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Fishing Tips for the Bahamas

April 28th, 2011 by maciekman

If you are vegetarian because you hate people killing chickens, cows, pigs and fish, please skip this part, otherwise I am looking forward to your emails…

To fish on the sound (the deep water) you want to trawl at least two lures or more if you can to improve your odds. The surface lures are good for dorado (mahi-mahi) and deep water lures are good for wahoo and tuna. Your lures can be home-made – I made several of them from plastic garbage and landed big mahi-mahis. They can be made from pretty much any plastic trash – the colors you want are green and yellow and can also experiment with blue and black. I’ll try to put up some pictures when I have a chance. You want them to be about 7 inches long. Make your own, foot-long, stainless steel wire leaders and put a hook at least as big as your index finger. I was amazed how well it worked – I immediately stopped losing all the fish – once the fish was hooked it never got away or broke, we always got it out of the water. We use 80lbs test line and simple “cuban yo-yo” a plastic ring to reel the line on. We don’t carry any real fishing rods on our sailboat.

Best times are apparently the outgoing tide, when currents carry the small fish out of the shallow banks into the deep water bringing all predators into a feeding frenzy. Also new and full moon are thought to be best times. Rough weather and chop seems not to be a major factor – we got the fish in the rough just as well. One thing that does make a difference is the speed of the boat. Perfect trawling speed is about 7 knots, so as close to it as you can get, best chances at getting a fish. One good tip is that when you do land a fish; do not slow down the boat – if you can, make it go faster! The idea is that you retain control over the fish and not allow it to swim wildly around your keel, dinghy, prop or other places the fishing line and mahi-mahi does not belong. When you land a mahi-mahi and have need for more, i.e. you have a freezer and want to stock up, do let your line out again – mahi-mahi is rarely alone and when they bite, they bite. Please do not take more than you can eat. They are stunningly beautiful animals. To clean a large fish it’s best to file it. Make a cut around the head, by the gills, and then another cut alongside on top and another from the bottom, then take pliers, grab the skin and just peel it off from each side. Then with a sharp knife you can cut the meet off the spine into filets. This whole process is over in 10 minutes. While unpleasant to think or write about it will save you tones of time and will yield most meet in a beautiful, tasty, boneless filets. Do yourself a favour and do not overcook your fish. Everything tastes better fried, 6 minutes on each side should be enough, depending how thick are your stakes.

Lobster and spear fishing.

In the Bahamas trigger spear guns are illegal, so the two options you have is a “pole spear” or “Hawaian sling” Both do the job, but my preference is a pole spear with a single tip with a latch.

Lobster season is over last day of March. These creatures like hiding under the rocks and in various holes at the bottom in the reef. When snorkeling look for the two antennas sticking out of the hole. They seem to be blind or close to it, so take your time, but if you touch the antennas the game is over – they will crawl so deep, you’ll never get them out. Otherwise take your time – get the air and plan your approach. Make sure you have enough thrust on your spear to go through the shell. The lobster tail in garlic butter is amazing, but you will be surprised how much more meat you can get from other parts as well, so if you can boil the whole thing and pick it up later. There is a trick to cleaning up the digestive track in the lobster tail. It involves shaving up the back end one of the antennas that led you in to him in the first place. Talk about adding an insult to the injury.

There isn’t enough meat on the crab to justify their killing. So don’t do it, look at them and pass them on. But if the crab salad is your spouse non-negotiable item that you used to get them out of your home and cruising, you will find the buggers in the holes and sometimes attached to the roofs under the corral heads. They can get pretty big and can drop their legs when scarred out of their wits. A spear in the head will do that. Again, not much meat in the legs or elsewhere. Waste of animal. Satisfy yourself with finding one and show it to your snorkeling buddy. Nough said.

From the reef fish in the Bahamas grupers and snappers are tastiest. Queen fish will do, but have thick skin on them, so don’t hurt them unnecessarily. Parrot fish, if you really starving, squirrel fish, if you like the bones and don’t like the meat. If I have the time I’ll update this page later with some pics.

Ciguatera is an unpleasant disease that can ruin your holidays or your life. Yes, in rare instances it can kill you. It affects nervous system. I’ve met a family in 2003 that got sick from it and were back on their legs in a week without much more than a bad memories of being sick for few days, but it can be much nastier tan that. It is very rare though… Google it for more accurate and in-depth info, but the gist is that it results from eating a fish containing high concentration of the reef toxins accumulating in its body as a result of the feeding on the fish off the reef. Skip large baracudas and you’ll be fine. It turns out that the reef fish is not as dangerous to eat as eating the fish that feeds on the reef fish, as they tend to accumulate the toxins.

Tips on Navigation, Charts and Chart-plotters

April 28th, 2011 by maciekman

As mentioned before having a chart-plotter this time took a lot of drama out of coming through a narrow channels, cuts and inlets.

For paper charts most carry Explorer Chartbooks for the Bahamas – a set of three chart-books each covering different area. Don’t get too hang up on having the latest, if you can do, but the difference between last year and this will be minimal as far as chart coverage goes – they’ll be using the same soundings and observations from 2003 and will in either case be inaccurate, despite their claims. Same goes for electronic charts. Sea bed changes in the Bahamas are more frequent than elsewhere, especially near the cuts or after each hurricane. You’ll be reading the water and eyeballing your shallow route passages. The big name for it is VPR – visual piloting rules, and is not as difficult as one might think.

Tides in the Bahamas are not overly dramatic, in the 2.5 foot range, but the currents in the cuts, in and out of the Banks and the Sound they create can be significant. When going spearfishing or lobstering on the reef near the cuts you always want to go on a slack tide, unless you are all right with being drag with the current and wave the lobster good bye, in passing…

Tips on Food

April 28th, 2011 by maciekman

Tips on Food
Forget the Publix and other high end retail stores. If you can, find a wholesale food places near you and you slash your food costs in half. Do check expiry dates, but don’t get too hang up on these too much either, all really depending on your comfort level.

You can get a whole UHT milk in Dollar Tree in Florida for a buck a liter. It doesn’t require refrigeration and will never go bad until opened.

Fry a pack or two of bacon and stuff it into a clean glass jar and cover it with its own fat or top it up with oil if necessary, it will also stay fresh without refrigeration.

If you use flour as extensively as we do (pizzas, bread, scones, cakes) get no larger than 5 pound bags of it and put them each individually in a large ziplock bag (also available in Dollar Tree) and here is a trick: put three or four bay leafs per bag to prevent bugs from hatching – apparently any flour from anywhere can still contain a nasty surprises that are not apparent till the temperatures are high enough.

Pack a stick of butter into a clean jar and submerge it in the fresh water – it will keep fresh without refrigeration also.

Dollar Tree in Florida is probably the only real dollar store we saw – in addition to the UHT milk we also found vacuum packed salami, also for a buck (two or three dollars in Publix) it does not require refrigeration till opened.

Can openers, shredders, peelers – use the magnet to see if they really are made of stainless steel. If it sticks – don’t buy it. Bring spare, f it rusts anyways. Stainless steel from China is a very low grade.
You can preserve a caught fish, if your mahi-mahi is more than you can eat in two days – cook the fish in a sauce, sterilize the jar by boiling it or just putting a boiling water over it, place a fish in the jar and top it up with the boiling sauce, make sure all the air is gone, seal the jar and flip it upside down. Cover it with a tea towel to allow it to cool slowly. The metal lid should be convex when the seal holds. Check online for canning process, there might be a better explanation of this, but do look into it.

Preserving some meet, especially beef, before your trip will not only save your cruising dollars down the road, but also allow you to eat like a king when there are no stores around, and in the Bahamas a well provisioned stores are few and far in between. You might be cruising for three weeks without any hope for shopping.

Bahamas Weather Services

April 28th, 2011 by maciekman

Pick a cheap SSB radio receiver online or at Radio Shack – make sure it can scan high and low frequencies. Operating just a receiver does not require a license. We had a hard time to get a weather forecast just with our VHF radio. Some places like a marinas in Staniel and Highbourn Cay and also cruisers net in Georgetown will have weather in the morning at 8 am. Highbourn on VHF 6 and Georgetown on VHF72. Otherwise just ask cruisers you bump into (not literally, please:) Winter and Spring weather in the Bahamas is very moderate, but here and there you will get a nasty cold front, which means it will blow hard from the NE and you want to tuck in somewhere. Keep in mind the nasty cold front is even nastier where you would normally be in this time of the year i.e. Canada. Spending winter on your own sailboat in the Bahamas is about the best you can possibly do.

Occasionally you may have an access to the Internet (do bring an external wifi antennae for extra range), in which cases you can check the weather online. www.wunderground.com is so so, not very accurate, whereas www.passageweather.com will give you weather maps and a little better understanding of what’s coming. www.bahamasweather.org.bs is an official Bahamas dept. of meteorology website with forecasts, radar satellite imagery and tide tables.

Main weather sources on SSB is forecast given by Chris Parker, who has attracted almost a religious following. Check out his website at: www.mwxc.com for schedule. Generally 6:30am SSB4045, 7:00am 4003 from BASRA and 7:20am LSB7096 HAM Weather Net

Boat Electrics and Electronics

April 28th, 2011 by maciekman

To each its own. Go with what you have instead of waiting for a “one day..” Without getting into any real detail here, size your power needs and size your battery banks and solar/wind power generators.
If you can plan to run a fridge, which will require solar and wind power combo. You do not need to wait to go cruising if you can’t afford it. I did a yearlong stint on a 25 footer in the Caribbean without much of anything and had a blast, but this time I was able to upgrade to a bigger boat with more features and it was even better.

Having a chart plotter was amazing. It was first time I had one and made going through the inlets and cuts sooo much less scary when I was able to monitor effects of the current on the boat. Functioning depth sounder is obviously not an optional instrument – you’ll be looking at that thing constantly. Handheld GPS and VHF radio is also a must. Occasionally we would use cheap walkie-talkies when one of us went ashore to town, but could live without them.

Inverter, small laptop, external WIFI antennae with a long USB cable and cameras are very nice to have. If you are bringing a laptop you want to have that external antenna – it really made the difference.
Some friends of ours had an underwater Panasonic digital camera which was excellent both under and above the water. MP3 player with an external speaker was also great to have. We even picked up a 15” computer screen to watch our movies off the laptop, but it did not survived getting swamped by the water when we took a nosedive into the wave with our hatches left opened.

 
 
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