Sex in Paradise!

Sex on the Drag – One of our highlights of sightseeing on Provo was the tour of Caicos Conch Farm.   When we began the tour, little did we know what was at the end.

Started 25 years ago, the conch farm is the only commercial grower of conch in the world.   Conch has long been a staple of the Caribbean diet.  Its meat provides a major source of protein for the region, while its shell has been used for tools, weapons, jewelry and as construction material.  Over-fishing has depleted wild stock of the Queen Conch and it is now listed as a commercially endangered species.  Countries throughout the Caribbean have quotas on harvesting wild conch, but the remaining conch population continues to decline rapidly as over-fishing continues to occur.

The hope was that the conch farm would be a profitable entity and be able to be replicated on other Caribbean islands.  That has not been the case.  Hurricanes have done damage in the past.  Their processing building was demolished 18 months ago and since have not been able to sell any product.  To diversify, the conch farm developed aquaculture for four varieties of fish to grow commercially – grouper, snapper, cobia and pompano.  They have their base stock and are currently waiting for the government’s approval to start the program.

The tour of  farm begins with a short biology lesson of conch and a description of the technology developed for cultivating the animals from egg through all stages of life.  We then saw the various tanks holding the different sized conch from when they develop their shell through six months at which time they are then transferred to wire pens on the Caicos Bank.


At the end of the tour, there was a small tank with two full grown Queen conch, named Sally and Jerry.  Most conch will recede into their shell when picked up or moved.  Sally and Jerry have been trained by the staff to come out of their shell when picked up.  Not only did they come out of their shell, but their eyes looked around to see what was going on.  Our tour guide then proceeded to show us the difference between Sally and Jerry.  I must say that Jerry’s junk was something to behold!  It could extend a full 12″ to be able to slide under Sally’s shell to do the dirty deed.  In the photo, Jerry’s junk is the dark thing at the top of his body, the eyes are at the middle right and the foot is the thing on the bottom left.  Not sure I want to eat cracked conch or conch fritters anymore!

Sex on the Run – The other highlight of sightseeing was a phenomenon I came across while reading about the Turks & Caicos, before we ever got here.  Once a month, the marine worm, ondontosyllis enopla (or better known as the glow worm), puts on a sparkling mating ritual.  Three to five nights after the full moon, about an hour after sundown, the glow worms put on a show that lasts anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes.   I found out the full moon was on April 15th, little did I know it would also be a lunar eclipse, too.   The best location to observe the glow worms would be on the northeast end of Provo by Donna Cay.  After much pestering, I convinced Betty that we needed to move LILI to the other side of the island (a 64 nm trip) to anchor by Donna Cay from April 16th to the 19th.  Then I kept my fingers crossed that these glow worms put on a really good show, or Betty was going to razz me about it for a very long time!

Female glow worms release eggs that float to the surface.  The eggs give off pulses of pale green bioluminescence.  The pulse of light is the signal for the male glow worm to dart among the eggs to fertilize them.  Then, the poor male dies and falls to the bottom.  Hey, but he went out in a big flash!

Thursday night, we got ready for the big show.  Betty kept razzing me.  I thought I saw something by the shore and called Betty.  No, she said it was just the sand’s reflection in the shallow water.  Every five minutes I came out to take another look.  Then, a little after 8 pm, I saw a flicker, then another.  I called Betty and she started to see them, too.  All in all, Betty saw 25, I saw 50 or more.  We definitely were anchored in the prime location, as they floated along against LILI’s hull.  Not a huge show, but proof they exist and not a figment of Jill’s imagination!  I’m hoping tonight will be even better!

Unfortunately, it is almost impossible to photograph the glow worms, so sadly no photo.  Look them up on the internet!

Those of you who have been around for some time, might remember the “Glow Worm” song, released by The Mills Brothers in 1957.  Johnny Mercer wrote the modern lyrics.

“Shine little glow-worm, glimmer, glimmer. Shine little glow-worm, glimmer, glimmer. Lead us lest to far we wander. Love’s sweet voice is calling yonder. Shine little glow-worm, glimmer, glimmer. Hey, don’t get dimmer, dimmer. Light the path below, above. And lead us on to love!”

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