The dreaded day. THE day. The day I had to pack my bags and leave my home. It was hard. Packing all of my things up. Taking everything off of my shelves. Claiming laundry off the line and gathering stray GoPro parts from around the lab. It was all hard.
My flight was at 11:30. I signed the book, said my goodbyes multiple times, and Michael took me to the airport. We waited for my flight to board for about 45 minutes. I got to see Alex again and we talked for a while. A good distraction. But then I had to board my plane. I’m glad I had a dolphin group on my plane because they were really talkative and kept my mind occupied. But it was hard. Saying goodbye to Bimini, to my home, to Michael. It was all hard. And it’s still hard to think about not being there. But all good things have to end. The flight back was quick. Too quick. And suddenly I was in civilization again. 20 minutes and I was in a different world. I didn’t like it. I still don’t like it. I wish I was in Bimini. But new things are good and after 7 months at the lab it was time for me to move on. But it wasn’t easy.
Those guys were my family. Are my family. Heather, Bryan, Mo, Rachael, Clem, George, Nick, Bryan, Kelsey, Sarah, Andi, Ally, David, Andy, Rob, Lindsay, Lauran, TJ, Jill, CJ, Jean, and Michael. I couldn’t have asked for a better group of people to be with the past four months. There’s nothing like doing other people’s laundry and cleaning their bathrooms. Y’all are my family and I could never have imagined that this round at the lab would be so different from the lab last year. I learned so much more about people and about myself. So thank you. Thank you for everything. All of you.
And now, off to the next great adventure…
Off day! It was really nice to have my last day as an off day. I had packed all of my things the afternoon before so I had pretty much the whole day free to spend time with Michael. We got up early and went to breakfast at Le Petit Conch as usual. It was really windy out and there was a dolphin (fish, not mammal) tournament starting on Saturday (it was Friday) so there were a TON of boats in and out of the Sands Marina. We sat watching the boats dock for a while. Incredibly entertaining, if you’ve never done it. Watching huge yachts come in and dock is impressive. We walked down the channel and were on the beach for a few minutes before going back. Then we watched one yacht leaving. The thing was huge, with its own crew and everything. But that captain had been at it for a while and did a perfect job. And then proceeded to get almost hit exiting the channel by a jerk fisherman from Ft. Lauderdale. But such is boat etiquette in Bimini…
After we left the Sands, we walked back along the road by Shell Beach and back to the lab. We putzed around for a bit and then Michael took his fly rod out to Back Beach to see if he could hook anything. He taught me how to cast briefly and never caught anything but we did see a few lemon sharks and a BIG barracuda. When we came back in, we kept looking at the weather because we REALLY wanted to go down to Gun Key and Cat Key but the weather was just too bad.
Instead we walked around the island and decided to play tourist for a day. We went to the Nature Trail and read all of the placards and signs around the trail. We took some pictures and took our time walking around, actually looking at everything. It was a lot of fun and a great way to spend the afternoon.
When we got back, we went to the Beach Club for dinner. Jean came down and joined us a few minutes later and we had a very nice evening together. It was pretty quiet there too. We ate, had a drink and dessert, and just chatted for a while. I got to see Alex while she was there too so I got to say goodbye to my only 2012 fellow Sharklabber still on-island.
After getting back to the lab, Michael and i headed to Back Beach with firewood in-hand and made ourselves a little bonfire. We set out a blanket and watched Jurassic Park, too. It was a wonderful last day in Bimini. The weather didn’t cooperate but it was perfect nonetheless.
The students left that morning. It was sad seeing them all go but it was very nice having an empty lab again. I spent the morning cleaning up a little and moving back into my room while everyone else was cleaning the Nut House and Salt Air where they were staying. It was SO quiet. One group left at about 10:00, another at 10:30, and the last one after lunch at about 1:00. The last group was only 7 students so the lab felt very empty. Even with all of the volunteers and staff for lunch it was really quiet.
After lunch, we had the afternoon off. I started my packing so I could have the whole next day off to do whatever I wanted. It was sad but needed to be done. Michael napped and I watched The Princess Bride while I got all of my stuff organized. I got most everything in and then made dinner for Michael and me. We had some bad weather rolling in so we watched the rain during dinner. It was such a quiet night. There were only 14 people but it felt like there was nobody. After having 38 people in the lab for a week, it was incredible. We were all doing our own thing even though we were all in the lab. And you could hardly tell anyone else was there. Amazingly quiet. It was weird but so nice after such a crazy week.
I just realized I hadn’t finished my blog! I do apologize for the delay.
Anyway, we had a crew up at 5:45 and out at about 6:00 to go reset the longline. They rebaited the wild card line and then hauled two lines to reset them near the wild card line and baited those ones as well. I never went back to sleep after they left so I went for a nice run just to the ferry dock and back but it was a nice morning for it.
When I got back from the run, we had breakfast and then Kelsey, Rachael, and I drove the three skiffs around from the Yacht Club back to the lab. It was pretty splashy but not a bad ride early in the morning. After getting back, Ally, Rachael, Kelsey, and I headed out to set one gillnet off of Back Beach and the guys were setting another one. It turned into a competition. We won. We had three neonates, the guys had one. We caught the first one before we finished setting the net. Rachael jumped out and got it and it turned out to be one of the two neonates they had caught gillnetting there the day before and didn’t know not to release. We worked it up and before we could take it to the pen, the guys caught the second neonate from the day before! It was good to see they were still around and alive. We took them to the pen and had another one waiting at our net when we got back. Another new neonate. Kelsey PIT tagged it and took it to the pen. About 30 minutes we caught our last neonate of the morning and I got to PIT tag it. Such a fun little shark.
We hauled the net at 10:45, got everything cleaned and put away, and were called out for a big tiger shark on the longline! We quickly loaded everyone up and headed out to the line. When we got out there, TJ, Michael, CJ, and David had the shark tied up next to the boat ready for the students to watch the work up. They worked her up and then we all got to get pictures with her. She was BEAUTIFUL. When the working up and pictures were done, they attached her to a tail float and let her go. The students followed for a bit and then took the tail float off and watched her swim away well. It was great fun and a beautiful shark.
The guys stayed out to debait and dehook the lines so they didn’t catch any more sharks while the rest of us went back to the lab for lunch. They actually did it in record time, 32 minutes, and got back just as we finished eating. Impressive, boys. After finishing lunch, we all hung around for a while. The students were working on their coursework and we were cleaning up the lunch mess when they decided it was nice enough to go to Nurse Shark Ledge. Andi was on duty but I switched with her because I’m useless at Nurse Shark Ledge because of my ears and she had never been before. So… after they headed out Rachael and I had a cleaning FEST. The house hadn’t been empty with time to clean in days so we hardcore cleaned the kitchen and the lab. It was great.
After they all got back, we all had free time to get ready and nice for dinner at the Beach Club. I went and showered at Salt Air and got ready. At 7:30 we headed down to the Beach Club for our dinner with the students. It was a very nice time with all of them and was the first time I really had the chance to talk to many of them. But it was a nice night and even afterwards in the bar itself we all had a good time. It was a great end to a long week but a great course.
Fishing day! Doc wanted Michael to take the Twin Vee out for a spin to see how the steering was doing so Andi and I went with him to do some trolling. We got all of the gear together and headed out. Just behind the dock in our lagoon there’s a huge school of a couple hundred bonefish that come in every morning about 9:00. It was about 8:45 and they were making their way in when we saw a huge barracuda following them. Michael grabbed a spinning rod with a J-hook on it, hooked a ballyhoo through the eyes, and cast it out. It only took two casts before the cuda saw it. Watching it hunt was incredible too. I’ve wanted for the longest time to see a barracuda hunting and striking something. It came up behind it, and then darted to its side. Then it came back around and darted past it on the other side. It made a few quick passes behind and around it again and then BOOM! It took it and RAN. Because we were in about 3-4 feet of water it couldn’t dive like they usually do on reefs so it was just running to open water. It jumped and flipped a few times as it made its way out to the channel. It ran so fast though Michael actually almost ran out of line. I had to drive the Twin Vee towards the cuda just so he could start reeling. It took line a couple more times and then tired out. Michael gaffed it while Andi reeled it in. It was a huge fish. At least 20 lbs. with a huge head and teeth about an inch long. Scary fish. And the hook was literally just hooked through the scales on the side of his jaw. If he had gotten the line in his mouth it would have been game over too because it wasn’t on a rig so there was no leader or anything, just mono. It was an impressive catch by Michael to say the least.
Anyway, we went back to the dock, threw it in the freezer after telling everyone about it because they didn’t believe us. We headed back out towards Turtle Rocks and just trolled there for the morning. Michael wanted to stay close in case the Twin Vee stopped cooperating. I had three bites on my rod and Andi had two. They all got off though. I know one of mine was a houndfish, so were the rest of them probably. It was disappointing but at least Michael got us one giant cuda.
When we got back, we had lunch and then we were supposed to head north to bait for bull sharks for the students. David had never been so I switched places with him and stayed back to help with dinner prep and some cleaning. Michael, Andi, David, and Ally headed up with a skiff from the lab and shortly thereafter Kelsey and I left to go up north to see how the baiting was going and to buy some supplies for the lab. We got up to the Blue Water dock where they were baiting but it had been unsuccessful up to that point. Kelsey and I went ahead and did our necessary shopping and still they had gotten norting when we got back. It had also started raining. They called it about 5:30 and Kelsey and I took the ferry back while everyone else boated back.
After prepping dinner once back at the lab, I made a cake for Andy Kell because it was his last day which was very sad for all of us. But it was all enjoyed and very delicious.
It was a very low-key day. The students went and did a shark dive, Honeymoon Harbor feeding wild stingrays by hand, and then snorkeling at the Sapona while the rest of us did some lemon shark wrangling. When we finished that, I spent the whole rest of the evening cleaning, fixing, and regalvanizing the longlines.
I got to spend the whole day with my parents fishing! I spent the first couple hours of the day at the lab helping out with morning duties and then met them at the Sands at 9:00. They rented a Twin Vee from the Sands for the whole day so we got on the water and headed to the lab to pick up fishing gear. I had never driven a Twin Vee so it was an interesting experience but good practice. I got all of our gear ready from the lab and then we headed back to the west side to do some offshore trolling.
We trolled up and down the north side of the island for a couple of hours but never caught anything. It was pretty swelly and choppy so the weather was pretty much against us in every way, shape, and form. Then we decided to go to Turtle Rocks and see what we could find there. That’s where we usually catch our bait for the lab so there are mostly always fish there. We stayed on the west side of the rocks and only trolled that half mile stretch but we had a few big hits, dad caught a mackerel, mom caught two cuda (a big one we kept for the lab and a baby we let go), a triggerfish, and some mystery fish that got off before we could get it in the boat but it was big, and I caught a small cuda we let go. It was a pretty successful day all around.
Dad dropped me and all of the stuff off at the lab while they returned the boat. Michael and I filleted the mackerel and gave it to my parents so they could have it for dinner. I stayed back to help that evening because I had been out all day. Michael and I went over after everything was done around 10:00 and visited for a couple of hours though. it was a wonderful day on the water even though the weather wasn’t great.
My parents’ second day here I didn’t actually see them at all. We were out in the field all day. I was helping get the course out the door in the morning - they were going to Aya’s Spot and Bonefish Hole - and then we left for Clem’s trials after lunch around 2:00. It was a slow process getting up there because we had to putt the whole way as it was low tide but Ally and I got some quality nap time in despite the wind pushing the spray into the boat and making us cold.
We got up there and had to wait about 30 minutes for Jean to be done with his video trials so we could get his GoPro housing from him. We got the housing, set up the trial, and started. It took us a while to get everything done because of the wind but after no more than 45 minutes we were done. Then came the really challenging part - moving the sharks. Each of the sharks in the trial pens had to be moved back into the main holding pen which was easy. Catching a shark in such a small pen isn’t too difficult as long as it doesn’t get silted up too much. We got each shark, moved it, and then opened the doors to one of the pens to usher another shark into the trial pen for the next day’s trials. Easier said than done. It was so silty we couldn’t even see the sharks. Every step just sent a plume of sediment into the water and took ages to settle. We got the first shark in after about 10 minutes. The second shark probably took another 30 minutes. Once they were settled we waited half an hour, fed them, and then headed back to the Yacht Club.
Once back at the lab, we cleaned up and then I headed over to Coconut Cove to have dinner with my parents. We went to the Beach Club, went back to Coconut Cove, and watched some TV for the rest of the evening, visited with Michael for a bit, and then headed to bed. It was a long afternoon in the sun but productive and fun.
Today was such a strange day. We were supposed to have an early wake up but I didn’t get the message that it was pushed back an hour so I was up for a bit before everyone else. It was fine though because I finished up copying the North Sound Midi PIT data from the sheets into the data book.
After breakfast, we were broken into different tasks. Rachael, David, Clem, and Jean went up to the North Sound to do Jean’s trials for the day and George, Kelsey, Ally, and Andi went to Bonefish Hole area to collect SUR housings. I was on duty for the day so I was getting everything together before the course arrived. We had the University of New Brunswick course arrive today. There are 16 students and one professor. Add in Doc and Tristan there are 36 people at the lab right now. It’s very crowded. We had to move all of our stuff out too so they could stay in our rooms so there’s stuff everywhere and very little to actually do during the day when we’re not with the course.
Anyway, we made lunch, served, and then did introductions with everyone that was still at the lab. I was the only volunteer left because everyone else was out in the field but the SUR crew got back just as introductions were half way done. I then made some bread for breakfast tomorrow morning and then went off to Coconut Cove because my parents came to visit Bimini and are staying just down the street from the lab.
I took them to Back Beach and showed them the rays and the sharks. We waited there for a while because the course was supposed to be going out for a shark dive at 5:00 and the lab would be really crowded to show them around. After they left I gave my parents a quick tour of the lab and then they headed back to Coconut Cove. I needed to help around the lab a bit more and we just met up again for dinner at 7:00.
At 7:00 we headed down to the Beach Club for dinner and drinks. We were back at Coconut Cove by 9:00 and I fell asleep on the couch. It’s so comfortable. Michael dropped by for a visit for a while and now I’m almost asleep. It’s been a long day and I’m afraid to read over this post because it might not make sense.
Oh, it was looking like a long day… We left to do Jean’s trials at 10:00 and were told we wouldn’t be back until 7:30. Woah. I know, right? So Rachael, Clem, Andi, Jean, and I left at 10:00 and went through the Lagoon to Tower Wilson. Clem needed the tower for his trials so we were moving it to the North Sound. Two crews had already gone out and were dismantling the pens in Sharkland so CJ, George, and David met us at the tower to drive it through Smuggler’s Pass.
Once we got the tower on the boat, we drove through Smuggler’s and up to Clem’s pens. We rolled the tower off the boat and set it into place pretty easily. It’s a really sturdy tower so it settles into the sand nicely - no torquing or anything. We finished up the last few details on Clem’s pens, the demo crew came and got him to take him back to the lab, and the rest of us started Jean’s trials. The trials themselves went very well and went much more quickly than anticipated. There was a gigantic barracuda that has been hanging around the pens for a while now that would watch us when we walked the sharks between Jean’s pens and Clem’s pens. Kind of scary knowing you’re being watched and something with huge teeth wants to eat what you’re holding in your hands. But trials went smoothly and ushering the sharks went well as well. It was a relatively painless process and once we fed the sharks we were headed back to the lab. It was probably just after 5:30 too.
Once we got back to the Yacht Club and made our way back to the lab, we had the evening to pack everything and get our things ready before the course came the next day.