A week's worth of activity to catch up on! (And for those of you who have been asking for more pictures, boy, do we have pictures!) After leaving Nassau, we three boats (Wind Dancer, Emerald Seas and Orion) made it to Allan's Cay in the Exumas, a lovely little cay with a wonderful, protected anchorage. After dinghying to shore the next morning, we were greeted by a horde of iguanas (some of whom were pretty aggressive in wanting their grape-on-a stick!). In any case, we were glad we used the sticks to create a little bit of room between our fingers and the grapes. But it was great fun and not to have been missed as one of the things you simply must do in this neck of the woods. Allan's Cay is the only place on earth that these particular prehistoric (and not too attractive) iguanas exist, so it really is special to see them. (It's the one place we forgot to take the camera. Sorry. They would have been great pics.)
After overnighting at Allan's Cay, we sailed just a few hours south to Norman's Cay and anchored out. A couple of hundred feet from our boat there was a delightful little island (as in tiny island) that we dinghied Sophie & Chelsea to, and did they have a ball running around the island, splashing through the water, and getting loaded up with sand. What fun!! That was followed by a quick dunk in the ocean for the dogs, which was then followed by a quick fresh water rinse. They loved it!
The next day, the six of us (Jim, Renate, Lyle, Julie and ourselves) took a walking tour across some of Norman's Cay and had lunch (and, of course, rum & pineapple juice!) at a great little open air restaurant & bar called the Norman's Cay Beach Club.
While at Norman's Cay, we also saw Chuck & Marianne on their boat, Symphony. We had met them while staying in Nassau at the marina there. In any case, while talking with them at Norman's, the subject of boat names came up and we had to confess that when we re-named Wind Dancer (originally Ithaka), we had not been aware that a mandatory re-naming ceremony is required, involving much drinking and merrymaking with other sailors. If this is not done, Neptune frowns upon you and you apparently are taking your life in your (or his) hands every time you set sail. However, never having heard that the ceremony could not be done retroactively, we decided that the old adage "better late than never" applied and the ceremony was scheduled for that evening. Lyle & Julie arrived in costume (he in a Scottish kilt, beret and scabbard and she in piratical garb) bearing a Tiki god, and Jim, Renate, Chuck & Marianne joined in the fun. It was decided that any ceremony involving a Texas boat had, of necessity, to include the imbibing of margaritas, so Sue made her really, really good homemade margaritas (remember those, Nancy & Daren?) and a great time was had by all. A marvelous poem provided by Lyle & Julie had excerpts read by all in attendance and, with a Sue & Al kiss and the obligatory splashing of alcohol on her bow, Wind Dancer was toasted by all and was officially christened, hence to be smiled upon by Neptune and his friends (hopefully).
Then the next day it was on just a little way south to Shroud Cay, where the draw is that the island is covered with mangroves. We took advantage of a mooring ball at Shroud and the next day we took the three dinghies across the island, dinghying in an extremely shallow creek through the mangroves to a beautiful little beach and reef where we had lunch and then snorkeled. The surprise of the day was when we returned to the dinghies, only to find that the tide had gone out, leaving them high and dry. All we could do was take the motors off each dinghy and then everyone joined in lifting (and dragging) each dinghy, followed by another trip with each motor, carrying each one more than one hundred yards (approx. the length of a football field). It was exhausting work and, boy, did we learn our lesson. Pay attention to the tides! Once we were finally able to be afloat, we took another (almost equally shallow) route on the return trip, which took us to another cool little beach where everyone took a well deserved swim before heading back.
And this is what we were greeted with when we tried to leave.
After spending one more night at Shroud Cay, we left on Thursday, sailing south approximately five hours to where we are currently: Warderick Wells Cay. Warderick Wells is home to the park headquarters for the Exuma Land & Sea Park, a 176-square mile area set aside as a land and marine protected area. The park is 22 miles along and extends out four miles on either side of the cays it encompasses (15 large cays and several tiny ones). Its purpose is to "provide a safe haven and replenishment area for the wildlife native to the Bahamas and to educate the public in saving this beautiful environment for future generations." It is a "no take" area, wherein no fishing, no conching, no lobstering, etc. is allowed. Warderick Wells is a very popular destination in the Exumas, and we were lucky to get a mooring here. A front with some pretty strong winds is due to arrive on Sunday/Monday, so we plan on staying here a few days before heading south to our next planned destination of Cambridge Cay, followed by Staniel Cay and then Georgetown, a large (by Bahamian standards) town with a population of a little over 1,000 people, which will allow us to do some replenishing and have our refrigeration system (which has been on the fritz lately) worked on. In the meantime, we are able to buy ice here at the park headquarters, so all is well insofar as being able to keep our food chilled (heaven forbid if we couldn't have cold beer!). The park even has a happy hour on Saturday nights, which we plan on attending this evening. All the cruisers here at the moorings descend on the beach, everyone brings a dish to share, along with their own drinks, and the park provides ice for everyone. What fun!
While I've been typing, Al has spent the the afternoon in the water, in his wetsuit, mask & fins, scraping barnacles off the hull of Wind Dancer. Well, somebody has to do it (and it's not going to be me). I put on my wetsuit, mask & fins, got into the water with him and two minutes later a six-foot shark swam by directly underneath me (and we're only in 12 feet of water, folks). That was the quickest I've ever climbed a swim ladder, and no amount of telling me "It's only a nurse shark, babe" was going to get me back in there today.
Back to the Exuma Park. Due to their being protected, the lobsters within the park area grow to be huge. Al and I have decided that we need to buy a spear gun so we can catch (and eat!) our own lobsters after leaving the park. (We'll let you know how that goes.) Another delicacy enjoyed in the Bahamas is conch and according to park literature "The concentration of conch inside the Exuma Park is 31 times higher than the concentration outside the park. This conservatively provides several million conch outside the park for fishermen to harvest each year." That's a lot of conch. And it's prepared in a jillion different ways: cracked conch, conch chowder, conch fritters, fried conch, you name it. It's a little chewy...but most people like it (Sue being the exception). Also, daily at 6:00 p.m. it's traditional for those cruisers who have queen conch shells aboard (and who know how to blow them), to simultaneously blow their conch shells throughout an anchorage. Too cool.
Was going to post this on Saturday but our internet connection got a little screwy and it didn't happen, so...today is now Sunday. The happy hour on the beach gave us a chance to meet the other cruisers here and we met one really nice couple (Hank & Trisha on Aventura) who is on the same page with us environmentally, knowledgeable about plastics, etc. so we have made new friends. The front arrived overnight as predicted (we currently have 25-30 mph winds) so we're hanging out here for another day or two until the winds die down before heading south. There are several marked trails on Warderick Wells and Al and I plan on walking on at least one of them today (we've chosen the Boo Boo Hill Trail that takes us to the other side of the island for starters).
Well, that's it for news. We've tried taking pictures of the water to show you how magnificent the colors are but our camera simply cannot do it justice. Exquisite water. Easy to see why the Exumas are labeled the best cruising grounds in the western hemisphere. Absolutely beautiful.
Sophie & Chelsea have come to expect their daily dinghy ride (so much so that they bug us until we take them). Here's the typical ride, with Chelsea on the left, butt in the air and head as close to the water as she can manage, looking for dolphin.
Off we go trail walking. Thanks as always for following us. We'll keep in touch as we're able. Until then,
Fair Winds from the Crew of Wind Dancer
Sue, Al, Sophie & Chelsea