here from Long Island. As Dominic worked, he sluiced off his cutting board (cooler top) with scoops of sea water, dipped his knife overboard to rinse it, and then handed the bucket to Justin who scooped the water from the stern floor and tossed it overboard. Clean up is such a breeze on a boat!
Once the hogfish was cleaned and in my big bowl along with a huge crawfish tail (and instructions for seasoning and baking) Dominic suggested that we really needed some conch. You have to picture this solidly built man - black, black skin with sparkling eyes, shiny strong white teeth and an ear to ear smile sitting up tall and pronouncing in his big deep voice, "Conch GOOD for you!" (Conch is reputed to have all kinds of good effects on many body parts!) We have yet to learn to clean conch so how could we help answering, "OK - we'll take some conch too." With that, Dominic started telling me how to make conch salad and then announced that he would make the salad right there for me. When I asked Justin (at the helm of the skiff) if they had time, he smiled, gazed around the bay and with a shrug of his shoulders drawled, "We got time" just as if I had asked some kind of idiot question. We were having an experience here!
With that, I handed over a clean bowl, and as Dominic called out items, I fished around in fridge and produce baskets for onion, sweet pepper, hot peppers, tomato, apple (apple?), lemon, and apologized for not having any more oranges. Dominic diced 3 conchs and the green pepper on the top of his cooler, and the apple, tomato and onion right in his hand - slicing this way, that way and then again in layers so that the diced bits fell neatly into the bowl. His knife was so sharp it cut the vegetables like butter and I marvelled at his control. I had never put apple in conch salad but it worked really well. With a squeeze of lemon and a flourish of the hot pepper shaker, "You want HOT??" he grinned and handed over the bowl. Oh it was goooood - even without the orange. And it was all the better for being made by the fisherman right in his boat.
Sure, we can work harder at catching fish, but how could we ever beat the story that comes with the fish when we get them this way? Matchless!