Friday, March 18, 2016

12. Too Much Fun in the Exumas

I can hardly put into words all this week has held!  We left Nassau and started our tour of the Exumas, visiting Highborne, Norman, Shroud, & Warderick Wells.  I write as we travel while the experience is fresh in my mind so I apologize in advance if it makes this week a long update, just trying to fit in all the excitement :)   

Well, we’ve never claimed to be weather experts, there is definitely a learning curve.  So we departed Nassau heading east to the Exumas (small island chain southeast of Nassau) with a stiff 20 knot apparent wind on the nose and a choppy 5’ sea.  The first 2 hours were spent burying the bow under waves and contemplating turning back to wait for Sunday which forecast was calmer all around.  But we finally got in a more comfortable rhythm, timing our speed and sail with the break of waves to keep us from hitting most the big ones.  It’s not that the waves are that big but if you hit the top edge of one just before the next with a deep enough and wide enough valley for us to fit in followed by another considerably sized roll you get the down//up/down that will lift you from your seat and soak you with warm sea spray.  
By missing most I mean hitting one of these harmonics every 3-5 minutes as apposed to one ever minute.  When you have 5 hours of this in front of you, you really question if it is fun or torture :) Paige repeatedly said this was crazy!  So I made lunch and then took the helm while everyone had a turn resting and hiding from the spray.  You eventually are completely soaked but the sun is warming you and you no longer flinch with each splash.  It was a fairly straightforward day, holding 135 degrees on the compass.  We went through a field of coral heads that Paige on the boom and Andrew on the bow navigated me through but other than those, wide open blue.  When we pulled into our anchorage at Highbourne Cay, Paige said we could salt our salad with the salt on my face :) All day in those conditions you whisper to yourself, “I hope our anchorage is worth this, I hope our journey pays off” and the west side anchorage at Highbourne did not disappoint.    
We shared our beautiful private beach with a dozen other boats and were treated to magnificent sunsets!  
    Sunset Highborne Cay, Exumas
When Andrew & Sky dove to check the anchor they were greeted by the friendly, neighborhood 8' shark.  Sky excitedly exclaimed, "SHARK, SHARK!" nervously watching as he swam away while she made her way back to the boat :)  
We spent a day exploring and enjoying the beach with lots of new and old friends we’ve made along the way.  Andrew got his first spear fishing lesson and we snorkeled the reef.  But we couldn't resist the urge to move on.  
Norman Cay has this amazing inlet completely surrounded by land, only deep enough to enter during high tide.  So we accepted the challenge and headed out.  We passed a fishing boat along the way that had a “fish on” so we decided to throw in our line as well.  It hadn’t been in the water for 2 minutes when Andrew & Sky saw 2 mahi jump after it.  So Sky landed her first catch, her excitement was contagious!
Just as we finished cleaning the fish and cleaning the mess left from cleaning the fish, we rounded the bend into the mouth of the inlet.  It is not inviting!
    "We go through where?!"
So after a failed first attempt and a dinghy ride to scout out the path, we finally made it into the cut and it was all we had hoped!  
After dropping anchor with only one other boat inside, we set out on the dinghy.  We visited 4 little coves, each prettier than the last, before settling on the flats in the entry.
Paige busied herself rescuing as many sand dollars as possible from drying out on the flats.
While Sky hunted for conch and shells and anything else she could find.  
It was amazing to look at the cut we had just entered dry out and shallow denying any others entry.  
    Note the difference between high & low tide!
It was all ours and it was amazing!
    Sunset Norman Cay, Exumas

Having learned how to navigate with the tide in Norman’s Pond we departed at high tide.  Our next stop was Shroud Cay.  The ocean lays flat on the west side of Shroud for miles of 6-10’ shallows more clear than your backyard pool!  
   Abby's shadow on top of out anchor chain.  Look at the left side to see our anchor buried deep.
Sky and I checked the anchor and she dove to touch it - pretty proud of herself :) and Paige saw a sand dollar on the ocean floor and had to work up a lot of courage to dive down to retrieve it.
The attraction at Shroud is hard to discribe.  You wait for high tide to take a dinghy ride into the unending mangroves hoping the path leads to somewhere.  It would be easy to get confused among the different finger outlets along the way.  But if you have a great captain who studied the charts before heading in, you are amazed to find the most breathtaking beach!
Paige said it had Bahama sand, the kind you could spread in your house like soft carpet.

    The little spec in the center of the water is us!  
    Paige & I are behind Sky.  These shallows go on forever!
Words cannot describe how it feels to be the only people in the world appreciating it’s beauty at that moment in time.

Next stop - Warderick Wells.  We had lots of fun snorkeling, Sky & I swam with a huge eagle ray, the girls climbed the mast & practiced their dinghy handling skills while I stole a little reading time and we were excited to meet another kid boat.  
Sky & Andrew hiked to Boo Boo Hill to leave our token for King Neptune and see the blow holes.
    Sunset Warderiick Wells, Exumas.
Next stop will be Rocky Dundas.  We'll let you know if it is as amazing as they say!

Creatures we've seen this week:
Massive eagle & speckled rays
Queen Conch
Hundreds of Sand Dollars
Our friendly Ramora
Inking squid
Barracuda
Nurse Shark
Mahi Mahi
Sea Turtle
Cushion Starfish
Giant hermit crab
Countless Conch
Too many gorgeous fish on the reefs to name!
School this week:
How mangroves survive & thrive in this region
Dinghy driving
How to stear the boat with a fish on the line
How to filet a fish
Using a spear (attempting to catch lobster or anything unlucky enough to swim in front of us- while not in the national park, of course)
How to save a sand dollar
Identifying fish on the reef

Things learned aboard this week:
We are crazy!  When all guests aboard say how they couldn't imagine living in such a small space, when on an open and rough rolling sea your own daughter says so, when sitting at anchor we bob so much that I nauseatingly watch the moon dance in and out of the companion way and about a million other times each day I realize that we are truly mad!  But to quote Alice in Wonderland, "all the best people are."  You would have to be to leave a perfectly good home and safe life to try your hand against the whim of the sea.  But oh the sweetness of the moments of payoff!
18 years ago I made the best decission of my life!  Happy Anniversary, sweetheart.  So happy it is you by my side through this crazy adventure and every one to come!

5 comments:

  1. Girl, you look awesome! Love getting the updates, doesn't make me miss you less, but does make my heart happy to know you all are having such an awesome adventure!!!

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  2. Such a fun adventure, yet full of surprises! You can HAVE the rolling seas & five hours of salty spray, yet it seems well worth it! I appreciate and have experienced the excitement of a beautiful location, feeling like the only people on earth, yet from our RV "prairie schooner"! Happy anniversary and much love to all!

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  3. Beautiful people, beautiful stories, beautiful pictures! Maggie said, "I miss you Paige!"

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  4. Yay! What a beautiful post! Love the pictures and thrilled to read about your adventures. Miss you guys.

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  5. I just found your blog. I love reading your adventures. I'm interested what kind of sailboat that you have and how long of a draft. Thanks.

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