Thursday, June 21, 2012

Day 6- Thursday

Today we have one mission... fish the blue hole! Not to be confused with Dean's Blue Hole, which we visited on the main island yesterday, this blue hole is the one that Noel showed us on the way to conch dive. Apparently the hole reaches about 40 ft in depth and has a strong current which lures in many species of fish. This area is known for Mutton Snapper and, occasionally, Tarpon. We load the boat with all of our fishing supplies, snacks, and cold drinks. We have bought squid at the grocery store yesterday so we are hoping to change our luck with the change in bait.  The boat ride is uneventful if not beautiful, and takes us roughly 30 minutes to reach our destination.

 No one is there so we have free reign to choose our anchor location. The squid has not failed us... we begin getting bites almost immediatly. We start pulling in Yellow Tail Snapper, Bahamian Grouper, Strawberry Grouper, and other small fish. The smaller fish, we use for bait to catch larger fish. Shortly, the big runs begin. Micheal caught 8 (I think) Lemon and Nurse sharks just in the few hours we spent on the water today. I caught the only 'keeper' meat fish, a 20# Mutton Snapper. It was more than enough meat to feed the four of us fresh fish dinner tonight! (pics of snapper to come later )

I can't really tell you how many sharks we caught today, more sharks than anything. We don't eat them, just catch and release, but they are still a fun fight. As the tide changed, so did the current and ther luck. We headed back to the house around 3:00 pm and noticed a large thunder cloud off to the west as we drove back in. Turned out to be a good thing we left the water when we did, because the rain that followed was intense.

We learned a valuable lesson today though... even if you do not use any electricity during the day (our pattern has been to open all windows during the day for air, use sunlight as light, and only turn on the water pump as needed... then at night we use fans to keep cooler) after three days of cloudy skies, your power supply will be low! However, looking back, I think we were more worried about running out of electricity than we should have been. Turned out we had plenty of power when we needed it. On that rainy niht though, we couldn't fish the cut like we had gotten used to doing everyu evening, so we just lit some candles and played Scrabble. It was a nice change :)

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Day 5 - Wednesday

We got up early today for breakfast and our planned trip to the main island. We arrived at the boat dock at 8:45 am and our rental car arived right on time at 9am. We were pleasantly surprised by the rental car, a small 2007 4 door, perfect for us. Very fuel efficient too! We paid our $65 for hte day and were given a cell phone number to call when we were ready to return the car.

We started the day with a trip south to Dean's Blue Hole, the world's deepest know blue hole with sea water. It wasn't too hard to find, but just as we got within a couple of miles of the beach where we would find the blue hole, the bottom fell out of the sky as a summer thunderstorm rolled in. As you leave the Queens Highway, most roads are gravel or sand. After a few minutes of rain, the gravel/sand road leading to Dean's became a holding space for water. A couple of times we were unsure if we would be able to make it through the water, but we made it with no issues. It was still raining as we got to the blue hole, so we just jumped out and took a couple of pictures with my water proof camera (will upload photo soon, haven't downloaded pics from that camera yet!)

After the blue hole, we moved back north as we headed for a few beaches we heard were 'must-see's'. First, we hit Stella Maris Beach Resort with also had a nice restaurant where we had lunch. The boys and I each ordered burgers and Mom had a tuna sandwich. We were very pleased with the food. Many times we have had problems finding foods we are familiar with when stopping on the outer islands to find a quick meal, this menu had many options we were comfortable with and the prices were not too far fetched. One note about the restaurant though, we were surprised to see crabs crawling around on the floors in the main dining area. We saw some waitresses trying to shoe them out, but we thought it was kind of fitting for the island atmosphere, and they were kind of cute.

After lunch, we headed back to the entrance road where we saw an sign that interested us...

There are many caves on the island, some of which you can find guided tours through. We chose not to seek any of those out on our trip, but when we saw the sign for this one, we decided to go see what we could find. Turns out, the natural cave had been converted into a bar, although it didn't look like it had been used in a while.

After Stella Maris, we drove to the northern tip of the island to Cape Santa Maria

The beach was named by Christopher Columbus after one of his ship in the Mayflower fleet. It is believed that This area of Long Island was one of the stops made by the Mayflower fleet on Columbus' voyage to discover the new world in 1492. Cape Santa Maria beach is noted as one of the Top 10 most beautiful beaches in the world.

Next, we back tracked closer to Stella Maris where we originally missed our turn to the Coral Gardens. We had read that the Coral Gardens was a great snorkeling spot, although with the wind and rain off and on throughout the day we were fairly certain there would be no snorkeling today.

The Coral Gardens are on the Atlantic Ocean side of Long Island so the water is much deeper and the beaches are much rockier. The walkway down to the water was a sight in itself, a long narrow boardwalk leading through the brush leads to a hand carved stairway into the water. Unfortunantly, the weather did make the water too dangerous to snorkel, so we stayed only a few minutes to take pictures and check out the scenery. It really is a beautiful sight, and I am certain the snorkeling would have been amazing.

Finally, we had seen all of the main attractions on our short list and were ready to stop for fuel and groceries. We called the rental company and they met us at hte boat dock quickly. All in all, a very long, but enjoyable day. Certainly worth the rental and time.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Day 4 - Tuesday

Noel came today and took us on a trip in his boat. He showed us the sunken barge and the "Blue Hole"which is supposed to be good fishing. He then took us further north to an area he frequents when diving for conch. Mom and I got dropped off on a nice sandy beach to look for shells while the boys went with Noel in the boat to dive for conchs.

Mom and I explored the beach, me taking pictures, her looking for shells. This beach was closer to the Atlantic ocean so the water got a little deeper in places and on one end there were large rocks along the shore where waves would crash. We found many large conch shells and some fan coral, but mostly the beach was clean of shells.

It was, again, a cloudy and partly rainy day so apparently conch fishing wasn't good. The water was took murkey to see them on the bottom, however, the boys did come back with a few. When we got back to the island, Noel broke out his tooks and made fresh conch salad right on the dock! The salad consists of chopped conch (raw), tomato, onion, lime juice, big sour juice (large lemons), Key lime juice, and goat peppers. The citrus juice cooks the meat (like cevechie) in about 20 minutes.

It was quite the sight. My parents even got into the show that when Noel offered them pieces of raw conch... they ate it!

After the making of the conch salad, we all went back up to the house and let it 'cook' for a while, while we watched the video with Noel of my catching the shark the night before and then of him making the conch salad. It seems he really enjoyed seeing himself on TV.

Later that afternoon, Dad decided to try his luck with the Hawaiian Sling (the only form of spearfishing that is legal in the Bahamas) we found at the house. He saw a few smaller fish, but never got the hang of the sling. He said it was fun, but hard to do without any experience.

Noel is arragning for us to have a rental car waiting at the mainisland boat dock at 9am tomorrow morning. We have  a few stops on the main island we have been wanting to check out, so we are looking forward to that. Plus, Wednesday is mail boat day so the grocery stores will be getting restocked on fresh foods, so we will restock on essentials as well. 

Monday, June 18, 2012

Day 3 - Monday

Today's entry will be short... we woke up and I cooked breakfast. It rained a little and was cloudy much of the day, but overall a beautiful day. We explored, fished, and relaxed. Micheal, my Mom, and I also took the little boat over to the main island and took the nice mile long walk to the grocery store to restock on sodas.

Nice day on our private island! Micheal caught a couple of small black tip sharks down at the cut today... another reason I won't be swimming down there!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Day 2 - Sunday

After a long day of travel yesterday we didn't get much accomplished other than settleing in and expoloring the island a little. There are two beach areas, one out front can be seen from the front dor (and is by far the prettiest) and one out back that can be seen fron the patio.
This is the view of the main beach from the front door

And this is the view from the beach.

This main beach isn't too teribly long, but it is plenty big for laying out and letting the kids play (if you choose to bring them). The water is crystal clear and knee to waiste deep for what seem like forever. We kept commenting that our kids (8, 3, &1) would love to play in that water and we wouldn't have to worry about drop offs. Notice that there are two boats int he picture... we were told we would have use of one boat for the week. Turns out, we had use of these two boats! One was a 17 ft flat bottom, the other a 13ft. Both were equipped with outboard motors but were set to only run at half throttle (a little frustrating for us as avid boaters, but understandable since many renters are not adequatly trained in boating and could really do some damage to the boat or themselves in such shallow water).

We woke this morning and cooked a full breakfast, then packed some drinks in a small cooler we brought and headed out to the bigger boat to explore the beach we found on the southern end of the island. At this end there is a rocky beach on our island, but a very long sandy beach on the uninhabited island across the way. Seperating the two area are two deep (maybe 15-20ft deep) cuts in the water that we though would be good fishing. Some of hte websites we looked at listed these as "Olympic sized swimming pool areas." For those that like swimming in deeper water, these would have been great as there is no grass, coral, sharp rocks, etc to bother you  whilie swimming, however, we were a little leary of swimming the channels after seeing two nurse sharks upon arrival.

We anchored at the sandy island across from ours and the boys set out to fishing while Mom and I walked hte beach. It was pretty and very clean. As I mentioned though, we did see two sharks which were fairly small, but when thinking about swimming can be unnerving. I eventually threw my fishing line out as well and it wasn't long before we had a good run. I reeled in a nice baraccuda to start of the trip.
We didn't catch much else but had a great time anyway. After a few hours we headed back to the house and made dinner. We hung out around the island the rest of the afternoon exploring and fishing. From the boat dock we caught a few small fish, which we used as bait, throughout the afternoon. Noel had mentioned that if we wanted to catch crawfish we should put out he 'fish pot' (trap) so we took part of the baraccuda I caught and put it in the trap at the end of the pier. Towards the evening we bagan seeing a shark coming in to check out the trap! The water here is only about 3 ft deep so it is very clear and we could see it well. Mom and I hooked him, but he broke my line :(

That evening, when the boys returned from thier fishing trip on the southern end, we all ended up on the peir fishing. Soon enough, another shark showed up to check out the fresh meat. Immediatly we all moved our baits closer to the trap to see if we could hook him. The boys were rather offended when he took mine, and I had yet another big fish on! Turned out to be about a 6 ft Lemon Shark.

That pretty much ended my day, and the boys came in soon after. It was a  relaxing day with lots of exciting moments. Tomorrow we plan a lot more of the same.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Arrival on the Island

My parents decided to travel a day ahead and spend the night in Nassau before departing for Long Island on Saturday morning. We will stay over an extra night in Nassau on the return trip. With that said, we are starting the first leg of our trip alone. Our flight leaves IAH at 5:45 am so we are up and at em at 1:00 am to pack the truck and begin our 90 minute travel to the 'Parking Spot' at IAH in Houston. We arrive at the airport at 2:30 am, which to my suprise was a good deal, since the lines were short and moved quickly. By 3:00 am we are seated at our gate and eating breakfast, airport style.

Flawlessly, our flight is announced and boarded at 5 am. We arrive in Charlote, North Carolina for our connecting flight at 9:35 and  board our connection at 10:00 am. Upon arrival at Nassau, we make our way to baggage claim. By 12:30 we are sitting in the domestic flights lounge with my parents awaiting our 2:30 flight to Long Island, Bahamas. The flight to Long Island is interesting, as we are crammed on a very small plane holding (and at full capacity) with about 20 passengers.
As soon as we arrive at the Long Island airport (more of an open air waiting room) we are greeted by Noel, our caretaker and transportation coordinator for the week.  We load up in his small truck and he takes us to Cartwright's Grocery store. Really, more of a convinience store in size, they had everything we needed. We have made trips like this before though, so we planned ahead and brought frozen meat and packaged sides in our checked luggage on the flight over. All we really needed at the store on the island was sodas, milk, eggs, bread, butter, and a toothbrush for Micheal since he had forgotten to pack his. The prices on most things were actually a lot more reasonable than we have encountered before. Sodas were high, at about $17 per case, but bread was about $2.50 per loaf.

After loading up at the store, Noel took us about a mile down the road to a boat dock. We unloaded our luggage and groceries while Noel drove back up to his house (very close) and returned in his boat.  While waiting three local boys came down tot he dock and shared a little insight on catching 'crawfish' (lobster) before diving off into the water to take off on their homemade raft into the magrove forest.
A short boat trip later, we arrived at Little Deadman's Cay where Noel went through details for how to work the water pump, how to read the voltage for the batteries, and other information on making our stay on the Cay more efficient. The stove and refigerator are run on propane, so even if we were to use all of our electricity we could still cook and have cold food... good to know :) The house is kind of what we expected... cozy but not extravigant. Outside are many buckets and other containers for catching rain water and there are signs of artwork everywhere. The island used to serve as a swimming camp for local children and possibly an art camp, based on the various paintings around the house and yard (coconuts painted and paper mached to look like fish, cute little paintings of the coconut trees, etc). The house is comfortable and not in  any way un-livable, but it could use a little updating and a thorough cleaning. We did find plenty of cooking utensils, plenty of towels, sheets, blankets, etc. As well as a massive supply of candles, batteries, sunscreen, toiletries, bandaids, and other daily needs. There is an unspoken tradition that when you leave, anything you don't want to take back... just leave it for the next visitors.
A side view of the front of the house

Another view of the front of the house, note the two large water tanks for collecting rain water

The dining area from the living room - looks out onto patio

Living area

Small, but functional Kitchen

"Green" Bedroom with Queen size bed

"Blue" Bedroom with two twin beds

"Tan" Bedroom with Queen bed

When asking Noel what would be the best bait to use in our fishing, he mentioned that after a good rain (which the island had today before we arrived) the land crabs are very active. Boy, were we in for a suprise when they came out!

Friday, June 15, 2012

The Decision

For our 10 year anniversary, my husband, Micheal, and I wanted to take a vacation that would make memories to last a lifetime. We are avid cruisers but also enjoy 'staying' vacations on outer islands as well. We have visited Cozumel, Roatan (Honduras), Belize City, Spanish Wells (Bahamas), Montego Bay, and Grand Cayman. We considered a Southern Carribbean cruise out of San Juan, but decided for our anniversary we wanted something more private, and began looking at island villas for rent. We enjoyed Roatan on our visit last year via the Carnival Triumph and had said we wanted to spend more time there, so that was our first island to research. Houses were fair in price, however airfare was a little high. We have visited the outer island of Spanish Wells in the Bahamas a couple of times, so we are familiar with the area and began looking at some of the other islands to see what might interest us. Since my husband and I enjoy fishing and island hopping, we were looking for a house that either came with a boat rental or would rent cheap enough that we could rent a boat separately.

In researching islands that were good for fishing as well as beaching, the main island I kept being directed to was, of course, the fishing capital of the world ... Bimini. Hours of research later we found a house that was perfect for us, came with a boat, was right on the beach, and rented for a price we were comfortable with. Since Bimini is one of the closer islands to Florida, airfare was also more manageable. We had made the decision to book the Bimini house when my husband made an off-hand comment, "Too bad we can't rent a whole island for ourselves!"

So... I googled "private islands for rent" with the total expectation that all would be elaborate, beautiful, and mostly... expensive.

Sure enough, I found many islands/houses that were way out of our reach. Surprisingly though, I found Little Deadman's Cay through very little extra research. The price intrigued me, and I thought (after looking at other islands) the price may have been a misprint. However, upon further inspection, I realized why the price was as low as it was. I assume that there are many people who would not be willing to spend a week in this house simply because of a few things we considered only minor inconveniences.

The house rents for $1975 (for 2 people, an additional $300 per person if more than 2) for the week and includes a 17ft flat bottom boat (no need for an off shore boat since the waters around the island are no deeper than 2-5 ft in most places). Upon arrival you pay $300 cash to the caretaker for transportation and housekeeping. The caretaker will pick you up at the airport, take you to the local grocery store, and then take you on his boat over to the island and go over procedures.

The house is situated on a 9.5 acre private island off the island of Long Island in the southern Bahamas. The three bedroom house sleeps 6 and is fully furnished with a private water well that is supplemented by two large rainwater collection tanks. The well water mixed with the collected rainwater serves as the water supply for the home. Needless to say, the water is for cleaning and not drinking. There is no electricity available to run to the island, so the house is solar powered with supplemental wind generator. Reviews, mostly positive, mention that the water and electricity situation can be tricky but generally become second nature as your trip goes on. Micheal and I are not your average 'city folks' so we decided that, even though this would not provide the pampering we receive on the cruise ships, or the hotel quality homes we have rented before, we were up for the challenge.

I emailed WaterWay Condos and requested booking information. Within 24 hours I had a response and we were booked within three days. The process was simple and communication was great throughout the months leading up to our trip. After a few weeks of talking about the trip, my parents asked if they could tag along. Even though this was our anniversary trip, Micheal and I talked it over and decided it might be fun to have them along. We emailed WaterWay Condos with the change in occupancy and were quickly acknowledged as being confirmed for four guests. Now, to wait it out for our private island vacation!