Friday, November 15, 2013

Island Hopping the Exumas

When the weather settled down a bit, we were glad to escape Nassau and head back out to living on the hook.  Before we left Nassau, though, we took one last trip under those bridges to hit the fuel dock.  The view looking up at the top of our mast as we came under the bridge scared me every time.  From the perspective of the deck, it never looks like we have enough room to get under.  The guidebooks all assure me we have at least 6 or 7 feet of space, though.

Bridge ahead!  The fuel dock is at the far left of the picture, right between the bridges, so we only had to go under the first one.  But we had to come back out under it, too.
Filling up our fuel tanks for the first time was another learning experience.  You have to run the diesel sloooowly, otherwise it spills over the top and into the ocean.  Unfortunately, I learned that the hard way, and unintentionally added a bit more pollution to the already polluted Nassau Harbour.  At least now I know, and won’t do that again.

Our sail to the Exumas took us back out into the remains of the north-east front that we had been hiding out from in Nassau, so it was a bit of an upwind slog.

Boat pose.  This is how those glossy mags hook you on sailing.

The waves were not too bad, though, and before long we were pulling into Allen’s Cay, home of a unique breed of iguanas that lives only there, and nowhere else on earth.  We dropped the anchor, had lunch, and dinghied in to see the iguanas.  We have read other accounts of the iguanas swimming out to your boat to greet you, and look for hand outs, but on the day we were there, they seemed a bit shy.  There were lots of them around sitting on rocks and watching us, but for the most part they couldn’t have cared less that we were there.  Maybe that is because we didn’t bring them any snacks, but we were trying to be good ecological citizens, and not upset their natural balance.

An Allen's Cay iguana in all his natural glory.

The current flowing through Allen’s Cay was pretty strong, so we moved the boat over to Highbourne Cay to anchor for the night.  We were glad to see a few other boats around us.  The isolation of the Berries had been great, but this early in our trip, it is a confidence builder to see other boats anchoring where we are anchoring, going where we are going, and generally doing the same things we are doing.  It is easy enough to question ourselves as to what we are doing and how we are doing it, without being the only ones around for miles.

It didn’t take long for the boats to disperse.  After a night at Highbourne Cay, we turned downwind to make  make our way south to Shroud Cay.  It was only a couple of hours, and we had light winds coming from behind, so we took the opportunity to fly our spinnaker for the first time!  It took a little experimenting, and Sara had to call on her sailboat racing experience from Vancouver Island, but we managed to make it work.

Spinnaker!  Cool.

Enjoying the ride.

Shroud Cay is in the Exuma Land and Sea Park, a Bahamian National nature preserve established back in the 50s, which means there had been no fishing or harvesting of natural resources for over 60 years.  The park provided mooring balls for us, in order to keep our anchor from chewing up the bottom, so we grabbed one of those.  It took us a couple of tries and a bit of practice to refresh our mooring ball technique, but eventually we got hooked on.

Again, we found ourselves completely alone in a mooring field which was set up for at least 10 to 15 boats.  Shroud Cay is a beautiful small island made up of mangrove swamps.  It has creeks running in a maze through the mangroves.  Our first night there was spent swimming off the boat and barbecuing, with a brief dinghy to the nearby beach to get our bearings. 

Everyone's dives are getting pretty good.
Exploring the mangroves on the beach next to the boat.
Monashee, moored all alone.  If you look closely, you can see some of the other empty mooring balls.  In high season, apparently there is quite the competition to get one of these.

The next morning, after school, we loaded everybody into the dinghy, and followed one of the creeks, weaving our way up through the swamps and over shallow sand bars until we were nearly all the way across the island on the open Atlantic side of the Cay.

Heading up the creek between the mangroves.
There is a site there called “Driftwood Camp” in the cruising guides.  As we walked over the dunes and out to the open ocean, the view was stunning.  Again, there was no one in sight.  We spent a couple of hours exploring this remarkable beach.  Unfortunately, I can’t say it looked untouched by man, as there was all kinds of plastic washed up on shore.  This kind of garbage is present on most of the world’s beaches.  It really makes you think about our use of plastic.  Makes you want to skip that next disposable water bottle.

Driftwood Camp, with the open ocean waves coming in.

Heading in to check the water.

From Shroud Cay, we had intended to head south to Warderick Wells, which is the headquarters of the Land and Sea Park.  But as we left, we passed along the beautiful, extended beach on Hawksbill Cay, and couldn’t resist pulling in for one more night completely to ourselves.

Watching the sunset to see if we get a green flash.

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