Thursday, April 5, 2012

April 5, 2012
This is the Bahama Bank side beach at the north end of Hawksbill Cay.  The four tiny dots in the water waving at you are Pierre, Renee, Susan, and me.  The big long beach is ours alone.

Bill repaired our sign on Boo Boo Hill then carved another year in the board.  The sign reads, “Irish Eyes, Bill & Adair Murdoch, MMVIII MMIX MMX MMXI MMXII”.

Lion fish are an import to the Bahamas.  They are displacing the native fish.  They have poisonous spines, but treated carefully they are good to eat.

I wish the camera would take a 360° picture.  We are in our dinghy floating inside this cave room that is bigger than my den.  We came in through a low narrow opening that you can see reflected in the water.  The cave is lit by light coming up from the water and in through the entrance.

Another deserted beach.  This one is Jack's Bay Cove on Great Iguana Cay.  Bill found a full cylinder of propane floating in the water in the sound side cove across the island from this beach where the next picture was taken.

A huge amount of trash washes up on the ocean side beaches.  Most is plastic junk, rope, nets, bottles, and anything else that floats.  Last week a sailboat hit something in the water and sunk 4 miles offshore leaving the two people on board in their dinghy.  They don’t know what they hit, but it may have been a shipping container like this one.

Susan and I are exploring yet another deserted cove shaped beach.  This is on the ocean or sound side across Great Iguana Cay from Bay Rush Bay.  Bill found a kayak washed up here last year.  You can see some of the trash above the water line.

Our floating home, Irish Eyes, at anchor off the beach at Big Galliot Cay.

This dry cave was on big Farmers Cay.  It goes back quite a way.  When Bill first went in it a bird flew out, but we did not see its nest.

We are in George Town, Exuma.  At first it seemed that we had gotten here earlier this year than we have in the past, but checking our log, we are right on schedule.
The windy weather in Bimini finally broke after we had been there eight days.  Bill got a deal on the slip rent at Weech’s Dock; eight days for the price of seven.  On the way out of town, Bill dropped an inflatable fender into the harbor, but he picked it up on the second try leaning so far over the side that I was afraid that I would have to pick him up as well.  All that drama for a fender!

We sailed (actually mostly motored) all day, all night, and all day to arrive at Highborne Cay Saturday March 10 with Robert and Susan Banks close behind.  A Canadian couple we met at Weech’s , Pierre and Renee Renauld, left Bimini at the same time but chose to anchor on the Bahama Bank for the night then go on to Nassau for some shopping.  At Highborne Cay Robert and Susan came aboard Irish Eyes for a day trip north to Allens Cay to see (and feed) the iguanas who live there in their “protected iguana habitat.”  They are really nasty looking animals.

Highborne Cay is privately owned and access is limited to guests in the rental houses or the marina.  It was time to go elsewhere.  We sailed down to Norman’s Cay in hopes of a hamburger at the Beach Club, but alas they didn’t have any food!  We walked the beaches, finding some shells and hoping for a supply plane to arrive.  After two days and no airplane, we gave up and headed south.  Robert and Susan followed our lead.
From Norman’s Cay we traveled south to Shroud Cay where Pierre and Renee caught up with us.  We all six took a dinghy tour of the north creek passing over to the ocean side.  To our surprise when we arrived at the ocean side beach, there was a party going on.  The owner of the motor megayacht Cakewalk (try Googling that) was hosting his high school class reunion.  They were having a picnic – tent, chairs, BBQ grills, coolers, tables with centerpieces, and lots of handsome uniformed 20 somethings scurrying about looking after all the arrangements while talking on walkie-talkies.  I don’t think anyone in my high school  class will host a reunion on his yacht.  Later, we went to the stone lined well on the island and got some water to top off our tanks.  Saturday, March 17, was Robert’s birthday.  Susan made a pound cake and hosted Pierre, Renee, Bill, and me for a party on Impetuous III.  It was good to be in the Bahamas with both old and new friends.

The next morning all three boats left Shroud Cay and sailed south to Hawksbill Cay.  We dinghied to the beach and walked across the island to the Exuma Sound side.  The trail was not long, but the rocks were very sharp.  The wind was strong out of the east making the sound side spectacular with big crashing waves.  Our group returned to the far calmer west side of the island for a great swim off the beautiful beach.
On Monday March 19 we watched Pierre and Renee sail south to Warderick Wells, the cay where the Exuma Land and Sea Park Headquarters is located.  Their time in the Bahamas was limited, so they were trying to see as much as they could before they returned to Canada.  Robert, Susan, Bill, and I took a dinghy and walking trip to see the Loyalists plantation ruins on Hawksbill Cay.  Loyalists were those colonists who were allied with the losing side in the American Revolutionary War.  The terrain in the Exumas is very rocky and without good soil.  I can’t imagine who convinced planters from the Carolinas that they could have a profitable farm here…must have been some salesman.  Bill wondered what they wrote home to Momma.  No doubt their letters were more positive than reality.  We found a cave nearby at the water’s edge that had some pretty fish swimming just outside.  In the afternoon we motored about a mile down to the southern Hawksbill Cay anchorage.

The next morning we four walked across the island to the sound side’s long wide beautiful beach.  The trail is a serious cross country trip.  Some of the trail is on sharp rocks, some is wading small creeks, and some is going through mangroves.  I truly believe mangrove plants are the hardiest things alive.  They grow in salt water sending out long roots with what appear to be tender shoots of new growth.  Just step on a tender shoot with your bare foot!  Not tender at all.  Bill and Robert scoured the beach amongst the washed up plastic trash.  Susan and I looked for pretty shells.  We left in the early afternoon for the Emerald Rock mooring field at Warderick Wells dodging all the squalls but one as we sailed along.
On top of Boo Boo Hill at Warderick Wells there is a huge pile of drift wood signs boaters have left to show they have been there.  Bill went over to the hill early Wednesday to see if our sign was still in the pile.  It was, but had been broken into two pieces.  While he was gone, I waited at the Park Headquarters browsing in the gift shop and taking in the view.  There I ran into Pierre and Renee.  They had decided Warderick Wells was going to be as far south as could go.  For them it was time to go home.  Bill and I spent the rest of the day beach combing looking for a scrap of plywood to repair our sign.

The next morning with our sign repaired and MMXII carved among the other four years, we joined Robert, Susan, Pierre, and Renee for a walk to the top of Boo Boo Hill to replace our sign.  It was our last visit with Pierre and Renee; we were heading south and they were heading north.  I really enjoy meeting new friends on our trips.
We sailed south to Sampson Cay the next morning.  Sampson Cay is very pretty.  It has houses to rent, beautiful water and beaches, a restaurant, a marina and a store.  Bill and I dinghied into the fuel dock to get some diesel.  No luck.  No fuel except gasoline.  Good thing we weren’t desperate.  I did buy a bag of romaine lettuce and a carton of orange juice from the store ($18).  We made restaurant reservations, but finding out that they could not do a hamburger, we cancelled them.  We walked out to the gazebo at the southern tip of the island with Robert and Susan before returning to Irish Eyes for the evening.

The weather forecast on Saturday, March 24 was for a cold front to pass over us on Sunday afternoon.  A cold front doesn’t mean the temperature will fall, just that the wind will increase and veer from the normal southeast to the west for a day or so.  Not great as there are few places to anchor with protection from wind and waves from the west.  Wind from the west can create large waves in the long stretch of open water to the west.  We left Sampson Cay and motored the few miles to Staniel Cay.  The All Age School, 1st through 9th grades, was having a noon time fund raising cook out.  A feast of the long awaited hamburgers with fries along with macaroni and chicken wings was served to us on the public beach.  To work off some calories we walked over to Isles General Store for a few groceries and ended up in the Staniel Cay Yacht Club for a fortifying rum punch before going for a swim in the Thunderball Grotto.  The next morning we motored the mile or so to Big Major’s Spot to wait out the anticipated cold front.

The cold front brought the expected west wind, so we spent a night and a day bouncing up and down in Irish Eyes.  Fortunately, it only lasted Sunday night and Monday.  By nightfall on Monday the normal southeast trade winds were back, and we were much calmer.  We left Big Major’s Spot on Tuesday headed for Black Point.

Black Point has the best laundromat ever – clean, inexpensive, with a million dollar view across the turquoise palm fringed harbor.  Bill and I loaded our dirty clothes into the dinghy and met Robert and Susan at the Rockside Laundry dock.  After conch burgers and beer at Scorpio’s Bar, we all did our washing.  Not a bad way to spend a day.

Lorraine of Lorraine’s Café in Black Point was having a “Cruiser’s Appreciation Happy Hour” on Wednesday night, so we decided to stay a second night.  Lorraine is the nicest lady and is very good cook.  We had a seafood platter of conch fritters, fried conch bits, fresh fish fingers, and fried shrimp. What a feast!  We could not eat it all.  Lorraine gave me a post card to send to my grandchildren.

Thursday we moved down the west coast of Great Guana Cay from Blackpoint to Jack’s Bay Cove and began our beach-a-day-or-two tour.  The cove has a gorgeous 100 yd long sand beach between rocky headlands and no people.  We dinghied around the rocky coast line and found a limestone cave at the water level.  It was very pretty with lots of hanging waterstones.  I walked the west beach, and Bill found a trail across to the Exuma Sound side.  The ocean side cove was full of tons and tons of washed up plastic trash.  Among the junk Bill found an aluminum cylinder labeled “bombette, anti-sonar”.  He thankfully did not bring it back even though I am sure he would have liked to have set it off!
After a peaceful night we once again went to the beach.  Both of us walked over to the Sound side.  Bill was just sure I needed to see the trash.  During the night a full fiberglass propane cylinder had floated into the cove.  It was like Christmas for him.  He had to bring it back.  I just found sea beans, floating seeds, and a really pretty cone shell.   Later in the afternoon Bill transferred most of the propane from the fiberglass cylinder into one of our two aluminum ones on Irish Eyes.  His new cylinder still containing four pounds of propane (a real eyesore and shin buster) is now lashed to our deck.

We motored south about a mile to White Point where there are a pair of back-to-back beautiful vacant beaches separated by a high sand hill.  We walked the length of the north beach and across the hill to the south beach.  I found lots of shells.  We met a group of ten or so in a motorboat who were taking a day trip from the Emerald Bay Resort in George Town.  They were envious of our ability to stay here in paradise for five months.  Life is pretty good.
Monday we motored south to Bay Rush Bay.  Remember the glass bottom kayak Bill found washed up on the beach last year?  This is where we left it.  Sadly, it wasn’t there this year.  Hopefully whoever found it enjoyed it a lot.  I found a good conch shell without a conch.  That always makes my day.  Bill, Robert, and Susan explored the large nearby cave with its water pool.

We left Great Guana Cay and motored to Big Galliot Cay.  We had never been there before, so we decided to stop and anchor off still another pretty beach.  At low tide I walked along the small beach and found several really good shells while Bill hiked over to the rocky sound side of the island.  In the afternoon Bill and I dinghied a little bit north to Big Farmer’s Cay checking out its beaches, sand flats, and cave.  As is our usual, we ended the day with a swim and a fresh water cockpit shower.
The weather forecast for the upcoming Easter weekend was not good.  Chris Parker, the shortwave weather guru, said to expect a cold front with some rain, an increase in the wind speed, and the usual change in the wind direction.  We decided on Wednesday morning, April 4 to leave for George Town with its well protected harbor.  This is an all day trip out in the Exuma Sound.  The wind was light and right on our nose, so we motored all the way – boring.  Exuma Sound is very deep but good for fishing.  We trolled a line and hooked one mahi-mahi, but he threw off the hook.  Another fish with teeth bit through the nylon leader and got our lure.  I am actually glad we didn’t get the toothy thing on board.

We are here in George Town for a while.  Julia, Joshua, Isabella, and Olivia arrive on Wednesday for a visit.  I get to be Mommy’s Mommy for little bit.  Fun!  Then later in the month, Tom and Susan Tipton from Kingsport will join us for the Family Islands Regatta.  That will be fun too.
A Blessed Easter everyone.

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