Happy New Year to everyone! The kids have a book of daily writing prompts and the Dec 31 prompt talked about the Y2K scare 15 years ago. I remember it like yesterday. While we were confident that the techies of the world had taken care of the projected computer chaos, Eric, Teak and I were self contained safely anchored in Tenacatita Bay, Mexico, eating tacos and drinking beer.
This year we’re enjoying the Bahamas. The trip started out with a sunrise fishing trip, looking for Roy’s first lobster of the season. Lobsters are nocturnal and we have the best luck at daybreak, evening hunting usually results in being driven out of the water because the sharks have come to see what we’re up to.
YES! Roy comes through with breakfast.
Normans Cay was our first stop last year as well. We spent a week here last year, but today we’re on a fast track and can only spend a day.
The pressure to do all the fun things in one day and the sadness for the activities we had to miss made this an emotional trip. Roy found some old coral on the beach to use for his lobster impression.
The weather at the top of the Exuma Cay chain is a bit colder than the southern islands. Evelyn and Marie used the warm sand and wind break from a dune to warm up.
We snorkeled on the plane wreck. We were a bit chilly and the current was strong as it wasn’t exactly slack tide yet.
But everyone loves the sergeant major reef fish. These little guys come out to greet the tourists and look for a handout.
It looks like we’re all a bit out of shape. After my morning snorkel trip with Roy, my ankles hurt from kicking my fins, and Roy also complained of some sore spot from his fins. This is the first time I ever saw Topaz ask to get into the dinghy. She sat there quietly, no barking or wagging, waiting for us to finish. I guess chasing the kite shadow at the beach earlier did her in.
The next stop was Shroud Cay. We could have played in the shallow water under the warm sun for days and days. Unfortunately, we only had two hours. As we entered the tidal river these cute dogs came out barking and wagging. We soon realized they were going into the water to chase after the dinghies, yipping and crying. Oh it was terrible to watch them. Our friends on Tangent were with us and everyone’s heart was breaking for these pups. I took our dinghy back to Makai to put together a care package of kibble and water while everyone else continued to the beach with the starving pups crying to be rescued. Makai had to make a quick trip to Staniel Cay to pick up our D.C. friend Becky, so Tangent kept the left over kibbles to feed the pups another day.
The trip to Staniel Cay was a flat motor boat ride arriving in time for a cheeseburger at the yacht club. It’s hard to believe Christmas is coming soon. There are no commercials on TV, trees for sale in the Home Depot parking lot, or music in the air at Target. Just an occasional decoration when every we stop by a populated settlement.
Becky’s flight was due in at 9am. The girls and I walked to the airport with our rolling carts to help transport Becky’s luggage back. The airline gave her a limit of 35 pounds of luggage, that should be easy to carry.
No one and nothing showed any signs of life at the airport. Once we thought we heard the plane, but it was just a moped. Finally, a truck pulling a fuel wagon showed up and a few minutes later “De Plane! De Plane!” Becky and 3 other people got out. The pilot handed them their bags and we all jumped on a golf cart heading for the Yacht Club.
Later the same afternoon we were back in Wardrick Wells, 15 miles to the north, wading on the sand bar leaving the cares of civilization behind.
We love these sandbars that expose a fresh white sand beach every 12 hours at low tide.
The top of the island provides a beautiful view of the Atlantic Ocean to the east and the bay, boats and sandbars to the west.
The beach below the ranger station has a humpback whale skeleton. The plaque says the whale died from eating plastic trash. At the top of Boo Boo Hill visitors can leave a piece of wood with their name inscribed. We made this plaque last season and were surprised to find it again.
Critters, Critters everywhere.
Roy climbed down into a cave. I think the Loyalists, that came here from the new United States in the 1700′s, used holes like this as a cistern to collect rain water. The winter is the dry season and I’ve never seen one of these holes with water in it.
We’re moving along quickly here. Everyone is tired of the pace but we don’t want to miss anything along the way. Next is our favorite anchorage right below Little Halls Pond, Johnny Depp’s island. The anchorage is shallow and doesn’t leave enough room for two boats to swing on the anchor, so Tangent tied up next to Makai and we only needed one anchor to swing on.
Roy’s Evolve Freediving t-shirt says it all. I remember the anticipation of Jaques Cousteau TV programs when I was a kid and dreamed of visiting the underwater world he gave us glimpses of in his specials.
This area is still in the Bahamas Land and Sea Park, so the sea life is plentiful. On one dive you can see, lobsters, rays, sharks, huge schools of huge fish, coral heads and wrecks.
The lion fish is a voracious eater and considered an invasive species in the Bahamas, but they are beautiful with their venomous spines splayed out gently floating in the current.
Rays can be found covered with sand on the bottom or swimming about. The spotted eagle rays are the most impressive with their giant bodies and expansive wing spans, but the stingray below is most common.
Live conchs mill about in the sand. Roy found this one that is giving an anemone a ride.
In the evening Eric likes to play a themed movie. This summer he bought us a projector to watch our movies in the cockpit on the big screen.
Around the corner is snorkel area as full of life as an aquarium. The sergeant majors greet guests as usual. Without fishermen to kill off the big fish, lobster, groupers and snappers grow to colossal sizes.
Further around the corner is another small island and sand bar with a natural channel dredged through it from the current. The kids like to swim into the current and ride the lazy river along the sandbar.
The kids discovered the Popsicle stick box and made a catamaran.
Pipe Cay gets us out of the park for Roy’s next fishing excursion. Andy and Drew from Tangent joined us to practice with their new fishing gear but Roy comes through again with two lobster and a few snappers. After Roy cleans his catch I always cook up the horns and legs, so the boys had a yummy breakfast of fresh shellfish dipped in butter.
I’m thinking that maybe Pipe Cay is our favorite anchorage. Not only do we have favorite fishing holes, but the sand bar is great. At low tide an acre of sand is exposed to play on with additional shallow flats that we haven’t yet explored. There is a boat anchored here with a retired couple that spend several months every winter in this one place. Maybe that will be Makai 15 years from now, after we’re tired of exploring the rest of the Caribbean again.
Drift wood art is a new addition to the little island near the sandbar.
Speed boats full of tourists is also a regular occurrence here when low tide is in the middle of the day. The tour includes rum punch and conch salad. While the tourists walk around on the sand and swim in the shallow water the crew prepares their treats and abandons the shells on the island.
It’s time to move again, Becky’s short five day visit is about over. Topaz is exhausted from barking, running in the sand and swimming after fish.
Becky’s last evening included dinner at the yacht club again.
The water in front of the restaurant is usually home to these huge nurse sharks. Despite their size and scary appearance, these docile sharks don’t have teeth. Their mouths and behaviors are similar to a ray.
Becky leaves at 3 pm so we still have time to see the pigs.
Becky said the airport she left from in Fort Lauderdale had pictures of the pigs in the waiting area. I’m not exactly sure the story about these pigs, but I’ve heard that someone brought them here years ago with the idea they might need emergency pork chops. I’ve never heard any stories about the pigs being owned by anyone or even being used for BBQ, but maybe I didn’t ask enough questions.
Becky also got a quick snorkel at Thunderball Grotto with more sergeant majors greeting their guests, and then we walked her to the airport. The plane was a half hour late and with no one at the airport to ask about the delay it can make a traveler nervous. Becky said the whole ride was a great adventure. We all stood around the plane while the pilot tossed her bags in and checked her passport. She said in Fort Lauderdale he even walked her through the hangar and past the mechanics to help her find the rental car and keys that she ordered to be wait when she returned.
Tangent headed straight to Georgetown from here as they have guests arriving the day after Christmas and we don’t have to be there until around Jan 7. The wind is coming up out of the south and Dream Catcher invited us to come back to Wardrick Wells for Christmas. So north to Wardrick Wells it is.
The moorings and anchorage was nearly empty last week when we were here, this week everything was completely full and no one was leaving until after Christmas. We spent six days in the company of five or six boats full of kids as well as the park ranger’s kids. Eighteen or more kids having a blast.
They swam and sailed, ran, jumped and played with evening movies and popcorn on the boats. Topaz gave me a scare that her knee injury from five years ago had reoccurred, which sent a big dark rain cloud over my head. After a day or two she was back to full strength and a warm breeze blew the cloud away so the sun could shine again. Anxiety is a horrible thing!
Yes, Christmas, I almost forgot. The kids have candy advent calendars to remind me of the coming holiday. We baked a few dozen cookies and invited girls over to decorate.
A few of the other boats hatched a plan for Reindeer Games for the kids.
Twenty children in two age categories spent the afternoon competeing to see if the Reindeer or the Elves would be the Christmas Eve champions.
Kayak relay races had them race around buoys and tying a fender to the swim dock.
Here Roy is sporting his red nose from the reindeer team.
The sandman contest was difficult because they were all so creative.
Most kids worked in teams with only a few palm fronds, sticks and sand. One team even made a squatty melted snowman baking in the hot sun.
The snow puff bite was a riot. With a marshmallow dangling a foot in front of her face, after several attempts Genny managed to swing the snow puff into her mouth.
Next everyone slathered their noses with Vaseline and moved as many cotton balls from one bowl to the next using only their gooey little noses.
The Christmas Tree relay involved posing on a kayak while your partner pushes the kayak out to the swim dock and back.
Our Christmas tree this year is a candle, compact, pretty, and easy to store.
We gathered around the table to open gifts and watched the Rockette’s Christmas Spectacular show at Radio City Music Hall, we saw them live a few years ago on a trip to NYC. The gifts were simple like a snorkel for Marie, Rubik Cube for Roy and an electronic kit for Genny. A few gift cards, dvds and lip balms. perfect, now lets go swimming.
The last few days have been really steamy but the potluck at the ranger’s house was fabulous. All the workers and many of their family members, the boaters on the moorings plus more from the anchorage were in attendance with their dish to share. We had turkey and dozens of side dishes and deserts. I couldn’t believe the amount of food laid out and the amount that got eaten.
When everyone was full many of us retreated to the sand bar for a dip. Pets were invited too.
After six days, everyone was ready to move on. We took a long tack out of the park boundaries to fish.
Roy takes good care of his equipment. It rinses the salt water off, dries it and stores everything in his room. When it’s time to fish he has a pole holder on each side with a line to clip on the reel so there aren’t any mishaps where the equipment goes overboard.
Today he was happy to catch a Mahi Mahi. This 34 inch fish is much smaller than the 54 inch whoppers he caught last season, but it will make a few nice meals.
We went back to Pipe Creek, a favorite anchorage for it’s calm waters, easy access to spear fishing, and fun sand bar. One morning Genny and Eric put together the electronic pen gift Eric gave her for Christmas.
Later that afternoon everyone gathered at the sandbar for wiffle ball. Everyone had huge smiles on their faces hitting, running and catching.
The next stop is Staniel Cay again! This time everyone had business on their minds. Some needed fuel and water, everyone needed laundry and groceries. Topaz just likes to BARK.
Genny and Luanda have become great friends. The both love to rough house, goof off, play hard and take on challenges. They convinced the parents to let them sail the Hobie Cat the five miles from Pipe Creek to Staniel Cay by themselves. The Hobie is so easy to sail you rarely have to do anything besides steer in the direction you plan to go. I figured they might need to do a little more than that on their passage, so with a few tips, life jackets, sun screen, water bottles and candy, they headed off. I guess they got quite wet, but had a great time.
Roy and I went with Ken from Dream Catcher for our usual early morning spear fishing. Roy always comes through with a bucket full, the sad part is that somehow we missed three more lobsters.
The kids have had a lot of freedoms here. Most of them drive the dinghy so they can pick up their friends and go fishing, diving, to the beach, and to town. If no one has the dinghy, they just swim there or paddle surfboards or paddle boards. They quickly figured out this next activity.
The nine kids found a place to climb up the vertical face of this island and a perfect jumping location. It works best at high tide, not only do you have deeper water to jump into, but also it’s easier to reach hands and feet up onto the island from the water. After several jumps a few parents joined in. I was chicken and decided someone had to take the pictures. Other boaters and even the police boat came by to watch.
There is a new laundry on Staniel Cay up the dirt road outside of the Yacht Club. The owner did a beautiful job with the building and the machines are brand new. I put all of our sheets, towels and t-shirts into one huge four load machine. I was having a nice chat with Ruth, the owner’s sister who runs the place, when the Island’s power went out. After quite awhile I decided to go check on groceries. The three stores on the island, Isles General, the Pink store and the Blue store, all had the same answer, sorry no eggs, the mail boat hasn’t been here in a week and won’t be here until next week. They only had a few dry goods on their shelves and a few wilting vegetables. Wilted cabbage is better than no cabbage, so I got one for $5. Ug, not getting much done today. So I went out for a snorkel and found the washer to be finished after that. Everything gets hung around on Makai for a cheap line dry and that made the day a success.
The day we left our friends announced that the Blue Store’s son is a pilot and brought a load of groceries on his regular commuter flight from Nassau. Yippee, we picked up three dozen. You need eggs to bread fish, bake cookies, and eat. Pancakes and cereal get old after a few weeks. Makai pulled out around the corner and we were surprised to see the mega yachts anchored. The yacht club was full so I guess they all decided to anchor around the corner. All week crew was shuttling guests around, providing towels to their snorkelers and taking care of their needs. The Yacht Club had hopping, hooting parties and it was time for us to move on before their New Year’s Eve celebrations began.
Our kid floatilla moved about 15 miles down the islands and celebrated with cake for Jeanette’s 11th birthday and a movie. A Mega Yacht anchored a little to the south had a fireworks show and everyone went to bed for a quiet night just before midnight.