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Four Days at Allans-Pensacola Cay

April 28, 2014    ( PICTURES WILL BE POSTED AT A LATER DATE)

The light wind remained steady during the night last night but when the current shifted we heard the water slapping against the outside hull of the boat. White Swan’s shallow draft (only 18 inches beneath the water’s surface versus 3 to 7 feet or more on other boats) is a huge advantage as a cruising vessel; but, there are downsides to her features as well, one of which is the sound of the water slapping on the hulls. (A hull is the main body of a boat, including the deck, sides, and bottom. White Swan is a catamaran and she has two hulls parallel to each other versus a monohull boat with just one hull. A catamaran is also referred to as a multihull, as is a trimaran with three hulls.) Some times the water slapping the hulls can be light and sound like a lullaby during the night. But, last night was not one of those nights. I only add this comment to my writing so you realize the cruising life does not always provide a surreal journey. As with living on land, living on the water can have downsides. That’s LIFE. Gary and I consider any downside to our retired “salt life” to be minimal to anything we have ever experienced on land.

The rough ride during our sleeping hours was quickly rewarded with a stunning sunrise of baby blue, pink, and mauve, with the white fluffiness of cumulus clouds intermingling the pastel colors. Ah… Salt Life! What a way to start a day, with lattes in hand and nature’s beauty to behold.

Our anchorage destination for the evening was a full days travel, so we left Great Sale Cay early in the morning. “Early” has become around 8:00 AM since we retired. Any hour before that is “extremely early”.

We were able to sail part way before the wind died down to the point of having to turn on the engine and motor. Gary fished part of the time. The good news is he caught a nicely sized blue runner, which we skillfully cleaned and prepared for lunch. The bad news is he caught three barracudas, which increased in size with each catch. The last one was approximately four feet long. He was so heavy the hook tore out of his mouth as Gary tried to lift him up with the net. Poor fish. Lucky Gary. The bigger the barracuda, the bigger the teeth!

Before going into our anchorage, we motored to the ocean side of Umbrella Cay. When we visited this uninhabited island in 2011 with Ed and Cheryl, we found a path that went from the Sea of Abaco side of the island, through the small island, to the ocean. There we found a lot of sea glass, which Cheryl and I used to make necklace pendants. When Gary and I returned to this island in 2013, we could not find the path. We searched the whole side facing the Sea of Abaco to no avail. When we tried to walk around the island, the sharp jagged surface of the dead coral island prevented the venture. On April 28, 2014 the tide and wind was conducive to traversing the inlet between Moraine Cay and Umbrella Cay providing an opportunity for us to see what the ocean side of Umbrella Cay looked like, and possibly find a spot to land our dinghy so we could go ashore to look for sea glass. We did find a very small beach, since it was low tide. It probably would not have been seen at all at high tide. We anchored the boat as close to shore as we safely could and took the dinghy in to the small island. We had to hop out of the dinghy when we got fairly close to shore because the bottom of the shore line was rocky, and our dinghy has a soft inflatable bottom which could have been punctured by the rocks. We’ve discussed getting a hard bottom dinghy for this very reason, but there is always something else requiring costly repair or maintenance on the boat. Gary keeps a repair kit for our inflatable dinghy in the dinghy, and we have had only had to use it once.

I was disappointed we found no sea glass worth keeping on the ocean side of Umbrella Cay. However, I found a very lovely queen conch shell and a large nice whelk shell. One of my little neighbor girls requested a whelk shell as a souvenir, so that one has Sofie’s name on it. Her sister, Bella requested a sand dollar as her souvenir. That request will be more of a challenge because I have seen very few sand dollars in the Abacos, and only at one particular island. Hopefully, there will be one, lying on the beach of that island, with Bella’s name on it.

One of Gary’s reasons for wanting to go ocean side was to fish through the inlet. He was disappointed when he caught nothing going or coming back through the pass. He is anxiously awaiting his first BIG edible catch. We had to eat grilled chicken that evening, much to my fisherman’s dismay.

The anchorage at Allans-Pensacola Cay was a short run from Umbrella Cay, and the anchor was dropped at 4:30 PM. This anchorage is my favorite among the uninhabited islands of the Abacos. I love to walk the path through the island that goes to the ocean. The ocean side beach is cluttered with signs hanging from trees with boat names and crew names written on an eclectic mix of signage. We had left our contributions twice before, and surely there will be another before our departure.

The beaches of Allans-Pensacola Cay, in the past, have offered various shells as well as nice pieces of sea glass, so I am anxious to see what we find this year.

After dinner, we sat on the hammock at the stern of our boat and watched a lightening show on the horizon as a storm slipped by us in the distance.

 

April 29, 2014
A Lazy Day at Allans-Pensacola Cay

We lazed away most of the day, since we had been traveling the four days prior. By late afternoon, we decided to beach-comb the sea side of Allans-Pensacola, saving our favorite part of the island, the ocean side, for another day. We also beach-combed Guineaman Cay, a small neighboring island.

We found numerous abandoned milk conch shells, which we kept. Upon finding shells with live milk conchs inside, we rescued them, placing them back in the water, probably to be displaced again onto the beach at the next high tide.

Sea-biscuits littered the shore as well. These beautiful shells make a marvelous display when numerous ones are put in a clear cylinder vase.

Only one queen conch shell was worthy of its taking. As we have collected sea shells over the years, I’ve become more selective in what I take home to add to our decor, or give away as gifts.

On our way to the beach, we stopped by the only other boat in the anchorage, a 26′ Balboa, to say hello to its captain and introduce ourselves. We met an interesting lady sailor, named Diny (“i” pronounced the European way, like a long “e”), who single-hands her sailboat named Adventure Quest. She originally came from Holland, she has homes in Colorado and California. She said she had not been home for a long time, so we assumed she had been cruising aboard her boat for quite some time. Her dinghy was a Hobie kayak with one small sail and foot pedals like on a bicycle, used instead of paddles, to make it move. We saw her expertly maneuver it around the anchorage.

During our introductory conversation, Diny talked about snorkeling at Umbrella Cay. I thought to myself, “what a courageous lady, sailing and snorkeling by herself.” Honestly, every time I snorkel, I always think about there being more sharks in the Bahamas than anywhere else in the world. That information came from a marine biologist professor whom we met in Hopetown, Abaco, Bahamas in 2011. With that knowledge in mind, I think I’m pretty brave every time I get in the Bahamian water with Gary. And this lady snorkels by herself!

When we returned to White Swan, Gary got in the water and worked on scraping the green growth and barnacles off the bottom of the boat. He wants to work on it a little at a time while we are in the Bahamas, so it will be cleaned off by the time we go back to Florida.

Evidence in the sky of stormy weather surrounded us that evening. Fortunately, we only got a light shower of rain. We couldn’t pick up the local weather reports with either our Sirius weather service on our chart plotter or any local radio station while we were at Allan-Pensacola. We had to translate information received from Sirius about the Gulf Stream, and watch the sky, to predict our weather.

 

April 30, 2014

Ocean Side of Allans-Pensacola Cay

With a picnic lunch in our backpack, and snorkel gear in a mesh dive bag, we hopped in the dinghy and rode to S/V Adventure Quest, picked up Diny, and went ashore. We were happy to have Diny’s company.

It is always fun to guide new participants on the trail through the island to get ocean side. Their reactions to seeing all the signs hung in the trees as soon as one gets to the ocean side is always similar to our own initial reaction at seeing it for the first time in 2011. We took with us an indelible ink marker so we could write our names and boat name on a sign hung by someone else, but the sun had totally bleached out the prior writing. We had written our info on signs two times previously, but they too were faded to nothingness. All the more reason to return every year to leave our mark anew. This year we left our mark on an old bath brush. Diny used a big blue plastic jug on which to write her info. It was just a fun, silly thing to do, and for us it’s become a tradition.

All three of us cooled off in the clear water of the ocean. I left Diny and Gary floating in the refreshing water while I walked the shoreline looking for sea glass. I found a few good pieces, and the pieces that were still too shiny and had sharp edges I tossed back into the ocean for more tumbling.

We sat in the shade under some trees to have our picnic lunch. Conversation flowed easily as we got to know each other better. Diny is a fascinating person, with many tales of her world travels and life experiences. I told her she should write a book, but she expressed no interest in doing so.

Gary snorkeled while Diny went with me to a cove we had found the first time we visited the island. The low tide made it possible for us to walk around the shoreline of the cove to look for shells and sea glass. As Cheryl taught me in 2011, I taught Diny what good sea glass looks like. Upon finding a sea-biscuit and showing it to her, Diny wanted one for herself so we looked for one for her as well. We ended up finding another one rolling in the surf on the ocean side. Diny was happy with the beauty of it and pleased to have found a unique souvenir.

We found Gary where we had previously stopped to have our picnic. He did not snorkel very long because the current was too strong. We gathered all our things, stopped by the “signing tree” again to read more signs, and then hiked back to the Sea of Abaco side of the island where we were anchored. Gary had the forethought to leave the dinghy in the water with an anchor off the stern and the bow tied to a tree, rknowing the tide would be receding while we went on our excursion. When we got back to the dinghy it was dry docked, so we had to pick it up and carry it out to the water. It was great having Diny with us to assist with the procedure. Gary lifted the outboard motor up, while Diny and I lifted from the sides.

We had such a grand afternoon visiting with Diny, we invited her over to White Swan for happy hour and dinner, enabling more familiarity with our new found friend.

 

May 1, 2014
Conchy Glenns

After lunch we took the dinghy over to Adventure Quest and picked up Diny and went to shore to hike the path to the ocean side of Allans-Pensacola. Diny went by herself to explore more of the island. Gary wanted to hunt live conch in the ocean, and he took all the necessary tools to clean them once he had found them: a hammer, screw driver, pliers, a fish knife, and a gallon zip lock bag to put the meat in. This was a man on a mission.

Gary had seen some conch the previous day while he was snorkeling. So he and I ventured out into the water quite a ways from the shore to find conch. We took a mesh bag with us in which to carry them back to shore.

Gary found the first conch, which looks like a grassy bumpy mound on the ocean’s floor. He easily free-dived down 10-15 feet and flipped the grassy shell over to see if it had a live conch in it. The foot of the conch pulled back into it’s shell, telling Gary it was indeed what he was hunting, so he picked it up and brought it to the water’s surface. We placed it in our mesh bag, and it was so big it filled half the bag. I spotted the next conch, and we repeated the process, filling our bag with just two conchs.

Finding conchs in the ocean was too much fun to quit looking. However, we had to stop after finding two more, because our load was getting too heavy.

Our next task was to get them out of their shells. We had only observed this process and had never actually done it before. We knew we needed to punch a hole through the shell and cut the muscle attached to the shell so we could extract the conch through the opening at lip of the shell. We may not have performed the process perfectly, but we managed to retrieve the conchs from their shells by using the flat tip screw driver as a chisel and beating it with a hammer to put the necessary hole in the shell just large enough to slip the fishing knife in it to cut the muscle away from the shell. Then we were able to use the pliers to pull the conch out. Voila! We were so proud of ourselves and celebratory high-fives went flying!

Gary and I had a hard time killing the conchs, and the fishes. This was the first time I’d ever killed anything, other than bugs and spiders, and a rabbit I accidentally hit while driving when I was a teenager. To ease our minds about taking their lives, we would thank the sea creature for its life and for giving us sustenance. Now I get why the American Indians prayed for the animal’s spirit before they would kill it. It is so easy to go to the supermarket and buy meat, fish, and poultry and not think about the person who killed it. When you see the thing looking at you, or feel it’s pulse in your hand before you kill it, it’s a different story. I can better understand now why animal rights activists and vegans are sometimes dogmatic about their platforms. Experience does open one’s mind to different ways of thinking. However, are the Glenns still going to eat meat, fish, and poultry? You bet!

We threw the part of the conch that isn’t edible for humans back into the ocean, and it wasn’t long before a shark came close to shore and consumed it. The shark was respectful enough to not eat us while we were in his territory hunting for the conchs, so he deserved to have a good meal in return for the favor.

We had our bounty in a ziplock bag, in our cooler backpack, and were ready to go back to the boat to finish cleaning them, but Diny had not returned from her adventure. So I stayed and cleaned one of the conchs while Gary went to find Diny. A short time later they returned and she was impressed with our catch. She also found some nice items from the ocean on her excursion: sea-biscuits, a beautiful queen conch shell, and a couple really nice pieces of sea glass. She gave the sea glass to me, so I told her I would make them into pendants for her and send them to her if she is ever in one place long enough where I could mail them to her. She plans on cruising in the Bahamas until July or August, and sometime in August she is going to Indonesia. Diny is such a fascinating free-spirited woman.

We couldn’t leave our empty conch shells on the beach since they were “our first”. So we packed them up with everything else we had to carry and schlepped them back to the other side of the island.

We invited Diny to dinner so she could partake of the day’s catch, accompanied by black beans and rice. She was delighted to receive the invitation. Gary made plans with her to pick her up with our dinghy at 5:30. I finished cleaning and thinly sliced the conch before Gary went to get Diny. We waited until she got to the boat to “beat” the conch with a meat tenderizer mallet. We thought she would want to see the process, which she did enjoy, and also she helped Gary with the task of beating the conch. The more the beaten conch looks like lace, the more tender it is. The two of them did a great job because the “cracked conch” was tender and perfect.

Last year when I fried cracked conch for the flotilla group, the batter came off the conch while frying. I’ve since learned, from watching a cooking show on TV, to dredge the conch (fish, chicken, whatever) in flour, then dredge it in whatever wet ingredient you are using (I used beer), and then dredge it again in flour, before placing it in hot oil to fry. This method worked perfectly.

Before Gary had gone to get Diny to bring her to White Swan for dinner, I finished cleaning and thinly sliced the conch while Gary worked on stringing our fresh conch shells so they could hang over the edge of the boat allowing fish and other sea creatures to eat whatever conch was left in them. Otherwise, the shells would have not only drawn flies, they would have become quite stinky. He couldn’t get the string through two of them so we ended up just throwing them into the clear water for the night. Easily seen, Gary dove down and picked them up before leaving the anchorage the next day. We thought the effort in keeping the four queen conch shells would be worth it. We had a feeling they would always be our favorite souvenirs, reminding us of an awesome day at our favorite uninhabited island, Allans-Pensacola Cay.

One Comment

  1. Beverley & Don says:

    OMG……Don & I really love reading your about your adventures. It brings back so many wonderful memories for us. Love the conch story. Maybe we can find some good cracked conch when you return to Melbourne, although it can never taste as good as your own! I had a great collection of sea glass, sand dollars, etc… unfortunately it is long gone, but I always have the memories of the collecting! Well I’ll be off, can’t wait for the pics!
    Bev & Don

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