Wednesday, 16 January 2008
We picked up Ina a few days before New Years in Nassau. We spent 3 nights here. After a bit of shopping many loads of laundry, and a walk around the mega resort Atlantis, we filled the boat with water and fuel and headed off to the Exuma cays. Our first stop was Allan’s Cay, home of the endangered iguanas. We anchored late in the day after a great sail across the yellow bank and then a 3 hour motor straight into the wind. Losloper, from Alberta was already anchored. This was New Years Eve! After a nice dinner, we got together with Losloper for some New Year’s bubbly and cake. As we were about to retire for the night we heard a boom and looked out to see a fantastic fireworks display on nearby Staniel Cay, what a great surprise, by about 10:30 we were all asleep. Happy 2008!! In the morning we swam and visited the beach. As we arrived at the beach the iguanas came out of the scrub looking for hand outs. Although you are not supposed to feed them, many of the tourist boats feed them grapes from a stick. Here we met a family from England, with 2 kids, aboard the catamaran L’Adventura. They, unfortunately, had been struck by lightning earlier in their trip, and ended up spending a lot of time fixing, and replacing all the electronics. This is the second boat we have met that has been hit. We were able to exchange some books with the kids, which is great as we were in need of some new ones. This family is on the same itinery as us so we will see them again in the future. New Years Day, we exited Allen’s Cut out on to the ocean. The weather forcast was for a “norther” to blow in, the next day so winds were calm and the sea reasonable. After a couple of hours fishing,we didn’t catch anything but saw a bunch of bait fish and several “fins”, which would be from schooling tuna. We entered Highbourne Cut and found our spot at Highbourne Plantation Marina. Other than the dinghys from some of the yachts we were the smallest boat in the place. Several of the big (120’ – 150’) charter yachts were in as well as a dozen or so 50’ – 75’ trawlers and sport fishers. Only 2 other sailboats, a 50’ and a 60’ both from Nassau. We hung around for 3 days, because of the front passing through. The winds clock around from the usual east, through the south, west, and then the north and build in strength as they shift making many of the regular anchorages uncomfortable, and some dangerous. This was a very nice place to be weathered in. The island is 3 miles long with paved roads for walking and some beautiful beaches. Although the weather was cooler than usual the boys were still keen to skim board, they had fun until they were a little blue with cold. There was a lovely deck to sit and have a sundowner on. By the 4th, things had moderated enough for us to go. On our way out of the marina we bought 2 lobster and 3 conch from a local fisherman and later Janine and her mom whipped up some curried lobster the next day we had cracked conch and fries, both spectacular meals. Our raw water engine cooling chose today to quit so as Janine and crew sailed the boat Richard and Dad changed the impellor. Losloper, who had been anchored at Highbourne followed us into the anchorage at Skipjack point, Normans Cay. This Cay once belonged to a drug lord and was the center of a huge smuggling operation. All that remains today is an airstrip and a crashed DC3 in the lagoon. McDuff’s Bar and Grill has sprouted up between the airstrip and the beach, a nice little restaurant with 4 cabins for rent. Over our years of planning this trip we have often read about Macduff’s so it felt like we had reached another milestone. After we anchored we took a short walk and had a couple of beers and a snack. The next day we took the dinghy around to the lagoon and saw what was left of the plane. It was still fairly windy so we did not snorkel at the plane, but let Janine and her mom out at the dock, while the boys and dad took the dinghy back around to the anchorage. The race was a tie and we all walked into McDuff’s at the same time. Losloper was already there, having had lunch. After a visit and the requisite couple of drinks we were back to the boat for our cracked conch and fries for dinner. Leaving on the high tide in the morning we sailed south and took a mooring at Warderick Wells, in Exuma Park. Right underneath out boat was the remains of an old boat sunk as an artificial reef which protected dozens and dozens of small fish. Even Granny put on her snorkel gear and although she is not used to getting into the water very quickly, she jumped in to see, she provided us with some comic relief with her squeals and squacks. We had several laughs at her expense over the next while. It’s a good thing she is such a great sport! The Cay has many trails, one of the biggest hills in the Exumas,(almost 75’ high) and a mangrove swamp in the middle. Many of the plants have signs telling all about them. Richard took a real interest in the plants and compiled a list of useful plants incase we get shipwrecked. He has learned about plan “B” from his dad. After walking up the hill and seeing the outer coast, we went around to the sheltered side and tried to find some coral heads to snorkel on. Mother Nature had different ideas, and covered the sky with clouds, taking away the light and the warmth of the sun. Only a few brave souls got wet andwere rewarded with some colorful fish and coral but not the turtle we were hoping to see. After a while we were back to the boat. Staniel Cay was the next stop. The first night we anchored in the bight at Big Majors Cay, a quarter of a mile away and the next morning at high tide we pulled into the marina. Low Slack water was in the early afternoon and gave us the chance to snorkel the Thunderball Grotto of James Bond fame. We were able to swim into this underground cave and saw hundreds of fish. Including a Lion fish, Trigger fish, an angel fish, and countless others. Because it is a park site and there is no fishing, and because many people feed them, the fish have no fear and swim right up to and around you. The current was strong by the time we were going so we all had a good workout. The morning of January 9th we tied to the dock at the Staniel Cay Yacht Club, and we set about cleaning the boat up and organizing all our stuff. At 3:30 pm Keith and Ladora (Gary’s Parents) arrived in an 8 seater Cessna belonging to Flamingo Airlines. After we got everyone setteled back to the boat Grandpa treated us all to a spectacular dinner at the Staniel Cay Yacht Club. The next day we celebrated the boys birthdays and they opened a bunch of presents. In the afternoon we went to the beach to see the free range pigs. Granny was not quick enough with the food scraps we had brought along and the boar took a nip of her wrist. Fortunatly, although he did break the skin, she was not badly hurt. Because of the aggressive nature of the pigs, our beach trip was shortened. Janine and Granny tracked down the local nurse and Granny got an overdue Tetanus shot. That night a bunch of Ladies from the island put on a beach BBQ, and the whole group of us and a dozen or so other cruisers had a great meal. Friday morning we went to the airport again and said a tearful goodbye to Granny. We wished we had a camera with us, seeing granny standing on the wing of the small 6 passenger airplane with her hair blowing straight back is a vision we are not likely to forget. It was a great visit, and we look forward to seeing her again in the spring. She later told us she settled in as the copilot/stewardess for the rest of the flight!! Grandpa and Grandma are here!