Dolphins and Barracudas
11 April 2008 | Little San Salvador
It was an exciting day on the sea!
We set off from Fernandez Bay toward the tiny island of Little San Salvador, now owned by the Holland American Cruise line but still available to cruisers. Jim had his yoyo fishing line out as well as his rod and reel. That simple little yoyo - a line wrapped around a plastic circle - with a shiny pink and silver lure and a big hook kept attracting some big fish. Unfortunately, even though JD the hunter/gatherer pulled in 4 - count 'em - FOUR fish, they were all barracudas and we had to let them go. The thing with barracudas is that they are known to be carriers of ciguatera (a naturally occurring toxin that passes through the food chain - symptoms are numbness and tingling followed by nausea and vertigo, or paralysis in the worst case scenario.) It's rarely fatal but unpleasant enough that we don't want it! Some of the books say a fish under 5 pounds is OK; other books say as long as it is less than the length of one's arm from elbow to finger tips, it's OK, but we did not want to take the risk.
We operated as a team; Jim reeled in the fish - and it was exciting. Barracudas are silver and shiny and heavy enough to feel good on the line. They have very sharp teeth too so Jim donned heavy work gloves, I held the fish up out of the water while he grabbed it and removed the hook from its cheek and then eased it overboard and into the sea again. Each one stopped thrashing around while he was working the hook out so although the teeth looked ominous, they weren't threatening, and Jim had his lures and hooks to use again. While we wished for a fish for dinner, it was still good to catch something!
It was while Jim was sitting on the starboard deck holding his fishing pole that I noticed a dolphin leaping on our starboard side. Soon, there were 6 or 7 of them frolicking back and forth under our bowsprit as we plowed along through the water. We were doing about 6.5 knots and these beautiful creatures just played along with us. We had heard of such a thing but had never experienced it ourselves - and let me tell you, it was an experience.
They honestly seemed to be playing. They would crisscross ahead of the boat - just inches from the bow - run alongside, veer off to surface and then roll over as they crossed in front of us again. Their timing was impeccable and their ability to swim together and with the boat just amazing. We stood out on the bowsprit and could look straight down at them as they played in front of us. It lasted about 10 minutes and then they gradually peeled away - to look for another source of entertainment or perhaps to have a more leisurely swim. We were just thrilled with this display and it seemed pretty dull to go back to fishing and navigating again.
In due course we arrived at Little San Salvador, crossing behind the gigantic Carnival Imagination that was anchored off shore, and nosing in to drop our anchor in the NW corner of the bay. We watched the "boat people" play on the beach for the rest of the afternoon - riding horses, swimming, sunning, sailing hobie cats and pedaling pedal boats. Once the last launch delivered them back to the mother ship, we headed ashore ourselves to stroll along the beautiful crescent beach and marvel at the infrastructure here. There must be money in cruises because there was no shortage of shore facilities for them. This cay was bought by Holland American as a daytime playground for their cruising passengers, and although it must be felt as a loss by the small boat cruisers who loved the place for its remoteness, it is still a fine stopover on the route north to Eleuthera. We read that the firm is happy to have boats anchor here because it adds local colour and that the shore staff is polite and friendly. That was our experience. We roamed all along the beach, chatted with the three fellows on a 4-wheeler who were doing a last sweep of the beach to make sure no one was left behind, and generally nosed around the place. Despite the crowds who had been there all day, I found two really pretty shells that I hadn't seen before and we stopped to gaze at a tiny owl who swiveled his head almost all the way around as he gazed back at us.
We opened Juan's fabulous Medalla Real Special Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon and savoured every drop as we watched the sun go down. It seemed oh so appropriate that it was a brilliant orange sun that sank through the clouds and then at the very last moment turned inarguably green as it dropped below the horizon - my very first green flash!