All the perfect places
12 February 2013 | Staniel Cay, Exuma
The Captain / Perfect
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” ― H. Jackson Brown Jr.
We reluctantly left Highborne Cay for Hawksbill Cay, leaving one perfect place to arrive in another. These are all places which we had read about on other sailor’s blogs, every winter evening for the last five years. After we settled in to our anchorage I had to collect my sense of this splendour, as though an interior decorator had been here to match the different colors of plant life with the white sand and bordered it with the perfect color of water. However it wasn’t long before we had the dinghy down and went ashore to climb the coral mountain to get a 360 degree view of the whole Cay with its bountiful pallet of colors. So much better than the pictures. All I could think of again was this was so much more than I expected.
We sat in the cockpit of the boat for the evening, eating a finely barbequed steak, with all the fixings, following a sundowner drink, to gaze at the Bahama Banks for the gorgeous fiery sun to get dunked into the water, far away, over at the horizon. After the sun set, billions of stars came out, with a full moon rising, so that we could see the shadow of our little ship on the bottom, suspended as though we were sitting on glass.
I tell you this only because this is the way it really is. And we would agree with you, as to whatever did we do to deserve this? Lots of people pay thousands of dollars to enjoy this for a week or two. Been there, done that, many times. But here we are in our own little ship and we don’t have to go home on Sunday. It is the light, and the aroma, and the salty taste on your lips, and the feel of the powder sand on your feet, as you wade ashore pulling the dinghy up on the beach, so much so that you just can’t get enough of it. We have become so entranced sometimes, that we have to stop and look behind us to make sure we didn’t overlook something.
When I was a little guy, my father left a book of maps on the table, which were necessary for him to drive a transport over the eastern states of United States. Not having a lot of other entertainment on a winter’s night in northern New Brunswick, I got interested in places you could go to, in your mind, by following lines on a map. I dreamed of those places as though I had been there. Instead of arriving by car I dreamed of land appearing on the horizon from a boat and it might be Boston harbour or wherever. When my grandfather gave me a world map from his latest issue of National Geographic, I found most all of those places were bordering on water were connected to Miramichi Bay, and I might go there easily,.... if I had a boat.
Well, Dad and Grandfather, here I am.
It is February, 2013 and since we have arrived in the Bahamas, it has been very warm during the day but cooling at night. If asked, we would say the weather is perfect, except out on the water, the wind sometimes makes Chrissie uncomfortable not by degrees Fahrenheit but the degrees it makes the boat heel. The depth sounder measures water depth but also the temperature. In the early morning when we start out the water will be 75 F and the air 73 F. It changes before mid-day though as the air temperatures climb into the eighties.
Although every port we blow into has been outstanding with its beauty and its own special characteristics. The people generally have very little but their smiles and their pride but they give us faith in the human race. There has not been one person ask for a cent. We were not even able to find one beggar in Nassau, although everyone will thank you for anything you put in their hands, but only if they have given you something as helpful as directions etc. We have become completely humbled, in seeing how you can be so happy with less, rather than crying out for more.
The skies are bluer the further south we get, carrying fluffy clouds which never seem to be in the way, the breezes are created just to keep our day perfect. In the water there are always seven colors of blue, on every scale of the spectrum, together with three shades of emerald, caused by the depth over the shifting sandbars, or coral heads. This is framed by hundreds of islands (Cays) each with their own vegetation. These in fact are desert islands so the plants that grow here are thick and juicy leafed holding and preserving every drop of moisture during the three months they may or may not get rain. Animal life; salamanders, iguanas, geckoes etc. exist on insects that exist because these plants. Life, even here, as it is supposed to, goes on.
We arrived in Warderick Wells, a group of islands and surrounding area that have been designated a sea and land conservation area by the Bahama government. Everyone is welcomed, as long as they leave the area better than when they found it. There is no fishing or disturbing the marine life in any way. When our group of boats sailed in we all said “pinch me, I have never expected anything this beautiful to be part of our trip”. The pictures I have posted will not do it justice but only give you the idea, that left alone and un-commercialized, nature can out-perform human efforts to improve; hands-down.
This place is like parking our boat in the aquarium at the dentist’s office. After the very best ham, onion tomato, and cheese omelet served in the cockpit with steaming hot coffee (Have I mentioned we have a great cook aboard?) while the sun rose to take its position in the sky, along with Heritage, we were encouraged by the crew of Glory Days to dinghy out to a small beach not far away. It had long coral arms above water, reaching out on both sides, encompassing a stunning reef that had enough color to make an artist envious. We all snorkeled for hours, after pulling our dinghies up on the beach. Slowly moving over this illusion, it first appeared unreal, with the solid live coral extending up from the reef, surrounded by large cushions of different sponge coral, and interminable numbers of different colorful fish all feeding from the mounds, without hassling each other. On arriving back at the warden’s dock we slowly passed over the top of a six foot shark who hangs around harmlessly looking for scraps. We noticed other smaller ones on the bottom “resting”.
If you were to check us out on Google Earth you will find that we have anchored in Cambridge Cay and Compass Cay which is just south of Warderick Wells and the reason we did is because of the Coral Gardens. It is hard to imagine there is anything more stunning and picturesque on this earth. To snorkel over the top of these reefs with so many different kinds of coral reaching up to welcome us was magical and something we had to tear ourselves away from. On the way back north I have to stop just to see them one more time again. This area is still within the bounds of the conservation area and it is easy to see why. Hundreds of different varieties of fish make this area their permanent address.
We have arrived at Staniel Cay today, February 12th. This area is famous for the Thunderball grotto in which they made the James Bond movie, oddly enough called Thunderball. At low tide, if you don’t have scuba gear, you can swim into the caves after getting through a passage underwater. Also, in a Cay just up from here, which we can motor to in our dinghy, are the famous swimming pigs who come out to meet anyone arriving. They will be the first beggars we will have met! More on that in the next blog whenever we get Wi-Fi again.
Still having fun.