The Land and Sea Park
03/12/2009, Norman’s Cay (24o36.090N, 76o49.505W) to Warderick Wells (24o23.665N, 76o37.954W)
Thursday, March 12, 2009
After coffee we waited for the Exuma Park Office to come on the air at 9am to see if we had a mooring or not. They come on the VHF (channel 9) to see which boats are vacating and which boats have intentions of coming into the park for the day. They'll take calls up to one day in advance but then you need to call back on the day to see if they have a spot for you. We heard back from them about 9:40 and raised anchor about 10:00am. I must say it was easier threading our way back out of Normans Cay at high tide than it was threading our way in at low tide. I'll take 10 feet over 6.5 feet - it definitely gives you some breathing room.
On the way out Sea Witch hailed us to see if we could relay a mooring request for them. Exuma couldn't hear them so we called and reserved a spot for them this evening after getting out into the 13 ft depths and before we got to far away from the Norman anchorage. It was a beautiful sailing day! The winds were NE to E at 15-20 with moderate NE swells and we were moving about from 5-6.5 knots the entire time. It seemed a shame to end it so quickly at 2pm as we approached Warderick Wells. I was apprehensive coming in. Looking at the charts and listening to Judy give instructions on the narrow, deep channel (that sports a strong current) to follow in to the mooring assignment left me a little queasy - especially rounding the corner and seeing boats surrounded by sand. But once we got into the channel and through the green and red markers the aqua water was visible and we had no problem getting attached to the mooring (other than my wanting to take pictures of the whale skeleton, the sand bars, islands, etc...).
It is sooo pretty here - Unbelievably so. The water is so aqua, transparent and clear with white sand bars cropping up. The small islets splashed in colors of white (sand) yellow (limestone) with greens and browns (vegetation and trees) surrounding us. As I was taking it all in, Aeolus hailed us and invited us over for a beer after we checked in.
The park office is a moderate climb up from the water. The dinghy dock rises above you out of the water at low tide so you need to climb up its wood side to get to the office. The office has a book exchange, maps, shirts, cup holders and all sorts of shells and artifacts for you to look at. I probably could have ogled all the shells and items for another hour but they close at 4pm and we got there at 3:40 so that will have to wait for another day. I think Judy is trapped there all day and felt I should let her get home. I wouldn't mind working here though - there's just something about National Parks that I just adore.
After checking in (and taking more pictures) we headed over to Aeolus and hung out there chatting with them. They're continuing southward while we will head homeward for the summer. It was kind of nice to hear that they also would like to drive up to Alaska. That's something I haven't thought about since we got Kolibrie, but now it's back in my head again. What the heck, why not? It'd be funny if one day we ran into them in Alaska. I think they're heading to Georgetown a couple of days before us but it would be nice to run into them there.
Back at the boat I made a chicken salad and salad for dinner. The bananaquits discovered us while we were sitting up top. I love those little birds. I brought out a little sugar and then discovered that this is a no-no in the park so put it away. I feel guilty for bringing it out and then giving them some, and guilty for putting it away and not feeding the little guys at the same time They keep chirping at me to feed them - I will not give in...
Drug Lords and Crashed Planes
03/11/2009, Norman’s Island anchorage (24o36.090N, 76o49.505W)
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
Well at 7:15am Spirit and the other 3 boats left the anchorage. I waved at them while taking pictures of the sunrise, moonset and yelled over that we hope to see them in Georgetown. The moonset took place behind clouds so I didn't get it sinking below the horizon.
After coffee and cereal we dinghied over to the other side of the island to explore and look for the crashed plane and the old drug lord's house/compound. While walking the beach Aeolus (Ken and Cheryl) landed in their dinghy at the beach so we explored the area with them. At one time in the late 70s, early 80s, Norman's Cay was under the control of a drug lord - Carlos Lehder - who had a profitable cocaine smuggling operation located on the island. The only reminders now are quite a few bullet holes in the buildings and a crashed airplane that lays in the middle anchorage. Needless to say, Wayne needed to see the drug lords abode and the bullet holes and we had to follow several dead-end paths that led to other ruins and an old dump, but we finally found the place with its bullet hole ridden walls. It looked like it was quite a beautiful place in it's day and the view from the place was spectacular. It looked out over the pond (the North Harbor) where the crashed plane was. Ken said that when they were chased out of here the only things they took were their clothes, money and jewels. When they left, they left everything else, food, stores, furniture, etc... it was like they'd left for the day or week only never returned.
There's a place called the Dead Head Wall in about 70 ft of water named after a fan whose VW lies on the reef. To deep for us to see but I suppose if you're a diver and a Grateful Dead fan - it might be worth a look?
After our hike on land we jumped into the water then dinghied over to the plane wreck. There's not much left of it but the fuselage is still visible at low tide and the wings are still visible under the water. I remember hearing someone on the radio say it was a DC 3?
From there we came back over to the west side and walked over to the airstrip. We'd watched a couple of small planes take off from there today and saw one plane come in.
Back at the boat, Wayne read a little and took a nap and I plugged in a course to Warderwick Wells where the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park Headquarters is located. We radioed this morning and requested a mooring for there tomorrow. They take requests at 9 am the day before and had trouble hearing us so another boat relayed our info to them for tomorrow. At 9 am tomorrow, hopefully they'll be able to hear us? You're supposed to call in your intention of who's coming and who's going each morning so they know who to assign which moorings to by your size and draft.
Cooked up some of my frozen salmon in a butter, garlic and lime sauté and made a sauce for it with tartar, dill and sour cream. Served up with green beans - it was tasty. A definite repeater recipe.
Happy Birthday Jackie!
03/10/2009, Allen’s Cay (24o44.954N, 76o50.262W) to Norman’s Cay (24o36.090N, 76o49.505W)
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
Up anchor 10:45am; Down anchor 3:00pm 6.5 ft of water 14.3 miles traveled.
Jackie's Birthday. Happy Birthday! A sunrise picture of where we are this morning for your birthday. It's been a while since we've shared a sunrise. I hope yours was as pretty as ours. I know it's not as warm there but hopefully you're sharing this one with us vicariously and I hope you have a wonderful day.
After hoisting the dinghy and stashing stuff we had a leisurely breakfast then dishes and we said adios to Allen's/Leaf Cays and headed for Normans Cay. After getting out past the coral heads and setting a 180o course south we turned off the engine and sailed until we had to turn into the wind at Norman's Stake. It was high anxiety time (will I ever get used to coming into unknown anchorages?) for me threading through the 6 ft water and coral heads but we didn't have any problems - just zig zagged a bit. This time Wayne took the bow and watched for the rock spots and I had the helm.
As we were anchoring a dinghy approached us - I recognized those two!!! Marie and Chris from Spirit was our welcoming committee again LOL. I love running into those guys! They've been here a couple days now and are with 3 other boats from KY that know the area and are heading out tomorrow - but hopefully we'll run into them at George Town. We plan on staying here tonight and tomorrow and then heading for the park, but it sounds like they've already been to the park. They both look delightfully browned. She's got some conch that they doused with alcohol in hopes of preserving the shells as well as having the meat. If it works, I'll have to try it but I think that the muscle will still stay attached (not sure, I'll have to wait and find out).
Right after that Aeolus dinghied over LOL what a small world! They'd been over to Spanish Wells for 5 days and they'd followed us in here. They'll be going over to MacDuff's (the Beach Club) later for happy hour but we're heading over at 5 for a couple of burgers (it's 4:30 now). I'd heard on the radio that they had pretty good burgers and I can't remember the last time I had one. Sea Witch just pulled in and is anchoring. Later...
Okay - McDuff's. It's a pretty cool looking place. Lotsa ambiance and if I were to put up a place ie restaurant/bar with rental cottages - it would probably be very similar to MacDuffs aka the Norman Beach Club. The people are very friendly and funny. The prices and service though...so, so, to be expected in the Bahamas I guess. To get to MacDuffs you land on the island on a steep sandy/sandstone beach on the west side (that's where we're anchored). There are two colorful cottages - multicolored but dominantly a yellow and a green one - visible from the water and MacDuffs behind the cottages. There are little wooden signs on stakes pounded into the ground that lead you to a path to go to the Restaurant or airstrip or the beach. MacDuffs is a colorful cottage place that has a screened inner sanctum where the bar/restaurant is and a covered porch area if you want to sit out. The restroom is a cornered off section back outside and down the stairs that's like an open air platform with a hatch work privacy fence on 3 sides that has an actual working toilet and sink with a hanging mirror. As you go through the brush to get to it, there's a sign that is clipped to a branch that says occupied on one side, and vacant on the other. You flip it to occupied when you're in it so people don't come around the corner and walk in on you. It's kind of what you'd expect to see on Gilligan's Island (what the professor would build). Practical but homey...
We sat on the porch part outside where there were quite a few dogs from Chihuahua to Labrador. The blond lab adopted Wayne to play fetch with her and she'd catch the stick right out of the air (Wayne couldn't throw it far - we were in a bar/restaurant platform area after all). We sat nursing our beers waiting for our burgers for an hour before we discovered that they'd never put the order in, so had another beer and waited some more. We saw Aeolus come in to the bar, then Spirit with their three other buddy boats came in to talk strategy for the next mornings trip to Little Pigeon or Belle Isl. (it turned out to be Belle Isl.). A half hour later we got our burgers, Wayne's with fries. The fries were perfect. The hamburger looked good until you opened the bun, then it was only half the size of the bun and overcooked. It was served with good condiments though so I enjoyed it anyway. I figured in my semi sober state after 2 beers - it's a $14 burger - it must be good, so it was - at the time. Reflecting back on it - I wouldn't do it again. $6 beers and a $14 burger sounds outrageous to me now. The place was definitely worth a visit though. It has wifi like at the Berry Island Club so purchase a beer and use the wifi I guess. I didn't, because I didn't bring my laptop. Looking at the menu, they seem to have very nice fare - lots of conch and fish dishes but I'd had my heart set on a burger .
We dinghied back at sunset and I'd missed a beautiful sunset and moonrise picture while returning to the boat. One setting and one rising. Unfortunately it was too splashy to pull my camera out during the dinghy ride. I'd gotten one pic of the sun as it was starting to set before getting into the dinghy but the sunset and moonrise was done by the time we got back.