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We found five conch but only killed the biggest three. Mike also speared a Schoolmaster (type of snapper) to filet.

Capturing and killing animals for food is a new and empowering experience for Brian and me. Having recently added lobster to our fishing repertoire, we were eager to get more practice (and hopefully, more free grub). With plans set with our buds from s/v Basta for another afternoon of spearing, we piled our gear into the dinghy and puttered out toward the cut.

They were already in the water snorkeling as we approached in our dink. All of a sudden, Mike shot out of the water and up into their dinghy, hauling Marjolaine up by both of her arms right behind him. It turned out that Mike had spotted a hammerhead shark (eight feet long, by his estimate)! That killed our plan, so we motored over to a shallow patch of water on the other side of the island to search for conch instead.

Conch grow a green carpet of sea flora on their shells, which makes them difficult to spot. We snorkeled in very shallow water for a few hours and unearthed five that were big enough to eat. Mike taught us an easy way to release the creatures from their shells. The other part – butchering to extract the edible parts and mincing the meat for cooking proved to be a much bigger pain in the ass. We shared the prep work and our friends treated us to a lovely dinner of conch fritters aboard s/v Basta, which was anchored near the shallows on opposite side of the island from Nightingale Tune. We had a great time and stayed longer than we should have – the seas had grown bigger, rain started spitting, and darkness suddenly set in and engulfed everything in sight (there’s no twilight in the Bahamas).

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Beach near the spot where we found the conch. s/v Basta can be seen in the distance.

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Conch have beautiful shells that look like sunsets.

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Mike showed me where to make a hole in the shell to release the suction that holds the creature inside.

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Naked conch

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Cutting away the inedible pieces. The exterior is covered in slime and you can feel the muscles spasm as you work.

We suffered through a long, tense, wet ride back to our side of the island. Lacking GPS or a chart to navigate, we relied on guesswork using the tiny flashlight that I’d packed in our dinghy bag (remember, I’d prepared for a day of lobstering on our side of the island). Fully soaked and totally disoriented, we pushed on into the darkness with waves splashing over the nose, into the dinghy and our faces. Once we were finally back in our anchorage, we rode around in circles, squinting to catch the outline of Nightingale Tune. It was an ending worthy of post-mortem discussion, and we identified about a dozen things we’d do differently next time. Sometimes that’s just how you learn. (1/13/16)