The Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park
01/22/2012 - 01/25/2012 83 °F
We called the park on Saturday and asked to be put on the waiting list for a mooring ball; the park does not accept reservations. Carol called at 0915 on Sunday to see where we were on the list and they told us to "come on down." So, we did, leaving at about 0930 with a flotilla of other boats that, we guessed, were also going to the park. Actually, none of them were. Boats are like herding cats: if they go the same direction it's an accident and doesn't last very long. (We were subsequently told that getting a mooring ball this quickly never happens. Things are slow in the Bahamas now)
The trip was about 30 nm and took less than six hours but there were a lot of way points to get here. The front portion of the Explorer Chart books have a page with lots of pictures on how to read the water. I never gave this much concern and told Carol, the self professed color queen, to learn the techniques. It didn't take either of us very long to notice that when the sun went behind a cloud reading the water got harder and we really missed the color clarity.
The color issue could not have been more clear than Sunday, when we entered the park. The channel is very narrow but fairly deep; the channel was turquoise surrounded by almost white sand bars. We, actually me, had to turn the boat around to put the bow into the current to approach the mooring ball. Once again I thanked Joe V. for teaching me the trick for turning a sailboat around in very confined spaces. It has saved my bacon on several occasions including this one.
I would have loved to have made a video, shot from our bow, of entering the park; I cannot image prettier imagery. Unfortunately, I was busy driving the boat and Carol was on the bow engaged with reading the water. So, in lieu of that our offer is these panoramas courtesy of my new Nikon camera:
Quite by accident, Ziveli is almost in the center of the second picture.
After checking in and, Carol electing to join the park, basically make a donation, we hiked across the island to Boo Boo Hill. The etymology of that name is: a ship wrecked on this island and all aboard perished with no bodies ever recovered for burial in sacred ground. Now those uninterred shades wander the island making the boo sound heard best on the hill. A good story! But when we looked at the windward side of the island it's easy to see how a ship could founder and wreck with no survivors. The rest of the story is more problematic.
Life on the island is tough for plants. They all seem to have developed some similar traits: they can deal with salt in high concentrations; many have thick leaves to reduce moisture loss; they do not grow very tall because with the thin top soil tall things topple in high winds.
Only the strong survive and, sometimes, not even them, or not for very long.
I guess that I had always assumed that "tropical islands" would be lush and verdant, and many are. These islands are dry, arid, very few having any naturally occurring fresh water. I have read that in earlier days the islands were more wooded than today, those trees having been harvested for fuel. On the out islands we have seen only a few palms and an occasional rogue Australian pine standing taller than about 15-ft.
One different thing we have noticed here is the average age. Most cruising locales look like AARP conventions; here there have been many boats with younger folks, say 30's~40's, some with their kids. We're too old to feel guilty, but we never took Sean on any island hopping boat trips. We have met several "cruiser kids" and observed many more. What has struck us is that they are the nicest, most polite, most well mannered kids around. They also seem very well adjusted socially, able to interact with people of all ages, young to old. I have thought about this but do not yet have an idea about why this should be.
Here we are in a remote island paradise; we are on a boat not tethered to shore; we cannot make a phone call because BaTelCo has no cell towers within 20 miles. There's no water, fuel or food available. And yet -- there is pretty good internet service, not cheap but something is better than nothing. And, in addition to the ubiquitous book exchange they have about 200, or so, DVD's that they rent for not very much money. So, we rented a DVD for the evening just to try to stay awake past sunset. It probably won't work but it's worth a try. (Post Script: we did watch the video on the computer and played the sound through the FM radio. Big mistake! We used over 10 Ah which shocked me. The computer DVD drive must require a lot of power. No more DVD's unless we are on shore power.)
It's clear to me that some boat owner would have benefited from having my computerized maintenance checklist.
This skeleton of a sperm whale that perished near by is on the beach close to the office. It was 52-ft. long before its untimely demise from having ingested some plastic. The skeleton, I think, does not do justice to the bulk and mass of the animal from which it came.
And this is just about one of the coolest boat toys -- ever! If we had the room, which we do not, this would evoke a major case of boat envy. It is just a kayak with outriggers and a sail. The owner is on a large motor yacht, maybe 60-ft. The sad story is that he has probably done more real sailing in the past two days than we have in the past two months. Oh well, the park has a few kayaks that can be used for free; one of those will just have to do.
We had dinner in the cockpit tonight, and like the several that preceded it, watched another unique and glorious sunset. I was struck that we live in a beautiful place, Spring Creek in Madison County, NC, and we are traveling in a beautiful set of islands. It may be easy to become inured to all of this and to accept the beauty as commonplace, normal, and not to respond with awe to the miraculous sights that our eyes behold. Carol's pretty good at this; I may need to work at it some more. This was our view on Tuesday morning when we had a few minutes of rain. It was worth at least a little bit of awe and wonder; unfortunately the camera did not capture the richness of color in the rainbow. To my comments in an earlier blog about the horizon, we have seen lots of rainbows but not so many where the whole 180 degree arc was visible.
Ed Sherwood died a year ago this month, an event which jolted me at the time and must continue to engage me at some level since he has been much on my mind recently. It might just be the fact that this is January, the month of his passing; it might be that there is a boat moored 100 yards away that could be Da Vinci's twin; maybe it has to do with him wanting to come to the Bahamas but not having the time to overcome his hurdles and obstacles while Carol and I, facing our own set of hurdles and obstacles have, finally, made the trip. I do not suppose that it is important to know the why of these things and I hope that it is enough to cherish the memory of a man we both liked, enjoyed and miss and to count the blessings and good fortune that has been given to Carol and me in our lives and in each other. On January 27th, we think, we will have been 44 years married.
We took the dinghy down to Rendezvous Beach to check out the ruins of the Davis Plantation. There's not much in the way of information about the place, just a land grant to 1785. There's not much to see, just the ruins of a few stone huts, no Tara-like manses about. It's hard to imagine what they might have planned to harvest other than rocks, a crop that would have done very well.
Another bird invaded the cockpit of our boat, probably finding crumbs from cereal that I spilled. I think that the specific breed is: yellow breasted cockpit scrounger. Or, maybe, it's a Bananaquit (Coereba Flaveola) but I'm just guessing at this. If nothing else this just goes to show that I need to clean the cockpit. This bird was persistent turning up again and again, seeming untroubled by our presence other than the fact that we interrupted his food search. Several times he flew into the cabin.
Narrow Water Cay is the western boundary of the cove that holds the mooring field. It is not quite Pirates of the Caribbean but it does a pretty good imitation.
On our last day here this huge catamaran, maybe four stories high came in and secured itself on a mooring ball. I thought that this would be way too much weight but when I checked with the office the lady said that they could accommodate boats up to 150-ft. long, something that I would not have guessed.
Tomorrow, Thursday, we will head south toward Staniel Cay. If we go directly there it's only 20 nm.