Fabulous Friday

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Our day started at 6am, early rise to meet Olan for a lionfish hunt. We showed up at Douglas Bay beach aka Bell Hall a little before 7am, looked out on the jewel toned water, tingling with anticipation. There is something delightful about being the only person on a beautiful beach in the morning, knowing you are about to enjoy the magic that lay just beneath the surface of the ocean. On top of all that it’s still a new feeling to catch our own food. Not that I haven’t been fishing before in my life, but after being plant based for so long I never really thought much about hunting / fishing or taking from the sea. Now that we are living on an island with an eye on being as self sustainable as possible, it seems only right to take only what we need from the land and sea, enjoy it, savor it, and give thanks for it. While I am working on sprouting, growing some herbs and vegetables for the first time in a long time, spear fishing has the factor of immediate gratification. While Olan would be hunting to sell most of his catch to local restaurants, we were out to catch what we would eat, and I was out to make my first official catch!

fabulous-friday-2Once Olan arrived, we started to kit up, spoke briefly about where we were going to dive and we all took a heading to a far out buoy that marked the area we would descend to start the hunt. This ‘hunting ground’ happens to be one of my favorite deep dives since the entire area is a colorful reef with corals, sponges and tons of sea life. I won’t give away the heading but I will be happy to take anyone out there for a deep dive or hunt if they come visit us in Dominica! When I dive there I am always overwhelmed with its beauty, the casual slope that takes you down to 100 feet before you know it, and the general abundance and variety of life down there. It may be a ‘long’ surface swim out, but it is worth every moment of it. On the way out that morning we saw a ‘lesser electric ray’ in about 30 feet of water that we could see clear as day from the surface. The topside ripples played games with the light as we kicked our way out into the middle of the bay.We dropped down as soon as we hit our mark, Rich with one pole spear, Olan with another spear and a bucket to deposit our catch. It was almost like I was just along for the ride, but I don’t mind. We followed a new heading from the buoy, getting deeper as we swam from our starting point at about 40 feet of depth. As we hit 50 feet I saw a turtle out of the corner of my eye, almost at the end of visibility about 100 feet away. I swam towards it with intensity, I had to get a better look at the first turtle I’d spotted on the island! I tried to get the boys attention but neither of them could see it from where they were and didn’t want to chase after me. The visibility was so good that we could easily see one another while I tried to get closer to the turtle, and get back to them after the turtle got too far away. For me, the dive was already made, I didn’t need to catch a thing to make it a success, but we were on a mission after all, and I had talked a big game about catching my first lionfish.

fabulous-friday-3The dive took us to a maximum depth of 96 feet, along the way Olan and Rich ducked under overhangs and into barrels, whatever necessary to help them line up for the perfect shot. I helped scout several large fish pointing them out to my hunters before I finally took the spear into my own hands. Each time I do that wave of adrenaline kicks in and I feel my heart beating heavy in my chest. I love that feeling! My eyes widen as I too find the perfect position and proximity to shoot from. I’m not as strong as these guys so I need to get closer in order to ensure a catch. My shots on the first dive would poke but not penetrate the fish resulting in them getting away with a little 3 prong scar on their side, so I figured I needed to get even closer and follow through after the spear had jolted forward. I sidled up to a little guy pulling the band down as far as I could, and got as close as I could, paying attention to my breath inhaling slowly the closer I got. My aim was right behind the gills in the largest area of it’s body, and with a quick release of my hand the spear launched forward and into the fish. I got Olan’s attention and with pride pointed out the fish twitching at the end of the spear. With a quick thrust I pushed the fish through the slats in our container and on we went. Now that I had caught one I had higher hopes for my future in pole spear hunting!

fabulous-friday-4Rich was low on air first, and we sent him up to do his safety stop then hang out by the buoy we descended near. He watched us from above while we scoured the area for more fish, each catch going into the container until it was almost full. Olan gave me the signal that he was low on air and we took our heading to shore, getting shallower as we went. For our safety stop we continued to swim towards shore at 15 feet until 15 feet became the depth of the ocean, then we slowly rose towards Richard who had been snorkeling above us during our ascent and safety stop. Upon surfacing we congratulated one another on an awesome dive, a stellar hunt, and my success on catching my first fish! All that and I couldn’t get the image of the beautiful turtle out of my mind!

We got back to the shore and while the guys broke down equipment I went out for a freedive hunt to pick up some lobsters I had seen during the dive. I figured there were enough down there I could find a few again. As most places, there are different laws for catching lobster than other sea creatures, like you can’t catch them on scuba, or must catch by hand, only certain sizes, only certain seasons etc. I’m still not 100% sure of the rules here so I tried to keep it as ethical and sustainable as possible, only catching a certain size, and catching by hand. When I got back the guys had already started to gut and clean the fish.

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fabulous-friday-6The guys made quick work of cleaning the fish and portioning them so we could share the catch. Our fish and lobster went into a bag and then a plastic container to keep them safe on the short ride home, but our excitement couldn’t be contained. We would have enough fish and lobster for at least 2 meals for the 2 of us and we began to run through all the things we could make with them ;
fish tacos,
fish po boys
grilled fish
fried fish
fish fried rice …I could turn into Forrest Gump but I won’t.When we returned home Rich organized the fish and threw them into the freezer. Later that night Rich split the lobster tails, cooked them in butter and garlic with a side of rice and it tasted like heaven. A few nights after that we made lionfish po boys by battering and frying the lionfish, adding lettuce tomatoes to a baguette and finishing it off with our own special sauce. Each time we ate our own catch we were awash in gratitude, for being able to provide our own meals, for living in such a beautiful and bountiful place, and for the people we have met here.

We can’t wait to share these experiences with our guests one day!

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Stay Salty
Kayla

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