Thursday, July 12, 2018

Lobsters, Sharks, and Whales...oh my

After 3 straight days of mixing epoxy, layering fiberglass, mixing epoxy, layering fiberglass, the rudder looks incredibly strong.   With dozens of layers of glass and epoxy it's probably the strongest part of the boat right now.  It's certainly not going to come apart again.  I'm a little concerned about its asymmetrical shape.  We'll need to do some sailing to find out whether a significant imbalance exists at the helm.  In other words: "she might be pulling to the right".

The last two days we made a point of doing no boat work.  Yesterday Michelle worked on photos while I hunted lobsters. I actually caught a few.  I keep seeing these freaky huge lobsters under the coral heads about 10-15 feet out of reach.  Frank from Mango Moon shot one with his spear gun the other day.  He showed us a picture of it in a five gallon bucket. Only half of it fit in the bucket. It must have been well over ten pounds.  I don't have a spear gun to go after such big game so I've been looking elsewhere. Yesterday I found a whole bunch of them on the outside of the reef.  The outside of this circular reef has ocean swell crashing against it on the windward side.  On the leeward side it's much calmer. I found cuts in the reef on the outside edge resembling little winding canyons. The top opening of these channels are 2-10 feet wide with a fringe of very healthy hard coral. Dropping into them with a snorkel and 16 pounds of lead I found they are quite open. They often undercut the reef to the extent a car could fit in the tunnel. Up under the lip there were scores of lobsters back in pockets and side channels. They didn't really react till I stuck my hand out.  Once I grazed an antenna most of them would blast backward. I managed to grab several but lost all but one climbing out one-handed. He was about 2-3 pounds and made a nice lunch. 

Today we snorkeled the Southeast corner where the inside reef edge has pools 4-8 feet deep. There were rays and small sharks.  The undercuts of that reef section were loaded with urchins.  Some of the sharks claim a certain pool as their own.  Ed on Aka said he always moves along if a shark swims by several times or acts fidgety.  The shark in the photo was about 3 - 4 feet long and showed territorial behavior.  Michelle snorkeled into his little pool.  When he didn't swim away like all the other sharks, Michelle decided to get out of the pool.  The reef is amazingly healthy here.  We've never seen such pristine hard coral and abundant reef fish.  

Sharks are a sign of a healthy reef ecosystem and we're always glad to see them.  In the Caribbean they invariably split as soon as they see us.  Sharks here definitely don't flee and they have our undivided attention.  I was under the boat in 40 feet of clear water re-installing the rudder when a large shark swam by 20 feet below.  He was at least as long as me and seemed disinterested.  But I found him quite interesting and stared as he disappeared in the gloom.  I came back several times passing exactly under me and seemed to be just sauntering along.  After talking to others later, I think he was the resident 12 foot Tiger shark who feasts on fish-cleaning scraps.  His body was much more beefy than the reef sharks.

This afternoon 3 whales were breaching and playing off our stern.  The biggest one would loll on his side with his one pectoral fin flopping around like he was waving at us.  They would park at one spot and slap their tail fin on the water over and over.  The tail fin on the big one was at least 8 feet across. One of them was definitely a juvenile so we think the big one was Mom. 

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