Monday, August 31, 2009

Beautiful day at Albuquerque Cays... with sharks

A lazy day today. Mostly lounging around reading books until after lunch. Then big event of the day was exploration of the reef system and a snorkel. A break in the trade winds today allowed for extended exploration in the dinghy as the wind waves were small with almost no wind. Our goals were to find a southern pass from the cays for our intended departure in a few days and then try to find the best place to try to catch dinner. In good light the pass to the SW looks pretty straight forward. Perhaps, we list WP's in a future post if we find a good enough route. Granted we only need about three feet of water to float the boat so traveling across relatively shallow patches is not as critical as it would have been on our mono-hull with 7'-6" draft.

We also looked at lots of prospective snorkel sites by "sticking our heads in the water" from the dinghy. Finally, we discovered a patch of coral with depths ranging from about 1 meter to 11 meters with nice live coral and good visibility. Perfect for spear fishing and lobster hunting. Kathy was out for the lobster and I on a hunt for grouper. Within a few minutes Kathy spotted a nice 3 pound lobster and I helped speared it. Turning to head for the dinghy I swam about 50' from Kathy and came face to face with a 4-5' grey reef shark. Apparently, the shark also enjoys lobster as he was very interested in my catch. I held the lobster out of the water and hoped for the best. At about 10' away the shark flinched and turned tail. Whew! Then I look to my right and there is another shark. Yikes! I pop my head up and yell at Kathy. SHARK!! Before I know it she passes me on the way back to the dingy.

It's good to see sharks as you know the reef habitat is pristine when apex predators like sharks are abundant. These sharks intended no malice they were most likely just curious and a bit excited by the death throws of the lobster. Still it gives you a bit of a shock to see sharks up close as the water magnifies their size and they seem more intimidating. It takes time to get used to the presence of sharks. We eventually got used to sharks in the South Pacific, but this was only the second or third time we've seen sharks other than nurse sharks in the Caribbean. Nurse sharks are overly abundant we see them routinely... they are pretty much harmless. We also spotted a 2' green turtle on the reef hiding under a coral shelf. The turtle was backed into a corner so we could get a really close up look.... was he hiding from the sharks?

The draw of more big lobsters had us back in the water in a few minutes and our grey shark friends continued to keep an eye on us as we pursued the reef for more lobster. Needless to say, I abstained from shooting at any fish as I'm sure the temptation of an injured fish on the spear would have proved too much for these curious sharks. Spear fishing with sharks around can give rise to encounters of the unwanted kind. I've heard that 90% of shark bites are obtained by spear fishermen.

After picking up a second lobster we moved to a new reef where I speared a smaller lobster and then got a nice grouper. Mission accomplished we headed for home before the sharks picked up the sent of fresh grouper blood in the water.

Lobster tail appetizers and grouper for dinner with a side of quinoa and a fresh tomato, cucumber garlic salad.

Life is good!

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