Jan 20 to Jan 26 2012

January 20, 2012  

 

I know I’ve said this before but “What a difference a day makes!”

 

The boat finally stopped rolling by 2300hrs – Yay!  This morning the water was calm. We were able to get a forecast this morning – with favourable winds from the East – so we decided to stay one more day and make our way to Norman’s Cay tomorrow.

 

After breakfast, we lounged about reading, listening to the radio and drinking coffee (It’s a rough life).

We decided to go for a dinghy ride to check out the Highbourne Marina around the corner to see if we could get Internet access.

 

This marina is a really nice facility – I would think that anyone staying here would enjoy themselves. It' probably very expensive. The grounds are well maintained with a big beach, look-out points to relax and have a drink, a store with a variety of food – fresh, canned and frozen – it also has a gift shop with very interesting items. However, they were not sharing their internet, not even for a price – well, so much for that.

 

On our way into the marina we were behind another dinghy who told us there were several sharks near the dock where the fisherman clean their catch. Once on land, we checked out the spot – check this out!!!

Jan_20_Nurse_Sharks_resized.jpg

All Nurse Sharks. At one point, we counted 14 of them – and they are BIG!!

Jan_20_Highbourne_Marina_Channel_resized.jpg

This is the channel looking out from the marina. You can get a good idea of the colour of the water. The dark water is the deepest part of the channel. This is the channel to follow.  Fortunately, this marina has range markers to guide boats in ‘cause on a cloudy day with low visibility it would be easy to make a mistake and wind up aground.

I spent the rest of the afternoon reading in the cockpit while Steve tried his luck at fishing. He returned skunked again but had a close encounter with a lobster that got away! He was with a couple of other cruisers who were given a lobster fishing trip using a mop. If a lobster is spotted under a rock, use the mop to tangle it into then pull it out. This apparently works. So, they tried the mop trick with no success. By the time Steve went down with his pole spear the lobster was gone. Oh well, better luck next time.

Jan_20_Sunset_resized.jpg

Pretty Sunset – Highbourne Cay anchorage

January 21, 2012

We woke up this morning cloud covered day making navigation difficult so we decided to stay another day!!

Jan_21_Cloudy_Morning_resized.jpg

Cloudy Day at anchor in Highbourne Cay

It was a cookie baking kind of day for me while Steve made a rope ladder for the dinghy. When snorkeling we realized (once out of the dinghy) that a ladder would make getting back into the dinghy much easier.

 

By mid-morning, the cookies were done and we were ready to test out our new ladder at a reef nearby.

 

The reef was AMAZING!!! I thought I found my “Finding Nemo” experience at an earlier reef but this one was much better. Since, we are just getting to know the different types of fish, here are just a few that we were able to identify from our fish book; squirrel fish, a type of Margate, Pork fish, jacks, porgies, butterfly fish, parrot fish, angel fish, blue tang, queen trigger fish, yellow stingray, surgeon fish, clown fish, blue head wrasse, damselfish, trunkfish/cowfish/filefish(we weren’t sure which one) - amazing!!! AND oh yes – the dreaded Lionfish!!!!

 

The Lionfish are an invasive species in the Bahamas and as such we are encouraged to kill them and Steve was eagerly awaiting his moment to try. Well, today was the day. We spotted the Lionfish hiding in the coral when we first got in the water. Steve, first time using his pole spear, went for the attack. He lined himself up, drew back on his spear, fired and missed! Fortunately the lionfish was not too bothered by it and stayed put taking its chances. Steve lined himself up a second time, this time not taking his eye off the fish – fired and got it…in the fin. He withdrew the spear, then just jabbed at it and finally speared it right through the belly!! Third times a charm!! Well, now that we have killed it – what do we do with it?!!? It was too small to eat so Steve brought it up to make sure it was dead. He dumped it into a bucket and we continued snorkeling. When we got back to the boat, the thing had bled EVERYWHERE!! It was like a murder scene in the dinghy - yuk!

 

Jan_21_Lion_Fish_and_Steve_1_resized.jpg

 

Steve and his Lionfish. Too bad they are invasive because they are quite beautiful floating in the water.

 

Nothing more to do but get cleaned up, have a nice drink then eat supper J

Tonight, we counted 19 boats in our anchorage.

January 22, 2012 

 

Travel day to Norman’s Cay!

 

It’s still cloudy out but the route to Norman’s Cay is pretty safe to do with an overcast sky. There is a lot of active weather around us. We continue to see line squalls in the distance but have been lucky to not get hit by one. The winds are light so we motor-sailed most of the day.

 

We made a quick pit stop at Highbourne Cay Marina for fuel, water and ice. We paid a small fortune for

it but are back in business again.

 

We arrived at Norman’s Cay at 1500hrs and settled into our anchorage just south of Skip Jack Point.

While I was cooking supper, Steve spotted some active weather in the distance. It appeared to be funnel clouds!!! It was not heading towards us but the boat in the below picture must have been nervous!

Jan_22_Active_Weather_Normans_Cay_5_resized.jpg

Funnel clouds near Skip Jack Point-you can see them touching the water!!! 

 

Jan_22_Amanda_Drinking_and_Cooking_resized.jpg

Drinking and cooking which is really my way of coping with funnel clouds ;)

Jan_22_Sunset_Normans_Cay_resized.jpg

Sunset in Skip Jack Point anchorage off of Norman’s Cay

January 23, 2012

We woke up this morning, excited to explore Norman’s Cay. We are just a short dinghy ride from its beautiful beaches, potential lobster, a Vietnam village and a plane wreck!

Upon entering the cut, we are greeted by lonely palm on its very own little island.

Jan_23_Normans_Cay_Bettys_Palm_1_resized.jpg

As we grew closer to it there is a bench set up J Steve’s mom Betty loves palms so I’ve nicknamed this Island “Betty’s Palm”.

Jan_23_Normans_Cay_Bettys_Palm_2_resized.jpg

A close up – you can see the bench. Betty, I can picture you sitting there enjoying the view J

In the 1970’s and 80’s Norman’s Cay was home to Columbian Drug Lord, Carlos Lehder. He made this small piece of paradise into an international drug smuggling operation. He developed the island with an airstrip and a large resort. In the early 1980’s a plane carrying a large supply of drugs, missed the landing strip and crashed into the nearby water killing its pilot. In 1983 and NBC documentary exposed the operation and arrested Lehder who was later sentenced to several life terms in prison.

The airstrip is still in use, the resort is nothing more than hollow ruins but the plane wreck is fascinating! Except for part of the cargo/cabin area which had broken apart on impact, the plane is fully intact with wings attached!! It is almost fully submerged at high tide, with just the tip of the cockpit exposed, making this our top snorkeling experience so far.

Jan_23_Normans_Cay_Plane_Wreck_Dive_resized.jpg

The visible part of the plane wreck off of Norman’s Cay

Steve took video of the wreck so I will hopefully have a You Tube clip soon.

Here are some snaps from the video…

Jan_23_Normans_Cay_Plane_Crash_2_resized.jpg 

Jan_23_Normans_Cay_Plane_Crash_resized.jpg

Jan_23_Normans_Cay_Plane_Crash_Amanda_Snorkelling_resized.jpg

Yup...that's me...

Jan_23_Normans_Cay_Plane_Crash_3_resized.jpg

The resort ruins by the beach were not that interesting.; empty, hollowed out wooden resorts…though the view from them was beautiful.

Jan_23_Normans_Cay_Ruins_View_resized.jpg

We walked up to a compound on the hill which had several trailers, a generator building and a main home, all abandoned. It wasn’t much until I noticed the graffiti;

Jan_23_Normans_Cay_Ruins_Boat_Names_2_resized.jpg

If you look closely, almost every beam has a boat name and year they visited on it!!

Jan_23_Normans_Cay_Ruins_Boat_Names_Diana_resized.jpg

So, I had to make our mark too!! Crazy cruisers!!

Other than a dried up pond there wasn’t much else to see. Our next stop was Wax Cay. I noticed on the chart a “Vietnam Village” on Wax Cay across from Norman’s. It looked empty from the water but really well maintained. With peaked curiosity we went to investigate. I had visions of an abandoned little settlement but what we found was most surprising. 

Jan_23_Wax_Cay_Vietam_Village_resized.jpg

View of Vietnam Village from the water

Steve noticed an entrance basin so we followed it in. It was carved out of the rock and lined with lush gardens.

Jan_23_Wax_Cay_Vietnam_Village_Entrance_to_Basin_resized.jpg

Entrance to Basin

We saw a man on shore and asked what this place was. He told us it is a resort with 10 houses, a game house and a restaurant/kitchen house. You cannot just rent one of the houses either, you have to rent to whole island if you want to visit here!!

We asked if we could come ashore and walk around. He said “of course!” The place was empty at the moment and he was opening up the homes to air them out. He told us to go ahead and walk into the buildings to have a look around. So we did and this place is amazing. If Steve and I win millions, everyone is coming to this place to celebrate!!Jan_23_Wax_Cay_Vietnam_Village_Road_resized.jpg

On the far left, the game house, in the middle is the restaurant/kitchen the last building on the right is House 1.

Jan_23_Wax_Cay_Vietnam_Village_Games_House_resized.jpg

Games Room

Jan_23_Wax_Cay_Vietnam_Village_Games_House_Wicker_Motorcycle_resized.jpg

Full sized Harley Davidson in “basket weave” style. Can you imagine the skill required and the length of time this would have taken to make?!?!

Jan_23_Wax_Cay_Vietnam_Village_Games_room_Mask_1_resized.jpg

A mask on the wall

This place is impeccably decorated in Vietnamese style. Every detail of this place from the art work and wood carvings, furniture, doorways, ceilings and gardens is just spectacular!!

Jan_23_Wax_Cay_Vietnam_Village_Restaurant_Kitchen_resized.jpg

Restaurant/Kitchen

Jan_23_Wax_Cay_Vietnam_Village_Restaurant_Kitchen_Troll_reszized.jpg

An ugly little troll at the front door I think he wants us to EAT!

Jan_23_Wax_Cay_Vietnam_Village_Restaurant_Kitchen_Inside_resized.jpg

Eating Area

Jan_23_Wax_Cay_Vietnam_Village_Restaurant_Kitchen_view_1_resized.jpg

View from inside the Restaurant/Kitchen

Jan_23_Wax_Cay_Vietnam_Village_Restaurant_Kitchen_Ceiling_reszied.jpg

Carvings on the ceiling

Jan_23_Wax_Cay_Vietnam_Village_House_2_Door_resized.jpg

The front door of House 2

Jan_23_Wax_Cay_Vietnam_Village_House_2_Living_resized.jpg

The living room

Jan_23_Wax_Cay_Vietnam_Village_House_1_Amanda_resized.jpg

Pretending I live here J

Jan_23_Wax_Cay_Vietnam_Village_View_3_resized.jpg

The view!

Next stop- Boot Cay. Steve and I dinghied back across the cut to check out one last ruin and to see if we could find some lobster on Boot Cay.

Jan_23_Boot_Cay_Dinghy_on_Beach_resized.jpg

The beach on Boot Cay – the sand was like powder!!

We climbed the hill to this ruin of a stone house.

Jan_23_Boot_Cay_Ruins_oustide_1_resized.jpg

Outside of Stone House

Jan_23_Boot_Cay_Ruins_Inside_2_resized.jpg

Inside

Back at the beach, Steve donned his snorkel gear to check out the hunting potential.

Jan_23_Boot_Cay_Steve_Snorkelling_resized.jpg

Still nothing but we believe it was the wrong time of day… Jan_23_Boot_Cay_Beach_MoonGoddess_Symbol_resized.jpg

I couldn’t leave without leaving our mark J

What a day!! We dinghied back to Diana exhausted, hungry and THIRSTY!!

After a nice supper and a couple of drinks we were fast asleep eager to make our way to Warderick Wells Cay.

January 24, 2012

This morning started off in a bad note. I fell asleep with my kindle last night, rolled over on it this morning and broke it!!! My books!!! I could have cried…well maybe I did a little. So, I am hoping the folks at Amazon can send me a new one to the Bahamas – fingers crossed!!

It’s another cloudy day here. We waited out series of line squalls go before leaving. We were underway by 0900hrs.

The trip to Warderick Wells is approx. 25nm. Warderick Wells if part of the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park. The following is a little history of the park from our guide:

In 1958, The Bahamian Parliament set aside the 176-square-mile area now known as the Exuma Cay Land and Sea Park. Its lands and marine life are protected – fishing is stricktly prohibited. We can look but we can eat – good for me!! This park stretches 22 miles and extends 4nm from Wax Cay in the North (where the Vietnam Village is located) to Conch Cut in the south.

Warderick Wells is home of the Park headquarters and well as the famous BooBoo Hill and a spectacular blow hole nearby. We cannot wait to explore tomorrow.

On our way here we recognized a familiar boat passing us to Port. It was Lance and Marie on Amanzi who we befriended in Bimini! We exchanged greetings on the VHF and later met for drinks and stories aboard there beautiful motor cruiser “Amanzi”.

Jan_24_Warderick_Wells_mooring_field_resized.jpg

Mooring field at Warderick Wells – postcard beautiful!!

Jan_24_Warderick_Wells_Park_office_resized.jpg

The Park Office

Our evening was spent catching up on email and internet work. The Internet is limited to 100MB in a 24 hour period. So sadly, we are not able to Skype with family or go on Facebook. However, I am able to upload to the website and send emails. That’s good enough for now.

I also ordered a replacement Kindle that will be shipped to George Town!!! I’m so excited – I hope it makes it J

January 25, 2012

This park is AMAZING and we could easily spend a week or so here!!

Jan_25_WW_Exuma_Land_and_Sea_Park_with_Steve_resized.jpg

The park is well organized and eager to educate its visitors on their environmental issues, marine life and vegetation. While making our way to the Boo Boo Trail entrance we past this exhibit and several others in an effort to familiarize us with this environment.

Jan_25_WW_Sperm_Wale_resized.jpg

A description written on piece of wood in the wales stomach reads “Consuming plastic garbage killed this magnificent 52 foot sperm wall in 1995. Plastics are responsible for the senseless deaths of countless sea mammals, turtles and birds each year. Floating plastic bags can be mistaken for jellyfish and eaten. Fish net entangles yet more of these animals preventing them from reaching the water’s surface to breathe. Scraps of fishing line can entangle a bird’s legs. Blackwater discharge and cleaning chemicals are also serious killers. You can help prevent these deaths by correctly disposing of your garbage, by discharging blackwater way from reef environments and by using only biodegradable cleaning materials whenever possible.”

Jan_25_WW_Century_Plan_WITH_desc_resized.jpg

The Century Plant

The park posted a description of the plant life (like the above) that surrounds this park. This is just one example. I have a dozen or more descriptions for the mangrove systems, bushes, sand dunes and many others. It IS well put together and very interesting.

Jan_25_WW_Hermit_Crab_resized.jpg

A hermit crab considering whether or not to jump off the ledge…

The park has a series of rugged trails with 18 marked pathways which can take anywhere between 10 minutes and 2 hours to complete.

Jan_25_WW_Map_resized.jpg

Map of Warderick Wells various hiking trails. The yellow is what we covered

We were feeling ambitious at first and were going to attempt the 2 hours hike but rethought it once we started our trek to Boo Boo Hill.

Jan_25_Boo_Boo_Hill_Trail_resized.jpg

Part of the trail leading to Boo Boo Hill

The rule of this park is “Take pictures and memories, leave only footprints in the sand.” We cannot take anything like sea shells or disturb any of the marine life or stray from the trail as not to disturb any natural environments. A small exception is Boo Boo Hill.

The Lore of Boo Boo Hill is as follows:

On a wild, stormy day many years ago a luckless schooner sank off Warderick Wells. All souls perished in the disaster. Not a singer body was recovered for a Christian burial. Local people say that if you climb to the crest of the hill at the bloom of the full moon, you can hear the voices of the lost souls singing hymns. Either by the light of the sun or the glow of the moon, this trail shares with you some of the enchantment of The Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park.

Boo Boo Hill, named for the sounds of the ghosts is a stop for most cruisers. It is a shrine at the top of the hill built from pieces driftwood left as mementos from passing cruisers with their boat names painted on them. It is said “these are offerings to the spirits for good weather or to placate the ghosts that inhabit this island and remind us of fellow travelers who love this special place…

Jan_25_Boo_Boo_Hill_Shrine_4_resized.jpg

Pile of driftwood on Boo Boo Hill

We are allowed to take a piece of driftwood from the park to paint our boat name on it and add it to the shrine.  So we did.

Jan_25_Boo_Boo_Hill_Driftwood_Steve_resized.jpg

Steve found this excellent piece and I painted it.

Jan_25_Boo_Boo_Hill_Driftwood_Diana_and_Amanda_resized.jpg

Our contribution to Boo Boo Hill ;)

Jan_25_View_from_Boo_Boo_Hill_Banks_on_one_side_the_Exuma_Sound_on_the_Other_resized.jpg

On the trail to see the Blow Holes. Exuma Sound is on the right and the Bahamas Banks and our mooring field is on the left.

This trail leads to a part in the island with “blow holes”. Blow holes are plate-sized hole in the rock along the shore line. They were hard to find at first, until Steve walked by one. They make a guttural roaring sound when the air rushes up through them and pushes a very noticeable mass of air up. At high tide when the surf is up, rushes of water are supposed to be pushed up through the holes. We were here at low tide so no water but the mass of air pushing up through the holes were amazing.

Jan_25_WW_Blue_Hole_resized.jpg

A blow hole

We will be going back tomorrow morning at high tide to hopefully see them with water shooting out of them!

Jan_25_WW_View_of_Exuama_Sound_and_Steve_resized.jpg

Steve is standing where the Blow Holes are located with the Exuma Sound on the left – beautiful!

We continued on our nature hike through ragged trails and steep hills. Here are a few shots from our walk.

Jan_25_WW_Rocky_Trail_resized.jpg

Rugged trail

Jan_25_WW_Bridge_on_Trail_resized.jpg

Foot Bridge

Jan_25_WW_Little_Rays_resized.jpg

Little rays swimming under the bridge

Jan_25_WW_Mooring_Diana_on_the_Right_resized.jpg

Diana on the far right moored in Warderick Wells

Although we had little pockets of rain throughout the hike, it was a great day exploring the “Land” part of this Park. Tomorrow, we will explore the “Sea” Part J

Jan_25_WW_Rainbow_end_of_Day_resized.jpg

Rainbow at the end of the day as seen from Diana

January 26, 2012

This morning, we waited for high tide and went back to the Blow Holes for a spectacular water works show!!

Jan_26_Blow_Holes_Sign_resized.jpg

We were somewhat disappointed. The holes themselves blew much harder at high tide but the surf was not up so no water works. Oh well, amazing just the same.

Jan_26_Blow_Holes_resized.jpg

A clearer shot of the Blow Holes

We hiked up to Boo Boo Hill to see if our sign was still there and to see if we could recognize any others.

Jan_26_Boo_Boo_Diana_and_Amanzi_resized.jpg

We hadn’t noticed yesterday but the sign that our friends from Amanzi left was up, to the left of ours. We also saw Celtic Rover’s driftwood which indicated the years they have visited in ’07 ’08 ’09 ’10 ’11. Too kewl!!

Now, it was time to explore the sea part of this park so we headed to Emerald Island to check out the reef.

 

Jan_26_Emerald_Ilsland_Steve_snorkelling_resized.jpg

Emerald Island in the background with Steve snorkeling over the reef. The reef is the dark shadow that Steve is swimming through.

The reef was teeming with life. Lots of big fish (we haven’t identified them yet) AND lobster! Great big ones too!! Both mocking Steve from under the rocks, they know their safe here ;)

Later, we went for a dinghy ride to explore another area with several little beaches.

Jan_26_Captive_Beach_View_4_resized.jpg

Captive Beach

This pretty little gem is located in the south end of the park. It has several little reefs to dive on and Stromatolite reefs which are the oldest evidence of life on Earth!! Stomatolite reefs were thought to have been extinct until some were found in Australia. In the 1980’s they were discovered in the Bahamas. We are not allowed to snorkel on them, only view them from the beach or through a looksee bucket. At this beach, we could see the shadows underwater only.

Jan_26_Captive_Beach_View_1_resized.jpg

The other side of Captive Beach leading out to the Exuma Sound  

Jan_26_Escape_Beach_resized.jpg

Escape Beach

On the left side of the photo there is a dark tunnel called Escape Tunnel. Years of water rushing through from the Exuma Sound has formed a tunnel in the rock.

Jan_26_Escape_Tunnel_resizsed.jpg

Close up of the Escape Tunnel leading to the Exuma Sound

Over drinks and snacks back on Diana, our little sand bank exposed at low tide was teeming with cruiser life! We watched some cruisers walking their dogs, others wading in the shallow waters and a father with his young son (maybe 12yrs old) kit surfing!

Jan_26_Father_and_Sun_kit_surfing_resized.jpg

They were good too!!

Tomorrow, we are going to try and get thrown off of Johnny Depp’s Island at Little Halls Pond ;)

The following plan is tentative of course…we may make our way to Big Majors to see the pigs, then maybe to Thunderball Grotto for some fish therapy (Google it if you want to know what kind of therapy...he! he!), then to Staniel Cay, then to Black Point, then to Farmers Cay for a regatta the first week of February, then to George Town where hopefully my Kindle will be waiting for me J