Warderick Wells Again
We are back at Warderick Wells and are planning on staying here through the next blow which has pretty much come on this morning. So far it is only in the upper teens but heading for the mid to upper 20s over the next 24 hours. Not moving gives us an opportunity to relax a little more, as well as to get boat chores done - R polishes stainless, M checks off minor repairs, etc. We might go down to Staniel Thursday for a Valentines dinner at the YC...
We have had some really stunning days with light winds and bright sunshine. A couple of days ago we set out in the dink for Malabar Cays. The park snorkeling guide notes some coral heads south and east from the Cays. We drove out to the rocks and through them looking for reefy looking spots. Didn't see much at first but persisted, moving closer to shore and then we started spotting some likely looking dark places. In we went and found first one and then many really nice little heads. A great number of them were chock full of lobsters! Big ones! We saw more "bugs" there than we have seen in any one area. There were plenty of reef fish too, notably some nice big Queen Angel fish and some small Nassau Groupers.
From Malabar Cays we continued down toward the south end of Warderick Wells Cay. The water was low - just past low tide and as we approached the southern corner at the south end we found the water flooding through a narrow gap like a river. We were able to go through safely. This put us into the Hog Cay mooring field. We had seen this small body of water from land before and it was beautiful, but from the water it was stunning. The colors of the water reveal the depth, ranging from the deepest blue to the light tan color of the sand bars and everything in between. We went there, in part, to see the stromatolites that are there. Stromatolites are living organisms going back to when life was new on earth; fossils date back to 3.5 billion years. Stromatolites were thought to be extinct but were found again in the '80s here in the Bahamas and elsewhere. Those here are thought to be a couple thousand years old. As cool as they are, stromatolites are not especially dramatic to view. They look kind of like pancake rocks or big mattresses. We had thought we might swim among them but the current was too strong so we used our lookie bucket instead.
Leaving the Hog Cay mooring, we rode the current around the south end of Warderick and along the west side of Warderick Wells Cay. The current vanished and the wind dropped to nearly nothing. We stopped on one of the many beaches, soaking up a major dose of vitamin D. On the way north we noticed a cat coming in and when we reached the Emerald Rock mooring field we saw it was our friends on Makana so went over to greet them. We saw them last at Vero Beach and it was good to see them again here in the Bahamas.
Then we stopped at Celilo for a late lunch (about 1400). We hadn't had enough swim time yet so it was back into the dinghy for a run north to Long Rock. Mike went in the water about half way up the cay to recon and swam south while Roberta spotted him from the dinghy. We found this reef as described in the park snorkeling guide. Once grand but now diminished due to the growth of algae. There are still corals and there are fish but both are scattered without the concentration we have seen in more healthy areas. So Roberta didn't jump in. Moving off the reef and over a grassy sand area, Mike noticed "tracks" in the sandy bottom. Looking again and then diving down, he found a huge conch field. These were old conch with thick heavy shells. The outsides of the shells were rounded off from tumbling around in the sand for years but the inside where the animal lives was pink and smooth. Protection from the park makes all the difference.
What a day!
While up at Long Rock and over at Betty's Reef earlier, Mike had his eye on a reefy area north of the Wide Opening. We would need a pretty calm day to make the run of several miles up to this place. Yesterday, the winds were light and the sun bright so we loaded up and headed north to see how things looked. It was a bit bouncier than we might have thought but all in all not bad so we crossed Wide Opening and started checking it out, looking around again using the lookie bucket. We found scattered soft corals and fish but not a concentrated rocky reef. After a while Mike went into the water and began a swim of about an hour and half while Roberta again spotted him in the dinghy. Once in the water M found several coral heads. In between there were many soft corals and scattered fish, notably many silver and blue trigger fish and lots of large parrot fish. At one point there was a huge Nassau grouper. Perhaps most interesting was the complex underwater topography. There were many darker coral covered ridges and lighter sandy canyons. The water depths varied from tummy tickling shallows to perhaps 40 or 50 feet. The current directed Mike's swimming course through the first half of the swim, the ebb carrying him toward Exuma Sound. Mike boarded the dinghy and we both consulted the copy of the chart we had made and brought along in a zip-lock baggy. It looked like there should be a coral reef to the south and east of where we were so we motored over there and Mike went back into the water. This was much like the earlier part of the swim except there were more hard coral areas and it was more consistently shallow. M swam around until he spotted a couple of sharks. His attitude about sharks is: avoid them until he learns more about identification and behavior. Looking at the book, these might have been blacktip sharks. One was bigger than he was! He motioned for R to pick him up in the dinghy NOW!
After finishing up north we came back down and picked up the dinghy buoy at the Warderick fuel dock. Rick from Makana and his guests joined us for a nice swim full of fish and a pass by a huge spotted eagle ray which glided west to east over the sandy, deep bottom. Too cool!
With anchor light in hand (but not yet on the mast), we headed north to visit a couple of new islands, and one we had seen several years ago when we caught a ride with Osprey.
Our first stop was Hawksbill Cay, still in Exuma Land and Sea Park, and new to us. Known for endless beaches, Loyalist (those escapees from the American Revolution "rebel victory") ruins and some good snorkeling. So we walked a beach and snorkeled! We need to get back there to walk to the ruins, hit more beaches, and get to the southern snorkeling ground, but we were on a fast track to get to Highborne Cay before a front passed over, and wanted to visit Shroud Cay, so we moved on up there.
Shroud is also in the Park, and most of it is mangrove swamp. But there are several natural "creeks" through the mangroves, on one of which motorized vessels (dinghies) are allowed. We dinghied up the creek to a little beach, and then climbed the hill to Camp Driftwood, where DEA agents spied on the cocaine smuggling activities of drug lord Carlos Lehder during the early 80's. On the way back we snorkeled a line of several coral heads. Then got in the big boat, and headed for Highborne Cay Marina.
Our route took us out Wax Cay Cut where the standing waves were a little bouncy and into Exuma Sound so Michael could fish. He was hoping for a repeat of the marvelous mahi experience, but no bites. We had to go in narrow little Highborne Cut to get to the marina and ended up in a corner which will be a trick to exit tomorrow!
While here we met some cruisers from Bend, Oregon who know Michael's cousin, and reunited with Rob and Holly on Hampshire Rose - friends met last season. Monday is our 35th anniversary, so another reason to come to Highborne was to go out to dinner (as well as to watch the Super Bowl!). When we learned the restaurant is closed Mondays, Capt. Mike suggested NOT merging anniversary dinner and the Super Bowl, but having a nice dinner last night, which idea was enthusiastically supported by his first mate.
Dinner was one of the best we've had any where... Chef Devon, a Bahamian, outdid himself. Head bartender and waiter Berlin made a special table for us, spread with Androsia cloth (batik made on Andros Cay) and adorned with hot pink bougainvillea and seated on a corner of the deck overlooking the bay and under the stars. Dinner started with lobster-pumpkin bisque and coconut shrimp, and moved on to rum-roasted duck breast and fire-grilled rib eye, topped off with melt-in-your-mouth guava duff. WOW! Happy anniversary to us!
Today we are catching up on internet business before we leave the wifi world again. The Captain is napping and waiting for the Super Bowl. We have lots of ideas for where to go next, but no decisions... stay tuned!
Well, we have moved quite a ways in the past 12 days. From Marsh Harbor in the Abacos (our last blog posting) to Warderick Wells in Exuma Land and Sea Park.
Here's what has happened in between:
As last noted, we headed over to Man-O-War Cay, which was a place we both really wanted to see. It has an interesting history of being settled by Loyalists (those who fled the "rebel victory" of the U.S. Revolutionary War) and of shipbuilding. It is a tiny island with a winding street down its length, lined with tall, shrubby, flowering hedges, and tidy, pretty gardens with raked sand between the road and houses. Seemed mostly vacation homes between where we landed the dinghy on the northern part of the island and the main part of town, but not ostentatious ones. Just very quiet, pretty and, as Roberta would say, "islandy." The town was mostly small block houses, and mostly Caucasian. The shipbuilding long gone, they still build and repair small vessels. It is a dry island, so not one frequented by the vacationing college or cruise ship crowds. Nice and quiet!
After Man-O-War, we headed down for a rolly night at Tilloo Cay, then on to an anchorage at Lynyard, where we had a long beach walk looking for sea glass. We also dinghied over to Little Harbor to tour the foundary of Randolph W. Johnston now operated by his son Pete. Randolph was a professor at Smith, and a sculptor, who escaped what he called the "megamachine" in 1950, set up housekeeping in a cave, and built a foundry, a house, and a thriving art business (google his sculptures - WOW!). The first person we met on the island was Pete, and we had lunch at his very laid-back pub. We managed to talk ourselves out of purchasing a bronze sculpture (as in, "where would we put that in a 42' boat???) and reluctantly left the sculptures behind in Little Harbor. Next day we sailed across the 60-mile stretch to Royal Island, near Eleuthera with our friends Mark and Julie on Rachel. It was a long day, but all of it was sailed! YAHOO! Michael started losing lures in the Abacos, and continued on this trip. Those are wily fish out there! At anchor in Royal, one swam under the boat and cut his line on the prop! He did catch a small jack at Royal, but released it.
We stopped in a protected little harbor at Royal Island, where weather held us for a days (and also kept us from visiting Spanish Wells, darn it!). Our anchor light bit the dust at Royal Island, and Michael went up the mast (all the way thinking, "What is a 60-yr old guy DOING, doing this???" He uses rope ascenders, as we do not have mast steps. It turned out to be the light that wasn't working, not the wiring - hopefully an easier fix.
Underway again, we made the harrowing transit of Current Cut. Mark timed the slack tide perfectly, but even so, we have to make a sharp turn in this cut, and it is scary!
Next stop was another new place for us - Hatchet Bay on Eleuthera, which has a very narrow opening blasted through a rock cliff. As we started through, Roberta kept saying, "just think of it like a bascule bridge opening!" The harbor was very calm, and a new friend on Mon Ami, dinghied over to thread our lines through a mooring ball. It was very nice of Dave, since these balls do not have pennants, and getting a line through the ring on them is a real trick from the bow of a boat!
Next day we had another awesome sail down to Rock Sound and finally caught up with friends Bobby and Francie on Barefootin', with whom we had all hoped to spend Christmas at Staniel Cay - none of us made it! We missed sailing over to the Abacos with them by two days, and then got stuck in Vero Beach, so it had been a month that we had been trying to catch them. It was great to see them and to stock up on produce at the little grocery there.
And then... Michael's lure-losing luck turned. On the motorsail across Exuma Sound from Eleuthera to the anchorage at Big Majors Spot near Staniel Cay, he caught a 16-pound Mahi! It was a great fight, exciting landing on the side deck, and a wonderful dinner. We still have meals in the freezer. YUM!
At Staniel, we ordered a new light from the manufacturer (hurray for warranties!) to be shipped out via Watermakers, which makes daily flights to the island from Fort Lauderdale. We had a fun sundowner on the beach, a great long, hot walk (it has been in the 80's) along the cliffs and, at Staniel Cay Yacht Club, Michael got to watch the Ravens beat New England - Go Ravens! (Which was NOT what he was saying during the heartbreaking, edge-of-your-seat game between the Ravens and his beloved Broncos!). Currents were not right for snorkeling at Thunderball Cave, but we did get in the water and see some fish and corals, and dinghied over to see the famous swimming pigs.
While we wait for the anchor light, we decided to sail up to Warderick Wells to visit friends Andrew and Henry (Park Administrator and Warden). It is great to see them again, and an added bonus was meeting up with John on Jenny Marie, and Tom and Chris on Polar Pacer! More fun! Due to weather we may be here a couple of days, but need to get back to Staniel to pick up the light, then need a calm day for more mast-climbing by Michael. Then we hope to get back up north to some of the islands we did not see last year. We hope to get in some snorkeling while here, but it is very windy and bouncy right now, and we need good conditions and slack water. In our "down time" Michael has been splicing line for small lazarette hooks, a dinghy painter, and a new anchor snubber. Roberta has been doing cross stitch and waiting for a longer stretch to get out her sewing machine for some mending and courtesy flag-making (we have lots of countries we hope to visit in the eastern Carib!). We are back to homemade bread - which we both really enjoy.
It is wonderful to be back in the Exumas, with the gin-clear turquoise water, white sand beaches, great hikes, conch fritters, and friends. Even on too-windy, "cold" (low 70's) days!
Hope you are having a good winter! We'd love to hear from you.
We are in the Abacos with good friends Mark and Julie on Rachel... Celilo crossed to the Abacos from Fort Pierce a few days ahead of the Rachels and had a fun New Year's Eve and New Year's Day Junkanoo at Green Turtle. Junkanoo is a small, wild parade through town, where people dress up in crazy paper costumes (google junkanoo and see what they show), and they had little girls dancing, and a band with drums made out of lard barrels and things - making a huge racket! They were a great drum line! It was all very family-oriented, unlike in Nassau where it occurs in the wee hours, this was in the afternoon. Good for old people like us who like to go to bed early! HA!
Mark and Julie came to the Abacos too from Lake Worth, and once they checked in at Green Turtle, we enjoyed an afternoon, overnight and morning at Michael's favorite Cay, Powell, before all heading down to anchor at Great Guana and then over to spend an afternoon just outside of Marsh Harbor where we joined a boat called Civil Twilight in snorkeling and a lobster spearfishing lesson for Mark and Michael. Al (of C.T.) caught two lobsters, gave one to us since Michael had spotted it, and I cooked it and sliced it up for appetizers for us all on Civil Twilight.
Tomorrow we plan to sail over Man O' War Cay and anchor out to visit that island and all its interesting boatbuilding history. Then we hope to move south to less populated Tiloo and Lynyard Cays. We'd like to see Little Harbor, but may not have a calm enough day to dinghy over. Then we all hope to head south to either Eleuthera or through Fleeming Channel to the Exumas. Towards March we hope to go with Rachel deeper into the Caribbean. We'll see... plans are always flexible (should I say fluid?) on a boat!
I think we have figured it out this retirement thing a little more. Some days (like today) getting a very slow start after listening to weather guru Chris Parker, and just sort of putzing along, not feeling like we need to be so productive. Still feel a little like I SHOULD be though... so then I go polish stainless or something! HA!
Michael has been studying his fishing book and is casting his line fairly often in the morning and evening while anchored, and dragging it whenever we move. Some days all he attracts are seagulls to his little sluggo moving through the water! Yesterday he figured he must be on the right track, because a big fish chomped through his line. He said at least his bait wasn't ignored! Now that we are not in the deep water, we'd like a nice medium Mutton Snapper... and M is looking forward to more lobstering since this year he has a spear. We met a wonderful local man who owns a little closet-sized fishing shop on the second floor of a building down towards the marinas from the local dinghy dock here. He was so friendly, gave some great suggestions, and had an incredible amount of gear stuffed into his tiny shop. He prefers mutton snapper to grouper - which is good for decreasing grouper populations!
So, we are having fun in the sun, getting a few little boat chores done (stainless, minor fixes, etc.), some provisioning and walking. Last night Julie cooked an awesome curry and girls beat guys in best three out of five playing Sequence.
Like the t-shirt says: "Life is good!"
Michael and Roberta
Did you hear it? The tearing open of velcro yesterday when we left Vero (aka velcro) Beach? We were there over a month spending both Thanksgiving and Christmas. We had a good time with new friends and with Mark and Julie on Rachel who we have known for several years. But we have been looking to get to the Bahamas and on the 28th the opportunity came along.
It was a trip of several parts. We left Vero and went out into the ocean at Ft. Pierce with very calm conditions, about a 1kt current against us and not much wind. We put out a staysail for good measure and motored out to the stream. Of course we slowed with the stream current but we also had a building wind from the E clocking to SE and it stayed on our nose all the way across the stream which ran pretty much to Matanilla Shoal. As time went on the seas built and we made pretty miserable time for about 4 hours and were pounding through the troughs. But Celilo is a strong boat and when she pounds she shakes it off instead of flexing and twisting and groaning. We reached the shoal on Roberta's watch but not before we were slapped on the starboard side, soaking that side of the cockpit. As we climbed up on the shoal the seas calmed and the wind shifted more to the south, enough to make it worth putting the jib out but not enough to make it to our destination under sail alone.
Michael got out his fishing pole and dropped a line in shortly after clearing the FL coast and pretty fast caught a nice small fish - not sure what it was. It was too small and it was easy to let it go without doing damage so we did. About an hour before dark the reel started singing with a big run. Roberta was below so was called up to steer and Michael went out to begin the fight. This fish ran three times and went deep into the spool, enough that Michael thought it might become a problem. But he tired and M got him in. Now what to do? We have not landed a fish with just the two of us, at least not one that needed to be gaffed. R took a shot and cleanly gaffed the fish on her first try and M swears she must have hit the heart because the fish was dispatched fast and hardly bled once on the boat. It was a nice tuna, skipjack we believe, and M got another lesson in filleting. It took a while but we have some nice fillets - 5 meals in the freezer!
We saw a huge turtle a few miles out from Ft. Pierce but didn't see much other sea life. The sky was cloudy in the late afternoon and early evening but after we cleared the stream it started to open up, so we had our full moon night on the Little Bahama Bank and it was spectacular.
We expect to be in the Abacos for a few more days, visiting our favorite places and trying out some new ones as time will allow. Once the weather gives us a shot we intend to get down to the Exumas. With luck we will meet with Rachel again. We are looking forward to the Exumas again with more sunshine, hikes and snorkeling. Have a fun New Year's Eve (we hope to celebrate at Green Turtle Cay) and a great New Year. We'd love to hear from you. Michael and Roberta svCelilo
MERRY CHRISTMAS FROM FLORIDAAAHHH!!!
We hope you are enjoying a lovely holiday season with family and friends.
We are in Vero Beach, where it is a, sunny 75 degrees. We have a tree up, lights in the cockpit, and Roberta has been baking cookies and Christmas bread. We are having a fun Christmas with friends Mark and Julie on svRachel who are rafted up to us - watching sappy Christmas movies, sharing meals, and a Christmas walk along the beach. Roberta organized a cookie swap so Celilo is stuffed with goodies! Vero Beach had a Christmas parade complete with Santas on Harleys and a boat Parade of Lights. Christmas Eve we went to a candlelight service and had carolers in dinghies come by. Our Christmas dinner was a "Cruiser's Christmas Potluck." YUM!
We're hoping a predicted weather window pans out, and may get our crossing to the Bahamas this week. Michael has completed lots of little boat jobs and a few big ones, so we think we're ready to roll. It has been a long but fun month in the Florida sunshine waiting for some business to complete, things mailed to arrive, and friends to join us.
We wish you a New Year full of love, laughter, peace and joy.
Michael and Roberta