Sunday, February 27, 2011

Bimini to Shroud Cay, Exumas February 2011

Lighthouse at entrance to Nassau Harbor
 Sunday, February 27, 2011

Cruising through the busy Nassau Harbor was quick and easy, after obtaining permission via the VHF radio to proceed through.

Note the deep dark blue water and then the more shallow, lighter colored water near shore, close to the lighthouse.

Discussion:  Why do lighthouses exist?

Cruise ships in the busy Harbor

The trawler, Sea Dog, looks small compared to those cruise ships!!
The fabulous Atlantis Resort on Paradise Island, Nassau

It’s been a busy few days; a change in plans yet again and limited wifi here in the Exumas.   Hearing over the VHF radio friends we've cruised with off and on over the past year, Jim & Diane, aboard their trawler, Ocean Dance, we diverted farther south to Shroud Cay to meet up with them.  Shroud Cay is the first island in the Exumas Land & Sea Park, a must see protected national park.  We picked up a Park mooring ball next to Jim and the 6 women guests + his wife aboard Ocean Dance.   He is clearly living the high life.  Andy is calling his boat the Estrogen Dance....

Ah, this Sea Park is a must see. The first such park in the world, it covers 176 square miles of small islands from Wax Cut Cay to Conch Cut.  The beaches are pristine; hiking trails throughout are loaded with wildlife and various species of birds not often found anywhere else; and snorkeling numerous small coral reefs clearly marked on Park maps is a wonder.  Much scientific research occurs here, with scientist arriving from all over the world to study this natural environment.  Wardwick Wells Cay is the Park Headquarters.

This sperm whale died because he swallowed a large plastic bag floating in the ocean.
Discussion:  Talk more about pollution & it's effect on people, plants & animals

We tried to explore via dink, the mangroves along Sanctuary Creek on Shroud Cay.  Billed as “you will think you are in the movie African Queen”, all us women loaded up with bug spray and some water and headed out.  Unfortunately, my info did not include the note to only go on a rising tide or one can get stuck inside till the next tide change.  Phew, we could not get IN, as it was low tide.  Saved by luck.... I’ve added this Cay to my list of places not yet explored and will hit it appropriately on our return trip to the USA in a couple of years.

Discussion:  Why is the tide important here?  What would happen if we had managed to get IN and then the tide dropped further? Would we be able to get OUT?  How would we get OUT?

All About Survival on the Islands

Monday, February 28, 2011

Pulling anchor early, we traveled the few hours to Warderick Wells, the Land & Sea Park Headquarters, grabbing our assigned park mooring ball.

One calls ahead the day before via VHF and gets on the waiting list for a ball.  Then, at 9:00 AM the day of your arrival, listen in for your assignment.  At $30 a night for our size boat, and no real place to anchor, we are quite happy to be here, snuggly secure.  I got cheers from Ocean Dance as I easily grabbed the mooring line and secured our boat...seems they had a bit of trouble.  GRIN. 

Banshee Creek @ low tide

Our group hiked to the top of Wardwick Cay, across the barren, slightly damp Banshee Creek,

Hiking to the Top of BooBoo Hill

and up to the top of BooBoo Hill, picking our way carefully among the limestone rock potholes.

All About BooBoo Hill

Andy & Sharon & Finally Fun's momento

At the top, we left our boat’s name as a memento to our voyage here.  In truth, our sign is so beautiful, we almost hated to leave it!

Banshee Creek at high tide

My sister, Anne, an art teacher and artist, painted the sign with the back of Finally Fun displayed along a beach scene and our names.  Ours is the most distinctive memento in the pile of driftwood and sticks and stones!

Later in the day, our group retraced our steps back to the top at 5:00 PM in anticipation of watching the sun set from that high vantage point AND to explore the Blow Holes at high tide which would occur at sunset by chance of timing.  Funny, now that barren Banshee Creek was a foot deep as the tide had come in and we waded through with sneakers on our heads.

The Blow Holes at the top of the hill were fun, but no water shot through today -- just wind and a howling noise.  Locals say the place is haunted and the noise is the ghosts of past lives.

  No matter, we fortified ourselves with the sangria brought by the 6 gals, sharing it with two Bahamian Defense military guys who hiked up to join us and a couple of guys on a sailboat who’d heard the group of young women would be there!  The wind would howl up through the blowhole, but no water splashed up as the seas were fairly calm.

Bonfire on Wardwick Wells
Also, the Bahamian military guys who get 8 weeks or so of duty providing security to the Park certainly get lonely and a bit bored.  They love it when friendly tourists are about.  We had some great conversations with them, learned a lot and after hiking back down, were joined by a couple more.  The guys build a large bonfire on the beach for us and much splashing and swimming later, we finally departed in the pitch dark in the two dinks with NO flashlights.  We had not anticipated staying so long and will be better prepared from now on!  A bit of a scary 15 minute ride back to the boats.  I was absolute NO help as I only had my sunglasses on.  Legally blind and having forgotten to carry my regular glasses, I was forced to wear the sunglasses at pitch black dark.  Phew, glad to safely reach the boat. 

We snorkeled several of the reefs the next day, seeing a few large lobster tucked in the deep holes in one reef; saw a mana ray swim by; a turtle and one shark...which I was unaware of.  Diane, swimming with me, simply told me she wanted to head to the dink and get, I followed.  Good thing! 

Later, the current began ripping through “The Rangers Garden” reef as the tide changed, catching us.   Huffing, puffing and paddling mightily, I made no headway trying to get to the dingy and began sliding out to sea.  I could certainly tell I was no longer 40 something!   Diane untied the dink from the reef mooring ball & came out to rescue me (remember the safety rules - one left in the boat!).  Shortly thereafter, three of the six gals suddenly found themselves headed out to sea, grabbing a channel marker on the way out.  Again, Diane to the rescue!  Hmmm, maybe not being 40 again had nothing to do with my predicament.  Grin.  Good judgment prevailed and we headed back to the big boats.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011
With anticipated weather change for the worse (25-30 knot winds and a cold front on the way) and the gals aboard Ocean Dance deciding they could get flights from Staniel Cay to Nassau and then back to the US on Friday, we decided that hunkering down in a more populated place would be more fun.  Off we went, early in the morning, to Staniel Cay, just a couple of hours further south and with a well protected anchorage (except from the West) & good holding.

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