Wrapping Up San Bernardos

We’d finally had some success spearfishing in Colombia.  The Rosarios didn’t produce much for me, but it was starting to seem like the San Bernardos might be the ticket.  Here we were able to land plenty of food-fish, and saw some fish that we could be proud of.  If we were lucky – we might get another chance at those fish in the latter category.

This was our last day in these islands.  Puffer Dan was on a schedule.  He’s all responsible and stuff.  And despite hating being on a schedule, I’m more than happy to make exceptions when friends come and visit.  Especially one that enjoys shooting and eating fish.  Or ones that look good in bikinis.  Dan falls into the first group – but unfortunately not the second.  Alas. 

I was a little foggy, but not bad, at 6:30 when I crawled out of my bunk.  The coffee was on and our morning smoothie was in the blender. That’s a nice way to wake up in paradise.  I took a look around and smiled and started going through the gear we needed to bring. 

We had the coffee, had our smoothies, packed our gear, and then headed with Payllo to make the daily gas run at the most populated island (people per square meter) on the face of the Earth.  True story.  At this island there are indeed many people.  And there are fish-pens.  The last part is cooler to me. 

In these fish-pens there are fish that the locals have caught and are raising.  They raise them and then either a) sell them to outsiders or b) have a big party and eat a big grouper/snapper/shark. In these pens was proof that there were good fish around.  Of course, the fact that all of these fish had been caught is also proof that these guys are hardcore fishermen.  With their nets and traps and lines – they catch a lot of fish.

On the ride out I got suited up again.  Payllo wanted to know where we wanted to go.  There was apparently another spot that we could try, but it would be closer to the island.  I’m of the belief that the best fishing is the furthest from the humans.  The honest truth is we manage to screw up the environment in many different ways, so getting away from that is the key. 

We dropped the “anchor” (a large rock tied to several lengths of ancient rope) in the same spot as the day before.  I flipped in, loaded my gun, dropped the flashers, and kicked off into the blue.  Today I was looking for The Ledge. 

The Ledge is where the “shallow” (50-60 ft) area drops off into The Abyss (? ft).  The Ledge exists in most good reef spearfishing spots and all good bluewater spearfishing spots.  Though, often, in bluewater spearfishing spots – The Ledge is several hundred feet under the water.

I kicked and kicked and kicked.  Eventually the hazy light-blue of the bottom faded into a deeper darker blue.  Here small schools of baitfish were hanging midway in the water column.  This was The Ledge.  I dove to 55 feet.  There I saw The Ledge.  The issue was it was another 30 feet to the top of The Ledge.  To get to the bottom of The Ledge, I’d need to be pushing 100 feet, freediving.  That’s pretty damn deep.  All of my freediving, recently, was restricted to 50 feet. 

I dove and dove, but wasn’t comfortable pushing it that deep.  If I’d been diving with some deeper divers or some certified freedivers – this story might have been different.  Needless to say, The Ledge was big enough to hold fish, it was deep enough to hold fish, but it was too deep to get to without pushing my luck.  With that realization I decided I’d hang around it and dive around it – hoping to bump into something pelagic with the same ideas I had about ledges near bluewater.

I had three fish in the bottom of the boat and a fourth on my spear, most from the area around The Ledge – when Puffer Dan swam up to me, blocked my way back to the boat, and shared some very important information with me.  He said, “the vis here sucks.” 

I think I told him to move, but I may have just ignored him.  You see – we were on the deep side of The Ledge.  We were in 200 foot of water or more.  Dan couldn’t see the bottom, so he thought the visibility was bad.  What he hadn’t grasped was that even if the visibility was 199 feet – he would only see blue when he looked down, here.

Dan was convinced the visibility sucked though, and in a few minutes I noticed him in the boat. Then Lauren joined him. Then I joined them both and we moved on.  Of course the other spot we were going to was 500 feet away, with the same visibility.

Here I switched to exploring.  I wasn’t finding much life here, but Dan managed to spear one of my favorite fish.  I swam around for a bit and managed to get a decent Cero Mackerel to come into the flashers, then I chased him and pinned him to the bottom with my spearshaft.  When I got back to the boat, I decided that was it for this spot. 

In the boat I was greeted with a pleasant surprise – Puffer Dan had expanded his target species (from puffers) to include Rainbow Runner.  I love Rainbow Runner.  Love.  They have a pink and firm meat.  Something between the red of tuna and the white of wahoo.  Closer to wahoo, but firmer.  Very tasty.  I learned later that Dan shot the Rainbow Runner, then brought it back to the boat and asked Payllo if it was a good fish before I got to the boat.  Luckily for all of us, it wasn’t just a good fish – it was a great fish. 

So when I saw this, I was a happy dude.  We had Cero Mackerel, Rainbow Runner, and Ocean Trigger for food.  Meaning we could cut up an epic sushi lunch, and then cook an epic fish dinner.  And we did. 

Fresh food!

Fresh food!

Back onboard, I left Dan to butcher the fish while I took about 50 pounds of fish over to our friends at the hostel.  I was greeted warmly and though the travelers didn’t care, the locals were really excited and the hostel owners started feeding me beer again. 

When I came back to the boat I used a very dull knife to attempt to cut up sushi.  Dan inhaled the sushi like a Hoover while I tried to savor it.  Having fresh sushi, on the back of my boat, anchored over a reef in crystal clear turquoise water anchored off of some remote Colombian islands is something worth remembering. 

Fresh sushi

Fresh sushi

There were some rumors about a cockfight on the inhabited island.  I share no particular love for chickens, beside loving to eat them – so I was excited about seeing it.  When in Rome, right?  Dan even more excited when he learned that you could buy a cock, fight it, and then make money if it won.  He was in.  I was excited about the whole thing, hoping to have another genuine Colombian experience.

About this time, my friend Kenny sailed in from the Rosarios.  He came up next to us, we chatted quickly and he went off to anchor. 

Kenny dropping by...

Kenny dropping by…

Naturally, there was a mixup in dates and times on the cockfight.  Likely a combination of alcohol consumption and a language barrier.  And as we learned that we wouldn’t get to see a cockfight, my dreams of titling a post “Dan’s Cock” faded.  It was certainly a disappointment.

This, of course, opened up our afternoon. With some time, Dan was able to do some work on deck-cleaning (he’d sprayed suntan lotion on the decks and stained them), I was able to scrape the bottom (my guy in Cartagena screwed the pooch on this one), and Lauren worked on the wood. I did a quick once-over on the rigging and gear and then we went over to talk with Kenny.

Kenny learned we had cake onboard, so he came over and had desert, while we ate gnocchi and marinara and parmesan-encrusted chicken.  There were a couple of good stories shared, we talked about the rich that owned property here and the obvious ties to the obvious business the rich were obviously associated with here in Colombia.  Then I needed to take a nap – the way back was against wind and waves all night – as I moved my condoamaran back to Cartagena.  Kenny left and took a few pounds of filets back with him. 

An hour and a half later I crawled back out of my bunk, got stuff under control, and pulled our anchor.  We were heading back to Cartagena.  Dan was heading home.  I was going to be up all night.  We were all happy, but we all wanted way more time there.   

Very little of that was on my mind, though.  I was busy hoping for a smooth, issue-free ride back to Cartagena – against wind and waves that were predicted to be un poco fuerte.

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Out There In San Bernardos

Dan cleans fish

Dan cleans fish

We gave our guide some fish.  Then I took some fish over to our friends at the hostel.  They were happy to trade the fish for beer.  I was happy to trade the fish for beer.  Win-win, I reckon.  With this trade, I’d finally accomplished a pretty massive achievement onboard – trading fish (which I usually have plenty of) for beer (which I’m usually out of).  

Ceviche and Puffer Dan's battle wounds

Ceviche and Puffer Dan’s battle wounds

Back onboard I whipped up some ceviche, which Puffer Dan quickly began shoveling into his mouth.  Lauren made an angelfood cake, with whipped cream frosting, topped with fresh strawberries.  I could lie to you and tell you we weren’t eating like Kings and a Queen – but that would be a lie.   The above pic shows how bad loading Dan’s speargun was wrecking his stomach…  

Ceviche, con mango

Ceviche, con mango

That night we went back to the hostel and had a couple of drinks, then came back to NOMAD – where Lauren crashed and Dan and I sat up talking and solving the world’s problems, while we attempted to find the bottom of a bottle of Colombian rum. 

Puffer Dan and the Rum

Puffer Dan and the Rum

But we didn’t get too crazy. 

Tomorrow we had another spearfishing date with our guy Payllo, but this time an hour earlier.  And it was open season on any edible fish – the hostel wanted as much fish as we could give them.  And I was bringing my flashers and Dan was bringing his floatline.

We would be ready in case some of the larger underwater species made an appearance.

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