19/02/2010/12:17 pm, Warderick Wells, Exuma Land and Sea Park
It felt like coming home when we pulled into the mooring field at Emerald Rock, Warderick Wells, in the Exuma Land and Sea Park. We stayed here in early Feb of 2008 - in company with Princess (Steve and Sandra) and Sapphire (Cathy and Mike). We miss them this time but were delighted to see Oz (Ken and Connie), Star of the Sea (Peaches and Chris) here, and Katmandu (Stephen and Nathalie with Sabrina, Stephanie and Francis) pulled in on Wednesday. There are only a few boats at Emerald Rock and the wind has been blowing since we got here.
We came in for a couple of days and stayed a couple more. The wind has been blowing non stop and this is as good a place as any to hang out. This park covers 176 square miles and encompasses coral reefs, trails (some of them over rugged rocks), beautiful beaches and vistas beyond compare. It is a no take zone - including both what's in the water and what's on land, so no fishing or shelling, but the sea creatures seem to know they are safe so the snorkelling is great! The headquarters is here at Warderick Wells and there are several mooring fields. Other cays - Shroud, Cambridge particularly - also have moorings and are wonderful to visit.
Jim and I took a walk over to the far side of the island on Thursday where it was much warmer. I remember when we first took that trail in 2008 and were so amazed to see the ruins of houses from the days when the Loyalists tried to set up farms here. There are several small house-shaped foundation walls scattered amongst the rock and scrub foliage. Once again, I cannot imagine the consternation that must have faced settlers trying to move themselves from the fertile lands of the Carolinas to these rocky islands. The view is drop-dead gorgeous, but the idea of raising crops or establishing any kind of fine life is unimaginable.
Happy Hour found us onboard Oz with the Katmandu gang for Dark'n'Stormies and laughs and stories. What great kids those Katmandus are!
The wind dropped on Friday morning and this afternoon we are off to snorkel and swim and do all those things we like to do here. Lots of boats left - and at noon, Madcap was the only boat at Emerald Rock. I doubt that will last! We'll head to Staniel Cay tomorrow I believe. We have company coming on Tuesday, and we'll bring them back up here.
17/02/2010/2:53 pm, Warderick Wells, Exuma Land and Sea Park
We had a successful - but motoring - trip across the Tongue of the Ocean onto the Bahama Banks on Monday, arriving just after dark at Highborne Cay in the Exumas. Lousy shelter from the NW wind but it was the best we could do at the time. We rocked and rolled and pitched all night - anchor chain dragging across the bowsprit and banging on the bobstays and waves slapping on the bow. Between the motion and the noise, and the never ending anxiety about dragging, neither of us got much sleep. (And for those who are thinking, WHY do they do this? It's just the flip side of enjoying winter in the south on a boat!)
We decided we could manage only one night of that, and headed south on Tuesday. First thought was Shroud Cay and a mooring ball there but still no protection, and the wind made for lovely sailing southward so we kept going to Warderick Wells.
At Emerald Rock, we are on a mooring so no dragging worries. We have a wee bit of shelter from NW and if the wind would ever move more to N, we'd be in a pretty good spot. It is still blowing at 15 to 20 knots so we are not exactly sitting serenely! On the upside, we are really close to a beach and trails for walking, the sun is shining, the water is that most breathtaking turquoise hue - even though the temp is cool enough that I'm not inclined to get into it today! We're taking naps because the wind is supposed to blow harder tonight! We have a bit of an internet connection so that is another good thing.
We'll stay here another day or so and then head down toward Staniel Cay. More fill ins and up to date info coming...
14/02/2010/12:14 pm, Fresh Creek, Andros, Bahamas
February 14 is special in our family for 2 reasons - not only is it the day of hearts and flowers and chocolate and loving thoughts, it is JD Bissell's birthday! My Dad was the first caller of the day, followed by communication with my sister, Jim's sister and our 3 children, as well as emails from friends. When we are so far away from them all, it is special to be able to talk with them once in a while.
During the day, we dinghied up the creek to see what was there - a few pretty and well kept homes, and what looked like some good fishing holes in the shallows along the banks. It's a wide creek that must go for miles. No good spot for a picnic in the area we travelled so we turned around and went up along the coast a bit. We passed a couple of really grand places out there, and pulled the dinghy up on the rocky shoals at Calabash Creek to have our picnic. Because we weren't really comfortable leaving it there while we walked up the beach, we hopped back in and motored out to one of the cays just off shore. There was a pretty little beach there and we hoped there would be good snorkeling along the rocky shoreline but it was not our day to find fish or shells. The bottom was grass and although we went swimming, we hurriedly towelled off and got back into warm clothes - the air was just plain chilly.
In the evening, Cathy and Ann came to call. Scott (from Port Stanley ON) had been by earlier in the day and told us they had a Halifax friend staying with them so we were glad to meet both Ann and Cathy aka "Miss Halifax" who turned out to have grown up in Rockingham - within a mile or so from where we lived during our first sojourn in Halifax back in the 80's. Ann told us her family has been coming to Fresh Creek for many years and filled us in a bit on the history. Apparently there was once a large British community here - including a house on the corner of the harbour entrance - Cokeley House that was owned by the British Commonwealth and was thought to be a possible residence for the Royals if Germany had invaded England. The lovely but empty yacht club building hosted some fine parties and there was an upscale and positive atmosphere about the place.
Now - it seems to be a place of failed dreams although there are rumours that perhaps a new buyer will make some changes. Was it the Chickcharnees? These little Androsian leprechauns are rumoured to live in the forests where they bend the tops of pine tress together for their homes. They hang upside down from their three toed feet, glare with their piercing red eyes and cause trouble for anyone who disrespects them.
The AUTEC (Atlantic Underwater Testing and Evaluation Centre) base down the way is still a major employer, although apparently not as large a one as it was once. It must be a perfect spot for underwater research since just about a half mile off shore, the Tongue of the Ocean sweeps in with depths of up to 6000 feet. I love that phrase "Tongue of the Ocean" and that is just what it is - like the gouge a tongue makes in soft ice cream.
The world's third longest barrier reef lies off shore; Andros is the largest island in the Bahamas with the largest reservoir of fresh water and is home to many critically endangered species; hawksbill, Green and Loggerhead Turtles, Flamingoes and the Andros Rock Iguana. We found information from the Nature Conservancy and the Bahamas National Trust that promotes and educates.
Off to the Exumas in the morning - although we leave feeling that there is much to explore here another time.