Merfolk

Yesterday we had an encounter with Mermaid’s and a Merman. Both made for a great day.

Mermaid’s

The Mermaid’s is a reef in Pond Bay a half mile due north of us that requires just under a two mile dinghy trip to reach. We headed that way at mid-day to have the best light. Rounding Outer Point Cay we found the breeze had raised wavelets we could easily punch through, and boats had raised wakes that dumped about three gallons of water over the bow by the time we reached the reef.

It’s a small place, maybe an acre of distributed coral heads five to fifteen feet across. It is populated by a surprisingly diverse community of fish (and we think at least one lobster). The Parrotish were the most striking. A few were a powder blue it was hard to pull one’s eyes from. Some were dark green with a repeating pattern of white scales and a dark red tail. Others were a jumble of pastels. We saw a cleaning station where the parrotfish would tail-stand and allow wrasses to come out and nip parasites from them.*

We saw Cubera Snapper at least two feet long. We were  followed by a school of small ballyhoo almost the entire time. There were surgeon fish, eyespot, tiny  angelfish, striped grunt, several kinds of juveniles. It was a swim in a friendly aquarium. After 45 minutes we were getting a bit chilled even in our black lycra suits (they aren’t wet suits).

When we went to board the dinghy we discovered we had over-estimated our strength and under-estimated the freeboard. So Janet took a line, and I took another and we swam the dinghy to near the beach and clear sand and boarded it there. It was something we discussed before we went in the water, but this plan B was not the best way to get things done. We are now evaluating ladders for the dink. The trip back was downwind, and in Marsh Harbour it was only splashy when we hit a wake, but Marsh Harbour water isn’t something one really wants to be splashed with.

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Merman

As we buzzed our way back into the marina after circling the harbour margins to scope things out, we saw Brown Tip motoring into our marina. Right after we got aboard the boat, I walked to the slip where he had tied off to clean a boat bottom. I just missed catching his attention before he went into the water. I went back to the boat to clean up after the outing — SCUBA VU — the smell of salty dive gear I guess — and to listen for his hookah compressor to stop. When it did I walked back over and negotiated a rate with him to do ours later or the next day. Less than an hour later he was astern and headed into the water. He was finished in about a half hour and the boat looked great. He said only the prop shaft zinc was beginning to waste. But that’s what the zinc we hang over the side is for. We’ll change the shaft zinc in June.

When I negotiated the price ($2-3 a foot depending on effort required) he mentioned he would likely miss a performance he was scheduled to give. When I went to pay him, I asked him if he had missed his gig. He said he had and this lead to a discussion of the music business in Abaco and the degree to which bar and restaurant owners play performers off against each other to drive prices down — substitutes frequently turn into replacements at a lower price. This lead to a conversation of how the Bahamas were changing. This lead to a conversation about Aklins Island where he rode a horse on his family’s farm and fed the chickens, goats, and hogs (I can relate to the goat part, having worked on a goat farm). Janet could relate to the rest having a grandfather who was the county agricultural agent and had a large farm in East Texas. And that lead to Brown Tip (Matheson Cooper) signing us songs he is developing for a DVD and that lead to a drumming demonstration on the dinghy’s inflated hull. And we promised to send him any pictures we had of his performances and boat cleaning. It was a delightful conversation, and we hope his singing and Rake ‘n Scrape will get him out of the water here soon. It’s not something one wants to swim in.

*Photos from “Reefguide.org” Next trip we will replace our long-loved Nikonos dive camera with something digital.

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