5.13.2011

Long Island, Bahamas | Fishing Fleet | Lady Rovina






We spent several days anchored at Salt Pond, Long Island, Bahamas waiting for settled weather to voyage to the Jumentos and Ragged Islands on the southeast side of the Grand Bahamas Bank. Our anchorage at salt pond was near the fuel dock where we topped our tanks before leaving. There were many fishing boats at anchor, there with their fish traps piled high. There were several that arrived from the banks with as many as six smaller boats in tow. I learned earlier in the week from Mario Simms at the Blue Chip Restaurant (see separate post on the Blue Chip) that commercial fishing did not exist when he was growing up on Long Island. Now remember that Mario Simms is about 75 years old and lives in a settlement that bears his last name. His ancestors were loyalists that founded the settlement. Commercial fishing on Long Island is a recent development in terms of the history of this island. I was curious to learn more about this rather new industry and find out where and how they fished and what kind of fish they were seeking. Did they process the fish on the boats? Did they sell it locally or take it to the markets in Nassau?
My curiosity was peaked when a fishing boat pulling two smaller dinghies passed us on our initial leg from Salt Pond to the Water Cay in the Jumentos. The very same fishing boat was at anchor at Water Cay when we arrived, her name was Lady Rovina. This might give me a chance to meet the captain and get my questions answered. To my disappointment, Lady Rovina hauled anchor and left early the next morning. We also pulled anchor a few hours later and headed to Flamingo Cay a bit further South in the Jumentos Chain of Islands.
When we rounded the corner to enter the anchorage at Flamingo Cay a few hours later we were greeted with the sight of Lady Rovina at anchor on the north end of the anchorage. We worked our way close to shore in a quiet bay off of a beautiful sandy beach on this uninhabited Island. Only on e Island in the Jumentos and Ragged Island has a settlement on it and that is Duncan Town. There will be more on Duncan Town later in another post.
As soon as we were settled I took our dinghy over to meet the crew of Lady Rovina and ask them if they would sell us some fish since we had not had time to do any angling ourselves. When I arrived I received a friendly greeting and was asked aboard. When I inquired about the fish the Captain asked me ““How much you want? You cLane em yourself?” I assured him that I could clane them and 10 or 20 dollars worth would be plenty. I introduced myself to Captain Barry Knowles and he asked me to come aboard. He was curious to find out if I knew anything about electronics as he was having problems with a newly installed Single Side Band radio. I told him that I installed the one on my boat and would be happy to take a look at it for him. Between the two of us we had the radio working by the next morning with a few minor tweaks. When we were finished looking at the radio we walked back out to the stern of the boat and there was a bag of Lane Snapper and conch all cleaned and ready to go. “How much do I owe you?” I asked. “How about sometiing to drink was the reply?” I loaded the Snapper and conch into the dinghy and headed back to Mary Rose to deliver the fresh seafood to the Admiral and see what was in the liquor cabinet. We had a few choices but we decided that they most likely never get a chance to enjoy good Tequila and we had just purchased a bottle of 100 percent Blue Agave Tequila. That’s the good stuff!
I hopped back into the dinghy and headed toward Lady Rovina and her thirsty crew when a crew member of another sail boat that had just arrived flagged me down. The crew asked if I was going to the fishing boat to see if they had fish. I told them I was and they asked me to bring them some. Not a problem and turned to start the dinghy engine. Then the captain of the sailboat hailed me and said, “not to be picky but if they don’t have any Hog Snapper or Grouper you can just tell them to forget it.” I politely told him OK but thought differently to myself. I had a problem with his statement of “just tell them to forget it.” You see, Lana and I are of the mindset that you must be grateful for the gift you receive and then you will most likely get what you want. It seems to work for us and the other captain’s comment seemed a bit rude. These men were not workers staffing the seafood department at the local supermarket. They were the source of the raw material that ends up at the supermarket and on dinner plates in restaurants across the country. I label this kind of behavior as being borderline Ugly American. I arrived along side of Lady Rovina and gave the crew the bottle of Tequila and delivered the message from Captain Pickyony. They chuckled a bit and said seems like he may have a bit of an attitude. I agreed and wouldn’t you know it…………..there was no grouper or hog Snapper to be found. I delivered that message on my way back to Mary Rose. When I arrived the Admiral had two Snapper in the pan. We ate fresh fish or conch every meal for the next five days. Yes we even had boiled fish for breakfast along with some fresh island bananas and mangoes topped with fresh squeezed lime juice.
I spent a considerable amount of time talking to the fishermen and visiting their boat. Lady Rovina has a large galley and the there always seemed to be something cooking when I went to visit. The boiled fish displayed here is just one of the regular meals.






There was always activity, some were cooking, others hanging laundry, there fish to clean and dishes to do. There was always someone fishing even at anchor in the small harbor on the north end of Flamingo Cay or Fillimingo as it is called by the fishermen that frequent this lovely Cay. The small fish were “bruised up” and put into a bucket to be used as fish trap bait at a later time.



The fish that were large enough to eat but did not have market value were used for personal consumption and for friends and family upon return. Lana joined me on one of my visits and just sat in the dinghy in awe as six foot sharks, four foot barracudas, swarms of seagulls

and huge turtles swam around the fishing boat as Blair Blinton pulled in fish after fish on his hand line bated with fresh conch.
Blair has been fishing these waters for at least fifteen years and lives in Hamilton, Long Island. Blair generally works off the dinghy that is owned and operated by Daniel (Danny) Elija Burrows. Danny was kind enough to show me how to rig a hand line Bahamian style for still fishing. We tried it later and caught several fish at our own anchorage from the deck of Mary Rose V. Danny owned a mother ship at one time but now prefers to partner with Blair and fish the banks from the dinghy. He has been fishing these waters for 28 years. Danny gave us a rare close look at remora that he had just caught. This fish had been stuck to the huge turtle that was swimming near the boat and then released its suction cup to take the bait on Danny’s hand line.
Albert Miller from Simms, Long Island owned and operated the other dinghy that was supported by Lady Rovina for this fishing trip. Albert has been fishing for 22 years and partners with Brian Wilson from Burnt Ground, a settlement on the north end of Long Island. Brian has been fishing for 12 years and always had a smile on his face.




Albert and Brian came by to see us the last morning we were anchored at Flamingo Cay. They had at least two dozen conchs in their dinghy that would be used to bait the fish traps later out on the banks. Brian reached down and picked up to large lobster and gave them to us as a parting gift. Yes, lobster is out of season but a member of The Royal Bahamas Defense Force told me it is OK to take a few lobster (crawfish in the Bahamas) for a meal. Take no more than six or we will take your boat and you cannot take any to sell. So we felt reassured that it was OK to accept the crawfish from Albert and Brian. I asked Albert how much we owed him for the lobster. Albert replied. “you people just want to pay for everyting? It is a gift mon!” I explained that it was a wonderful gift and I felt like I owed them something for the work to get this food for us. In the end we accepted the gift and later watched Lady Rovina head west to fish further out on the banks as the weather was going to be quite settled.
Lady Rovina is owned and operated by Captain Barry Nowles
and his home is in Simms, Long Island. Barry has been fishing for 22 years and is very proud of his boat. Barry showed me the tool that they use to get lobster during lobster season. It is a hook that they use to drag the crawfish out of the hiding place. Once they have the lobster in hand they place it on its back and use the blunt end opposite the hook to kill them by jamming it into their chest. They are then put on ice until they reach the mother ship. The crawfish are cleaned on the mother ship and frozen the same day. Lobster is the main source of income for these men and their families. They all spoke of the difficulty of being away from home and family for weeks at a time while earning a living. Earning a living has become much more difficult as the state of the world economy has caused the wholesale price of lobster to fall by one half. Barry tells me that they will bring home twelve thousand pounds of lobster the first month of the season and only be away from home 10-12 days to make this huge catch. They use hooks and spears to harvest the lobster daily during the season.
Mario from the Blue Chip Restaurant told me that he uses the tail for bait as the crawfish head has the most flavor and best meat! Captain Barry also told me that they harvest about 400 bags of Lane shallow water Snapper during a fishing trip. There are about 45 pounds of Snapper per bag. The best month for Snapper is June when the moon is perfect. Barry and the rest of the fishermen would not disclose the definition of a perfect moon. Barry told me, “Fishing is like being a sniper, always keep your gun on the target and when they move you will get them.



On a perfect moon, one dinghy gets 20 – 30 bags of Snapper per day” This fishing crew tries to plan their trip so that winds are under 20 knots and they always head home for hurricane protection. There are also other reasons for heading home. These fishermen have a responsibility to take care of their family and others in the community. They take this responsibility seriously and show great concern for their friends and neighbors as well as their own family and property.
There is a lot to do in terms of logistics for a fishing trip on one of these boats. Food, gasoline for the dinghies, diesel for the mother ship, communications for weather, fresh water, fish traps, rigging, equipment and so much more. Each dinghy requires about 300 gallons of gasoline for the fishing trip. I saw cases of fresh water in gallon jugs aboard Lady Rovina. The traps are stacked on the top of the boat over the stern deck.

The entire crew splits the cost groceries equally. Each dinghy marks there catch with a different color string so that they know who the fish belong to when they are sold. After they are sold the captain of Lady Rovina gets twenty–five percent of each dinghies catch. Each dinghy pays for their own fuel expenses and the Captain of Lady Rovina pays for the diesel and other expenses of the mother ship.
We feel very blessed to have met these men and to have learned so much from them. We thank them for everything they did for us and we look forward to seeing them again in the future. I am elated to have been able to find the answers to my questions and satisfy curiosities.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Awesome story!!

CaptainDon said...

Thanks for your comment....glad you liked it.