Thursday, January 29, 2015

Hawksbill Cay

This was our first visit to Hawksbill Cay which is within the boundaries of the Exuma Park. Most of the islands in the Exumas don't have a lot of development but the ones within the park are particularly natural and undisturbed. We had Hawksbill truly to ourselves and enjoyed some solo family exploration and discovery with little guidance besides some dots dropped by Makai on our Garmin Blucharts. One of the dots Makai dropped was called "trail to space trash" so we were on a mission. We followed the long trail to the Sound side of the island and walked the length of the beach until we found what did, indeed, look like a big hunk of aeronautical debris. Then the kids practiced pretend javelin throwing and sword fighting and other general boat kid weirdness. The next day we visited an endless sand bar and hiked a trail to the ruins of loyalists to the British Crown who fled the American Revolutionary War. We pretended to be archaeologists and found bits of pottery, glass and metal that I'm sure others before us have found and left for the next island explorers. We did the same so the next crew could enjoy the feeling of discovery!
Tangent alone in the anchorage

The kids are natural explorers and have become much heartier than they were on land. They never complain of being tired, hot or hungry. But they still leave their shit everywhere. Drew left his flip flops on Norman's Cay so we had to share when we went over the sharp rocks.

Another solo shot of Tangent in the distance. We often embrace the solitude because it's so rare in our part of the world but then find ourselves longing for company. We've been able to strike a good balance so far. 

What the heck fell out of the sky? Eric said he compared his pictures to the real thing when they visited the Air & Space Museum in DC and he's convinced this is NASA goods. Cool! 

Close up of fabric layer

Natural born peaceful warrior

We may not have organized sports but have plenty of opportunities to improve physical skills and coordination during our recreation. 

Evelyn still loves horses and hopefully she'll get a chance to ride in the Caribbean

A beautiful, expansive sand bar

This was very helpful!

Evelyn loves air plants - especially these tiny ones

We don't see a lot of wild life beyond a few birds and lizards so this guy was a rare treat and not easy to spot

Digging for loyalist artifacts

Some of our finds that we left for the next explorers

That's our dinghy, Cosine, which is basically our family car 

Sometimes you just really, really, really need a f&cking chicken nugget. These are authentic Bahamian Loyalist nuggets. Since we rarely have the chance to eat out anymore, if we want it, we have to make it.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Norman's Cay

We eagerly returned to Norman's Cay which was our first stop in the Exumas with Makai. We blew through here so fast the first time and it was so pretty we wanted to see it again. We were also fascinated by its history as a base for Carlos Lehder's drug operation in the 70s and 80s. We both read a book recommended by Eric on Makai called "Turning the Tide" which focuses on a civilian, Richard Novak, who loved Norman's Cay, couldn't turn a blind eye to what he figured out was going on and got deeply involved in taking down the operation. Even though we couldn't relate to his highly moral, hot tempered determination, the book was a page turner and we were fascinated with returning to explore and see the ruins of all the sites mentioned in the book. What we found instead was a massive construction site of a future exclusive marina, an expanded runway with a chain link fence around it and an overpriced beach bar. We tried but didn't get the satisfaction of seeing any bullet hole riddled walls or find any long forgotten drug or money stashes in the caves. Thankfully we had a chance to snorkel the plane wreck with Makai in more settled weather on our first pass. We froze our butts off when yet another front came through but the scenery was beautiful and the company of our friends Daryl and Annie aboard No Rehearsal was not to be missed. They made a delicious dinner and we had a lot of laughs hearing about life aboard cruising the Med when their kids were about the same age as ours. They understand and encourage our desire to experience a little culture as well as sun and sand and helped to reinvigorate us after a spell of the doldrums.
Self explanatory

Daryl and Drew getting ready for a hunting trip. It's colder than it looks!

Barry the Barracuda looking for handouts after he figured out Drew was cleaning a fish. Drew is a nut when it comes to "petting" the stuff with big teeth, crushing claws or venemous spines. He's been like that for as long as we can remember. Just don't make him watch a scary movie.

Take a look at it now kids because this is one club you'll probably never be able to join once it's built!

Ruins of a restaurant

Ruins of a hotel

This is what our fresh food supply looks like after about 10 days without provisioning. Between our fresh fish, stocked freezer and dry stores we can go for a lot longer which extends our enjoyment of the secluded anchorages. Why is it that no one ever eats the last apple?

Movies are a large part of our entertainment. Here the kids are enjoying Ferris Bueller's Day Off for the 400th time. 

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Warderick Wells

Warderick Wells is where the Exuma Cays Land & Sea Park is headquartered. It's a beautiful island with paths for hiking and exploring. You can get a mooring ball in the channel that runs along the northwest shore where the current rips through and makes grabbing the ball in tight quarters a quiet and focused moment for Captain and First Mate and a great opportunity for the kids to have one of their perfectly timed screaming fights. They can spend seven hours sailing in total boredom getting along beautifully but when it's time to anchor, cue the fireworks. We've instituted a sterile cockpit rule which is frequently violated and we've heard this is a strange epidemic among boat kids. Not to mention the colorful vocabulary that will not get them any points on the SATs.

Because the Park is a "no take" zone, the snorkeling is really good. You just need to time it for slack tide because the currents are strong near the cuts between the islands. The trade winds usually blow from the east consistently during this time of year with the occasional front moving through. But this year has seen more than its fair share of frontal passages. It can be an inconvenience dodging the weather but when the wind blows from the south or west you get opportunities to dive in spots that are usually too rough. We saw a shark that frequents the area and many rays. Not to mention all the colorful little fishies. We snorkeled a lot with our new friends aboard No Rehearsal who we hooked up with in Staniel Cay and who put us to shame in terms of energy level. 
Admiring the view of the Exuma Sound from the blow holes which weren't blowing because it was low tide and the Sound was relatively quiet

Mangroves are an important part of the ecosystem

Another beautiful sand bar exposed at low tide. And a cute kid enjoying it.

Tangent on a mooring ball and us grabbing a moment on the sand bar

These little guys are called Hutia and they come out in the evening looking for handouts from the cruisers who gather on the beach at sunset for cocktails and snacks. This is a Hutia Selfie.

When you have a camera instead of a spear in your hands you actually get a chance to visit with these guys

They just swam across the channel to the sand bar

Cubby's turn but she's hesitant. The current is no joke!

Tangent on a mooring behind the trawler

On one of the trails. The rocks are limestone and very sharp. It's the only time we ever wear shoes.

A little bridge that seems either unnecessary or 1/4 as long as it should be. 

The cool water feels good on a warm hike

Murphy's hideaway but we still don't know who Murphy is. Neither does the kid who lives on the island. 

Drew is currently reading Lord of the Flies and this photo seems to tie into that well

From left to right are Drew, Evelyn, Ally from "Ally Cat", and siblings Elizabeth and Drake who live on Warderick Wells with their mom and the others who work for the Park. When you don't go to school or live in a neighborhood it's really special when you have a chance to grab these spontaneous moments of friendship and playfulness. This play time morphed into an invitation to movie night at Drake and Elizabeth's house and a couple of free hours for us to mingle with the adults on the beach. I bet these two kids show up on hundreds of sailing blogs as they do not pass up an opportunity to hang with cruising kids!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Staniel Cay

On our first run south through the islands of the Exumas we moved at a pretty fast pace in order to pick up Kurt in Will in Georgetown the day after Christmas, stopping only a day or two at each anchorage. Faced with weeks of nothing but time we decided to start over at the north end of the chain and spend some time in places we wanted to revisit or had not seen yet. Staniel Cay was on the list and we love it here! We find it colorful and cheerful with a good mix of recreation and services so we can do errands and still fit in play time and hunting.
Posing near the public beach. Tangent is anchored off in the distance beyond that bush.

Pretty flowers along the quiet main road where golf carts are the preferred mode of  transportation

Burke's blue store is one of three places to provision on Staniel. Fresh produce is delivered by mail boat about once a week or every two weeks. On one visit we might find a variety of fresh items and on another we find empty refrigerators with maybe a few sad tomatoes and a head of cabbage. We have become very creative and resourceful when it comes to cooking and eating.

The Pink Pearl "Supermarket"

We met Jeff, Rachel and Stella aboard Slacker in Georgetown and enjoyed fishing, exploring, cooking and hanging out together at Lee Stocking Island on up to Staniel where we went north and they headed back south.  We love our friends from South Carolina who have taught us to embrace deep frying and the magic of Duke's mayonnaise.

Snorkeling in the Thunderball Grotto. Does anyone recognize this from the James Bond film "Thunderball?"

The crew of Slacker in the Grotto

Fighting the current for a family photo

Underwater looking out into the open water

Drew riding the current from the Grotto out into the open

Our Rocna 55lb anchor nicely set in the sand. Yes, the water is that clear.
This is Fishy who dives a lot deeper than Andy and Drew can to get the big bugs. We are ashamed to say on this day we bought lobster rather than getting it ourselves. But we were about to enter the boundaries of the Exuma Land & Sea Park wheres there's no fishing of any sort allowed.

Another pretty sunset. Never gets old!