From Norman’s, we sailed down to Shroud Cay, which is one of my favorite spots. There is a saltwater “river” that cuts through the north side of the island from the Bank (calmer west) side to the Sound (Ocean) side. It is about 75 ft wide banked by mangroves and the water is about 10 ft deep and crystal clear like a swimming pool. I paddeboarded til my obliques oblaqued. The “river” funnels out into this perfect, empty, too -long-to -walk, beautiful beach.
Well, almost perfect and almost empty. We picked up tons of plastics. On this beach, on this pristine, out-of-way, off-the-beaten path, smack dab in the middle of nowhere, in a National Park, the Exuma Land and Sea Park ,where no one is allowed to fish or collect shells, a leave it as you found it place, there are many dump-truck size piles of plastics on the beach. Some, like me, beach comb and pick up some of the pieces and add it to the trash sculpture. With every tide another round of plastics. Further south, we sailed in the spectacular Warderick Wells, also in the park. On the beach, there is a 50 ft skeleton of a sperm whale that died in 1995 due to consuming plastic.
There is so much astounding beauty in this place. Water is clearer than your bathtub. Sea life abounds. Ava and I went on one of our favorite snorkels at Warderick Wells. We saw 5 enormous eagle rays that, with their tails extended, made them well over 6 ft flying in symmetrical Blue Angel form through the sea. Just past them a lemon shark. Several Nassau Grouper, French Anglefish, Queen Triggerfish, Moray Eels and Spiny Lobsters later we paddleboarded back to Whisper. The Exuma Land and Sea Park is incredible. Deep coral colors and sea life variety makes it seem unreal.
The plastics on the ocean side beaches make it more real than we can handle. I don’t know the solutions except to use less plastic. I do not know where to start except with just a small nod to change. “The plastic bag” vote in my town will be held in April by our Board of Trustees. For more information: http://nederlandco.org/2015/01/disposable-bag-fee-resident-survey/
Continuing south on the island of Warderick Wells is the Hog Cay anchorage, easily one of my favorites for here lies a REAL PIRATES LAIR! Ay matey! Blackbeard used to hide out in this anchorage with his vessel and ride out into the night to steal the luxes off unsuspecting captains. Piratesses, like Ann Bonny and Mary Read also spent time here. On land, you follow a path to a fresh water spring and the coolest pirate hangout with big rocks and a big open space. The palms and other foliage is different than any around because the pirates brought seeds and such from other far away places that took root and grew. Many of you think that i have a bit of pirate blood in me. And I think you are correct because coming here felt a lot like coming home. And Dems dat died were da Lucky Ones!
Ok, so in our case, nobody died. We all lived through the Pirate’s Lair and sailed further south past Johnny Depp’s Island (ah, no joke) and some even got KICKED OUT of the anchorage off of Johnny Depp’s island because THAT Pirate of the Caribbean was getting married and he didn’t want no stinkin’ REAL pirates around! Man, pirates these days.
So southward bound we went to Staniel Cay where my sister Suzanne and her daughter, Emma met us for 7, then 9 days (thanks to the relentless snowstorms in New England). We snorkelled Thunderball Grotto (from a James Bond movie), and then anchored over off Pig Beach, where some very large pigs are happy to greet you by swimming out to your dinghy for a snack. After Emma and Sue got their snowboots back on, Whisper sailed south once again, past David Copperfield’s island (sha-weet!), and on down to Black Point.
All the book guides make Black Point (the second largest settlement outside of Georgetown), sound like a metropolis. It had been a few months since we had a laundry facility and a real grocery store. The laundromat has the best view in town and free wi-fi. So, funny enough, that is where all the cruiser’s hangout! Even when you are not doing laundry! And as for groceries, if sitting in the laundromat (or actually sitting on the porch outside the laundromat soaking up the free wifi) while somebody yells out, “they got fresh cauliflower and bananas at the market!” is your idea of groceries, well, then Black Point has it all. I loved this little community. There is a school, 3 restaurants!, a post office selling conchs outside, tamarinds dripping off the trees, sapadilla trees, goats and chickens and children laughing. All overlooking the translucent gree blue wates that I never tire of looking.
We met some kid boats here, Lost Horizon from Maine and Alley Cat from Mattapoisett. The 3 girls got hair braids from Ida (the owner of the laundromat). We all ended up at the next anchorage down, White Point, on a still night with a full moon conjunct with Jupiter and had a bonfire on the beach with marshmallows taboot .
All those storms in New England start somewhere and the somewhere happens to be near us.So we continued to dodge the high winds of the fronts, the next safe harbor being in Farmer’s Cay. The First Friday in February Farmer’s Cay Festival was going on, which brought in an ample supply of kid boats and fun. Egg tosses, Three-legged races, dinghy races and more. And the Bahamian Sloop Regatta brought out locals from all over the islands. I felt like we cruiser’s were crashing the locals party… I got to dance Bahamian style to The Gaulin Song in a sea of dark faces and huge white smiles. I stood on the beach with a tall charasmatic smiling Bahamian named Ross with his friend who fed me the play by play of the racing boats and who was doing what and how and what their next move would be. Ross, in his red fleece and jeans because the temperatures plummeted to 71 degrees F, asked where I was from. “Colorado!” he yelped, “oh, then, you’re lovin’ it, you’re lovin’ it!” And, indeed, I was.
Dodging yet another front, had us skipping some of the islands we had hoped to explore to get to a safe anchorage in Georgetown. Here is the mecca of kid boats, the motherload of groceries, affordable beer and rum, free water, gasoline and diesel, laundry, restaurants with swimming pools, a great beach bar and plenty to explore. The Georgetown Cruiser’s Regatta happens the last week in February so we were just in time.
My long lost friend Saudi, who I met at Dickinson College back when we used to bop to “I’ll stop the world and melt with you” and drink Yuengling and eat Sheetz dogs at 2am. After what we figured was something like 27 years, she had some unexpected time off work to come for a visit. For better or worse, neither of us had changed much so we got along just like we did our freshman year of college. She stayed through most of the Georgetown Cruiser’s Regatta.
We watched the kids duathalon, the harbor regatta, the blind dinghy race, many three legged-races, Dave’s model boat building class and race,coconut toss, dominoes, volleyball tournaments and more. A few highlights of this week: Ava and Stellamia winning in the three-legged race. Dave got to sail in his first regatta. It was an around the island race and took about 3 or 4 hours. I think he has a new hobby.
Dave signed up to host a model boat building on the beach for kids day during the Regatta. If you have ever been to the beach with Dave you have probably witnessed him building a boat from found beach materials and spending the day tweaking the rudder, the mast, the weight in the bow, the keel, until it sails off in the sunset. He started building in the morning and had a few loyal boys interested, and later some grown ups made their versions. By afternoon, the model boat building tables were full of creative folks making masts with straws, sails with palm fronds, hulls from coconuts, outriggers, rudders, and more. There was a fleet of coconuts called The Santa Maria, Nina and the Pinta by Sandy on Lost Horizon, the KanTiki, a ketch made with Kalik cans as outriggers and palmfrond sails, the Green Pearl, (Dave’s first successful monohull and best looking boat yet), The Sinker by Keegan on FreeSpirit and the Don Nicholson by Richard on Tatyana. The boats were launched and with about 40 onlookers they went on their downwind race with oodles of children in the water rooting for their favorite. My dad, who died in March of 2010, was a pediatrician and a model boat builder. I could feel his mischievous smile with us as we built and launched the boats with the help of all the kids. It would have been the highlight of the week for him, and it was for me. For the record, Richard’s Don Nicholson (named for the 4 year old who adopted Richard as his surrogate dad during the building of it) won the race (a trimaran-ish thing with blown up balloons attached. Keegan’s The Sinker came in second and to everyone’s great surprise the Kan Tiki in third. The Green Pearl, like the great Bernard Moitessier, never did finish the race and we last saw her sailing off into the sunset across the harbor.