Flying south from Florida it is always a surprise. I
know the colors are intense and glorious, but it always
results in an audible gasp of delight from me. We live
on the West Coast and Hood Canal, part of the Pacific
Ocean, is just out my window. Trust me, there are no
colors which look anything like the turquoise, aqua-marine,
azure and emerald colors of the waters surrounding the
Bahamas. Not only that, but the water is so clear! You
can spot rocks, fish, sea fans in deep water - clearly.
One of the places we fished was just south of the Congo
Town small boat harbor, a US Navy installation on a tiny
island called "The Rats Nest." There is a deep harbor,
blasted out to accommodate large Navy ships. We fished
it because on the tide change, bonefish come from deep
water to feed in shallow water. One could literally walk
off the shallow and drop who knows how deep into the harbor.
JC was on deck to cast, and I sat fascinated as a large sea
turtle came from the deep and swam by. Really neat! I know
we have at least one Navy FAOL reader on Andros, and if you
are on the Rats Nest, I did wave!
I mentioned walking the beach in a storm in my column last
week, but didn't quite tell the whole story. It was raining
and blowing sideways. Since I wear glasses (and wouldn't
dare go out without them) it took less than twenty feet
for my vision to be pretty much wiped out. I had worn a
windbreaker jacket, suplex shorts and I was soaked to the
skin in short order. But hey, it was warm and I'm not
going to melt, so I walked looking for anything which might
have been stranded in a tidal pool and did find a few neat
shells and some coral.
We've brought home a little piece of coral from each Bahama
trip, and this time it was some very fine pieces of branch
coral. I saw several large, head-sized lumps of brain coral
on the beach as well. There is one mystery piece we brought
home - it looks like a petrified rib bone from a whale. I
guess I don't really want to know what it is, more fun to
On one of the wind days, we were sitting on the veranda
having coffee when JC saw a small shell moving down the
walkway. When he approached it, it stopped of course.
He grabbed the digital camera, picked the shell up
carefully and placed it where he could get a photo.
I guess we need a second digital camera, because the
mental picture I have of him sitting on the walk, camera
ready was almost as good as the real photo of the critter - a
hermit crab. After the photo I took it down to the beach
where it could find dinner. Watching the little crab was
very neat. It would hide under the shell, and after some
time elapsed, one eye (on a stalk) would appear. Then
the second one, and the claws and legs.
The Bahamas has some neat little, non-threatening critters.
The curly and straight tail lizards. We didn't see the curly tails
on this trip, but there were some of the little straight
tails around, the largest was about 6 inches long. They
are amazing with their speed and ability to change color.
(There aren't any poisonous snakes either.)
There are a large variety and number of orchids on South
Andros, and it was an awful temptation on the walking tour
to pluck off a couple of the large seed pods. Those orchids
were healthier than I ones I manage to kill at home. I do
love the flowers, but I just don't seem to get it right.
So I left them where they where and wondered when the
blooming time is. Should be spectacular.
One of the workmen had a box of black land crabs (dinner)
sitting in the shade. I inquired and was told there are
two varieties, the white ones (in last week's article) and
the smaller black ones. Some of the locals make a living
hunting and selling them. Not so different from the folks
up here who 'fish' for our Dungeness crab. The prices
seemed to be about equal as well.
JC had conch fritters, conch chowder, and even a wonderful
conch salad one night. I love the taste, but it's one of
those things my system doesn't tolerate (along with oysters,
clams, calamari) so I'm stuck with drooling while he enjoys it.
We saw a couple of guys on one of the fishing days who
were collecting conch. One fellow was managing the boat
and removing the conch from the long stick with a hook
the conch fisherman found. Conch is sometimes collected
and kept in net pens where there is enough current to
keep them healthy. There is a big market for them.
On the days we fished, we saw maybe one or two boats the
whole day. Only one of them was another bonefisher with
a guide. Just not the pressure on the flats there - but
considering the size of the flats, one could probably put
50 boats out on one day and still not see each other.
Having grown up around boats of various sizes on Lakes
Huron and Michigan, the pure joy of skimming across that
turquoise water is still as wonderful as it was when I
was a kid. We got a bit wet running back across some
open water one afternoon, and were absolutely dry by
the time we got back to the dock. Good for the soul.
Water was 82, air was 90.
Oh, and I don't want to forget this; the civility and
courtesy of the Bahamians is outstanding. You don't
hear the 'slang' so prevalent in the U.S., nor any
swearing. They say 'please' and 'thank you.' We came
back to the dock one afternoon and it was hot. JC was
a bit weary and there was some shade at a little
building right by the dock. I asked the gentlemen
standing and sitting there if we could share their
shade. Two stood up, wiped off their white plastic lawn
chairs and gave us a place to sit in the shade while we
took our rods apart and waited for our ride back to the
lodge. Courtesy is not dead in the Bahamas...it is alive
and very well thank you. We love the Bahamian people,
most are hardworking, (and it's not an easy place to make
a living in the 'out islands') very friendly and most of
all happy. Of course it might be difficult to be miserable
living in Paradise, but they sing, and hum. And smile a
lot. It is who they are and I admire it a great deal.
Confession time. I did catch a very small bonefish. It
wasn't what I was aiming for, but heck, what can I say.
This little guy was less than twelve inches, and spooled
me once! On an 8 wt! Bonefish are incredibly strong fish.
I have a sneaky thought. One could take a light rod, say
a 4 wt, and fish to schools of little bonefish all day.
I think you would have all the fishing you would want.
Fortunately there are big fish, but wouldn't that be a
fun way to get an introduction to bonefishing?
Never assume anything - especially in a foreign country.
One might expect that things with the same name would be
similar, right? Well, not. Sharon who took us on the
walking tour of the inland blue holes mentioned she filled
in at the bakery at the Bluffs (local town). Since we
were flying out a day later, she asked if she could bring
us anything. I said that would be neat, I'd love a couple
of cinnamon rolls since we would be leaving before breakfast.
She mentioned the best seller at the bakery was their coconut
tarts. I gave that a little thought and decided it would be
a nice dessert treat for the folks at the lodge and ordered
some. By late evening it appeared the tarts weren't going
to show up, so I didn't say anything about them. We were
in bed with the television on, and about 11:30 p.m. there
was a knock at the door. I got up and Jodi, the night
security man was there with a brown paper bag. He handed me
the bag and said Sharon had dropped this off for us. I
thanked him and took the bag inside. There were two very
nice cinnamon rolls, individually wrapped in saran wrap.
And...well, it's hard to describe. Two individually wrapped
things, round, about eight inches long, and maybe two inches
across. I didn't have a clue. At the airport the next
morning I explained it to Anders who came by to see us off,
and discovered the strange things were - coconut tarts.
The locals break them in half and eat them like a donut.
They were filled in the middle with coconut, brown sugar
and a little cinnamon. Interesting to say the least.
The next time I think I know what something is, I might
even ask anyway. It sure was a lovely thing for Sharon
to do even if I didn't know what I was doing. They passed
through Customs with a yellow inspection sticker on the bag
and we had them with coffee for our breakfast. I never
even had a chance to pay her for them.
While I'm on the topic of food, we did see something else
I thought was interesting. Sunday morning many of the
workers were having soup for breakfast. Chicken soup,
but not as we had seen before. This was chopped up
chunks of chicken in broth, with the bones and potato.
There probably were more ingredients, but I know that
much for sure. Brendan, the Manager of the Ritz Beach
Resort at South Andros, later explained it is a very
common Bahamian breakfast, and is also done with mutton
and I think pigs feet. They call it 'sous,' not soup.
Very hearty he said, so you really didn't need anything
else until dinner.
I must also admit that sometimes I am very dense. There
is cable television in the lodge rooms, and the main channel
is the WB Network. It took me a few days to 'discover'
that programs featuring black people might be very popular
in a country which has mostly blacks. Duh. The problem
really is I don't equate Bahamians with being black. It's
certainly a different culture than what we see in the U.S.
as black. One of the other channels carried the
International News. It was interesting to see some
of the reporting of events, and I thought I noticed
a bias against the U.S. After seeing it a couple of
times I looked for a credit as to where it originated.
It was Canada. Even world opinion is managed.
Our red eye flight from Seattle all the way to South Andros
did include one 'meal.' Breakfast. Fair warning if you
fly Continental, breakfast consisted of a muffin. Period.
Until we had dinner that night we had no other food...and
the plane changes, customs, immigration in the Bahamas did
not allow time for a search of the airports for chow. We
won't make that mistake again. But knowing that, and
seeing 'dinner' listed on the return flight from Houston
to Seattle, we found a Chili's at the Houston airport and
ate heartily. Having a pastrami and cheese sandwich wasn't
such a shock as 'dinner.' Unfortunately, we're old enough
to remember when flights actually served food. This is
not progress. It also was not 'dinner.'
On the nature walk with Sharon, she pointed out an unusual
tree. It was similar to our paper birch in appearance,
except it was red. She confided the locals call it the
'tourist tree' since it is red and peeling. I looked like
a tourist tree after forgetting the Bull Frog Sun-Screen
on my forehead and chin one morning.
Wind and storms may be more prevalent at one time of the
year, but we really didn't make any 'wind-day' plans.
When my girls were children we carried a box, the
'rainy-day box' which was just for stuck-indoor purposes.
Next trip I'll do a better job and take a bird book
appropriate for the region and a shell book too! In
fact, I used to make a living as a watercolor artist
and a good watercolor pad, some paints and brushes take
up almost no room at all. If I actually take them it
is almost insurance that it won't rain or blow.
We haven't encountered many bugs of the biting variety
on Andros, but there are some tiny little black sand
flies which come out at twilight. They do bite. We
took some of the Ultrathon cream with us and it works
like a charm. Our host Brendan had not seen it, so we
left it with him and he will carry it in their Gift Shop
with some necessary items for fly fishers. We have heard
about the 'doctor flies' of summer, supposed to be very
nasty, and since the Ultrathon works so well it may be
the solution for those as well. It was created for the
We really traveled light, all the fly fishing gear in one
bag, two small bags on wheels which also contained our
down pillows (yes I know, but I sleep better) and clothes.
Next time more shorts for day time for both of us, an extra
pair of long pants for me (I didn't take any other than my
suplex fishing pants). I did take a couple of loose skirts
and dresses and that worked fine.
One of the pictures which keeps playing on my mental tape
is flying in the small (10 passenger) plane to South Andros
with the sea, sky and clouds playing back and forth in sun
and shadow. At some point I could not distinguish the
horizon from the sky or sea. Passing from the world I
live in to one of warm breezes, beautiful turquoise water,
glorious blooming flowers and those gentle and kind people
who inhabit South Andros. Did I mention the bonefish?
They look like they are smiling too.
I'll be back. ~ The LadyFisher
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