Boat Burn In and Lobster Fest 2007
21 January 2007 | Great Exuma
George Godfrey from Saint Francis stopped by today to give us a post sales tune up on the boat. It was a very helpful session. We bounced several ideas off of him and he answered a number of questions that had developed over our first three and a half months living aboard. We have lost several lights including the anchor light, a LED light in the transom that lights the steps for dinghy access at night, and the light at the nav station. The last two surprised me due to the fact that LEDs and Fluorescents should last for some time beyond the one year they survived on our boat. I luckily had a replacement for the transom light. I whimsically bought it at West Marine to get a look at LED lighting, thinking, "hmm, this just might work as a spare for my transom lights". I am not looking forward to messing around with the anchor light (72 feet up). The nav light is great because it is fluorescent and uses very little power. It is less than optimal because the fluorescent bulb emits a lot of RF interference and can really garble your SSB reception on some frequencies. I will probably replace it with an LED solution.
I haven't developed an optimal rig for the dinghy davit as of yet. George made several suggestions which we may try to reduce the lifting effort. Our boat has a problem with a sticky turning block in the arch that brings the lines down to the winch. This block is very hard to get to and can only be unbolted with a low profile ratchet wrench that I bought just for the task. I have been able to loosen the bolts enough to get it to spin, so other than the fact that I dumped the cover plate in No Name harbor, everything is working. George is getting us a new plate from the factory.
I bought vacuum gauges for the two Racor 500fgs we have on the boat but Duncan (the proprietor of Saint Francis Marine) indicated that the 500s are intentionally oversized and thus will probably fail to create the vacuum necessary to drive the gauges properly. Our diesel shut off valves are up in the forward locker on deck and underneath everything in the lockers. This is less than convenient when it comes to cleaning the sighting bowl or changing filters. I think I'm going to put some 3/8" shut offs in the engine room to make caring for the Racors easier. George indicated that the ABYC and CE outfits don't like the shut off near the Racor because if it were to vibrate closed it could deprive the engine of fuel in a bad situation. I will see if I can find shutoffs that can be locked open.
I noticed our starboard shrouds wagging a bit on a port tack close haul so I asked George about tensioning guidelines. I have a pretty good handle on monohull tensioning requirements but catamaran rigs are generally kept a bit more slack. This is due to the increased support provided by the additional angle afforded by the catamarans beam and the absence of a solid keel beneath the mast to cinch down on. Our boat, like most catamarans, has a double diamond system designed to keep the mast in column. After walking around the deck George advised me to tighten the lower starboard shroud and the baby stay a turn. Duncan indicated that after the crossing from South Africa and a bit of bashing to windward in the Bahamas the need for a little tensioning wasn't out of the ordinary.
After giving us a few tips on cleaning and polishing products, George headed back to the resort. He had a big night ahead with the final football playoffs attracting a large cruiser crowd. George will be sailing Calypso up to Miami for the Miami boat show in mid February.
Alex stopped by after George left to see if we were still on for fishing. I said, "of course!" I had yet to catch anything here and we were waiting for me to get in gear prior to cooking up a joint Eyran/Swingin on a Star lobster fest. I only need one good sized lobster to feed my family so the hurdle was low. No one else in the anchorage had gone out today because the swell was around 8 feet and breaking.
Hideko helped me get ready and then Alex and I took off at around 3:30PM. Many people get leery about diving as the sun sets, I on the other hand love it. Lobsters come out at night. There's also something romantic about motoring home in the fading light with supper in tow.
Back to reality, Alex and I hit the first cut to the north of the anchorage and were greeted by confused and breaking seas. Alex weaved his way out of the cut, quite a feat, and we then made our way outside. As we started to look for the reef we began to wonder how realistic it was to snorkel in the mess. One minute you'd be 20 feet above a hole, the next minute 30 feet. On minute you'd be five feet in front of the hole, the next minute you'd be five feet past it. We were also a little worried about the dinghy getting swamped, or worse the outboard getting submersed. The outside swell was breaking at the tops here and there. After a bit more looking around and consideration we decided to head back to the cut.
The cut we came out was breaking a bit too heavily at this point so we went one more up. Just at the inside of the cut we found some rocks and a little bit of reef. It didn't look like the Promised Land but Alex, always upbeat when setting out to hunt, said, "this might be lobster heaven, you never know". Skeptical, I splashed over the side of the dinghy.
The reef area was really shallow. It was kind of dangerous because there was fire coral here and there and with the surge you could be 3 feet above it one second and no feet above it the next. There were several holes and tunnels in the reef though so as long as the depth didn't prohibit them, lobsterization was likely. Before long Alex found his first. He took a shot but missed and then let me have a try (probably thinking, if I get one I'd let him go home!). I missed as well and the lobster then decided to stroll out of his hole. Cheap trick that. Alex nailed him while I scrambled to reload. It's not really yours unless you find it and shoot it, right? I think finding them is the harder part.
Disgusted at my miss I set off down reef to try to stir up something on my own. The reef quickly gave way to rock and then just the wall of the small Cay we were running along. Lots of nice Uni Sushi but no Lobster holes. I swam back to the north and realized how far I'd gone. It was a good workout with the surge and current. When I got back to where Alex was I noticed that he was fighting with a second lobster. Ok now I really had a mission. I swam north along the Cay but the reef was actually very small and ended quickly in that direction as well. A rocky bank extended underwater and out into the cut. I followed this along until I found an area in about 15 feet of water with some nice rocks and holes.
Just as I prepared to dive I sucked in a big load of salt water. My snorkel has been giving me problems for a while and so I surfaced to check it out. That's when I discovered the real problem. The swells were breaking about two feet from the ledge I was trying to explore. I figured that this probably makes the spot less traveled and more likely to bear fruit. I dove on a few spots and found nothing but Squirrel fish. A cruiser I had met the other day said that he liked Squirrel fish so I started subconsciously sizing them up. Lobster, lobster, lobster, no settling for Squirrel Fish!!
I checked another large whole and saw a crazy mix of really large tentacles and legs sticking out. What the heck is that? I dove again. Holly mackerel, was it big. I still couldn't tell if it was a Lobster, or some kind of crab I hadn't seen before, or perhaps both close together. I did know that it was big enough to eat however. I went down again with the spear cocked. As so often happens the entrance to the hole has a long flat run of rock in front of it and the critters are up in the back of the hole. I tried to get as much upward angle as I could and then fired. Two large legs popped out of the hole and dinner moved back up in the hole even farther. Arg.
Damsel fish and Wrasses began to feast on my two partial prizes immediately. What insolence. I grabbed one of the legs to look at it. I still couldn't tell what it was. I'd never seen a leg that big or that furry on a lobster. It had kind of a red fur all over the last leg segment.
Meanwhile Alex had nabbed a total of two lobsters and was motoring over my way. He was stressing a bit because he had lost sight of me due to the swell and surf. When he made it over to where I was I showed him the leg. He said some things in French that I didn't understand and then said, "where is it". We both returned to the hole.
After fifteen minutes as a team, post my initial 20 minutes of work we had nothing to show other than two more legs. This called for a strategy.
After a bit of discussion we decided to have Alex watch the front of the hole while I tried to find a way in from the back of the rock. After moving some small rocks I finally saw the beast. It was a big spiny lobster. I shot him but the barb didn't take. He moved to the front of the hole and Alex nabbed him. Victory at last. The sun had set at this point so we packed up and headed home. We had three lobster in the bucket and two in the freezer that Alex had caught over the prior few days.
Ellen cooked up the lobster and Hideko made an apple cake from my Mom's cook book. We dined on Eryan like kings. I was a nice end to a busy day.