Day 167, Year 10: Back to Warderick Wells
Date: Thursday, March 26, 2015
Weather: Partly Sunny, Winds SSE 10-15
Latitude: 24 23.015 N
Longitude: 076 37.464 W
Location: Emerald Rock Mooring Field, Warderick Wells, Exumas
The weather rules and after listening to the 6:30 am weather report, we decided that it was best to head north today instead of waiting until tomorrow. There is a possibility of squalls punching 40-50 knot winds tomorrow afternoon, and it just didn’t sound like a good time to be out sailing. So Mark didn’t get to finish cleaning the bottom and I didn’t get all of my photos properly labeled and uploaded, but I simply uploaded them and will have to go back and name them later. Wow! We saw so much sea life while Kevin and Claire were here and it was hard to limit the number of photos. If you are interested in seeing what we saw, you can now go back to the logs for each day and click on the single photo. That should then open up the whole folder.
Sea Turtle is once again traveling with us and both of us are on a mooring in the southern Warderick Wells area known as the Emerald Rock mooring field. We will have 15 knot winds blowing from the southerly sector tonight and tomorrow making this mooring field a bit bouncy. But when the cold front comes through during the early hours on Saturday, it will bring strong northerly winds and we should be fairly well protected. The winds will continue to blow from the north on Sunday, so we will be here all weekend. We are hoping for a little E in the N winds on Monday that will allow us to move just a little further north to the next island, Hawksbill Cay. By Monday we should have some idea of the weather for the next seven days and we will make a decision about heading quickly north and west to Florida or lingering here a little longer. Right now it sounds like Thursday and Friday of next week would be a good time to cross the Gulf Stream, so unless that window is going to stay open for a few days, we will probably have to move faster than we’d like. Mark needs to be back in Florida for a treatment on Thursday, April 9, so that is our target. Hopefully the weather will be kind to us. Lee and Lynda invited us over for sundowners this evening and we had a pleasant evening together. Tomorrow is Lynda’s birthday so we’ll have to conjure up some more fun. Mark and I will begin our day with a snorkel out on Malabar Cays as we didn’t have time to do this while Kevin and Claire were here with us. Low tide is around 9 am, so we’ll get an early start. Snorkeling is best done at slack near low tide, but there are lots of land walks that we could do later during the day. Maybe we’ll pack a picnic lunch and head to the beach. We’ll just have to see where the day leads us.
Day 166, Year 10: Island Time
Date: Wednesday, March 25, 2015
Weather: Partly Sunny, Winds SE 5-10
Location: Anchored at Black Point, Great Iguana Cay, Exumas
Some things never change and one of those things is island time. When someone says something will take 20 minutes, you can be pretty sure it will take at least two hours and maybe more. Mark and I had a huge list of things to be done today. We got off to a great start. Mark took me to shore to the laundromat and he went to get two jerry jugs of water. I got the laundry going and started uploading photos from the past week. I wrote post cards to the grandkids and Mark took those to the PO. So far, so good. But then the power on the island went down and so did our hopes of getting everything done today. I had just put my clothes in the dryer and I was right in the middle of uploading lots of folders of photos to the internet. Both of those activities came to an abrupt stop. We were told the power would be off for only 20 minutes, but we knew that was probably a little optimistic. We went back to the boat to have lunch and when we returned an hour a half later, there was still no power. The power did finally come back on and I got the loads of laundry dried and folded and some of the photos uploaded. But I had to stop on that endeavor as I had promised Mark we would go back to the boat so he could dive on the bottom to clean it. We tried this past week, but the current was so strong everywhere we anchored that cleaning the bottom was just not possible. It is calm here and Mark got a great start, but a leaky snorkel mask slowed things down a bit. By this time, it was nearing 5 pm and we had to reconsider our plans for tomorrow. We had hoped to sail north tomorrow, but the bottom is not completely cleaned and the photos are not completely uploaded. And we didn’t even get a chance to do our internet shopping for our grandson Ziggy. His birthday is on April 7. That’s the day we hope to arrive in Florida, but between here and there, we will not have internet. Therefore, that shopping’ also has to be done before we leave here. So Mark went over to talk to Lee and Lynda to see if they would be agreeable to staying here one more day and heading north on Friday. They didn’t have strong feelings one way or another, so stay it is. It seems a shame to spend another whole day “taking care of business” rather than be out there experiencing new places and snorkeling, but for sure we’ll be back on the road by Friday morning.
There is another issue that we also need to resolve before leaving here. Lee and Lynda’s VHF radio does a great job of transmitting, but they can only receive from boats that are very close to them. And we can send them emails via our HAM radio, but when they send something to us, it is rejected. We are getting email just fine via the HAM radio from other people, so we really don’t know what the problem might be. They do have an SSB radio and we can always set definite times each day to contact one another, but it would be nice to be able to talk back and forth on the VHF on the trip back across the Gulf Stream. If either of us had a problem on that trip, as it is right now, we would have no way of communicating quickly. So if time permits tomorrow, Mark will work with Lee to see if they can figure out the problem with the VHF.
Day 165, Year 10: Farewell to Kevin and Claire
Date: Tuesday, March 24, 2015
Weather: Partly Sunny, Winds SW 8-10
Latitude: 24 05 851 N
Longitude: 076 24.214 W
Location: Anchored at Black Point, Great Iguana Cay, Exumas
We left Windbird at 7:15 am to take Kevin and Claire to the airport. I love that we can take the dinghy right to the airport and either beach it or tie it to the community dock on Staniel Cay. This morning we opted to tie to the dock. We arrived at the airport before 8 am and found one other person already there. We started talking and found that this guy owns one of the little islands near the stromatolite site where we went snorkeling at the south end of Warderwick Wells. He explained that the bigger island we could see from that site is owned by a Hollywood director and that he owns the smaller island next to that one. He is a surgeon from Montana and I think he presently lives in Minnesota when he is not down here on his island. He has a private plane that he keeps at the Staniel Cay airport, but today we was flying via Flamingo Air to Nassau and then back to the US. We talked about his island ‘neighbors’ being Johnny Depp, a Hollywood director whose name I can’t remember, and a very rich man from Saudi Arabia who owns Bell Island. Claire joked with him that their ‘block parties’ must be quite interesting. Mark and I left once the Flamingo Airline plane came in and we hope Kevin and Claire had a smooth trip home. We so enjoyed having them with us for a week. It was all fun. If the people of the world can be divided into givers and takers, Kevin and Claire are definitely ‘givers’-they spread happiness and good will 24 hours a day. So not only did we have the most beautiful weather for the past week, we shared it with people who added to the experience. Thank you, Kevin and Claire.
When Mark and I left the airport, we walked to the Pink Store and the Blue Store to replenish some of the basics onboard Windbird. We found everything we were looking for except fresh broccoli and I’m sure we will survive for two weeks without that. We stopped at the Yacht Club to buy gasoline for the dinghy and then it was back to Windbird. I tried to start the engine but it would not turn over. I think it was missing Kevin and Claire. Mark had to jump start the engine from the house batteries, by passing the starting battery. We’re not sure what its problem might be, but it is working now. Anyway, we did get started and we motored against the wind to Black Point. This is about eight miles south of Staniel Cay. Once we arrived, we contacted Lee and Lynda and invited them over for an early afternoon Happy Hour. We had a couple of beers, talked about plans for the next few days, and then made plans to meet on shore at 6 pm to go to Lorraine’s Café for hamburgers and onion rings for dinner to celebrate our reunion. We will stay here tomorrow, do laundry, get water, and use the free internet. Then on Thursday or Friday we will head north. We have some strong northerly wind headed our way on Sunday and Monday, so we will try to get to a good anchorage where we can enjoy some more snorkeling before the north winds hit us. We have only two weeks to get back to Florida, so from here on out, it is a march northward and then to the west.
I forgot to mention the ‘blue’ birds we saw while having Happy Hour on Windbird. Lynda looked up and exclaimed that the white gulls were blue-green. We all looked up in amazement wondering if this was some color change having to do with mating. I took a couple of photos as fast as I could and then Mark and I got in the dinghy and went to the rock on shore where the birds were landing. They were white again. And then we saw one land and turn from blue-green to white. We realized that what we were seeing was a reflection of the brilliant blue-green water on the feathers of the birds. Simply amazing.
Day 164, Year 10: The Fab Five
Date: Monday, March 23, 2015
Weather: Partly Cloudy, Winds SSW 15
Location: Anchored Off Big Majors Spot Near Staniel Cay, Exumas
It feels like we are back ‘home’. We left Staniel Cay last Thursday to do our exploration of the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park and now we are back. So this is ‘home’ for now. We have had a fabulous five days (henceforth known as The Fab Five) of exploring on land and in the sea and we celebrated tonight by having dinner at the Staniel Cay Yacht Club. Kevin and Claire insisted on taking us out and it was a great way to end our adventures together. Mark and Claire had the catch of the day, Mahi, and Kevin and I had the local lobster tails. There are two seatings for dinner, one at 6:30 and one at 8:30. We opted for the early dinner. The dinner is served in courses–bread, then soup followed by salad, then the main entree, and finally dessert. The food was very good and the atmosphere is very pleasant. Thank you, Kevin and Claire. But after arrival here and before dinner, we managed to find time to get in one last snorkel. Before taking off, we first had to check in with the Yacht Club to make sure we can get gasoline tomorrow as we have managed to go through two 5-gallon jerry jugs in five days. We have traveled a lot of miles in the ye old trusty dinghy and thankfully there is gasoline to be had to replenish our supply. Once we knew we could get fuel tomorrow morning, we then took off from the anchorage here and traveled north to North Gaulin Cay. There are two little islands to the east of North Gaulin and we snorkeled from the northern most point and worked our way south close to shore. There was scattered coral, but Claire and I delighted in following the coastline and observing all the little creatures along the way. At one point I heard Claire call my name. I came up to see what she wanted . . . just in case it was another shark warning. But this time it was a stingray warning. “Judy, there’s a big stingray right under you.” I looked down and turned on the GoPro video to document the ray as I swam along with him. It is always a thrill to swim along with the big guys.
We have not heard from Lee and Lynda, so we are assuming they are still down in Black Point. We will take Kevin and Claire to the airport (via dinghy) at 7:15 in the morning. We will then wait for the grocery stores to open and do a little food shopping, go to the Yacht Club to buy dinghy fuel, and then head back to Windbird. We will sail south to Black Point and hopefully catch up with Sea Turtle. We heard from Constance today and they are still in Cambridge Cay. They are planning to leave when stronger winds come from the SE on Wednesday. But if not, maybe we’ll see them again when we head back there on Thursday or Friday. The weather guides your travel decisions when you are out here cruising. So you make plans and then see what happens.
Day 163, Year 10: Fish, Rocks, and Key Lime Pie
Date: Sunday, March 22, 2015
Weather: Once Again Sunny and Beautiful with Very Little Wind
Location: Anchored in the N Anchorage, Warderwick Wells in the Park
This was another snorkel ’til you drop day. The weather was once again perfect with clear skies, lots of sunshine, and very little wind to interfere with our long travels by dinghy to various snorkel sites. We started by taking the dinghy a little more than a mile north to Kelley’s Reef to snorkel along the side of the cay. Once the current got too fierce, we motored across to Brad’s Reef on Long Cay. The coral in this area has been severely damaged by storms, but we enjoyed the fish. So that’s the fish part of the day. It was 1.7 miles back to Windbird and time for lunch when we got there. After lunch we took off for an area at the southern tip of Warderwick Wells. Claire and I really wanted to see the stromatolites but seeing them was like looking at rounded, gray rocks in the water, hence the mention of rocks in the subject line. Mark and Kevin were making fun of us for traveling almost 2 miles to see them, but I assured them that they had now communed with the first evidence of life on earth and that they should be elated. It didn’t work. They were not elated, but they put up with us. Claire and I snorkeled for a long time while Mark and Kevin following in the dinghy. On the way back to Windbird we stopped for a hike on the island to see some of the Loyalist ruins. This island is solid limestone and eeking out a life here must not have been easy. We made one more stop to do one last snorkel near Emerald Rock. There are dinghy moorings near the coral heads and Mark and Claire did this stint while Kevin and I manned the dinghy. With the strong currents here, it is safest if at least one person stays in the dinghy to pick the others up or if one person pulls the dinghy along. We returned to Windbird and all of us were exhausted. But Kevin still had enough energy to put together a Thai red curry with pork, cauliflower, red pepper, onion, carrot, and ginger. In between snorkels today, I made a key lime pie and we had that for dessert. Thus, the mention of key lime pie in tonight’s log subject line.
Tomorrow we return to the anchorage at Big Majors near Staniel Cay. Kevin and Claire fly out on Tuesday morning and then the adventure continues. And before ending, I must mention that I was a happy Oma this morning. I finally got the internet to work long enough to allow us to have a short Skype video call with Heather and boys so we could wish Ollie a happy birthday. Good weather, good friends, snorkeling and land adventures, and contact with family. Once again, life is good.
Day 162, Year 10: Happy Birthday, Ollie
Date: Saturday, March 21, 2015
Weather: Sunny and Beautiful, No Wind
Latitude: 24 23.831 N
Longitude: 076 37.954 W
Location: Anchored in the N Anchorage, Warderwick Wells, Exumas
Our daughter’s youngest child, Ollie, turned three today. When we are out cruising, we always miss family, but even more so on special occasions like birthdays. We tried so desperately to connect with Ollie via Skype late today, but we just couldn’t make it happen from here. But we sent love, hugs, and kisses to Ollie over the miles. We will be heading back to Cape Cod in late April and will have lots of stories to tell the grandkids, so we’ll make up for lost time. Happy Birthday, Ollie!!! Oma and Granddad love you so much.
Now about those stories we will have to tell grandchildren . . . for instance, swimming with sharks. That was the highlight of today. Sharks are often hanging around reefs where we have snorkeled. We are never completely comfortable with them, but we have never had a situation where they have been threatening. Today we had ‘friendly’ shark encounters in both places where we snorkeled. We moved from Cambridge Cay to a place called Warderwick Wells. The Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park Headquarters is located here and it is a beautiful location. We snorkeled the Ranger’s Reef and had our first encounter with reef sharks. The sharks were quite large which made them a bit disconcerting, but they were not the least bit interested in us. Our next snorkeling destination was Judy’s Reef. As soon as I got in the water I heard Claire yelling to me saying, “Judy, a shark is headed your way.” I ducked my head back in the water and looked her way and saw nothing. Then I looked down and the rather large shark was swimming right under me. He paid absolutely no attention to me, so all was well. We were not intentionally trying to swim with sharks, but that was the theme today. We also saw more rays and we really don’t know what kind they are. They don’t seem to have spots so they really can’t be eagle rays. The Park office has postings talking about southern sting rays, but they don’t exactly look like those, either. We are so busy snorkeling that we have very little time to identify what we are seeing, but Claire, Mark, and I are all taking tons of photos and we’ll have to identify them once we get home. There’s just too much to see and do here to sit around and look at books! We’re not sure what we are doing tomorrow. We might move a couple of miles south of here, still in the Park. Or we might stay here and take the dinghy south to see the things of interest. Claire and I are anxious to go see the reefs formed by stromatolites. They just look like gray reef but according to the Park information, they are the oldest evidence of life on earth that date back 3.5 billion years. And hopefully we’ll see some fish as well. Ed and Lynne came over to say farewell this morning and Lynne brought us a quart of yogurt that she made yesterday. I have had no luck getting my yogurt to set up, so I was very thankful for the gift. Ed called this evening and said they think they will be leaving for Eleuthera in the morning, so we won’t see them again for a bit. But it was great getting together as cruisers again. Ed and Lynne, we will miss you. Tonight we went to shore to a cruiser gathering sponsored by the Park. Everyone brought an appetizer to share and people bring the most amazing things-everything from Hawaiian pizza to hot nacho dip. I think we are all going to have to go on a diet after this week.