21 February, 2016
First thing in the morning, we hopped into the dinghy and motored a mile or so north to Allen’s Cay, where we hoped to see the marine iguanas that lived on the shore there. We threw the hook out near the beach and snapped a few pics of the many iguanas perched on the rocks surrounding the sandy beach. Later, we were out of Highbourne, anchor up at 1220. On our way out, Suz spotted another Krogen in the distance. We loitered around for a few minutes, thinking that she may be “Sweet Ride”. As they neared, it was clearly a 42’, not a 44’. Passing close abeam was “Knot 2 Fast” crewed by Bob and Peggy, friends from the Rendezvous. We had a quick chat over the rail. They told us that they had been travelling with a couple of sailboats, and were heading south as well. We figured that we’d see them down the line. As we pulled into the Shroud Cay mooring field, the sun was out, and the line of clouds had moved on. The seas were as calm as could be, so we dropped “White Star”, and headed to the north end of the island where there was a shallow waterway to the other side of the Cay. This passage, accessible only at high tide, wound through mangrove lowlands (Swamp Girl be smiling’) for a mile or so, terminating at a deserted beach on the windward side. High above the beach on a rocky outcropping was the ruins of “Camp Driftwood”, the island base of an American sailinghippie back in the sixties. Later, the spot was used by D.E.A. agents, surreptitiously keeping tabs on the air traffic in and out of Norman’s Cay to the north. We walked to the top, and were rewarded with a breathtaking view of the mangrove lowlands extending west all of the way back to the other side of the island, the Exuma Sound to the east, and Norman’s Cay to the north. The next morning, we were awakened as the wind shifted to the north at 20 knots. Dropping the mooring at 0700, we motored to the south side of Elbow Cay and dropped anchor. The spot proved to be untenable, so we decided to head to Warderick Wells Cay, hoping that the anchorage there would be mo’ betta. We called Exuma Land and Sea Park’s headquarters there, and were informed that all of the moorings in the northern mooring field were occupied (except for the 3 in the cut, which we figured would be pretty exposed to wind and current), but that there were plenty available in the Emerald Rock anchorage south of HQ. By then, the wind had clocked to the northeast at 20-23 knots, so we figured that the slight swell in the anchorage would subside as the winds continued to clock around. We deployed the flopperstopper nonetheless, riding nicely on the ball, a mile or so south of the Park HQ and northern mooring field. Just an aside here regarding mooring balls vs anchoring. Although it is often quite possible to anchor rather than pick up a ball, therefore staying for free, we try to take a ball and pay, encouraging the government to continue to put in balls (which are kinder to the environment than anchor chains dragging across the bottom, ruining potentially fragile ecosystems).
At the park HQ, we met Andrew, an American who had been managing affairs here for the past 9 years. It seems that he came on a boat, started helping out, and ended up running the place. Besides the National Defense Force guys who run their boats out of the base here, the island is uninhabited. Suz and I are members of the Park Support Fleet (we donate $ to the park), so we had a “care package” of supplies from the Park “wish list”, which is posted online that we dropped off while we were at the office. We asked Andrew if there were any chores that the park needed volunteers for, and he told us that he would check with Dave, the maintenance guy, and let us know. We spent the rest of the day on The Girl, and buzzing around the anchorage on the tender. Friday was to be an allday hike around the island, but when we checked in with Andrew before starting our walk, he told us that he had to go “down south” unexpectedly, and could we man the VHF, take care of the mooring fields, and run the store while he was gone. No problemo! He gave us a quick primer on how to do the stuff we needed to do to assign moorings according to boat length/draft, how to collect fees, and sell stuff out of the store. Being super organized, he had a “how to” cookbook with all procedures outlined, right down to radio scripts with instructions for boats entering the various fields. We took a 2 hour walk in the morning, then came back to the office and assumed the position, while Andrew headed south to repair a mooring. The afternoon went smoothly and as we were closing up at 1600, Andrew returned and we handed over the keys. Good fun, and we had the use of his computer and satellite internet, so that we could check our emails and get weather reports. We didn’t want to abuse the privilege, so the blogs already written were piling up. Still no cell coverage, but Andrew told us that it was usually marginal here even on the best of days.
It was still beautiful on Saturday, the 20th, with the temperature climbing into the high 70’s, so we motored back to HQ and the trailhead to Boo Boo Hill. Supposedly, the hill is so-named due to the ghostly apparitions that inhabit its’ environs during the full moon. In years past, a schooner had gone down off the coast here, with the loss of all hands. None of the bodies were recovered, so none were given a proper Christian burial, the result being that these lost souls were destined to roam here forever. The view was nothing short of spectacular. Along the way, we checked out the “blow holes”, openings to the surface from the tops of underground caves, where, at high tide, wave action causes water to spurt out like a geyser. Down on Boo Boo Beach, we picked up a garbage bag full of plastic products, Styrofoam, discarded fishing nets, and etc. which had washed up on the shore. As we visit these beautiful places, it’s sickening to see all of this pollution left by human hands. We can’t help but think about all of the marine creatures whose lives are destroyed by entanglements from, and ingestion of this detritus. Sorry about the downer, but this stuff makes me cranky. We decided to hang out at Rendezvous Beach, a deserted patch of sand near the Girl, and catch some rays that afternoon. No sooner did we get our towels down, we heard of trouble in the northern anchorage on our handheld VHF. A trawler had come in, and lost control in the wind and current, causing it to back down and get hung up on a mooring ball. I called Andrew, and yes, he did want some help. By the time I raced out to the Girl, got my dive gear, and got to the scene, he was just about finished removing the trashed mooring ball and pendant from the running gear of the snagged boat. Chatting afterward, I complimented him on his quick response. He said: “Yep, been there and done that-many times”. I returned and picked up the stranded Admiral off the beach, and we headed in to the beach at HQ where an impromptu gathering of cruisers was taking place for happy hour. The snacks and drinks were good, the conversations better. Bob & Peggy had come in during the day, and we had a chance to catch up with them as well. As soon as the sun went down, the Hutias came out in full force. These guys are the only mammal native to the Bahamas. They are about the size of a large softball, and look kinda like fat rats with a short tail. They’re nocturnal, and don’t seem to be the least bit fazed by humans. From the number of them that were literally dodging between our feet, it’s hard to believe that they are an endangered species. We motored back to “Alizann” under a nearly full moon, and planned our departure for the following day.