For reasons unknown to me, cruisers stack up rocks in neat little piles along the rocky shores. This curly tail lizard must have found the cairn on Shroud Cay to be the prefect place to wait for a lunchtime treat to fly past.
Back in 2008 we found this old weathered board washed up on the beach. Bill scratched our names, the boat’s name, and the year in the face of the board with a beer can opener, and we placed it on top of Boo Boo Hill on Warderick Wells Cay. Every year since we have come back, and he has added another year to our sign.
This is the view across the Blackpoint Harbor from the house we rented for our children and grandchildren to stay and visit with us. The stone paved path leads from the house down to the water where it is nearly low tide and where the white sand is emerging from the blue water.
This is Eli, Ann’s son, swimming down to a coral head in the Bahamas. He’d make a pretty good fish.
We can not identify this flower-like anemone growing on the coral. It is not in our books. While it looks like a plant, it is really an animal.
With everyone watching and ready to laugh, Bill made his maiden voyage on a stand up paddle board. He was a natural, a success from the word go.
Coming back to the anchored Irish Eyes from the beach at Bitter Guana Cay, all eleven of us would not even begin to fit in our four-person dinghy. Five people traveled in the dinghy while the remaining six were towed along behind holding on to a rope.
Josh, Isabella, Michael, Olivia, Ann, Scarlett, Julia, Kaelyn, and Eli stand behind the now resting sow which minutes before had been chasing them down the beach to get the pancakes they were carrying. A 500 lb hungry pig is a fearsome beast. A resting pig… not so much.
At Normans Pond Cay Bill and I waded in the water and walked on the beach picking up the treasures we found before throwing them back. This is Bill with one of his finds, a reticulated starfish.
We have been to Normans Pond Cay several times, but this year was the first time that we have seen iguanas there. Two were resting in the shade of a group of casuarina trees. This is the female. She is not quite 3 ft long.
Hello from Georgetown, Exuma. We have had a busy couple of weeks.
When I last wrote, we were anchored at Shroud Cay. During our four days there, we took our dinghy into the interior creeks and mangrove swamps of Shroud Cay stopping at the beaches on the eastern side of Shroud Cay. We dinghied around to the ocean side of the island. We had the cruising couple from the sailboat Blue Away over to celebrate St Patrick’s Day by sharing six bottles of Guinness stout that Bill brought from home. It was a beautiful stay in a beautiful place.
Two back to back cold fronts were forecast to exit the Florida coast and come into the Bahamas. We returned to the Norman’s Cay cut for protection from the wind. We stayed for three days waiting for the wind to die down to a reasonable sailing speed. When we arrived at Norman’s Cay, a large motorboat, Miss Anna, was anchored there. We chose our spot 240 yards away from her. Other boats came and went, but we stayed, and so did Miss Anna. At sundown on our second night, the distance separating us had decreased to 75 yards. I watched Miss Anna. She was not moving with the wind and waves. She had dragged her anchor and was aground behind us. The professional crew calmly waited for the tide to rise as they served dinner to the guests on the aft deck of the yacht. When the dishes were cleared away, Miss Anna floated free, and they re-anchored again, 240 yds away. The next day a large sailboat which had been anchored on the other side of us also ran aground behind us. Bill and several other cruisers went over in their dinghies and helped him get off. It really does not take much to entertain me. I just sit in our cockpit, knit, and watch the world unfold around me.
On March 23 the wind was blowing from the north at a reasonable 10 to 15 knots. It was time to head south. We pulled up our well buried anchor and sailed to the Emerald Rock mooring field at the Exuma Park Headquarters on Warderick Wells Cay. Bill went into the office, paid our fees, and retrieved our driftwood sign from the top of Boo Boo Hill.
There is a huge pile of these driftwood signs on the hilltop. Each has the names of cruisers, their boat names, and the dates of their trips to the Exumas. Leaving a sign is supposed to assure cruisers of good weather and a pleasant trip. We have been using the same sign for all eleven of our trips. It is amazing that the thing survives all the wind and rain that blow over the island, and equally amazing that we can find it in the ever-growing heap of signs.
On Saturday night on the beach at the park office, there is a cruisers’ happy hour party. We had also been invited to have a cocktail on a 22 foot sailboat moored near us at Emerald Rock. So, off we went party hopping. The couple on the sailboat, a Marshall Catboat named Done Reach, were retirees from Rhode Island who now live in Spanish Wells on Eleuthera. They were taking a two-week trip on their little sailboat. Bill and I enjoyed swapping tales with them, and they enjoyed the Black Eyed Pea dip I have named Tennessee Caviar. They also enjoyed the ten ice cubes Bill brought as a present to their refrigeration-less boat. After we left Done Reach, we went to the cruiser’s happy hour to meet the other cruisers and most especially Ron and Phebe, the crew of the sailboat Noodin, who we had met last year.
Sunday morning, we slipped our mooring and headed a few more miles south. Our intended destination was Big Major’s Spot with its famous swimming pigs. But when we got close, Bill looked through the binoculars and saw lots and lots of boats at Big Major’s. We changed our plans, changed our course, and anchored off Sampson Cay where there were only two other sailboats. Irish Eyes made it three. Later, three or four large motor yachts anchored near us to avoid the coming high winds. But that was fine, I had rich people playing on all kinds of expensive water toys to watch from my cockpit. It was great entertainment.
On the windiest day, Captain Bill decided that we, like Jimmy Buffet, needed a restaurant prepared Cheeseburger in Paradise. Our closest option was the Staniel Cay Yacht Club, a mere 5-mile dinghy ride away. Off we went. After the first mile, we were wet, salty, and not making much progress against the wind and current. I asked Bill if he REALLY needed that cheeseburger. I think he was just waiting for me to say something. He immediately turned the dinghy around, and we spent a couple of pleasant hours walking on the Sampson Cay beaches before returning Irish Eyes for homemade sandwiches and beer.
The last time I did our laundry was in mid-February while we were moored in Vero Beach. The dirty clothes locker was dangerously full, and my underwear drawer was almost empty. The Rock Side Laundry in Blackpoint is the best coin laundry in the Exumas. It was time to go there. And anyway, our children, their husbands, and all the grandchildren would be there in a few days.
Our anchor was down in Blackpoint Harbor on Good Friday afternoon. We tidied up Irish Eyes, I did laundry, and Bill gave me a haircut to prepare for our visitors. Our good friends Ron and Dee from the sailboat Ursa Minor were in Blackpoint too. We spent Easter Sunday afternoon catching up with them in the cockpit of Irish Eyes.
Early Easter Monday morning, and I mean really early, like 5am, my phone began pinging with rapid fire text messages describing our traveler’s progress. All nine members of the Murdoch clan began their journey to Blackpoint from Michael and Ann’s new house in Nashville on Easter Sunday evening. First, there was a flight from Nashville to Ft Lauderdale, then an airport shuttle to their Ft Lauderdale hotel for the night. In the dark of Monday morning starting with that previously mentioned 5am ping, the journey resumed; another shuttle to the executive airport, followed by a charter flight in a small plane to Staniel Cay, then a golf cart ride to the Staniel Cay Yacht Club for a late breakfast. Properly fed, they and all their belongings had 6 mile speedboat ride from Staniel Cay to the government dock in Blackpoint where a car and a truck met them and for a ride to their rented house on the water. The five grandchildren were already in their bathing suits, splashing in the beautiful, clear, blue water and playing in the white sand before Bill and I could cross the harbor in our dinghy to meet them.
What a wonderful week we had! The house we rented had a stone path leading down the wooded hill to the water on the Blackpoint Harbor. At high tide the water was probably 3 feet deep, at low tide there were acres of sand flats to tromp over. Perfect! The kids could swim or build sand castles. And, there was a small kayak and two stand up paddle boards to master. The wraparound porch on the house was great; from there we could watch the kids only having to move the furniture from time to time during the day to stay out of the sun.
One day, all eleven of us piled aboard Irish eyes and went on an excursion. We sailed our little boat, crammed with people both below and on the deck, a couple of miles south to the Hetty’s Land beach. Bill, Julia, Josh, and Eli took the dinghy and went snorkeling and spear fishing on several of the nearby coral heads. The rest of us, Ann, Michael, Kaelyn, Isabella, Scarlett, Olivia, and I, looked for sand dollars on the beach and played in the shallow water and in the sand. While the snorkelers came back with only pictures of fish, the beach goers found their sand dollars. Irish Eyes was anchored so close to the beach that the beach goers could just walk through the water and, after a few swimming strokes, climb back on board Irish Eyes. When the snorkelers and the dinghy returned, we motored back to Blackpoint where, after several overloaded dinghy trips between the boat and the shore, we celebrated with drinks and dinner at Scorpio’s bar and restaurant.
On a “rest” day at the house Josh and Julia took the dinghy and went fishing off the rocks near the entrance to the harbor, but after an afternoon of fishing, they only brought back one fish. They had fun anyway. While they were away, the rest of us lazed about, built sand castles, splashed in the water, played on the porch, and generally wasted the day away punctuated only by a swim in the breaking waves on the ocean side of the island.
On our second trip on Irish Eyes, we motored the six miles north to the famous Swimming Pig Beach on Big Major’s Spot. When it was discovered that no one had thought to bring food for the pigs, Bill ducked below and cooked two dozen pancakes for the beasts. Once ashore, Ann had the pancakes in a plastic grocery bag. The pigs, like all pigs, instantly sensed food. First, Ann tried to distribute the pancakes to the kids who wanted to feed the pigs. Then, she tried to appease the herd of pigs that were chasing her by feeding them a few. Finally, under a direct frontal assault, she quickly dumped all the food on the beach and danced about holding her empty hands in the air to prove she had no more food to give. Fully fed, one of the large sows dug out a bed in the sand and lay down at Ann’s feet.
Back on Irish Eyes as Michael made sandwiches for lunch, all the kids jumped off the bow pulpit of Irish Eyes and into the water as each tried to make the biggest splash. They all watched from the deck as a large shark swam under the boat and over toward the swimmers at a nearby boat. Eli got his wish to jump into the water from Irish Eyes. Olivia got her wish to see a shark. None of the jumpers were eaten by the shark.
There are large iguanas on Bitter Guana Cay, and we went to see them. There was absolutely no wind, so we motored through the glassy and sparkling clear water. The children sitting on the deck broke into a port side team and a starboard side team and had a competition counting the starfish on each side of the boat; on the bottom, in the grass, clearly visible 25 feet below us. Anchored off Iguana Beach, the kids swam to the shore while the sensible adults took the dinghy. We walked and swam along the beach feeding the iguanas bits of canned mandarin oranges. Since all eleven of us would not fit in our four-person dinghy, Bill trailed a knotted floating rope behind the boat and towed the children back to Irish Eyes. Julia (yes, she is a child) said she has waited 38 years for her father to tow her behind the dinghy. We saw the people on a nearby anchored boat both stare and laugh at us.
On their last full day, tired of walking and sure that fishing success could be obtained with boat better than our dinghy, the travelers rented a 9 passenger golf cart and a 16 foot motorboat from Ulrisa and Breadboy, the owners of the house. Josh, Julia, Ann, Kaelyn, Isabella, and Eli took the motorboat and went snorkeling in the morning while I played in the water with the mermaids Olivia and Scarlett. In the afternoon Josh, Julia, Michael and Eli went fishing. They caught several trigger fish, but thankfully they brought back only pictures and not the fish. Ann, Kaelyn, Isabella, Olivia, Scarlett, Bill, and I took the golf cart to the blowhole to see the surf driven geyser shoot up through a hole in the rocky shore, then to another sound side beach for a shell collecting walk, and lastly on a tour of every paved rode on the island. 13-year-old Kaelyn drove the golf cart (It was a bit scary.) until we saw the island policemen in the distance, and Ann took the wheel. Ann, who has never driven on the left before, proved remarkably adept.
The somewhat sunburned visitors left on Saturday retracing their path back to Nashville where they arrived after midnight. Bill and I spent the day hosing the sand off the decks of Irish Eyes and feeling very fortunate that we could share one of our favorite places with all our family. I am pretty sure they had a good time.
The wind changed after they left, coming from the west and blowing across miles of open water. We bounced through the night while our anchor held us off the lee shore. Then in the morning, we left headed south to the better protected Lee Stocking Island. The island was once a research station, studying marine life. The research funding dried up, and the place has been pretty much abandoned. Rumors say a billionaire bought the island but could not get the permits to build a resort. Bill and I dinghied along the sheltered sides of Lee Stocking Island and the adjacent Normans Pond Cay walking lots of beaches. One morning at we had a nice rain shower and filled our water tanks to the brim and also put another 30 gallons of water in our six 5-gal jugs. While we were anchored, a couple we met two years ago, Robin and Corbett on Cookie Monster came and anchored nearby. We had a lovely time with them and with a Polish/American couple on the sailboat Aldebaran at a four-hour happy hour hosted by Cookie Monster.
After a few days anchored at Lee Stocking Island, Bill and I continued our journey south enjoying (?) a rollicking sail in northeast winds to Georgetown. We had our anchor down at Sand Dollar Beach in the Georgetown harbor by mid-afternoon. Georgetown has two grocery stores, a gas station, laundry, propane, beaches, and restaurants. We will stay a few days while the wind blows, with our riding sail up and our flopper stoppers in the water, once again waiting for a cold front to go away. The plan is to then head to Conception Island, turn around, and begin our slow trip north hoping that the winter cold fronts are behind us and that calm settled weather awaits.