Conception Island – Columbus

Historians argue that Conception Island is the site of Columbus’ second landfall in the new world. Theories abound on just where Columbus first saw the New World, but there seems to be agreement that it was the Bahamas. We can only wonder how the islands may have looked at the time, and how those early explorers must have reacted to the waters around the islands.We made our landfall at Conception just before dark, after a long day and 73 nm run from Black Point. The weater was ideal, just a bit of light wind chop, but otherwise a very delightful cruise.

We left Black Point shortly after 0730 and gave a wave to Don & Bella as we left the anchorage. We had contacted our Selene cruisers the day before and made plans to catch up to them in the anchorage at Conception since we would have a longer distance to travel leaving from Black Point. We were asked if we wanted to be included in the fish pool since the area has a reputation for great fishing. We said we’d be happy to join in despite our questionable skill as fishermen. We cleared Dotham cut against a significant current, a residual effect of the extreme full moon the week prior, and set our waypoint for Conception. We set out fishing lines shortly after, and within an hour had our first hit. A Barracuda which we released. About an hour later the reel started singing again, and there was no stopping this one. While playing the fish out a bit, he burst out of the water, trying to throw the hook, and we could easily tell it was a Mahi. Beautiful coloration of blue, green and yellow. As the fish got closer to the boat, it dove and took more line back out, but finally we landed it and pulled it into the cockpit, closing the door behind to keep the thrashing fish from making an unexpected escape! At about 38 inches, we certainly were in the running for the fish pool!

As the day passed, we caught three more fish, the largest of which measured in at about 43 inches. At one time we both had a fish on each line, and brought them in one after the other. Great fun! Not being able to establish radio contact with the rest of the fishing pool regarding front runner status, we continued to fish. With three four large fish, we had exceeded our capability to produce ice to chill the fish and our cooler was no match for the length of the fish. In order to conserve some space and make the best use of the limited ice we had, I began cleaning the fish while we were underway. It was calm enough that I was able to perform the chore without severing any fingers. In the process of cleaning the fish, I learned that Sammy is quite the sushi aficionado. He stationed himself just behind me, and was at the ready to catch any scraps. He loves raw fish, and had quite a bit of it. Both dogs are now tuned in to the sound of a reel clicker singing as a fish hits and spools off line. They both snap to life and head for the cockpit doors to stand by for action. Molly loves to watch as the fish are landed, Sammy just wants some fresh catch sushi!

The fishing was the highlight of our trip to Conception, and as we came into radio contact, we learned that our catch indeed was in the running for the winning slot in the fish pool. In fact, it was the only one in the running as all the other boats had a total fish count of ZERO! Just to be sure, I retained the carcass of the largest fish (minus the filets) as proof. A few miles outside the anchorage, I put a line around the tail and hung the fish from the bow roller as a gentle reminder of our success to the boats we were to pass as we entered the anchorage. We elicited some visible smiles as we found our way to a spot, and some barbs over the VHF as well. We found a good spot, and dropped the hook. We managed to get the dogs to shore just before dark, and spent the evening finishing the cleaning of the remaining two fish, borrowing some ice from Mystic Moon to keep the filets in the cooler chilled.

There were a total of 14 boats in the anchorage at Conception, a record number as we were told by other cruisers. No doubt due to the great weather that provided ample windows for making the day long crossing and return, yet allowing a few days to spend some time there. It is a beautiful island, very unspoiled. It is also a part of the National Trust park system, so it is protected. The following morning we headed for the beach, joined by a host of other cruisers and dogs. There we six dogs running, all having a great time socializing as their owners did the same, but without the butt sniffing that seems to be the rule for proper dog social behavior. Molly found a fast friend in Farley, a “doodle” mix. They had a great time with each other and really burned up some energy!

The following morning there were plans made for a dive on the “wall” on the south end of the island. Paul, a trawler guy and experienced Bahahas cruiser agreed to take those who wanted to go on his boat, Independence, and towed dinghys so there were options to snorkel or beachcomb. We had some dive gear problems to resolve that prevented us from leaving with the group, so once we were ready we took off in the dink and headed toward the south end of the island. We arrived just a few minutes after the group tied to the mooring, so we geared up and headed down. The mooring was located in about 20 ft of water, right at the edge of the wall where the bottom drops from about 30 ft to about a mile. The wall is a suitable description, it’s like the wall of a cliff, except there’s no risk of falling! It was a very interesting dive, our first wall dive. There was very little current and lots to look at. Very beautiful colors and fish! The dive was relatively short, not quite 45 minutes, and at 65 ft. was our deepest to date. We still have some gear problems we need to resolve, so our underwater excursions will be limited to snorkel until we reach an area that has dive gear, likely Georgetown.

Since we had a cooler full of Mahi filets, we offered to provide meat for a pot luck, and later that evening we headed for the beach with cooler, portable grill, and our bag of pot luck gear. No dogs on the first run. The helmsman (oh, it was yours truly) took the route a bit too close to the reef and BANG! Contact between a moving prop and coral is always an ugly sound. Fortunately, nothing worse than a bent prop blade, and repairable. Still, not a good experience. There’s never a second glance or snide comment from other cruisers, most of them have their own collection of boogered props, and carry a spare. We discussed it numerous times but did not get the spare. This trip. More coral reefs here than in our cruising further north, and those who cruise these waters carry spares. We will too, next trip!

We got the grille set up and started the Mahi, other cruisers brought their own contributions, and the feast began. The food began to disappear about the same time as the sun, and we all paused to watch the sunset for the green flash. We were favored with a short one, but our first, a new Bahamas experience! As the light faded, the bugs came, it seems we were close to a termite nest and they were swarming. Non-biting, but they are relentless and go behind glasses in ears, etc. A cigar provided no protection, so we packed up our dishes and grille, loaded all into the bucking dinghy with the dogs, and made our escape to the mothership along with the rest of the dinghy brigade. A great evening with good food and great company. We ended up parceling out some of the filets, as we had already frozen some, and it seemed that we were the only ones in the anchorage with fresh fish to share, so share it was!

The following morning we hauled anchor and headed southwest for Rum Cay, about a 20 mile cruise. No fish for the Selene bunch this trip, Maerin included, however Independence followed several miles behind, and kept his course line on the wall. His tactic paid off, and he landed a very big wahoo. It weighed out at 59 lbs. Quite the fisherman, Independence is rigged for big fish hunting! We arrived at Sumner Point Marnia early in the afternoon, and poked our way in the marked channel. Still, coral heads littered the area and a shallow reef guarded against a direct approach. But we had good light and a repeat visitor in My Sharona to follow, so no problem!

One Response to “Conception Island – Columbus”

  1. Linda Bialecki on 31 Mar 2011 at 2:31 PM #

    Wow! I’m so impressed by your catch Barb…and Steve, and LOVE the picture. Sounds yummy (ex the bugs). Seems all is well. Same with us, except at 1530 it is 52F and been raining on and off for days. Water temp is 55, and I’ve got five layers on including long underwear (2) and a fleece vest and serious jacket. I keep asking, why are we here? (just north of Wrightsville, SC) oh yes my brother is getting married in Italy and isn’t cruiser season friendly! My only other complaint is that I always seem to be on anchor duty when it there is a torrential downpour, though I do have full foul weather gear on.

    ps all waste tank systems are working great. And we have switched to two septic friendly brands of toilet paper.

    all the best, great to hear your news. xo Linda…and Douglas