Hideko and the Mahi Mahi
15 February 2007 | Atwood Harbor
We left Flying Fish late (see a trend here?) and with a long day ahead. The problem is that I listen to weather on the SSB at 06:30 and it lasts for an hour. If we try to leave earlier, say 6AM, so that I can listen underway we have to leave in the dark. The sun is rising at about 6:30 these days. If we leave after the weather it is 8AM before we get going, and that's if everything is already ship shape. I know, excuses, excuses...
Our goal was to get to West Plana Cay for a short anchor so that we could get a nap and make Provo by 1PM the next day. Getting to the Sand Bore entrance to the Caicos Banks by 1PM was important because the bank is a 2 hour transit marked with language such as, "numerous shallow coral heads", on the charts. As we got under way I started to do some ETAs. Plana was looking like a pretty serious stretch. If we could get a bit of lift from the wind we would be able to average close to 11 knots and then it would work out. Otherwise, Plan B. We always have a plan B and often a plan C, D and E. You have to have ditch anchorages for various eventualities when cruising (weather not as forecast, lazy crew, etceteras).
We were clanging along, motor sailing, at marginally better than 9 knots and the wind was not doing much of the work. I love just sailing. It's nice to be able to motor fast and get there when you need to but there's nothing like shutting off the racket and just sailing. The racket continued and as the day drew on we began to consider Atwood harbor more seriously. Atwood is a great little harbor on the north east end of Acklins Island with perfect protection from everywhere but North and North West. We wanted coverage from the South to South East but in reality the wind was so light we could have hove to in the middle of the Atlantic and slept like logs. The problem with Atwood is that it left us with a 112 mile day on Friday, and that with an arrival target of 1PM.
As we were discussing whether to shoot for Plana or not, Hideko caught her first fish! While getting ready earlier that morning Hideko ran across a sport fisher skipper. As always she grilled the poor guy for fishing tips. He basically said, "put something in the water and the fish will bite it out here". Florida and the near Bahamas are hammered by fishermen year round. The fish there are gone or have evolved in such a way as to not bite lures much. In the far Bahamas there's no one much fishing. He said 9 knots was about perfect for trawling, we were doing 9 knots. The guy she cornered in Bimini said to use a steel leader so that the Barracuda and Wahoo don't take your lure, check. The guy she drilled in Great Harbor said to try areas between 60 and 100 feet, we were in just such a place off of the north coast of Acklins. We had 150 feet of line out to keep the lure well back of the clanking coming from the engine rooms. Everything came together.
We put the boat in neutral so as not to tear the hook out of the fish and Hideko reeled him in. When I saw it jump I knew it was a Mahi Mahi, one of our favorite fish. As Hideko got it near the boat it looked like a giant blue and green flash in the water with polarized sunglasses. I grabbed the gaff and after a couple 7 attempts finally got the fish on board. We popped him in the dinghy and got back underway. Atwood Harbor was the only sensible choice at this point.
What an amazing place. There's an outer reef that you can't see and an inner reef that breaks the surface around the opening into a perfect white sand crescent bay. We anchored smack in the middle of Atwood Harbor and had the entire place to ourselves. I took a snorkel to ensure the anchor was well set while Hideko got ready to cook dinner. Our Rocna was well buried in 10 feet of sand. When I got back aboard I cleaned Hideko's prize and threw the scraps overboard and watched a barracuda eat the big pieces while a nurse shark snarfed the little bits up off of the sand.
We watched the sunset in a flat calm with our wonderful fresh caught meal out in the cockpit. It was a magical night.