Friday, 28 July 2017

The Other Day We Ate a Lion

About a week ago, I found myself hanging out with some friends from South Africa.  Being South African they naturally offered to take me lion hunting some day.  Of course, I readily accepted.  Just days later they dropped by in their dinghy and asked if I was serious about lion hunting - of course I was so I jumped in the dinghy with them and off we went.

"Wait just a minute!"  I hear you say.  "Ï thought you were in the Caribbean?  Do they have lions there?"

They do not.

The lions we were hunting were lionfish, an incredibly successful, invasive species in the Caribbean.  Lionfish are native to the Indian Ocean where their prey knows what they look like so they can be avoided, and there are predators who actively keep the population in control. Unfortunately, in the early 1990's, 10 lionfish originally meant to be sold to aquarium owners were released in southern Florida, since then these fish have multiplied and spread across the entire Caribbean and even to the Mediterranean Sea.  Lionfish are voracious predators eating juvenile fish of many species and impacting the reef eco-system.  Most Caribbean nations are actively working to eradicate this species.

Geared up in masks, snorkels and fins three of us set out to find some lionfish and come back with dinner.  We spent several hours free diving, peeking under rocks and coral ledges searching for fish.  Armed with a Hawaiian sling spear and holding my breath I made several spectacular shots at the lionfish as they hovered in front of me.  The first two fish I was stalking escaped unscathed, fleeing to the safety of deep cracks in the rocks after my second or third attempt to hit them.  Clearly spear fishing is harder than it looks.

I was persistent and eventually managed to spear two different fish while my friends brought back three.  A total of five fish about the size of a deck of cards was not going to make a full meal but we'd made an effort.  Regardless, we were pleasantly surprised at how difficult it was to find lionfish in the reef we were swimming on.  That meant the fish likely had not infested this area, or they were already picked over by locals or other divers.

After clipping the spines off the fish, they were gutted and filleted and put in the fridge for a future snack.  A few days after the hunt they received a tempura bath and we enjoyed the succulent white flesh of this invasive fish along with a glass of wine while the sun set in paradise.


Lionfish are undoubtedly one of the most beautiful reef fish we have seen so far, but they are incredibly harmful for the reefs in the Caribbean where they have no predators and are capable of eating all of the juvenile fish on the reef, wiping out a generation of fish that make up the reef eco-system.  Responsible governments and citizens are working to eradicate lionfish in the Caribbean.  Not all islands will allow you to fish without a permit or to use a spear gun unless part of an organized dive.  Please check local regulations before you go hunting so you can make an informed decision.  In our case, it seems we were not allowed to be hunting on our own, but these fish are harmful to the reef so it seems unlikely that local officials would have any cause to make trouble for us.

For more information on the invasive nature of lionfish please visit Sailors for the Sea here: or google the topic.

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Fun, Sun & Music!

One of the reasons we travel is to expose ourselves and our kids to different environments and experiences.  Not every day offers a new magical experience but on some days you hit it out of the park.  Yesterday was one of those days...

The sun burned into our skins, reflecting diamonds of light off the rippling waves, our dinghy rocked and bounced in those same waves.  The shore was a riot of emerald greenery, trees, shrubs, and grasses blending into a carpet of tropical lushness.  The sand, stark white broken by occasional reefs and rocks.  And the sound, the incredible sound of the laughter of children floating up, barely heard above the pounding thrum of a live local band.  This was one of the amazing Grenada dinghy concerts we had been told about, and it was living up to its billing.

We had been planning to attend for the past week, making sure all our friends knew the concert was happening and hoping there would be lots of kids attending.  We loaded the dinghy with a borrowed YETI cooler (only the best cooler I've ever used) well stocked with beverages and snacks, stopped to pick up friends from Aphrodite (4 more kids) and with our dinghy loaded to the brim made off from Clarkes Court bay on the Southern coast of Grenada.  Along the way we met the gang from Ketchy Shuby and together navigated through a small reef to the neighbouring cove where a barge sat waiting to play host to a local band.  Dinghys were rafted up like the kelp forests we have back in BC and we added our dinghy to the mix. 

Like most local events, things started off slowly, and late.  A 3:00 start time stretched to 4:00, the kids had devoured most of the snacks but the crowd was complacent, renewing old friendships and creating new ones.

Cy from the sailboat Magic had captivated the imagination with the help of his two dogs, Jupiter and Cinco.  The kids adored the pups and all told spent more time in his boat or the water than in ours.

Finally the band started to play and delivered a determinedly local lineup of soca music and freestyle beats.  They were good and more than effectively backed up by the environment they were playing in.

After a few hours of music, dancing, sun, swimming and socializing things began to break up.  Dinghys were untied and engines fired up for the short trip back to the boats or shore.  Every face was scarred by smiles from ear to ear that were not eased in the least by the short rain shower in the middle of festivities.

We capped off the night in the company of the whole crew from Aphrodite (including adults) who hosted us for dinner on their St. Francis 50 catamaran - on the whole it was another fantastic day in Grenada and a decidedly different experience than we have every enjoyed in Vancouver.

Friday, 21 July 2017

Did We Wait Too Long?

It's not unusual for our girls to watch a movie and emerge at one time or another in tears.  They've recently been watching more than just Disney cartoons and have been exposed to the death of lovable characters and pets which is where the tears come in.  We watched another one of those tonight - the death of a lovable and central character in the film we were watching led to sniffles and sadness (and that was just me).  The movie?  Chasing Coral.  The character that died?  The coral.

This film was frightening in what it revealed of the impact of human caused global climate change on coral, and also what it revealed of how little people consider the impact of climate change on the oceans.

Some of the things we learned tonight:

1) Coral reefs are the foundational ecosystem for 25% of the ocean's life
2) Approximately 1 billion people worldwide depend on coral reefs to some degree for food or income
3) A temperature rise of just 2 degrees celcius is all that is required to make oceans unlivable for existing corals
4) 93% of the heat in the Earth's atmosphere is absorbed by the oceans
5) In 2016 the world's oceans experienced the most prolonged and wide-spread overheating and coral bleaching in recorded history.  Approximately 30% of the corals in the oceans were killed by this event.

So - did we wait too long?  Are we going to travel the world in an effort to showcase the beauty and diversity for our children but find only devastation?  An underwater landscape that matches the worst of the above water landscapes that humans have created?  Will our children have the joy of swimming with clouds of multi-hued fish among the live and thriving coral ecosystem of the Great Barrier Reef or will they simply marvel at the algae that grows on the skeletons of the coral that once was there?

The cast and scientists in Chasing Coral left us hopeful that it may not be too late.   More than that, they touched a nerve in our children that may prove just the spark they need to get more involved in earth sciences and conservation, so don't be surprised if you hear more from us on the topic of our planet, the impact of human life on it, and what we can do to improve our chances of surviving.

If you're concerned in any way about climate change and the likelihood of your children and children's children thriving on this planet you should definitely check out the film on Netflix. 

Saturday, 1 July 2017

Happy Canada Day from Grenada!

The question we are asked most frequently is do we plan to sail back to Canada? 

Our response is usually "we'll see". Some interpret that response to mean that we don't like where we come from. Sure we have not stepped foot in Canada for two years since we left July 5, 2015. We want to show the girls the vast diversity of countries, cultures and people that exist on this blue marble. But so far no matter where we go, Canada still shines as one of the best countries in the world. 

We proudly fly our giant Canadian flag off the stern of Maple every day. Happy Canada Day!!!! 

(This picture is from Canada Day last year in Greece, crazy to think of how far we have come in 12 months. Thankfully Darryl has had a haircut or two since then too.)