As we near Manjack island we turn into the wind to bring the sails down, completing a full 360° turn. We motor the final nautical mile into a bay where we anchor up. We suddenly realise we’ve left the fishing line and lure out the back of the boat where we’d been trawling it along whilst under sail. We reel it in to discover the line’s cut and the little orange fish lure gone. We’d churned up our own fishing line on our propeller when we’d turned and brought down the sails! As we wander around on deck laughing at how stupid we’d been, I spot a little orange thing bobbing around on the surface of the water about 40 metres in front of the boat. It’s slowly getting closer to us and is coming from the direction where we’d brought the sails down. I grab the binoculars and take a closer look…it’s only our lure!
What are the chances of it drifting into the bay? And more specifically what are the chances of it drifting into the bay and heading directly for our boat? I keep an eye on it whilst Ben jumps into the water and retrieves it. We’re astounded that we have it back, and as we only bought it a few days before we’re pleased we don’t have to pay for another one already. As Ben’s in the water already he dives under our boat to cut the fishing wire from the propeller. Thankfully no damage was done, and all we lost was a length of fishing line. Lesson learnt!
We head out in the dinghy through a shallow cut between Manjack and Crab Cay. The water’s only a few feet deep and it’s calm and clear. We’re heading out towards the corals reefs on the other side of the island, the dinghy is full of our snorkeling gear including wetsuits and fins. On our way through the shallow waters we spot two dolphins nearby, I’m surprised they’re in such shallow water. Ever since I was a teenager dolphins have been my favourite animal, there’s just something so happy about them. We turn off our engine and watch them for a while. One starts to head straight towards us, it picks up speed and at what appears to be full pace it rushes underneath us within inches of our dinghy. The velocity and power is phenomenal.
Out on the coral reefs we anchor the dinghy in a patch of sand and don our snorkel gear. The winter weather here means the water temperature is at it’s lowest and it’s pretty refreshing, even with a wetsuit on. It’s worth it for the views under the water – various coral, schools of colourful fish, slowly swaying with the waves. Some dart off as they see me, others are more confident. A school of silver fish seem to follow me around, curious by my presence. Every time I turn around, there they are behind me, they back off a little, but when I continue so do they. It seems I’ve made some fishy friends.
Whilst it’s beautiful, I do feel anxious. We know sharks are plentiful in these waters. It’s a whole different world under here, and I’m an outsider. I don’t belong here. I wasn’t designed for this. I feel out of my depth, literally, but I also feel so lucky to be able to experience their world, just temporarily.
The following day I head out to find some sharks from the shore during a late afternoon walk. Ben drops me ashore in the dinghy and I wander from one side of the island to the other via the mangroves and a path in amongst the trees. It leads out onto a long stretch of white sandy beach. Chatting to a local couple earlier in the day I’d been told that at the Northern tip of the island you could feed the sharks and stingrays in the water below. With my tub of seafood in hand I walk the length of the beach, heading north, there’s not another sole here. It’s hard going on the soft sand and I wonder whether I should keep going or turn back. With the thought of experiencing the sharks from the safety of land in the forefront of my mind I decide to keep going. After an hour of walking on the beach I reach the end, it turns rocky and I head to the edge of the water eagerly looking for fins. The waves are a little rough and it doesn’t seem like there are any sharks about. I wonder if I have the right place so I walk a little further around, but still, nothing obvious. I guess I’m not supposed to see any sharks today. The sun’s starting to set so I call Ben on the VHF radio to come and pick me up. There’s no reply. I keep trying. Still nothing. I try different channels, nope he’s still not receiving me. The sun is getting lower and lower and I have to consider my options. I have no phone with me, no food, no drink, no torch and once that sun goes down it’ll be pitch back. The island is pretty much uninhabited. My only way back to where I was dropped off on the island is back along the long beach, and back through the path to the other side of the island. I have no choice, I have to try and make it back…quickly! I dump all the “shark food” in the water so I don’t have to carry it back and head off. I make my way as quickly as possible back along the rocks and along the sandy beach. I run in places but it’s so tiring I can’t keep going for long. I have my waterproof jacket in one hand, and my dry bag and VHF in the other. I keep trying to make contact with Ben, still no reply. I’m half way back along the beach when out the corner of my eye I see something in the shallow waters. It’s a shark! I can see two dorsal fins and a tail breaking out of the water. I wish I’d kept hold of the food now. I watch it for a minute as I catch my breath and then I have to get going again. I hear the sound of conch shells being blown in the distance, a tradition amongst cruisers at sunset. It’s getting darker. I find the entrance to the path, the final mile back. The ground is uneven with rocks and roots but it’s easier terrain than the sand so I run. The surrounding trees make it darker here. The inevitable happens, I stub my foot, it hurts, but I keep going. A little later I look down and see my right shoe soaked in blood. I figure there’s no point in checking it now so I keep going. As I emerge from the trees and into the mangroves my VHF signal improves and I finally make contact with Ben. I make it back to my start point just as the last light is fading. The dinghy is a welcome sight and I’m relieved to say the least! Back aboard our yacht I inspect my foot, there’s a lot of blood and my whole toenail has ripped right off! Gone, lost. It’s throbbing. Ben disinfects and dresses it whilst I tell him about my afternoon.
It’s not quite how I pictured my afternoon stroll to go, but hey…at least I did see a shark!