02/13/2008, Norman's Cay, Exumas, Bahamas
Just like the brochure. Not many experiences in life are just like the brochure. The brochure tells you what to expect, and predicts the spectacular. You will have the time of your life at this park, this theater, this resort, or this -- the eighth wonder of the world. Life rarely measures up. Except for today.
We anchored at Norman's Cay, famous -- or rather infamous, in the not so distant past -- for its part in the Bahamian role in the U.S. drug trade. We had reluctantly left Allen's Cay behind, we had loved being in that beautiful lagoon and feeding the iguanas on the beach. The next attraction was to be the snorkeling at Norman's Cay, so off we went. After a lovely gentle day of downwind sailing at five knots, we arrived in time to set anchor safely before sundown, and found ourselves in the company of Paradise, a boat we had met while anchored the night before. They have two girls, 13 and 15, so we were glad to make their acquaintance. They invited us over for a beverage after dinner, we had a pleasant visit, comparing notes and swapping tales, and then headed back to Wanderlust and our cozy bunks.
The next day, the one from the brochure, began early, as we wanted to snorkel the underwater wreck of an old drug-running airplane at early slack tide when the current would be the gentlest. Meanwhile, Bill was off to hunt lobster with Steve and Anne from Paradise and Roland from Wayward Wind, another boat at anchor with us. Rosabelle stayed aboard the Wanderlust, as I took the five kids in the dinghy to the wreck. We agreed to snorkel in pairs, we checked for current, anchored the dinghy, put on our sunscreen, cleaned our masks, and dove. Alice and Noah, along with Claire and Emma, swam all around and through this underwater airplane, enjoying the fish that had made it their home, like a reef. Now, snorkeling is Benjamin's new favorite thing, and he can't wait to get in the water. He has an underwater camera, and he thrills to the sensations of the water, the snorkel, and the sights. He swam around and around that plane, snapping pictures and pointing out the cool fish to me. He wanted to swim through it, but my caution put the brakes on that plan as he's not a very strong diver yet. Maybe next time.
When we got back to the boat, (Bill without lobster but with three 4-lb snappers) we had a planning meeting to compare the charts, the weather info, and our desired activities. After deciding that we could safely stay another day before the next cold front moved in, we wanted to get all we could out of Norman's Cay. The next attraction was the caves and possibly hammerhead sharks in a lagoon at the north end of the island. I tossed some lemonade and some peanuts into a plastic tote bag, along with the charts, the hand-held GPS, and the hand-held VHF radio. Rosabelle agreed to join us for this adventure, as Alice and Noah would be riding with Emma and Claire in their dinghy, leaving plenty of room in ours. Like Gilligan, we all set off for a three-hour cruise.
Unlike Gilligan's, ours had no undesired results. Forty-five minutes later we found caves that were accessible at low water, and white sand beaches filled with conch and starfish. The water was clear as glass, and warm as a bath. We anchored our dinghys and walked on shallow beaches, in or out of the water. The beaches were lined with palm trees and dessert -style jungle growth (that's the best description I can come up with, my apologies to the botanists out there). We explored and poked around, endlessly fascinated by the beach, the water, and the marine life. But, as sundown waits for no one, we found it was time to move on.
We had been told to look for hammerhead sharks in this lagoon, so I had brought some chum. The scraps from a yummy roast beef dinner were to attract the predators, but as no predators showed up for a snack, we had one. We munched peanuts, drank lemonade, and enjoyed the perfect Caribbean view -- white sand beach, stunning blue water, and the few sailboats at anchor. All this as we floated aimlessly, just bobbing up and down. Ahhh....
Then back to the boats. Bill took Emma out on our mini-fish (a little bitty sailboat that lives on the deck of the Wanderlust and goes out to play from time to time). They careened around the anchorage until the wind died and they were towed in by a good Samaritan in a dinghy. Then Steve came to get his daughter and informed us that the adults were going ashore to MacDuffs, for an evening of socializing. The kids stayed on our boat with movies and macaroni, while we all headed out for the island. We wanted to leave a dinghy for the kids, just in case, so Anne and Steve picked up Rosabelle, Bill, and me.
It was getting dark by now, and we were a crew of eight from various boats, in search of refreshment. This island is now unoccupied, except for the owners of MacDuffs. There is an airstrip, however (a key feature in a drug-runner's island) and the planes and boats bring enough business to support a delightful establishment. A few flashlights helped us find our way down the unlit road (look both ways crossing the runway) to the bar, with a porch, a view, and wicker chairs. We watched the weather reports from back home on the TV behind the bar. We saw people all bundled up, being blown about the streets, and interviews with doctors on how to avoid hypothermia. It seemed like a different planet. We found ourselves in the company of the most interesting people, from different backgrounds, but all sailors. We spoke with another couple, from the yacht Better Days, who had raised their (now grown) children on a boat. Of the four boats represented, three either had or used to have children aboard. We miss the people we left at home (if not their weather), but we have found our new community. And we are all heading south.
02/12/2008, Allen's Cay, Exumas, Bahamas
Like miniature dinosaurs back from their grave of 65 million years, there they were, just as we pulled in, by the dozens. Let me back up a bit. When we were in Nassau, a man named Peter told us everywhere we needed to go and everything we needed to see while we were in the islands of the Exumas in the Bahamas. The first thing that was absolutely necessary to our enjoyment of the Bahamas was to see the iguanas at Allen's Cay. We were getting there about one and a half hours before sunset, so we just figured that we would anchor, have dinner, and in the morning set off in search of the famed iguanas. But they were just there. Lying on the beach like tourists in Miami, just waiting for handouts. So off we went, to the land of the dinos. Mom, Dad, Nanny, Alice, Benjamin and I all crammed into the dinghy with a bag of grapes and set off to give those giant lizards what they wanted. They swarmed us. We stepped out of the dinghy and they all came right up next to us, hardly afraid at all. On numerous occasions iguanas chased me, my only escape to run into the water. For some reason, they didn't seem to like swimming. They loved grapes. If we threw a grape, they would all run their little waddle-run - kind of like penguins with four legs - and fight over one little fruit. We could even stick one on the end of a stick and feed them from less than a foot away. We could see their little pink tongues and their sharp white teeth (Alice and Benjamin got bit by them on the second and third days we were there), the markings on their heads, the spines on their backs. One even had a wart or something on his back! They came in a bunch of sizes, from one foot long, to three or four feet long. Those were the Big Papa iguanas. They didn't eat as much as the other ones, they just kind of sat there and watched over the little ones. If you ever meet an iguana, here are some of their favorite foods: Peppers, tomatoes, lettuce and grapes. They will eat carrots, but -only if they are in small enough pieces to bite easily. Just don't feed them out of your hand. They might think that your fingers are a carrot or something.