“The worst troubles I’ve had in my life are the ones that never happened.”
“Oh how I’ve thrived in solitude and poverty! I cannot overstate this advantage.”
Henry David Thoreau
I am always amazed when I find a new place in the Bahamas, but this one is especially egregious. I have been cruising the Bahamas and the Abacos specifically since the 1980's, and have cruised past this place probably 50 or more times. The place is Fowl Cay just above Man O’ War Cay.
Fowl Cay is a pristine preserve with good holding in about 10 feet of water and plenty of protection from the prevailing winds and a delightful set of reefs with mooring balls on the Atlantic side. Fowl Cay also has a nice sandy beach for Baci to chase tennis balls and a small “pool” of ocean water that comes over some rocks at high tide to create a sandy Jacuzzi-like area to sit in and relax.
Day snorkelers come by and tie off at moorings, but we were the only boat that remained after sunset. It is amazing to be in complete solitude while only being a few miles between the popular Scotland and Man O’ War Cay. I so wish that I had discovered this in the 1980s when my kids were small.
The great reason was that when Hans a 5-year-old, he came into the saloon to tell me, “Dad, there is something under the dinghy.” I ventured back to the stern and pulled the dinghy to one side and there was a 4-foot shark sitting in the shade under our dinghy. Immediately, everyone was on the stern wondering what to do. With my best Ernest Hemingway and Old-Man-and-the-Sea bravado, I decided to hook the shark. You may have heard the saying, “Prior planning prevents," ... Well, totally neglecting this, I took a piece of conch and placed it on a hook with about 6 feet of line.
I then wrapped the line around a foot-or-so-long stick and stepped into the unstable inflatable dinghy. I proceeded to put the conch and hook in the water next to the dinghy beside the shark that still remained under me. Almost immediately the shark hit the line. This is the place where the prior planning would have been a significant advantage. Erik, 11 years old, was excited. Kristen, 8 years old, worried that I might hurt myself. And Hans, 5 years old, was experiencing Jaws first hand.
I now had a 4-foot shark on a short line with a stick thrashing wildly. The dinghy was tipping back and forth and I was standing up trying to balance myself. The ominous sound track to Jaws ran through my panicked brain as I tried to step off the dinghy and up to the swim platform. At this point I had moved from Ernest Hemingway to Lou Costello.
Bravado became terror as I held the shark up off the swim platform with his tail next to my feet. I became extremely committed to them remaining attached to my body. As the shark continued to thrash wildly I recognized that his mouth was very close to other even more important parts of my body. True, I wanted no more children, yet this would have been drastic.
Fortunately, the shark bent the hook, landed on the swim platform, and fell into the water. He shot away at an amazing speed and all returned to calm. Body parts remained intact, even though my Ernest Hemingway alter-ego was long gone. It was at this time that Hans declared, “ I will never swim here again.” True to his word, we were close to our departure time for the USA and Hans enjoyed pools our last week or so.
For this reason, I so wish that I had known about Fowl Cay, because I could have snorkeled with Kristen and Erik, while Hans safely swam in the “pool” on the beach. The point is twofold. First, don’t miss the anchorage and snorkeling at Fowl Cay. Second, plan all shark fishing adventures a hell of a lot better than I did.
Read more of Joe's cruising blog, here.