On Hunting Lion(fish)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pterois

Feeling really productive down here in Bequia.

Yesterday we hunted Lionfish, these creatures are amazingly beautiful but they are an invasive species that are rapidly tearing apart the ecosystems across the reefs of the Caribbean. Everyone is encouraged to hunt them as much as possible. Ideally, humans would hunt 25% of the population each month — just to keep the population from further increasing!

If you haven’t seen them in the wild, they are really interesting. They have ZERO predators here in the Atlantic and they do not swim away from you. You can get as close to them as you dare risk getting stabbed by their spines. They float so gracefully and can move in any direction, they do seem like an alien star fighter.

There are a ton of Lionfish on the north shore of Bequia. We used our dinghy to get over there with a local guide/diver Keleron, a solo English sailor Davey who free dives like a champ, Kyle and myself.

To hunt them we used Hawaiian Slings, basically a rubber band powered spear, while Keleron used a full-sized and intimidating speargun.

Once there we geared up, and despite being only my 14th dive, I noticed that Keleron didn’t know how to manage his rig, I asked him how many dives has he done — “This will be my 5th!” he said with a big smile, as he let his regulator freely bubble away his air. Huh.

We descended to 35 feet quickly, and started cruising up the coast between 35–55 feet. During the day the Lionfish hang out under the ledges of larger coral encrusted boulders on the seaward side. They are pretty easily to spot with their wild colors and that they are almost still.

As I rounded a large boulder and started to look under the shadow of a rock, something stuck my abdomen, and then I realized it was Keleron, in his excitement to get the first kill he fired his speargun across and under me by inches. F-uck! He nailed the Lionfish, but I decided I am no longer swimming closer than 30 feet to him.

After just a few minutes, Kyle came across a Lionfish and swam up close, pulled his band back tight, and thunk! First use of the weapon came up with another Lionfish! Underwater fist pumping and high-fives were happening for sure.

In a few minutes I found a big one, and fired at it from close ranged, and got a hit with the 3 barbs into his belly. He tried to flee under the rock, but I pulled him back out, spurting green-blood (red looks green at that depth) and was about to re-stab him into the sandy bottom to be sure it stuck, when, of course, he swam off and under the rock.

After re-grouping we swam back over this area, and Kyle noticed this same guy just hanging out on the sandy bottom feeling the shocking sense of his arrogance missing and nursing his wounds. Kyle came up and aimed and fired — and a miss! And then again 3–4 times, each time the Lionfish would just move 2 feet away and give you and easy chance to try gain. Eventually I took a shot and we got the big guy.

Later, on my second tank and dive, I caught the 4th Lionfish of the day. Keleron, being local, has no restrictions on what he catches, so he collected an assortment of reef fish including triggerfish and parrotfish. Down this far there is no danger of Ciguatera Poisoning.

All in all, this was by far the most fun I have had diving so far (just 14 dives), but I no longer really thought much about my gear, boyancy, air remaining or depth. For the first time I felt that flow feeling of being totally in the moment. I felt so comfortable under the water, I could swim upside down and under a ledge with razor sharp coral everywhere with both hands on the sling, and make those hits. (Overall about a 40% success rate.) I knew where I was, and I swam far on the second tank while the others continued with free diving. On both dives I took the tank below 500 psi and timed it to come back to the boat with a fish and the last bit of air.

Kyle made another huge milestone for himself by free diving to 58 feet. It is a sublime feeling, but really feeling like we are comfortable under the water.

We came back to our boat, and Keleron enthusiastically showed us how to clean the Lionfish without getting stabbed by the poisoned spines.

That evening we joined up with three other cruising boats and had a lovely beach BBQ hosted by some locals that have a great spot under the poisonous Manchineel Tree. Old tired mainsails provide shade and protection from that sap dripping on your skin in the rain. We had enough fish to feed 12 people, others brought some chicken wings and other dishes.

On Diesel Maintenance

Take a look at the old, broken impeller vs the new impeller for our diesel Onan genset below. Friday morning the generator would start, but shut down after 5 seconds, complaining of low raw water flow. This has been a persistent problem with my boat since it was new. The generator is 4 feet above the waterline, and the water has to pass through two raw water strainers, bends, and about 12 feet of hose to make it to the engine. A 12vdc lifting pump is critical to making it happen, but I always thought the lifting pump could be a size larger.

So we tried the engine several times (okay 9 times). Then, I decided to really figure out what is wrong. We started with the thru-hull and the first raw-water strainer lid removed and sure enough plenty of sea water wanted to come in the boat! 🙂 Okay next how about the lifting pump, it was definitely running, but is it pushing enough water? Well, go to the second and higher raw water strainer and take off that lid, and start the lifting pump. Oh boy! Water everywhere. Yep it is pushing water. How about water in the hose to the engine? Yep, plenty of water. Okay, so it had to be a problem with the raw water pump on the engine.

Took off the sheet metal covers, take off the driving belts, pull off the water pump pulley. disconnect the hoses, flip over the water pump and crack the 4 bolts sealing and lets take a look at that impeller. Is there any grooves cut into the vanes? A broken or missing vane? Nope. All 6 vanes were sheared off and all the black rubbery bits were stuck in the 80 degree bronze elbows.

Yep, we got all the use we will get out of that impeller.

Suequei has these great angled tweezers, and in just about 10 minutes we cleared all of the bits and re-assembled the old impeller like a jigsaw puzzle to see of we got them all. Yep. Popped in the new impeller, and new O-ring. Re-assembled the water pump, put back on the drive belt, test the generator. And happy on the first run! From start to fish — 70 minutes.

Later we did an oil change on the generator as well. So now at zero hours on the genset. Feels surprisingly good.

Admiralty Bay — a very busy anchorage with a wild assortment of working boats, cruising yachts, 3 masted ships & more!

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