23/02/2010/9:00 am, Staniel Cay, Exumas
We tore ourselves away from Warderick Wells on Sunday and (mostly) sailed down to Staniel Cay. Our plan to sail as much as possible is working out well so far. We ran the engine for half an hour to charge up the batteries and sailed the rest of the way until we made the turn into Staniel Cay and turned on the engine again.
By the way, we have been very happy with the job our KISS wind generator has been doing. We were stopped at the park for 5 days and didn't turn on the engine or Honda generator once! Mind you, the wind did blow there!!
As we got close to Staniel, a familiar voice came over the VHF radio - Rob from Celebrian! (another Bayfield 36) He and Christine are tucked away next to Fowl Cay to wait out Monday's storm and we were sorely tempted to join them. We contacted Windswept IV, a boat Richard (Kilissa) had told us to look out for, and look forward to meeting them in person, and then we had fun acting as relay in a reunion conversation between Solution and Windswept IV.
Once anchored in front of the Yacht Club here, we hustled ourselves ashore to have a beer at the club and see the familiar sights remembered from our stay here 2 years ago. At that time, both our neighbours from Ottawa and our children joined us for visits. First stop was Brenda's - the yellow house on the street leading to the Blue Store - to order bread for the next day. Brenda's coconut bread rivals any around. We walked by Bernadette's pretty cottages that were home to our visitors last time, and checked to see if there were any fisherman at the dock. (No luck) We picked up onions and carrots and a pack of sliced ham and the one remaining yogurt container at the Blue Store - and were reminded why we try to bring staples with us. Things cost more here!
Then it was back to the Yacht Club where we perched at the bar and ate delicious fish sandwiches while we talked with Doug on Water Torture. With garbage disposed of (for a fee) and water cans filled (for a fee) and the resident nurse sharks observed, we dinghied back to the boat for a peaceful night.
Next morning was not so peaceful and we knew a front would be coming through later in the day, so we up anchored, intending to go around between the Majors, but we spotted a couple of empty mooring balls by Thunderball Club. Corning (Blessed Spirit) called to say he didn't think one of them was in very good shape (confirmed after we picked it up and examined it). We dinghied by the other one to check water depth and it seemed OK for a boat of our length (much longer and we'd be aground when we swung around to the south) so we moved over and picked up a nice new line.
Ashore again, we picked up the aromatic bread and managed to resist tearing into it right then, answered e-mails at the club (a wifi card is $10 for 24 hours), got a few more groceries at Isles General - and learned that the mail boat is coming on Wednesday, and if we want our pick of groceries we should be there by 11. As the wind picked up, we made our way back to Madcap without getting too wet. The evening saw us aboard Blessed Spirit for sundowners with Corning and Tita and their Canadian guests, Jack and Janet - and hope we didn't overstay our welcome. We enjoyed their hospitality and the conversation never lagged, but Jack was beginning to tip forward from fatigue! Mary and Blair (Strathspey) - if your ears were burning, it was because we were all saying such nice things about you and missing your company.
The wind blew hard again overnight and rain washed us nice and clean and we were pleased to be tucked in here with nice neighbours, a bit of shelter and and a secure tether!
Tuesday brings our own company, Charles and Linda from Ottawa, for a week or so of fun in the sun .... ah.... and blowing in the wind ...
21/02/2010/10:00 am, Warderick Wells, Exuma Land and Sea Park
We ended up staying at Warderick Wells an extra day because the pull of the water was just too strong.
The wind died and the sun shone and the reefs beckoned. We spent an hour or so on Friday with Ken and Connie (Oz) and Peaches and Chris (Star of the Sea) at the small snorkelling area just near the red marker deep inside the north anchorage. At first all I saw was grass - then a couple of large rays floated by and then I was into it! A great variety of coral and sponge came into view as I drifted over and gradually the fish appeared too. There was a huge Nassau grouper - they're not very pretty but oh, they're tasty - some parrotfish and triggerfish - lots of grunts and some snappers (Hey, that last bit sounds a bit like a family!!) I always like to just drift slowly around, gradually turning my attention to smaller and smaller fish and coral bits. The current was moving fairly strongly, so I'd drift one way, kick my fins to get back to the top end and do it all over again. Just as I was about to get out, a magnificent Spotted Eagle Ray drifted past. It was just beautiful with its spotted body, looooong tail and a more pronounced head than the sting rays have. A long silvery fish stayed under its right wing all the time and I couldn't get a good enough look at it to tell what it was. I wonder if they have some sort of special relationship or if this is normal behavior for rays.
We went up to Turnaround Beach where we had enjoyed a special spa-like afternoon a couple of years ago, and it was still pretty, but not as warm. After shivering on the beach for a bit, (and warming our bottoms on the rocks) we all headed back to our respective boats, with the Madcap crew stopping to visit all along the way! First visit was with Mary and Bill (Southern Vectis) whom we had last seen very briefly in Chub Cay and it was a treat to get to know them a little better. Moving on, we waved at Knot-ha-Gan from Halifax but didn't stop since we knew they were expecting company soon. Lys and Michael (Lys) last seen in Frazer's Hog Cay were next, and we chatted with them while petting their remarkable cat who seems born to life on the water. We stopped by an Ottawa boat, (No Keys) to visit with Chris and Louise for a few minutes and then made our way back to Emerald Rock for a quiet evening of books and left over dinner (spicy rice with chicken and sweet potatoes with a side of cole slaw).
It was a night to dream over. Absolutely still - the sky filled with stars - the kind of night to just sit outside and let it all sink into our souls. Between the snorkelling of the day, the visits with friends, and the still, starry night - it was that perfect combination that is the reason we come cruising. All the sleepless nights and failed boat parts and weather watching go to the trash and there is just this.
It was so good that when we got up on Saturday morning, we couldn't tear ourselves away. We did boat jobs in the morning - things like cleaning and sorting (and thought about sanding and cetoling but didn't do any) - went snorkelling again in the afternoon - this time near Emerald Rock. The coral wasn't quite as pretty but, once again, there were beautiful fish - and those lobsters just poke their noses out as if saying "Ah, hah, I know you can't get me here!" (No fishing in the park - and we swear the sea creatures know it!)
We hiked the Causeway trail to Hutia Hill and over to the west side of the island, and from there up to Boo Boo Hill where we looked for our sign from last trip. There were a couple from 2008 but I think they've been cleaned up to make room for new ones. We'll make a new driftwood sign and put it up next week.
By the time we made our way back to the dinghy, we needed to put a move on to get back to the boat in time to clean ourselves up and make a snack to take to the weekly beach party. With boat cards in our pockets, rum punch in glasses and a plate of appetizers, we joined the crowd at Powerful Beach for conversation, food and fun. The bonfire was warming, the eats were good, the hutias (the nocturnal rodents that are protected here - and who surely know that Saturday night at the picnic shelter means good eatin') roamed in and out of the brush, and we visited with old friends (well - old since November /09) new friends (including Marianne and Paul (Knot-ha-gan) and lots in between.
The park warden had pictures of the Haitian freighter that caught fire this afternoon up north of us a bit. Apparently the 6 or 7 passengers were safely removed and the ship continued to burn. There were several cars on it, and we all hope there wasn't too much fuel spilled. We also heard the news that the Concordia - out of Lunenburg - sank off Brazil. That must have been so frightening for all concerned, and their safety drills must have been well practiced since all passengers (60 some?) were rescued from it too. It is a reminder that light and shadow live ever side by side. For all the glorious days afloat, the sea and the wind are still more powerful and it reminds us to pay attention while we appreciate and enjoy.
Just as I was writing this on Sunday morning, Gloria from the very cool catamaran moored near us (Fourth World) came by and we spent some time exchanging experiences and thoughts - including the importance of finding and bringing happiness in a troubled world. She is reading the Dalai Lama's book and I must do that too. Her visit was one more reminder of why we are out here - to be - to appreciate - to experience.
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.