30 April 2010 | Nassau Bahamas
Gail Bermel/Mostly Cloudy/75 degrees/Wind ESE 15
It's been a few weeks because we have been sailing mostly uninhabited islands. After our last blog, we sailed to Nassau to pick up two of Frank and Pete's sisters, Maria and Annamarie. They flew in to visit for 10 days. We have sailed and crammed a lot into those days. We sailed over to Highbourne Cay and anchored in a sweet cove. The water was about 7 feet deep, clear as bath water and you could see everything on the bottom. Right behind our boat was a huge star fish, maybe a foot and a half in diameter. Next to it was a sand dollar and angelwing-type shell. Looked like it was placed there for an art class to paint. We "bucket snorkeled" a few coral heads so the sisters could get a taste of the beauty that was in store.
The next day, we sailed to the Exuma Park at Warderick Wells. It is one of the most beautiful places in all of the Bahamas (google for information). We took the sisters into shallow water, about waist high, for snorkeling lessons. Annamarie took to it like a fish. Maria did really good also, but she lacked the confidence initially to just let go, she liked to be holding onto a rope tied to a dinghy or someone else.
The next morning we took them to the granddaddy of coral to snorkel. They were just as much in awe as we all were the first time we saw something like that. (I've described this coral in former blogs 2008). Annamarie, as expected, took out on her own, Maria wanted to hold to a line tied to Pete's dinghy. Pete was floating away from the coral and casually mentioned he was "moving out to sea." Maria took off like an Olympic swimmer, holding nothing for security and swam back to the dinghy. After that, she was the confident snorkeler also. On our way back to our boats, we witnessed a phenomenon. There were two black animals swimming in the shallow water. We initially thought they were sharks. As we approached them, we learned they were marlin (sailfish), big fan dorsal fin, long pointed nose. They apparently swam into the area and got trapped during low tide. We feel confident, they swam back out to deeper water when they could. Later that day, we hiked up to Boo Boo Hill, an area at the highest point on the island where boaters leave boat-specific "artwork," typically on driftwood. A few feet away are blow holes, areas where the waves on the Atlantic ocean crash through openings in the rocks and the wind is forced up and out holes. It will blow you hat off your head and stretch the skin back on your face like G-force wind.
The next day we sailed most of the day to Big Major. It is an anchorage near Staniel Cay. Frank immediately took Keesi and the sisters to the beach. I don't know if I can describe the experience accurately, but they were "attacked" by about 5 large adult and 3 baby pigs. Some were aggressive causing all to rush back to the dinghy and make a getaway for safety. The more aggressive pigs swam after the dinghy. Frank was hurriedly trying to get the dinghy into deep enough water to jump in and start the motor. Right next to him, also trying to get in the dinghy, was a big old snouty pig face. Frank took the boat oar to him and the pig didn't back off. They felt they were the entertainment for the anchored boats that evening. They also wish they had it videotaped. It likely would have been worth $$ on America's Funniest Home Videos.
The next day, we took the sisters to Thunderball Cave (where the James Bond movie was filmed). It is the cave where thousands of tropical fish wait for low tide, when snorkelers bring food. It is quite a show. Because it was a cave, Maria again wanted to share a rope with another snorkeler. She did and proceeded into the cave. She came back raving about the experience. Pete told her to go back in, she didn't need to hold on to anyone. Well, she did go back in. She took off, swam against a current and others had to hustle to catch up with her in case she needed someone.
Later that day we went to Staniel Cay Yacht club for lunch. Maria noted that it was the only time they had been on hard ground except to hike Warderick Wells. After we ate, we walked through a few streets, showing them the gorgeous bouganvilla and the sweet colorful houses, etc.
The next morning, the winds had picked up and the water was rough. We were rocking and rolling. We immediately set sail to Cambridge Cay, an area protected from the direction of the wind. If you remember, this is where we first caught up with Pete and Clare after we got to the Bahamas. We were smart to get there early. We weren't there much more than an hour when a storm hit. Thirty-one knot winds off and on for hours; rain and lightening until after dark. It was the first time we had seen a storm last for hours in the Bahamas. We were, however, totally comfortable on the boat.
We had to start working our way back to Nassau. The next day we sailed back to Highbourne Cay. The sail was nice and smooth. We saw something we had never seen before. While we were quietly sailing fairly flat waters, I thought I saw dorsal fins. I waited until I saw them twice, then started speaking in "code" to Frank. If I had mentioned dolphin or pointed or used the word "see," Keesi would have gotten excited and tried to get out of the cockpit. Yes, we confirmed there were about ½ dozen. They were like no dolphins we had ever seen. They were huge, dark gray, almost black, and their faces were rounded, no bottlenose. Keesi was sound asleep. As we passed them, she smelled them, woke up immediately and started smelling before she could see them. Amazing.
At Highbourne, Annamarie dove for shells and sand dollars. We had dinner on Pete's boat. On our way home, the water was like glass, the moon was full, you could see the bottom as if it were day. When we got to the back of our boat, I grabbed the line on the boat, started to step up and the dinghy shifted and the next thing I said was "Frank, I'm going in." Yep, I fell in the water. Frank said "Hold on and don't panic." That was easy to do, the water felt nice and everything was calm. He got out of the dinghy, pulled up the back "door" of the boat to let down the steps. I climbed up them, then we had a good laugh. Then he realized that neither one of us held on to the dinghy. He immediately took off his brand new cap and dove in for the dinghy and motored it back to the boat. As it turns out, we had a midnight, moonlight swim.
Next morning we sailed over to Allan's Cay to be protected from a wind shift. This is the island where the larger iguana live. The beach is full of them, fifty at time. That's where we are now. It is nice and calm. We will leave early tomorrow for Nassau. We plan to take the sisters to Atlantis tomorrow evening. Then they must pack and fly out the next day, Friday.
It has been really wonderful to share this part of our lives with them. I think they go home different people after seeing such unimaginable beauty and experiencing life on a boat for ten days.