Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Another Bite at the Apple

Written 3/11/17

Dawn and Christina thoroughly enjoyed their Thursday morning paddleboard exploration of Shroud Cay’s middle creek. They detoured into several small side creeks and were able to see several sharks, rays, turtles, and other wildlife. While they were gone, Piper and I took the dinghy over to Fresh Well Bay and hiked up to the namesake well, which has been providing good sweet water to mariners since the 1700s. Afterward we scrambled around and bushwhacked a bit getting some panoramic shots of the western mooring field, then took the dinghy over to the southwestern creek where I rowed in a little ways (no motorized vessels are permitted except for the northernmost creek to Driftwood Beach). About that time the girls called on the mobile VHF so we drifted back out of the creek and started the engine to zip over to pick them up. Once back on the boat Dawn and I had lunch, then got the boat ready to go and raised the anchor for our short motor up to Hawksbill Cay. The wind was out of the east at 10 knots so I rolled out the jib to motorsail – and it promptly veered southeast, almost south. So much for that.

Hawksbill Cay is where Dawn and I unknowingly flew over Windbird on March 29th, 2015, during our flying/sailing tour of the Bahamas. At the time Mark and Judy were northbound from Warderick Wells, on their way back to the States. So it was cool to go back to the site of our original rendezvous and recreate Judy’s shot of Windbird from that day – albeit with a few less boats and a few more clouds in the background. We hiked up to a cairn to get the shot shortly after we moored, and then were heading up the western coast to find some ruins when the skies opened up. We hastily retreated to the boat and decided to go the next morning, which is just what we did, as soon as Chris Parker’s SSB forecast was over. The Russell Plantation ruins turned out to be quite extensive but quite, well, ruined…they date to 1785 and what various hurricanes haven’t destroyed, the vegetation is well on its way to obliterating. Still a neat spot, and a very nice hike.

It’s only about 10 miles from Hawksbill Cay to Warderick Wells as the crow flies, but to get to the South Mooring Field we had to go out to the sound via Alligator Cay Cut and then wind our way back in through the reef and behind Hog Cay for a total of nearly 18 miles. We had enough wind to motorsail but not quite enough to sail, and made pretty good time, 3+15 enroute, to arrive shortly after low tide. The entrance is fairly narrow…not quite as narrow as the north mooring field, but the sides are jagged rocks rather than submerged sandbars, so it feels a lot narrower! Once inside there is 360-degree protection, and it’s absolutely gorgeous. A lot of current runs through, like at all the other cut anchorages around here, but you learn to plan your day in six-hour chunks around the tides. We were the only boat in the anchorage yesterday, though two more came in today.

After getting in we took Piper to the beach to do his business, checked out a palm-lined clearing known as “Pirate's Lair” (not hyperbole for once – this really was a major pirate hangout back in the day), hiked across the island to Turtle Beach, then walked back around the island’s jagged southern perimeter. Once we got back I decided I had to get in the gorgeous water to cool down, current be damned, and devised a nice way of doing so. I hung one of our docklines off the back of the boat with a bowline at the end, stripped down to my birthday suit, jumped off the boat, floated back to the line, put my foot in the loop, and body-surfed the 3-knot current, cold beer in hand!

We launched the paddleboard just before sunset, near slack tide, and I took a nice calm sunset cruise around the anchorage. It was so nice I got up early to repeat it this morning just before sunrise, and then Dawn took over for a good hour or so with Piper as a passenger while I listened to Chris Parker. Once she got back I made Mexican Breakfast, and then dove into my “to-do” list for the day. Boat maintenance/repair items have been piling up a bit as I’ve been a little too busy enjoying all the scenic anchorages and their diversions. I started by remounting our Garmin Gwind receiver for better wifi reception (our wind instrument has been somewhat intermittent), realigned our alternator which involved digging through most of the ship’s spares looking for just the right bolt (it was in the bag labeled “alternator!”), resecured the boom vang tang for like the third time now (a charm?), tried to troubleshoot our transmission after the forward gear temporarily failed to engage twice in the last two days (no culprit found, which worries me), and did some electrical troubleshooting in the forward V-berth. I didn’t get around to cleaning my SSB connections…reception has been pretty clear out here, anyways, it’s just that Chris Parker never seems to hear my transmissions (possible due to five boats trying to chime in at once?). And the stainless steel remained unpolished. Maybe tomorrow.

We took a break in the middle of boat work for some slack tide snorkeling. Dawn found some hotspots during her paddleboarding this morning, and the one we snorkeled turned out to be absolutely spectacular. We’ll check out the other one tomorrow morning at high tide before taking off. Late this afternoon, we packed up the dinghy and took it completely around the island to the Park headquarters at the north mooring field, where they had their once-weekly Happy Hour under the tiki hut on Powerful Beach. It was a full house with all moorings full and a few in attendance from Emerald Rock as well. We didn’t know anyone beforehand but there were several boats we’d seen before or heard on the VHF, and everyone was quite friendly. Piper got quite a few “accidentally” dropped morsels and lots of fond pats on the head. We came back well after sunset, but the full moon was quite high by then and lit our way home nicely. Oh, and we had Dawn's waterproofed iPad with our earlier track, too.

The fact that it’s a full moon reminds us that we’ll have been in the Bahamas for a full month come Monday. By my count about seven days of that has been spent hiding from weather, two days in Nassau while I flew back to Atlanta, and another couple days dropping off or picking up guests. We’ve still seen a ton in the time we’ve had, and we absolutely love it here. And though we’ve seen a couple of decent blows, the rest of the time the weather has been pretty accommodating in letting us move up and down the islands pretty much at will. We’re really glad we were able to come back up to the Exuma Cays Land & Sea Park, because all of our favorite parts thus far have been here. My parents are flying into Staniel Cay on Wednesday so we’ll have to head back down there in a few days, but if the weather forecast cooperates we hope to come back up here with them for a third time.

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