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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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The Park and old friends to catch up with
03/14/2009, Warderick Wells Cay, Exuma Cay Land and Sea Park

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Downloaded pictures in the morning while Wayne went up top and watched the world go by. It was another lovely day so we decided to go snorkeling in this beautiful clear water. Got all the stuff in the boat but by the time we left the currents were coming through here pretty good so we never got into the water. Snorkeling here is done at high slack tide or low slack tide and we weren't at either one. So we dinghied back to the park headquarters and sat about chatting with Rich and Dave (Sea Witch) then exchanged some books at the headquarters and headed back to the boat after splashing around near the beach, for saltwater showers, then sun shower rinses on deck (nothing like being on display).

I made up some chicken salad to take to the happy hour gathering on the beach, then at 5:30 we headed over to the beach where Judy already had a bonfire going and the ice chest set up (I delved in for ice!). Several boats were already there. Sea Sharp is here - we haven't run into them since the Mega Dock in Charllotte (?) It seems so long ago... Raksha from Quebec is also here - we haven't seen them since Annapolis (where that boat ran into them). We'd gotten our mast put up in the same place - Riverview Marina in Catskill NY. It was so good to see both of them. Sea Sharp was in Georgetown for the last 5 weeks and is heading northward again, as is Raksha. Us, we're still heading south for a little while longer. While at the bonfire/happy hour we met Lady Pamela from Cape Cod on the trawler next to us and the folks from the 40ft Bayfield "Tan Barque". We'd watched him climb the mizzenmast to install his wind generator earlier in the day. Joy (Rowan & Chris), the sailboat across the sandbar, was a hoot. Wish they were staying a little longer but they're heading to Eleuthera tomorrow morning.

At sunset we headed back to the boat and sat up top watching the world go by while finishing our drinks. After dark, a large boat came by us and headed to the headquarters. They trained their lights on everything around, and the people at the headquarters turned on the lights and helped them tie up for the night. It turned out that this was a Royal Bahamas Defense Force Vessel. The Game Warden here has had so many death threats against him from poachers, that he has two defense force guards that travel with him and it appears they frequent the park for him. The amount of fish and conch in the Bahamas has been so depleted over the years; that I guess poaching has become a big problem in the park. From yachtsmen trolling improperly in park waters to locals that have favorite hotspots - it's a big problem. This park is teeming with large conch that breed here and cast their spawn outward to help repopulate the outlying Bahamas, the same with the fish populations - so what the Park does here is very important. It's sad to think that between visitors and locals alike that so few care about the future of the islands and their ecological impact on the present as well as the future generations of all of the life forms.

Blow Holes, BooBoo, Bananaquits
warm, nice weather
03/13/2009, Warderick Wells, Exumas Land and Sea Park

Friday, March 13, 2009

Wow - another Friday the 13th already?!?! After coffee and sitting around enjoying the view, we had an egg salad sandwich and decided to take a land trail through the park. It's very nicely laid out with signs along the way talking about the vegetation and mangrove swamps and natural nurseries here. We visited the blowholes and Boo Boo Hill then went to the park office to browse and feed the bananaquits. We're allowed to feed them up at the office and the little guys know right where to go to get the sugar too! As I reached up for the canisters they swarmed me. I'd say they hadn't had any sugar today... It reminded me of St. John's when we used to go camping there and would leave coconut husks hanging around camp with sugar and sugar water for them.

The blowholes are holes through the rocky cliffs where the water pushes up the air and water through the holes from the sea cuts below, making eerie sounds as it does so. Not far from here is Boo Boo Hill. Boo Boo Hill is where the souls of missionaries that were shipwrecked are said to be heard on full moon nights. It's the highest point on Warderick Wells where a headless human skeleton was found. Now boats leave driftwood pieces with their names on it at the top of the hill to ensure good weather for their passages. Wouldn't you know we didn't leave any? I hope this doesn't mean that the lost souls will follow us. As we descended from the hill it started sprinkling. It felt good though because the walk up was a bit hot.

Back at the boat, I noticed that Aeolus's dinghy was still gone. When I saw their dinghy back at the boat, I tried hailing them on the VHF to see if they'd like to come over, but I don't think they had their radio on. I know ours was turned off until I thought about calling them. We made up some pork chops for dinner and I started posting my blogs from the end of February until yesterday. Even though I have already typed them up on my computer it seems to take a while to load the days and pictures into the blog. I tried to use skype today too but had issues with the microphone and the speed of the Internet isn't too good either. I'll try emailing tomorrow.

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...

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