More Little Moves: Shroud and Hawksbill Cays
07 February 2008 | Hawksbill Cay
We made a short trip on to Shroud Cay on Monday. That put us in the park and out of hunter/gatherer mode for a few days. We tied up to a mooring ($15.00 for 39 feet and under) and just gazed around at the scenery while we ate lunch. I wish I could find the words to describe the colours - both the vivid and the subtle. This is not lush scenery - with endless palm trees and mountains. The cays and islands are mostly scrub; they are low lying; we see brilliant aqua and turquoise coloured water sandwiched between robins egg blue skies and white sand or grey coral and limestone beaches. All the land here is coral or limestone. That's it; the lines are mostly horizontal. Scrub trees grow in pockets of soil that has somehow been able to build up on the rock - small palms, broadleaved trees (that I haven't identified yet - maybe tamarind?), casuarinas.
I've been reading "Wind From the Carolinas" by Robert Wilder, and I constantly wonder what those early Loyalists must have thought when they arrived here. These were folks from the Carolinas - cotton plantation owners who received grants from England to move here. They expected to recreate what they had before and I cannot imagine what they were thinking. This is not plantation land. We walked a path to the eastern shore of Hawksbill Cay on Wednesday to the gorgeous water of the Eastern shore and the rugged slope of land edging it. Did their hearts sink when they saw where they were to live? Were they filled with determination to create the same lifestyle they had enjoyed in such a different climate? Were they excited about embarking on a new way of living? Did they see the beauty? Was there room for beauty when they were trying to find a place to earn a livelihood from the land? Did they consider any possibility other than recreating what they had before?
We climbed a rocky slope on Hawksbill to wander among the ruins of the Russell estate - circa 1785. We gazed at half walls and corners here and there - all grown over with bushes and trees. They tried to create something - the land took it back. It appears that this family left in the early 1800's, although I read later that descendents went on to do some sort of farming on the cay until the 1900's. What were they thinking? I don't know whether to admire them for trying such a difficult thing or shake my head in amazement at their foolishness.
On Shroud Cay, a couple of days ago, the Madcap and Sapphire crews took a fascinating dinghy ride through the northernmost creek that meandered across to the Eastern shore. The tide was low and we threaded our way from one side to the other to keep from stranding ourselves on the sand. Mangroves lined the edges - those low trees with exposed roots that bend down into the sand. Once we turned the last corner we were greeted by the glorious vista of blue green water lapping on white sand beaches. We spotted a couple of inukshuks marking the rough trail up to Camp Driftwood and - of course- we climbed it. Apparently it was a campsite back in the 1960's and was also used by the DEA officers to spy on the drug running operation at Norman's Cay in the late 1970's. Nowadays, it's just a simple little knoll with a view that takes your breath away. People leave bits of driftwood, shells, floats, and what have you - gifts of the sea.
On our return eastward through the creek, the tide was rising and we were able to float along without turning on our noisy motors. It was so much fun to drift with a paddle to steer now and then. We spotted a small shark ghosting along the edge. He was not at all interested in us - but Jim pulled his dangling feet up anyway! Out on the Banks again, a large ray drifted by, and we caught sight now and then of flying fish sparkling in the sunlight.
We tried a couple of sites for snorkeling but it wasn't up to what we've been used to until we found one small area of coral heads that was home to a lobster. Wouldn't you know - we found one where we couldn't capture him? He was a huge one and would have made dinner for all four of us.
We trekked across Hawksbill to the Exuma Sound side - meeting up with the crews of First Edition, Ketch'n Dreams and Mystique along the way - and played a bit in the lovely waves that came roaring in from the Atlantic.
As I write this on Wednesday night, we are at anchor off Hawksbill Cay; there are millions of stars overhead; the wind that has been blowing at 15 knots or more the last few days has dropped and we rock gently on the swell. Our generator was on for a while and has our batteries topped up enough - all is still.
We move on Thursday to Warderick Wells - home of the Park Headquarters - to spend a few days.