The Doldrums

Ambler Isle
V and S
Mon 24 Jan 2011 14:07
First Lobster of Season
Underside of First Lobster of Season
Jan. 19, 2011
In a sailing vessel with no engines, the doldrums were a huge problem.  They were sometimes stalled for days and weeks waiting for the winds to return.  However, for us, the cruising boaters in the Bahamas, the doldrums were a delight.  The winds lessened and lessened, til almost non existent. That evening the full moon rose.  With no ripples on the water surface, the moonlight reflected off the sea floor revealing blades of seagrass, crab holes, conch, seashells, and an occasional fish.  Although anchored in 12' of water, the clear water seemed much shallower, maybe 3' or less.  It was like we were anchored in a well tended aquarium.  I awoke several times and went outside to see.  Nothing had changed.  In the morning the eerie stillness continued.  Looking out 100' in every direction from the boat, I saw no trash in the water.  Not one bottle, not one can.  Thousands of boats anchor here every season, and not one person had thrown trash overboard!  What a tribute to these cruising boaters and how much they love this very special place. 
We loaded up the dinghy for the third day in a row.  This time with diving gear.  Heading due west, we anchored 10 miles offshore in 10' of water. We could not see land in any direction.  The water was a little cool for our liking, so we donned our skins, then our wetsuits before slipping into the sea. The ripple free surface allowed us to see everything.   Instantly transformed to this wet world; we were treated to 1000s of fish of every description.  Triggers, angelfish, damsels, tangs, grunts, jacks, squirrel fish, and more.  And of course the lionfish.  Everywhere.  Valt promptly speared a lobster, our first of the season.  We moved the boat to a different reef. There was a highway of fish, coming and going on their fishy business.  Valt even spied a Nassau Grouper, one of our favorites.  But season on grouper is closed until March 1.  This species of fish aggregates during this time.  What does this mean?  They gather into huge groups for spawning.  Tucker Rolle of Compass Cay Marina said when he was a boy they'd row out onto the banks and see grouper so thick they bumped into each other.  They were layered in tiers all the way to the bottom of the sea.  Easy picking for a fisherman.  In Florida, the Nassau Grouper is endangered, and they are not legal to fish at anytime.  Florida also has no conch left.   Maybe the Bahamas can avoid this.
As usual when the sea is calm a while, the winds must kick up. We normally anchor on the west side of the island, so a westerly wind can be troublesome.  Sunday's forecast is for SW winds up to 20k.  So we weighed anchor and took the boat about 1 mile away to the other side of Big Major's Spot.  A barrier island, Little Major's Spot, protects from ocean surge.  A dozen boats were already here.  The Staniel Cay Yacht Club routinely evicts all docked boats when a rough westerly is forecast.  Seeing the Yacht Club vacant of boats, we were glad to move.  We found a nice spot, dropped anchor, let out 100' of chain,  and immediately felt it set.  Still, we launched the dinghy and checked the anchor set with the glass bottomed "lookie" bucket.  It was buried. A depth check around our anchor chain perimeter showed the shallowest water was 6'.  Good enough is we swung over it.  On our way back to the boat, we stopped to say hi to Carleigh, a 45' trawler nearby.  They are friends with Bob and Penny on 50' power catamaran, Pretty Penny.  Today would be a work day.  Maybe we'd go to Staniel to refuel the dinghy and check for vegetables.  The supply boat, Captain C makes a stop there on Friday.