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The First Mate's Journal
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Great Lakes to The Bahamas
Who: Wayne & Pat
Port: Jackson
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St Patti's Day
03/17/2009, Warderick Wells, Exumas

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

There was barely a breeze last night. It seemed strange not to have a breeze coming through the hatches making my hair dance across my face tickling me awake at some time during the night. I got up and flicked on the radio to catch the weather from Highborne at 7:30 over coffee, then started reading Margaritaville. I noticed our electrical panel was reading 12.13, another indicator of no wind last night. Wayne kicked on the engine when he got up after I brought it to his attention. Then our daily weather from Exuma Park and the announcements of who is leaving, who wants to come in, and the list for tomorrow's boats that want to come in. It's become a strangely satisfying morning ritual.

I thought I'd come below and start breakfast and turn on the computer. While turning on the computer, a little bananaquit landed on my computer to say good morning. I didn't bother him. From my computer he flitted to the coffee pot, then the basket, the hammock, the V-berth, back to the table to look at me mournfully as if to say, "what, not even crumbs?" I had to laugh, then finally shoed him back out of the boat. Time to dig into the frig for some eggs. No green eggs or green ham for St. Patti's day though, eggs and sausage... Good morning world.

I read some and rummaged through the storage under the port side seats to dig out the remaining 7-2 liter bottles of coke for Wayne and to find my salsa and cheese dips. I've been craving salsa and chips for the last week for some reason. After that we dinghied over to the beach and walked to the park headquarters to settle up so we can take off tomorrow morning. Dave was sitting on the large wrap around porch with his computer (charging it up and trying to connect to Skyppe) and there were new people shuffling around inside the office looking at all the shirts, shells and artifacts. Judy gave me a smile as she was manning the radio, giving directions for the boats coming into the various moorings. How she can remember each turn by heart always amazes me. I told her we were going to check out tomorrow and figured we'd better settle up and also wanted to join the Bahamas Trust. She told me about the next island down and said to be sure to stop by the aquarium - I'd love it and asked if we'd be stopping by on the way back. Yes of course - I'd stay the 10 years that Wayne had joked about on our first day here if I could. She smiled and nodded in agreement. I also purchased a coffee mug. I forgot to bring sugar to leave for the banaquits so I'll have to remember to leave it on the return trip. Once we return to the boat the dinghy will be hoisted up for tomorrows trip.

We took the dinghy to Barefoot beach where I snorkeled a while, then we swam and loafed on the beach and took a saltwater bath, before returning to the boat. It's really very good for the soul to be able to find so many little beaches where you can pull up to and wander by yourself without another soul intruding on your quiet moments. There's something about the clear, aqua water that swirls around the white sand beaches that's very rejuvenating to the soul. Some of the water is so clear, you'd think it's only inches deep, but when you climb out of the dinghy it's almost up to your head.

Back at the boat, Wayne noticed a large school of fish right under us. Now I gotta ya that those fish were really pretty. Silvery with split tails the color of lemons. Theirs eyes were huge - like doe eyes and they had oval, rounded heads with an overall tear drop shape. It looked like you could reach down into the water and touch them. I know the water beneath the boat was 13 ft deep but you'd swear it was just right there. We have a book of all the fish of Florida, but couldn't find these at all. There were about 10 of them about 18 inches long. Really wonderful to watch them looking at us while we looked at them. They even came closer to the surface to look at us.

While making pork chops and sitting up top reading, we noticed that several dinghies were up on shore and several more were joining them. There must have been an announcement about a St. Patti's happy hour on the beach that we missed while we were out, because most people were in various shades of green. Unfortunately we'd already put the dinghy to bed and neither wanted to hassle with it so we just watched the festivities from the cockpit, Wayne hoisting his beer to them, me hoisting my diet Coke.

There were 4 young girls walking the low tide zone, collecting small conchs out of the water and piling them up in the water. "Is this one alive?" "I think this one is dead" We watched them scouring the tidal zone, taking count of how many each had found. I wanted so very badly to jump into the water and share some of what I knew with them about tidal zones, the algal mats they were walking on, etc... It reminded us both of many years ago when we had 4 little girls on the beach in St. Johns. We listened to these 4 chatting and were transported back. There are some days you wish could last forever. But those days get lost so fast doing what you need to in order to make a living. Those days in St John's I'll always treasure. I wish we could have had more of them. It saddens me to think that those days escaped, and were perhaps, not really appreciated. That was a time when we really didn't have a pot to piss in but we scrimped and went into debt and tried to make memories for the girls as best as we could. Even though faded, the memories are still with me, still with Wayne, nudged back to the forefront watching these 4 young ladies playing in the surf/tidal zone at sunset, collecting their treasures.

The conch horns are blowing now and I've got pictures of this golden sunset to take, so enough for tonight.

Warderick Wells Interview
03/16/2009, Warderick Wells, Exumas

I'm losing my Internet access this morning at 9am but before that we both want to wish sister Pat a very Happy Birthday with a last view of Warderick Wells Exuma Park!

Well my Internet access has expired but we're still here at Warderick Wells, Exuma. A front should be passing through in the next couple days and we'd rather be here, so here we are.

The bananaquits have taken to coming down below to see what we have for breakfast each morning. I never feed them here, but still they come and visit us to see what we have down below at the galley and on the table. One little guy flits from the stove to the sink to the table then checks out our hanging hammocks to see if we have anything hanging in them that's sweet (nothing that's open).

After breakfast we went hiking the trails again and ended up on a little beach called butterfly beach. What a gorgeous little place right off Emerald Rock. We cooled off in the water and loafed along the beach before taking the Causeway trail back to the park headquarters. We both agree that this would be a wonderful place to take a fieldtrip to (if I were still teaching). There's so much that they're doing right by having this park here, but I think it's underutilized as far as teaching the younger generations the responsibility of stewardship for this fragile ecosystem.

Interview with Judy (the Conservation Coordinator Exuma Cays Land & Sea Park)
Judy monitors the VHF 7 days a week and I think 24 hours a day. She takes reservations and determines which vessels will fit on which mooring balls; fields questions from vessels wanting anchoring information; gives the weather each morning at 8:00am; gives out the mooring assignments at 9:00am and runs the office during the day until 4 pm; They have shirts, mugs, totes, ice, etc... for sale in the office and a book swap area, as well as displays of shells, etc., that are found around the park area. She always has a cheery disposition and ready smile for the visitors and puts together a happy hour/bon fire on Saturday evenings for the cruisers. She's an amazing woman with a lot of fortitude.

Could I ask you a few questions if you have a few minutes?
Yes, sure.
How long have you worked here? 7 years.
Whats the best part about the job? Oh, everything. Protecting the environment and keeping it safe for the next generations; protecting and preserving the life forms that exist here. You get to live in paradise and protect it - that's important.
Whats the worst part about the job?
I can't really think of any. I really can't.
How about the 7-day workweeks? No, not even that. I really enjoy it here.
Do you have any educational outreach programs?
Yes, over at Black Point, there's a teacher affiliated with the Bahamas National Trust and she works with the students there on educational programs. We don't have that many though because the cost to bring the students here, plus food, etc... is quite expensive. We don't have an inexpensive transportation system here.
There isn't a ferry type system then other than the mail boat then that could bring the kids? No.
Do you have any camping facilities here?
No, but every so often we can get student groups to come out and help out by volunteering with things like clean ups, and things. If they were older students, they could probably put up a couple of tents on one of the islands if the kids did volunteer work.
Which volunteer groups are helping with the solar array?
Laughs. None. We need money for that. We'd like to get that up and running by 2012. It's going to require $500,000 to get that going and fundraising is tough right now.
Yes, with the economy, I imagine.
What does this place really need that it doesn't have?
Money. The Bahamas National Trust funds this Park and 23 others so funding is always stretched. That's why we only have 3 people working here. We could really use funding.
Who are the other people working here? My Husband (Tom) who runs the place and the Park Warden.
You're stretched pretty thin then.
Yes. We can always use more funding at the parks (hands me a brochure of the parks in the Bahamas)
Thank you.
Is there much of a poaching problem?
It's not too bad now. Some of it's locals, some of its yachtsmen, but it's not to bad. We keep on top of it. We need more education about the area and the things we're trying to do here and protect.
Your husband has worked here also 7 years? Yes. He runs the place and loves it here too.
Do you know of any reasonably priced charter companies that a teacher could go through to charter and bring students here to learn about the area?
She gave me 3-4 names to try out and we chatted a bit about that, then:
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Laughs - Right here.
Now there's a woman that loves her job! I don't blame her in the least!

I wish I'd had a paper/pencil to write down the conversation but coming from the trails, all I had was a backpack with water in it and a camera. Damned if I didn't remember to ask if I could take a picture too...

Back at the boat the Park Warden came passing by on the boat - Questions I asked him:
(I forgot to ask his name)
Are you busy, do you have a minute?
Yes, but what do you want?
Can I ask you a few questions?
How long have you worked here?
About a year so I can't answer a lot of questions for you.
That's okay. What's the best part of your job?
Meeting people like you!
What's the worst part of your job?
Going out in the weather - the wind/seas.
Can you think of anything the park needs that it doesn't have?
A new boat! Laughs along with his two compatriots (members of the defense force for his protection).
The sun is going down now. I've noticed that in the last few days - as the boats come in heading on their northward treks toward Nassau, Eleuthera, and places further north - that you can actually hear the sun set without going up to see it. The boats returning from Georgetown have learned to turn their conch shells into horns and sound their conch horns as the sun settles into the ocean. Some have long soulful sounds, others have short wailing sounds. All of the newly made musicians celebrate another day in paradise and echo a response to each other as the sun glows orange, then pink, and disappears into the green and turquoise water that seems to swirl around white sand stands that peek out of the water at low tide.

Time to make dinner and call it a day. I've been saving 4 steaks, 2 for the Tropic of Cancer, but tonight seems like a night to have the other two - steak, mushrooms and German potato salad.

It seems like each time we put into some place, we stay longer than intended. I understand that that's the way of the Bahamas mon. It calls you and doesn't let you leave...

Happy Birthday Patricia!
03/16/2009, Warderick Wells - moving on to Black Point or Little Farmers Cay

Monday, March 16, 2009

I'm losing my Internet access this morning at 9am but before that we both want to wish sister Pat a very Happy Birthday with a last view of Warderick Wells Exuma Park!

Not sure which spot we're going to today - depends on wind on timing out of the park but either Black Point (closest) or Little Farmer's Cay. If we go to Black Point today, then it will be Farmers tomorrow, then George Town and the Tropic of Cancer. I just noticed that Jame's Birthday is the day before the Vernal Equinox and Lyric's is ON the Vernal Equinox. Spring is about to spring back home in all it's glory - my favorite time of the year.

Time to finish making coffee and start tidying up before checking out at the office and hoisting the dinghy.

Patrish - if you're still in Florida - we hope you're enjoying the weather. I hear its nice now, then a weak cold front is due this week. Have a terrific Birthday today!

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